“We read to know we’re not alone.”
Missed part 1? Read it here.
Anna read further.
“I have a favor to ask, if you would be so kind.
My three grandsons attend Kansas State. The twins, Ben and Josh, are in their Senior year. Their brother, Matthew, is a freshman.
They were planning to house sit for one of their college professors who was going to Europe for the summer. Last week he had a stroke and canceled his trip.
So now they are without summer housing and their semester ends in two weeks. If they stayed with you, they would be a forty minute drive from their summer jobs, but they can’t finding other housing options closer to work.
Do you have enough room for three young men? Would you be willing to host them for the summer?”
Anna rolled the idea around in her head.
She liked the idea of the house being not so eternally silent. She would have someone to bake for. But what if they didn’t get along? What if there was behavior she had to confront? What if they didn’t like her?
What if they tracked in mud? What if they played music late at night? What if they wanted to have friends over? What would she talk to them about?
On the other hand, maybe they could help her on the computer. Maybe they could help set up Skype. Maybe they could help her get a facebook account. Maybe they’d be willing to mow the grass in exchange for rent. And the gutters needed to be cleaned out. It was way over due. The handyman her mother used to call had retired. She had no idea how to find a new one.
There were burned out light bulbs upstairs that she hadn’t replaced. Such a simple thing, but the ceilings were high and she didn’t trust herself on a ladder when she was home alone.
Yes, there could be an upside to this arrangement.
It wouldn’t be forever. If it turned out she couldn’t handle the noise or clutter, if they didn’t hit it off, if it turned out to be a bad situation, she could make it for one summer.
She decided to say yes.
This was an open door she was going to walk through.
She had asked God for help.
She wanted to change her identity. She would no longer be primarily a widow and a hermit, but a hostess and a baker. This was a critical step. She could change her life. She could reimagine her story, she could re-write the ending.
Ben and Josh and Matthew showed up two weeks later with seven suitcases plus three backpacks.
She had their rooms ready.
Ben presented her with a gift of banana chips and dried mango.
She made a spaghetti and meatballs with cheesy garlic bread for supper the first night.
Afterwards, she couldn’t stop eating the banana chips. They took her back. The taste, the crunch stirred up memories she had not re-visited for decades. Happier days. Fun with Ana.
How appropriate that her grandsons were the ones to remind her.
It was late on a Friday night.
Ben’s girlfriend Melissa was there, as she often was. Josh and Matthew sat with them and Anna around the table. Anna had premiered her triple layer chocolate cake. They wiped out a half a gallon of milk to wash it down.
It was incredible how much this crew could consume.
Talk turned to the property that Anna had.
“You know,” Ben said, “You could really do something with that barn.”
The other boys agreed.
“We could put a pool table in there.”
“And darts. And a jukebox.”
“We could put in a coffee bar or a smoothie bar or both.”
“We could have some great parties!”
“Our Mu Kappa group could come hang out on weekends. It’s not that far from the University.”
“And Aunt Anna could make cakes, pies, bread and cinnamon rolls. It would be a big hit.”
“It would take some major renovation to get it to that point.”
“Where would we find the manpower? Where would we get the funding to make it happen?”
Ben had some ideas there.
“There’s guys at my church who are contractors. I bet they could help us. I could talk to the pastor about making it an outreach project. We could collect funds to make it happen.”
“Hey, it’s worth a shot. The worst they could say is no.”
Anna lay in bed, thoughts swirling.
This was happening fast, but she felt some excitement stirring inside.
She thought of her parents’ lives and sacrifices. She thought of the mission projects she and Ralph had worked on, before they lost Steven.
It would honor all of their lives to do this.
It would bring some meaning back into hers as well.
It had been a long time since she had a cause bigger than herself.
It felt good to have a dream again.
It made her feel alive.
She could see now, looking back, that God had not forsaken her, even when she had walked away.
He was still at work. He was still arranging the pieces. She still didn’t understand some of it. It still felt unfair. But, she was ready to accept the fact that He was still there and He still cared and He still had a plan.
She wasn’t sure if she wanted a bunch of strangers here working on the barn and then later, hanging out.
But, if they were Ben’s friends, it would probably be okay.
She was willing to try.
It felt good to be able to look forward with some anticipation. She’d spent so much time looking back. And then, for awhile, all she could see was the present. The bleak, dark, faceless, hopeless present.
That’s what hope looked like. It looked like the future. A bright future.