Mom’s recent fall and Isaiah’s subsequent gentle response reminds me of another upset involving both Grandma and Isaiah.
When Isaiah was about 8 or 9 years old, he would get home from school before I got off work, so the school bus took him to Grandma’s house and then I would pick him up there later. Eliza usually had after-school activities or events, so she didn’t go to Grandma’s house so often.
One spring day, Mom was out in the back yard painting the picnic table. She had painted the top and sides and then pushed the table up on one end so she could get to the underside. She hung the bucket of paint over one of the legs that stuck out over her head. Thus situated, she decided to sit a minute for a rest.
Those two legs sticking out at shin level parallel to the ground looked like a perfect sitting bench.
The timing was such that Isaiah got off the bus just as Mom was noticing that make-shift bench there where she could sit. He ran up to the house and into the breezeway just as Mom was lowering herself onto the picnic table leg. The table tilted from Mom’s weight and the bucket of paint spilled all over her like a slap-stick comedy scene. She screamed and hollered knocking Isaiah off his usual path to the kitchen. Alarmed, he ran out the back door of the breezeway instead and straight into the back yard.
She stood up but remained humped over. Arms hanging away from her sides, she looked like she was playing Monster under a liquid-flowing blanket. Isaiah didn’t play along; he was too stunned.
“Grandma!” He called out to her again.
From beneath the paint-sheet she began instructing him to “go to the basement to get trash bags for her clothes; get rags; HURRAY! Go to the side of the house and turn on the hose!” Concerned about his hysterical grandmother, Isaiah immediately went into action.
Knowing Momma’s tendency for drama, I can only imagine the intensity of that moment. Isaiah held the trash bag open for her while she frantically removed her shorts, t-shirt, socks, and shoved them into the bag. She wiped herself with the towels and packed them into the trash bag as well. Huffing and screaming between squeals of self-disgust, Momma was unaware that little Isaiah stood stoically as he did exactly what he was told.
Then came the big finale – the ultimate request:
“Oh! This blame bra! Go get the bush-cutting sheers.”
Little Isaiah retrieved the long-bladed, decades-old sheers from the garage and returned to his grandmother, a brick-red colored goblin in distress.
“Cut it! Cut off the bra!”
Isaiah walked around behind her and obediently guided the heavy blades up her back in the open position. Pressing the antique handles together with all his might, he sliced the fabric and the bra snapped off her body.
Hope grabbed a towel to cover her breasts, explaining later that she “didn’t’ want to traumatize the poor boy”, and then commanded him to spray her down with the hose. Still in shock, still enduring the screaming, stomping fit of his dear old Grandma, still wanting to soothe and calm her, Isaiah again did exactly as he was told.
When I arrived a few hours later, the house was calm and Momma was freshly cleaned. Isaiah, on the other hand, was still stunned. He ran to the door to greet me.
“Mom! Grandma had a problem”, he exclaimed, eyes bugging and body stiff from the shock. He told me the story ever so seriously. I know that I was caught between the impulse to laugh and the need to address Isaiah’s concern respectfully.
This story has become a family favorite, always told with tear-filled laughter, always concluding with kudos for Isaiah for he handled that crisis so graciously. We all admit that he did much better than any of the rest of us could do. While he smiles whenever we tell this story, Isaiah no doubt still feels the gravity of the moment when he stood alone in the face of Hope’s shocking fiasco.