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    “‘At your age’ and ‘not thinking clearly’?” he repeated to himself. Fred decided to keep his mind as sharp as possible. He feared if Barbara got it in her head to put him in a nursing home, she’d do it. Well, he’d have none of that. He liked living alone. So he made up his mind to memorize numbers and work logic puzzles for mental exercise.

    The news spread through the neighborhood how Noway saved Fred’s life, and neighbors sent cards with their best wishes.

    Barbara loved Uncle Fred like a father. When she was young, her real father abandoned her. Uncle Fred, a bachelor, stepped in as a father figure. He took her on trips, paid for her schooling, listened to her complaints and gave her an allowance. Fred was the one needing encouragement now, but for some reason, he twisted her words into insults when she meant them for good. Their relationship had deteriorated over the years, to a point where she now played the parent role and he acted like a headstrong child.

    Barbara heard about a prayer blanket ministry in one of the local churches and called to see if the ministry reached out to grouchy old men like her Uncle Fred. The chairperson for the ministry invited Barbara to join them that next Thursday when the group planned to knot prayers in a blanket for her uncle. Barbara walked into the church feeling a bit awkward. She only attended services at Christmas. She didn’t object to religion; she just thought it unrealistic and that at some point we all have to step into the real world.

    Eight people sat around two six-foot long tables pushed together with the blanket fleece prepared and spread out before them. Seven-inch-long fringe strips bordered it. The blanket depicting an array of small beagle puppies printed all over the fabric made Barbara relax. She knew Uncle Fred would love it. Everyone sat down, and Marlene began by telling the prayer team some things about Uncle Fred and his physical condition. After showing Barbara the style of knot and how to make it evenly, they began.

    The team kept praying short prayers like, “Lord Jesus, if it brings glory to You, please completely heal Uncle Fred from his injuries. We know that You, Lord, are the great physician.” Another prayer was, “Thank You, Jesus, for Uncle Fred stepping in as Barbara’s dad. Help him through this difficult time to become kinder and more loving as You are.”

    The prayers continued and tears snuck down Barbara’s face because she knew underneath all the grouchiness Uncle Fred demonstrated the love, support and responsibility that her father shrugged off when he left home so long ago without even saying good-bye. Uncle Fred stayed. He was a decent and good person. And she missed the person he used to be.

    Afterward, a Scripture verse written on parchment paper fit perfectly inside the pocket sewn on the fleece. The verse was 1 Peter 4:8: “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love makes up for many of your faults” (TLB).

    When Barbara brought the blanket to Uncle Fred in the hospital, she found him sound asleep. Carefully, she laid it over him and waited patiently for him to wake up. Soon a technician walked in and called his name. She took his blood pressure, temperature and held her fingers to his wrist. Then she strode out of the room.

    “So, you’re awake,” Barbara said.

    “They don’t let you sleep; must be one of their rules. They got enough of ‘em.” he snapped.

    “I brought you a prayer blanket.”

    “A what?”

    “Prayer blanket.”

    “What’s that?”

    “It means people care enough about you to make this blanket, pray for you and knot those prayers into the edge of it. See?” She held up a corner.

    “Why? Why would they do that?”

    “Because, well, I guess, because they believe Jesus told them to pray for others.”


    “These people care about you too, Uncle Fred. I sat there and knotted and prayed along with them.”

    “You! Since when do you give a rip?”

    “How can you say that!” Barbara grabbed her handbag and ran from the room.

    Fred tried to pull the blanket off. He didn’t want it on him, but then his eye caught the beagle puppies. He lay back down, took a deep breath and wiped at the corners of his eyes.

    The afternoon Fred arrived home from the hospital, Noway barked and danced in circles to show her delight. Fred eased down in his big chair, Noway’s clue to jump up and snuggle beside him. She looked up at him with soulful eyes. Fred had missed his dog.

    His neighbors and family brought food over by the carloads. Barbara came by once a week to clean and run errands. Neighborhood children took turns playing with Noway and taking her for walks.

    Fred’s recovery dragged on for months, yet Noway lifted his spirits and made him smile. And his friends and family paid close attention to him. Fred guessed that everyone liked some attention anyway. For a few weeks, he used a walker, which limited how far he could go, but he persevered, and each day he made it farther than the day before.

    Fred also kept his promise to himself to keep his mind alert. He memorized statistics, worked cryptograms and remembered numbers, like license plates, telephone numbers and birthdays. He wasn’t giving up just yet.

    Eventually, Fred walked with a cane. He began going for longer walks up to the corner of his block and back. As he continued his daily walks, he realized that if he put a nail on the end of his cane, he could use it to poke papers and clean up litter along the way. After a little more thought, he came up with a clever way to remake his cane. He would have a lever that could be pushed and locked down, or pulled and locked up. That way he could hide the nail neatly inside the lower part of the cane when not needed, or extend it to pick up litter. Fred worked on his cane all morning in the shed. By lunchtime he finished it and walked out, pleased with his trash pickup cane.

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