The last time Audrey and I saw
each other was in 1974, but years before that, really, we had gone separate
ways. We have known each other since we were three years old. Both of our fathers were Bible teachers and preachers, hers a pretty famous one. We went to the chapel together, went to Awana together, went to young peoples together, etc. Audrey was a rebel. I was pretty much goody-two-shoes. But, the differences probably had much less to do with any righteousness on my part than the fact that I was a coward and a people-pleaser, flat out scared to try some of the stuff she got away with.
The last time I saw Audrey she was running from God. Her countenance was stiff and hard. My first impression of Audrey when we met on Friday was how soft and
sweet she was. Not a sentimental softness, but a patina of grace.
We sat down
with mugs of steaming tea and quilted a conversation with a hundred pieces
of news. Tell me about your kids. How are your sisters and brothers? Is your
dad still living? Who (from our group of grade school friends) have you stayed
in touch with? Tell me about your church. Not only do we have our growing up
years in Lombard in common, but we both went to the same Bible school (CCBS),
but in different years. Thus there was an entire community which Curt, Audrey and
I all had in common.
We both had dads who were gone preaching a lot, and
could speak of the difficulties we both had experienced because of
absentee fathers with the objectivity which only time can bring. We didn’t
linger on the bad stuff, but acknowledged it and went forward. The stories kept
coming, one priming the pump for many more.
competitors in Awana prizes and Sunday School games. She told Brian
that I was the one who won the sleeping bag for
memorizing the most verses, when Mrs. Brown had refused to listen to her verses.
We laughed, happy to be comrades now instead of competitors. As I went to sleep,
more stories surfaced, more reasons to laugh together.
family’s news, Audrey stunned me by saying, “Danny is one reason why my brother
John is a Christian.” John had run away from home, had been robbed of all his
money, and was sitting disconsolate at the train station in Lombard. Danny got
off a train (later Dan had said it was unusual that he had been at the station then) saw John, and spoke with him. He asked what was up,
heard his story, and then asked him, “Is this what you really want?” John
decided to go back home, but that question burned in John and was the
turning point for him. I haven’t spoken to you, Dan, but I wonder if you
remember that. We never know how a little word will be used.
my Johnny, my brother !, had written to Brian and Audrey
for years when they were in Spain. Wow, Audrey, I only have one letter from
him! It was neat to see the connections between our families. Meanwhile,
Curt and Brian got on well and enjoyed getting to
know one another. Audrey and Brian spend a lot of time in Albania and have been in Croatia a
lot, so our Croatian connection through Curt’s sister’s husband helped us ask
intelligent questions. Brian is interested in Zimbabwe, as we are; we talked about our connections with Zimbabweans and the challenges there.
I want to reward those of you who have waded through my personal recollections with a superb cooking tip I learned from Audrey. She made wiener schnitzel (with chicken breast, yum yum) and it came out beautifully. As we cleaned up together I saw a strange finger of food in the cooking pan. It was a carrot. She said an old man in Vienna taught her that anytime you fry something breaded put a carrot in the pan. The carrot mysteriously keeps the breaded part from burning.
Here is a picture of us in Sunday School so many years ago.
There was so much ancient and historical to see in Great Britain. Our friendship sort of fit into that category.
But I left Audrey feeling like I have found a true friend. All the infrastructure has been in place all these years. The Lord has breathed life into these old bones.
Such a gift. Such a gift.