It hasn’t been the same in our little church group since Tony passed on to his heavenly reward. There is an extra place setting at the Sunday morning breakfast table—we always break bread together before our worship. His ornery smile and wit were like a breath of fresh air after a difficult week out in the world. I would often give Chuck a certain look for cross-talking, knowing well that Tony instigated it. At 84, his body was giving out, but his mind was sharp as any 30-year-old and he was quick to deliver a zinger here and there for good measure. Ever know anybody like that? We have been missing Tony. So Kim brought it up that we should go have a picnic lunch at a winery after church as a tribute to Tony.
Everybody was all for it, especially since we had traveled back from the NFL Hall of Fame week in our new, more spacious RV van. They all wanted to try it out. Yes, we sold the Airstream travel van and bought an Entegra RV—same length, same chassis, just a wider space to allow me to work more efficiently while on the road—you know, keep telling the story of the good side of America for these American Chronicles. But back to the topic. The day had come and everybody was excited. You see, we are all older folk and the opportunity to “get out” brings with it a certain enthusiasm and anticipation. At least, I think it is that opportunity, otherwise we are just acting like a bunch of giddy kids.
Once again, it’s time to line up for the group picture. I had told everyone after our closing prayer that we needed to get a picture. One by one they trickled out. They all wanted to see the inside of the camper, so some were moving in and out while others were lining up for the photo. Actually only Cindy lined up for the photo. Bev and Kim, already had found their seat in the van and were ready to go when I reminded them that they needed to come back out for the picture. Then somebody had to go to the bathroom before we left. We were ready to take the photo when Chris remembered something she needed and dashed into the house, leaving us all standing there in the hot sun. Finally, we’re ready, but Chuck is hiding behind the mirror, thinking I wouldn’t notice. It’s like herding cats—no cats are fast—more like turtles.
Some things never change. Chuck was pointing out things he hadn’t seen before in a tone that made me think I was going to wreck the van. The ladies were talking away. And when we arrived, it was most certainly a process getting everybody unloaded with all the food we had packed. I parked the van and when I found the group, folks were passing food around. We took a moment to get settled and then raised a toast to Tony, who loved these kinds of outings and always wanted to do more of them. Service Dog Charlie settled in under the table hoping for crumbs to drop. We talked and cross-talked over each other because half of us can’t hear, especially when music is playing. Proverbs 19:6 says “every man is a friend to him who gives gifts.” To us, the gift of friendship is most priceless and each gives it in their own precious way.