Grandma hushed us both and reached for the radio. We listened to the whistle from the speakers, as she tuned in to 1590. It was time for “Gospel Hour” with the Reverend Billy Oches.
The static suddenly disappeared and we heard Reverend Oches. His voice demodulated and as clear as a bell he said, “Hallelujah, brothers and sisters. I am blessed and you are blessed. I believe, and you believe. If you are not a believer right now I will give you a reason to believe. You are listening to ‘Gospel Hour’ and I am Reverend Billy Oches.” The sound from the choir came in louder and they were singing about Jesus. Grandma leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes and smiled.
Dad stood up and left the room. A few seconds later I heard the back door open and shut as he made his way to the back porch, where I knew he would sit on the rocker while the preaching was going on. Dad wasn’t much of a church-goer. He would never discuss religion whereas that seemed to be about all Grandma ever talked about. She was either talking about religion, or kissing the top of my head, or pinching my cheeks, or cooking something, or listening to ‘Gospel Hour’.
I looked at Grandma now. Kicked back in her chair, feet up, fully engrossed in AM radio heaven, she had her small linen kerchief clutched in the gnarled fingers of her right hand and a dollar bill held in her left. I knew what the dollar bill was for. At the end of the show Billy Oches would encourage listeners to put some money in an envelope and pray for healing. Then he would recite the number of the PO Box where you should send the money. Grandma sent him a dollar every week and prayed for her arthritis to go away. So far, no luck but she believed, she toiled on. Grandma was “long suffering”. She knew that if her faith was strong enough her burden would be lifted. I know she knew this because, she told me so. At least once a day, she told me so.
I watched Grandma enjoy her religion for awhile and then picked up my glove and went out the back door. I talked Dad into a game of catch. We tossed the ball back and forth until the light started to fail then went back inside. We heard the radio, still on, they were reading the news and the body count was still climbing in South East Asia. Dad creased his brow and headed in to be with Grandma, “Mom, what are you doing listening to this still? ‘Gospel Hour’ is over. You don’t do news.”
I was right behind him. I saw Grandma. Still leaning back in her chair, eyes still closed, still smiling.
“Mom,” Dad said, “you OK?” He touched her shoulder. He looked at me, “Why don’t you go out to the kitchen and cut yourself a big piece of that apple pie?” he suggested. Then he reached for the phone.
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