“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” (Warren Buffett)
Dear Mrs. Geiger (otherwise known as Grandma to my kids),
This weekend, I was flipping through my beat-up recipe book trying to figure out what to eat with Allen. I came across an old-fashioned casserole recipe that you had given me. Made with Rice-A-Roni®, cream of mushroom soup, diced chicken, corn and breadcrumbs. Usually, I am fairly health-conscious, but it didn’t matter one bit. I was determined to make it just to honor the fact that you gave it to me (and from what I remember, it was yummy).
From the first time I met you, I felt loved. The year was 1990. Me: a twenty-something, red-headed, spicy girl in a new church in the middle of a budding romance. You: a sixty-ish, white-haired grandma, with a contagious laugh (I can even hear it now) and a servant’s heart. You were pretty spicy yourself. Little did I know what was in store for the next eight years.
Right from the very beginning, you began planting seeds of kindness and goodness into me. You were unlike anyone I had ever met. I wasn’t sure why I was chosen, but I was happy about it. Within months of knowing me, you invited me (and my new love Allen) over for dinner. As we pulled up to your Cape Cod on a quiet cul-de-sac in the darkness of winter, candles flickered in the window inviting us to the feast you would set before us and the warmth of your love (and Mr. G’s) inside.
As the months and our romance progressed and I struggled to convince Allen that I was the love of his life, you called me to your home once again and said, “Let’s get on our knees and ask God about this.” Onto our knees we went beside your bed. I’m not even sure I had a choice. I found out we weren’t asking God about anything. You were telling God that He needed to make Allen see what a gift I was and that he should ask me to marry him immediately. It was crazy bold and I felt loved. How good and kind you were to me.
It was sooner than later that your bold prayer was answered and Allen asked me to marry him. You had us over for a celebration complete with an Italian dinner, those candles again flickering in the window inviting us into your home and more importantly, your heart. That evening, we spoke of our discouragement in finding a reasonably-priced rental. Immediately, you told us you would phone the widow who owned the empty home next door and ask if she would be willing to rent to us. We were not only overjoyed at your kindness, but also because our frustrating home search might be over. You called the next day.
Within a few months, just weeks before our wedding day, I moved in to 23 Edward Court, the little Cape Cod right next door to you and Mr. G, 27 Edward Court. After our return from honeymooning in the Smokey Mountains, Allen moved in with me and we started our married lives together, happy to know that you were only about 30 feet away, filled with love, goodness, grace, kindness and wisdom. What a treasure. The next several years began to unfold.
You were one of the very first people I told when I found out I was pregnant with our first child. You invited us over several evenings for dinner as I awaited my baby, juggling work, pregnancy and our new home. You gave me recipes as a new wife that I made without the same ability and patience as you. You prayed with and for me, listening to all my hopes and fears about these new chapters I was writing.
When Sarah arrived, you immediately called yourself “Grandma” and Mr. G “Poppy.” You brought the Rice-A-Roni® casserole (the above one I made this weekend) the day I came home from the hospital, providing food and love once again in a time where I was exhausted and didn’t know my right hand from my left. The seeds of kindness and goodness you sowed in my heart began to bud.
Time marched on and I had more babies. You were the truest Grandma in every sense of the word, having Sarah over for tea parties and doll-house playing, beckoning Jared into your home to push the button to make the “choo choo train” whistle, poking Josh in the belly button, reminding him that it was his “tortellini” and causing bursts of laughter for all. You viewed the dirty fingerprints covering your glass door from six little Goetz hands as marks of love.
You celebrated our birthdays, always making my favorite angel food cake in February and serving Allen a London broil on the grill in our backyards in August. Our kids expected just the right gift from you on their big days and they had no idea you were anything other than their family. The truth is you weren’t.
Our lives kept moving along in sync with each other, as we attended the same little church, lived on the same little street, and enjoyed the same little moments over and over and over. Cups of tea, your love for Bermuda and our promise to go there on our 20th anniversary (which we did), visits for missing ingredients in the dishes I was making (too many times, I am embarrassed to say), stroller walks, laughter until our bellies hurt, tools borrowed, meals eaten together, wisdom shared (this was a one-way street), and hearts connected. The seeds of your kindness and goodness bloomed in my soul.
The winter came when Allen and I felt we had outgrown our small home. We began looking. Knowing we would leave you gave us deep sadness. When we mustered up the nerve to share this with you, you had your own news. You were ready to move on to your next home as well, an adult community in beautiful Lancaster, PA. We were relieved yet very sad. As the months stretched ahead, we had garage sales and goodbye parties. We shed mutual tears and shared excited hearts. And as God would have it, our move dates were only days apart. At the end of August, 1998, we both packed up all our belongings side-by-side and headed out into the next chapters of our lives. We both said we couldn’t have done it any other way.
Of course, over the next many years, we visited you often and you came to our new home and we shared beautiful moments together. One more time, you welcomed our last baby, Rachel, with open arms and hearts. But the plain and simple truth is that it was never quite the same. The true gift of those eight years living right next door, sharing our tables and our hearts, was once-in-a-lifetime, something I will treasure forever. But as we know, kindness and goodness are the gifts that keep on giving. Those seeds that you planted in my life are growing into a beautiful tree filled with abundant harvest and hopefully shade for others, that same shade you provided for me.
Today, I am a kinder and better woman, mom and wife because of you. Allen is a kinder and better man, husband and father because of you. My children are kinder and better human beings, budding adults, spouses, friends, sons and daughters because of you. I don’t know why I was chosen for to receive this grand, beyond-my-imagination gift. I am eternally grateful.
It’s been about six years since you passed away. The last time Sarah and I sat with you in your apartment (only three weeks before you were gone), you shared your excitement about going to see Mr. G (Poppy to Sarah) and Jesus very soon. You planted more seeds of kindness and goodness even that day. You gave Sarah a special teacup from your collection, a wonderful reminder of all the tea parties you had with her when she was just a little girl. You gave me, as I looked into your eyes and hugged you fiercely one final time, the greatest gift I could ever receive, the gift of yourself.
I miss you and Mr. G very much. I can’t wait to eat that casserole today.
With All the Love and Thanks I Can Muster,