Just a closer walk with Thee.
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea.
Darnell downstairs, singing. The clang of the skillet on the stove. Breakfast on a Sunday morning.
Daily walking close to Thee
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
She closed her eyes, tried to find more sleep, but the sun was lighting the room and Darnell wouldn’t stop singing, though he just kept repeating the same refrain, and the banging pots were like an alarm set to repeat every two minutes. So she got up and put on her clothes from the day before and made her way downstairs to the kitchen.
I come to the garden alone.
At least he had changed songs.
Her father sat at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in front of him. She went straight to the counter and poured herself a cup.
Darnell still hadn’t noticed her.
While the dew is still on the roses.
She went back to the table and pulled out a chair and sat with her father.
“You boys are up early.”
Darnell turned around.
“This is the day that the Lord hath made. I will be rejoice and be glad in it.”
He pulled three plates from the cabinet and dished out eggs on each one, then two strips of bacon, then toast.
“You’re going to make someone a happy wife someday, Darnell.”
He laughed and took his place at the table.
“Bow your head, Pops.”
And he did, as did Heather, but she didn’t close her eyes.
“Dear Lord, thank you for another day of life, another Lord’s day, and for this wonderful food you have provided. Be with our family, Lord, and bless us and draw us closer to you. Amen.”
She looked up. Her father’s head was still bowed. Maybe he was praying.
“Ok, Pops. You can eat now.”
He looked up, first at Darnell, then at Heather.
“Good morning, Daddy.”
And they ate.
Her right arm felt funny. Under the table, her right leg twitched. She switched to her left hand.
“You prayed for your family. Back in Texas?”
Darnell was about to take a bite of his toast, but stopped and put it back on his plate.
“No, ma’am. I don’t have family in Texas. I mean I have relatives, but no family.” He held his hands out over the table. “This family. Us.” He picked up his toast and took a bite.
There’s different kinds of family.
So said the roughneck-turned-tackle shop owner.. The full-time philosopher and quiz show aficionado. Lucas.
Well, this one was different, for sure.
“What constitutes a family, Darnell?”
He took another bite of toast and studied on an answer.
“I don’t know if I can proper answer that. It’s not like I been studying on the situation and come to a conscious conclusion. It just feels like family. You’re like a sister. Maybe a little like a Mom. And Pops is Pops.” He shrugged. “Family.”
Part of her wanted to argue. This was no family, despite the fact that there was a biological link sitting right across the table, staring at his eggs, chewing on a strip of bacon, completely unaware of the conversation going on right in front of him. Her father? No. At best an empty shell. Worse, a selfish, uncaring man who took away her mother. Her father was just a dusty memory. And Darnell a brother? Just because he takes care of her father and helps around the house and runs errands for her and cooks breakfast, doesn’t mean he’s family. She could get the same service from a temp agency. And besides, it was all temporary. They’d both be going back to Texas before too long. House guests was more like it. And guests was being generous.
Still, the eggs were good, and the morning was peaceful. And if she were being truthful, it beat having a bowl of cold cereal by herself.
Darnell was humming Just a Closer Walk with Thee.
“Wish I could remember the words. All I know is the chorus.”
“Can’t help you there.”
She knew the hymn. At least it was familiar. Maybe from the times she went to church with her mother as a child. Maybe from the radio or television or a scene in a movie. The tune was easy and soothing and the kind of melody that would find a home in the mind and drift to the heart and grow into the soul and become a part of the collective memory that would come forth unexpectedly and bring with it a wash of sentimentality.
The smell of bacon would linger as the eggs disappeared and the coffee cooled. The last bite of toast with strawberry jam. The quiet clinking of silverware on the plates ceased and all was quiet. Soon the day would begin in earnest. Even if this were Darnell’s contrived family, it was nice.
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
“You’re welcome. Me and Pops are going to church this morning. You should come with us.”
And there was the other aspect of her unknown father she hadn’t taken the time or made the effort to reconcile. He had never been a church-going man. He was, at first, her good father, always there for her, always including her and making her feel special. He just didn’t go to church. That was her mother’s thing. And their family had been just fine without church. Although looking back she wasn’t sure how true that was. Then he murdered her mother, went to prison, and found religion. It was a cliché that hardly warranted consideration. And it wasn’t like she could have a conversation about it even if she wanted to. His mind was gone, and with it, all memories, logic, reason, and explanations of anything that would make sense of his life, or his life with her mother, or his role as a father. If it was all incomprehensible to him, how could she ever understand?
copyright 2018, joseph e bird; from the novel Heather Girl
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