Pierre Fontenot Sunday, February 23, 2014 0

I’m seated towards the front of the church, among the elderly of the congregation, seated behind a lady with winter in her hair.

When you reach her age you’ve obeyed the rules long enough to not obey them anymore; when the worship leader motions for us to stand I do, she doesn’t, and all is just-right.

Her hair is parted to the side and a simple black bobby pin holds the short side in place. She’s thin, but agile for 95. She’s wearing a white Mr. Rogers cardigan, even though it was a Louisiana-in-August service.

Sitting on her lap is my sermon.


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It’s a Bible. It once was black, maybe shiny, maybe a gift, and if so, from whom… The spine is falling apart and she has patched it with silver duct tape.

That duct tape is loud to me. I can’t hear the singing anymore. Her hands are joined together and there they rest atop the Bible. Her fingers are old-lady fingers, with knotty joints and big veins. Her nails have never known painted polish. I don’t know her history, but I don’t see Easy Life in her hands.

I see making do. I see stretching little money to feed big stomachs. I see a person who cleans her plate and does something with leftovers. I see hems being let out and buttons resewn and coupons being clipped.

Were you ever secure, I wonder…


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I’m a rural, southern, child of the 60’s. Beauty was different back then. My first grade teacher, the principal’s wife, she had a perm, wore lipstick and added a little powder to offset her too-white skin, but that was about the limit for respectable women.

My grandmother went cradle to grave without anything more “artificial” than hair spray and Jergen’s lotion.

She was old from my Day One, and with her it was never about looks. I consider it grace, that I got to define my grandmother’s beauty by her behavior and character.


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Like all young men I was attracted to my generation’s standard of beauty. I was drawn to Big City beauty, sophisticated women, and there were times when I returned home to the sticks where I found my little plain grandmother, older, plainer, same-er. I’d hug her dearly, but truth was, I still wasn’t seeing the power of her, not yet…

It took time to see behind the fashion, makeup and hair tricks. There’s nothing like shallow and chameleon and lost-but-hiding-it-well, and if that don’t do it, get acquainted with betrayal; that’ll get you looking for a rock to stand upon.

Oh yeah. I’d come back and my grandmother started looking pretty solid. She wasn’t swinging in the fad breezes; she had deep roots, and they were long proven. You could make a good life with her, like my grandfather had; you could turn out straight and true, like her two sons had.

Beauty got redefined when I finally got wise enough to look past gray and wrinkles.


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Sorry, preacher man, but I don’t have the faintest idea what your sermon was about. Once I saw that duct tape on that Bible, it wouldn’t have mattered if you were Billy Graham in his prime or Charles Spurgeon doing a Lazarus encore.

Held Together: that’s the sermon from the duct tape Bible. Something valuable, goes from brand new to falling apart, just like us, and we reach up and in, to get patched, to make it another day, to get on with the breaths and beats of being alive.

Our solutions don’t have to be pretty. Fact is, even we don’t have to be pretty.  We’re being watched by High Eyes, Someone who looks only at heart and soul.

The beauty is in the simplicity. Life from Him, a life lived leaned upon Him, honest with Him, honest with all, all ambition reduced to Thanks For The Life; Please Show Me Whatcha Want Me To Do With It…


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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where old is honored and where making-do is doing right.

Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories are posted on Eighty-one’s Facebook page, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, about pillow time.  Uncle P can be reached at