My kids call him Great-Grandpa Tootsie Roll. And their eyes light up every single time. Every time his hand, wrinkled with age, reaches into his pocket to reveal a chocolaty treat, they smile while my heart swells. Could my children, yet so young, possibly understand the blessing and gift involved in such a simple act?
Can my children comprehend and appreciate the hours spent sitting on a bucket near the lake with Great-Grandpa Tootsie Roll, learning first-hand the patience it takes to catch a fish? Do they understand the countless hours he spends catching, cleaning, and preparing the Blue Gill we excitedly eat during a family fish fry? Nothing tastes quite as good and Grandpa and Grandma’s fried fish.
This man, my husband’s grandfather, might as well be my blood relation. Twelve years have passed since the day I first met him, yet I feel that I’ve known him much longer. Shortly after Tanner and I started dating, we took a day trip to meet his grandparents, and they immediately welcomed me with open arms. Right away, from day one, there was something special about Eugene Maifeld. Something that pulled at my heart strings. Little did I know then how hard those heart strings would be pulled a decade later as I watch him with my children.
Those heart strings were stretched thin yesterday, as we spent the day with Eugene and his wonderful wife, Deloris. We toured the backyard garden, and my kids watched in amazement as Eugene dug up potato hills, letting them gather the produce. Purple and yellow onions, pulled straight from the ground, were cleaned and prepared for us to take home, their earthy fragrance filling the air. And I learned that I have much to glean from this man. Oh, how I desire a garden like his! And yet I know that a garden like this takes years of practice. I wish we lived closer so he could teach me. So I could dig my hands in the soil with him, learning each gardening trick.
Eugene and Deloris asked if we could help clean out some items from their basement, in preparation for a garage sale they’d be having. In their minds, these items were old and not useful to them. In my mind, these items were like gold. Many items were handmade in Eugene’s workshop, telling stories of the hours spent crafting items from old barn wood. Other items were rusty in the best way possible, their patina retelling stories from the farm on which they once lived. I thanked Eugene as I loaded several items into the trunk of our car, hoping that he had even the slightest inkling of what these items mean to me.
You see, filling my home with items that tell a story fills my heart at the same time. In Joshua chapter four, the Israelites were commanded to stack stones after a life event, signaling to the following generations that God had worked in mighty ways. The idea was that subsequent generations would see the stacked stones and ask about the story they held. I love this! While I may not have stones to stack, I have collected several older items from both sides of my family, each telling a story of God’s faithfulness to my family members. These items are among the most treasured in my home, and I love telling my children the stories they hold.
And so today, while I find a spot in my house for the items from Eugene and Deloris’ house, I will smile as I remember our day with them yesterday. Another stone stacked in our hearts. Because some day, those stones and those items from their home will tell their stories even louder. Because when God calls them home, I want my children to remember. The fishing. The potatoes in the garden. The toy tractors in their living room. But most importantly, the love. I want them to remember the deep and abiding love that is represented by a wrinkled hand offering a Tootsie Roll. It really is the simple things in life that can be so profound. And I love that about Eugene.
Proverbs 22:4 “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.”
Eugene and Deloris, I’d say you’ve been rewarded. Your humility and fear of the Lord have given you many years of life, rich with stories and love that your future generations will long honor. We love you!