Hiking around the back roads of northern Wisconsin. Rainy and 60 degrees. I heard it before I saw it. A car straining against a hill. I then saw evidence of it in the smoke from the exhaust. Then it appeared. Old but not antique. Out of shape and rusting. The aroma of the exhaust found my senses and I was immediate transported. Stigler, OK. 1948. Images careened through my mind: my grandparents place; an old frame house; a big vegetable garden; a back porch with a wash tub where we children bathed; and an old Model T Ford in a dilapidated shed.
And the exhaust smell of pre-leaded, pre catalytic converted gas opened my memory data bank and there was my Granddad. Ball-headed, red faced, portly. And I remembered how he would take us kids in the old black Model T down to the gas station. There in the corner of the shop smelling of oil and sweat was a gum ball machine. For a penny you could get a gum ball and in most machines, if you were lucky, a trinket. But there in the back roads of Oklahoma was this machine that spit out not only some gum, but often as many as 3 trinkets for one penny. A bonanza!
I remember my Granddad sitting in a chair in the back yard. And I would sit on his knee. It was a wooden knee—part of a wooden leg that he had all the time I knew him. He would laugh and seemed to enjoy me. I felt loved.
Later in my life I would discover that there were characteristics of this man that I might not appreciate. Hints from the past held rumors. I don’t know which of them were true. But at that point in his life and mine, there was a love shared—a love that passed between us. And I am grateful for the love of that imperfect man.
And I guess that love from an imperfect man prepared me for life. For I have discovered that any love I give is from an imperfect man. And any love I receive is from imperfect people. And I am grateful that the giving and receiving of love does not require the perfection of the giver or the receiver. Because love does not require perfection, I can say that I have been greatly loved.