The Observer is, of course, a shameless and admitted addict when it comes to drinking in all the delicious wonders of the human condition. The internet being the Crazy Ed's Jumbo Warehouse Liquor of all the surprising ways people can be people, we find a lot of joy there. One story that scrolled across our Book o' Face the other day was a Florida tale. Whether it's the heat down there or just the stress of fulfilling the considerable obligations of being a state we've heard called The Penis of America, Florida seems to be the source of a significant number of hijinks and shenaniganry from what we can see. In this case, a 28-year-old woman from the little town of Mary Esther, Fla. (a town we're too lazy to Google right now ... it's hot, y'all, and not even August yet), reportedly told police that she ran a stop sign and crashed through a yard after she closed her eyes to pray while driving.
While we suspect there was more going on in this young lady's head than theology, the story didn't elaborate on that. Reading the piece, however, did get The Observer thinking about The Big Guy. Though The Observer has grown into a heathen of some local renown — and has managed to raise a kid who apparently prays solely to Charles Darwin, Chef Boyardee, Peter Dinklage from "Game of Thrones," Bernie Sanders and the team of geeks who programmed "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim" — back in our youth The Observer was a child of some faith.
Ah, the discussions we once had on the subject with Dear Ol' Pa, who, as a very young man had done a turn as a fire-and-brimstone Pentecostal preacher over in College Station, before coming to his senses. By the time his son grew to such a mind that convinced us ours could spar with his, he had morphed into something like a tree worshipper, still technically a believer in Big J.C., but much more likely to find God in trees and streams, turtles and dandelions, bird calls and the fine veins of hickory leaves, than in the Book of Mark. Most Sundays he spent fishing, puttering in his shop, picking bugs off the 'mater plants in his big vegetable garden, or in the seat of his 8N Ford tractor, running the bush hog.
He would think about God then, he said. Once, when we hit him with the stuff in Matthew 18:20 about the Lord requiring "two or more" to be gathered before He'd think you're serious enough to grace with His presence, Pa said, cryptically: "Jesus didn't say the ones there with you had to be LIVING, now did He?" It took the son a few years and some head-scratching to figger that one out, brothers and sisters, but we think we see now. In the still moments — driving, taking a break, working on something mindless — Pa is with us quite a bit these days, and he's been gone since the month after George W. Bush moved into the White House.
Before you get the idea from that statement that The Observer has overbaked his noodle, we don't mean with us in that glowing, semitransparent Obi Wan Kenobi at the end of "Return of the Jedi" way. Just around. The older we get, the more we see that nobody we ever loved is ever really gone, just like we see that even if this existence is all there is — kids, mud pies, green fields, summer storms, good beer, bad whiskey, laughing, crying, pokes in the eye, friends, enemies, fast cars, slow trains, good dogs and tolerable cats — it's pretty damn fine. We never quite understood those folks who sit in the midst of glorious, confounding, beautiful, heartbreaking life and pine for the maybe of an afterlife of golden splendor. It always struck The Observer as a little ungrateful, even back when we were going to church on the regular and singing about When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.
And so, Pa is with us. Not hovering about us like a shade, whispering advice. In The Observer's veins. In the set of our jaw. In our shameless and apparently life-long habit of using the good ol' f-word as a universal adjective and adverb. And if he's there with us, maybe the good Lord is, too. Where two or more are gathered, after all. The Observer, even in our doubt and heathenry, can always hope.