We try to attend church everywhere we visit, so one Saturday while in Pensacola, I did bookwork, and Gar looked up independent fundamental churches in our vicinity. Sunday found us only a mile away at Burgess Road Baptist, and as we walked up, we saw people going in ahead of us and our shared reaction was to nudge one another and say simultaneously, “We’re the youngest ones here.” This turned out to be untrue, but not too untrue. There are people older than I but my children have never seen any. They tell me to my face, and would happily tell you, no one is older than their mother. How does one defend oneself against such impertinence? I’ve mentioned taking them out of my will, but they only feign horror and shriek, “Oh my, whatever will we do, not receiving that promised $3.35.”
I’m aware I’m growing seriously wrinkled, and my lips seem to be sprouting pucker lines like they’re perpetually prepared for a smooch. It’s surely unnerving for folks, fearing I’m coming in to molest their personal space. I’m also developing ditches where laugh lines used to be, and my cheeks are gleaning grooved parentheses.
On this day, while waiting for church to start, I turned to Gar, (“Mr. No Crinkles or Creases,”) and said, “With my furrows, these people probably think you’ve brought your mother.” He gave me a smirky grin so I added, “And you shouldn’t assume you’re off the hook. They’re thinking you’re a loser to still be living with your mother.”
We liked the pastor’s message so decided to go back that night. This was probably startling to the angels, who hadn’t seen us at an evening service since neither God nor I had crow’s feet. Gar and I try to walk a mile every day, so we ate an early dinner, then went to walk in the large parking area of the church. There was a big open pasture that had been recently mown, and Gar started toward it. I inquired, “What are you doing?” Pointing to the field, he said, “I’m going back there.” I asked why and he said he wanted to be on grass instead of pavement. I said, “You do that and I’ll go get the snakebite kit out of the truck.” He ignored me. We never needed it, and I was a little disappointed, him being so smug.
One of the deacons who’d met us that morning, saw me trudging the parking lot, so when we went into the church, he said, “So nice to see you again.” This tells you a few things, foremost being he’s entirely too trusting. Then he said, “I told my wife, ‘There’s Sammy getting her steps in.’” I must have given him a blank look, the only one I wear, because he asked, “Your name is Sammy, right?” I debated. Do I tell him no? I didn’t want to seem rude or embarrass him, but what if he heard me tell someone my real name. Or should I just be Sammy at this church, like I’m a secret agent and live a double life? I was a disappointment to spies everywhere and told him my given name. Then I did something that I’ve done before and that never fails to make Gar wish he could push me in front of an oncoming train. I said to the deacon, “And you’re Brian.” I would swear before a judge that he had told me that at some point in our relationship. He said, “Mike. I’m Mike.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from asking if he was sure? With a “Stop talking, I’m begging you” look, Gar propelled my elbow and me to a pew. When our offspring hear of these incidents, they always side with their father, lamenting, “Poor Dad, poor, poor Dad.”
I’ll now mention, the next Sunday we went to a different church, we will not be going back to. The evening before, I had dyed my hair and Gar put highlights in. When we got home from church Gar casually mentioned, “You have a couple of dark spots on your neck where you didn’t get the dye off.” Through gritted teeth, I hissed, “You spent 12 hours with me prior to church and couldn’t find a moment to mention this tidbit of information? I thought everyone was staring at us because we were new; now I know it’s because they thought I had hickeys.” He’d better watch himself for a while around oncoming trains.