I’m going to ramble a bit here. Please forgive the disjointed nature of this post.
I was a good reader when I was a boy. I was a voracious reader when I was a boy.
I think it would be nice to be remembered as a reader and a writer but it’s too late for me to claim that legacy now (more on this later – first I want to address the word ‘begat’ which is what this prompt is all about).
My mother and father used to take my sisters and me to Sunday Bible School meetings regularly. There was no getting out of it. You might be too sick for regular school but you better be in the hospital if you were going to use illness as a means to avoid Sunday School.
There was really only one thing that put me off of Bible School: because I was a good reader it always came up where the “adult” who supervised us would say, “TN, would you like to share with us a scripture that is near to your heart?” or words to that effect.
The first time this happened, I was surprised but I was willing to go for it. I opened up the bible on the lectern to the book of Genesis and announced, “I would like to share with you today from Genesis chapter 11, verse 10. Ahem, ‘These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood. And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And Arphaxad lived five and thirty years, and begat Salah. And Arphaxad lived after he begat Salah four hundred and three years, and begat sons and daughters.’ ”
As I read this to all the scrubbed, shiny faced kids seated at the low tables in front of me I knew that this was not quite what our instructor had had in mind when she asked me to share. I was a little unclear on the actual meaning of ‘begat’ but I knew that I was just reading a list of unpronounceable names and that it wasn’t very inspirational or near to my heart.
“OK then,” said the teacher, “that was certainly an interesting selection, TN. Maybe for next week you can prepare something and we can try again. I apologize for springing this on you.”
“Yes ma’am,” I replied, “I’ll be ready next week.”
I promptly forgot all about it and when the next week came and I had to share a scripture I thought that Genesis was probably not the way to go so I zoomed ahead to First Chronicles and read, “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be mighty upon the earth. And Mizraim begat Ludim, and Anamim, and Lehabim, and Naphtuhim, and Canaan begat Zidon his firstborn, and Heth, and Arphaxad begat Shelah, and Shelah begat Eber.”
I died inside a little bit with each word and there was that guy Arphaxad again. Why did he keep turning up?
Week three and the teacher prodded me again, “TN? Would you like to share a beloved scripture with us today?”
“No ma’am, I don’t think so. Maybe you should ask Doug or Rosemary instead.” I stood up from my place at the table and left the room. Then I left the church and went across the street to the park. I met some older kids there and it was on that day that I learned to smoke Lucky Strikes. I never went back to Bible School again, but I smoked Lucky Strikes for decades.
I promised to tell you why I won’t be remembered as a literary prodigy. It’s quite simple really; my older sister is the chronicler of the family history. Next to my name is the name of my wife and below that are our children’s names. Beside each name in the tree is a short blurb about that person. Next to my name is typed, “Rough, Tough, and Damn Good Lookin’ too.” See, no mention of reading or writing at all. This will be my legacy. I’m stuck with it.