Lessons Learned From an Old Bench

Susan Miller's dad
Ed Burgess

One of the sweet memories I have of my daddy was sitting beside him many years ago on a hand-made, hand-painted bench in our back yard. He made it out of scraps of wood from his wood pile and it has remained strong and steady for over 40 years. He built it with the skill of a fine carpenter, although he only referred to himself as a handyman around the house.

The weathered green bench sat in mom and dad’s back yard for many years. Anytime I came home to visit, I would watch from the kitchen window when daddy was raking the backyard and wait for him to take a bench break, then I’d head for my spot next to him.

We would sit together and talk about anything—from the birds and the squirrels scampering around in our wooded back yard, to the rising cost of living, to how hot the weather was, to stories of the years he served in the military, to what the Bible says about how to live life. My daddy was a quiet, gentle, soft-spoken man of few words. The bench seemed to spark magic conversation between us.

When mom and dad went home to be with the Lord many years ago, my brother and I sorted through the keepsakes we wanted. I took the bench. It traveled from Florida to Arizona and sat on the front porch of our home, and then finally ended up in our back yard, all the more weathered.

As I walked by the all-but-forgotten-bench a few years ago, I stopped and ran my hands across the rough surface. I sat down thinking that it might not hold me, but it held firm. The memories of sitting on it with my daddy, my late husband, Bill, my children, and my grandchildren, flooded my heart and emotions.

stripping paint from old bench

“It is time to restore this bench,” I said to myself. I became excited about stripping and sanding it, filling the holes with wood filler, nailing down any loose wood, re-painting it a different color, and adding a bright cushion for the finishing touch!

Moved to just the right spot in my home today, the old-but-new bench continues to spark conversation magic.

My grandchildren take turns as they nestle in to sit next to me. We share all kinds of important stuff. Sometimes tears are shed over hurt feelings or a scraped knee, but mostly laughter ripples over a funny story or a joke. And as for me, well, I have the joy of sharing memories and stories as I once did on that very bench with their great-grandfather many years ago.

restored bench

There are five things I’ve learned from that old bench.

  1. Seize the moment to sit awhile with someone you love.
  2. Talk about lots of things—important and not so important.
  3. Share stories and recall memories.
  4. Listen and remember.
  5. Never forget that something old can be a treasure and, sometimes, can be restored to new again.
Susan Miller

From my heart,

Susan

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