When we were with my father a few days ago, he kept talking about wanting to go to church. He was mixing days because it was Wednesday, then, Thursday. We told him that tomorrow wasn’t church. He talked about needing to get ready for church. He asked if we were going.
I thought about the last time we had visited him, a couple months ago. We had gone to church with him, Mark and me. He watched me walk up to the pulpit, shaking my head and hesitant, because the pastor called me out and asked me to come and sit there, asked me in front of everybody. They all knew that I didn’t want to be in that pulpit. I thanked him from that back row. I smiled and gave that bunched brow and bow while shrugging. I wanted to worship next to my brother for a chance, sit near my father.
The pastor said he understood; he knew “we didn’t get many days off,” but he persisted in having me come there. So I went, mostly to prevent myself from embarrassing my dad. I sat on the raised platform with the pastor, close to the five-person choir, far from my brother and father.
When I got to the pulpit, the man gave me an assignment, to lead the congregational prayer. So much for a day off. And I saw my daddy, standing at the door, ushering people into the sanctuary. I relished that moment because it felt like a long lovely dream just remembered.
At his sister’s last week, he kept talking about going to church. I’m turning it over today as I wait to hear how his follow up appointment’s gone. We’ve put a lot of hope in what the doctor will say following his stroke. He told us, “I’ve got to get my clothes ready for church.” He was thinking of his black suit.
In a way, his repetitive words are helping me stretch the thin faith I have about his health. The line of it feels shallow. It feels like a belief giving itself up, holding but less tightly. I’m rehearsing my father’s words. I’m the preacher listening to the usher, the son finding something–comfort? I’m not sure–in the words of his father. It’s Wednesday again, and Sunday seems a long way off.