The Beauty of Old Lace
August 1988

“The Beauty of Old Lace,” New Era, Aug. 1988, 44

My Family:
The Beauty of Old Lace

Grandma had something in common with those fragile, elegant curtains.

The last few days had seemed almost like fall, the days when you want to grab a sweater. Today was no exception. The sun was bright yellow, and the refreshing cool breezes seemed out of place for August. But then again, I had felt out of place myself these past few days, as if a certain coolness had entered into my own life.

As I entered the small, dark bedroom my senses were filled with a medicinal odor. Adjusting to the dim light, I noticed the delicate lace curtains at the two long windows. I had always loved the feel of that crisp lace, but years had changed its crisp loveliness into a limp, but still elegant, fabric. On the opposite wall in an old oak bed rested the small form of my grandmother.

I walked hesitantly to her side and sat quietly on the bed. Her eyes opened, and a weary smile formed on her wrinkled face. As I lifted her small hand, I looked into her eyes. The eyes had once been crystal clear blue, but age and years of hard work had dulled their beauty. Those crystal blue eyes had caught the young Air Corps man’s fancy many years before. They were the eyes my grandfather had looked to for comfort and peace, the eyes he had seen the world out of the last few years of his life. Her eyes had beheld many seasons, many times of peace and comfort, and many of pain and tragedy.

Her cool hand clung to mine, and I gripped it tighter. Her hands were small yet strong. I looked at the contrast of our hands and felt her strength. Her hands were wrinkled, rough, and dark from the sun and age; mine were smooth, soft, and white. At first the sight displeased me. How could she have let her hands get so rough? My mind ran back to all the things she had done. With those small, seemingly frail hands she had lifted bales of hay, planted gardens, canned countless bottles of fruit, held children, braided hair, rubbed baby lambs to dryness, and quilted. Yet these same hands had also enjoyed the velvety touch of a rose petal, the smooth rich feeling of fine soil, and later felt the sharp pains of arthritis.

The sun hit on the old windowpanes and found its way into the room. It was a warm ray of sun, yet blinding to the eyes. As I moved to pull the blind, she clutched my hand tighter and then wearily pointed to the small robin in the flower box outside. She had always loved the simple things in life: the flight of a bird, the rain clouds of early summer, the sweet taste of freshly picked raspberries. Her life had been simple and unpretentious. She had no fine clothes or jewelry. But that didn’t matter to her. She had what she needed and cared about.

I suddenly became aware with a fear I had never known, that my grandmother was dying. I suppose I had thought about it, but the reality of it had not touched me before. Suddenly I realized I might never look into those eyes again, never again feel the touch of her hands. I had loved her for years, but only today did I really see my grandmother as she was—a beautiful, caring woman.

She noticed the tears in my eyes and patted my hand, forming the word no on her parched lips. She didn’t want me to feel sorry for her. I realized then that she was relieved. She had lived her life, and it had been a good one. But now it was coming to an end, and she would soon see Grandpa again. I kissed her gently on the cheek and walked away, glancing at the old lace curtains once again. They, like Grandma, had in their aging acquired a beauty all their own.

Lettering by James Fedor

Photography by Jed Clark