Running for a Hug

…she came running at as fast a gallop as anything on two legs under three feet tall can go… I know how good it makes me feel to see those bright eyes coming at me from about two clicks out at full bore with arms open wide.

So often I hear grandparents, myself included, talk about how much more fun it is now with our grandkids and that if we could have, we might have opted to have our grandchildren first! Of course, the idea of grandkids first would only have served for us to have our grandchildren at a time in our lives when we were focused on a hundred other things called life, job, career, education and duties or responsibilities that crowd out all the time we should be taking to just enjoy them as it was for our own children!

Our grandchildren are with us at a time in most of our lives where we can focus on keeping the main thing the main thing. An old adage from days gone by is wherever you’re at… be there. The point of that really struck home with me a couple of times in my life. Once was during those years when I was working long hours at the job and going to school part-time. Very often one of my small children would be tugging on my arm trying to get my attention for a moment or two and if I did finally acknowledge the tug; too often I was only half-there with an ‘uh-huh’ ‘that’s nice’ when they may have just told me they set their sister’s hair on fire! The other time was when I was older and my mom was quite a bit up there in years, a widow all alone and she would call every day to talk about absolutely anything. Sometimes, it seemed like she talked about everything. One day I caught myself ‘uh-huh’ and ‘that’s nice’ to my mom as I clicked away at my computer while she may have just told me that she was going to run off and marry the mailman and join a Wallenda Brothers High Wire Act! It hit me hard that someday I would miss those phone calls and I committed myself that I was going to be stronger at ‘being there’ when I was talking with my mom. Now that she, too, is in glory I’m so glad I did.

One of the dividends that comes from having the time to spend hours with my grandchildren and to work on wherever I’m at -being there is that I get to practice what it was I loved about my maternal grandfather. Most of the times I was with him, there were usually several of my cousins in close proximity. Being deep in the heart of West Virginia, you couldn’t throw a dead cat without hitting a relative of some sort or another. But no matter how many of us curtain climbers were there vying for Papaw’s attention, whenever I was with him; it was as if I was the most important person in the whole wide world to him. Now I get to enjoy helping my own grandchildren all feel like they are the most special person who ever wore hair.

There is another great dividend and that is the total, one hundred percent acceptance and love that our grandchildren give to us. They just love us. Sure they expect that we will take care of them but especially at this very early age, they don’t know beans from apple butter as my mother would say, about what our careers were or how important or unimportant we were… they just love us and most of the time they cannot wait to be with us! I confess, though, to this day I still have no idea what that saying of my mom’s meant and frankly, why does anyone need to know the difference between beans and apple butter? Who cares? I digress.

The grandkids will come running at us as hard as they can to get a hug. Their eyes light up and they are like the former

Courtesy Topps Laser
Courtesy Topps Laser

Cleveland Indian, Carlos Baerga, chugging for home plate. I love to get down in a catcher’s stance and just absorb the full hit of that hug-run. Of course, sometimes they are running that fast because of something they just did to provoke their mother to a fit of temporary insanity and they needed the shelter and protection that only Papaw can give and they needed right now! Just the other day two of my grandchildren were over and I was preparing to leave to do some work I had to do. (Don’t faint or think I’m telling an untruth, I do actually perform functions that bear a striking resemblance to work, at times. Not real often mind you and it is a nasty habit I am trying to break!) I had hugged one of the children and rather than head for the car I went to the study to retrieve one of the multiple things I always forget whenever I am leaving to go just about anywhere. (I think the neighbors have a pool going, every time I leave as to how many times I will go back in the house for something I have forgotten or how far I will make it down the street before I have to turn around and come back for something! So far, I haven’t left a child at home alone or anything like that… yet.) What happened next though is what started me thinking about this running for hugs business.

The other granddaughter had thought I had left without hugging her but when she learned I was in my study she came running at as fast a gallop as anything on two legs under three feet tall can go. Unprepared as I was, with my back to the on-coming assault, she landed hard and grabbed me around both knees (including the new one the doctors just so lovingly and expensively installed.) It was a hug that about made my kneecaps pop off. Glad they didn’t that one cost me about $6,000! You can’t just go down to the Jiffy-Lube and have ‘em pop it back on. And Amazon, no matter what they say, does not have an app for that.

Here’s what I got to chewing on about this whole running for hugs business. I know how good it makes me feel to see those bright eyes coming at me from about two clicks out at full bore with arms open wide. Can you imagine how it would make our Heavenly Father feel if we felt like that toward Him and we would not be able to wait until the very next time we could be, like my grandkids say, ‘At Papaw’s house!’ only at our Heavenly Father’s house? Sometimes we can’t spare five minutes during the day just to stop by and say ‘Hello’ to our God. His Word tells us that He inclines His ear toward us eager to hear what is on our hearts. He knows, certainly, but He wants to hear it from us. Sometimes, our grandkids who are old enough to be in school, will receive an accolade of some type and their Mom will tell us about it. But, I still love hearing it directly from them, too. It is even more special when they are eager to share it with me. I think God is like that with us. Yes, He knows every word before we speak it, but He still wants to hear it from us and He loves when we are anxious to share it with Him.

Do you remember the story of the prodigal son in scripture? After he has gone away and unwisely spent all of his money. He is sheepishly returning home, hoping maybe his father will accept him as a servant. But the father has been watching every day hoping he would see his son come home and finally on that amazing day when he looks for the thousandth time that he had looked out that door, he sees his son coming in the distance.

Courtesy ourchurch.com
Courtesy ourchurch.com

This time the son isn’t running to his father; no he has a lot to be ashamed about – but just as he turns that last corner, BAM! His father – who ran all the way from the house – slams into him like William Refrigerator Perry of the Chicago Bear’s fame hitting an on-coming Quarterback with a loose ball in his arms!

Courtesy Freezer3.net
Courtesy Freezer3.net

Maybe, on that first day when we enter heaven, we’ll be excited to finally see our God face to face and we may take off on a dead run for Him and maybe, just maybe, our Heavenly Father will be running full-tilt anxious to hold us! That will be an amazing day – running for a hug.

Papaw’s Lap

It was in this setting that was born for me perhaps one of the best memories ever.

The house was clean and comfortable, but its age had long ago warped many of the floor boards. In some places it seemed as if the floors, under the thread-bare carpet, had a life of their own, pitching and yawing; making sounds that defy description. The tar-shingle siding on the house gave away its age and it boasted a wide, welcoming front porch with the mandatory creaking front porch swing from which are born the summer memories of a small boy. The memories are particularly vivid because this particular house was where this boy’s Mamaw and Papaw lived. The moniker is a familiar one for those with roots in the hollers of Appalachia. It was in this setting that was born for me perhaps one of the best memories ever. It is so amazing that, on a day like today, I can relive that experience; although my role has been reversed. I am no longer that small boy reveling in the peace and comfort of his Papaw’s lap; I am the provider of the lap space.

Lap Time
Lap Time

The social networking application Tumblr recently posed the question to me. “What is your favorite inanimate object?” No thought was required. It is my large, leather, fully reclining, 360 degree swiveling easy chair. There are several reasons it takes the 1st place ribbon but primary among those is the access it provides my grandchildren to their Papaw’s lap. I begin to understand now how my Papaw was able to sit for what seemed like hours with one of his grandchildren on his lap. If I was the lucky one, and there was no waiting line of my siblings or my cousins, then it was like being king of the mountain.

From my kingly post, I heard stories about the mountains, silly jokes which my Papaw apparently thought were hilarious by the way he laughed at them, even though he was the one that told them, and special things that were meant only for my hearing. Those special lessons were about kindness, respect, being a man who knows the difference for right and wrong and standing up for what is right.

My Papaw was a pipe smoker, although he would never smoke his pipe if any of us were on his lap; that was his hard and fast rule. Still, today, there are only three smells that evoke such vivid memories for me. The first is a lilac flower. Below my bedroom window of my childhood home was a large lilac bush. A house with no air conditioning has windows open in the summer so the lilac was the smell of a cool night breeze or an early morning wake-up. The second is the smell of one particular perfume for which the real name is totally lost to me. I know it only as the small teddy bear shaped bottle it came in. It was the perfume that my wife wore when we first dated and to this day I can recognize it immediately when she wears it. The third is that of a good pipe tobacco. I can revel in that smell and allow it to take me back to the time I enjoyed so much upon my Papaw’s lap.

I am not certain how my own grandchildren might remember their time on their Papaw’s lap, but I hope they do. I also hope that their memory of it brings smiles to their faces, warmth in their hearts and a conviction to share lap-time with their own grandchildren someday. Even though age is allowing me to forget what seems to be more than I ever learned; I never want to forget the wondrous joy I have gained whenever my grandchildren ask to spend a little time on Papaw’s lap.