Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Our father was not always so."

I say this to my brothers and sister, for each of us was loved (and unloved) by a different father. My father taught me to sing. The bass line in Baptist hymns:

There is pow’r (pow’r!), pow’r (pow’r!), wonder-working pow’r
In the blood (in the blood!) of the Lamb (of the Lamb!)

Which, like Harlem jazz players and Southern gospel quartets a half century earlier, after a Saturday night club gig, packed up their instruments—or zipped up their trousers—to appear in church a couple hours later and sing Sweet Jesus I want you—instead of the previous evening’s Sweet Julia I want you—I did something like this, sans the booze and the fornication, and in the opposite direction: my childhood musical migration traveled from church pew to bedroom record player, where I took my hymn-honed ear and sang tenor to the Brothers Four and Kingston Trio—Darlin’ Won’t You Wait, A Worried Man, Hard Travelin’.

When the preaching of my Baptist Pastor B., blessed be he, exhorted its way out to the dreamy frontier of this 10-year-old’s attention span, I turned and whispered my request for (and received) my engineer father’s pocket slide rule. Six inches, yellow, a hairline as straight and narrow as the hellfire Good News thumping in the background. Dad taught me how to multiply by working the mysterious trinity of its hairline, its middle sliding bar, and its body (not broken for me, or by me, for Dad trusted me with it).

This little miracle absorbed my attention until Pastor B.'s voice descended from indignant chiding to something resembling his own personable self, in which voice he prayed a sermon-concluding prayer, always introduced by the unvarying instruction, With every head bowed and every eye closed…—the purpose of which prayer, I observed, was to allow organist and song leader to tiptoe unseen into their respective places so that when …in Jesus’ name, amen! finally arrived, and every head was unbowed and every eye was opened—voilà!—there were the organist and song leader in place, ready to wind things up and dispatch us to our overheated car interiors and our pot roasts.

Ten years later, jilted by my mother, Dad married the organist.


At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Laurie said...

all night i've heard "body- not broken- because dad trusted me with it" over and over. i've found myself back in church with my parents picking at my fingernails and eating whole packets of tick tacks. i am so intrigued that i hope and pray you'll write more; those times in your room in the escape of music away from the controlling influences in your life. i'd like to believe that i coerced you into writing this, but i imagine i am only one of many,many others who beg this of you. anyway, it was wonderful. i will always be inspired by you. thank you!

At 9:10 AM, Blogger rae ann said...


you're due for another post... your readers await.



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