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The Bishop was coming to the church for his weekly Tuesday evening meeting. He saw the normal group of cars pulling into the parking lot. Tuesday was the evening the teenagers met together, too. The girls had activities, and the boys had scouts. Sometimes they would do fun things together such as volleyball, basketball, or things like wiener roasts in the church yard. But what the Bishop saw next surprised him. Walter was out mowing the lawn.
Walter was almost ninety years old. He and his wife, Betty, had served in the community and the church all of their lives. They had especially loved the youth. Though they had always wanted children of their own, they had never been able to have any. So they seemed to adopt the youth of the community. Ma was a common nickname for Betty, and Walter was often called Pa.
Walter and Betty had always been asked to serve in some capacity with the teenagers. Betty was either off with the girls to camp, or Walter was hiking with the boys into the wilderness. Often the two of them were organizing fundraisers for youth activities. Together they had served the youth every Tuesday night and many other nights for as long as The Bishop could remember. Even when Betty could no longer attend girls’ camp, and Walter couldn’t make the hikes with the boys, they would show up on Tuesdays with ice-cream or other treats.
But in the last year, Betty had become so sick that Walter had to spend every free minute he had taking care of her. Lovingly, Walter, with great devotion, attended to every detail of Betty’s care. Kind people had suggested that it was too much of a burden for someone of his age, but he insisted that it was no burden at all. However, Walter had expressed the sentiment that the thing they missed most was the Tuesday night activities. The Bishop knew the teenagers missed Walter and Betty, too.
But then a couple of months ago, Betty had passed away. Walter was lost without her. His grief was so intense that everyone thought it would kill him. No one expected him to last long without her. He didn’t come to church and was seldom seen outside of his home. That was why the Bishop was surprised to see Walter mowing the church lawns.
The Bishop parked his car and walked over to where Walter was busily walking back and forth behind the self-propelled mower.
“Walter,” the Bishop said, “what are you doing?”
“What?” Walter replied.
Walter was quite deaf, and the noise from the mower didn’t help.
“What are you doing?” the Bishop yelled.
Walter let go of the mower throttle bar, and the mower went silent.
“I’m mowing the lawn,” Walter replied.
The Bishop nodded, feeling a little silly for asking an obvious question. “Yes, I can see that,” he said. “But why are you doing it?”
“Because it needs mowing,” Walter replied.
Again the Bishop felt sheepish having asked an obvious question, but Walter wasn’t catching the drift of the questions. “What I meant was,” the Bishop said, “do you think you should be doing this now, at your age?”
“I’m not sure what age you think I should do it at,” Walter replied. “And if I do it next week instead of now, I’ll just be that much older.”
“So why did you come to do it at all?” the Bishop asked.
“The youth wanted to have a cookout here tonight,” Walter replied, “and besides, it’s date night.”
“Date night?” the Bishop asked.
Walter nodded. “Betty and I always made Tuesday our date night working with the youth, and then we went out for a milkshake. I’ve really missed her, and I decided it was time for a date again.” He paused and smiled. “I’m not sure, but I can almost feel her here with me right now.”
The Bishop only nodded, feeling too emotional to speak. And as the youth piled out of the church, many of them hugging Walter, the Bishop felt Walter was right. Betty was probably there for her date with him.