Ties That Bind: Family Stories
"Jo Huddleston has written the most wonderful, thought-provoking stories inside the cover of Ties That Bind: Family Stories... Love, selflessness, and the love of God shines through in these beautifully written jewels." -5-Star Amazon review
First short story
Sunday Shoes: The Story of a Widower
The old man lives alone now since his Ginnie passed away in her sleep six years ago. His two grown children live up north and visit only two or three times a year.
He still does his own cooking, foods he likes. He cleans house, when and where he thinks it needs to be cleaned. I come in every Friday to do his laundry. That’s the only day my husband has off from the factory and can stay home with the children.
Sometimes while I’m in his small house, I straighten things up a bit. Most times he fusses when I do, but I believe he really doesn’t mind all that much.
One thing he does mind, though. They won’t let him drive his car anymore.
I was there that day the two young deputies came to the house. Jacob knew they were coming by. The doctor’s office had called to let him know they’d contacted the sheriff. After Jacob had the small stroke a while back, the doctor told Jacob he shouldn’t drive anymore. But Jacob went right on driving to the bank to deposit his Social Security check and around to the courthouse to sit with his friends on the shaded benches.
“I believe I should be able to drive if I want to.” He looked up from his rocking chair when he’d answered the deputy.
“Mr. Whitley, please give me your driver’s license. We don’t want you driving anymore.” Jacob softly protested.
“I don’t think that’s right, you telling me I can’t drive my own car.”
“How old are you, Mr. Whitley?” “Eighty-three.” The words added to his indictment.
“Sir, please, let me have your driver’s license.”
Outnumbered and obviously discouraged, Jacob took his thin wallet from his back pocket and slid the license from beneath its clouded window. His wrinkled hand trembled over so slightly as he surrendered the precious possession.
Still he pleaded. “I need to drive my car. You ought not to do this to me.”
Taking the license and making some notes on his clipboard, the young deputy informed Jacob that his driving privileges were now revoked, and he no longer had permission to drive his car. Although kind to Jacob, the two young deputies couldn’t understand Jacob’s high value of independence.
“It’s not right. I’d sooner lose my right arm than not be able to drive myself around.”
But the young men had left the porch, and only the breeze and I heard Jacob’s appeal.
Since that day, his step is slower and more shuffled, his daytime naps longer. His eyes look beyond me when we talk. When I come by to take him to the bank or to church on Sunday, he’s uncomfortable. But he has resigned himself to sit in my car’s passenger seat. He nurses a silent rebellion.
Today, I decided, I’ll spruce up the house a bit more, make it a little brighter for Jacob. I glanced out the window. Rooted as usual in his wooden rocking chair on the porch, Jacob moved only to swat an occasional fly with his rolled-up newspaper.
I’d just finished with his bedroom when Jacob appeared in the doorway.
“Lillian, what are you doing? Where’s all my clothes?”
“Oh, Jacob, you startled me. I thought you were outside.”
“I was. Where are all my things I had there on that chair?”
“Jacob, I wanted it to be a nice surprise for you. I’ve rearranged things so it will look a little better in here. See, I’ve set your Sunday shoes in the bottom of the closet and hung up all those clothes. I’ve even put this big picture over the bed, so you’ll enjoy it more.” I was proud of myself for being so helpful to Jacob.
“I didn’t want any of those things moved!” He’d never raised his voice to me before.
“Jacob, look how nice and roomy everything is now. I’m sure you’ll like it once you get used to it.”
“I don’t want to get used to it! Do I come to your house and move the pictures around and put your clothes where you don’t want them?”
His words yanked me from my assignment.
“Of course, I don’t!” He answered his own question. “You wouldn’t like it any more than I’m liking it, either. Why are all you people treating me like this?” His eyes glistened with tears he could barely hold back. He slumped heavily into the empty, overstuffed chair, his dignity stripped away.
His frustration found its voice. “First, my Ginnie goes, and it’s never going to be the same. Then, the doctor says I’m liable to have a big stroke anytime and tells me to quit my cigars. Next, the police come and take away my driver’s license. And now, you. I didn’t think you’d turn on me too. I don’t have any living left.”
What had I done? He looked up at me as if he were the child and I the scolding parent.
Without a word, I went to the closet. I removed the several shirts and pants I’d just hung up and flung them carelessly over the chair, some falling across Jacob’s lap. He watched quietly.
Finally, I picked up his Sunday shoes from the closet floor and tossed them—first one and then the other—toward the middle of the room.
I smiled at Jacob, understanding that the scattered clothes helped him to regain a measure of his treasured independence. The tight corners of his mouth slipped slightly upward, and his chin raised noticeably. The Sunday shoes would hold their place in the middle of the floor, right where Jacob wanted them.
“Sunday Shoes” by Jo Stone Huddleston was originally published in The Lookout magazine, Standard Publishing.