Johnny woke up to the sound of rain. “Oh, no,” he thought. “If it’s raining, then we can’t go down to the lake; we're not going to go fishing and swimming in it today.” Johnny had been wanting to swim in the lake on Grandpa’s farm ever since he had gotten dropped off by his parents five days ago. It still hadn’t happened. “We never get to do what I want to,” he muttered.
Grandpa had said that it would probably rain today. Grandpa always knew what was going to happen. He had even proposed an indoor activity that they could do in the case of rain, bridge. Grandpa had explained it six times; Johnny was still pretty sure it had to do with actual bridges and not cards. But bridge, whatever it was, would be today's activity whether Johnny liked it or not, because when he had asked Grandpa if they could go out, even in the rain, Grandpa had been firm.
"No, I'm getting too old for that. That water will seep into my bones and I'll turn into a water monster."
From the twinkle in Grandpa's eye, Johnny was pretty sure that he had been joking, but Johnny wasn't ever too sure about anything Grandpa said.
Rain or no rain, Johnny was hungry, so he pulled himself out of bed and slumped down the stairs. Strangely, Grandpa wasn’t in the kitchen. Every other morning, he had been there waiting for Johnny with some sort of mix of pancakes, waffles, eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, toast, and other breakfast goodies. Maybe the rain had put him down as well. Johnny poured himself a bowl of cheerios and started eating slowly, glumly staring out the window. The rain showed no signs of stopping. Rather, it looked like the kind of rain that would not stop for months. Once Johnny finished, he washed his bowl and started towards Grandpa’s bedroom to see how much longer he was going to sleep.
On the way there, he noticed that someone was standing on the porch. He walked closer to the window, saw it was Grandpa, and opened the door softly. Grandpa was just staring out at the rain, speaking under his breath.
“Isn’t it beautiful? It always seems to remember me of that time when I was a kid...oh, Jonny, there you are,” he said with a start, finally noticing Johnny behind him. “I’ve just been watching the rain. I guess I lost track of time. Sorry about not having breakfast ready for you. Did you get something?”
“Yeah, I had some cheerios. What were you going to say? About when you were a kid?”
“Just an old man’s story about the good old days.” Grandpa had a smile on his face that Johnny called a sad smile, because it didn't reach Grandpa's eyes. Sad smiles had become common after Grandma had died.
“Will you tell me?”
“Sure thing, bud. It’s less of a story and just more of a memory. When I was your age, maybe a little bit older, there was a bad drought here on the farm. It went on for weeks and weeks, without any signs of letting up. We were going to go hungry that winter if it didn’t rain; there weren’t as many animals on the farm back then, since we didn’t have the money to buy them. Father had already taken out all of the loans he could at the co-op. Every day that passed, us kids could see the fear and stress on his face become more and more prevalent; slowly he stopped laughing and smiling. It weighed down on him and we could see it, no matter how much he tried to hide it. Every night, at the dinner table, he and mom would get quieter and quieter. Each dinner reminded them of how they might not be able to provide more food for us come winter. Those were dark times.” Grandpa paused and stared off into the distance.
“But what happened, Grandpa?”
Grandpa shook his head and continued. “The fields still needed to be worked, of course, but as the drought wore on, there was less to do. As we were working one day, I saw my father just stop and look up at the sky. I thought that he was just looking for any signs of rain; all of us did that. Well, I stopped what I was doing and walked over to him. I asked him what he was looking for, since we all knew there were no clouds in the sky and wouldn’t be for many more weeks. He said, ‘Son, I sure ain’t looking for clouds. I’m just asking God to send a little rain so that I can feed my hungry children.’” At this point, Grandpa coughed and fell quiet, looking away from Johnny.
“Did it work?”
“Yes it did, my child. Yes it did. And ever since then, I have always thanked the Lord for the rain and known that He will answer my requests. Because of that, the rain is always beautiful to me, no matter how many times it falls.”
Johnny smiled. “Wow Grandpa! What a great story. I love it when you tell stories. You just have so many. Will I ever have so many?”
“If you get as old as I am, I’m sure you will. Look, Earl and Deborah got here,” he said as a pick-up pulled into the driveway. Earl and Deborah, a man and woman Grandpa’s age, got out and ran for the cover of the house.
“Hey there Johnny,” Earl said sticking out his hand. “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing alright. I’m just a little sad about the rain. We were going to go swimming in the lake.”
“Keep your chin up! You're going to love bridge. I learned how to play when I was your age and haven’t been able to stop since then. It’s a great game. Just don’t get discouraged, alright?”
“Okay, I’ll give it a try.”
“That’s the spirit! Come on then.” Earl opened the door and stepped inside, with everyone following. “Can you give me a hand here, Johnny. We need to get the card table out from behind the coach.”
“We’ll get the chairs from the kitchen,” Grandpa called out.
Soon everything was ready and everyone sat down. Johnny tried to sit down next to Grandpa, but was told to sit opposite, so that they would be partners. Since when did you sit across from someone to be partners? After they explained the rules to Johnny they started in.
“One diamond,” Deborah started.
“Two clubs,” Grandpa continued.
And so it went. The first couple times, Johnny was really lost. The game made no sense. Slowly he started to understand. Earl was right! This game was fun. After a while, Johnny looked up to see it was already one o’clock. The time had passed so fast, and now it was lunch time. Johnny’s stomach agreed completely.
As Johnny went to the kitchen with Deborah, he heard Earl say something to Grandpa, and hung back to listen. “How are you, Charles? I know how rain is for you.” Earl had heard Grandpa’s great story, too!
“I’m doing alright, Earl. It’s just difficult without her. Having Johnny here is really good for me, but even with him here, the days with rain are just sad.”
Johnny was puzzled. Grandpa said he loved the rain. This didn’t make any sense. How could he love something that made him sad? Johnny thought about this through lunch and the first rubber. Finally he blurted it out, “Grandpa, why does the rain make you sad?”
Everyone at the table looked surprised. “Why do you ask that, my son?” Grandpa responded.
“You told me that you love the rain, but then you told Earl that the rain makes you sad. Now I’m confused.”
Grandpa sighed deeply before responding. “It’s because your grandmother died on a rainy day and rain reminds me of how she’s gone.”
Johnny processed this for a minute. “Did you want Grandma to live, just like how your dad wanted it to rain.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Then why didn’t you ask God to save her?”
“I did, Johnny. I did every single day.”
“Then why didn’t He? He gave your dad rain. Why didn’t God give you Grandma?”
“He did, Johnny. He gave me her, and so He could take her away when He wanted.” Johnny crossed his arms. That sounded like a complicated adult answer and he wasn’t going to accept it. Grandpa must have seen the stubbornness in his eye, because he continued. “Do you want to hear another story about the rain, Johnny?”
Johnny sat up straight and leaned forward. The answer could wait. Grandpa’s stories were better than an answer.
“This story is a lot like the last one, just that I was a bit older, about eighteen or nineteen. Again, we had a dry year, a really bad drought. But this time, there came no rain. We waited and waited for the rain to come as the crops and animals died off. Finally, the drought ended when it snowed. Too late to help anything. The entire season’s crop had been lost, along with most of our livestock.”
“Why didn’t your dad ask God for rain?”
“I asked him the exact same thing. ‘Why didn’t you ask God for rain, father?’ He looked at me surprised and said, ‘I did ask, Charles. Every single day, sometimes every single hour, I begged for rain.’”
“‘Then why didn’t there come any rain? Last time it worked.’”
“‘Well, I guess God didn’t want to send rain this time.’”
“‘Your guess is as good as mine, son. Maybe we had a lesson to learn. Maybe someone was asking for it not to rain. Maybe we’re not in God’s favor. I don’t know the purpose, but I still thank God, because he has prepared this family, so that we have reserves of food this time. Last time, we didn’t have that and we would have gone very hungry. But God has provided us with a way to survive, just as he did last time.’”
“It took a long time for me to accept what my father said. Over time, I learned that it is the truth. I don’t know why God decided that Grandma needed to go. However, I do know that is what needed to happen and so I thank Him that Grandma is now in His rest.”
Johnny thought the rest of the day about this. When grandpa tucked him in, he asked, “Grandpa, can you teach me how to thank God for the rain today?”
“Of course I can,” Grandpa said with a real smile that reached his eyes.
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Great Story !