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He's a Little Bit Holy Water

Just a short excerpt from one of my more recent chapters:

When I was little my favorite place to be was curled up on Daddy’s lap. On Sunday afternoons he’d sit in his velvet blue recliner to watch football, and I often climbed up to sit with him just before he fell asleep. I’d listen to his slow breathing for several minutes, before drifting off to sleep myself. In those days we went to church twice on Sundays, so the afternoons in between were like a lazy pond in the middle of a cow field—quiet and still, yet surrounded by noise and activity.

When Dad preached he wore a three piece suit, with the vest buttoned up, and a coordinating tie tucked neatly behind it. Dad had five or six suits, all in neutral colors like gray, tan, and navy blue. Pinstripes and plaids had gained popularity in men’s clothing during the seventies, but Dad’s suits were all solid, with conservatively cut collars and narrow lapels. Dad is only 5’11” but when he stood behind the pulpit in his suit, carrying a thick black Bible, he looked massive. And I adored him.

Dad taught all three of us kids how to swing a bat, throw a football, and shoot a basketball. He had huge hands that could build or fix nearly anything, but he was gentle when he played with us on the floor in the living room. Whether he pretended to be a tickle monster that we ran from, a mountain we could climb on, or a launchpad for flying into outer space, Daddy always made us laugh.

Dad is usually pretty quiet, but once he gets going on a topic he likes, he can talk for hours. He loves sports, hunting, theology, and music, but I'm not sure what order he would put those passions in. On Sunday mornings he woke everyone up by putting a tape of Sandy Patti, or Larnelle Harris, in the stereo in the living room, and turning it up full blast. Dad comes from a very musical family, but he never really played any instruments himself, and his singing voice wasn’t the best one in his family. Still, on occasion he would sing a solo on a Sunday night, just before, or sometimes right after, he gave his sermon. He loved telling the stories behind the lyrics to his favorite songs, like “The love of God,” “If that isn’t Love,” “It is Well with My Soul,” and anything by Fanny J. Crosby. His scratchy tenor can be a bit nasal at times, but I still love to hear him sing.

When I was six or seven, Dad tried to fix the heating unit in his office at the church, and it exploded in his face by accident. He was blinded for three days and had to wear two round patches over his eyes, covered with a large gauze bandage, in order to keep out all the light and let his eyes heal. He reminded me of the wounded soldier who turned out to be Shirley Temple’s father in The Little Princess. He walked around the house slowly, feeling his way around with his hands, and I was scared to get close to him until his sight came back and his eyebrows began to look normal again.

By the time we moved to Lepanto I was fourteen, too big to sit in Dad’s lap anymore, but I still liked hanging out with him whenever I could. We often walked to church together on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. We went early, before anyone else came, and I would sit in the dark sanctuary all by myself sometimes, imagining it to be the most sacred spot in the entire world, with an invisible stream of light shining above me that reached all the way up to heaven.

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