(This piece can also be found on the Huffington Post.)
A few months ago, we moved across country to be near our eldest daughter's family. This means that we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with them, initiating the grandkids in the tradition of potato peeling and fruit salad mixing. We feasted on Wednesday rather than Thursday to accommodate the schedule of our daughter's father.
We are renovating our new/old house, or at least making it livable, and so on Thanksgiving Day itself, Dolce worked on the tub while I cleaned kitchen cabinets. When I stopped to rinse a rag, I glanced out the window above the sink and watched a car pull up. This isn't particularly unusual; our home is next to a church, and the alley that leads to our driveway is adjacent to the church parking lot. People come and go all the time. The position of the car was a bit odd because it was so close to our house, but I didn't give it a lot of thought. I had things to do. The grandkids were coming later on, and I needed to get some work done before they arrived.
A few minutes later there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find a young woman standing on the steps. She said "Excuse me, but does Leadessia still live here?"
Her voice was hesitant, as if she already knew the answer.
I told her I was sorry, but that she no longer lived here. I told her the story we heard when we bought the house. We were told that the house had been the home of a woman for many years. We were told she had a husband, and he died. We were told she had another husband, and he also died. We were told that after that, she'd moved into a nursing home here in town.
That is all we knew.
The girl said "She was my grandmother." Her eyes filled with tears, and her speech was halting. "We never talked. She was my stepgrandmother, and the family was estranged. No one talks to that side, but I really loved her. I used to come here all the time when I was little. I thought I'd see if she was here. I had a project I wanted to do with her."
I told her how sorry I was, and that maybe she could find her at one of the nursing homes. I told her we have been marveling about the obvious love the family put into the house through the decades; installing Z-Brick on the walls, paneling over crumbling plaster, puzzling together pieces of trim to cover the top edges of the paneling.
The old place contains several lifetimes of family memories. Now we are hard at work creating our own.
Intending kindness, I asked if she'd like to come in to see what we've done with the house. She declined. Perhaps it was unfeeling to invite her. She came to be with her grandmother. Seeing the house so changed would have underscored what she has lost.
She left, still crying. My heart is still sad.
I hope she is in town for a few days, and can find her grandmother. I hope Leadessia is aware enough to experience the joy of such a visit. I hope for healing and restoration within her family.
The house belongs to Dolce and I now. We are undertaking our own projects, transforming it to fit our tastes and our needs. It is our turn to play with grandchildren on the scarred wooden floors, just as Leadessia did.
Like Leadessia, I am a stepgrandmother. Like that young woman, the children love me.
This Thanksgiving, I am potently aware of being part of history. We are but one page of a huge book of stories that move from generation to generation. I pray for Leadessia, for this young woman, and for our own grandchildren. May the pattern of disruption come to an end.
This week, if Dolce is willing, we will also go in search of Leadessia. And we will tell her this story.