It’s been a long time since the family’s been together for the holidays and everyone scurries around the house to get ready to leave.
My bride of so many years scrubs and rinses the morning dishes before handing them to me to dry. Sure, we have a dishwasher, but where is the fun in that? I steady myself at the kitchen counter and reflect back over the past few days. My mind, as it does so many times, drifts off into another world. I must have slowed down my labor, as a voice brings me back. “Honey, are you okay? Do you need to sit down?”
“Nah, I’m fine,” I reply as I put down the towel. “Just thinking about the past few days, that’s all.” I tilt my head down and place both hands on the counter. “You know, it’s hard to believe that our family has grown up so fast. It seems like only yesterday we were going to their school activities and watching them play sports.”
Mom notices the tears well up in my eyes. She picks up a towel, dries her hands, and steps over and embraces me. She always seems to know the right thing to do at times like this. We’ve been together all these years and, while it hasn’t been perfect, the Lord has graciously shown His love to our family.
“God has been so good to us,” she says, “and yes, it has passed a lot faster than we would have liked, but look at what He’s done for our kids. He’s blessed them with wonderful spouses and we have these precious grandkids. What a special blessing!”
Nodding my head in agreement, I recall them lying on the floor in front of me with their beautiful eyes gazing up in anticipation of the next part of my story. I look at my bride and give her a peck on the cheek as our oldest son walks in.
“Hey you two, enough of that.” We turn with red faces as he announces,“We’ve packed the van and are going to drop the others by the airport on our way out of town, if that’s alright with you.”
“Thanks, that means a lot,” I acknowledge. “It’s getting a little tougher for me to get around these days.”
“You take it easy, Pop,” he says and glances over at Mom. “Make him slow down a bit.”
“That’s like trying to corner a bull,” she proposes, which brings a chuckle from each of us. We walk arm in arm to the front door, then on out to the driveway where everyone is waiting. Hellos are a lot easier than goodbyes, especially this set of goodbyes. Each of the grandchildren stops to give Grandma and Grandpa their honorary hugs and kisses before piling into the van.
Once the grandkids are buckled up, the really hard goodbyes begin. Even though they have their own lives now, a piece of me goes with them each time I say it. With three boys and a girl, the hugs seem never ending. In reality, we don’t want them to end, either. As everyone tries to hold back his or her emotions, the hugs are longer and the goodbyes seem more final.
I finally break the ice. “If you don’t get a move on, that plane will fly without you.”
My daughter, the last one to hug, can’t hold back any longer. With tears running down her cheeks, she’s grabs hold of my collar, gives a big sniff, and inhales the comforting smell of my aftershave. She buries her head in the cradle of my neck, as if she wants to remember this time forever. As she lifts her head and slowly presses her soft cheek against my whiskers, she thinks I wish this would never end. Now I know how Grandpa Clyde must’ve felt giving his dad that last hug, only he didn’t know it would be his last. Then she whispers, “Thank you, Pop, for being you. I want to always remember this moment. I love you and always will.”
“I love you, too,” I whisper back. “You take good care of that wonderful family God has blessed you with.”
“I will,” she assures me as she quickly turns and jumps into the van.
After everyone is in, I give the door a tug and step back as they slowly back down the drive. As Mom and I stand waving, I sigh, “Thank you for giving me such a wonderful family.”
Sniffling, she says, “It was God who did that, we just did our job. It wasn’t always perfect, but with God’s help we did the best we could.” I gently place my arm on her shoulder and continue to wave until they are out of sight.
As the gravel dust settles, we head back into the house. She steadies my arm and helps me in. Then we move to the couch and take a seat. Once she makes me comfortable, which always seems to be her goal, she sits down next to me and asks, “How did your mom and dad meet each other? I’ve heard the stories you told the grandkids before, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard about your mom’s side of the family. Do you think now would be a good time to fill me in?”
Wiping the tears from my eyes, I reach for a tissue to blow my nose. “There’s no better time than the present.”
My bride readjusts herself on the couch, places my hand on her knee, and puts her hand over it. “I’m ready. Sorry, but I’m not going to lie at your feet on my belly,” she says with that wonderful smile I have gotten so accustomed to seeing.
We both let out a laugh as I begin. “Let’s see, where did I stop? Oh yeah, Clyde had just left the graveyard and headed out of town when he decided to go by the old Livingston place. If you don’t mind, Honey, I’ll fit my mom’s story in as I go.”
“Sounds good to me!”
... Clyde turns the truck around and heads toward the old homestead in a cloud of dust. As he drives down the road that he walked hundreds of times before, he thinks things sure look different. I don’t remember these tall fences.
As he pulls up, a guard steps out to block him from entering. “May I help you, sir?”
“I sure hope so. Ya see, I grew up here and wanted to take a look around, see the old place again. I won’t hurt anything or disturb anyone.”
“Sorry, sir,” he quickly responds, “can’t let you do that. We have orders not to let anyone on the place without clearance.”
“Oh, okay. How do I get clearance?” Clyde inquires.
The guard leans over and places his forearm on the top of the truck. “That only comes from the big guy, and he’s not here. He’s at some wedding in town.”
“That would be my sister’s wedding,” Clyde snickers.
The guard takes a step back. “Yeah, sure, kid! If it’s your sister’s wedding, what’re you doing here?”
“The wedding’s over and . . . oh, it’s a long story.”
“Sorry sir; rules are rules.”The guard takes a closer look and asks, “You the Lewis boy?”
“Yep, that’s me.”
“I heard your pop died or was killed somewhere around here. That right?”
“Yeah, ya could say that. Can I ask one more thing?”
“Alright, go ahead, but make it quick; I got my rounds to make.”
“Like I said, my family lived on this property in that old house down the road there,” Clyde points out. “There was a lucky old horseshoe my pop put up above the doorway. If it’s still there, it would sure mean a lot if I could grab it. Ya see, Pop used to lick his fingers and slap that thing every time he’d walk through. Do ya know if it’s still there?”
“Yep, just saw it the other day and was wondering if there was a story behind it.” He glances around to make sure no one else can hear. “I’ll tell ya what,” he whispers, “I’ll let ya grab it, but ya gotta be fast, ‘cause I don’t wanna get fired.”
“I’ll be as fast as a jack rabbit,” Clyde assures him.
“You’ll have to leave your truck here. Just park it outside the gate.”
“Will do! Thanks a bunch, mister, this really means a lot.”