40: Her Turn

40: Her Turn

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: For Mom, with Love

Her Turn

Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns.

~Author Unknown

The first time I met them, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect but I desperately wanted their approval. The prospect of meeting my future in-laws was enough to make me seriously doubt my qualifications. Would they like me? Would they measure me against the possibility of better offers for their grandson? Would they secretly wish for someone else, or would they actually welcome me into the family? Instead of sizing me up and down, Jack pulled me in for a great big hug and Joan handed me a beautiful afghan — handmade, with special colors and patterns chosen just for me.

I have to admit; at first their gestures were a little foreign to me. Not having spent much time with my own grandparents growing up, I didn’t quite know how to respond to their generosity. The time and energy Joan had poured into my blanket both honored and inspired me. No one had ever given me a gift like that and I was humbled by the weight of the warmth it offered. Each stitch symbolized a moment of time she had spent thinking of me, and every intricate design embodied another gesture of unexpected kindness.

Jack and Joan were no strangers to welcoming others into their family. After raising five children of their own, they adopted another little boy — their grandson, my future husband. Selflessly putting aside plans for retirement, they took on another generation of PTA meetings, slumber parties, Boy Scouts, and private school tuition.

The kitchen table became another neighborhood hangout, and the stove rarely cooled between indulgent homemade feasts. Love wafted through the air in the form of lingering aromas of fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and Joan’s infamous coffee-glazed doughnuts. I’ve been told several stories of late night doughnut feeds that would have provided enough nourishment for a small country.

While they’d only say, “He was no trouble at all,” I’m forever indebted to them for their years of servitude and self-sacrifice. Their lessons of love shaped my husband into the man he is now. Together, the two of them showed him what a home founded on grace and unlimited acceptance looks like. They taught him to have integrity and helped him create unending memories of laughter and adventure. Their faith provided an anchor of hope and their patience formed a foundation of gentle leadership that guides our marriage today.

Over thirty years ago, they stepped into a difficult situation, and altered history. With no regard for themselves, they created a potential that will reach generations to come. When they chose to take in their grandson, they chose to adopt me as well. When they changed his life, they forever transformed mine too. I couldn’t be more thankful for the example they have given us. They have shown us what it looks like to stand firm in conviction, persevere with patience, and commit in spite of uncertainty. I’m always moved by their gracious understanding and constant support, and our children and grandchildren will be blessed because of a decision Jack and Joan made decades before they existed.

This last year Jack lost his battle with heart disease and medical complications, and left Joan to carry on without him. The house is empty now, and Joan is alone for the first time in her life — without the responsibility of caring for children, grandchildren, or an ailing husband. Her tears are many and her heartache is raw and unbearable at times. Still, she remains steadfast in expectation and confident in hope. Somehow, her care and concern for her family continues, as she prays blessings and guidance over all of us. She daily seeks to wrap her tenderness and attention around us, and never ceases to offer encouragement and support when we need it most.

Although we could never come close to repaying the depth of her compassion and affection, it’s her turn to be adopted now. It’s her turn to be pulled in and comforted; and like the afghans she has meticulously stitched for others, it’s her turn to be wrapped in the safety and security of those who cherish her. When the chill of love lost pierces her heart, it’s her turn to be taken in and consoled. Jack’s departure is an experience that can’t be mended this side of Heaven, but my fervent prayer is that her years of unconditional love and moments of immeasurable pain will be met by a blanket of peace that wraps around her soul and gently begins to heal her heart.

Thank you Joan, for adopting your grandson, for welcoming me into the family, and for faithfully standing beside us. But, now, it’s our turn to return the favor.

~Kara Johnson

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