"You are too good to us," Paul said, making his way to the dining room table and pulling out a chair for his wife.


The Passerby Page 3
Hester Tetreault

But the compelling story was the harsh reality of talent ignored for people like him of that generation. "It won't put bread on the table," his father told him. "If you sit around drawing like that you'll ever amount to anything.

His mother died when he was nine. He remembered the gentle tap of her stick against his head whenever she found him with pad and pencil in hand. "Make yourself useful. Don't waste your time," she chided.

When we returned to the kitchen, Bertha searched for some tangible expression of her hospitality. "I wish I had cookies to offer you. I can't cook like I used to."

"I couldn't eat a thing. I just finished dinner." I said.

Their dinner was "meals on wheels," three days a week. "We cannot eat so much. We have plenty for the next day. Except Mondays. Mondays we try to cook for ourselves."

They wanted me to stay awhile. We sat and talked. Dignity filled their house.

Paul answered the door the following Monday. His eyes fell on the tray I carried.

He was glad I'd come, but his pinched and agitated face told me I'd stumbled upon an outburst of anger.

Bertha, pale and flustered, gathered herself. "We're not feeling so good today, and I'm having trouble with my head remembering." She threw her hands up. "I don't know what it is... old age!"

They led me into the kitchen. Canned soup dripped where it spilled over the stove.

Paul's hands shook as he showed me the hole scorched in his shirt sleeve as he tried to cope with a meal. The flare- up, cut short by my arrival, had taken its toll. He put his hand to his forehead and sighed, gaining equilibrium. "It's just that she upsets me sometimes," he said, arranging the knives and forks on the table as I set out the lunch I had cooked.

Bertha still fretted to know where she had put the wooden spoon he no longer needed, and my hear ached for her.

Frailty of age, it's irritably, frustrations, limitations and fears had been too much for them both that morning. Impassioned by their need, I reached for Bertha's trembling hand. "Could we sit down and pray?" I asked.

"Oh," Bertha exclaimed, "that's what we need more of."

Paul joined us in a chair beside the couch.

After I prayed for them I looked up. Gratitude and relief flooded their faces. All tension was gone. I hugged them both and delighted in the hugs I received in return.

"You are too good to us," Paul said, making his way to the dining room table and pulling out a chair for his wife.

No, I thought, God is too good to me. He allowed me to share this moment as He touched two people He loves very much. How blessed I was in the process. I wanted to be their friend, and He had given me the desire of my heart.