The school bus screeches to a halt. I squeeze my way down the aisle, my metal Holly Hobby lunchbox clanging against the seatbacks. I run across our gravel road and up the grassy hill to our house, taking a brief moment to snuggle with my favorite cat Snoopy. I burst into our living room letting the storm door slam closed behind me. I can feel the approach of summer, the air is starting to get sticky and thick, the large fan we have in our living room is doing its best to keep the room cool. I bound up the wooden stairs, taking two at a time, ignoring the dust bunnies of pet hair that whirl at my feet. I’m too excited to notice them, not wanting to wait one more minute until I see my best friend who’s waiting for me.
[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]When life is amazing and wondrous, he celebrates with me. When life is weary and painful, he weeps with me.[/pullquote]The TV’s running louder than it should, the picture fuzzy in spite of the wiry antenna poking from the top. Over the buzz, my Pop-Pop turns to greet me with a crooked smile with his summer teeth (some over here, some over there). His eyes twinkle with mischief and merriment. He lifts me onto his lap and starts to hum a tune that only we both know, bouncing me on his knee. We take a few minutes to do a little jig. We laugh at our own private joke. My hands are on top of his, tracing his bulging veins under his paper thin skin. At last he digs for our snack, usually a large tub of generic peanut butter and stale saltines. We enjoy it like it’s a feast, dropping crumbs that will most likely later be lapped up by one of our dogs.
I gab on and on about my day and he listens intently. Some days I’m pretty sure he doesn’t hear or understand what I’m saying, but he still nods and smiles; making me feel like my story is of the utmost importance. After I get my stories out of my system (I was an imaginative only child) we decide how we want to spend our afternoon. Will it be paper dolls or Matchbox cars? Should I grab the Barbies or perhaps our favorite Yogi Bear board game? Maybe Lincoln Logs or I could grab some yarn and I’ll teach him how to do Jacob’s ladder? Oooh, I forgot about the Weebles, those are the best!
We end up playing our favorite card game, Old Maid. The best thing about playing Old Maid with my Pop-Pop was that when he had the Old Maid in his hand, he always put it slightly higher so I would know which card not to pick. Yet I’d pick it every once in a while, knowing he’d eventually get it back and would let me win.
And so it went, every day after school (that we could) until dinner, I played, laughed and imagined with my best friend that just so happened to be about 80 years older than me. Yet his soul and spunk were on pace with mine. I don’t think he ever knew what a bright spot he was in my life, how he made me feel safe and loved. What a burden he took off of my childhood by making me feel so darned special.
Isn’t it funny what we remember from childhood? Or what we choose to remember? A good bit of my childhood, especially into my teen and young adult years weren’t so grand. From the time I was born through adulthood I lived with my Mom and Dad, my Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop, my Dad and 1st Step Mom, my Dad and 2nd Step Mom and my Aunt and Uncle. Because of this, some days I felt like I didn’t belong or wasn’t wanted. I built walls of protection around my heart, afraid that I’d do something wrong and someone wouldn’t love me anymore and they’d leave or, even worse, die. At night, I’d build physical walls, lining my bed with stuffed animals from head to toe to make sure I was safe.
It’s crazy how the memories of my childhood are such an ironic combination of loneliness and joy. For all of the sadness and scariness I faced, I equally experienced moments of pure happiness from the simplest of pleasures that come from just being a kid playing Old Maid with her Pop-Pop. Pop-Pop Keehn always kept a stash of butterscotch candies that he’d dish out at just the right time, exactly when I needed it.
Now that I’m all grown up, that’s what having a relationship with Jesus feels like. When life is amazing and wondrous, he celebrates with me. When life is weary and painful, he weeps with me. He’s always there, waiting to hear the sound of that storm door slam shut and feet taking the stairs two steps at a time, smiling, dancing a jig to a tune that only we both know, always welcoming me home.
Safety. Provision. Peace. God’s love is a never-ending butterscotch hug.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. ~ John 16:33