The Open Bible
The Open Bible
There was always an open Bible on the coffee table in the house where I grew up. I always wondered why. No one ever read it. We, my four rowdy brothers and I, never touched it. It actually seemed a bit spooky. Symbolic of something supernatural. Once my brother, the one we called, Little Bro, almost spilled milk on it. Mom got angry and took him by the shoulders and scolded him severely. He cried. But Little Bro cried a lot. He wasn’t the youngest, just the littlest. Cried all the time. Funny, he grew up to be the toughest sheriff’s deputy in Marlin County.
Three of the five of us went into law enforcement like our old man. Jimmy Joe, the oldest, died in a hunting accident. His best friend was responsible. Glad it wasn’t one of us bros, but poor Gab never got over it. I was next in line by age to Jimmy Joe. They call me Cal, after mom’s brother who died in the mines. I don’t think any of the others were named after anyone special. Except for Jimmy Joe who was named for Dad. We had his funeral in the Methodist Church. First, I ever knew we were Methodists, as we never attended.
There was two years between each of us. Mom and Dad didn’t like each other much. After we were grown, Little Bro joked that they probably could only stand to be close enough to each other to have sex every two years. They were never openly combative, just cold and indifferent to each other. Odd, no one ever knew why. All in all, they were good parents. In spite of the lack of warmth between them we were well brought up and taught right from wrong. They loved us. And living in the country kept us boys tight. It was awful when we lost Jimmy Joe in his senior year. He was sweet on Kelly Jane, who was only a freshman. I later married her. It was strange because we were both interested from the time we were in our teens, but somehow thought we’d be betraying Jimmy Joe if we dated. As it was, she was teaching and I had just got out of the army when we started dating. We named our first born after Jimmy Joe, but we’ve always called him Jay. Sort of got away from the double names as we aged. I was the first one to drop the Jane from Kelly’s name. And we usually refer to Jimmy Joe as Jim nowadays. I’m sure he would have been Jim if he had lived.
Little Bro, who was a preemie, gradually out grew us all. When he insisted on being called Matt, we complied. When he got to six-four we didn’t remind him that he’d been a cry-baby as a kid. We’d been the ones crying if we had. Anyhow, he was the middle kid. Two older: Jimmy Joe and me. Two younger: Zack and Robby, later called Rob.
Me, Matt, and Zack are the ones in law enforcement. Me, sheriff of Polk County. Zack, Chief of Police in Grayson, where we grew up. And like I said, Matt is a sheriff’s deputy in Marlin County. Rob is a preacher. Preaches in the Methodist Church that we didn’t attend. Well, Mom and Dad did start attending when Rob became the preacher. Kelly grew up going, so we take our family most Sundays. Matt and Zack and families show up now and then.
Mom died Friday. Rob found her. Stopped by to visit and have a cup of coffee. He visited the most. She was sitting on the couch and had her hand on the remote like she was about to turn the TV channel. Stroke. She always said that if she had one, she hoped it’d take her out. It did. She didn’t want to ever be dependent on us. Rob wouldn’t let them take her body until we all got here. She looked so peaceful, he thought we should see her first.
The cousins are all out in the yard playing. Like they always have when we come for family dinners. They hang out in the old oak tree we boys played in. I’m the handiest with tools and I’ve kept our old tree house repaired. The wives are outside at the picnic table keeping an eye out that they don’t get too rowdy, but they are rather subdued because of Grandma. My bros and I are discussing what to do with the house. Zack mentions that I’m the oldest living son and I should take charge. I say I thought it should be Rob as he is the spiritual leader.
Rob says we should each take a part. That he would make the arrangements, as he wanted to preach the message at the funeral. He suggested I take care of seeing that her personal belongings get handed on to the right family members. Matt should handle the legal end as he’s best at that sort of thing and Zack will organize getting the house cleaned out. It’s close to dusk and Rob almost spills his coffee on the Bible. We all freeze remembering the childhood incident. Kelly comes in as we are all staring at the Bible. “What’s going on?” She asks.
“Oh, it’s that Bible thing. We never knew why it remained there so many years. No one read it. No one could touch it. An odd family skeleton.” I say.
Kelly looks shocked. “You mean you don’t know?”
“Know what?” Zack asks?
“Jimmy Joe’s father gave her that Bible.”
“Dad gave it to her?” I ask.
Kelly looks at Rob. “Oh my gosh, they don’t know. I only know because our moms were best friends in high school. Rob knows. I thought you all knew.”
“Sit with us Kelly and I’ll do my best to explain.” Rob says. “I only know because I was Mom and Dad’s pastor as well as their son.” Rob settles his coffee cup out of harm’s way. “When Dad got sick and Mom was so tender taking care of him, Dad sent for me and told me the whole story.
“Jim wasn’t Dad’s biological son.” He waits a few minutes for that to settle in our minds. “There was a Garrison family that used to live here and their son Randal was Jim’s father. Mom and Dad were good friends, but had never dated. Mom was engaged to Randal. He was killed in Vietnam before he every got the letter from mom saying she was pregnant.” Rob paused. Studied our faces a moment and then went on. “Things were different in those days. Dad stepped up and saved Mom’s honor. Randal’s mother gave mom his Bible when he died. He had left it gift wrapped with his mom so our mom would have it on her birthday.
“As I counseled with Dad, I found there was something Mom didn’t know. And later as I counseled with Mom, I found out there was something Dad didn’t know.”
“I know they got closer when Dad was sick, and they were really close when he died.” I said. “She took such good care of him.”
“What Mom didn’t know was that Dad had been in love with her from sixth grade on. And what Dad didn’t know was Mom had grown to love Dad deeply. They both thought the other didn’t really love them. They both sobbed and held each other the night we finally got to the truth.”
We sit quietly with our eyes welled up with tears until a passel of kids burst into the house demanding food.