Everyone Knows Pam

21 11 2021

I must say I was taken back a bit by her request. “John, this is Pam, I’m calling you to ask when my time comes would you be willing to preach my funeral?” “Pammy (as I called her), of course I’d be honored to, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll probably outlive me!” She answered, “That’s possible but I just feel the need to let you know what I want.” “Sweetheart, if this is what you want then you can count on me.”

Pam and I had gone to school together back in Fremont, Ohio graduating the same year. Her parents ran the best known salvage yard for auto parts in the county and I had gone there several times looking for replacement parts for my old buggy. Truth be known that was about the extent of our personal connection; I might have spoken to her a time or two at school and the same at her parent’s business; but other than that we ran in separate circles never really crossing paths.

It wasn’t till 35 years later that we connected on Facebook when she sent me a friend request. It was then I discovered how sweet of a gal Dear Pam was. Each morning I like to post a Bible passage or something positive. And each morning Pammy would be the first to respond with something positive. We often would private-message each other and she would tell me what was going on in her life, asking me questions from the Bible, and always requesting that Cathy and I pray about something or someone. This Dear Soul had such a heart for others, she’d hurt for them when trouble came and always wanted prayer lifted on their behalf. At the top of the list, the one person she loved more than anyone else including life itself, was her daughter, Libby. She had spent many years raising Libby as an only parent and did all she could to pour her heart and energy into this child she loved so dearly. Like any child, as Libby grew older, she and her mother didn’t always see eye to eye. But in no way did those disagreements ever taint the unwavering love they shared.

As I said, she asked prayer for many. Seemed she was on FB constantly, especially during the wee hours of the night talking to ones, listening to what was going on in their lives, and doing what she could to encourage. Many mornings I had to chuckle, seeing that as soon as I got online, I would get a message from her, “Good Morning, John, hope you and Cathy have a wonderful day!” I would ask her, “Pammy do you ever sleep?!!” We’d share a laugh and then go on with our day, knowing I would hear from her again before the day was done. If something was important and she wanted to talk about it, we would then speak via telephone. It was during those calls I would discover the real Pammy. This is where the tears for others would come, or laughter and happiness from telling me exciting news. Often here was where her deepest questions on God and what the Bible had to say on some subject came. I suppose some might have seen Pammy a bit of a pest, but to me and the ones who knew her best, it became a delight to experience her greetings during my first cup of coffee. So, when she told me she wanted me to preach her funeral I had to ask her if there was something in particular she wanted me to say. “Just tell of some of the things you and I talked about; I have ones that need to hear those words.” At this point in the ministry the Lord had entrusted to me, I had done several funerals for ones that knew their time on Planet Earth was drawing near an end due to illness and wanted to get all their plans together ahead of time. But Pammy seemed healthy and as I said would probably outlive me, so I didn’t give it much thought. Little did I expect the call that came a month later.

James 4:14 says “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

I was dumbstruck the Sunday evening I received a call telling how Pammy was now with the Lord. What a shock! No one was expecting this! We had just spoken the night before. I was numb and my head was spinning all at the same time. Did she know and keep it to herself? Sandy, her oldest and dearest friend was the one who called me with the news. She too had been given instructions by Pammy on what she wanted at her funeral, so it was quite a shock to both of us. I was going to miss my early morning friend, but now was the time to get ready for her final Earthly goodbye. What would it look like?

Romans 8:38-39 says “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

On the day of Pammy’s funeral in Fremont, the Covid pandemic was rearing its ugly head; few people were able to come and when the service started, we might have had 20 family and friends. But big or small gathering, I now finally realized what Pam wanted me to say and why she picked me. I spoke little about her past years as mentioned, I didn’t know her that well back then, so I left that to others to testify about. Pammy had me there to talk about our late-night conversations and how we talked about God’s word often. She wanted those words shared to everyone who came and knew her. Words such as Romans 10:9, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

I got it! Pammy didn’t want the people she loved to feel sad that she was gone. She wanted them to know she was alive! She was Happy! She was with her Lord! And most of all, she wanted them to have what she had, eternal life in Christ. It may have been my words that day, but it was Pammy directing the whole service. Awesome!

On the way back to Indiana I thought about all that had transpired that day. I felt bad that more people couldn’t have been there, but with the Covid, folks just couldn’t take chances. I imagined the place would have been packed otherwise. But then again, it kinda was. Remember, I told you the two of us rekindled and even became closer due to Facebook. I hooked up a direct audio and video feed to the site so others could watch it there. Pammy did reach other people that day because of this–over 1,000! How’s that for a mega church service?!!

I began writing this yesterday because it’s been a year since we said our goodbyes to Pammy and I had been thinking about her a lot. I had no rhyme nor reason where it would take me. I let the Holy Spirit lead my thoughts on this precious “Traveler of the Rock Road.” Pammy knew no strangers. That’s because of her love for people; almost as big as her love for her Lord. I told an imaginary story on Pam how someday I would see her again in Heaven. And I could just see it where from the moment this sweetheart saw me, she would take me by the arm, show me around and introduce me to everyone. I could see us walking up to Peter and Paul and having her introduce me to them. I’d asked, “You two know Pammy, huh?” And they would answer in unison, “Everyone up here knows Pam!!”

Love ya! Miss ya! Know I’ll see you again!

Thanks for Blessing my life!

See ya next time.


Happy Father’s Day, Howie!

20 06 2021

One of the attributes I enjoy about social media like Facebook and Instagram is seeing how folks celebrate holidays especially ones that have a personal touch such as the one we just observed, Father’s Day. I love reading all the memories and tributes each writer bestows on their beloved dad, almost always accompanied by a picture of this loved one. The parents of most of my friends who share my age demographic have passed on, and they’ll put up a pic of when they were young alongside the man they loved and called dad. That never fails to bring a smile as I recognize many of these men from when I was young.

Eventually this leads to thoughts of the man that had I been given the chance would have called Dad. The “gentleman” in question took a liking to my mom in ‘53. They had a wonderful time together, going out on dates, enjoying each other’s company, and making plans for the future. Sadly, those plans quickly vanished into the air (along with good old dad) when it was realized Ma was pregnant with me. As the old 70s saying goes, ‘He slapped it into B for boogie and headed out of town,’ never to darken our door again. So, when Father’s Day rolls around, I pretty much stay in the background until it passes. Afterall, here was someone I really didn’t know, so what could I say about this man? I do have a picture of him later in life with a horse he loved.  When I look at it, I must admit a thought laced with levity comes to mind seeing this man and his horse. I won’t tell you what it is; you may draw your own conclusions. You could get the idea that I must really hate old Howie (a name I gave him instead of Dad), but truthfully; I felt nothing. Hate, love, anger, betrayal, you name the emotion and I can honestly say I’ve never felt it toward him.  I’m told that’s it’s an inborn type of coping mechanism that protects me from any bad feelings. Whatever, I just know that the man never meant anything to me, that is until I was challenged one day.

I was with a group of young men in a Bible study and one day the leader asked us all to name a positive attribute we received from our father. Each had something very special and precious to say about their dads and tried to emulate something they had learned. When they got to me, all I could say, “Sorry guys, never met the man so he had no impact on my life.” When the session was over the leader had me stay to question me more about Howie. After I told him my story he said, “Okay, I can understand why you feel the way you do. But I believe there are no accidents and that every person that has a part in our lives was placed there by God. Sometimes we have to dig a little and pray a lot to find out why.” I spent the next several days pondering his words and wondering what can I attribute in a positive fashion to a man I never knew. I didn’t know where to dig, but I did know how to pray. Boom Baby!

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

The more I studied on Howie, the more I realized it wasn’t what he did in my life to leave a positive mark, it’s what he didn’t do. I believe it was C.S. Lewis that I read this comment, “No matter how we’re raised, rich, poor, scholarly or illiterate, in the finest home in a posh neighborhood, or a mud hut in a remote village in the rain forest; we all have one thing in common. We all have the ability to recognize right from wrong. If I wrong you in such a way that it brings harm, be it physical or emotional, you don’t have to have anyone explain to you what happened. You instinctively know you’ve been wronged because it brought discomfort. The question then becomes, what do we do with that knowledge? Do we say I will never bring that type of pain on someone, or do we go and do likewise?

Howie met a young girl and was interested in a physical relationship only. That helped teach me when I met the love of my life to see more than just what I could get out of the bond, but what I could do to make her happy. He made her believe he wanted a future with her. I knew, by the Grace of God, I would have a future with my Lady. When Ma became pregnant, he turned and walked away. When Cathy came to tell me, she was expecting our 1st child, there were tears–tears of joy from both of us. And as I grew, he made sure never to be a part of my life. And for the last 42 years, one of the greatest privileges I could be bestowed was to be a part of my children and now grandchildren’s lives. For the last 48 years I have grown old loving the same women even more than when we began our lives together. For the 1st time in my life, I came to see the treasure I received from dear old dad, not by what he gave me, but by not following in his example. As I’ve said in previous writings, “Hey Howie, whether you know it or not, ya did good!!”

“Coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God,” Neal A. Maxwell.

This “Traveler of the Rock Road” has a lot to be thankful for over his life, the highs as well as the lows. Just took me a while to realize the blessings I received those many years ago from good old Howie. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

See ya next time.

The Library – Gateway to the World

18 04 2021

As many know, Cathy and I spent this last winter traveling some 8,200 miles around and through nine southern states, having a wonderful time, meeting friends old and new, and visiting places that we thoroughly fell in love with. In Florida and Alabama, we made several trips to the Gulf coast and saw spectacular sunsets. In the Carolinas and Tennessee, we absorbed every mile of mountainous road we could drive and hiked well over one hundred miles of wooded trails, some that reached heights so high we felt that we could look out in any direction and see for a thousand miles. Then, of course, there were the spectacular waterfalls some over 400 feet tall with the waters that flowed over them descending the mountains several miles. When we weren’t exploring, we were spending time with friends and family in those states as well as Georgia and the Virginias.

We have a hope to settle in one of these areas for our golden years, if not full time at least seasonal, but we wait upon the Lord for His Leading. This truly was a trip of a lifetime and we took several thousand pictures that we continue to go through, remembering the wonderful sights we took in and the incredible time we had. There were many we shared on social media, telling others about our journey as if they were right there with us. Often, we would get comments like, “That’s so beautiful! I can’t wait to see where we go tomorrow!” Or, “Your pictures and videos make me feel like I’m right there with you. Thank you for taking me along!” So, I imagine the next question would be, why did I post the way I did; was I just trying to show off? Well, from that; to get the answer you must go back 55 to 60 years to my adopted hometown for Fremont Ohio, and a public library there that sat where history was once played out.

Fremont is an early settlement dating back to the earliest days of our great country. It was there that the Americans built Fort Stephenson, and where Major George Croghan and 160 men successfully defended the fort from British troops during the War of 1812. Later years when the library was built, funded by an endowment from Sardis Birchard (which bears his name), uncle to one of Fremont’s most famous residents, Rutherford B. Hayes, 1 9th president of the United States.  On the grounds of the library is a monument marking the burial plot of Croghan, as well as a replica of the canon used in the battle, “Old Betsy.” Now truthfully, as a boy all that history didn’t mean much; to me it was a really neat building with a really cool canon out front. It wasn’t until later years I learned so much about it as well as my beloved Fremont. Looking back, I suppose you could say the library, to me, was like the fort–sanctuary.

As a child, I struggled in school with reading; it wasn’t until I was 12 that I learned from a private tutor. Often in class I didn’t know what was going on because of my inability to read, but I could remember certain books had beautiful pictures that I loved to stare at. When summer came like any boy, I’d play baseball and hang out with my friends. But a couple of days a week I’d do something that most kids wouldn’t see as fun, especially if you grew up in my old neighborhood; I’d walk across town to the library. As I said, I couldn’t read well so one would think that had to be a wasted trip. But there was a section that had picture books; bright, vivid pictures of places I never knew existed. Perhaps my favorite was one done my Ansel Adams “Sierra Nevada, the John Muir Trail,” which I’m sure is what placed a love in me for the mountains. There were other books of towns, cities, fields of flowers, rivers and waterfalls. A woman with salt and pepper hair worked at the library and would occasionally sit with me to see what I was looking at. “I’ve been there,” she would tell me pointing to a certain picture. Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, New York City and the Statute of Liberty. She and her husband traveled extensively in their younger days. Expanding on what was on the page, she’d tell me stories of traveling down the path of the Grand Canyon on burros or taking a ferry over to Liberty Island to see the Grand Lady that stands in the harbor. When she told me about cold splashes of water hitting her in the face as she stood near Niagara, I could almost feel it. She emphasized details of each sojourn she took to a point, that I felt I was right there with her. Those picture books and this dear lady’s eyes took a young boy on a thousand-mile journey via heart and mind.

“God never said the journey would be easy, but He did say the arrival would be worthwhile.” Max Lucado

Over the course of 50 years, my travels have taken me to many places that have left me in wonder and awe. But my first travels were through the portal of imagination, pictures and by way of others that blazed the path before me, such as this dear saint I met at Birchard Library, Fremont, Ohio while “Traveling the Rock Road.” Hence, why I share my experiences with others, so that they may be blessed as I was.

I honestly believe God put in each of us wonder for what lies ahead; after all, He made this beautiful world in which we live. The least we can do is see as much of it as possible. Amen? “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” (C.S. Lewis)

And just think, if God made a beautiful world for us to see and share, just imagine the beauty and wonders of heaven. Wow!

“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Thanks for reading

See ya next time!

Call Me Larry

7 03 2021

This last week I received word that an old workout partner of mine passed away. I hadn’t seen him since the 80s when both of us had joined a local gym and were learning routines for weightlifting. As anyone who has pumped iron will tell you, you get better results having a workout partner than going on your own. Larry, as he told me to call him, wasn’t a very big man, but he was in pretty good shape and asked me one day if I would spot him on the bench press, and then in turn he did it for me. Since we were both doing the same workout routine, we stayed together the rest of the way, spotting and encouraging one another. For the next year whenever we were at the gym together, we’d pair up and push each other. I could tell Larry was a bit older than me but that didn’t slow him down in the least; he’d hit every rep hard and advanced in weight levels rather quickly. And I liked Larry because he was always cheerful and encouraging; never came to the gym in a bad mood. Everyone liked him and I learned if I wanted to pair up with him, I needed to get to the gym early or someone else would grab him up. Larry never talked about himself much; I knew he was a teacher, happily married with two sons I believe. One thing I liked about him was that he was a seasoned Christian, much stronger in the faith than I was at that point in history. It was not merely in his words, but his attitude that I could tell he was a believer, and a strong and happy one at that. Over the course of the next few months Larry helped me grow physically strong, but more mature in my position in Christ.

The day came when my hours at worked changed, meaning I would no longer be able to work out the same time as my partner. We met one last time at the gym and I thanked him for being a great spotter and motivator for me, and for always being such a great encourager. I introduced him to another friend who was looking for a training partner. They shook hands and I heard those same words as when we first met. “Just call me Larry.”  Yep, they were going work out together.

A couple of years later I was reading the newspaper one evening and noticed an article about my old alma mater, more specifically, a department head who was leaving the school and would be moving his counseling program to Colorado. I looked intently at the man’s picture in the paper, and couldn’t believe it. Then a smile came to me, because, yes, I could believe it. There was old Larry. Dr. Larry Crabb. My workout buddy was one of the leading Christian counselors in America, Bible teacher, taught men and women in a leading theological seminary, was a seminar speaker, and had already written several books, one a best seller. And he never spoke one word about any of it. Now what do you do with a man like that? Well, personally, I call him awesome!

Realizing my workout partner, “old Larry,” had a scholastic pedigree a mile long, and never said anything about it really wasn’t a surprise as I thought about the man. He wasn’t there to brag of his accomplishments so I and others could stand in awe. He was there to be a part of us, but in the same token we could see there was something different about him. That something was Grace. Charles Spurgeon said it like this, “Grace puts its hand on the boasting mouth, and shuts it once for all.” I imagine I learned more about living for Christ by Larry’s actions, than I would have sitting in his classroom. And for that, I am so thankful.

Of course, I wouldn’t, but if I was called upon to eulogize the “Traveler of the Rock Road,” Dr. Larry Crabb, I couldn’t because frankly I didn’t the know the man. But if I was asked to say a few words about old Larry, I know exactly what I would say. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” And I would add; Matthew 5:16 “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” While millions of others knew Dr. Crabb as a teacher, writer, and scholar, I am so thankful I knew the old Larry, who lived out his life so others in a sweating gym could see grace as Christ wants all who believe in Him to experience. Thank you, Larry. Thank you, Jesus!

See ya next time.


Just Have Faith. No, Wait!

6 02 2021

Back in the 60s one of the greatest pleasures I had in my adopted hometown of Fremont Ohio was hanging out on the Sandusky River, a tributary to Lake Erie in north-central Ohio in the United States. It is about 133 miles long and flows into Lake Erie at the southwest side of Sandusky Bay. It was a wonderful place to play and explore as a youth. Before the days of the city building a floodwall, there was a large growth of trees on both banks making it a great place to explore, fish and campout. Often my buddies and I would grab our fishing poles, sleeping bags and some goodies to eat and head up river to our favorite place to camp. By today’s standards it was relatively safe then; no one bothered you and if something did happen you were always close to town or homes no matter where you were. The only place that was off limits was on the west side behind the old A&P store. This was the area known as Hobo Jungle; an area dense with brush and trees where vagabonds stayed. The train tracks were just above the trail head that led into the jungle. When freight trains slowed, they would hop off and on depending on their plans. Kids were taught young you were never to go in the Hobo Jungle. (On a side note, I wrote in an earlier “Traveling the Rock Road” of my experiences there. Possibly I’ll repost sometime.) But the river was a wonderful, place to explore, from the dam, which is now gone where we used to swim, all the way to a stretch of land known as Brady’s Island. Past the island, the river was deep enough for pleasure boaters to run full bore as well as ski. In the winter when the river froze over and it was shallow near the bridge, the city would clear a great big area for ice skating. Hundreds would be down on the ice enjoying the festive like atmosphere that occurred on those cold days. Even for kids like me who didn’t have skates, it was fun to run full bore on the ice to see how far we could slide on our feet, bellies or seat. But without a doubt the most popular time on the river was in the Spring, when the walleye fish would leave Lake Erie and head up river to spawn. Both sides of the banks would be lined shoulder to shoulder with fishermen, while others in waders and boats would be in the river, all with the goal of reaching their limit of these tasty fish that day, then returning the next for another shot. Personally, I didn’t go there much during that time; it took a bit of skill to learn how to fish and land walleyes, neither of which I was highly adept. And some of those anglers took their fishing very seriously and didn’t cotton to some kid throwing his line out and getting snagged every other cast. That was in April, come May that was my time to shine.

The walleye would move out and the white bass would make their way up the river. If you could bait a hook with a minnow, you could catch white bass and lots of them; there was no limit how many you caught! And if you fished with a lightweight rod and reel, you could have a good fight on your hands. I can’t remember a May I wasn’t on the river fishing. When Cathy and I married and moved away, we’d always come back for a long weekend so I could fish. I brought my children and they loved hooking into as many as we could before going back to Grandpa and Grandma’s house, cleaning our catch, then freezing them in bags of ice to take back to Indiana. Oh, I so much loved that old river and the times I spent on it. But as many of you know, at this point in my life I can see where God used many avenues to teach me of His ways and His love. One was a sunny morning on the old Sandusky.

It was about 77/78 on a trip back to Fremont during the bass run, my buddy and his two young boys headed down to the river with me to try our luck. By this point in time the river had changed a lot. The Army Corp. of Engineers were brought in to construct a floodwall. The course of the river was changed making it flow straighter. Up toward town and near the bridge, the bottom was dredged out making it deeper (No more ice skating). The banks farther up were made steeper and rocks were brought in to replace the trees. The change uptown was a bit saddening to this man, but truthfully since our fair town had a history of devastating floods, the changes were good as well as important. And on this day the four of us made our way down the rocky ridge to the river. Lynn and his older son Jason were walking down the white stones fairly easily but Chad, his youngest was struggling keep his footing, so I stayed close to him. We came to a place where it was a rather long gap for a small boy to span. I went first and saw Chad was still standing hesitant to cross. Placing my rod and tackle box in my left hand I stuck out my right and motioned for him to take it. “It’s okay, I’m right here for you.” In the next instance, if I would have had time, my words would have been, “NO! WAIT!” Instead of understanding I wanted him to take hold of my hand, he did his best Superman leap to me! Instincts kicked in as I dropped my gear a millisecond before he reached my arms. I was off balance on the rocks but with every ounce of strength I could muster I caught him and managed to keep both of us from crashing hard onto the stones. I’m sure sweat was rolling off me like an open faucet, but little Chad had a broad smile that said, “Wasn’t that fun!” Sitting him down he scampered off to where his dad and brother were while I worked at putting items back in my tackle box that had spilled out. Sheesh! Later on, I was telling my Lady about the episode that morning. “It was the craziest thing I ever saw! That child had no doubt I was going to catch him, to be there for him!” He had no doubt that I was going to catch him. That I was going to be there for him. Hmm.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Chad’s act of faith made me realize how often I didn’t trust God to be there for me when I was in despair, when I was falling. Sure, in my darkest moments I prayed a lot that the Lord would rescue me. But I can remember times my thoughts were, “Miller, you’ve really done it this time, there’s no way He can get you out of this one.” But a dear saint named Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” For those who are not familiar with Corrie’s story, she and her family were Dutch watchmakers and also Christians. During WW2 when the Nazis took over her town, she, her sister and father hid Jews and resistance fighters in their home. An informant turned them in and they were sent to concentrations camps where her father passed away ten days after arrival. Corrie and her sister Betsy held Bible studies for the women with whom they were imprisoned. The conditions were terrible and they were treated horribly by the prison guards; still they never gave up on God rescuing them. Betsy took gravely ill and Corrie began losing faith. But before she passed away, she told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” When Corrie was released, she went back to aiding ones that being hunted by the Nazis. After the war, she opened shelters for people needing food and a place to stay. She became a speaker traveling to sixty countries telling her story as well as writing a bestselling book, “The Hiding Place” which became a motion picture. She devoted her life to telling others to trust God with all your heart no matter what your situation. What this dear saint went through and never wavered in her conviction that God was still with her made me look at my life in the different light. I mean, after all, how could I compare my struggles with hers. Amen?

Chad is a grown man now and I still see him occasionally. I imagine he doesn’t remember that day on the rocks when he took that “leap of faith” into my arms. But I still do. And I’m so thankful God put this pint-size “Traveler of the Rock Road” in my path to teach me a most valuable lesson. Like the scriptures say in Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Works for me!

Hey Fremont! Happy fish run this Spring!!

See ya next time.

First Christmas

20 12 2020

As I have mentioned in previous “Traveling the Rock Road” stories in my young days I was moved around quite a bit. West Virginia, Maryland, back to West Virginia, Kentucky, and finally in Ohio. I have no memory of Christmas during those days, only while living in Kentucky with some extended family members a large box came one day addressed to me. The box was filled to the brim with toys, and they were all from my mother. She couldn’t live with at that time and the people I was with didn’t celebrate Christmas, but she wanted to make sure I would receive something on that day. I don’t remember much about the contents inside, but I do remember that box. I would climb in and pretend I was a gift back to my mom; that way we could be together again. I called that in another story “The Love Box.” Perhaps one day I’ll re-publish it.

One day my Great Aunt Pearl showed up in Kentucky and the next morning her and I boarded a but to leave. I didn’t know where we were going but that didn’t matter; I was with good ole Pearly Mae who I loved dearly and she told me we were going to my mother. I couldn’t hardly wait. We finally arrived in a small town where we crossed a bridge to a large river, circled around several blocks and came to a stop in front of a store named Tremper’s. That town was Fremont Ohio and standing on the sidewalk with a big smile; my mother! I don’t think I touched a step coming out of the bus; just a full run and jumping into Ma’s arms. I was so happy to be with her again even though I didn’t know this new place; if Ma was there it was home. 

That was the summer of 1960 and many new things and adventures awaited me. The first was starting school in the 1st grade. I had never gone to school prior to that so it was a bit scary not to mention hard since I was behind where most kids were who had gone to kindergarten and had someone to help begin their understanding of education. The greatest part of everyday was returning home to see Ma and Pearl. I may not have understood a lot in school, but I knew these two loved me.

December came and Pearl decorated the house with lights and tensile. A tree came into the house that we adorned with twinkling lights, fancy bulbs, and a star for the top. This was the first Christmas I could ever remember, and I was mesmerized by the whole moment. Then, packages wrapped in colorful paper and tied with red and green bows were placed under the tree. When I learned they were gifts we would open on Christmas morning, like any child, I could hardly control my enthusiasm nor my curiosity.  I loved Christmas! And I loved my new home; Fremont Ohio!!

One evening Ma and I bundled up to stay warm and walked into the town. This trip wasn’t to buy anything, it was to see something almost spectacular to a young boy. One block after crossing the State St. Bridge we turned left on Front St, the business hub of Fremont, and the sights took my breath away. All the way down large lights were strung from one side of the street to the other. Every store front window had a Christmas theme, but the best was Joseph’s Dept. Store. They had a Christmas train that actually ran and other moving props that froze me in my tracks as I peered on this incredible display for so long Ma had to drag me away. We then walked down to the Montgomery Wards store with the hardwood floors. As we entered who met us at the doorway but Santa Claus himself, ready to have me sit on his lab and tell him what I wanted to Christmas. Afterwards he rewarded me for being a good boy with a delicious candy cane. I loved Fremont! Mom did stop at one store and bought a toy. I thought it was for me but she explained I would see what we did with it. Farther down the street sat the Paramont Theater where the latest movies were shown. Out front were two men in white hats and blue uniforms. I recognized them as Marines as my Uncle Carl, one of my heroes, had been a Marine in WW2. Ma gave me the toy to put in a box that was between these two. This was my 1st time contributing to “Toys for Tots,” and I’ve tried to give something every year since. With a big a burly hand over my head one thanked me and then us passes to go into the theater to see a short Christmas movie. I was in heaven! When we walked back through town I thought we would turn to cross the bridge and go home, but instead we went the opposite direction. There, a store named Spieldenner’s with large picture window, and it had the biggest Christmas tree I had ever seen. It was gold, as I recall, and it stood probably twenty feet tall, but to this young mind it looked to be a mile high! I’m surprised I didn’t get frostbite on my tongue as my mouth gapped open as wide it could. This was awesome! I love Christmas, and I love Fremont! 

As we finally turned to head home a car pulled over with a man in it offering us a ride. I knew this gentleman for he lived up the street from us on Sandusky Ave. and he had become a family friend. Albert Stellar, if I’m spelling his name right and if you had ever gone to the Fremont Racetrack back in the 50s and 60s you knew Albert. He was in charge of concessions in the seating stands and would hire boys to carry the food and drinks around through the crowd.  We climbed in and he asked what we were doing. Ma explained we taking in all the beautiful sites downtown. “Oh, you haven’t seen the most amazing site yet. I’ll take you there now.” 

Ma didn’t know where we were going any more than I did, but she knew Albert was a good friend and if he said this worth seeing then that was good enough for her. We went to the far side of the community and drove to an area called Barker Hill. There was such a line of cars going to the same place that I just knew it was going to be something really special. I was not disappointed. When we reached our destination I almost jumped out of the car. There was a tree that was larger than the one at Spieldenner’s lit up by with floodlights. The decorations were huge, candy canes, toy soldiers and other fairy tale items. Large red and green lights and a gold tensile that went all way around the tree and stretched from top to bottom. The star on the top was so big and brilliant I imagined it was as big as I was. We could only stay there for a few seconds; there were so many cars wanting a chance to see this incredible giant of the evergreen that traffic had to keep moving. But all the way home I could still see that beautiful tree in my mind. I couldn’t wait to tell Pearl!

When we got home I ran into the house and told my beloved great aunt everything we did and saw. I loved telling her things because I could always tell she was listening to every word. When I finished, she showed me something she had just bought for Christmas. It was a nativity scene with all the characters; Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the three wisemen, sheep, camels, a stable and a manager. That night Pearl told me the real and complete Christmas story; how God loved us so much He sent his Son as a baby to redeem the world that we may someday live in heaven with Him. Some children heard this story from the time they were toddlers; I was six and I hung on every word the little lady from West Virginia told me. Christmas lights and display, a Christmas movie for helping the Marines help other kids. Not one but two of the most beautiful Christmas trees I had ever seen. And now finding out the real meaning of Christmas. Wow! What a night!

C.S. Lewis; “Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world.”

Max Lucado; “The story of Christmas is the story of God’s relentless love for us.”

Robert Flatt; “The giving of gifts is not something man invented. God started the giving spree when He gave a gift beyond words, the unspeakable gift of His Son.”

Isaiah 9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

It’s been sixty years since that night. And, since then, I have seen major cities adorned for miles with the most incredible decorations and millions of twinkling lights. I have performed in scores of musical programs at Christmas and even played the part of a wiseman in several plays. My Lady and I have enjoyed adorning our home with Christmassy décor and watching our children and then grandchildren faces when they open their presents. And I have read the Christmas story in Luke in our home for nearly fifty years. Still, the eyes of my heart go back to a six-year boy and the wonders, beauty and true meaning he received at his first Christmas in his beloved Hometown of Fremont Ohio.

“For unto you a Child is born. And he shall be called Immanuel.” God is with us.

To all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Blessed New Year!

See ya next year!

Something About Bob and It’s Special

13 12 2020

Do you remember him from school? We all knew him. He’d come down the hall going from class to class and seldom make the short trip without someone saying something mean, but what they saw as funny, to him was hurtful. He was the brunt of jokes and pranks constantly, but all he would do is keep his head down and walk away. I guess he felt if he fought back it would only get worse. And why was this young man ridiculed mercilessly? He looked different, thought and acted differently, did not fit the general norm of the typical high school student. Now to be fair, not all of us were cruel to this individual; occasionally we’d even say a nice word to him. But we’d never defend him when he was picked on fearing the taunts would then turn to us. And in private with a few friends, we may even talk and laugh about how weird he was. Okay, you’ve probably figured out by now I’m not speaking of a certain individual that we all know; I’m talking in general. It’s safe to say nearly all secondary schools in the country have at least one individual that fits into this sad category. And if we’re honest, most of us have been guilty of the behavior I’ve described. Quite possibly, we were that one who picked on this individual. But today I’d like to tell you about a certain young man I knew that was firmly in this category.  His name was Bob.

I met Bob during our grade school days when we were in the same cub scout pack. He was a big boy, both tall and heavy and he had a weird way of looking at things, different thoughts and ideas than most. So, one could see Bob was, shall we say “diverse” in his ways and thinking and had to endure a great deal of torment at school as well as from the guys in our pack. Fortunately, his mom was the den mother and she wouldn’t let it get too carried away. I didn’t say a lot to him because I was dealing with my own problems at school since I got teased a lot also. Since I was rather nice to Bob, his mom would always put us on the same team when we split up and played games. Here I have to admit I would get a bit aggravated knowing it was a sure thing whatever we were playing, we were going to lose big!

When we got to high school, I seldom saw Bob. If I did run into him, I would keep walking like we were strangers. And still there were ones that nev missed an opportunity to tell him how dumb or weird he we was even going out of their way to taunt him. It wasn’t right and I didn’t approve; but I must confess I didn’t lift a voice or a finger to defend him; something I’m ashamed of to this day.

My senior year I only had to go to school half a day, so I took a job on the afternoon shift at a small factory that made plastic products. And who did I find working there? Good Old Bob!! He was a year ahead of me in school and after graduation went to work there. He was a machine operator and I was put as his helper. Lucky me! The work was easy and we actually made a pretty good team getting parts out. But every evening as the hours wound on, one thought came to mind. Good Grief man! Don’t you ever shut up?!!! Bob made conversation on every subject known to man and never lost steam. I had to learn how to shut him out mentally or I would lose my mind. I put up with it because since I didn’t have a car at that moment, he was kind enough to pick me up and take me home every night. One evening I asked him; “Bob, where do get all this information.” It was then I found out how well read this man was. Scientists, philosophers, politicians, inventors, philanthropists, adventurers, and a good deal of fiction writers. Here was someone who had absolutely no social life. I suppose he knew if he showed up at some function or gathering there was a good chance he’d have to endure ridicule. So he would stay home in his room and read everything he could get his hands on. As I began to really listen to him; I came to realize Bob was quite an intelligent man. His comprehensive skills on what he read was impeccable. He could recite paragraphs and pages as if it was in front of him. The more I got to know him, the more respect I had for “Old Weird Bob.” Yes, you could say he was different compared to most, but that sure didn’t make him dump or bad. I discovered he was brilliant; he just had an unorthodox way of carrying himself. Also, he had a heart to help others. He found out another man that worked at the factory was walking every day several miles to get back and forth. So Bob would go out of his way to pick him up, and would never take money from either of us for gas. As time went on, I found that he had another hidden talent; he was quite the actor. He could recite entire lines from shows and his voice texture for whatever part he was doing was spot on. “Bob, you’re very talented, you ought to pursue this gift of yours.” He would look at me for a moment and then go on to a different subject.

One day at the end of work he was unusually quiet as we walked to the car. “I’ve just been fired.” “What?!! Why?” “The boss said I wasn’t working out and had me turn in my tools.” I didn’t know what else to say as we drove to my house. As I got out, I said, “Bob, I’m sorry man, I know you’ll find something else.” He didn’t say anything, drove off and that’s the last time I ever saw him. I asked the boss about Bob the next day trying to defend him. “John you’re the only one who would stick up for him, nobody else liked him so it’s best he’s not here.” I don’t believe it. All through school he had to put up with being looked down and now the same thing was happening in the blue-collar world. For Pete sake!

There’s an old saying about not judging a book by its cover. But the adage goes like this, “Don’t criticize what you don’t understand. Don’t judge a book by its cover. You may miss the whole story.” It wasn’t until I worked with troubled kids that I came to realize there’s a lot more to an individual than generally meets the eye. The troubled youths I came into contact with were mostly good kids at their core, but because of circumstances beyond their control they were looked down on before many got to know just who they really were. So, they become that person that others identify them as and they give up on life. I feel that’s what happened to Bob; people saw him as weird and so he withdrew into himself and allowed few to really know his talents and his heart. I have a theory that often others will scorn someone else to keep the light off themselves and the shortcomings they have. The Bible is very clear on this subject. James 2:1-5” My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” 1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I suppose I’m on a soapbox today, but this is a subject that’s close to my heart. We’ve all heard the golden rule, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” I am convinced that if we all could try just a little more to understand others, ones that are different that we are, this world would be such a better place for all of us, especially the Bobs everywhere and perhaps in our everyday life.

As mentioned, I never saw this “Traveler of the Rock Road” again and I’ve been told he passed away twenty years ago. My hope and prayer are that he found some joy in life before then, perhaps with someone else. And my other hope and prayer is I hope that I will never again look at someone’s appearance or ways and not see their heart. For I know I will have missed the whole person.

‘Nuf said.

See ya next time.

You Want to Help, Then Be Quiet!

29 11 2020

When my children were little, it was my desire for them to know the area and people where my story began down in southern West Virginia. Many times we traveled down to Mercer County which is the home of Princeton, my birth home, and Bluefield that at one time was called the southern New York City for the way it was designed.  But it was the small communities where most of my extended family lived–Matoaka, Rock, Montcalm and Bluewell. These little hamlets were quaint as they had not changed a great deal with progress, and I loved them dearly as I did the people who lived there.

One of my favorite places was a state park named Pinnacle Rock for its 3,100-foot sandstone formation that rises high into the sky like a natural God made skyscraper. Several times I would make my way over there before sunrise, and with a flashlight make my trek to the top where I would watch the sun come up in the east and pull the darkness away from the valley below like an artist slowly unveiling the beautiful painting he had created. I was always left in awe of the beauty God had formed just for a wild-eyed youth to take in. Now my great-aunts didn’t hold to the same mindset I did and lectured me how dangerous that stunt was. I finally agreed they would never hear of me climbing up Pinnacle Rock in the dark again. (Please note the words I used.)  So, when the children became old enough to appreciate the view, I would take them over, and to ease everyone’s mind, in the daylight. They loved it as I had hoped they would. 

It was on one of those visits I met a man that I didn’t know and have never seen since. He was standing in the parking lot looking away from the rock and on to the road; and it was apparent there was a lot of sadness in this soul. As we reached him, I said hello and he gave me a soft reply. Something told me not to keep walking. So, I spoke, “Friend, are you okay?” That’s all it took for him to tell his story. “I come here occasionally to remember my daughter. I just live down the road and we used to come here and climb the rock like you and your kids did. She loved it here and we had such a good time. As she got older, I was working more and she was growing into a young lady. We kind of grew apart; she had friends that she hung out with and I just didn’t bother being around her much. One day she was driving home from a party and had too much to drink. She went left of center right out here, hit a car and died instantly. I can’t help thinking had I been around more for her this would have never happened. I can’t stop blaming myself.” I sent the family on to the car and Cathy knew I was going to stand there and talk to this man as long as he wanted. I didn’t do much talking, I let this brother spill his heart out with all that was on it. “I generally don’t talk to strangers, but when I saw you something told me it was okay to approach you. (Not blowing my horn but I get that a lot.) He continued on with memories of how close they had been at one time, and all the joy and laughter they shared. When he spoke of the good times there would be a small smile on his face, to which I would smile back and say something like “That is such an awesome memory, thank you for sharing it with me.” When it was apparent he had finished, I ask him if I could pray with him. And there in that parking lot, with others coming and going around us, we bowed our heads to the Lord and I prayed he would forgive himself and hang on dearly to those precious memories of his beloved little girl. Before we walked to our cars he spoke once more. “Thank you, you don’t know how much you helped me today.” Driving away his words kept echoing in my ears. How much I helped him? I didn’t do much more than listen to him. I, didn’t, do much more, than, listen. Hmm.

I like using quotes: Here’s one that rings true even though I don’t know who said it. “Sometimes we need someone to simply be there. Not to fix anything, or to do anything in particular, but just to let us feel that we are cared for and supported.”

Years ago, I learned the passage James 1:19 “This you know, my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” I felt it was directed right at me because I was guilty of speaking when I shouldn’t. But it’s also directed at how we should treat others who are going through some rough times. The man didn’t need me to try and fix his problems, he needed me to listen to his story, and care. That’s how God Treats us; He knows and listens to our concerns and short comings and cares so much for each of us that when the time is right, He can help us. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

As I stated earlier, I never saw this “Traveler of the Rock Road” again. Occasionally though, I still think of him and hope he found help in forgiving himself. All I know is God put this individual in my path that day for a reason. And the reason? Simply to listen, and to care. Perhaps God has or will do the same to you; bring someone to you that needs help. And you give them that help. With your ear, and your heart.

Another quote I like is this one by Katherine Walden, “If a person feels the need to tell you the same story countless times, there is a reason. It is either important to their heart or they feel it is important for you to know. Be kind, be attentive, be patient and perhaps you will be the one God uses to help them move past where they are stuck.”

Blessed Week Family and Friends!

See ya next time.

Come Home, Come Now!

8 11 2020

Kevin was nearly 20 years old when I met him, but with his boyish looks he could have easily passed for 16. A greasy blond mop of hair that had the appearance of not being washed for months; probably also the last time he had a bath. His thin frame told me he hadn’t eaten properly for quite a while. That was also evident when I took him to Micky D’s and he devoured his food at record speed. Kevin had left home two years prior in hopes of discovering new places and adventures far from his home in northern Kentucky. Instead, he found himself often homeless, or living with others that would abuse him by taking what money he had and then tossing him out. For a time, he lived in a tent until winter came along and it was too cold. But often he’d find himself behind bars in some town for petty crimes like vagrancy, shoplifting and the likes. 

When our paths crossed, he was trying to get his life straightened out. He hadn’t finished high school so he was taking adult classes to earn his G.E.D. Someone helped him get a job doing janitorial work, but it was several miles from where he was staying. I told him that as long as he was wiling to make an effort to do better, I would help him get back and forth to work and school. Someone else had taken him in that he trusted and I bought him new clothes for his job. As we rode together, we got to be friends and Kevin began opening up to me more. He told how he was pretty wild and wouldn’t listen to anything his parents wanted him to do. They had many fights and one night he slipped out the back door and hitchhiked to Florida. That didn’t turn out the way he hoped so next he moved to Michigan in hopes of a job. Again, failure was waiting for him there and he found himself walking the streets at night when he couldn’t get into a shelter. Next, he met a person who took him to Fort Wayne and used him as a punching bag whenever he got drunk. He finally found his way to our little lake community and landed in jail for 90 days. When he got out, he had no place to go and knew only a few people. He told how tired he was of this lifestyle and just wanted to go home. “Well Kevin, that sounds like the best thing you could do. So why don’t you?”  Looking down he answered softly, “I made my parents life a living hell and they would never take me back.” “Have you ever called and asked them if you could come home?” He shook his head, “No, they don’t want to hear from me.” “But you don’t know that. Personally, I think it would be the best place to pull your life together, and you just may be surprised at what they would say. Anyway, you’re never going to know if you don’t call.”

It was about a week later Kevin got hold of me to say once again the person he was staying with gave him the boot. Got it him set up with shelter for the night and told him we would go around the next day to the different shelters; something I could tell he wasn’t crazy about. Early in the day he told me he found another place to stay. I knew the place and far as I was concerned, it wasn’t good. “Kevin, please consider calling home and talking to your parents; buddy you don’t need to live this way anymore.” Hanging up, I felt like I wasted words, but I had try anyway.

Two days later Kevin gives me a call. “Could you take me home?” I thought he must me someplace where he wants a ride back to where he was staying. “No, I need a ride to Kentucky.” “What?!!! What’s going on, Kevin?” This place I’m staying is really dirty and I have to sleep on an old couch and the people here are never quiet to where I can get to sleep. So, I called home.” I think my heart skipped a beat. “What happened? What did they say?” He shared four words his mom said to him. “Come home. Come now.”

“Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” C.S. Lewis.

Even though Kevin had rejected the ways, rules and love of his parents, they never stopped loving him. And I imagine, like any parent, they knew where he was most of the time and what he was going through. But forcing to come home would have been a mistake; it had to be his decision. God does that with each of us; no matter what you have done, how much you have rejected Him, He’s not going to stop loving you. But God is not going to force anyone to love Him and so He gives us a freewill to decide what we want and where we can go for true love. There is a quote by Phillip Yancey that describes me to a tee when I walked away from God for a while. “I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else.” “Faith means believing in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” Like Kevin, I was unhappy in my situation, that is until I walked away and was able to see just how much love I left behind. Over and over again we see His love for us in scriptures.

Psalm 36:7 “How precious is your steadfast love, O God!  The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

Romans 5:8 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 8:38–39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

We crossed the bridge and headed to a small border town in Kentucky; I could see Kevin’s excitement as he recognized all the places he grew up around and wanted to tell me all about them. When we reached his house, it looked as if no one was home. “My parents stay to the back of the house, but I know they’re there.” “Do you want me to go up the door with you?” “No, that’s okay, if they’re not here I’ll sit on the porch until they get back. You can go ahead and leave. Thank you for everything.” I pulled away but could see in the rearview mirror Kevin as he climbed the steps to the house. And there was his mom and dad meeting him. A few minutes later I got the text; “I got it!” Pulling over I wrote back, “I’m so glad you’re home.” A quick response; “Me too.”

Been a couple of years now but I still think about Kevin and how happy he was to go home. Perhaps there’s someone waiting for you, or you have a loved one you want to see come home. Don’t give up. Don’t stop loving. And if it’s God you’ve walked away from, tell me something. Are you really happy? I know our Lord is not, because His love never ends. He’s always ready to say to any of us, “Come Home. Come Now.”

See ya next time.

Our House, Our Home

18 10 2020

In the first six years of my life I was kind of bounced from one home to another. Starting in the great state of West Virginia, Ma (as I always called her) and I moved to Maryland to live with her brother’s family and find work. I was later sent back to WV to live with my Great Aunt Dot and her husband David. From there I found myself being sent to Kentucky to my Great Aunt Pearl and Uncle Price who had moved there and ran an upholstery shop; we lived in small apartment above the store. Pearl and Price left there and I went to live with Price’s sister’s family. Mom had to leave me with other folks for a time as she tried to get on her feet. A single mother back in the 50s didn’t have the easiest road ahead of her, especially one with physical limitations; Ma had over an 75% hearing loss. Finally, the day came that Pearl came back to Kentucky to get me and we traveled to a whole new place–Fremont Ohio. Fremont was bustling with many factories that offered work to ones that needed it. A good number of folks from the Appalachian region had moved there for a better life. I can remember the joy I felt when the bus pulled up in front of Tremper’s, kind of a magazine, tobacco, and soda shop. There, on the sidewalk with a big smile was Ma. I don’t think I touched the steps of the bus when the door swung open; I just jumped straight into her arms. Toting our luggage, the three of us walked across State St. Bridge and up Sandusky Ave. to the smallest house I had ever seen. It had a small kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and living room; I doubt it was much bigger than my garage today. But we made do until the day Pearl told me we were moving down the street into a big house over on Holland. I was so excited; I had been sleeping on a rollaway bed in the living room and now I was going to have my own room. That excitement dissipated quickly the moment I saw the place. It was a big house alright, but it looked like a strong wind could knock it down. This place had been built back in the 1800s and at one time was a showcase home with the wide 1-house façade and narrow Greek Revival front attic-story windows. (I got that description from a fascinating book, “Fremont, Where History Lives” by Larry and Krista Michaels.) But over time, it had become an apartment house until it was abandoned for many years. Now it was run down with many trees and two sheds that leaned hard to one side. Pearl and Price had been coming there to do work for some time and fixed up enough of the house that we could move in.

I wanted to explore the neighborhood, but everyday there was work to be done. As the adults did carpentry, painting, electrical and plumbing; it was my job to carry trash out to a pile in the backyard. Price had a disability so he didn’t work but Pearl and Ma had jobs they would go to each day, and then come home to do repairs to the house. We moved there when I was 6 and it seemed like the task for fixing this place was endless; but that didn’t deter my Pearly Mae! Every day she put in several hours at times backbreaking tasks to make that house a home.

The lowest point came when we had to evacuate, I believe one Spring. We lived two blocks from the Sandusky River and it flooded that year.  Pearl had put hours into sanding the hardwood floors and then staining them. They were beautiful! But after the river had subsided and we were allowed back, those floors were now covered in black silt, garbage and even a couple dead fish. I remember seeing my beloved Aunt’s face look as if she was ready to cry. But after a few minutes it was task at hand; get those floors clean and re-stain them. To my young mind it just didn’t seem like it was worth all the effort, so one day when it was just the two of us, I ask her, “Pearl, why do you love this house so much?” Sitting down at the kitchen table with me, her face became soft looking but very serious. “Johnny, all the places you have lived, the places your mom has and even Price and me always belonged to someone else. This is our home, and you watch, someday it’s going to be beautiful. I know I didn’t have the same enthusiasm for the place as she did, but if that’s what Pearly Mae believed then I would also.

I must have been about 14 the day I rode my bike home and just stopped in front and looked. Most of the old trees were gone, as were the sheds. In their place were flower beds and lush green grass. The front and back porch set the house off with trellises on the ends that colorful flowers grew up. In the back was a long sidewalk with an arched trellis spanning 20 feet and again flowers growing up and over. On both sides of the back sidewalk was a huge vegetable garden that yielded enough food to can and eat until the next growing season. Pearl no longer had a dream; she had a home she was proud of. The inside was just as lovely with not only the floors, but the wood trim stained to a mahogany finish. Pearl loved tropical fish and had several large fish tanks placed around the house with one that was my favorite she had built into the wall. With the largest yard in the neighborhood, there were numerous times and she hosted outdoor parties for all the good people that lived around us. Pearl was ahead of her time when it came to diversity. We had folks from every race sitting at the long tables eating, laughing, and enjoying being together. I was so proud of Aunt Pearl, her beautiful house, and my home.

“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” Charles Spurgeon                                           .

I have no doubt that many had the chance to buy that house (Which by the way, cost $1,500), but when they saw with their eyes what it looked like they all walked away. Pearly Mae saw it with her heart. She looked past the mess and the deteriorating conditions and saw beauty no one else had. She felt rich in what God had given her. A home.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Pearly Mae retired and moved back to West Virginia to be near her brother and sisters and many of the neighbors she had been growing old with cried. But she loved being with her family again and would stay there the rest of her days. Still, several times she told me in confidence how much she missed Fremont, her friends and her beautiful home there.

On Feb.3, 1984 a tragic accident ended this “Traveler of the Rock Road” journey here on earth. And this man she used to call “Little Boy Blue” still misses her. But I wouldn’t wish her back for anything. You see as much as her heart saw the beauty of her Holland St. home, that same heart also saw the Home where she would spend eternity. Keep an extra seat at your kitchen table, Pearly Mae. Someday we’re going to sit and talk again, but this time for a hundred years!

Thank you, Fremont for giving us a home there.

See ya next time.