Love Completely without Complete Understanding

Love Completely without Complete UnderstandingMy grandma is one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, but she doesn’t have a filter. She also doesn’t sugarcoat her words. I know better than to get my feelings hurt, and this combination makes for hilarious memories.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

· “Oh, it looks terrible.”

I hadn’t seen her in at least a couple of months, and this was the first thing she said when she saw that I’d shaved my head to the skin during a mission trip to Tuba City, Arizona. Nice to see you, too.

· “You’re finally handsome.”

Megan cut off 10” of my hair after I proposed, and though we had already visited Nashville and seen Grandma, she insisted that this was the first time she’d laid eyes on my short hair.

· “Does behind your ears ever smell like cheese?”

When my cousin Bryan and I responded that we couldn’t actually smell behind our ears, she said, “Well, you just take your finger and rub it behind your ear.” Well, I’m not hungry for lunch anymore.

· “I know you don’t like it now, but you’ll appreciate it in years to come.”

She must have judged by the disappointed looks on all our faces that the silver spoon that she gave the nine cousins wasn’t a big hit. I don’t even know where the spoon is, but if I did, I’d be taking some pictures and setting up an eBay auction.

· “More like Mexican ketchup.”

She said this to our Hispanic chef at a Japanese hibachi restaurant who was making a joke about a red dipping sauce by calling it “Japanese ketchup.” I kneed her under the table before I could catch myself.

· “My hands and feet feel like kitten’s paws.”

She’d called my uncle at 3am, saying that she needed to go to the emergency room, and when they arrived, she gave this explanation to the ER doctor.

· “Are you going to wear that out?”

The first time she met my mom, my mom was wearing jeans, and Grandma must have thought that was unladylike. Welcome to the family.

· “When I saw this, I thought of you.”

She said this in reference to my high school graduation present, which was a Franklin mint pocket watch with a lacquer rebel flag on the outside and an etching of Robert E. Lee on the watch face. eBay: $25.

· “I won’t be able to come to your wedding.”

Megan and I hadn’t sent out invitations yet and we hadn’t told her the time or date, but somehow she just knew—like when a woman knows she’s pregnant—that coming to witness our covenant before God would be impossible.

· “He might have been a homosexual.”

We were talking about making bizarre or uncomfortable discoveries about people you thought you knew well. Five minutes after I finished telling a story about a guy who woke up while his roommate was sucking on his fingers, she shared this insight. Laughing, my uncle asked, “What was your first clue, Mom?”

· “Some day, you’ll find somebody to put up with you.”

I’d gotten into an argument with my younger sister, and my grandma took her side without knowing what the argument was about. I felt like she wasn’t talking to me but to her deceased husband. I responded, “No, Grandma, some day I’ll find somebody who loves me just the way I am.” And I did.

She and my grandfather took walks around Lipscomb University’s campus, which was across the street from their house, and they would split the pennies and dimes that they found into equal portions and give them to all the cousins.

When I crashed the golf cart into the bushes between my grandparent’s driveway and the Puckets’, she simply said, “Oh, that’s okay.” No punishment, no harsh words, just grace.

When we got a cut or a scuff, she would doctor it with Germolene or a similar pink ointment and draw a bunny rabbit around the hurt place.

She laughs at my jokes about hardcore drug use.

She taught us how to give hummingbird kisses with our eyelashes.

She knows that I’m a writer and when I asked about the beautiful pre-WWII Royal typewriter with glass keys, she gave it to me.

When I drove my sister Laura and her to Oklahoma City to visit family, she paid for all the meals, gas, and Braum’s ice cream.

I receive notes in the mail from her reminding me to lead my family with prayer.

My dad’s side of the family calls me “Little Roger,” after my grandfather, because I inherited his personality, and she has always said, “God must have known what he was doing because I couldn’t have handled two in one household.”

In A River Runs Through It, Reverend Maclean preaches a sermon and in it he is seeking answers about his dead son Paul:

Each one of here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them—we can love completely without complete understanding.

I don’t know why my grandma says some of the things she does, but I love her. I try to love her completely without complete understanding. That’s how I want to love everyone. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I succeed.

We’re all mysteries to one another. I’ve often felt embarrassed for criticizing before I asked more questions.

Comments Closed


  1. Posted February 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    Austin, I literally laughed at loud at multiple comments your grandma made. I think I get where you’re coming from – my mom’s comments get crazier and crazier with each year past 50, but I love her anyway. Enjoyed the post :)

  2. Posted February 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Erika. I know I’ve got some crazy in me. I won’t say who my audience was, but the other day I started laughing at a picture, and said to the person in it, “You look fat in that picture.” Am I an idiot? The “F” word is never okay. Especially with women. You’d think that growing up with two sisters would have taught me that.

  3. Posted February 2, 2011 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

    That’s awesome that she gave you that typewriter.

  4. Posted February 3, 2011 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    My grandfather received it as a gift from a friend.

  5. Posted February 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    A sweet, touching and very funny look at relationship. I think we all must have someone like that in our family. I’m growing more concerned as the years pass, that I may be that someone for my grankids! Thanks for sharing =)

  6. Posted February 4, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    That’s not the worst thing that could happen. And getting them gifts that they actually want won’t hurt.

  7. Elisabeth Loyd
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    Austin, I can just hear Mrs. C. saying some of those things with no hesitation or remorse! I’m proud of you for your unconditional love. What a great title you gave this story and it’s something we all need to follow. You are a very talented wtiter and congrats on selling your poem. Keep up the good work.

  8. Posted February 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Elisabeth. I can’t say that my love is unconditional, but that’s a good goal at least. I appreciate your compliment, and I hope you come back to gu.e.

  9. Posted February 9, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    hehe, I have gotten many of those weird gifts. I hope I remember that when I’m old and get ’em something cool!

  10. Posted February 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    That’s easy…do what my maternal grandmother does and get your daughter, aka my mom, to shop for you. You can’t go wrong. Or just ask. Spoiling the surprise with a good gift is better than causing a bad surprise with a bad one.

  11. Posted December 8, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Hi, Austin! I’m late with my comment, just happened across this post today on your Top Posts list. I’m so glad I did!

    I love the sentiment, “love completely without complete understanding.” It reminds us to be humble in our relationships with others. In my experience, when I believe I understand someone, it’s more likely I’m ascribing my own ideals or feelings to them.

    At those times, I try to remember I’ll never know them as completely as I know myself (which is not all that well, sometimes). It keeps me from being dismissive or frustrated. And it helps me be a better friend.

    Loved hearing your example of this principle at work. Thanks!

  12. Posted December 8, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Sara, Thanks for your thoughts. Humility is the opposite of a Christmas present: something we don’t want to ask for yet something we need.