Although my Grampy was a slender man, just under six feet, he could swing an axe and use a buck saw with the best of them…He never owned a chain saw, even late in his life after they came around. In their home, heat for survival and cooking came from a wood stove in the kitchen. In the cellar, there was a furnace, but only on the coldest of winter days, usually 20 below zero or more, would Gramp build a fire in it. On the second floor were three bedrooms, a small bathroom with no running water, and a large room with no insulation in the walls….oh, and no electricity! The large attic was filled with trunks of “stuff.” It was also used as a food locker: many deer and a hog or two were hung in that “cold storage,”…and the meat that came from that room…Oh, my!
Lighting was whatever you could carry upstairs, usually a kerosene lamp. Because of fire danger, Gramp did not want lamps, not even candles, left upstairs, so they were brought down each morning. There were feather mattresses on the beds, but sometimes when the frost on the outside storm window was almost a quarter inch thick, Mimi would heat up some rocks in the oven, wrap them in towels, and bring them up to warm our feet. As a youngster, I stayed with them as often as I could. I knew every inch of the many acres of woodlands. Gramp’s gravel pit behind the shed filled up with snow for several months from late November into April or May. …a semi-circle about 80 to 100 feet long and 25 feet high, now let me tell you, there were some serious tunnels and caves in that winter playground! In my book, Heartbursts, I relate a night camping on top of that gravel pit, looking for answers to life. In all of my growing up, was the ever present example of my Grampy and Mimi. He taught me how to use an ax, climb a tree; Mimi bandaged up a large cut on my knee, when I cut through a shingle that I had laid on my knee as I sat on the hen house roof! Gramp assured my Mother it was alright to let me hunt alone with a rifle on opening day in November when I was 12. Before daylight, he walked with me to the back fence where the woods came up to the field; he whispered for me to sit under a small fir tree and watch down the fence line, then he walked back to the house. I was mighty proud that morning; he was, too!
On February 26, 1972, his sweet wife, my Mimi, died. In Rumford, sixty miles from Rangeley and Mimi, Gramp lay in a hospital bed, having undergone gall bladder surgery the day before she passed. I was preaching in the small, west Texas town of Seminole, having moved there from Maine the year before. After Dad’s phone call, I was determined to go to her funeral, but, times were tough, and a plane ticket was way beyond my means. I was leaving the house to buy a bus ticket for the 48 hour trip when a member of the church stopped by. He handed me an envelope and hugged my neck. He said, “We are not going to let you ride a bus to Maine.” Nice folks! I arrived the day of the funeral, and was not expecting to see Gramp until I went to the Rumford hospital. Silly me, there he was, in his usual dark gray suit, white shirt, tie, and black shoes. He also had several stitches in his side with heavy bandages which only a few of us saw. Just before the service began, Gramp told my father that he needed to “go.” Dad and I helped Gramp to a side room off the main auditorium. Dad had brought a bedpan from the hospital, and Gramp relieved himself. He was in considerable pain, and as I helped him dress, I saw blood on his bandages. Just before we went back in to start the funeral, I whispered to him, “Gramp, how are you feeling?” His remark just thundered in my ears, although he spoke very softly. He said, “About like I thought I would.” In that simple sentence, what a profound display of incredible character! Gramp’s response had not one thing to do with himself; he told me about my grandmother, the mother of his three children, his dearest, lifelong friend, his precious wife of sixty-three years, now gone. He had wondered, I suppose many times, how he would feel if she should go first, and my question prompted him to tell me of his great, unselfish love for her….”about like I thought I would.” What a great man; sixteen days later, he would go Home to be with her.
Reader friends, for altogether too many, love these days has very little to do with what you have just read. These stories about my Grampy and Mimi are about real, “down to earth,” sure enough love, in sickness and even until death love;…. “but where do we find it?” they ask….and lo, the Book of love and life rests quietly in their living room bookcase….…From my heart to yours…See ya next time!