I am a rule follower. I always have been and probably always will be. Lately, I’ve been wondering about all the rules I follow. Some are imposed by myself, some others throw onto me. Some I enjoy, others I hate. Some help but some inhibit. Some I want to keep but some I want to chuck off the side of the tallest cliff.
Now I just have to figure out which ones lie on which side of the line. Which ones to keep and which ones to trash.
My Mama Addie, my grandma, was a rule follower too. A few weeks ago, I got to see her. Well, I got to see her shell. She’s 94 and most of the time she’s not really there. Sometimes though, if I’m lucky, I get to see a twinkle in her eye. It’s a mischievous twinkle. It used to be there all the time but as the years have come and gone, she’s slowly drifted away from us. I miss the constant twinkle and I miss her mischief, but most of all, I miss her.
You see, I was her first girl. She mothered two sons but didn’t get a female little one until I came along. Lucky for her, she got two more girls after me. The three of us got spoiled rotten, probably because she thought God was spoiling her with three granddaughters. She would have loved grandsons too, if they came along. It’s just that she’d already been there and done that with her own sons.
I’m not saying girls are better than boys, or anything like that. I just think she wondered what it would be like to take care of girls. I don’t think she realized it but she was part feminist. She didn’t distinguish chores and household duties as belonging to one sex or the other. Those two boys of hers grew up knowing how to cook, sew, and clean as well as build, fix and tend. Mama Addie taught her boys to be creative and to think critically. She rocked being a boy mom and she did the same as a grandma to girls. Since she raised two little boys, I take voracious notes when I hear stories of her momhood.
She loved all of her family like nothing else.
Funny snippets stick into my brain. I remember her perfume. I remember laying my head on her “pillows” as I drifted off to sleep. I remember her lullabies would creak a little – just like the wooden glider she would rock me to sleep in. I remember waking up, coming downstairs to the earthy smell of black coffee and to her staring out at the salty Sound. I remember rootbeer floats and dipping crab into melted butter. I remember curlers in her hair while she lay on her bed chatting on the phone with her sister like she was a teenager. Most of all I remember she loved me.
I also remember her absence. I used to play softball on the weekends and I never saw her sitting in the stands. She had a rule. Sundays were Sabbath. The rule was no work or play on that day. She thought I was breaking a rule by playing in my favorite game on Sundays.
I never asked after her thought process on the subject. I wonder if her absence was because she didn’t want to condone my unruly behavior. Or maybe she didn’t think she could enjoy being a spectator on that day. I do know she was thoughtful about her own life and faith, so she must have been severely convicted to follow this rule.
I know she loved me and I admire her faith, but it hurt seeing that empty spot on the bleachers. I ached knowing that her tradition and rules trumped our relationship. I was confused as to why a turn on a calendar was so important. I wanted to hear that creaky voice, see that troublesome twinkle AND have dirt and grass stuck between my cleats. I wanted her there.
Her absence never made me doubt her love and devotion to me. I simply missed her and wished she would break some of those rules to share more time together. I wanted to see her sitting in the bleachers with the sun beating down on her perfect head of brown curls. I wish her perfume wafted out to my nose in left field. I wanted to hear her laugh as I walked up to the plate. I wanted to go out for hamburgers together after the game. I never doubted her love for me, but I wished those rules would shatter so we could hangout on a Sunday.
I get that certain rules are needed and important. Some make life run better and most of us don’t want to live in a world of total anarchy. I also understand that periods of rest and time to exercise beliefs are vital. But sometimes I wonder if rules are the easy way out. It’s easier to stick to the rules in stubbornness rather than see their part in the bigger picture. It’s easier to blindly follow along than to think critically about how they fit into the puzzle of life.
For me, relationships are the bigger picture. They were to Mama Addie too, but her tradition spoke louder. I wonder, if she could have a do-over, would she break some of her rules? Would she do things the same? I wish I could ask her. Not in a confrontational way, but in an educational way.
I know that the Sabbath was very important to her, along with other church traditions. I wonder if we went back to that time, would she realize that sitting in the bleachers could be Sabbath too? Being together could be Worship. Eating hamburgers and drinking Coke could be Communion. Breaking the rules could be church. It takes great faith to see that. I wonder if she would have seen Jesus sitting next to us all in the dugout. He was there.
I like to think that looking back on life, she would agree.
All of this makes me wonder what rules I’m stubbornly sticking to out of faith or beliefs or morals. Some of them may be beneficial, but others may be blinding. Am I not seeing the whole picture? Are the rules getting in the way?
Which ones should I keep and which ones should I break for love and devotion? Which ones promote relationships, which ones hinder?
What is your bigger picture? What rules promote that goal? What rules could you toss out the stained glass window?
All I know right now is that I miss my Mama Addie and she’s not even all the way gone. She taught me volumes and I want to keep learning. Maybe I’m just thinking about all the times I missed out with her because she won’t be here in the near future. If she still had all her wits about her, she would probably scold me, “Be strong, Lindsey Annie, keep the faith. We don’t know exactly what that means or how it works out, but keep learning, keep asking questions.”
I will, Mama Addie, I will.