Last night I received a call from one of my childhood pillars. She is wise. She is admired. She is one of those people that you just don’t mess with. As my dad’s oldest sister, she rules the roost. And by roost, I mean that if you carry her bloodline, you will be expected to mind your manners, be attentive to your faith and tend to your business. We call her Ebby. She is a one of the strongest, most determined and most opinionated of our lot. You just don’t cross this red headed powerhouse in her 8th decade of life. And should you dare, my best advice would be to do it when she is not looking, listening or perhaps is on one of her many trips around the world. In that case, you may have a few days to hide the evidence.
From the tales of their childhood, Ebby was half sister, half dictator. With the love and care of a warrior protector, she has been in charge from the moment my Aunt Sarah, the second child, was born. And when my trouble making daddy came on the scene, she was a mature elementary school girl with the worldly knowledge to keep him in line. This path of empowered dictatorship was passed on to her nieces and nephews. We adore her. We also roll our eyes at her, but only when she has turned her back on us. There is not a doubt in any of our minds that in our 40s and 50s, we are still fair game for mouth washing, downright disagreement and a good long lecture on the err of our ways.
We not only tolerate these things, but fully expect them, knowing that on many subjects our worldview is just different. There is one thing, however, where we all stand in agreement. We protect each other fiercely. From our Granny Bain, we each inherited a powerful fight for family. We were taught to drop our differences at the door. Around the kitchen table, good cooking – and especially homemade rolls – were the uniting force of all things powerful. From the roots of her children have grown families that exude strength, hope and stories of redemption and connection. But the most important ingredient in our recipe is love. We don’t all look the same. We don’t all think the same. What others see as differences, I celebrate as the fullness of our story.
When I saw Ebby’s name on my caller ID last night, I was running my first good bath in far too many days. I had one child grounded in her room and the second in the midst of a Friday night study session. My bathroom was quiet. The water was on and the need to drown out my world was heavy. But to get her call on a Friday evening was unusual, so I answered.
“Lac-eeee!” she said with her strong East Texas twang. I immediately had a smile. She was calling to check on Daddy. She was hoping to catch me at my house so we could talk about a few logistical issues. You see, this is not her first rodeo. Ebby lost two of the most beloved people in her life in one year. In December of 1998 she buried her mom and lifetime sidekick. In May of 1999, she lost my Uncle Dado, her great love. With the passion of a tender pit bull, she led our family through a devastating year with grace and instruction. We learned from her. She taught us how to fight and love and grieve.
I had been married for less than a year, and I will never forget the lessons she gave me in that season on marriage. I can remember at the tender age of 24 that I had so much to learn from those that I respect. So for the last 20 years, I have listened and watched and modeled and tried to weave into my life the same strength of family that she, my aunt and dad have lived before me. We are so very far from perfect. Matter of fact, that is what gives me the greatest hope as I set out to launch my own kids. We stumble and fumble and hurt others feelings. We are so very human. But we are also committed to the long haul. We come back. We forgive. We return to the table and eat rolls together and laugh and show up when we need each other.
As we finished the checklist of “to-do’s” (I may have learned that from this master oldest child, as well), she said something that I will cling to forever. In her slightly cracking voice, these words blessed my phone,“You are standing by your Momma and helping your Daddy. That’s high praise in my book.”
This season is hard. And I feel as if I am constantly short changing a spouse or a parent or a child or a friend. I struggle to communicate and ask for help. So my immediate response to Ebby was guttural. “I needed to hear that.” Because I did. We all do. We need to hear from those that matter to us. We need to comprehend what they are saying as they encourage us. We ARE doing exactly what we need to be doing, whether or not it feels right. Because when life is hard, it does not always feel right. It feels messy and scary and unsure. And on those days, especially, we need to gather the pillars and we need to lean into their strength. May we know that there is support to get through today and tomorrow and wherever this JOURNEY may lead.