Mama received her daily letter from Grandma one summer afternoon. I had gotten to the mailbox first. I’d skipped out to the edge of the road in front of the house and opened the oversized box the minute the mailman had cleared the end of the driveway. I knew it was from her before I even looked at the envelope. Along the edge was a row of tiny holes I could feel with my fingers. More important, Grandma could feel them. Grandma had cataracts when cataracts meant blindness. Doctors were doing that kind of surgery but it wasn’t always successful. She waited through a world of darkness before her operation.
“Mama, you have a letter,” I hollered as I banged in through the screen door and plopped myself down onto the chair near the floor-model TV set with doors that closed in the center.
My mother walked in from the kitchen carrying two hand-woven pot holders I made for her. It smelled like she had put a pot roast in the oven for supper. She was probably checking on it. I loved “pull-apart meat” with potatoes and carrots cooked until the flavor permeated the vegetables and all the air around it. “Let’s see,” she exhaled slowly as she took the letter and sat down.
I could see from the sheets of stationary that Grandma had filled two pages. There were pin holes down both sides.
Here’s what she’d do. Grandma would write a sentence on the paper, put a straight pin at the end of the line, remove the pin from the beginning of the sentence she had just written, reinsert the pin at the beginning of a new line, feel for the pin at the end of the sentence and repeat until she had filled the page. Sometimes the lines ran into each other or even crossed, but no one said anything to Grandma. She hadn’t said, “I can’t do it.” She found another way to write.
“What’s she doing?” I asked.
“Oh, you know, the usual,” Mama answered as she folded over the pieces of paper. “She sits by the window on school days and listens to the laughter of neighborhood children as they walk home from school.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said. “But this is summer vacation. What does she do now?”
“The ball games,” Mama said and smiled. “They air every home game of the Cincinnati Reds. She doesn’t miss one of them.”
“Mama . . . she can’t see the TV.” I remember rolling my eyes and now wish I hadn’t. Because, it’s what Mama said next that really told me how Grandma could see.
“Grandma can see in her own way,” Mama told me.
There’s only one way to see, I thought but didn’t sass back.
“Your grandmother has watched every baseball game since they started televising them. She knows every player by name. Two of her favorites are a catcher, Smoky Burgess, and one of the pitchers, Joe Nuxhall. He throws and bats left handed, like Grandpa is left handed. Since your grandmother is tall, she likes it that Nuxhall is 6 foot 3.”
“Grandpa isn’t tall. He’s pretty short, like me,” I thought out loud.
“Grandma wouldn’t want you to mention that.”
“Okay,” I agreed but didn’t see why that had to be a secret. Everyone could see how tall my grandfather was.
“Will you come help me set the table?” she asked as she got up and started through the dining room where we ate company dinner.
There was a breakfast nook off the kitchen where my chalk board hung for drawing on while Mama cooked and where the kitchen table sat. I opened the tall cabinet beside the table and took out the blue and white willow dishes we used for every day.
“Okay, Mama, finish. There has to be more. Grandma cannot see the baseball players even if she doesn’t miss any of the games. So, how does she see the games?”
“Well, like I knew that you would draw a picture of a rose bud on the board before you began setting the table. I also knew you would take the plates out first, then the cups and finally the saucers. How do I know all of that? Because . . . I know you. Grandma saw all the games while she could still see. Now, she listens to the play-by-play commentary and watches in her mind . . . because she knows the players and how they play.”
“Is that like God? He can see us because he knows us?”
“I’d say so,” Mama answered as she took a loaf of bread out of the red flowered bread box and put the loaf on the counter top. “Get out a saucer for the bread, please,” she said as she rinsed out the coffee pot before filling it again. “God knows what we think and do. And, he gives us the chance to change our mind and do something or think something even better, because He’s outside of time. He knows what we did; what we do; and what we decided to do over.”
“Wow, He really has new eyes.”
“We all have a new kind of eyes,” Mama said as she put some sweet smelling coffee in the pot, “when we see things God’s way.”
I never knew until I was older, how much I learned from setting the table with Mama.