Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©

[A reprint from 10-26-10, because immigration is such an issue right now for American presidential campaigns, and for the world as Syrians flee Isis.]

In the posts of Sept. 30 and Oct. 24, I referred to Helen as “Grandma Mac,” as she is to Brigid and Joe. “Grandma Mac” is not just a title. It is a position. A “Grandma Mac” is the linchpin of the family, the one that holds it all together, the bearer of all knowledge, the hearer of all woes, the remover of all spots, the wiper of all spills.

The first Grandma Mac was Henrietta Ann Smith McFarland, my grandmother, the wife of Arthur Harrison McFarland. Even now, many years after her death, whenever anyone in our family says “Grandma Mac,” we know that they mean “Retta,” not any of her successors.

She was five feet tall, in heels, which she wore into her 90s, five feet of dynamite and fun. There was nothing she couldn’t do, including having seven children without ever seeing the inside of a hospital. Indeed, she was never in a hospital until she was dying at age 96. There was no one she couldn’t beat at Chinese Checkers. She was a great fan of her grandchildren and the Cincinnati Reds. She made work into fun. She was the quintessential grandma—laughs and cookies.

Grandma Mac was the linchpin of the family, the switchboard, the one through whom we all communicated, the one who kept track of eight children [she also raised a niece] and 22 grandchildren.

There are other Grandma Macs now. Aunt Gertrude, Aunt Rosemary, Aunt Edna—they are in the next generation of Grandma Macs after Retta. But my wife, Helen, is a Grandma Mac, too, in the next generation after the aunts, and so are Evonne and Carol and Jackie. So was Sandy.

They are the linchpins for their families. They are the ones who keep the clan going, who give it that distinctive family identity.

It’s strange, isn’t it, that these Grandma Macs, who give the clan its identity, were not originally Macs? They weren’t McFarlands until they married one.

Be kind to the immigrants in the family. They will become the linchpins.

John Robert McFarland

I tweet as yooper1721.

My new novel is VETS, about four homeless Iraqistan veterans accused of murdering a VA doctor, is available from your local independent book store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Books-A-Million, Black Opal Books, and almost any place else that sells books. $8.49 or $12.99 for paperback, according to which site you look at, and $3.99 for Kindle. Free if you can get your library to buy one.

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