Sunday, August 31, 2008

Grandma Ruby's Gift

The other night I had a dream about Grandma Ruby. She was sitting in her wheelchair, looking bright eyed, her hair freshly-styled and telling me a story about my great aunt Myrtle. The significance of the dream wasn't the story she told me, but how wonderful it felt to be talking with her again. Grandma died in 1998 and I haven't dreamt about her in awhile. I guess I miss her.

Race relations have preoccupied my mind lately. Not so much because of the presidential campaign, because of books I've been reading. Earlier this summer I read Warriors Don't Cry which detailed the experience of the nine black high school students who dared to integrate in 1957. Now I'm reading one of the most poignant novels I've ever read, Cry the Beloved Country, which takes place in South Africa in the late 1940's. I'm not finished yet, but recently read a passage which explores how a person's perspective on racial injustices develops.

Two nights ago, Cole asked me, "Mom? Grandma was in a wheelchair, right?"

"Yes, for the last eight years of her life, she was."

"Was she black?"

I wasn't sure what he was asking. "Do you mean was her wheelchair black?"

"No. Was Grandma black? Like her skin black?"

"No."

"Oh. I was just wondering."

I'm unsure where the question came from, but it made me contemplative. Grandma was a good person. She was easy to make happy, always laughing a lot. But the best thing about Grandma? She wasn't judgemental, always willing to accept anyone and everyone into her circle of friendship. She most definitely wasn't a prejudiced person -- this was an exceptional quality, especially for a person who grew up in a community that wasn't particulary welcoming of diversity. When I married in 1994, it was somewhat of an issue for a Protestant to marry a Catholic. After telling Grandma about my engagement to a Catholic, she smiled and said, "It's good for families to mix religions."

Grandma didn't have a lot of money. But in addition to her love, she gave me a very important gift I only most recently realized. She gave me the perspective of acceptance. Without acceptance, I never would have understood the importance of diversity in enriching my life and the lives of those I love.

Thank you Grandma Ruby. I love you.

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