Born to the poorest of lower Missouri, they sent his 4-pound body home in a shoebox. “You can use it for a coffin when he dies in a few days,” they told his mother. She put him behind the stove to keep him warm when she couldn’t hold him, busy with her older children. But he lived. He lived to run around in the marshes behind whatever house they inhabited at the time, inventing stories and adventures with sticks and ponds, moving on whenever their temporary home flooded.
At some point the family had had enough with Missouri; they needed a better life. So, they packed up the family vehicle and headed out west. Somewhere along the way his older brothers found work on a farm. They kissed their mama and stepped out into a new life. He didn’t know when, or even if, he’d see them again. In Denver they found a small amount of stability. They lived in a one-room house behind a larger, wealthier home. His mom washed the laundry, dishes, and living spaces of those wealthier than they. But they had a dry place to lay down at night.
As a young man he joined the Marines. He just missed the war, but they sent him to Guam to drive expensive vehicles into the ocean. He played cards, worked on his muscles, and dreamed of the stubborn, bossy beauty he’d met back in Denver.
When his time in the military was up, he returned to marry the girl. Accustomed to the vagabond life, he started traveling construction, and he and the girl saved every penny to live life to the fullest. They went to Hawaii on a cruise ship… twice. They gambled in Black Hawk, Deadwood, and Las Vegas, and they drove motorcycles up the Rocky Mountains to their cabin in Fraser.
They had children, two to be exact, born within two years: a boy first, and then a girl. She loved the baby years best. He was gone a lot, down to New Mexico or up to Wyoming following the construction work. He held onto a lot of guilt for many years, for the time he left her alone with the babies. But as their boy and girl grew older, they invited them into the adventure. They took them to Hawaii and taught them how to ride the motorcycles.
Eventually, the children grew up, and he settled into a quieter, retired life with his stubborn beauty. They settled in a home they didn’t want, just a few blocks from their beloved home, to appease her mother. They visited the grandchildren in Hawaii and Las Vegas. The grandchildren visited him.
He read his Bible more often. He worked on puzzles and listened to Billy Graham. The blue La-Z-boys, side by side, became their home base. He escaped to his computer room while she watched QVC, making slideshows of the photos his loved ones sent. He loved to collect pictures of his grand and great-grandchildren, of the wildflowers his daughter captured on film during her hiking and skiing adventures. He still loved the adventure of life, but a quieter version.
His love for the Lord deepened and he searched books and sermons, hunting for answers to questions he’d wrestled with for years. His stubborn beauty suffered a stroke, and he spent her last months pouring out energy he didn’t know he had to care for her. When she left for the Lord, he found himself exhausted and willing to accept
help he had avoided for years. Every day he missed her. As each day grew longer, he worked on more puzzles, both out of a box and in his head. He asked the Lord to carry him home. And then, the tiny 4-pound baby who wasn’t supposed to make it 7 days looked his Savior in the eyes at the age of 97 years.