Firing from the Lip

A collection of thoughts, stories, tall tales, half truths and opinions from the Heartland of America.

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Location: Missouri, United States

An irreverent but loving grandfather of five and father of three, I enjoy writing of family, love, life, and the never ending fascination of it all.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In The Way They Should Go

When I was young I was the proud great-nephew of twin Aunts named Elzie and Elsie. My Grandmother’s sisters on my mother’s side, they were funny, charming, and a balm against the inevitable hurt feelings and fears of childhood.

At 93, living in a care center here in town, their husbands long dead, the old sisters once again shared a room as they had in their youth. Full of laughter, fun, wisdom, and stories of the old days, they were a joy to visit.

My father went to see them at least once a week, to make sure they were doing alright and weren’t doing without anything they wanted and, more importantly, to keep them tightly held in the bond of their family. Too many elderly are placed in homes and forgotten. My beloved great-aunts would never suffer that fate.

Dad was running late and working evening shift on the day I remember so well. He had little time but had promised his Aunts that we would visit. To my father, a promise made was a promise kept, come hell or high water, and so we set off.

He was preoccupied and lost in his thoughts as we strode down the hall toward their room. I, hurrying along beside him, barely noticed the old woman sitting alone in a row of chairs in the aisle. As we passed she reached for my father's hand and, as he stopped, startled, she asked, "Oh, honey! Did you come to see me?"

I saw the hesitation in Dad’s eyes and knew he was thinking about the shortness of time we had to visit as he looked down at this lonely old woman. It didn’t last long, the hesitation, because he smiled, patted her hand, and said "I sure did, hon. I've been wondering how you were?"

The old woman smiled joyously as Pop sat down next to her. She held his hand and talked about her children, how she missed seeing them, and how glad she was that Pop had taken the time to come visit. I sat and listened, wondering where he knew this lady from, and anxious to see my aunts.

After they’d chatted a few moments he asked me to run and tell my aunts that we would have to come back tomorrow. He had to go get ready for work. I was more than happy to go see them and they asked where Pop was? I told them and they both smiled and said, "Bill always had a good heart."

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I asked him how he knew that lady? He thought for a moment and answered, "I don't know her, son. I just didn't have it in me to tell that old woman 'no' when she asked if I had come to see her."

My father looked over at me and said, "Donnie, there are few things worse than being alone in this life. Your aunts understood. They know I'll come see them soon. That old lady has probably sat in that aisle many a day, hoping that someone would come to see her and suffered disappointment after disappointment. Do you understand what I mean?"

"Yes, sir. I think I do." He smiled, winked at me, and we drove home and he hurriedly gathered his lunch and patted me on the back on his way to his truck.

As time went by I came to understand more fully the lesson this shy but loving man had tried to impart on that day. He wasn’t preachy. He wasn’t ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ He simply lived the best way he knew how and, in his way, loved his fellow man as the Good Lord asked us to do.

There is a scripture that reads in part, "Train up a child in the way that he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

I don’t know if that’s entirely true. God knows I have departed from the lessons of my young life many times and have suffered from it but, as I grow older, I find myself drawn more and more to that solid foundation and ever grateful to that quiet and gentle man who walked a path I could watch and learn from.