Standing outside the gym where phone booths lined the wall, I pulled a quarter from my pocket and dialed a familiar number. I still remember it now, 30-something years later, although I would have to pull out my phone and look up my husband’s cell phone number if you asked me for it.
She chuckled on the other end of the phone. She knew what was coming.
“I missed my bus,” I continued. “Can you come pick me up?”
Granny never questioned why I couldn’t get from my locker to the bus before it took off, when most of the other kids got there just fine.
She also never questioned if I was hungry. She just went straight to Wendy’s and ordered large French fries to eat on the ride home.
But that day I made a grave mistake, and I still think about it a lot.
When Granny picked me up from school that February afternoon snow was packing the streets. We did our usual French fry run and then pulled into the driveway.
Granny looked over the top of the car, “Be careful Meggie, it’s….”
And then she went down.
The crack still rings in my ears some nights as I remember the consequences of a very bad decision to purposely miss the bus on a snowy day.
I was a bus rider every day because Dad worked until 6 p.m., in Quincy at the time, and Mom didn’t drive.
I always hated riding it, but that year was especially hard thanks to a new kid who fixated on ways to make me cry. I never did cry though. I just got so mad that my face turned beet red as I spit out my one comeback line.
It was all I had. Every single time.
And the whole bus mocked me. “Shut up!” rang out from random seats all over the bus.
It was miserable. But, let me tell you, when I ran around to the other side of the car and found my dear Granny writhing in pain, I would have gladly changed my decision that afternoon and gotten on that bus.
I was ashamed of myself as I screamed for my mom to call an ambulance, with Granny yelling in the background.
“Oh no. I can’t let anyone see me like this. Bring me out a hairbrush!”
And while I sat in the snow, fixing Granny’s hair for the ambulance drivers, I just kept telling her I was sorry. But she wouldn’t have it.
“You stop that apologizing and get the lipstick out of my purse,” she told me, and she meant it.
I still think about that, and I can’t help but compare it to what Jesus did for us.
I mean, He died for our sins so that we might have eternal life. Granny broke her hip, so that I might have Wendy’s French fries.
You can see the similarities. Just kidding.
What is similar is that she chose to portray Jesus’ grace, even in the cold and in horrible pain.
Laying there in the driveway, Granny wasn’t looking to place any blame. She wasn’t angry. She never brought it up again, even through the months of recovery that followed. Her finger never once pointed my direction.
Jesus doesn’t constantly remind us of His sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t angrily point His finger and say, “What I had to go through was your fault.”
Yet, we should live in thankfulness. Our actions should reflect a deep understanding of His sacrifice, not because He forces it on us, but because something so selfless done in our (undeserving) names should profoundly affect everything we do.
No matter what, we will still fall short. That’s why Jesus did it, but He deserves our sincere repentance. And when we pick up our cross and face persecution for Him, we should do it with love.
As for Granny, I never missed the bus on purpose again. I weathered every bit of that ride because of what she suffered due to my actions.
But on a few days when the weather was pretty and my stomach was growling, I still got a note from the office, “Grandma will pick you up.”
Because that’s how much she loved me.