They were Fresno Grannies. I am sure they have probably been friends since grade school. They had that vibe. One was dressed in earth tones with salt and pepper hair pulled up into a loose bun. Her friend looked like Mrs. Claus (you know Santa’s wife) but in all blue and white. Her minimalist color scheme matched her eyes and hair respectively. She was very prim and put together. She also had her hair up in a tight bun. Earth-tone Grandma was talkative while Mrs. Claus had left the permafrost of the North pole and instead adopted a perma-grin.
Never stopped smiling … the same smile. She was so cute and while permagrins tend to be unnerving, her’s wasn’t.
We were at a conference put together by my former employer Exodus International and Focus on the Family called Love Won Out. It was a controversial conference that presented views concerning homosexuality and Christianity (many of those views have changed for me over the years). Regardless, I was there as an employee. I went to over 30 of these over the years, and all kinds of folks attended these events. To see a pair of older women walk through the doors was not uncommon. It was also not uncommon for people to ask me questions; my name tag let them know I worked with the conference.
After this pair walked up to me, Earth-tone Grandma looked up with squinted eyes, shaky elderly voice, and a pointy arthritic finger, “Are you that Randy Thomas?”
I answered, “Yes Ma’am” while wondering why she emphasized the word “that.”
Her eyes opened a little further, the pointy finger became a softened hand resting on her opposite shoulder, “The Randy Thomas that wrote a few chapters in Alan Chambers’ (first) book?”
Not exactly sure where this was going I answered again, “Yes, Ma’am.”
Her bright brown eyes were the only part of Earth-tone Grandma that belied her age. They were wide now, not squinty, and she said with a little excitement in her shaky voice, “You’re the Randy Thomas that went to Daytona Beach on your Senior vacation, got high, and passed out on top of a bus?”
Mrs. Permagrin Claus didn’t bat an eye, her grin never faltered, her eyes locked on me as I nearly pee’d my pants. I’ve never been asked a question like that before at 7:45 in the morning.
I did write about that wild Daytona experience for Alan’s first book, but that was the farthest thing from what I expected to come out of Earth-tone Grandma’s mouth. After catching my breath I looked from one to the other and back to Earth-tone Grandma and said, “Uh… yes, um … yeah. That was me.”
Earth-tone Grandma eyes lit up with joy, threw both arms out wide and with the biggest most heart-warming smile, “Oh my goodness!! WE ARE KINDRED SPIRITS!” And while she was hugging the life out of me, as all good Grandmother’s know how to do, I looked at Mrs. Permagrin Claus standing to the side and her grin was a full on delighted smile.
Earth-tone Grandma smelled like toast. I didn’t have a choice but to notice in the midst of her exuberant happy filled hug and exclamations of “I am so happy to meet you, I loved your contributions to the book …” and so on.
I was incredibly blessed amused and said, “Well, I am glad to know that we are kindred spirits and thanks for the encouragement!” I enjoyed the heartfelt friendly hug. At the same time I was dying to ask the question of my newly declared kindred spirit, “Soooo… when was the last time you got high and passed out on top of a bus?”
I didn’t ask that question. I should have.