I like storytellers. I always have. When I was a kid my Aunt Sis was the best storyteller there was. Her stories beat out the librarian’s any day and I can remember aspiring to be half the story teller she was one day. She would fill my ears with stories of childhood play, teenage adventures, and long lost lore of family folks from Tennessee.
I hold those stories in my heart and they are a large majority of my memories. Many of the stories, I now tell have been influenced tremendously by the very ones I heard as a child.
Nowadays my ears tend to perk up when there is a storyteller within my hearing.
Recently I was doing what I do when a lady I’ve known for years was telling tales. She has never once met my oldest daughter, but constantly calls me by her name, Charlotte. She always calls me Charlotte, despite a name tag worn daily that spells out my name A-M-Y. I don’t mind it so much, I’ve come to view it as a term of endearment.
As she told her story to no one in particular she was laughing and talking about her childhood. It was familiar to me, a familiar tone, a tone of contentment in the story and I took note of what she had to say. She drew me in with a matter of a few words.
Holiday meals, her family had gotten so large they’d long ago stopped going to the old homeplace, a small house, that the 11 of them growing up could barely squeeze into. She’d laughed when she had explained the sleeping arrangements, in the two bedroom, humble abode. Indoor plumbing was not yet a required item for houses and the “11 of them and Mama and Daddy” had managed to make it with minimal in the way of necessities. I knew that tale, I had heard it before, numerous times, in the antics of my Aunt Sis.
She had numerous siblings and so many aunties, uncles, and cousins they had to find other accommodations.
She had said now they “had to rentaplace ” rent a place, all one word. She described paper lined folding tables laden with food that made my stomach growl and my mouth water just hearing her talk. They had a side table, a meat table, and hold up just a second, three dessert tables.
Red Velvet cakes, pound cakes, strawberry cake, pies, pumpkin, sweet potato, chocolate, apple, two or three banana puddings. I found myself trying to figure out how I might pretend to be a long lost cousin or something just so I could go and eat. I told her that and she laughed.
She started naming all the people’s specialties, Pearl’s potato salad, her Red Velvet Cake, she always made two, one for the dessert table and one to give to her Uncle J.D.
Her face shifted a bit, and I saw her meander down memory lane. Her expression softened her eyes distant, she said, “She ran out of names so she just started givin’ children initials. We got a A.C. O.C. O.J. and a Jack Daniels!”
She said her Grandmother had so many children she had run out of names. Her Grandfather was a godly man but that last one she named, made me wonder if he had found his inspiration in a moment of weakness and the bottom of a bottle. She said they had a fruitful life together and when he was considerably young, decades ago, he had been diagnosed with cancer. She said, “None of us knew it until he was real old and he saw his medical doctor who told him that he had cancer he was gonna die from.”
She said upon receiving the foreboding diagnosis, he did not act surprised and simply said to the young physician, “I already knew that, I knew it forty years ago. My wife and I got on our knees and prayed for God to take it ‘cause I had all these children to raise.”
The puzzled physician questioned the old man further, asking him about protocols, medications, maintenance and such. The old man listened and said he had taken nothing. The young physician with his extensive medical training knew the physical impossibility, the aggressive cancer his geriatric patient had would not have yielded its life taking ways for a year much less decades. Perhaps his patient misunderstood, the doctor clarified, “Yes, but what did you take?” The old man looked at his young physician in the face and said,
“I took it to Dr. Jesus.”
I thought about that, about the medical impossibility, perhaps the decades ago doctors had gotten it wrong, perhaps the then young man with the brood of children had not actually had cancer. Like the young doctor, I was more willing to accept the failures of medicine over the miracles of God. How many times had I done that myself, how many more times would I? How many times have I desired healing for myself or someone I love and needed help from the King with my unbelief? I have pondered on that, and have found myself asking the King more and more to help my unbelief.
But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:22b-24