Little Artie’s Gift For Mother

Linda’s Birthday Surprise 2 – Supper is Ready

At about 5:00 P.M. the old truck rattled back into the driveway. Hank was waiting to put his pack box in the truck so he could leave with Ab early the next morning.

Hank walked to the truck and asked Linda, “How did you find things at camp?” She replied, “Other than Victor forgetting to close the drain thingy and flooding the kitchen, just fine.” She added, “Ruth seemed open to talk about spiritual things and I got to tell her about salvation and how God has changed our lives.”

Linda got out of the truck and Hank gave her a welcome home peck on the lips then slid up behind the wheel. He said through the driver’s side window, “The girls have supper under way so why not come help me get my pack box into the truck.”  Linda stepped up onto the running board and hung on as Hank backed the truck into the shed and up to the platform where the pack box was waiting. Linda reached in and covered Hank’s eyes playfully. Hank knocked her hand away in mock fear as he continued to back the truck into position.

The two of them slid the big old box into the truck. Hank had found this old work box was the easiest way to keep his gear together for his frequent trips into the woods.

His father owned a great deal of land.  He had cut wood himself and sold stumpage to supplement the family income.

Hank had learned from his dad how to fall a tree exactly where he wanted it to go. And on those rare occasions when the tree would “sit back” on his saw blade, he needed to know how to rig a “figure four” to tip the tree off the saw.  He had also learned how to take advantage of the lay of the land, using the natural features to simplify removing the harvested wood. And if the natural features had to be altered; Hank even knew how to handle dynamite. There was, in fact, a half a box of dynamite in Hank’s big pack box they just loaded on the truck.

Linda got a little sad as they talked about his plans to work in the woods. She knew it was dangerous and that if he got injured it would be Ab that had to get him to medical help. Then too, she was anticipating her own loneliness. She wrapped her arms around her husband. She pushed her head hard against his chest nestling there. She clung to him, sad, and happy, and loving him, and wanting to protect him all at the same time.

Just then Phyllis came into the shed from the other door and when she saw her mom, she asked, “Are you ok?” Hank and Linda relaxed their embrace and turned in Phyllis’ direction both smiling and bemused.

Phyllis felt a little self-conscious and understood that what she had just seen was mom and dad expressing their love for each other. To cover her embarrassment, Phyllis launched into her message. “Mom you have to come into the house through the kitchen door, we have a surprise for you.”

Linda responded with a questioning, “OK?” Phyllis continued, “Supper will be ready in five minutes so you need to come now.”

Hank stepped to the outside door and gave a shrill whistle. Art appeared in the shop doorway and Hank motioned for him to come. In a moment Art was running toward the shed.

While he was coming they all headed for the kitchen via the interconnecting buildings that connect the house to the barn.

Phyllis opened the door to the kitchen and they were greeted by warm and fragrant cooking smells. The kitchen table was aglow with candles and the Sunday china.

Linda was pleased and said, “Lovely, but what is the occasion?”

She wrapped an arm around each of her daughters and stood admiring the table for a moment; then kissed each on the forehead.

Hank supplied an answer, “This is a loving Happy Birthday from your girls.” As Hank finished, Linda squeezed her girls and said, “Ok men, wash up and let’s enjoy what the girls have done.”

Hank and Art headed for the bathroom together while Linda washed in the kitchen sink. Then she helped the girls by filling the water glasses.

Soon they were all seated, and Hank asked the Lord’s blessing on the meal and thanked Him for all He had done for them that day.

There were the appropriate encouragements and compliments to the girls for their good cooking. Phyllis reminded them that Virginia had cooked the meal, but she had made the cake.

The meal finished, Phyllis announced, “Ok ladies and gentlemen, we will have cake and coffee in the dining room.”

“Oh my” exclaimed Linda, “This is so nice.” When they got to the dining room their Bibles were all at their places ready for Hank to lead the evening devotions.

Hank grinned at Art and waited for Linda to notice the shelf.

As Hank moved to take his place at the table, Linda noticed the shelf and began to cry again. “Oh Hank,” she said, “It is just perfect, thank you so much.”

Hank grinned and said, “I did not make it, Art did.” She looked at Art and jumped to her feet, went around to the shelf, and looked at it closely and at the arrangement of the cups.

She hugged Art hard and there were more tears of joy. She said, “I just can’t stand it, my children are all grown up and able to do without me.”

Hank said, “Well, there is more.” Phyllis and Virginia glanced at each other, then back at their father, who said, “Art has something he wants to tell you all.”

Phyllis thought, “Hurray Art is going off to military school or the foreign legion.”

Art simply said, “I asked Jesus to be my Savior today.” Linda was on her feet again hugging him with more tears. She was praising the Lord out loud and blubbering and congratulating and exclaiming, “This is the best birthday I’ve ever had.”

Virginia slipped out to the kitchen to adjust the heat under the coffee pot. She seemed to be the only one who could hear the frantic cheerfulness of the percolator.

Sitting back down, Linda took Hank’s hand, giving it a squeeze in silent communication.

Hank felt as satisfied and complete as he had ever been in his life; seeing his wife so happy and one of his children called into the family of God.

He thanked God silently, and understood anew how unbearably precious were the sacrifices made by God and man, so that he could have this life.  He thought, “I must live it well, that is the only way I can honor them.”

As Hank opened his Bible he said, “I need to let my meal settle a bit so I can enjoy Phyllis’ cake.” He continued, “Let us look at our passage for today.” Each opened their Bibles to the place they had marked the night before. Each took a turn reading a verse and as it worked out (John 3:36) was the verse that Phyllis read.

Phyllis was a good reader; she read the verse, loud and fast. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

Phyllis closed her Bible abruptly, anticipating that they were done by having finished the chapter. And she was ready to bring out her cake.

Art was aware that this was the first time he really liked hearing the Bible read. He found great comfort from the words that Phyllis had just read, but he could see that Phyllis did not.

Each suggested a few prayer requests and Hank led the family in prayer.

At the “Amen” Virginia was up and out to the kitchen. Phyllis got to her feet to follow and as she did instructed her mom in mock sincerity, “You just stay there.  We will take care of everything.” Linda acknowledged with, “Thank you.”

Soon they were enjoying their cake and giving compliments to Phyllis. Even Art could compliment his sister sincerely.

Slowly their attention shifted to the chores that needed to be seen to during Hank’s absence.

When they had finished the dessert the three children cleared the table and started the clean up tasks.

Hank began to enumerate what had to be taken care of mostly by her in the weeks to come. She said, sort of sadly, “It will be like being on my own again.” Hank started to say, “I’ll be home every weekend…” but they both noticed at about the same time that all three children were in the kitchen and they had not heard a raised voice one time.

This was marvelous and they got to their feet to peek into the kitchen half expecting to find Art tied and gagged. As they looked into the kitchen what they saw was, to them, much more astounding.

They glanced into the kitchen then back at each other with broad smiles.

They stepped away from the doorway. Linda leaned close to Hank and whispered, “Can you believe it?”

Hank responded, “It is a milestone for sure.”

Hank and Linda had seen their three children working together without a harsh word exchanged. There was Phyllis washing, Art drying, and Virginia putting away the dishes.

They were discussing their 4H Club’s projects, which included sending 2 Holstein heifers to Brazil. The children were particularly outraged at the Government of Brazil, who would not let the animals off the ship until a $5000 duty was paid.

Perhaps the introduction of a common enemy (Brazil) had unified them for the moment. Or perhaps it was serving the common love of their mother, but it seemed there was a promise in those moments. Moments that brought joy to the observing parents.

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Artie’s Adventures

 

Linda’s Surprise 1

Art’s mother was singing as she walked across the yard; “Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need; mercy drops round us are falling, but for the showers we plead.”

Hank went out to walk with her to the truck they exchanged a few words and kissed each other good-by.  Art waved from the shop door and Linda drove away.

Hank came into the shop picked up his tools and gestured for Art to bring the shelf.  They went into the house and in a few minutes Hank had attached the shelf to the wall.  (Art had learned more valuable lessons in home repair and carpentry principles.)

As Hank was arranging the teacups on the new shelf Phyllis and Virginia came into the dining room. They began to exclaim in delight over the shelf and how happy their mom would be with this surprise.

Hank responded to their compliments by saying, “Yes, I think Art had a good idea and did a good job.” The girls were dumb-founded; their little brother had done something useful.  It was too late to criticize after they had been so generous with praise thinking it was their dad’s work.

Virginia  paid the highest compliment when she asked, “Art, could you make one of those for my room?” Art glanced at his dad who nodded in the affirmative, and he said, “Yes.” Hank then said to Phyllis before she could say anymore, Hank said, “He will make you one too.” Phyllis paused stunned again for the moment then said, “Oh, thank you.”

Hank then said, “We want to surprise your mother, so please don’t spoil it. We hope to keep it quiet until devotions tonight.”  Phyllis rejoined, “She will be out here ten times before supper and see it.” Hank said, “She may, but if you girls are helping her with supper maybe you can make those trips. And if not she just gets her surprise without us being here.”

Hank pecked a kiss on each of his girls and walked back to the shop, with Art close behind.

The two girls went out into the kitchen and as they did Virginia asked,  “Why don’t we make supper tonight?” Phyllis liked the idea and knew exactly what they should prepare.  Phyllis supplied her menu suggestions, just a few of her favorite dishes. Virginia responded, “Those are the things you like. But what would mother do if she knew that Art had made the shelf?” Phyllis understood the question and replied, “She would make something that Art likes.” Phyllis confused by the fact that she had been up-staged by Art. That was bad enough, but that he had been able to do it without even trying gave Phyllis a taste of genuine humility.

The girls agreed on what they would fix and checked to see if all items were available. They made a few adjustments to accommodate the leftovers that their mother had planned to use. Linda was a practical household manager.  And taking a chance on wasting food would make her feel more guilty than honored.

They set the table hours before supper-time. They wanted to have that part done and out of the way. Both girls were getting excited about how they were going to be part of a great

Each idea of one led to the refinement of that idea by the other. And when done, the table was set with the best the Allen family had to offer.

Phyllis decided they needed to make a cake and she knew just the one to make. She wondered do we have time? Checking the clock she made the suggestion to Virginia.

Hank’s Announcement

Art feared his mother’s question only because he was sure she would discover the surprise his father had planned. The traces of his consternation flickered across Art’s face. Hank quickly supplied a response by saying, “I had him doing something for me and it stained his hands. We will have to put up with it until the stain wears off.”

Hank continued by changing the subject, “ I’m going to miss these mid day meals with you.” Everyone turned their attention to him. He continued, “I ran into Ab at the gas station and he is ready to start cutting over in Leeds.” Ab Dunn, was a long time friend of Hank’s. They often worked together cutting wood. And on some occasions guided hunting and fishing parties.

Linda asked, “When do you start?” Hank replied, “Saturday.” Linda continued, “Will you try to see your dad one more time before you get back in the woods?” Hank responded, “I’ll call mom tonight and see how he is doing.” We’ll have a couple of weeks of day work getting a camp set up. So I’ll be home nights and Sundays until the camp is ready. After that I’ll be home Friday night till Monday morning.

Then to the children, he said, “You will all have to sharpen up on your chores while I’m in the woods.” He added, “Art’s finger has healed enough so he can do his work so we should be able get along all right.” To Art he cautioned, “Remember to close the grain bins, feed cost too much to be feeding it to the varmints. You’ll have to milk both morning and evening, don’t forget.” Then to all, “It is going to take all of you helping out and please, no one get hurt.”

Hank explained, “Your work here allows me to earn some money we will need later this year. So in a sense you are earning the money too.”
Phyllis chimed, “Oh boy, I know what I’m going to do with my money.” The family looked at her incredulously.
Her mother indulging her for the moment asked, “And what is that Dear?” Phyllis replied, “Take a long vacation.”
There were groans and snickers from around the table.
Virginia spoke quietly but potently, “That is a good idea because that would give the rest of us a real nice vacation.” Then Virginia seeing Phyllis flushed, speechless, and on the verge tears caused Virginia to recant. Virginia said apologetically, “I’m sorry Stinky. I was just teasing you.” Everyone was surprised by Virginia’s remark. As she was the frequent ally of Phyllis and this seemed out of character.

Linda was already missing having Hank around all day and put her hand on his to comfort herself. She knew it was necessary for Hank to get that wood cut as it was a means to generate the needed cash. Linda assumed they would be cutting firewood to sell as they had the other years.

Hank explained, “We are going to major on cutting pulp. We will take the fire-wood along the way that we need for ourselves of course.” Hank continued, “The paper mills are back in operation.”

There had been a long labor-strike. The strike had reduced the demand for pulp-wood. The mills had continued to buy pulp until their pulp yards were full. But there had been no need to cut pulp for almost two years.

However the mills would use up their reserves filling back orders from publishers. Then the demand for pulp-wood was expected to go up. Ab reasoned, if they could get several hundred cord ready for pick up they could make top dollar on the pulp.

Hank stood up leaned over and kissed Linda and said, “Thanks for the lunch, it was good.” He then gathered up his dishes and carried them to the sideboard by the sink.

Linda then asked, “Can I use the truck to go over to camp to visit Ruth?” Hank replied with a smile and wink at Art, “That will be fine. Art and I will get the tools gathered and I can pack the truck tomorrow.”

Hank and Art went back to the shop and selected the items they thought they would need to hang the shelf. Then they spent their wait time getting the items Hank knew he would want on the truck tomorrow gathered in one place. They placed them on a platform they used for a loading dock when they unloaded the feed truck. The pile of project related items grew over the next hour. It came to include: Saws, Axes, Ropes, Chains, and Come-alongs. A blanket, foul weather gear, spare boots, spare socks, tool boxes, a 100 pound keg of nails, rolls of tar paper, roofing nails, and a lot of, etc.

Then Hank got his two-man buck saw from its hangers and began examining it for broken teeth and general condition. He said to no one in particular, “You don’t look too bad, a little filing will have you good as new.”

Hank continued, “It is just like your Christian life, every day it needs a little attention to keep it sharp.”

_______________

Pulp-wood= The wood that would be made into pulp used to make paper. Frequently Poplar Trees

Cord = A 4 ft by 4 ft by 8 ft stack of wood

Little Art’s Gift For Mother Episode: Ambush At the Rose Bush

Art replied, ”Sure, I can wait.“

His father had a little twinkle in his eye as he continued, ”Let us put this shelf on the wall without your mother knowing.“

Art looked at his dad in disbelief.  Art could not even open the refrigerator without his mother  knowing.  How could they hang a shelf in her dinning room without her knowing? Hank saw his doubt and with a broad smile said, “I think we can do it. Will you help me?” Art heard “we” and was willing to try anything his father might ask.

Hank explained his plan, “I know she wants a shelf in the dining room over the buffet to display her mother’s teacups.” His grin grew wider as he added, “And she is going over to the camp to see aunt Ruth later.” Then Art understood, he knew his mother would be gone for hours. And when she returned she would be bubbling over with news about extended members of the family. She would get home late and be in a terrific hurry to get supper. She might not even go in the dining room until after supper as they usually ate in the kitchen except when they had company or on Sunday.

Just then Phyllis, (Can’t Keep a Secret) stepped into the shop doorway to announce, “Lunch is ready.”

Art’s heart sank, she will see the shelf and blab to mother. Phyllis’ eyes had not adjusted to the light in the shed so she really couldn’t see anything yet. Hank took a step forward blocking her view of the shelf.   “Ok little one I’m hungry enough to take a bite out of your Teddy Bear” Phyllis squealed in mock fear and ran toward the house. She dove behind a rose-bush planning an ambush on her dad. Hank pretended he did not see her. As Art and his dad got near the bush Hank gestured to Art to keep walking toward the house. Then he circled the rose-bush bringing him right up behind Phyllis. Hank made loud growling noise close in behind Phyllis. It startled her into a real scream, she jumped and cried, and protested, “That’s not funny.” Well, of course it was funny to Art. After all, you don’t get to put one over on Phyllis every day and live to tell about it.   Art was rolling on the ground holding his stomach.  He tried to get control but every time she said, “That’s not funny.” It made him break into peals of laughter.

Hank scooped her up mid protest, put her over his shoulder and carried her for the remaining distance to the steps.

He was just setting her down on the steps when the door opened. Linda was greeted by three smiling and tear-stained faces. “What in the world is going on out here?” she asked, in a voiced edged with real concern.   The children started to tell the tale simultaneously. Art is laughing and Phyllis is waving her arms and scowling, Hank was standing there looking innocent. Finally, he put a hand on each of them and they fell silent. He pushed them toward the open door and Linda stepped back, but held Hank in her demanding gaze.  He said, “It was all fun, Phyllis was hiding to ambush us on the way to the house and I got behind her and scared her, she screamed and we laughed.” Then quickly added, “Let’s wash up.” Hank and Art headed to the kitchen sink to wash.

Once seated at the table, Hank asked grace and they began to eat.  Then, as Art reached for a slice of bread his mother noticed his hands. She said, “Art your hands are filthy, go and wash again, what is that?” Art felt trapped, he would have to tell the whole story now and spoil the surprise.

Artie Series- Aboard the Queen Mary

Aboard the Queen Mary  “The Bible says, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.” Hank continued his narrative while the family sat quietly, “I know now that is from Psalm 9:17.  But at the time I had no idea and no intention of caring from where it came. I did slip that Bible into my breast pocket and it fit perfectly.  I thought, “Well you can tell that was not a government job, it fits too well.” During the crossing we did have daily classes and calisthenics. But there was a lot of time to do nothing but think and read if you had anything to read. There was also a group of 4 men that were holding a Bible study.  One of the four had a bottom bunk and they met at his bunk for Bible study and prayer. I could hear them from my “sandwich bunk”. That is the  middle bunk in a three bunk stack. I heard them speak about their families and churches with great affection. And even more confounding was their obvious relationship with God and the hope that bubbled to the surface of their lives. I never heard them complain and there were many things about which to complain. And when they were complained to would find a way to turn the complaint around to find something for which to be thankful. They had such an unaffected faith.  It was as if their “faith” had them. So it was in this context that I became aware there was another way to live but I also knew I did not have that kind of life.” Hank had become aware his audience was getting sleepy.  He made the decision to stop. And did so abruptly. “Well I think we better get some of that pie and let you get back to camp.” Art glanced around the room to meet the glances of the others. His mother and sisters were already headed to the kitchen.  Victor called after them, “Linda I think we will hold off on the pie tonight.” Linda stopped and  turning to her brother, “Are you sure?” Victor confirmed, “Yes we need to get some hot packs on Ronny’s neck and these bodies some rest.” Hank stuck out his hand to help Ronny stand.  Ronny’s neck was stiff already and trying to stand caused it to hurt. Ronny got to his feet wincing, as it seemed, from unseen blows. Once Ronny was on his feet Hank slipped behind him and gently began to message his shoulders and  neck. Ronny stood flinch under even the gentlest touch. Saying, “Ouch,  Ooch, Ouch, Ooch.” Victor said, “Come on “Ooch” lets go home. Hank suggested, “Ok lets cut the pie tomorrow.” The suggestion did not need any vocal vote as everyone was voting with their feet. Victor got his family headed for the door and stepped back and t gave Hank a firm hand shake and said with great sincerity, “Thank you for everything.” They all walked together to the car. Ruth and Linda embraced.  Linda called after them, “Sleep well.” As the car pulled away, Hank said, “Ok everyone to the kitchen let us get the chores done and then to bed.” As they walked together to the house Virginia took her father’s hand and pulled his arm around her waist. Hank was so contented, Linda on one side and his first-born on the other and two littler ones in tow. Hank called over his shoulder, “Come on Stumpy and Stinky.”  Phyllis responded somewhat weakly, “Oh daddy.”  Art responded by dashing ahead to the steps. Hank was still thinking about the war when they finally pillowed their heads that night. Hank, mused out loud, “We have much for which to be thankful. We are safe in our own beds, in our own home, with the opportunity to build the life we want. So many paid so much, we must live well. Thank you Lord, help me honor You and them. “  Linda with her own wartime memories, shared Hank’s gratitude and said “Amen”.

Art’s Gift For Mother – Detoured to the Queen Mary

Detoured to the Queen Mary,

Linda suggested, “Why don’t we all move to the living room, we will be more comfortable. We can have our pie and coffee a little later.”

As they entered the living room Vicky spotted a photo of Hank in uniform he picked it up to study  it carefully.  Hank noticed Vicky holding the picture and commented, “That was taken at Fort Dix, NJ just before I got on the troop train to NY.” He continued, “ Funny thing is I just got that film developed last week. I carried that roll of film all over Europe even to Berlin and back.”  Ronny moved in to take a closer look at this well-traveled photo.  Ronny said, “You look pretty handsome Uncle Hank.” Hank responded to the compliment by saying, “It will take more than flattery to pay for the surgery in the work shop.”  “By the way how does that feel?”  Ronny turned his head back and forth to show Hank the limits of his mobility.  Hank turned to Victor and asked, “I think that is normal for what he has been through, don’t you?” Victor responded, “I think so and I think it will be worse tomorrow morning.  We will put some hot packs on him before bed and try to loosen him up.”

Hank reached for the photo and as he did he said,  “They would not take me when I volunteered because of my asthma but then drafted me later.”

Victor: “They never got so hard up they needed me. I can’t see what I’m eating without my glasses.” Passed my vision problems on to the boys too.

Hank replied, I know you did War Work for the government. That is God’s providence too.  Some have to stay by the stuff some have to cross over to the battle. Hank was making an oblique reference to scripture; 1 Samuel 30:24.

Hank Continued, “The day after that photo was taken I was on the Queen Mary and the week after that we were on our way to Europe.”

Virginia exclaimed, “Queen Mary, you were on the Queen Mary?”  Hank replied, “Yes for about 10 days that time.”  “We were over 16,000 men, not counting the crew. It was all elbows and armpits on that ship.  And Hitler had put $250,000 prize for the U Boat that sank us. “

Linda’s face reddened, “Hank your language please.”

Hank continued with his thought,  “If I had known then what I know now I would have slept easier those nights at sea.”

Victor asked,  “Did you mean 16,000 men or 1600 men?”

Hank responded, “It was 16,082 to be exact not counting the crew.  We set the record for the most souls on a single transport.”

“Bunk beds three and four high so close together that if your neighbor had an itch you felt it.

We did everything in shifts, it was so close we had to take turns snoring”

Virginia gave an involuntary “Yuk!” as some image lit up her imagination. She had been thinking of the 12,000 war brides the Queen Mary transported to the U.S. and Canada after the war. But that romantic excursion was dashed by a vision of all those smelly soldiers on the Queen Mary.

Hank unable to resist sharing some more details added, “Looking back, it was those days I was beginning to think seriously about spiritual matters.”

He continued, “When we got on the ship there was a clerk there to check your name off and assign you a bunk. There was also a civilian there handing out New Testaments. Hank finished,   “I still have that Bible.”

Hank stepped to the book-case to retrieve the Bible and handed it to Victor. The rest of his family crowded around to get a look.

It was a pocket-size New Testament and had a steel sleeve over the front cover. It was intended to be carried in the left breast pocket covering the heart in two ways.

After the Testament was passed around it ended up in Vickie’s hand he held on to it as everyone returned to their places.

He was tapping the steel cover and estimating the ballistic characteristics of the cover.

Hank spoke again, “That man, the one handing out the Bibles, seemed to have a word for each man who passed.  To me he said;”….

A Question of Eternity

A Question of Eternity

Virginia, who had just brought a plate of steaming brown bread to the table and placed it beside the bean pot said, “I’m sure if I smelled like you smell I couldn’t eat either.” Phyllis turned pleadingly to her father, “Daddy do I still smell like a skunk?” To which Hank replied, “Well little one you are somewhere between skunk,” (exaggerating mispronouncing) “Channel No 5, and V8 juice.”  He patted her consolingly on her flushed cheek and said, “I want you to be very quiet at the table tonight, speak only when spoken to do you understand?  Phyllis nodded in acknowledgement and thought ”Just spank me and let me speak I don’t do well under torture.“ Nevertheless she determined to obey. Hank took note of Virginia’s remark for a moment and thought it seemed out of character. Victor was suddenly aware of being very hungry at the sight and smell of all the food.  He had not had homemade baked beans since last year. He took a freshly made roll and put it on his plate. Hank said, ”Lets pray. His family bowed their heads. Victor and Ruth exchanged glances and bowed too.  Hank thanked God for the food and journey mercies for his family.  He prayed for his dad and other family members by name. At the “AMEN” Linda took Hank’s plate and put on a portion of beans, brown bread, cole slaw, along with a hot dog and a roll. She then took her brother’s plate a fixed it for him in the same manner. She continued until she had served everyone. During this the tone of the conversation was very different. They chatted about family and friends and the events of the past year with the children (except Phyllis) occasionally volunteering a bit of information on the topic at hand. Victor was finishing his third helping when Linda asked, “Who wants desert? I’ve got some apple pie.” Everyone groaned in appreciation and anticipation.  The meal was nearly finished when Victor asked, while looking at Hank, “What is up with you?  You all seem so different.” Hank was taken back a bit by the question, he knew he had changed on the inside, but did not know it showed on the outside and said so.   Victor responded, “Well it does show in your face and the way you talk, and you prayed before we ate tonight.”  Ruth’s eyes were riveted on Hank. They revealed a combination of extreme interest tinged with fear. Hank continued, “Well the short answer is; “I became a Christian.” To which Victor replied seeking to lighten the moment; “What were you before a heathen?” Hank looked at him squarely and said evenly, “Yes.”  Then he added, “And worse.”