My wife, Joice, and I have just had an unusual blessing: the visit of our two Aussie grandsons, their spouses and two great grandchildren—one whom we had never met before.

Wes, our oldest grandson, his wife Heidi and their boys, Archie and Chase, stayed two weeks and although we saw them often, we wish it could have been longer. Now back in Australia, they leave this week to begin a new neighborhood outreach in a new town.

Let me tell you a bit about them: Wes is tall, lean, sometime shaven and a “fair dinkum” (meaning authentic) Aussie, although he was born in Papua New Guinea. He is a graphic artist and lettering connoisseur, making his living with another friend through their online business. He is fairly quiet, thoughtful and resourceful, committed to God and His kingdom. He is athletic and loves to fish. In Texas he was also courageous, driving the car that accompanied the duplex where they were staying.

Heidi is an accomplished artist and soon to be degreed teacher, vivacious and caring. Her sparkling eyes command immediate attention. She loves to talk and interacts easily, and has an ongoing concern for the poor and needy. She spent time in Africa, where her parents were missionaries for a short time.

Archie is 9 years old and energetic to a degree that requires surveillance. (He put one of our living room side tables out of commission for a while.) When he smiles, you feel rewarded, but also want to be on guard. Like most boys his age, he is mischievous.

Chase is 7 and lives in a world of constant motion and imagination. Both boys have been living in Darwin (the top Northern end of Australia) and love the outdoors. Even the Texas winter couldn’t convince them they needed to wear shoes. Chase wore a path racing around an area near our neighbor’s back yard. He was thinking, acting, enjoying his world.

Soon after Wes and family arrived in Waco our youngest Aussie grandson Sam and his wife Lyndsey arrived to stay with us. We have a small guest room and before long they had filled it with their bargains. They took a leave from their jobs in Melbourne 6 months ago to tour Europe, Uganda, Kenya, and the eastern U.S.

Sam, who was also born in Papua New Guinea, is also tall and has a business and entrepreneur instinct for bargains. By training, he is a fully qualified architect and works for a large firm in Melbourne. He has the kind of mind that could put ebay out of business if he wanted to—but of course he doesn’t want to because he has things to buy and sell online. Sam is quiet and capable—the kind of analyst who you would go to for help on almost any topic. We had several computer problems for him to solve. He was also our chauffeur during much of their visit.

Lyndsey is a beautiful woman with a smile that melts ice cream from a distance of 15 feet. She is devoted to Sam and speaks softly when she consults him (and also, we believe, sometimes so their auditory-impaired grandparents couldn’t hear them). She has been a midwife now for 9 years and will be going back to her job shortly. We often had coffee together and talked about life and living. She epitomizes the meaning of “care giver” and loves to do things for others. We played a lot of games with Sam and Lyndsey—she is the champ at Racko and Sam beat us regularly in Rummikub.

Well, they are all gone from Waco now and we must resort to email and the telephone, something our forefathers (and mothers) never had when their loved ones left them.

Lyndsey and Sam also left us a coffee mug: one with a picture of them and us huddled together. I have to be careful when I drink coffee from it. Yesterday some excess coffee ran down over Lyndsey’s face and blurred it. I felt very bad and, of course, wiped it off quickly. But then I noticed some coffee in Sam’s hair as well. It looked like I had seen him some mornings when he just got up and his hair was messy. I tried to straighten his hair but without a washcloth the coffee didn’t come off quickly. I’ll try using a scrubber if that happens again.

Sometimes on one of his world trips our son Kirk (and occasionally his wife Christine) stop by for a day or two. Last year he spent a 5 day stretch with us so that we could help him fill in some of his history. That was a special time because it brought back many memories—Kirk was also born in Papua New Guinea, so our photos and letters reminded us of stories when he was young (and sometimes foolish).

Well we are not quite alone—when our Waco family (Mike, Karol, Kirsten, Evan and Cam) go on trips they leave their dachshund, Pretzel, with us. He loves me so much that he gets me up at 4 in the morning to show me where he has made a mess—only occasionally, but that is enough to relegate him to the garage for nighttime sleeping. We love to have Pretzel with us, even when he barks madly—which seems to be often, but especially when our neighbors walk their dogs.

Our Waco family helps us to overcome—to some extent—that “empty” feeling. We are grateful for their love and care and for the time they spent with our Aussie family, who showed them many places in Waco. When we all got together at Thanksgiving, I found myself wondering what it would be like to feel alone again. Now I know and have many memories to ponder.

But after that Thanksgiving feast, for a long time I felt like I was running on empty.

Waco, Texas
December 2018