This is the first chapter of an ebook I am working on! Please let me know what you think in the comments section below.
My grandparents lived a life of humility. My grandfather worked at the oil refineries in nearby Hartford, Illinois, never making a lot of money but enough to keep food on the table for my grandmother and their two sons, my uncle Harold and my father, Wayne. My grandmother never worked, and never even learned to drive a car. She lived her life the way most women lived in the mid-twentieth century. Back in the 1940s through the 1960s, the wife stayed home and took care of the home and children while the husband brought home the money. My grandfather could provide food and shelter, it was all they needed. They were happy and together, which is more than I can say about many families today. Many people considered these decades the “Leave it to Beaver” years.
During my younger years, I loved spending the night over at their house; they had a sun room where she would always have a multitude of flowers; the room overlooked a very deep backyard, and my grandfather had a large vegetable garden at the back of the yard, where he planted tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and various other vegetables that supplied a big majority of their food. I used to love spending time with him in the garden and picking the vegetables that were ripe enough to eat. At the side of their house was a flower garden that my grandmother always kept immaculate. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds filled the air. I was stung more than once because I got too close to a bee. On a bookshelf in the room was a small library of books. I would spend hours in the room reading about birds and flowers, and Billy Graham.
But my most vivid memory was listening to the grandfather clock that was in their dining room. The bedroom I slept in was next to the dining room, and I would intentionally stay awake so that I could hear the soothing sound of the hourly chime of the clock and the soft Tick-Tock as it ticked away the minutes. The chimes, even for a young boy like myself, brought a sense of peace and love. It was a culmination of the entire day where love was felt in everything that happened.
The middle school that I went to, was across the street from their house, from grades six through eight on Tuesday. I would walk the five minutes to their house and eat lunch with them. We sat at the kitchen table, that overlooked the garden where the green peppers and tomatoes that we were eating came from. Forty-five minutes later back to school. Sad that I had to leave. I would miss those days immensely when I started High School in 1970.
But, the holidays are the most precious memories of all. Easter and Thanksgiving, we would head over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house for lunch. On Christmas morning we would go for breakfast, as would my Uncle Harold, Aunt Jean, and my cousins Diana, and RoyBram. I still remember my uncle and my grandmother putting hot sauce on their eggs and, during lunch, on their mashed potatoes, which I still think is a little strange.
My uncle and his family lived away, so we only saw them during the holidays. It was a time that I looked forward to. My Uncle was a successful businessman and my Aunt Jean was a very special human being, who was very much loved by my entire family, especially my grandparents. Unfortunately, their marriage didn’t survive, but the love that we all had for her never wavered. Aunt Jean died a few years ago, as did my uncle, but the memories of the time we spent with them will never be forgotten.
What made my grandparents so special was the love that they had for everyone. I don’t think that I ever heard a negative word about anyone come out of their mouths. They treated everyone with the respect that they deserved. When my uncle remarried after divorcing my Aunt Jean, I know it was very hard for them to accept Donna into the family. But, they accepted her despite their deep disappointment.
In the spring of 1983, the Mississippi River had flowed over its banks, causing the lower section of the Clark Bridge connecting Illinois to Missouri to flood and close. The closing of the road meant that all traffic traveling west from the Clark Bridge shared traffic with cars traveling east into Illinois. Not an ideal situation.
On this Wednesday morning in May 1983, my grandparents made a trip to the mall in Florissant, Missouri. They frequently made trips across the river, since my grandmother could seldom venture out of the house because of arthritis that kept her in constant pain. It was this constant pain and discomfort that did not allow her to wear a seat belt while traveling in the car, even though at that time as it is now was federal law.
After crossing the bridge, my grandfather took the detour to the upper road that normally only traveled east. As they traveled west, they surely looked to their right at the road many feet down the hill as the muddy waters of the Mississippi totally covered it.
Meanwhile, an elderly couple was traveling eastbound on the same highway heading toward Illinois. Whether they had forgotten about the closure of the lower section, or they didn’t know, we will never know, but as my grandparents were approaching, the driver of the other car passed a slower car in front of them. The head-on collision was sudden and caused my grandmother to be thrown thru the windshield and out of the car. It killed her instantly. My grandfather, who was wearing a seat belt, received some cuts and a few broken ribs caused by slamming into the steering wheel. The driver and passenger in the other vehicle received minor injuries.
My mom received a phone call late in the morning from my very shaken dad, who told my mom about the accident. I could see the tears flowing down her face. After hanging up the phone, she told me what had happened. I looked at her in total disbelief. This could not be happening, it had to be a mistake. But it wasn’t, my grandmother who we had just three days earlier visited was no longer with us. She was gone I would never see her again. My heart was broken.
What was it that made my grandparents so special, especially my grandmother? Why did they live their lives the way they did? The answer was simple: they had a wonderful, loving relationship with God. They lived their lives how scripture told them to. Were they perfect? No, but they never said that they were. Sure, they attended church every Sunday morning, but their relationship with a loving God did not stop when the service ended. Every person that their lives touched was left with a lasting impression of their love for each other and everyone they came into contact with.
They weren’t preachy; they showed their faith with their actions and how they treated people. That’s what I will always remember about my grandmother. She would tell me to treat people how Jesus would want them to be treated. How He would treat those around him, with love and respect.
Growing up, God did not play a big part in my life at home, we rarely went to church, and they did not bring God up in any conversation. He just wasn’t important to my mom and dad. In later years, I remember my father telling me they never took us to church because he didn’t want to force “religion” on us. Now I realize it was only an excuse. God was just not important to them. They had a life to live and God did not fit in.
My grandmother was my rock, not only during her life on earth but also now as she sings with the angels in heaven. I can’t wait until the day comes that I see her again and tell her how big of a paintbrush God used when He put her in my life.
The Master began in his work on me in the summer of 1983 but I was soon to learn that it was just the beginning.