The golden glow of the early morning sun slowly filled the cabin as Harry creaked back and forth in his rocker on the wooden floor. Chauncey, his golden lab, snored on his bed by the crackling fire, curled up on an old sweatshirt Ethan left on his last visit. He reached in his pocket and pulled out the note he had read daily since he received it a month earlier.
“Thank you, Lord,” Harry prayed softly. “Having that boy in my life has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I didn’t realize how lonely I was with Gladys gone and Ethan’s mom remarrying and moving so far away. I don’t know that stirred in his young heart to write me that first time three years ago but having him back in my life sure makes the sunrise brighter and these old bones hurt less.”
Harry adjusted the horn-rimmed glasses on his nose and leaned in to the light of lamp:
“Dear Grandpa Harry,
I am looking forward to spending Thanksgiving with you. We get the whole week off, so I’ll have lots of time to spend with you and Chauncey.
All my friends in my class want to come with me to see you sometime. I told them the story of milking the cow with you the last time I was here and now they all want to milk a cow. Some of them actually thought chocolate milk came from brown cows. They also didn’t know what it meant to do chores like gathering the eggs, haying the horses and cows, cleaning the barn, or getting fresh water to all the animals. In town, we just have pets and no one I know has any daily chores.
Our teacher assigned us 30 Days of Gratitude before Thanksgiving and we were all supposed to share one story each day. I told the class what you said about the more you give thanks the more you find to be thankful for so we’re now going to do it every day for the rest of the year. She said I might as well call mine, “The Grandpa Harry Story Hour,” because most of them are about times I spend with you.
Tell Chauncey I’ll see him soon and I have a new squeaky toy for him.
As Harry folded the note, Chauncey’s tail began to wag, then his ears perked as he heard the floor creaking in the bedroom where Ethan slept. Slowly raising and stretching, the old dog picked up his new moose squeaky toy and made his way to greet Ethan.
“Good morning, Chauncey,” Ethan yawned as he scratched the dog’s ears. “I heard you snoring out all the way out here. I think we are both tired after yesterday. Grandpa Harry sure worked us hard getting up firewood, didn’t he.”
“Firewood heats up you three times,” Harry chuckled. “Once when you cut, once when you split it, then when you burn it.”
“Happy Thanksgiving, Grandpa,” Ethan wiped the sleep from his eyes. “What are we going to do today after chores?”
“We’re heading into Yellow Pine for the community feast,” Harry smiled. “Saves me from having to cook plus everyone brings their favorite home cooked dish so it’s the best meal you could possibly eat. Plus, it’s just good to get together will old friends and make new ones.”
“I’m glad I’m here. Mom and Frank usually go over to Frank’s side of the family, but they’re all fighting and not getting together so they were going to the homeless shelter and help serve meals there.”
“That’s a good thing to do but I’m sorry to hear the family isn’t getting along.”
“It doesn’t seem like anyone is getting along anymore, Grandpa. Everybody’s mad at everyone else over something. Was it like that when you were a kid?”
“Oh, folks have been fighting since Cain and Abel, I suppose,” Harry said. “Lot of times, it carries on so long people forgot what started it, but just keep fighting anyway. It appears to me that, if you want to get offended and mad at someone over something, it’s not hard to do. Folks will give you lots of reasons to get angry if you let them. Some don’t mean too, but some do. Offended folks are unhappy folks, and some unhappy people aren’t happy unless they make others unhappy, too, so you gotta keep an eye out for those wanting to rile others. Offended people are like fishermen, they go fishing for others to make offended and angry and you just have to be careful not to take their bait.”
“Well, there sure seems to be a lot of people taking the bait,” Ethan replied sadly. “But you’re a pretty happy person. Surely someone’s offended you.”
“Oh, sure, I’ve been offended and angry lots of times,” Harry chuckled. “But I knew keeping anger in me was like letting a rattlesnake sleep under the covers with me. At some point, it would kill me.”
“So how do you get rid of your anger?”
“When I was a young man, there were two older twin brothers in our community that were as different as night and day. Waldo was a guy that everyone loved to be around and Smitty was so unpleasant that even the local preacher didn’t like him. They looked exactly alike but behaved exactly the opposite of each other and I asked my dad why that was, and he said that being how they were twins, each one had adopted their own set of twin things to guide them by. One chose the twins of gratitude and forgiveness and the other chose the twins of offense and anger.
Harry went on. “It’s almost impossible to be grateful and angry at the same time. Gratitude means you look at the positive, while anger means you look at the negative. And it’s hard to be angry at someone for a long time if you forgive them, whether they ask for it or not. I reckon if Jesus could ask his Father to forgive them that nailed him to the cross, he kind of set a standard I should follow. If my faith doesn’t lead me to be a forgiving person, then I’m missing out on who God wants me to be. And if I’m easily offended, then it won’t take much to turn me into an angry person. I just don’t want to get bit by that rattlesnake.”
“Well, it’s like what you said when we planted the garden last spring,” Ethan understood. “We harvest what we plant. I know one thing; I want to be like you when I grow up. My teacher told me to make sure I brought back more Grandpa Harry stories so she will like the one about Waldo and Smitty a lot.”
“Good,” Harry replied. “Maybe one of these days I can figure out how to get to that big city you live in and meet your classmates. Reckon that would be okay?”
“Oh, yes,” Ethan exclaimed. “And I have the perfect title for a lesson you can teach them for Grandpa Harry Story Hour!”
“Oh, what is that?”
“Don’t be a Smitty!”