Redeem: to recover possession or ownership of by payment of a price or service; regain. To exchange (trading stamps, coupons, etc) for goods. To reinstate in someone’s estimation or good opinion; restore to favor.
There’s so much I could talk about but the main memory that keeps popping into mind revolves around my grandparents. I lived with my biological father’s parents for a brief period of time during the early 70’s, when I was about five years old. My grandma, Sarah, was very kind and loving – perhaps a bit overprotective – but she spent hours playing with me, which I craved desperately. My grandpa, Jake, was a cantankerous old man. He taught me how to fish. He had moments where he was very kind and loving but was, unfortunately, a professional alcoholic. He’d get so drunk – nearly every day – that he didn’t remember his actions. I’m sure many of the things that he said – and did – were fueled by nothing more than the alcohol. Nevertheless, it left a lot of unnecessary scars that I’ve carried with me for nearly 40 years.
My grandma and I would spend hours talking about what my life would eventually be like. How I would go to school and do something amazing… be able to take care of myself and not have to depend on anyone else for help. I understand now what she was saying, but back then I just thought she wanted me to have a fancy job and make lots of money so she and I could go live in Hawaii. That’s what we talked about doing anyway, running away from our dreary lives and living in the sunshine. But in her own way she was trying to instill in me the confidence to be my own woman.
My grandparents were in no way financially stable. Money was very tight and they scraped to get by. My grandma would hide money in the lining of her coat because she knew that if grandpa found it he’d take it to the liquor store. So, in order to make ends meet she collected coupons and stamps. Grandma and I were constantly clipping coupons from the paper to redeem for groceries. She also collected S&H stamps (which is still in operation!) to exchange for presents that she gave to others. The one that I remember the most, though, was at the gas station. When coming home from our early morning fishing trips at Buckeye Lake, grandpa would always stop by the same gas station to get gas. This particular station had coupons that you could trade in for stuff… and he always redeemed them to get a Matchbox car for me. Now, I don’t remember playing with these cars but I was always so excited that he used those certificates on something just for me. I’m sure that back then you could trade them in for convenience items or even cigarettes (which he did smoke), but he always spent them on me. I think those mornings he took me fishing and stopped by the gas station for a car were his way to try to restore his favor with me – to redeem himself. He never said much to me unless he was drunk – and those usually weren’t kind words – so the cars were tokens of him saying “I’m kinda trying.” I loved them. Then as I grew older I resented them. Now, well, I’m a work in progress. The bad stuff is slowly slipping away.
Eventually, my grandpa died and I thought that grandma would take her life back. She had paid a high price of sacrificing most of her life with this man who was horrible when he was drinking, which was nearly all the time. She had every right to redeem her life. But she didn’t. She stopped eating and caring for herself and eventually died because she didn’t know what else to do. She’d been in that horribly abusive relationship since she was 13 years old and had no idea how to do it for herself. She’d saved all her coupons to use on a day that never came. I was kinda mad at her for that.
But what it comes down to is that my grandma had a ton of redeeming qualities. Some of my fondest memories are of times I spent with her. Turns out that my grandpa had a couple, too. I’m getting to the point where a Matchbox car holds mostly good memories for me. I’ve learned that we’re all human. We all make mistakes. Some of them are pretty freaking terrible. I’m not sure what demons my grandpa felt that he had to drown in alcohol but I wish I could tell him that – despite his shortcomings – I loved him. He could be a total turd but if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t exist. So, ultimately, he was good for something, right? 😉
It just goes to show that even when what comes out of us is the worst, there is nearly always a redeeming quality that will eventually pull us through.
Shelly Neer Adams gave me this word. She is a dear friend of mine who has faced many heartaches and hurts over the past nine years that we’ve known each other. We met in 2004 at Children’s Hospital on the oncology unit. Her step-daughter, Eden, fought Neuroblastoma along side of Ben. Shelly and I walked the halls together, shared some laughs and definitely some tears. While the oncology unit wasn’t a community I was excited to be a part of, Shelly certainly was a bright spot of sunshine to look forward to. Eden lost her battle with Neuroblastoma and I’m not sure how Shelly has survived it all. My heart breaks for all she’s endured. Shelly, here’s hoping you’ve found some sunshine during your dark times and found that life has many redeeming qualities. <3