Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Grandma and Danielle Steele

This morning as I sit waiting on my patients to show up, I’m thinking about how I am getting a little older. I think that is partly just the nature of the beast, but partly because the protagonists in two of my recent books were older men looking back on their lives. I apparently really like that literary genre. So, if you run across books concerning old seminary/bible school graduates reminiscing make sure you pass on the title to me.

The other reason I was reflecting on getting older is I have a trip coming up. I leave Friday and will be gone around a week. I say around a week, because I figure I will be coming home Friday, but am not entirely sure yet. And I like the idea of that being open ended, because that is so free-spirited of me. However, as I sat on my bed this morning contemplating the day, thinking about the week, I thought about making some plans for Wednesday and Thursday. But I found myself thinking, “Well, I am going out of town this weekend, I probably shouldn’t plan anything those days.” And that is when I thought, “I am getting older. When did a trip ever need to be planned before than the day of?” And in case you're wondering about the picture, that is how scared I was of growing up this morning.

That said I have had two trip freak outs. One was with my friends Ashley, Ashley and Bethany. But really the only thing I planned there was the radio stations and approximate stops. I bet they were annoyed that I spent more time organizing what radio stations started and ended where than securing what time my buddy Helton would be home to let us crash at his place. At least…I understand if they would have been. The second freak out was the night before one of our trips to Juarez, Mexico for a missions trip. That ended up being a melt-down of epic proportions leading to two of my friends washing and packing my clothes for me. Yeah…not my greatest moment.
But, again, as I sit here, I think about getting older and how in one way I am becoming a lot like my grandmother. She was a voracious reader. And honestly, half the reason I wanted to write this post was so I could use the word voracious. My grandma tore through books. She could put away hundreds of books a year I believe. And when she ran out of books, she did crossword puzzles. As I get older, reading and little puzzles have become some of my favorite pastimes. But in thinking about reading, and how I am putting away several books at a time myself I was reminded of an old family story.
You see, though my grandma was smart as a whip, and could recite the entire prologue of the Canterbury Tale in Old English…from memory…from fifth grade, she for some reason loved romance novels, and particularly the writing of Danielle Steele. Now, I have never taken the time to read any of Ms. Steele’s work, but apparently she is the 4th highest selling author of all time, selling more than, get this, 800 million books. That’s right. This lady has sold nearly a billion books.
Well, my grandma liked her books, but at some point felt they were getting a little too steamy for her taste. So, she took it upon herself to write Ms. Steele and let her know. I love that about my grandma. I love that she probably thought, “She just needs to know. She’s a little off course.” So, grandma wrote the letter, and of course Danielle Steele wrote back. She had to. After all, famous writers always personally write back to little old women, who don’t even live in a town, but out in the countryside.
But, for real, Danielle Steel wrote grandma back personally and thanked her for the letter and said she would try to do a little better or something like that. I want to say she sent a book to her as well, but that memory is much foggier, so probably not at all true. It’s just one of those family stories that I found out this morning not everyone in my family knew. I don’t know why or how I knew it, but it tickled me this morning. And it made me think about something in our 2013 society that probably was not as much the case in the mid-1980s when this occurred.
Ms. Steele, whether she took offense or not, took time to write my grandma back. She didn’t chastise my grandmother for old timey virtues that have no place in today’s society. She didn’t tell my grandmother she had no right to accuse her of anything. In other words the normal defenses of televised celebrity were not present. Well…let me take that back, of young celebrity.
In today’s society we have lost the ability to receive critique and the ability to admit fault. And whether Ms. Steele was sincere or not is beside the point. Her reaction to my grandmother however is. She took the time to see what this little old lady from Andice, Texas had to say. Sure, a staffer probably found the letter and thought it was cute, but she reacted in a way that said she was not above it all, that she was not above being challenged. And I miss that in society.
I miss the ability to say, “Let’s think through what you just did/said. Can you see why that would be offensive?” Or even say, “Can’t you see that some of these ‘archaic’ views you despise are actually rooted in both historical and religious history for thousands of years? It’s going to take a while to change. Don’t be so mean about it.” It seems that instead of compromise and conversation and diplomacy we want to beat the snot out of each other with large sticks. And that scares me.
So, in a sense my grandma and Ms. Steele make me long for older days. The pair of them make me long for wise people who can reason together through things. They made friends through their interaction not enemies, while still maintaining the core of who they were. A disagreement didn’t lead to a separation, and I try to let that example remind me of how to treat others…even in 2013.

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