Growing up, I went to church three times a week, and even when I wasn’t listening to my dad’s sermons, some part of me was paying attention. My recall of things I didn’t know I knew surprises me sometimes. Often, my father pounded the pulpit in fits of hell, fire, and brimstone. Other times, he spoke like he was reading poetry. Most of the time, I was bored in church and read the hymnal or drew pictures on offering envelopes.
I want to tell my dad it wasn’t all for naught.*
During the winters we lived in Kansas, he dragged me out of bed at 4 a.m. on cold and bitter Sunday mornings so I could help him light the heaters at the church. I’d gently turn the knob until I heard the gas hiss. I’d strike a short match and poof! A blue flame. I never did this absence of the fear that I’d blow the entire church up and die never having been kissed.
It took hours to heat the sanctuary and with little money to pay the gas bill, we always ended up just toughing it out in the cold, huddling under blankets in the pews. I was 14 and hated my life. It was nine degrees and we still sang three songs and took an offering.
I have missed my dad so much this week. Although he is still with us, he is not with us like I want him to be. Nothing sums up this situation quite like the title of Patti Davis’s memoir, The Long Goodbye.