My Bible … a family member, bound in black
Family Member, Bound In Black
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I placed the tattered old book in a box and stuffed in packing material. Before sealing it, I lay my hand on the book for a moment … and remembered.
For almost sixty years, the book and I went everywhere together. Each time, when it was about to fall apart, when its spine and pages were separating, when handling had marred the black cover’s gold lettering, I mailed it to the bindery.
On the day Dr. Hall, my high school principal, handed me a diploma, Mama handed me the book.
“Son, promise you’ll take it with you wherever you go,” she said. “It will be there when you need it most.”
I promised. Throughout college, it remained hidden in a footlocker. During the Vietnam Era when I was sent overseas, it was shoved into a duffel bag. When I returned and enrolled in graduate school, the book was stashed away with other rarely used belongings.
But on this late Fall day, as I stood in line at the post office with the box under my arm, I was much older, and the book was no longer a mere possession I kept because of a promise made. It was a member of the family.
The beloved lady to whom I made that promise had gone to her final resting place long ago, and a decade later I held the book as I looked down at my father’s grave, freshly dug beside hers.
The harried postal clerk glared at me, wondering why I paused a few moments before handing over the box, with so many impatient customers behind me.
“Well, you wanna mail it or not?” she snapped. I apologized, handed it over, paid the fee, and left, knowing I wouldn’t hold the book again for months.
At Christmastime, my three daughters don’t fret over what gift to put under the tree for Dad. They know I want one gift, and one gift only. I go to the bookstore and pick out a book I can’t wait to read. They buy it, write loving little notes inside its cover, gift-wrap it and give it to me on the big day. Over the years, these notes have evolved from unreadable chicken-scratch hieroglyphics to heart-felt messages that would tighten any father’s throat.
In early December, one of my daughters was preparing to mail a batch of Christmas cards. I handed over my post office box key and asked her to check to see if I had any mail. Upon returning, she gave me a few letters … but didn’t tell me about a package that arrived.
On Christmas morning, I feigned surprise as I unwrapped my gift, knowing what was inside. As I read the notes and thanked them, my oldest daughter gave me another gift.
“How often have I told you girls not to spend money on me?” I asked.
Mild reproach gave way to joy when I opened the gift. Inside I found my Bible … a family member, bound in black.