The picture frame lay in pieces on the dusty cabin floor. Shards of glass tore through the drawing of Samuel’s mother, gone more than fifty years.
The little boy cowered in one corner of the room, hiding his face into the folds of Martha’s house dress.
Samuel stood from the mess, back creaking with a lifetime of hard work and tough breaks.
“Davey,” he said in a stern voice. “Come on over here.”
Martha gave her husband a pleading look but pushed the child forward as Samuel shuffled to a chair and sat down. He rubbed his hands over his thighs, squeezing the tired and stringy muscles. He leaned forward, looked at his knees.
This was a job for a knee.
Tears streamed down Davey’s cheeks as he stood in front of his grandfather, head bowed to the floor.
“Look at me, boy.”
Davey lifted his head, but his eyes slid from Samuel’s wrinkled face to a spot on the wall behind him. It was only then the old man remembered the belt hanging on a nail.
Samuel’s eyes welled with tears, too, and he leaned forward to pick up his grandson. The boy stiffened as Samuel sat him on a knee.
“There was a time, Davey, when your daddy broke one of Grandma’s good dishes.” Davey frowned. He’d heard the story before. Martha took a step toward her husband, but Samuel flashed his eyes at her, and she stayed put.
“And when that happened,” Samuel went on, “I figured I needed to teach him a lesson, so it wouldn’t happen again. He learned his lesson.”
By then, Davey was making little sobbing sounds, and Samuel’s voice grew thick.
“But you know what?” Samuel asked.
Davey cast hopeful eyes at the old man. “What?”
“Well, the way I figure it, we don’t always have to learn lessons by ourselves. Sometimes we can learn from what other people have done.”
“Uh-huh,” Davey said, and he sat up straight, anticipating.
“And sometimes,” Samuel said, “we know right off that what we just did was too … harsh.”
“Like playing too hard?”
Samuel smiled. “That’s right, Davey, like playing too hard. So, do you think you can play softer from now on, at least while you’re here inside the house?”
“Yes, Grandpa!” The boy’s eyes flashed. He could feel the storm passing.
Samuel nodded and squeezed his grandson. “I’ll play softer, too. I promise.”
Samuel wasn’t sure Davey understood, but he could see from Martha’s tears that she sure did.