I am currently on day number four of my vacation out here in the beautiful prairie country of Wyoming. My mom and I flew out last Friday to visit my Grandparents in Cheyenne. This trip has been planned for well over ten months and was part of my original adventure year itinerary, for you see I didn’t come just to visit my family, I came to try and forgive them as well.
One thing you have to understand is my grandma and I have never really gotten along very well. She’s never been one of those people who is overly affectionate or good at showing how much she cares about people. Couple that with chronic pain, almost all of my memories growing up are of her being a sour, quick tempered, old woman who had nothing but scowls and harsh words for small children. I doubt it was really as bad as I remember it being but, unfortunately the bad memories outweighed the good ones. By the time I was a teenager and could comprehend the situation a little bit better, I was so wrapped up in myself that I didn’t even want to try and understand why she was behaving that way. I was angry at her for the “unjust” way she treated me all those years.
My Grandpa was the only silver lining to those month long visits growing up. His playfulness and jolly demeanor more than made up for Grandma’s surly one, and even though I knew it meant she would be coming too, I couldn’t wait for visits with him. At a very early age I learned you sometimes had to take the good with the bad.
But then when I was in college Grandma had a series of strokes that changed both of them drastically. Grandma had always had mobility challenges, but after she had her strokes she became completely bound to a wheelchair and lost a lot of her unusually sharp memory. Grandpa, who had long since lost his eyesight, no longer had someone to drive for him and he too became mostly homebound. Seeing my grandma in the state she was in was also very difficult for him and he became very depressed. He stopped whistling and joking around, and Grandma started asking about people who had been dead for more than 50 years. It was a very difficult time period for them.
I am very happy to report that today my Grandpa is doing much better and he’s singing and whistling again for the first time in many years. Grandma is still a little loopy and will say the most ridiculous things that stroke patients tend to say, but an unexpected side effect of the stroke is that it has really mellowed her out. She doesn’t complain as much as she used and is WAY more helpful. I spent almost twelve hours in a car with her yesterday, and for the first time in as long as I can remember I didn’t want to strangle her by the time it was over. That, my friends, is progress. I may not be able to have a conversation with her and tell her how her behavior made me feel growing up, but at least I can find it in MY heart to forgive her. There’s no point in being angry anymore. Anger is like a cup of poison you mix up for an enemy but end up drinking yourself, the only person it hurts is you.
While I was showering this morning, I realized that this trip isn’t just about letting go of all the resentment I have held towards my grandma, it’s about learning to forgive all of the dark places I have been harboring inside of me. It was exactly a year ago this weekend that I separated from my ex-husband and started (what seemed like) life all over again. Back then I didn’t know how on earth I was going to make it, but I did. I made it through to the other side with minimal bruises, and definitely a lot happier, and that’s something to be proud of. However, just because I have moved on in the physical world doesn’t mean I don’t have some emotional spring cleaning left to do still. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t angry sometimes about my marriage, not just angry at my ex-husband, but myself too. I need to let it go, I need to learn to forgive others and, more importantly, myself.
Yesterday, on our twelve hour day trip around the state, a couple of the places we visited were Chimney Rock and Register Cliff, both important markers along the Oregon Trail. In fact, we also stopped at another park not too far from Register Cliff where you can actually see ruts carved into the rock from the wheels of thousands of covered wagons that made the crossing. It was humbling to stand in the presence of such a historical place.
On the way home, I thought a lot about the settlers and everything they risked to see their dreams become reality. Many of them didn’t make it. For those of you who ever played the Oregon Trail computer game, I am sure you are familiar with many of the perils they faced on their journey such as dysentery, cholera and starvation. (Screw you bear for having five hundred pounds of meat when I can only carry fifty!)
Present day, people don’t face as many life threatening dangers (at least not in this country) but I firmly believe even harmful emotions can hold us back from our goals. Dwelling on the negative has a nasty way of keeping us stuck. I have too many crazy dreams I want to bring to fruition to let anger stop me from reaching them.
Forgiveness is a process, but all life is. The most important step is the first- recognizing you who and what you need to forgive and then start doing it. Let it go. You’d be surprised how freeing it is. Life’s too short to be angry so here’s to learning to forgive, one grandma at a time 🙂
|Our first stop was Chimney Rock… apparently it used to be a lot taller.|
|They forgot to mention drowning when your wagon tipped over while fording the river|
|After we went to Fort Laramie (not pictured) we stopped by the wagon ruts… they are crazy deep for being cut into rock!|
|Me standing in the ruts, and this isn’t even the deepest part!|
|Last stop Register Cliff where the settlers used to carve their names into the rock. Unfortunately the oldest part of the cliff was blocked off for repairs… sad face 😦|
|Was able to get some photos of a few old ones… This one is from 1854.|
|Another one from 1880, probably not from the Oregon Trail but possibly a solider or gold miner heading west.|
|This one might be completely fake not sure, because it claims he was an Oregon Trail “Wagon Master” but it’s dated 1889. The major part of the Oregon Trail settlers went through 60 years earlier in the 1830s, so who knows?|
|Slightly blurry view of the way home. It was starting to storm over the mountains, which, according to my uncle, are part of the Medicine Bow National Forest.|