GOING THROUGH THE STUFF

Pierre Fontenot Thursday, March 5, 2015 0
GOING THROUGH THE STUFF

My father’s grandfather, J.P., did well for himself, by rural 1930’s standards. Starting with nothing he became a landowner, was the first in the community to own a vehicle, to have a phone, to paint his house, to have a concrete walk up to his front porch.
When I was a kid great-grandpa was lifted up as something to be proud of, a go-getter, hard worker, can-to-can’t-er. As I got older I heard other stories. While grandma never missed church, grandpa rarely entered church, sitting outside, smoking his pipe, waiting for all the foolishness to end, so he could bring his non-driving wife back home. A few more years and I heard stories, that maybe he’d been a man-about-the-sticks with other women.
Flaws and all, he mattered. I never met him, but his children and grandchildren respected him decades after he died.

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What happened when he died says a lot about who he was. The children got together – no wives, no husbands, just the siblings – and they divided the land up into equal portions. A ten acre field with a barn on it was equal to the twenty acre field with the drainage problem…
They took everything out of the house and made equal piles. A bed here, table there, armoire over here. The plots of land and the piles of possessions were numbered. When all the siblings agreed that all the plots of land and all the piles of possessions were equal they drew numbers from a hat and if you drew 4 then you got the #4 plot of land and #4 pile of household possessions.
No lawyers, no squabbling. That’s the kind of kids he raised.

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We’ve been going through Dad’s house. There was a side of my father that wanted to accumulate a little wealth, an ambition probably influenced by his grandfather, but in the end he left very little in the way the world values things.
We three kids went room to room, picking for sentiment. Each got a Bible. I got his favorite straw hat and the old khaki jacket with the tear in the elbow.

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Just days after being told he had only months to live, Rev. Sidney Fontenot looks over his notes, as he prepares to baptize 3 of his grandchildren. “I don't mind going, as long as I know we'll see each other again.”

Just days after being told he had only months to live, Rev. Sidney Fontenot looks over his notes, as he prepares to baptize 3 of his grandchildren. “I don’t mind going, as long as I know we’ll see each other again.”

My father often mentioned his last conversation with his grandfather. On the morning Dad was returning to seminary he saw Grandpa JP standing by his barnyard gate.
“I never knew I could be this miserable,” he told my father. His wife had died in the last year, and grandpa found himself an old man, with aches and pains, and not sure what to do with the time he had left.
Dad was a child of his times, raised up on Holy Roller doctrine, that hell was hot and eternity was long and you needed to clean up and earn the right to knock on God’s door.
My father regretted his response. “Well, Grandpa, you need to pray.”
“If I could do it again…” he’d say. He’d come a long way from his brush arbor start, had come to believe that God was easy to talk to, would take us gray, would take us muddy, would take us black-hearted. He wished he could have that moment over, give him a few years and he’d have known exactly what to do…but Grandpa died a few months later.
He did take comfort that his grandpa replied, “Well, I do pray.”

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There was no shortage of prayers in my father’s last months. He prayed over meals, thankful for promising mornings and grateful for satisfying evenings, prayed for our safe todays and wonderful futures… One of his old buddies, Mr. Harvey, gave him a ride one morning. Dropping Dad back home, Dad insisted on saying a little prayer for Harvey and his wife. When Dad got in the house Harvey told his wife, “I think he was telling us goodbye.”

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His grandfather left an estate that you could value in money; Dad left an estate you can only value in heritage. I am eye-witness to character the like I will not see again…but I saw it once, and some people never do…
I know steady is possible, I know that power can be quiet. I have seen faith first hand. There were the Book of Job times in my father’s life that tested him and proved him out.
There were a few minutes when I was alone in his home office, sitting in his chair, the walls naked but for tape and nails, and I thought about that verse from Matthew 6, “…lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt…”
The next verse, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This is Jesus talking.
I think Dad heard him. All the good stuff is eternal.

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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is brought to you by Eighty-one, where he reports that this was a battle to write but hopes it is a pleasure to read. Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories are posted three times a week on Eighty-one’s Facebook page, Sunday, Wednesday and Friday evenings, about pillow time. Uncle P can be reached at 81creativity@gmail.com.