For the love of Joey
Minor MusingsMy paternal grandfather was a hard-working farmer, a loyal husband, the father of seven, and the kindest man I ever knew.
Published: November 28, 2010
Published: November 28, 2010
With just a third-grade education, Grandpa D studied the Bible from cover to cover and memorized large sections of it. But more importantly, he lived it, especially the parts about loving your neighbor, being thankful, and doing good with no thought of reward.
Grandpa regularly took food to shut-ins in their neighborhood and he would stay to chat with the lonely or depressed. He would read to them, pray with them, and do little jobs like change a light bulb, fix a broken hinge, or shovel their sidewalks after a snowstorm.
When Grandpa drove anywhere on the lonely, hilly, back-country roads of Northern Michigan, if he encountered a hitchhiker or someone with a load to carry, Grandpa would always give them a ride to wherever they were headed. He never worried whether they were trustworthy, or cared if they were dirty, or ungrateful. And if they were in need he'd always share what little he had.
When I was a kid, Grandpa D retired from the farm and moved into the nearby small town of Mancelona. To support himself and my grandmother, he became a shoe cobbler. From his little shop attached to their small house Grandpa made a meager living, but mostly, he served the community. For his services, Grandpa charged only what the customer could pay, even if it was less than it cost him to do the work.
Every fall when school started Grandpa would help the neighborhood kids by giving free shoes to those who had none and repairing worn but fixable shoes without charge. Joey was one of eight children of a poor but proud widow in the town. Joey's mother refused to accept free shoes for her children, but every September she sent Joey to pick up eight pairs of shoes in exchange for a loaf of homemade bread or a few tomatoes from her garden. Grandpa always accepted the "payment" to preserve the woman's dignity.
Eventually, Joey grew up and was replaced by other Joeys. And other families in need began "paying" for shoes with whatever they could spare. Grandpa never refused any offering and never talked about it to anyone. Occasionally, customers who could afford it began intentionally overpaying for Grandpa's shoe repair services. They knew he barely broke even. And so it continued year after year.
One night, Grandpa heard that four neighborhood thugs were planning to steal some timber from a remote plot of land owned by my uncle who lived in another state. Grandpa went, alone and unarmed, to try to stop the theft. He approached through the woods, catching the thieves in the act. With his usual gentle manner, Grandpa reminded the men that they were stealing his son's much-needed income, and that stealing was a sin.
One thief hooted and mocked him. Then he pulled a gun and was about to shoot Grandpa when the apparent ringleader of the group stepped in front of the gun and knocked it away. "No!" he shouted, "You don't shoot Mr. D." Then the gang scattered, leaving behind the few logs they had felled.
Grandpa watched them disappear into the woods and whispered a prayer of thanks. Then he picked up some of the downed wood and took it home. Entering the house he said, "Look, Ma. Joey cut us some firewood."