Old Bibles

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By Sean Dietrich

I wanted to be the first to wish you a happy birthday today. I hope you’re doing well. Life is pretty good down here. Things have been going great.
And hey,you know what? I’m going fishing today, in your honor. I thought you’d get a kick out of that. If I catch something, I’m going to throw it back. That way people won’t mistake me for a good fisherman. We don’t want that.
It’s too bad we can’t get together and catch up. That would be fun. I think you would like the adult me. I think I’m a nice guy.
Let’s see, what else? I live a simple life. I have a small spot in the woods, a workshed, a bass boat that has seen better days.
And, I have a little office for writing. In fact, that’s where I’m writing now. In my office camper.
The camper is a ‘52 Yellowstone. It was cheap, and ugly as homemade soap. I spent a year gutting her and fixing her up. It’s still ugly. But it’s mine.
Inside I have a desk, a kitchenette, a bed, a small shower, several books, a few mounted bass, knick-knacks on shelves.
I also have several of your things, situated near my desk.
I am looking at your barometer, for instance, which used to sit on your garage workbench. I have a Hank Williams record, an old watch, your baseball bat, your Bible.
The Bible is red, cracked, and old. Remember? It was originally Mama’s Bible from her teenage years. She gave it to you when she bought a new one.
There are highlighted verses, dog-eared pages, and notes in the back. The notes are yours. They date back to God-knows when.
I remember when you’d sit in church. I can still see you, dressed in your pressed clothes. You’d doodle on a church bulletin, drawing funny pictures just for me.
But sometimes, apparently, you took sermon notes. Because here they are. One note reads: “Church rummage sale, Aug. 20th. Good stuff.” And it’s underlined.
Another reads: “Clyde R.’s birthday, Tuesday 5:00 P.M.”
And one short sentence has mystified me for twenty-five years: “Emotions are not logical.”
Why in the world would you write this? And what does it mean?
It must’ve meant something to you or you wouldn’t have penned it. I wish I could ask you about it, but we are separated by time and space. I guess I’ll never know.
And I guess you’ll never know that growing up was hard without you. But it made me strong I think. And even though I didn’t enjoy much of my childhood, I am really enjoying life now. Truly enjoying it. And I am grateful to you for that. Sort of.
Long ago, however, I wasn’t grateful. I was mad at you for taking your own life. It was like someone had sucked the blood from my body and replaced it with lighter fluid.
And one day, when I was seventeen, I opened your old Bible. I found this little note reading: “Emotions are not logical.”
And I got upset. I hurled your book against the wall so hard it split in two. Pages went flying.
“How’s that for logical!?” I shouted.
Then, I stooped to the ground and cried over it. I was so sorry I’d damaged something so valuable to you. It was like I’d hurt you. And I don’t ever want to hurt you like you did us.
The next day, I taped the Bible together with shipping tape. I went to great pains to make it look as nice as I could. So that’s why your old Bible is covered in tape. Because of me.
Anyway, I understand what it means to get emotional. Sometimes I become emotional over the strangest things, it makes no sense.
A blue heron above me. The smell of outboard motor exhaust. The way a small boy holds his father’s hand when walking onto a docked bass boat.
So my life is so marvelous. And busy. It’s too much to put into words. So I won’t even try. But one day, maybe we’ll go fishing and I’ll hold you the way you once held me.
And we’ll cry. And we’ll make fools of ourselves. And I’ll tell you all about the me you don’t know.
And you’ll apologize to me for everything.
And I’ll tell you, “It’s okay. I don’t hold it against you. I love you.”
And I’ll mean it with my whole heart.
I have to go now. Sorry I got so emotional with those last paragraphs. But you know how it is.
Emotions are not logical.
Happy birthday, Daddy.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, and novelist, known for his commentary on life in the American South.

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