Authors: Janette Oke
Tags: #ebook, #book
© 1992 by Janette Oke
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
E-book edition created 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Dedicated with love to
Mrs. Mabelle Oke,
the wonderful mother
of my husband Edward.
Thank you, Mother,
for accepting me as
one of yours
and for sharing your son, and your love,
for the past thirty-five years.
JANETTE OKE was born in Champion, Alberta, during the depression years, to a Canadian prairie farmer and his wife. She is a graduate of Mountain View Bible College in Didsbury, Alberta, where she met her husband, Edward. They were married in May of 1957 and went on to pastor churches in Indiana as well as Calgary and Edmonton, Canada.
The Okes have three sons and one daughter and are en-joying the addition of grandchildren to the family. Edward and Janette have both been active in their local church, serving in various capacities as Sunday school teachers and board members. They make their home near Calgary, Alberta.
I came into this world one cold February night in a little log farmhouse on the Canadian prairies assisted by Doc Freeze, the same pioneer doctor who delivered most of us in my family as well as many other neighborhood babies. I do not have any firsthand memories of Doc—only memorable and insightful stories. He was almost a legend in the area. Emergency surgeries were performed on kitchen tables with only the light of kerosene lamps for illumination and an ether cloth for anesthetic. His practice stretched for many prairie miles, over rutted or drifted country roads. He worked long hours—any hours—whenever and wherever he was needed.
To him, and to the others like him who served so faithfully and unselfishly in all kinds of weather, under all manner of conditions, I wish to pay tribute. Their devotion to their practice and their people is an inspiration to all.
She sat on her front porch, the rocker moving so slightly that the gentle swaying was barely detectable. Now and then her hand would lift from the handle of the teacup to swish mechanically at an annoying fly. Strong hands, they were veined and calloused from years of steady tasks, yet delicate even now. Long tapered fingers wrapped securely around the fine china. One hand held the saucer, the other supported the cup, now and then raising the steaming liquid to her lips.
It was a habit of many years, this daily taking of tea on the front porch. She had long since forgotten whether it was the tea or the “belonging” that drew her there, for from her porch rocker she felt as though she had her finger on the pulse of the small community. Her eyes were sharply alive, taking in everything that happened on the street before her.
All around her, life throbbed and echoed. Neighbor called a greeting to neighbor. Mothers chided their little ones for being underfoot. Two elderly gentlemen took the same walk every weekday to pick up the daily paper. Children called and laughed from playgrounds within their fenced yards or clamored for the attention of friends as they ran down the concrete sidewalks to visit the ice cream parlor. She heard their footsteps now against the unyielding surface, and again a slight frown wrinkled her brow. She didn’t think she’d ever get used to the concrete. Dull and lifeless, it was just a noise—unlike the board sidewalks of her yesterdays, which had rung with the rhythm of footsteps, seeming to sing and dance beneath the patter of childish feet.
She shifted uneasily and put her cup back on the saucer. There were lots of changes that troubled her—some slightly, others more. It wasn’t that she objected to change. She had been thrilled when electricity came to the small town. She had been the first to sign up for the new water and sewer system. And when they bought their first automobile, she was so excited she didn’t sleep for three nights.
No, it wasn’t change that she objected to, but some changes seemed to take more than they gave. She sighed and sipped her tea again. Like the sidewalks. She had been able to pick out almost every neighbor’s footfall when the wooden sidewalks still lined their street. She had known the people’s frame of mind by the way they walked. She could have told whether they were out for a pleasant stroll, in a hurry to make a needed purchase before the supper hour, or panicky because of some foreshadowing of calamity.
No, she didn’t like all changes. Her rocker moved a bit faster with her agitation. Why couldn’t the things that were good—the parts of life that had worked well—just be left alone? Like the sidewalks? Like her own life? She had always been happy—well, no, not always, but mostly, and at least she’d enjoyed some kind of peace. Of course there had been difficult things to face. That was part of living. But along with the trauma had been an underlying sense of tranquility, of stability. She didn’t know how one would go about describing it, but she knew it was there. That wonderful sense that no matter what the day might bring, God had things in control.
And that won’t change,
she consoled herself, and her rocker stopped abruptly with the truth and enormity of the thought.?
She shook her head slightly as though to clear her thinking. Of course—of course God wouldn’t change. Then why—why did she have this tightness—this nagging pain in the pit of her stomach?
“It will all be so different,” she whispered to herself, and in spite of her years of practiced self-discipline a tear gathered in the corner of her eye and trickled down her withered cheek. She did not bother to lift her hand and brush it away, for to do so would have been to admit its presence.
I wish they would just leave me be,
she thought again for the hundredth time. “I’m fine here—just fine,” she murmured aloud.
But it wasn’t to be. She knew that. She also knew that their insistence was because of love and concern.
“But, Mama,” she could hear familiar voices saying, “there’s no reason for you to stay on here now. We can’t care for you here. We worry constantly that something might happen and we wouldn’t know until too late.”
What could happen?
she had wanted to argue.
The worst possible thing in the eyes of her children was that she might die alone. But she was ready for death. She had made her peace with God many years before. She had lived a long eighty-seven years, raised five wonderful children who were now even themselves grandparents. She had shared the long, adventurous life of a wonderful man. She had no inclination to hang on to life.
But of course she didn’t argue. She knew her children loved her—worried about her. There had been many times throughout the years when she had worried about them. She understood the concerns of love. So she had simply bargained—bargained for just a little more time.
“Just one more summer in the house,” she had begged, her voice taking on a pleading tone that she had never used before with her children. “Just one more summer.”
She knew they had chafed at the request. But they had finally kissed her and agreed, adding with an admonishing tone, “You be careful. Get a neighbor boy to do the lawn and for goodness’ sake get some man to do your windows. And don’t plant so much. There’s no one to eat that big garden—and you have far too many flower beds.”
It all seemed so reversed—as if she were the child and they the scolding parent.
She’d had her summer—and treasured every minute of it. But now the chill of fall was in the air. The leaves were beginning to turn and the garden had been harvested, the flower beds put to sleep. She’d been getting almost daily calls. Her new city apartment was waiting. Was she ready for their help with the packing? And that persistent, gnawing little pain was growing ever bigger deep within her. She couldn’t put them off much longer. The changes were coming. Big changes, and she dreaded facing them. She just wished she could go on and on—sitting on her familiar front porch, sipping her Red Rose tea, listening to the heartbeat of her own neighborhood. Even the new concrete sidewalk might be a friend—if she could just stay where she was and let life coast to an even and undisturbed stop.
Another tear slid down her cheek. With a steady hand she lifted the cup to her lips again. It was still half full, but now it was cold and unsavory. She set the cup and saucer aside and brushed at her calico apron. She had to get back to her packing. There was so much to do—so much. But she had to do it on her own. How could anyone else possibly know how to sort through her many memories? Yet the new apartment was so limiting in what she could take with her.
A dull thumping came from the concrete and she turned her head to watch two youths running down the street toward her house. She recognized them immediately, as she did all the children of the small town. She found herself wondering if Freddie’s fall allergy was giving him the usual trouble, and then she noticed how tall Philip had become.
“One would never have thought it,” she whispered, and in spite of her troubled spirit she smiled softly.
Samuel would be so pleased.
She thought back to the cold December day when little Philip had first made his appearance.
“How he fought to save that skinny little four-pounder,” she murmured to herself. “Never thought he’d make it—but Samuel just wouldn’t give up—and look at him now! Bigger than the other fellows his age.”
The pounding feet slowed as they reached the front of her house and two pairs of eyes turned toward the porch.