When I received my mission call to the England London South Mission in early 2006, my dad informed me that was the same mission Carol went to as a senior missionary just a few years previous. I invited her over to dinner a few weeks before I was due to leave and sat with her for hours looking over her pictures of our soon to be shared mission home and temple. She quizzed me on English pronunciations of town names (which saved me some embarrassment when I arrived in England).
After I came home from the mission I received a very generous gift in the form of a check—very generous. There was no return address, no name, no way to determine the source and giver of the money. I assumed and still do to this day, that it was Carol who sent me the post-mission money. I used it to buy my first laptop for college.
I continued helping in the garden, transplanting bushes, trimming hedges and raking leaves. Carol also started to ask me to help her in the house. Replacing light bulbs and moving chairs were the first tasks. Then she began to ask for computer help. I even helped her select, purchase and install a flat screen TV in time for her grandkids arrival for Christmas.
I went away to school in Portland for three years and would occasionally make weekend trips home when she called to asked for help. When I moved back home, Carol asked me to paint her home for her. She didn't care how long it would take but committed me to promise to finish the project. She was offering a extraordinary amount of compensation. I was half way done with the house, before she realized she had bought the wrong paint color. I started over with the right paint color and she added a 50% raise for the added time.
All of this information is really supplementary. The reason I wanted to talk about Carol is because of how she has treated me in regards to the church.
When I moved back home, I had been disfellowshipped for a year and a half. Part of this is not being allowed to take the sacrament. The first few weeks back at church I sat alone in sacrament meeting (my dad being Stake President is either traveling or on the stand and my mother is the ward organist, so also on the stand). Carol sat behind me the first few weeks because we liked to talk before church. I am certain she noticed my refusal of the sacrament since I had to wave the Deacon away from my pew completely. I was extremely nervous for having to refuse the sacrament and having people notice. I shook from nerves the first few weeks I had to do this in my home ward.
After some weeks, Carol moved up to sit with me during church. She likes to sit next to the wall so I would pass her the sacrament tray. For the past year and a half she has never once asked me why I don't take the sacrament. She has never treated me differently because of it. I pass her the trays and she passes them back and it is as if it doesn't even matter (which it shouldn't). Carol even likes to secretly tell me when she is skipping on the second or third hour of church and makes me swear I won't tell my dad.
The summer I was painting her home, she would bring me lemonade as the day grew hotter (because that is what older people do right?!), she would stay a while and chat as I painted. One day she mentioned to me her granddaughter's friend in Portland who is gay. Without any visual cues, my ears perked up. She mentioned Jon's name and I instantly said, "Oh yeah, I know him." Carol went on to tell me how Jon was gay, out and still active in church, she thought that was so good. Her granddaughter was a friend of Jon and had told her grandmother (Carol) that Jon has a new boyfriend. She wondered how the church would handle that. Carol then said, "My granddaughter is pretty liberal on issues like that. She is proud to march for gay rights in Provo. I think she gets that liberal side from me."
I commented back with something I cannot remember now, but in my mind I wondered if that was Carol's way to tell me she knows I'm gay and wants me to know she is ok with it. I have never to this day mentioned to Carol that I am gay, but she is a smart woman and I am sure she knows. I would like to tell her. In fact, maybe I will copy this post and e-mail it to her.
Carol, thank you! Thank you for being a magnificent example of what a good church member should be. Thank you for not judging me or prying into the reasons I am not taking the sacrament. Thank you for your subtle gestures of acceptance. Thank you for being a friend who is beyond generous and kind. Thank you for being my third grandma. Thank you for being my church friend.