To my 5-year-old eyes, they were popsicle sticks with a higher purpose.
A big pile of popsicle sticks with strips of first aid tape on each end. The tape held the sticks on Grandma’s scrunched up toes during the day. When we got ready for bed at night, I watched her take the sticks off and put them back where they belonged — in a washed out Skippy Peanut Butter jar — or maybe it was an empty Folger’s Coffee can.
Even at five, I understood how pain and hope were woven together in this ritual.
Her toes were “drawn up by polio,” she said, and this agonizing exercise with the splints was intended to straighten them out. She was hopeful about being able to make things better and this encouraged her to endure huge stretches of pain.
Hers has been a life of enduring pain — with hope — and, without complaint.
Which is why we can hardly bear it today. To watch her endure chronic neck pain on top of a non-mobile and sightless existence. Now, without a shred of hope that it will ever be gone. That she will ever feel better. And still.
Beneath her sunken eyes and face, hollowed out by steep cheek bones, I feel her reaching out to give her love to me. There is a knowing about her that transcends physical pain and deterioration and I am comforted by her presence.
The Holy Rosary on channel 19 is concluding as I lean over to stroke her face and hair and kiss her good-bye. This is the season of the Sorrowful Mysteries and we’ve been reminded that it is Mary who is associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of the redemptive suffering of Jesus.
I turn to Mary and ask for her maternal support and comfort during this time of suffering for Grandma Trudi.
I turn to Mary.