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 resourceslike 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
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
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.