For the past couple of years, the custom at our house has been hosting two of our grandsons for an overnighter on Friday evenings. The arrangement accomplishes two worthy goals. It gives us some quality time each week with the local grandsons, and it also gives their parents a nice quiet evening together. Benji and Leigh Anne seem to enjoy the break, and Linda and I have come to cherish the Friday night sleepovers.
During football season, the boys like to attend the Ashland Tomcat games before coming to the house. We usually have a movie and their favorite meals on Friday evening, and a nice breakfast on Saturday mornings. Usually Linda cooks it, but on occasion, I do the honors. Either way, it is a special time we have with the two boys, and one that makes us lonesome for the two from New Orleans, whom we only get to see a few times per year.
Last night was no different than usual. But this morning, I had a lot on my plate. It was the final day for Upward Basketball and Cheerleading evaluations at the church, and I needed to be at the Gym by 8:00 AM. Will, the 9 year old, is recovering from a bout with the flu, so Asher, the 5 year old, wanted to know if he could go with me. He is playing Upward basketball here in Ashland, KY but he wanted to go ahead and shoot around at our gym while our make up evaluations were underway. I was glad to have the company, and he seemed to have a great time with an hour and a half of uninterrupted gym time.
The problem arose when I learned that one of our church members was in St. Mary's Medical Center with a collapsed lung. I had been to St. Mary's the previous evening to visit another one of our members, but no one had told me that this lady was also a patient there. I needed to visit her, but the problem was I had a 5 year old with me who is not accustomed to hospital ministry. One option was to drive the 18 miles west to leave Asher at home in Ashland, KY and then turn around and drive all the way back to the east end of Huntington, WV to visit the hospital. This would be both time and gas consuming, and due to a full schedule for the rest of the day, simply unrealistic.
When I asked Asher if he would like to go to the hospital with me, he looked a little chagrined, but agreed that it would be ok.
We made a quick stop on 5th Avenue for a couple of Stewart's hot dogs (a favorite of both he and I), and then motored on to the big medical center, six blocks away.
When we exited the car in one of the hospital parking lots, Asher first wanted to climb one of the small trees in the landscaped median area. It was a beautiful morning, and I waited patiently for him to do his little boy thing. When he finished his tree adventure we headed for the main entrance. He began to talk about the recent stay he had spent in our local hospital in Ashland, and his memories were not pleasant.
"I don't like hospitals" he said flatly.
"I'm not crazy about them myself", I said, "but I come up here frequently to see a lot of people."
"Why?" was his incredulous reply.
"Because that is part of what I do" I said.
It occurred to me that he probably had very little understanding of much of the duties I have as a pastor of a church with more than 300 active members.
"What do you think I do, Asher?" I quizzed him, expecting to hear him say something about preaching, etc.
"Huh?" he said with a puzzled look on his little face.
"What is Papaw's job? You know, like your daddy is a teacher and a coach... What is Papaw's job?"
He looked at me like I was crazy.
His reply made me laugh, and nearly cry at the same time.
"You take care of us. You take us to practice and ball games. You buy us pizza and Italian cheese bread, and watch TV with us, and play basketball and football with us, and you cook us breakfast. You take care of us!"
I have worn a lot of hats over the years. I've been a USAF Sgt. I have been an insurance agent, a youth pastor, a Sunday School teacher, a senior pastor, a state convention president, a school board member, and a seminary trustee. But for a brief moment this morning I experienced an epiphany of what a 5 year old boy thinks I am.
I'm his Papaw. In his eyes, that's what I do - that is my job.
I'm hard pressed to imagine that there could be a better job than that!
Lord, in this Thanksgiving season, I thank you for my grandsons...