Stories Bind A Broken Heart
“Tears shed in private are the most honest prayers.” Awakened in the August night by my Grandmother Naomi’s weeping, I remembered that she had shared this thought with me years before. The recollection transformed my fear, sense of helplessness, and own sadness into a holy moment. Wrapped between soft sheets in a fetal position, I, too, began praying. My grandfather, Rudolf (Rudy) Grossenbacher, had suddenly died a week earlier. Family and friends had drawn together in shock and love and then dispersed to their established routines. Since there were two weeks before beginning my sophomore year in high school, I asked to stay. I simply could not bear leaving my grandmother alone.
Together we shed more tears, ate way too many Hershey bars with almonds, and sat in silence. The silence was interrupted by threads of storylines about Rudy. These threads of stories began the ongoing process of stitching up our broken hearts. Here are just a few—
After making his way from Switzerland through Ellis Island, Rudy found a job milking cows in Pennsylvania. He quit after finding out that the English-speaking Milkers made more money. Indignant, he told the boss, “The cows do not care!”
As a 37-year old bachelor and optimistic wildcatter living in California, he swept Naomi, 17 years his junior, off her feet. Their honeymoon included sailing across the Atlantic to meet his family and traveling through Europe. In one hotel, Rudy accepted an invitation to join an evening game of bridge. The shuffling and dealing continued past dawn. When Rudy showed up in the room for breakfast, a distraught Naomi asked, “Where have you been?” Sheepishly, with his brown eyes twinkling, he responded, “I forgot I was married and just kept playing cards.” To his complete amazement, Naomi started laughing! She thought it was funny and perfectly understandable. Thus set the tone for their 43 years of marriage.
Rudy kept bits of a Deutschsprachige Schweiz accent throughout his life. He always summed up unimaginable windfalls, unfortunate experiences, unrealistic forecasts with the same expression—“ Just CRUZZY!” To this day, our family echoes his expression to the mysteries of life.
What is your definition of an honest prayer? What threads of storylines about your loved ones still make you laugh?