"Not again!" Jack exclaimed. "Kate, I need some help here!" he loudly called to his wife, who was downstairs in the kitchen.
"What are you yelling about?" Kate responded as she raced up the stairs to the bedroom. "Is the house on fire?"
"No, your mother's done it again! She used heavy starch on my no-iron dress shirt. The collar's so stiff that I can't even breathe. I can't wear this shirt to the office today."
"So, wear a different shirt," she replied as she began looking through his clothes in the closet. "Here, wear this one. . . . No, wait, she starched this one, too." After searching for several minutes, Kate finally concluded, "She starched them all, so ask Matt if you can borrow one of his."
"That's just great!" Jack grumbled. "I have to borrow a shirt from my 16-year-old son."
"Well, look on the bright side--at least you'll be wearing the latest style."
"Would you please talk to your mother again and ask her to leave my shirts alone?"
"She's just trying to be helpful, Jack. After losing my dad and moving in with us, she feels lost. She doesn't know where she fits in the family anymore, and she has a lot of time on her hands."
Jack rolled his eyes, then folded his hands as if he were praying. "Please talk to her, Kate. That's all I ask."
"Okay, I promise I'll talk to her today."
That evening, when Kate got home from work, she found her mother working in the garden.
"Look at how pretty these roses look, Katie. How was your day?" Sharon asked.
"Fine, Mom. But you and I need to talk. Let's sit down together on the patio."
As they sat down, Sharon asked, "So, what rule did I break now?"
"Mom, you starched all of Jack's shirts and--"
Sharon interrupted, "So, he'll look good for his job, Katie. You don't want him going to the office wearing a wrinkled shirt, do you?"
"Mom, Jack's shirts don't need to be starched or ironed; they're wrinkle-free. Now, I'll have to wash every shirt in his closet all over again. I know that you're trying to be helpful, but before you do something major, would you please talk to me about it first?"
"Oh, all right," Sharon replied testily. "May I start cooking supper, or is that activity forbidden, too?"
As the family ate dinner that night, everyone was surprisingly quiet, except Matt.
"How did your boss like my shirt, Dad?" Matt laughed, but then decided to stifle it when his father glared at him.
Later that evening, Kate knocked on Matt's bedroom door. "Can we talk for a few minutes?"
"Sure, Mom. What's up? The atmosphere at dinner was so cold I thought I was in Antarctica!"
Kate shut the door and sat down on the bed. "Your father and I really need a break from your grandmother. We need some time alone to talk and relax. What are your plans for Saturday?"
"Miranda and I are going to her Aunt Alyssa's house to visit and to help her around the house. Would you like us to take Grandma with us?"
"That would be wonderful," Kate replied. "Maybe she and Alyssa will get along well together and become friends. I think that Alyssa would be a good influence on her. In spite of all she has gone through, she still has a positive attitude toward life and a strong, growing relationship with the Lord."
"Should I ask Grandma, or do you want to ask her?"
"It would be much better if you did, Matt." She thanked him and gave him a hug.
As soon as Kate left his room, Matt knocked on his grandmother's door.
"Come in," she said gruffly. "Oh, it's you, Matt," she said, sounding cheerier. "I thought it might be your mother or father. We're not on the best of terms lately."
"Grandma, Miranda and I will be visiting her Aunt Alyssa on Saturday. She has a rose garden and could use some help tending it. Neither Miranda nor I know much about roses, so I was wondering if you might like to come with us and help her aunt. Maybe you could give her some gardening tips and visit a little with her. She lost her husband about a year ago."
"Well, I'll have to check my schedule and see if I'm free, Matt," she said playfully. "After all, a proper gentleman gives a lady more than just two days' notice." She paused for a few seconds. "But since you are my favorite (and only) grandson, I'll accept your request for help this time. It's a date."
On Friday, Sharon tried not to appear overly excited about Saturday. However, her upcoming visit with Alyssa was the only thing that kept her from succumbing to discouragement.
"You'll have a good time with Alyssa, Grandma," Matt stated as he escorted her to the car. "She's an awesome person."
They picked up Matt's girlfriend, Miranda, at her house and drove directly to her aunt's home.
"Hello, Sharon," Alyssa greeted her warmly. "Miranda told me that you would be visiting me today. It's so nice to meet you. Come, let's sit in the kitchen and relax for a little while. I've made hot spiced tea and chocolate chip cookies."
Matt smiled as he watched Alyssa and his grandmother interact with each other. Alyssa listened attentively while Sharon told her all about her grandchildren.
"I would have to agree that you have the best grandson in the world," Alyssa commented. "Matt is a fine young man." She winked at him and then suggested, "Matt, why don't you and Miranda get started steaming the carpets, while Sharon and I visit a little longer."
Matt and Miranda recognized their cue and immediately went to the living room and got to work.
After a while, Alyssa and Sharon went out to inspect Alyssa's rose garden.
"I've often thought that perhaps the reason God created thorns on the rose stem is to remind us that we must not hold too tightly to the beautiful things He gives us in life," Alyssa commented to Sharon. "He wants us to hold onto Him more than to anything else."
"I never considered that," Sharon replied. "But it makes sense. Sometimes we do hold onto things . . . and maybe to people . . . too tightly, and our hearts bleed when it's time for God to remove them from our lives. I guess He wants us to cling to Him with all our strength during the painful times."
Several hours later, Matt and Miranda finished cleaning the carpets and found Alyssa and Sharon still sitting on the patio, talking about all of the challenges that God had helped them face throughout their lives and marveling at how faithful He had always been to them.
"We'll meet for lunch next Tuesday," Alyssa told Sharon as Matt opened the car door. "Then on Wednesday I'll introduce you to the ladies in my Bible study group."
"I'm looking forward to it!" Sharon replied.
Matt dropped Miranda off at her house and was driving Sharon home when she asked him, "Do you think that your parents would be able to manage if I did less work around the house?"
Matt laughed. "I think they'd adjust eventually!"
© by Nancy A. Stevens