I remember coming into the house with my mother, after a long day and a strange field trip with one of my classes at school. I was 15, and our theater arts teacher had taken us all the way to Dallas to serve food at a homeless shelter. She wanted us to see another element of humanity. Looking back on it now, I think she must’ve been a pretty convincing and charming woman to make our principal believe in the value of this trip. How she explained ways that it tied to reading plays out of our textbook I’ll never understand.
It was an eye-opening and somewhat scary experience. My mother came along on the trip because she just couldn’t see letting me go off and do this thing, with my young teenaged, never-been-anywhere lack of sense. She wanted to look out for me the way she had when I was a toddler, roaming around looking for some danger to get into.
I was glad she went.
We walked into the house, still excitedly talking about the experience, when my mom noticed the blinking light on the answering machine. It was my dad. My mom’s grandmother had had “an episode with her heart,” he said. My mother didn’t say a word. She turned around, purse still on her shoulder, and headed for the car. I followed her quietly.
My mom’s grandmother was really more of a second mother to her. She was a small, soft-spoken quilter and avid Dallas Cowboys fan. We all called her Ma. My mom’s dad died in a tragically heroic accident when she was only four, so her grandmother was always an important part of helping take care of her, and was a loving and essential force in her life. During my entire childhood, we went to Ma’s house after school every single day, drinking Mr. Pibb out of her Dallas Cowboys glasses, eating popsicles and chocolate cake. She lived in a house with floors that slanted so much, up and down, depending on the room, that my brother and I could race Hot Wheels down the slopes.
As we drove toward the tiny hospital where Ma was being cared for, I watched my mother. Her face looked tense, her eyes focused in a determined manner on the dark country road ahead of us. My mom never seemed to be afraid of things, but now that I’m a mother myself, I can look back and recognize the fear that she hid for my sake. This must’ve been one of those moments.
But, what happened next is what is really ingrained in my mind about this entire experience. We arrived at the little hospital and walked into the emergency room entrance, where my father and some other family members waited. My mother moved quickly, almost running, and she looked at no one else in the room. Her eyes were steadily focused on my dad’s face. And she ran straight into his arms.
He held her while her tears flowed. He told the whole story, how Ma had had a heart attack at her home, but she had been able to get to the phone to call my aunt. How she was still alive and doing ok. How my mom would be able to go and see her for herself.
And, in all this, I sat on a cold vinyl covered bench in the ugly little waiting room, marveling at my parents’ intimate moment which was being lived out right in front of me. Something about seeing my mom walk straight into my dad’s arms, about her not wanting to hear from anyone else what had happened, about him standing there, waiting anxiously for her to arrive, ready to take her in and love her the way she needed him to love her in that moment.
It was beautiful.
And, now I am fifteen years into my own love story. We haven’t been immune to hurt and sadness. But, I can almost stand outside of myself at times, as if I’m 15 year old Melissa, recognizing the beauty and importance of those real moments, when I need to see his face, when he is anxiously waiting to put his arms around me. And, I hope that little Adelade and Sawyer and Emerald will grow to love those moments, when they can see real love being lived out in front of them. Not for show, not to try to impress anyone, but because, like in the emergency room that night, it is all we can do.
I hope that our marriage will point our children to Christ, reminding them of the incredible love that God has for them, as He intended for it to. I thank Him for the true love that He has blessed me with.
Ma was released from the hospital about a week later. My parents went back to life as usual. But, I never forgot that little moment in that little hospital which left such a big impression on me. Love shows itself when it is most needed. I’m so thankful that I was there to witness what I would later search for myself.
And the rest, as they say, is history.