The amber light of the fading sunset rested softly on the windows of the large living room where four generations of one family gathered. The youngest grandchildren sat spellbound listening to tales from a world before iPods as great grandparents Clark and Caroline recounted their years together on this last night of the Livingston family reunion.
They'd grown up on nearby farms working the land as the their parents had done. Clark was a wiry boy with fancy notions of moving to the city. Caroline was the youngest of five daughters and the sweet country girl who stole Clark's heart.
“How did you know he was the one, Grandma?” asked twelve year old Amy.
Caroline looked to her husband of more than fifty years with eyes that conveyed love and undying admiration. They exchanged smiles that held stories all their own.
Clark looked out to Amy and to the rest of the extended family. “We had more of a shotgun wedding really,” he said. “One too many visits to the old red barn I suppose.”
The youngest grandchildren couldn't grasp the combination of guns and weddings, while the wide-eyed adult children gasped at hearing this new revelation about their parents. Clark shared the honest truth about who they were and the real stories behind the sepia toned pictures scattered throughout the house. Being with child expedited their wedding but heartache would visit them in a miscarriage ten days later.
The ever tactful granddaughter Gretchen asked, “Why didn't you just get a divorce when you lost the baby?”
Clark pondered the question. “Because we made a commitment to each other,” he said. “And we keep our word. That's what grown ups do.” The depth of the elder man's conviction hung in the air and rested upon the hearts of the gathered families.
Clark and Carolyn reminisced about the highs and lows of those early years together. How they worked their own patch of land, raised chickens, cooked on an old wood burning stove and lost everything in fire on the eve of the stock market crash of 1929. A few young men chuckled at how petty their own current set backs seemed compared to what these two had been through.
Carolyn described life without Clark during World War II and how folks made due without during the years of rationing. She'd also endured weeks at a time not hearing from her husband. In turn, Clark shared only fragments of the war in Europe, pausing occasionally when remembering a friend who didn't come home with him.
“Why didn't you get out of the draft?” asked Billy, a recent public high school graduate.
Clark took a deep breath, unsure of how to reach across the generational divide between himself and his young grandson. “There's a time for peace...and a time for war. Standing up in the face of evil, even if it might cost you your life, is the right thing, Billy. It's what grown ups do.”
Carolyn spoke of how they were lost, literally, and both came to the Lord. While traveling in California, they stopped at a big tent meeting and asked for directions to another small town. As soon as they stepped inside, the preacher called out Carolyn's name from the platform, and told her that God would heal her womb if she'd come up front now and receive prayer. The childless young woman ignored the crowd of strangers and ran to the front while Clark stood speechless. Convicted of their lives without God, they both received Christ, and were baptized that night. One year later, they were church going parents.
The stars were gaining visibility in the evening sky as the Livingston's shared in sentences what took decades to live. How their young daughter grew and welcomed a brother and two more sisters into the family. How they moved from California to Michigan then to Arizona. How some years were rich and some were lean but through it all, God was faithful. They prayed that all their children would give their years to the Lord as well.
Clark looked down with great pride at the youngest of his grandchildren seated at his feet. “You want to grow up fast don't you?” he asked.
They nodded with bright smiles and bouncing curls.
“You'll be old before you know it, children. So live for God; it's the most grown up thing you can ever do.”
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