Hope in the Not Yet: a Wild in the Hollow Guest Post from Ashley Larkin
In the last few years, there have been no online writers to get my attention like Ashley Larkin. She has a quiet, un-clammoring way about her which is backed up by strong story-telling and great depth. I have no problem believing she lives like this out in her real life. Please do welcome Ashley to the Wild in the Hollow Guest Post series. We have so much to learn from one another, don’t we?
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My 86-year-old grandmother lives in an adult foster home within two miles of my mama. Grandma receives frequent visits, gets her nails painted, works puzzles with her caregivers, goes to lunch, listens to books, watches the birds that gather at the feeders and on the swollen river out the expansive windows. From her sporty wheelchair, Grandma exercises her legs and arms, her fingers, her voice. Over the last two years, the disease that’s weakened Gram’s body causes her to speak in whispers. Lately vocal therapy has helped her find a new place in her throat, and cords are beginning to rumble more forcefully. Grandma’s caregiver tells me that Grams finally found her motivation to talk. She wants to make a visit to Tacoma, three hours north, this summer and longs to be able to chat with her childhood friend over breakfast. Hope propels her.
Some months ago, I took Grandma for a walk on River Road. As I pushed her wheelchair, I told her about my girls’ latest activities and the puppy we’d be getting soon. I talked about the change of seasons, pointed to scurrying squirrels and fluttering chickadees.
As is often the case, she was quiet.
The air was nipping cold, and I stopped frequently to check on her – wrapped her scarf around her face like a muffler, held her gloved hands in mine to warm them.
At times, Grams moved her feet from the crossbar and used her legs to help walk the wheelchair. We veered off to let a car pass, and I asked if she wanted to try walking.
“Yes,” she mouthed, nodding her head slowly up and down.
I pulled Grams up by the strap she wears around her waist, and she leaned hard against me. I felt her determination, her fragile dependence and worried I would drop her. It felt so risky, this step-together-step-together walk on pavement. After a half dozen steps, Grandma began to droop.
“Alright, Grams, let’s go back to your chair. You can do it,” I said. “We’re doing this together.”
When Grandma finally sat back down, she seemed worried, melancholy. Heading back down River Road, she turned slightly to me. “I’m not worth much anymore,” she said.
I pulled off to the road’s edge, right in front of my dear childhood friend’s home, so I could look in Gram’s eyes.
“Grandma, your worth is immeasurable,” I said, words nearly catching in my throat for the times I longed to hear them from her.
“Can I pray for you?” I asked.
“Yes, please,” she whispered.
I held Grandma around the shoulders, and we pressed our cold faces together. In that moment – like Amber – I wanted for nothing and for everything (Wild in the Hollow, p.160). My heart cried Kingdom come, for the Spirit’s presence in biting air, for peace and ends to earthly pain, for grace that endures.
As I prayed, I longed for Gram’s body to seek hard after Jesus, imagined her skin absorbing and holding love like a drenched cloth.
“You are so precious, Grandma,” I said, kissing her at the crown of her head and on each cheek.
On the drive to Grandma’s last Thursday, I call my mama for an update.
“She’s doing well. We played games yesterday,” Mama says. “It was so much fun. We hung out for hours, and she didn’t get tired.”
When I arrive just before lunchtime, I find it hard to connect with Grandma. She seems uninterested, even though I’ve brought our new puppy to entertain her. Eventually, I say, “Grams, Mama tells me that you played Yahtzee and Jenga this week. I heard you won!”
Grandma sits up a little straighter, looks steadily at me; cloudy blue eyes still highlighted the color of feathers.
She answers perfect deadpan: “It’s. Because. I. Cheat.”
We laugh hard.
Sometimes when I visit, Grandma is seized by giggle fits, and she’s a child again. Sometimes she belly laughs squinty-eyed hard, and I know she sees things beyond me. She lives in the “tension between already but not yet.” In time suspended like only the youngest and oldest seem to do.
When I was nine, Grandma made Annie and me dresses from chicken feed bags, and we fringed them and painted on zigzags and rainbows in red, yellow and green. We ran barefoot across the farm and squatted low to seek for hidden things, and when I stood up from the grasses, I saw Grandma on the front deck.
Arms folded, smiling like a girl.
Ashley Larkin longs to be a place of welcome and seeks hard after the beauty found in broken things. A writer, speaker and mentor to young women, Ashley is passionate about the healing work of Jesus, redemption stories and clinging to hope as a lifeline. She lives in a 110-year-old house in Portland, Oregon with her husband, three daughters and their yellow lab puppy, Clementine.
Find her at ashleymlarkin.com