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Contemporary Haibun Online: January 2015, vol 10 no 4

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Melissa Watkins Starr

Remembering Pap

My grandfather, Pap, wore a felt hat whenever he left the house, and I can't remember seeing him in anything but a white shirt and dress pants. He would put on a matching suit coat if he went on the simplest errand. As a young man, he had caught his right hand in some machinery at a cotton mill, and, as a result, all of the fingers were immobile, bent at the first and second knuckles. I remember trying to pry his fingers open and straighten that hand when I was little.

He belonged to the Pilgrim Holiness Church, but, despite the connotations of the church's name, he wasn't charismatic. He used the King James Version of the Bible and sang songs I don't hear much anymore, such as "The Old Account Settled," which begins,

There was a time on earth, when in the book of heav'n
An old account was standing for sins yet unforgiv'n;
My name was at the top, and many things below –
I went unto the keeper, and settled long ago.

a cloud
the size of a man's hand
abundance of rain

Looking back I think part of the reason I loved him was that he never tried to appear self-righteous. One day while sitting on the front porch, Pap started singing, "There's a land that is fairer than day, and by faith we can see it afar." He paused, took the last drag off his cigarette, flicked the butt onto the lawn, and continued, "For the Father waits over the way to prepare us a dwelling place there." His voice was clear and strong. Listening to him, I felt as if I stared at the sky hard enough I could see clear through to the other side.