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    A Ride with the Raisins

    When my grandma and her new boyfriend drove me to college, I learned a lasting lesson in patience

    by Valerie Vansweden

    I was counting to a million. I'd reached a point that I rarely reach. I was overwhelmed with anger, and it was a real struggle to keep my mouth shut. I knew that no matter what words escaped my gritted teeth right then, they would sound extremely hostile. If I had said, "Trix are for kids," Harold, my grandma's boyfriend, would've driven the car off the road in fear and trembling. So, I took a few deep breaths and started counting. My father had taught me to think before talking when I'm upset.

    My pride often frustrates me. Frequently God pulls out all the stops when he wants to humble me. Believe me, he has the resources—like this particular lesson in patience. My father actually planned the trip, but I don't think he planned the mercurial rise of my temper when he accepted Grandma's offer to take me back to college.

    I was distressed when informed of my transportation arrangements. Grandma is 83 and her boyfriend/traveling companion, Harold, is 183. It was hard to look forward to being sentenced to two-and-a-half days of endless talk about people I don't know and small bladders.

    I had been promised the whole back seat to myself. Friday at 8 a.m. my luggage and I were loaded together back there. My feet never touched the floor between St. Petersburg, Florida, and Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky. I sat cross-legged or lay in an "S" shape as my belongings would allow.

    We pulled out of the driveway, and I made faces at my mom and brother as they waved from the sidewalk. We all knew I wasn't kidding when I clawed at the window like a doomed mime. Mom gave me a "poor Valerie" look as she slowly shrank in the distance.

    We were cruising at the breakneck speed of about 11 mph, and I feared that this was the speed of things to come. I wasn't wrong.

    We crept onto Interstate 75 and went 45 mph. Frankly, I was embarrassed. A semi-comatose state was my best defense against inane conversation. It also helped control my apology reflex. I wanted to tell all the other drivers I was sorry that we were going so slow and explain that I, a skilled 22-year-old driver, wasn't allowed at the wheel because Grandma's insurance wouldn't cover anyone under 25. I decided that a yellow, diamond-shaped "Raisins on Board" sign would help other drivers understand what seemed like a one-car funeral procession.

    The first day's unremarkable, yet unforgettable, travel ended at 4 p.m. Grandma and Harold were tired, so we checked into a motel somewhere in the middle of Georgia. We unloaded and walked over to the Blue Dog Cafeteria for dinner. I think that since I attend a Christian college, I was elected the family pastor. I was asked to say grace before the meal.

    Don't get me wrong. I never tire of thanking God for his many blessings, but praying out loud when I was so annoyed just didn't feel right. But they sat there, heads bowed, holding hands, and when I hesitated, I heard an insistent, "Valerie!" So I obliged and tried to think of some aspect of the trip I was thankful for.

    The eating commenced and I observed the lovebirds at feeding time. At 83, my grandmother is still an attractive woman. Her fine skin is draped over her delicately chiseled features. Only from the chin down does she begin to get baggy. Harold, on the other hand, sags from the top of his head. He has an unusually large lower lip that jiggles when he talks. I got grossed out watching him eat and smooching on Grandma. She must love him for his personality.

    Harold is crazy in love with Grandma. He can (and did) expound night and day about his adoration for her. She would coo back and they'd smile at each other. He would kiss her and she'd work up a good blush. And so we passed the evening, one nauseated college student and two lovesick octogenarians.

    Then everything got serious.

    I guess that since I'd been elected the family holy one, they thought they needed to explain everything to me in case I was sitting in judgment on them. I wasn't. And I didn't want to hear all the gory details of their relationship either. All I cared about was that they were both happy and kept each other from getting bored.