Aunt Dorothy loved me. There was no doubt about that. She lived in Pella, Iowa, and I had gone to visit extended family who live there. There were lots of uncles and aunts and cousins to see. We lived far away, in Arizona, and it was rare that we were able to connect with our Iowa relatives. So it was a delight for me to be able to see them all for a couple of days. Aunt Dorothy grabbed me at a cousin picnic taking place at West Market Park and said, “I want to talk to you about your church plant out there in Tucson, and I want to buy your lunch.” I couldn’t say no to her even if I’d wanted to.
We agreed to meet at the Windmill Cafe the next day. She arrived early and snagged a table by the window. “Remember, I’m buying,” she said, gesturing toward the menu. “You just pick anything you want to eat. It’s my treat.”
She then pointed at what she said was her favorite: “I’m getting the tuna melt. You should try it, too. You’ll like it.”
I ordered it on her recommendation. I also noticed it was the least expensive thing on the menu. A widow has to pinch pennies. I loved that she was using some of those coins to buy my lunch.
We chatted for a while. She asked how Mom was doing. We talked about her kids and grandchildren. She shared a couple of jokes. She’d start laughing before she got to the punchline. It’s what I always remember about her. I had tears running down my face—not so much from the joke, but from the hilarious way in which she told it. “Say, Rodney, did you hear the one about ...”—and off she’d go. I laughed until my sides ached. She reminisced about the time I was visiting and told her I didn’t like fried chicken. Dad wasn’t fond of chicken, so I didn’t like it simply because he didn’t like it. Aunt Dorothy had lied and told me it was fried duck, not fried chicken, and I had gone home and told Mom that fried duck was delicious. She cackled and snorted at the funny memory. We giggled a lot.
Then she got serious. “Your mother tells me about the church you’ve started. She’s very proud of you. But, Rodney, you didn’t go to seminary, and I don’t think you should preach if you don’t go to seminary. My grandson did it the right way. He graduated from seminary and got a call and was ordained as a minister. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. I love you, but I don’t think it’s right what you’re doing.”
“Well, Aunt Dorothy, I’m not a minister,” I replied. “I was ordained as an evangelist and was examined for that role.”
“I see,” she said. “Well, I didn’t know that. Still, my grandson did it correctly, and I just object to you not doing it right. One of your cousins heard you preach a while back and said you were pretty good, but it just seems wrong to me.”
What could I do? I sort of apologized and then told her I was sad to have disappointed her.
She patted my hand and said, “Oh, no, you don’t disappoint me. I’m very proud of you, too.”
She grabbed her purse and pulled out a small white envelope and handed it to me. “I imagine starting a church is hard. Here’s a little something to help your church along. It’s not much, but it’s all I can afford for now.”
Inside the envelope was a check for $15.
She had written it the day before.