A Drive with Just Charlie

Growing up living in Wisconsin, many of my summer vacation memories revolved around trips to West Virginia and Ohio to visit with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and a bevy of cousins. I loved listening to my cousins (who spoke with a bit of a Southern drawl compared to my distinctly Midwestern dialect). I loved to hear their back and forth banter and all the family stories that unfolded. As much as I loved it, I recognized that my cousins had something I didn’t really have: first-hand stories to tell of times they had spent together with our grandparents.

Now that I have six kiddos who call me Grandma, I’m happy they live close enough for them to each have at least a story or two to tell about time they’ve spent together with me. My grandson Charlie has a few fresh stories to add to his collection because he took a little road-trip with me last summer. But, let me tell you a story about him first. I told this one on Facebook about eight years ago:

Charlie – age 4 1/2 showing off the birdhouse he helped paint

Conversation with my 4-year-old grandson, Charlie:

Charlie: Grandma, you smell.

Me: Ummm…do I smell bad, or smell good?

Charlie: You smell like my grandma!

Seeing that one come up as a Facebook memory made me wax all nostalgic and drove me to look through some of my older Facebook photos. Such joy this kiddo has brought to his grandma’s heart.

Charlie is now 13 and more of a young man than a boy. After last summer’s trip to Ohio, he now knows that his grandma sometimes snores and that she has a way of making the on-board navigation system say, “Make a legal U-turn at the next intersection” quite a lot.

With a short window of time for our trip, it was a lot of driving, snacking in the car on the way here or there, staying overnight in hotels without the greatest breakfasts (due to a world still reeling from Covid), listening to audiobooks, trying to figure out how to get motel televisions to play the shows WE wanted to watch, and such. Once we made it to Wintersville, Ohio it was a lot of meeting relatives he didn’t know he had (and that I haven’t seen in years), eating, driving, eating, and hanging out with (mostly) older folks who spoke with an unfamiliar twang.

The purpose of my last minute trip to Ohio was to attend the memorial service for a beloved uncle who went Home to heaven back in 2020. With Covid restrictions for large gatherings lifting, we could finally gather as a family to both mourn our loss and celebrate his homegoing. There is just something special about knowing beyond a shadow of doubt that you will see your loved one again in heaven. ‘Til we meet on heaven’s shore, Uncle Bobby.

Our trip to Ohio was over a long holiday weekend sandwiched between days I had to work. So, other than hotel pools along the way there and back, this wasn’t a trip filled with fun stops and great amusement. But it was certainly filled with family – it was so good to be together.

My family loved Charlie, as I knew they would — he’s an easy kid to love. And I love that Charlie had the privilege of meeting both my Aunt Linda and my Uncle Jim, my dad’s youngest sister and oldest brother. I am grateful that Charlie had the opportunity to hear what a godly influence and man of Christian character his great-great Uncle Bobby was as his children and grandchildren shared their stories about his life and legacy. Charlie got amply loved on by my cousins and second-cousins and even got to taste my Aunt Linda’s cooking.

One of my favorite candid photos from this trip is of my Uncle Jim chatting with Charlie (below). This warmed my heart more than you can possibly imagine. Uncle Jim reminds me so much of my dad–right down to the well appointed pocket protector. I loved hearing Uncle Jim tell Charlie some of the same stories of yesteryear that I had heard, and I my heart warmed as I watched him share a life lesson or two with Charlie and anyone else willing to listen.

My heart is a little sad today knowing my Uncle Jim joined the heavenly throng this morning and that I will not get to see him again on this side of Glory. Though my heart is heavy knowing the sorrow that his children and grandchildren are feeling right now, the sting of death is mingled with the confident joy of knowing my Uncle Jim is with his Lord and Savior. If there is a receiving line in heaven, I’m sure my Aunt Robbie was at the front of the line to see her beloved Jimmy again. Uncle Jim just celebrated his 97th birthday here on earth, so I’m sure there were a lot of loved ones who got there before him and were lined up to greet him, but I can well imagine that my dad was elbowing his way to the front of the line to be among the first to greet his brother when he showed up this morning. Jim was not only my dad’s older brother, but he was also someone who faithfully prayed that his little brother Jerry would come to know the Lord. I will forever be grateful for Uncle Jim’s faithful witness and God’s answer to his prayers.

Five Minute Friday: Enlarging my World

My world has been relatively small the past few years, staying pretty close to home. Life has revolved very much around taking care of my mother as she battles Alzheimer’s. Over the years, I found myself growing weary and having to stop doing several things I love in order to be able to focus on her ever-increasing needs.

In late March, my sweet momma took up residence in a beautiful assisted living facility devoted to those with memory care needs. I still spend a few hours each day with her, but I can sleep throughout the WHOLE night in my own bed and am no longer fully responsible for her daily care. I’m beginning to feel more rested and able to resume some (but not all) of my former activities and ministries. I can take a little road-trip with my hubby, play in the dirt in my garden, or prepare a Sunday School lesson for the kids at church without interruption. It’s truly a blessing from God’s gracious hand.

With this new freedom, my world will enlarge even more in September when I accompany three of the men from our church (including my hubby) on a teaching trip to India. My responsibility during this trip will be to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to the students who will be gathering for the purpose of enjoying some seminary-level training. I have never taught ESL, so this will be a huge stretch for me – something which will also enlarge my world as I help this group of adults whose first language is Hindi in their continued quest to become more fluent in their conversational English.

This is my hubby Wayne’s second trip to India (he’s the handsome, white-bearded guy on the lower left of the group photo above), as he traveled with our pastor and another friend on a teaching trip last year. This fall’s trip is a giant leap for me, as I’ve never been out of the country. [Well, unless you count the time when my hubby and I were honeymooning 43 years ago in a rented recreational vehicle and we drove over the Canadian border in the days before a passport was required.] This trip to India will be my first trip overseas, passport, visa, shots, long international flight, and all the cultural adventure that will surely come with that experience.

In the meanwhile, I will need much prayer support as I prepare for my role as a teacher on the other side of the world.

This post is written for the Five Minute Friday Writing Community. Please come join us! https://fiveminutefriday.com/

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