Friday, June 27, 2008
Hale, high water and the old man in the blue suit
My dad preached his last sermon today. No, I don't mean the kind that he gave me when I'd wander in after curfew, I mean the church kind. He's finally retiring, at the ripe young age of 80. I'll believe it when I see it. After all, this is what? The second or the third attempt to retire? I can't remember. He keeps retiring, usually to become a travel agent, because minister or cruise director, heaven or the high seas, he wants to get you where you're gonna go.
I guess the fact that he can't stay retired makes him some type of repeat offender. Not bad for a Methodist. I suspect that he'll keep being the go to guy for the funeral home, in Hale, Michigan, where he's done services for the churchless, because you can't keep a good guy down for long (unless they're the one in the casket of course, and Dad's nowhere close to that)
My dad got started in the preaching business late. I was in seventh grade when he got his first church, and suddenly became "the preacher's kid." It was odd to me that suddenly I was defined by my dad's job, where I never was before that, but I just rolled with it. I can't tell you the number of times that I was told that I wasn't the typical preacher's kid, because I wasn't prim and proper, and I sure wasn't a partier.
Middle of the road, baby, that's where I stayed.
It's always enlightening to see the world through a preacher's kids eyes. Like the time my niece, then 2 years old, walked up to the pulpit in the middle of the sermon, and announced "I have to go doodoo, Grandpa." Or the time, in his first church, in Winfield, Missouri, our half blind and fully deaf collie walked up to the altar during a sermon. Maybe she heard the call, who knows. Of course, it's no fun getting called out by dad in the middle of the sermon, for talking in church. THAT is something that only happens once, trust me. To this day, I don't let my kids talk in church.
But there are also the fun moments, like being married by your dad, who explains all of the important things, like what a "nuptial" kiss is (not too long, nothing gross, just a "nuptial" kiss), and to be sure to hang on to my veil when I blew out the unity candle, lest I go up in flames. I remember the photographer asking me if Dad would be ok during the ceremony. I thought the guy was nuts. Of course he'd be ok, but apparently the photographer had done a wedding the week before, and they dad/minister could barely make it through, he was crying so badly.
Dad did pretty good. He started, his voice cracked, he took a deep breath, and went through it like he'd done it a million times. Maybe he had, I don't know, but I guess it's different when it's your daughter, even when she's the baby of the family.
And so, no more weddings for Dad, unless he marries one of the grandkids, I suppose. Lord knows, I'm not going through another wedding. Matter of fact, I think there are people who would pay me not to have another wedding, after that craziness. But in ten years, my dad can explain the whole nuptial kiss to my daughter, and then marry her off, hopefully with less drama than her parents had.
But until then, he'll will be doing funerals in Hale. So, for the old man in the blue suit, this one's for you. From Swing