We gathered at the table last night. It’s not just any table. It’s the Simpson table on 75thstreet in Lubbock. It’s the table where a number of my values were formed. It’s the table of my adolescence. It’s the table where I gathered with my buddies to inhale hamburgers we cooked outside during our college years. But it is also the table where I learned that members of several generations can come together and communicate meaningfully.
My first experience at the table was in 1978. I was a 16-year-old still reeling over the recent and unexpected death of my father. I felt very alone in this old world. Scott Simpson invited me over to his house for a meal. I was a little surprised that he felt no need to alert his mother in advance, but I didn’t really know the Simpson’s at that point either… I later learned that unexpected guests were the norm.
The food was plentiful. And the conversation was…It was lively! When Scott’s dad asked if I would care for seconds, I graciously declined. He then said: “Good, more for me.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to take this imposing man, who felt intimidating to me. But it did not take me long to learn that his bark was far worse than his bite. I learned that he was a man of tremendous loyalty. His love for anyone that came under the refuge of his roof was unquestioned.
I also discovered that time at the Simpson table was not wasted. It was a moment for the family to have heated discussions about politics, current events, and any other subject they found stimulating. The debates were solid. Illogical arguments were quickly dismissed. And when it was time for the meal to be over, everyone left the table feeling quite satisfied that another meaningful family gathering had been completed. I soon looked forward to my time at the table.
Scott’s mother held the family together. Joy was the traditional stay-at-home mom. But she was also an educated woman. And she was not intimidated in the least by any of the strong personalities that God had entrusted to her capable care. When the debates at the table ensued, her contributions were substantive.
I learned some things from Mrs. Simpson that are still impacting me 40 years later. She cared for her parents at their home for a number of years. And she fully expected her children to be engaged in that process. When Mr. and Mrs. Simpson went on short trips, the children were left with the care of their grandparents. No one asked the Simpson children to take care of Grandma over the weekend. It was expected. And they did it without complaining. My view of the elderly today is largely shaped by what I learned from the Simpson’s during those important years.
I didn’t realize 40 years ago that Mrs. Simpson was a rare gem. She enlisted in the Air Force in the early ‘50’s as a registered nurse. She read voraciously and enjoyed intelligent conversations about a wide variety of topics. She was well-traveled and had lived around the globe. She was a woman of deep faith. As a result of her influence, I learned the value of inter-generational relationships. And I learned what loyalty looks like in real life.
We gathered at the table last night. It’s not just any table. It’s a table full of memories. We gathered out of deep respect for a woman who shaped every single one of us in untold ways.