I already know, as I begin this post, that it will be a long one. So I’m going to write it in a few parts.
When I was a teenager, I used to go with my Mom to visit her Aunt Olive and her husband, Frank. My Mom would run errands for the elderly couple, and we’d visit for a while. Then I started to mow their lawn in the summertime. Of course, as most teenagers do, I wanted to complete the task and go on to other things, such as movies with my friends, or anything else but sitting and talking to old folks.
But each time, as I pushed that mower passed the windows, I’d see Frank or Olive watching me. Sometimes they’d tap on the window, or wave to me. And upon completion of the mowing, they’d invite me in to “sit a spell” and have a cold drink of water. Frank would brag about how he was so pleased with the care that I took in mowing their lawn. They’d hired others, but no one took the time to trim the hedges or pay attention to the flower beds, etc. But I always did. I understood that Frank could no longer push the mower or use the hand trimmer, so I had wanted to complete the work with the precision and perfection that he had done for many years before. I took extra care to get it right, for Frank’s sake.
Afterward, they would use the cold drink as an excuse, in order for me to take the time to visit with them. And so I would sit and listen to their “stories.” Of course, I grew to love both the people and their stories.
Olive had a sweet and soft voice, a little lilting at times. She was a tiny woman, with little hands and so the voice matched her well. Frank was a tall man with large hands, and he’d sit in his chair and tap those hands on his knees, or sometimes reach over and take Olive’s hand in his. It was a tender gesture, and I remember that Olive would smile at him each time he gave it. And more often than not, in those hands Frank also held a Bible.
Their story is a unique one. Olive, who had never married, finally said “yes” to Frank. She was 67 years old when they married. Frank was older than she, so I would guess that he was about 71 when they became husband and wife. I always use Olive as my example when people ask me when will I get married. I say “Olive was 67 years old the first time she got married, so I’ve got a few years!” The marriage was blessed and lasted about 30 years here on earth.
So I would sit in their home and listen, as Olive spoke in her soft voice, and told stories of the past. Frank would nod his head in agreement and seldom, if ever, interrupted her. I think that was one of the reasons Olive married him; he rarely disagreed with her!
Many of their stories were about the “olden days,” and many were about my relatives. They were never “gossip” stories, but full of family history or remembrances of family picnics, reunions, and other events. I don’t remember the exact details now, but I do remember spending hours listening to the two of them. I had thought at the time that I was doing them a favor, spending an hour every week during the summer listening to their ramblings. But I stayed each time because I was drawn to them. And all of these years later, I realize that they were the ones who had given me the favor. They provided insight into life, they taught me patience, and eventually gave me a gift for which I am eternally grateful.(more on that in Part two).
Frank, at one point in his life, worked as a mechanic. Some of the stories he told contained details of automobiles from the past. He told me of a time they had to hang an engine from a tree in order to work on it. Those were the days before electric lifts of any sort. As Frank relayed the event to me, he looked down at his hands, as if remembering the strength it took to lift that engine out. It was just a little story, but as I looked at the ninety-five year old man sitting before me, slightly bent over in his chair as he spoke, that story became a testimony of the physical strength the man once had. I understood that point, even as a teenager.
Olive and Frank always asked questions during the visits. What was I studying in school? What were my plans for the future? Could they pray for me? Would I pray with them right at that very moment?
It didn’t take long for me to realize that those weekly “visits” were becoming a time of fellowship. A time of teaching for them, and learning for me. Each week the discussions concerning God, my faith, and their faith began to take over the topics of conversation. Soon Frank began to read some scriptures aloud to me, from that Bible that he kept in his lap.
This all took place in the early 1980′s, when cassette tapes were popular. Frank and Olive were excited that the Bible on tape was available to them. As they were on in years, reading became more difficult. So they would compliment the reading with listening to the tapes as someone narrated the Bible.
Sometimes they would ask me to read aloud to them. They would use the excuse that they liked to listen, but I think that the ulterior motive was to get me to actually read the Bible. After a few verses I’d stop, or they’d interrupt with a question or two, and we’d end up discussing the scriptures. My post lawn mowing visits soon turned into Bible lessons. And although I may not have agreed at the time with what they were telling me, I always listened to what Olive and Frank had to say about those verses.
…to be continued…