It was August and I was driving back to college, ready to move into my own housing for the first time. I had made a quick stop at my grandparents house for lunch, knowing that it would be several months before I would get to visit them again. With no fanfare or surprise, my grandmother pulled out a box of home essentials for me and my roommates. It was the least exciting present I have ever received.
Grandma explained what each one was, knowing full well that I could differentiate between glass cleaner and laundry detergent. Then she held up the toilet brush, that nondescript cleaning wand we all need to keep handy. And then she told me something that I was not expecting to hear.
“This is the most important thing in this whole box.”
I’m not sure if I rolled my eyes or not, but I know I felt like it. “Sure grandma, of couse. Because clean toilets will change the world.”
She smiled, and then laughed her contagious grandma laugh, the one that could fill a whole room and cause sworn enemies to laugh together.
“Dean, you’ve got a girl. She’s a keeper. And if you’re going to keep her, you better have a clean toilet when she comes over to visit. Take care of your girlie, and show her you will by having a clean toilet!”
It’s just a toilet. Who cares?
The point my grandma was making had nothing to do with toilets and everything to do with the little things. Serving each other. Taking care of the little things that, if left untended, end up being the focus of big fights and big problems. Good life lessons, even if the person teaching them didn’t always embrace them.
So when I had to buy a new toilet brush a few months ago, I wasn’t thinking about the $5 I was spending, or the quality of the product. I was thinking about my wife and all of the challenges and joys we have had in almost seven years of marriage. I was thinking about the little things that mess life up, the little things that become big things, and how thankful I am to have a partner who is willing to fight through the little things with me.
But mostly, I was thinking about how much I miss my grandma. And I cried.