When my husband was 19 or 20 years old, he went with his best friend Ray to Columbia, Kentucky, to visit with Ray’s family.
While visiting Columbia, Jeff never forgot the two-hour drive through corn fields and cow pastures that seemed never to end. The small country town seemed so foreign to Jeff. He thought to himself. “I’ll never be back here.”
Later Jeff would become a police officer, and a few years after, his best friend Ray would too.
Unbeknownst to Jeff, he would marry me, a woman whose parents were born and raised in Columbia, KY, and had moved back there after retirement to build their dream home in the woods. Never say, never.
After my father lost my mother, we moved from Louisville in with my dad in that little town called Columbia.
My dad was an early riser and left the house every morning at 4:45 and was the first patron to open the McDonald’s at 5 am for coffee. He would sit and wait for the men folk in the town to show up and tell a joke or two and share the latest news. When he came home, he would hang his sweater on the stair railing. The winters in Kentucky can be brutal. One chilly morning as I grabbed his sweater off the chair rail Dad said, “boy, you sure like my sweater.”
I said, “I sure do, I love the lamas, plus it’s warm and wool. Who bought it for you?”
He said, “I got it on my missionary trip to Ecuador.”
As he talked about his mission trip, my husband and I began to inquire about the people, the culture, the poverty, the food, and what it was like there. Today, over half the nation is in dire poverty. My dad witnessed that poverty years ago and described it in vivid detail.
“Where did you sleep while there,” I asked?
As we talked, my dad traveled back in time to another life, one of many my dad lived. He described the city, and he mentioned that he had a roommate named Raymond, and they shared a bedroom while in Ecuador. He said, “I can’t think of his last name right now for nothing, but I can see his face plain as day. See, he was from right here in Columbia.”
Finally, the lightbulb went off. “Page. Raymond Page!”
My husband said, “Raymond Page? That’s my best friend Ray’s dad.”
My dad said, “Raymond page from Columbia, KY?”
Jeff said, “yes!”
We laughed! Come to find out. Our Heavenly Father gives winks. What a small world.
Back to the sweater in a moment.
My husband and I have had many of those aha moments. We were raised all our lives in the same church and never knew it. It was a small congregation that grew larger. A new location and a sanctuary with balcony seating.
One night I asked him how old he was when he decided to follow the Lord. I shared my story of being five or six years old and knowing I had done something wrong. I had stolen a boy’s toy from down the street. It was a bouncy ball swirled with bright colors and brand new on the market–1972. Oh, how it shined. Oh, how it bounced. It was in my pocket in Sunday school. I had only had it for one whole day. I had felt some guilt, but that was getting ready to reach another level.
The teacher had a large bun and a visionary board of characters and objects where she created wonderful stories and biblical lessons by using felt cutouts. That week’s story was on Thou Shalt Not Steal. Well, you can imagine. I could not wait to take the ball in my pocket back to my friend Curt who I had stolen it from. It was burning a hole in my pocket now.
And who was sitting in class with me? Yep, my future husband. Like Raymond Page, we had come full circle.
One thing I’ve learned about objects, whether it’s a 25-cent bouncy ball that needs to be returned to its rightful owner or an antique, they either have a story or they don’t. Handling estates and death is never easy. And sometimes an item dear to you is also special to someone else. Unbeknownst to me, my dad’s sweater was one of those items. I had no idea someone else had their own story. That meant someone else loved my dad very much. It’s funny how objects can be sentimental and mean something to us, but will they mean anything 50 years later? Or even 20? Possibly not. Material objects can never truly bring us joy, but they can bring us memories or shame, like the bouncy ball.
So, after months of searching on eBay for a sweater from Ecuador, a men’s grayish blue with white lamas, I found a similar one, and I’m wearing it as I type this for Father’s Day–my first without dad. It might not be the exact sweater my dad wore with Ray Page in Ecuador many moons ago, but it’s still comforting, and it reminds me of our time together.
What do you have that comforts you besides Pets or family? What do you find comforting in your home? A particular coffee cup, a throw blanket, a unique book, or a painting? Never take the simple things for granted. After losing my home and life as I knew it, after a year of couch surfing, I hit my knees at the door of my tiny apartment in praise and gratitude. I set the thermostat on my perfect temperature, and in the morning, I made coffee and drank out of a cup my son made on a potter’s wheel in the tiniest space I’d ever lived, and that cup, although broken now, was a daily beauty until the accident. I was so upset. I can never get that cup back. But the son who made it for me, recently told me he was going to start doing pottery again when they move into a larger house. I just might get a new cup to hold while the sun comes up. While the dove’s coo. In the meantime, I have several favorite cups given by special friends.
I find comfort in other things—grandchildren, Israeli red wine, dark chocolate, and a good book. By the way, I write books if you’re interested. Wink– wink 🙂