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Saturday, September 5, 2015

Meeting Grandma and Grandpa

Returning the receiver to the wall phone for the second time, I breathed a sigh of relief. Jeanette regretted they couldn’t babysit for the girls that day. Fortunately, Lillian assured me that I had no appointments or pressing hospital business; she’d phone if something came up.

According to the wall clock, I had about five minutes before the kids woke and came running to find out if Grandma and Grandpa had arrived yet. Susie* dropped back to sleep right after I fed her, so the six-month-old should be out until the girls finished breakfast. Thank you, Lord, Mom’s bringing lunch today.

Throughout breakfast, the youngsters chattered on and on about meeting their new foster grandparents. Jamie* had lifted her ban on speaking only three days earlier. Silently, I prayed God would help the two-year-old African-American cutie feel comfortable with my parents. I didn’t want her to clam up when they’d traveled 192 miles just to have lunch with us.

At last, the familiar hum of Dad’s pick-up turned into our drive. I knew the second the girls heard it. All jumping and clapping ceased, replaced by a profound silence. Jamie ran for the bedroom.

“Deni*, let’s go help Grandma bring things in,” I said, glancing through the window. “Jamie’ll be okay; she just needs a couple of minutes.” I hoped this was true, as the four-year-old took my hand.

At the sight of the pretty little red-head, Mom passed her sacks to Dad, squatted down and opened her arms wide.  “Oh, Deni, Grandma’s so happy to meet you.”

To my relief, Deni dropped my hand, running full-throttle into Mom’s arms.

“If Grandma will take her bags back, I’ll give you a hug, too, Deni. Is that okay with you?” Dad smiled, turning to hand Mom the plastic sacks.

I laughed; my heart filled with love as I watched Dad drop to his one knee up, one knee down squat. Deni hesitated only a moment. With a giggle, the preschooler wrapped her freckled arms around Dad’s neck and returned his squeeze.

“Susie’s sleeping,” I said as Mom and I made our way to the back porch. Glancing over my shoulder, I chuckled to see Deni holding one side of the cooler while Dad tilted to keep the cooler level.

Once inside the house, Grandpa and his new best friend moved to the sofa. When Deni picked one of the children’s books out of the stack, Dad turned towards me, eyebrows raised

. “Honey, let’s let Grandpa meet Jamie before you two start the story.”

“Yes, where’s our little Jamie?” Mom said, setting the plates on the table behind me.

The ever-helpful Deni shot off the couch and ran to the bedroom. Dad stood and joined Mom and me at the table.

“I’m going to bring in the blue youth chair. Maybe that’ll break the ice.”

“Thanks, Daddy. Jamie’s been talking about meeting you two all morning. She wants to believe you’ll like her, but—“

“It’s okay, Dar. I understand. Let’s give her some space.”

As Daddy made his way to the screen door, my mother moved back to the kitchen. I heard the whoosh of Tupperware lids leaving Mom’s food-filled containers as I went in search of the frightened Jamie.

The young duo met me at the door to their bedroom. Deni stood with one arm around her sister; tears streamed down Jamie’s cheeks. I slipped to the floor, crossed my legs, and pulled Jamie onto my lap.

Holding the trembling little frame, I hummed and rocked from side to side. After a couple of minutes, I heard the back door close. “Jamie, do you know what that sound is?”

Jamie nodded her head. “It duh d-d-door,” the quivering lips said.

“Yes, that’s right. And, do you know who just came through that door?” I felt her head shake from side to side. “It’s your Grandpa. Do you want to know what Grandpa’s brought for you?”

Deni didn’t wait for Jamie’s answer. She bolted.

“C’mon, Sweet Princess, let’s go see.” Cautiously the little body slid off my lap, never lifting her head.

Dad sat the youth chair down and had just begun pushing it to the table when we rounded the corner. “For Jamie? For Jamie!” said the no longer frightened princess, rushing to try it out.

“It just fits,” I said as Dad moved Jamie and the chair to the table. “Thanks, Mom and Dad. This is going to be a huge help.”

Mom left the rocking chair and handed Susie to me. Bending to lift up two colorful shopping bags, Mom said, “Who wants to see what Grandma and Grandpa brought for three granddaughters?”

Jamie leapt from the chair so fast I had no chance to help her. “Jamie want to know Grandma!”

“I bet Deni does, too, don’t you Sweetie?” The radiant smile added life to her gentle nod. “Well, better take that sack Grandma’s holding out for you before her arm gets tired.”

After the kid-friendly lunch—all finger foods—Jamie pulled Dad to the backyard. “Dog want stick,” she explained.

“She wants you to play fetch with Nahum, Daddy. Jamie likes to watch him but isn’t really able to toss the stick yet.”

To my surprise, Deni stayed, seated on the floor next to Mom’s chair. Across from them, I stretched Susie out on the sofa and began changing her diapers.

I cooed, gurgled, and did the baby talk thing to make Susie laugh through the procedure. The infant responded with her own sounds, kicking and flailing, of course. The two of us behaved like some comedy act.

“Susie likes to have her diapers changed, doesn’t she?” Mom said to Deni, interrupting their laughter.

“I didn’t know Susie could laugh before we came to live here,” Deni said. “I thought babies didn’t learn until they gets big like me ‘n’ Jamie.”

Overhearing her comment gripped my heart. Tears began to fill my eyes, but I forced myself to giggle with the baby, keeping at my task.

“Do you like living here, Deni?”

I froze, diaper pin in hand, at Mom’s question. Smiling at Susie, I slowly pushed the pin through the cotton diaper, listening for Deni’s reply.

“Oh, Grandma, I do. Before, I worried all the time.”

“You did?”

Mom’s question echoed my thought, as I fought to keep smiling at the baby and cooing. Susie probably thought it was the slowest diaper-change in history.

“Before, I had a lotta worry. I worried we gonna eat that day. Maybe somebody bringed us to a house where we gets hurt. We tries not to sleep, but sometimes I hears Jamie cries so I wake up. Then, I cries, too.”

“But you’re safe in mama Dar’s house, aren’t you, Sweetheart?”

“Yeah! Here we eats every day. More’ n once, too. Everybody gotsa bed, even Susie. I don’t never worries for nothin’ now.”

As I lifted Susie, putting her back in Grandma’s waiting arms, we locked eyes. In them, I saw my own pain reflected. How could a four-year-old have such adult-sized burdens for her younger siblings?

Waving at the departing pick-up long after Mom and Dad could have seen us, I thanked the Lord that they’d come. Through Mom’s conversation with Deni, I’d learned that God had been busy meeting needs I had no idea Deni had. I worked hard to do what I could, and as always, God did the rest.

Unbeknownst to me, the Lord had been working on yet another significant change in my life. Sometimes the thing I want most seems out of my reach. When the rug got pulled out from under me, I discovered I could reach it just fine.

*Name changed.

Thread of this story begins with With Just One Phone Call.

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