I adore my grandmother.
I actually don’t ever call her that. My name for her ever since I was two years old has been “Fram-Fram”. In fact, that was the exact name I called my grandfather by as well. When I addressed letters to the both of them, I began them like this:
Dearest Fram Fram & Fram Fram,
A short, fiery Irishwoman at 5’ flat, she is the source of and inspiration for countless of my family’s funniest stories. From completely fabricated “foreign” words, to a bargaining spirit that could talk a corpse out of a casket – Fram Fram is one hilarious grandmother.
A story that I was pondering this past week is not my favorite story, nor is it even the funniest. It’s simply one that has me thinking today.
It was the summer of 1995 and my grandparents, as they always did, had driven in to Michigan from Arizona to spend time with family and friends during the warmer months of the Midwest. This was always such a cherished time because of the great distance that usually separated us. Fram Fram and Fram Fram would spend the summer staying from house to house for a couple of weeks at a time, ensuring that they got some quality time with each of the friends and families that they cared most about. We would spend time playing cards, running through the sprinkler, telling stories, and fetching the frosted mug that Grandma kept in the freezer of all her closest friend’s houses. An archetypal Irishwoman, to be sure – she sure loves her beer.
During one such visit to our humble abode, a few of us were packed into our tiny kitchen making a classic childhood lunch – hotdogs, mac and cheese, and lemonade.
After we had successfully mixed the gourmet cheese powder with the noodles, stirred the exquisite lemony grit in a pitcher of water, and boiled the hotdogs to saturated perfection, we prepared to dig in. Before heading to the dining room table I grabbed the pot with the leftover hotdog water, and shuffled carefully to the sink. Just as I was about to pour the clouded elixir down the drain, my grandmother burst into the room.
“What are you doing?!” she inquired excitedly.
A bit confused by the question, I timidly responded, “Um, I thought I was dumping the hotdog water down the drain…”
“Not on my watch!” she responded, and she took the pan full of hotdog nectar from my hands, and ran out the front door.
A bit curious about what had just transpired, we ran outside after her, only to find Fram Fram carefully watering the flowers in our front yard with this pan of foggy hotdog water. Once she had successfully watered the outside plant life, she then came back inside, poured the remaining water into a Ziploc bag, and place it in our refrigerator. She then said sternly, but lovingly
“Don’t you ever waste water.”
I remember having a good laugh about this whole scenario years later as we recounted the presumably frenetic actions of my grandmother. My family has a lot of these types of stories, and none of us are exempt. But as I was thinking about this seemingly miniscule event from my past this week, it got my mental fluid flowing and, instead of pouring it down the drain, I thought I’d try watering some flowers instead.
As a child, I didn’t realize understand what it meant to live in a place like Arizona, but my grandparents did. The overwhelming heat and desolate stretches of land were not foreign to them. With this experience came a profound cognizance of and appreciate for water. In the suburbs of Detroit, water wasn’t ever anything I had to think of beyond having enough for my make-shift slip ‘n slide, but to them – water was precious, valued, and treasured – and it showed. Sure, it manifested in ways my pre-pubescent mind found to be comical, but for them, it was not a joke.
I began to think of the things, and more importantly, the people in my life that I consider precious, valued, and treasured. I thought of the scarcity of time I spend intentionally telling these people how cherished they really are. I pondered the infrequency of my relational deposits compared to my withdrawals.
I felt challenged to begin thinking past the “Hey, how are ya’s?” and the “What’s cracka-lackins?” to examine my own heart and how my actions affirm or negate it.
This train of thought reminded me of a scene in the movie, “The Book of Eli” where a nomad named Eli is talking to Solara, the daughter of a concubine forced to spend the night with him, about what the world was like before the apocalypse began.
“We had no idea what was precious, what wasn’t…”
I think that because of our great excess, whether that is monetary wealth, relational abundance, or what we perceive to be an endless amount of time, we frequently confuse what is precious, and what is not. Often in our lives the most urgent things take the place of the most important things – some of us completely unaware that it is happening. They are not necessarily the same thing.
I remember getting a really difficult letter from a friend of mine years ago. It was a long, honest, and loving letter with a lot of really difficult truths throughout. One line reads:
“Ian – you’re not Superman. You can’t save the whole world. You can’t even love the whole world. While you’re busy trying to love everyone, those who are closest to you have no idea that they are.”
I’ve read those words dozen of times over the years. I’ve even pulled out this letter from time to time to again face the burdensome truths found on these pages. I’m so grateful for friends who will speak the weighty words of admonition to me – and humbled at how far I still have to go.
I so long for the wisdom to see things as God sees them – to live in an Ecclesiastes 3 type of awareness. To look into the eyes of the hurting and for them to know that they are loved. To speak words of edification and grace, and to do so frequently. To say “I love you” and know that they know I mean it. Life is just simply too fleeting not to.
My dear Fram Fram was willing to snatch a pot from an 11 year-old’s hands to show how precious water truly was to her. Perhaps you can ask yourself, as I am –
“What am I willing to do for the cherished relationships in my own life?”
May we move beyond the wisdom of the bumper sticker and the Facebook status and begin to invest our lives in what truly matters.