My niece is waiting, patiently to be not-pregnant. She said if I could make her laugh maybe it would bring on contractions. She also reminded me today on her blog that if I would have been born one day earlier, like I was supposed to--a story for another day--then we wouldn't have the same birthday. So, when you are ordering my See's candy--coughJune7thcough--send some to Lisa too. So, with all that out of the way I will attempt to tell the wooden leg story and see if Lisa can get a good laugh although I'm not promising that it will be funny. Here goes.
Granpa Snyder used to pick up an elderly Japanese fellow and take him to church. The man had a wooden leg and must have been strong like a Japanese Warrior to swing that heavy leg around; surely it weighed twice as much as a real leg.
Grandpa Snyder took this gentleman to church for years. As he got older the man had to be taken in a wheelchair. Grandpa was no spring chicken himself. Week after week he drove this faithful man to church. It was the old helping the old, the faithful helping the faithful. When the gentleman died, and his will was read, Grandpa was mentioned. He was the recipient of the wooden leg.
Grandpa took the wooden leg home and nestled it in a newspaper filled cardboard box in the dark recesses of the garage.
"Why are you keeping this wooden leg, Grandpa?" I asked several years later, when we were in Modesto, visiting.
"A fine gentleman left it to me in his will. Always wanted to be mentioned in someone's will.” He chuckled and rubbed his hand across his face. "Not exactly sure this was what I what I had in mind."
"But why are you keeping it?"
"It was a gift."
"You don’t have to keep every gift. Are you planning on using it? Are you planning an amputation sometime soon? A right leg amputation?"
"Don't be silly. Of course I'm not planning an amputation. People don't go around planning amputations.” The skin around his eyes crinkled into laugh lines. “Where do you get these silly ideas?"
"Well, I just wondered. Usually people keep things they plan to use in the future."
"Is that why you can't park your car in the garage?"
Sometimes Grandpa’s sense of humor delved into forbidden territory.
"Now Grandpa, let's not get off the subject."
"I'm just sayin'…"
"But Grandpa, a wooden leg?" I thought it best to keep Grandpa on the subject. Older people tend to have wandering minds; I didn’t want that to happen to him.
"Well, what would I do with it?"
"I don't know, throw it away."
At that point Grandpa sucked in his breath and looked around the dark recesses of the garage as if he were looking for a better resting place for the leg, next to the oil can or lawn mower, a safer place, one I wouldn’t know about so I wouldn’t ask questions. One thing for sure, he could not throw it away. He didn't know why. He just couldn't do it. It seemed disrespectful.
A couple of years later we were visiting again. Grandpa’s question, “What would you do with it?” had been wandering around in my brain. I had figured out exactly what I would do with it, so I asked if I could have it. I think he was weary of being the keeper of the leg and he said I could. He didn’t even ask why I wanted it.
When we drove out of the driveway, that hot July day, on our way back to Utah, there was a carefully packed box in the back of the Suburban. The kids didn't notice, Phil had noticed and had a few questions that I wasn't willing to answer like, "Why do you want the wooden leg?" but he packed it and grumbled only a little a bit. "Like we don't have enough of her darn stuff in the garage," he said under his breath. To Phil's credit, he pretty much forgives me of my pack rat-ness, probably because he has a few things of his own in the garage.
When we got home, Phil deposited the leg in the garage, next to the wagon wheel hub and the keg of rusty hinges that I cajoled from my dad—I have no idea why I felt the need for a keg of rusty hinges, I just did. The “wooden leg box” went on top of one of my boxes of old Gourmet magazines that I can't seem to throw away because I know the best recipe in the world is in one of them. To me, that seems disrespectful to hungry people, to throw away a magazine that has the best recipe in the world.
It was now April, the month of my oldest darling daughter, Gilmore Girl’s birthday. We had a family dinner for her and a stack of presents, wrapped in colorful Christmas paper. Wrapping birthday presents in Christmas paper is a tradition—it’s odd, but traditions sometimes are.
Gilmore Girl was in her late teens, a happy girl, anticipating wonderful treasures. She opened summer clothes, shaking them out, "Ooh, isn't it pretty?" She saved the big box with the gold ribbon for last.
"Wow, it’s heavy," she lugged it onto her lap. She looked at me with happy eyes, knowing I had found the perfect gift. It was probably the last time I saw such trusting adoration from my sweet girl.
She opened the box to layers and layers of white tissue paper. There is something about lots of crinkly tissue paper that makes any gift seem special. She peeled it back slowly with anticipation. At last the paper uncovered the perfect gift.
A little wrinkle appeared between her eyebrows. She cocked her head, as if to get a look from a different angle. All of a sudden her eyebrows shot out of sight. Her eyes opened so wide I thought she might be in danger of loosing her eyeballs. Her scream bounced off every wall. Tissue paper flew everywhere as she knocked the box around, trying to get it off her lap.
The box bounced on the floor, tissue paper spilled out and the wooden leg did too, it's dear carved foot bent back in an unnatural position.
I forget the words that spilled forth from my darling daughter's mouth. It was mostly things like, "Are you CRAZY?" Questions like that cannot be answered.
Everyone exploded in hysterical laughter, belly laughs that probably cured one of us of a terminal disease. Wipe-the-tears-out-of-your-eyes, laughter. We laughed on and off for days. When we called Grandpa and told him about the perfect gift he laughed too. He laughed so much I’m pretty sure it prolonged his life. It was the gift that kept on giving.
I have one last thing to say. Gilmore Girl is the most forgiving person on the earth. She forgave me. She really did. She loves me with all her heart. This I know with as much confidence as I know the sun will rise in the morning.
One thing bothers me, though. The other day, I did overhear her say to one of her brothers, "Remember, I don't get mad. I get even."
Surely she didn't mean she'd get even with me, the person who gave her the perfect gift, that April birthday, so long ago. She wouldn’t be harboring feelings of get-even-ness, about me. Would she? she will realize what a valuable gift it really was; I just know it.