“Aunt Abby?” Joshua asked. “Can you tell us a story? A story about Dusty?”
“Well, I think Dusty might have more than enough of his own stories,” Aunt Abby said. “How about a story about love.”
“Ewww,” Bruce said wrinkling his knows. “That’s gross.”
“Love is NOT gross,” Jules exclaimed bopping Bruce on the back of the head.
“Yes it is!” he yelled bopping her back.
“Hey now, hey now,” Aunt Abby said separating them. “We’ll have none of that, thank you very much.”
“He’s wrong though,” Jules exclaimed. “Isn’t he?”
“Yes, Jules, love is one of the most wonderful things in the world. The Bible teaches us that. But Bruce may be confusing real love and eewwy-gooey love.”
“What do you mean?” Bruce asked.
Once upon a time, eight cousins—four boys and four girls in cowboy boots—bounded onto Grammie and Grandpa’s Texas Ranch. Hobbes, the golden lab, greeted them with a wag of his tail and licked every face. Clyde, the gray donkey, pointed his big ears at them and let out a loud, “Hee-Haw, Hee-Haw”. The cousins hugged Hobbes, hugged each other and hugged Grammie. They dog-piled Grandpa laughing as he tickled them left and right.
“Shouldn’t there be nine of us?” Constance whispered.
Yes, what about Imogene’s baby?” Ellie asked.
“Yes, what about my baby that’s in Mommy’s tummy?” Imogene asked.
“We don’t know what you’re Mommy is having yet, so we have to wait. It’s like the best present ever! It’s the present of a new person!”
They arrived on a fine spring day from all over the place. They came with the first of the flowers and the first buds on the trees. They came with the dancing wind and the still cool breeze. Joy filled there air as the cousins came together at the Ranch, the magic of all that they would do, all that they could do when they were together.
“Happy Valentine’s Day!” Jules said handing Grammie a pink card when they got inside.
“Is it Valentine’s Day?” Jules exclaimed.
“Yes, in this story it is.”
“Oh good, Valentine’s is my most favorite day ever.”
“Yes, I know.”
Everyone passed out little pink and red Valentine’s. Some had stickers, some had fake tattoos, some had funny sayings, but all of them were covered in hearts, hearts, hearts.
“Hearts for love,” Jules sang dancing around the room. “And I love everyone.”
“No you don’t,” Bruce said.
Jude smiled at Bruce having played the ‘no you don’t’ game many times.
“Well, everyone who is good. Everyone who isn’t bad.”
“You don’t know everyone,” Joshua pointed out as he dumped out the car bucket.
“I know everyone,” Bruce said.
“No one knows everyone.” Constance agreed with Joshua.
“God does,” Imogene said. “God knows all things.”
“See,” Jules smiled. “If God’s knows everyone so can I.”
“Know you can’t,” Bruce disagreed.
“Only God knows all things,” Ellie explained.
“Well,” broke in Grandpa. “We know at least two of you are learning your catechism. Jules, if you love someone what does that mean?”
Jules stopped dancing around the room and frowned at her Grandpa pondering.
“It means you kiss them!” exclaimed Imogene kissing Grandpa on his near-by knee.
“And hug them!” added Ellie.
“And don’t bite them,” said Rook who had heard this from his momma a lot lately.
“It means you make sure they have food to eat, like Mommy and Daddy do. They love us!” explained Constance.
“Right,” agreed Bruce. “And you don’t hit them.”
“Nope,” Joshua said. “We’re not allowed to hit.”
“And you ask their forgiveness when you do something bad?” Jules ventured.
“Yes, but what are all those things?” Grandpa asked.
The eight cousins stared at Grandpa and slowly blinked. Grandpa sighed.
“Love is action. When you love someone you make the choice to love them every day, all the time, no matter what.”
“Wait!” Jules gasped. “It’s like Valentine’s day. We don’t just say we love each other, we give each other cards.”
“Yes, like that. It’s doing. It’s action. I don’t just tell your Grammie I love her. I get to know her. I talk with her. I spend time with her. I sacrifice for her.”
“Grandpa loves Grammie very much,” Jude stated.
“Yes I do. You know who else I love?”
“Who?” gasped Ellie, her blue eyes opening wide.
“You!” Grandpa bellowed. “All of you!”
“Us?” Bruce wasn’t so sure.
“Yes! Do you know how you know I love you?”
The eight cousins glanced around the room for clues.
“You let us play with your cars,” Joshua pointed out.
“You give us raisins and animal crackers,” Imogene smiled.
“You chase us,” Bruce said.
“You throw the ball for us,” added Jude.
“And you have movies we like.” Constance patted the TV.
“Yes, yes, yes.”
“You have us over,” Rook said, “a lot.”
“You let us dress up and play Pirates!” shouted Ellie.
“You let us play with Grammies doll house and polly pockets and you have a room with pictures of us so we can spend the night,” Jules said all in one breath. “Guys!” she turned to all her cousins. “Grandpa really loves us. You know how we can tell?”
“HOW???” the other seven cousins gasped in unison.
“Look at all he’s done for us! That’s how we know he loves us!”
“I bet,” Grammie said, “that even if Grandpa was gone today slaying dragons, you would still know he loves you.”
“Grandpa slays dragons?” Joshua asked.
“Yes,” Grammie said. “He’s one of the best dragon slayers ever.”
“You know what?” Grandpa asked. “This is how believers know God loves them. God gave Christ to die for sinners and then shows us every day, even when we can’t see Him, that He loves us. Love is not a feeling. Love is an action. And because this is what God does, we do the same. That’s how Grammies and Grandpas, Mommys and Daddys, Brothers and Sisters, and Cousins show love. By our actions.”
“Let’s all be loved,” Grammie said.
The eight cousins dropped their toys and gathered around Grandpa and Grammie. They hugged and squeezed.
“Let’s all be loved!!!
“So Bruce, what do you think? Is that a gross love?” Aunt Abby asked.
“No,” Bruce hesitated, “I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so,” Jules gasped. “I know so. I also know I love you and so I’m sorry I bopped you on the head. Will you forgive me?”
Bruce looked from Jules to Aunt Abby and back.
“Yes!” He gave Jules a big hug. “Will you forgive me for bopping you back?”
“Yes!” Jules gave Bruce a big hug.
“Look!” Imogene declared. “We love each other!”
The eight cousins smiled big smiles.
“Yes, we do,” Aunt Abby said.