Grandma said ain’t.
That’s right, ‘ain’t’ instead of ‘aren’t’. So embarrassing for a kid who was young and cool.
Not many people are able to remember all four of their grandparents but I knew each of mine well. I was an adult by the time my first grandfather passed away and both of my grandmothers lived quite awhile after them.
They each contributed to my life in unique and interesting ways and I am grateful for both the memories and the genetics. I will certainly write more about them individually as time unfolds.
But only one of them said ain’t.
My grandma and grandpa Rogers lived most of their lives at the edge of a little village where everybody knew everybody and you could walk one end to the other in minutes. Back then they lived in a traditional farm house on a small acreage complete with garden, woodshed, outhouse, and chickens. The main feature of their home was a kitchen which housed a large table, a wood-fired cook stove and a large sink with a hand pump rising beside it. Yes, they literally hand-pumped water from the ground to the kitchen!
My grandfather worked for a couple of local companies. Like many others from that time, my grandmother didn’t work outside of their home (that I recall) but there was part-time work she did locally. They lived simply and had all they needed.
I’m suspecting now that grandma’s early life was more difficult than I knew and so when she came to faith as a young woman she was launched on a course that was both radical and life-changing. As her life unfolded, themes emerged: she worked hard, loved her family fiercely, loved God more fiercely and she became an example of how God can heal, refine, and flood a person’s life with blessing.
They were loyal church people but because neither of them had a driver’s license, they often hosted meetings in their home. When I think about it now, those gatherings were both traditional and progressive: a few people who warmly sang, studied, talked, prayed together. In my mom’s life growing up it was completely normal to have church at home.
Grandma was strong, outgoing, opinionated, fiery but also kind, fun-loving, humble, content. She was smart but she wasn’t interested in technology, or television or culture. News was barely worthwhile and even theological discussions baffled her. She wasn’t much of a foodie, didn’t like restaurants or shopping but was excellent in the kitchen; her tarts and pies were other-worldly. She didn’t care for coffee or tea but hot water with some milk was her go-to drink. She loved people and conversation but always retreated to quiet and simplicity. She liked to rock in her chair, sing hymns, read the Bible.
They were generous with their hard-earned money and they had the highest integrity in ways I will never know. (On one occasion they purchased a house from a friend and word got back to grandma that the seller regretted the selling price. Grandma approached the offended party and offered to pay more just to ensure there were no hard feelings between them.) I’ve heard that she regularly fed and helped people in need. I know first-hand that she prayed for dozens of people every day and she talked with / about Jesus as if he was in the room with her.
These days the ain’t word has become a warm footnote in my memories of her. Perhaps in a larger way that word represents the godliness God asks of us: simplicity, humility, struggle, dedication. Poor in possessions; rich in love. Shallow in knowledge of culture; deep in the wisdom of living.
Saint Paul must have known someone like grandma when he wrote:
… Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. – from 1 Timothy 6 (NLT)
Grandma lived to be 102. One day near the end of her life, we visited her in the care facility she had recently (reluctantly) moved to. Although she was appreciative of the visit, she wasn’t able to make small talk and so the conversation soon stalled. My wife suggested that it would be nice to read Scripture and so I awkwardly and reluctantly went out and rummaged through the console of the car for the Bible I always kept there.
I expected it to be confusing to her so I carefully explained that I would be reading from a newer translation, not her traditional King James Version, so she might struggle with the words. I hoped my elderly grandmother would understand.
So I began by reading the 23rd Psalm and about halfway through I realized I could hear her weak voice in the background, repeating the KJV wording of the Psalm along with me. As she sat in her bed I went to another passage of verses and was surprised to hear her reeling off the words with me again. And again.
We repeated that process for twenty minutes: Old Testament, New Testament; Psalms, prophets, Gospels; Paul’s letters, Jesus’ words. Me reading random passages from all over the Bible, she reciting flawlessly from the well-worn Bible in her mind.
Except I was simply reading words out into the room; she was drinking every word into her soul.
Grandma said ain’t.
I couldn’t be more proud.