Ten years later
(Continuing from An Inner Storm)
“Do you think he’ll remember us?” Michael McClendon asked his wife, Jennifer, as he pulled up to that rod Iron Gate where behind it stands “The Mansion.”
“I’m sure he will,” Jennifer answered. “We’ve been a good influence on him, in his coming to the faith.”
“And he’s been a good influence on us with those monthly paychecks we’ve received through those years we’ve worked for him,” Michael chuckled.
“We may look a little different because of the passing of time obviously, but, yeah, sure, he’ll remember us. He has not yet seen the kids though, that’ll be a surprise to him.”
“Hey!” Michael exclaimed. “Look, there’s a surprise right there,” he pointed, “The gate is already open? Do you think he knew we were coming?”
“Well, for sure he did,” replied Jennifer, “Since you called him this morning. But as I have heard, that gate has always been open ever since that New Year’s Eve party he threw for his company those many, well I guess, ten years ago now.”
“Wow, and look again there. I guess Johnny did learn how to be friendly,” Michael said again noticing a sign as he drove through the gate.”
“Right there on the front lawn for all to see,” Jennifer beamed sprouting her dimpled simile noticing that sign as well. “WELCOME FRIENDS,” she read.
The sun was shining brightly that cool spring day – no harsh wind, just a gentle breeze – Holy Week it was, Palm Sunday through to Easter Sunday.
Through that gate, the car wound its way up the familiar long, curved driveway stopping in front of Johnny Mac’s house, built with pride earning the envy of all. But all that has changed since the dawning of that new day having begun those many years ago.
Surprised they were to see the front door of the house opened. Johnny Mac as well standing outside.
Johnny Mac opening the car door, Jennifer stepping out he greeted her with a friendly hug. “Welcome, Jennifer,” Johnny Mac said.
“Thank you, Sir,” she said, as she opened the car’s back door for her young son also to get out. He so eagerly did, that he might meet this “Johnny Mac,” whom he had heard his parents talk about so much.
Around from the left side of the car came Michael, holding a little girl’s hand. She too sprouted a dimpled smile, she eager also to meet this friend of her parents, their former employer.
“Michael, welcome,” said Johnny Mac firmly grasping the hand his office manager of those earlier years.
“Thank you, Sir,” Michael responded. “It is good to see you again. It has been a long while.”
“Yes, indeed it has. Too long perhaps,” Johnny Mac said. “But you can cut with the ‘Sir’ now – we’re friends – no longer am I you guy’s ‘boss,’” he said. “And there’s only one sir these days and forever, as you both know – Sir Jesus.” Agreeing, Michael and Jennifer nodded.
“And who are these lovely little people?” Johnny Mac asked with a smile, turning to the children, now side by side in front of their mother.
“I think you can guess, Johnny,” Jennifer said.
“Yes, of course,” responded Johnny. “And what may your name be, little girl?”
“Jenny Margaret McClendon,” the girl answered, sharing her full name, eyeing up at her mother.
“Well, Jenny Margaret McClendon. Is Jenny short for Jennifer?” Johnny Mac then asked. “I mean, after all, with your dimples and blonde hair as Mrs. McClendon here,” he nodding toward Jennifer, “you just gotta be named after her, your mother.”
“Just Jenny Margaret, Johnny” Jennifer answered, “Not exactly as my name. But, named somewhat after me – the Jenny part – and my sister Margaret.”
“And how old might you be, Miss Jenny?” Johnny asked. “Ah, let me guess. Um, he said, rubbing his chin, eying up and down little Jenny, “Maybe ten?” he said.
“Yes,” Jenny answered, “that’s correct.”
“And how ‘bout your brother here, Miss Jenny. He is your little brother, right?”
“I’m David Michael McClendon,” the boy answered, speaking up for himself to the gleam of all. “And I am eight years old. Michael is my daddy’s first name.”
“Ah, yes, how well I know. Just like you both,” Johnny Mac responded eyeing Michael and Jennifer, “you have lovely and intelligent children.
“Ah, well, now,” he then suggested, “Let’s all go inside, shall we? See I have set before you an open door, inviting you to come and dine.” He gestured toward that open front door. “I’d like to catch up with you, and you catch up with me the happenings through the past years, as Molly gets our lunch together. For sure we have a lot of catching up to do.
“I’ll let Molly take the children if you don’t mind, give them a tour of the house and perhaps a bit of a snack before we dine. You would like that, won’t you children?” The kids rapidly agreed with a definite beaming nod.
Inside Johnny Mac introduced and refreshed again Michael and Jennifer to Molly, his housekeeper – to the kids for the first time – a pleasant African-American woman. She had been with Johnny Mac all the years he owned the company, and still with him now through this more pleasant time for him, even after he sold the company.
The introductions completed, Molly offering each a glass of water, she then escorted the children through the house, hand in hand, one on each side of her.
“She’ll give the children a good time,” Johnny Mac assured.
“We’re sure she will,” Jennifer replied, Michael agrees.
Johnny Mac himself then escorted Michael and Jennifer into the parlor. There they seated themselves on a sofa; he perched on his favorite recliner his hands clasped between his knees. Remembrances of the past years freshly revived as they recalled it all again.
The Catching Up
“You two are a lovely couple,” Johnny Mac said. “Certainly as I see it now, from God’s perspective, you’re certainly His choice for one another.”
“Sorry I stole your girl Johnny,” Michael chuckled, his arm around Jennifer.
“Not my girl, Michael, my secretary,” Johnny Mac replied. He too chuckled. “But seriously she’s a better fit for you anyhow, being close to you in more ways than one. If anything, then, I may have been trying to steal her from you. How wrong I was.”
“But that’s where it all begins,” Michael shared, “just friends first trying to determine God’s direction in our friendship.”
“And obviously you two have discovered it, with God’s greatest blessings, and mine.”
“Those two little ones for sure,” Jennifer beamed.
“Ah, yeah,” Johnny Mac sighed. “Those years are history – a thing of the past. Now I know that too, so many years late.
“You know guys,” Johnny Mac continued, “Through all those previous years I realize now that I’ve been… ah, well, stupid, having been so caught up in the things of this physical, temporal realm. May I count them – those things – before you all?” Michael and Jennifer nodded for him to continue.
“We would love to hear it all,” Michael said. “As much as you would like to share.”
“First,” Johnny Mac began, “how foolish I’ve been to be so fascinated by those ribbon of highways – a youthful pleasure I know – weaving their way through a city, winding about all those tall buildings; so-called ‘skyscrapers.’ (And to think I’ve desired to build those.) Realizing it now, truly the design of humankind – truly ‘towers of Babel’ as the Lord has taught me from His Word, as I have read in the book of Ecclesiastes. Ah, my confusion, not grasping the essence of the real life.” Johnny paused.
With a deep sigh, and choking back some tears, Johnny Mac continues, “Than comes that ‘lustrous’ career I thought was so necessary, fattening up my financial portfolio, but for what purpose? So that I may relax through my “golden years” – and here I am – now to be merry the rest of my days. However the many more days there are yet to be for me?
”Oh how stupid I’ve been, Michael, Jennifer, craving such earthy, temporal stuff – the pleasures of my youth. Oh, wow! Such is a ‘fantasy island,’ as I call it. Or, as the writer of Ecclesiastes has said, ‘Vanity of vanities.' And so, my conclusion of the whole matter, apart from the things of God in this temporal, physical ‘realm,’ all such stuff is meaningless, wasted living.
“Ah, but what am I to do about it – with it all now – Michael?” Johnny Mac said, rising from that recliner with a brightened countenance, tears wiped away. “As the Preacher himself realized, concluding, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
“All of this stuff” Johnny Mac’s hand spanning about the room, “was all important to me. But now I think they are worth nothing because of Christ,” As the Apostle Paul has written, ‘I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and now I know they are worthless trash.’
"Thanks to Him, I have lost all those things, and the gate to this 'mansion' always opened, to welcome my friends, allowing me to have Christ and to belong to him. Now I am right with God, and it's not because of my earthly pleasures, or my earthly stuff, or even my own good life; it is because I believed in Christ. Now knowing Him, I can rightly make Him known.’
“How great it has been these years since that day. Molly will attest to that. And I thank God for you, Michael and Jennifer.
“Hm-m, speaking of Molly, there she is waving that it’s time to come and dine.”
Gesturing to do so the three – Johnny Mac, Michael, and Jennifer – exited the parlor. They reconvened at the dining table, together again with Molly and those precious little ones, Jenny Margaret and David Michael.
That dining table covered with a linen cloth, overlaid with clear plastic, enabling the embroidered words of Scripture of friends and friendship still to be read. The most prominent Scripture, stitched with gold thread, reading, “He who has friends must himself be friendly."
© 2018 Charles O Newcombe