Fear of My Father
father was a Primitive Baptist preacher, and anyone who is familiar
with the Primitive Baptist faith would know the word Primitive
describes succinctly the doctrine of this denomination of faith.
Primitive Baptists believe that we are all predestined to be called
or chosen by God. Our names are already written on
the Book of Life before we are even born, before we are even conceived
as a being in Gods mind.
are called, and few are chosen, my father would always preach
in his sermons. My father was a devout preacher. Elder Carper,
he was called, after being ordained to preach the Word of God.
My father read his Bible every day. I dont think Ive
ever seen him read another book, maybe the newspaper to see what
the weather would be like for the week or to read the crop report,
but other than that, he rarely read anything but the Bible. My
father was a tall man, six feet, four inches tall and as thick
as a running back for the local college football team. He liked
sports, but only baseball kept his attention on Sunday afternoons
after church. I think sometimes, maybe, he secretly dreamed of
becoming a major league baseball player as much as he liked to
father was a serious man, serious about business, his family,
and especially the church. He believed that in everything he did,
God should always come first. He prayed daily. It didnt
matter where he was, if he felt the need to pray, he would. In
the grocery store, at the tobacco market, on the tractor in the
cornfield. We could hear him praying sometimes in the middle of
the noonday, a scorching hot one hundred degrees, and hed
be singing the Lords praises. As children, we wondered if
he wasnt suffering from heatstroke or some sort of dehydration.
night hed always make us pray at our bedsides, on our knees,
because kneeling showed your deference to God Almighty. Wed
begin with a simple prayer that we children memorized before we
knew our alphabets: Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the
Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord
my soul to take. Then we could ask the Lord to answer any
prayers we had been saving up all day. My prayer usually asked
the Lord to bless my mother and father and sisters and brothers,
except when my sisters or brothers angered me. Then I would pray
something mean, but my father told me the Lord doesnt answer
prayers made in spite, so Id ask the Lord to forgive me
and to bless my sisters and brothers anyway even though they made
me mad. Then Id end the prayer, in Jesuss name,
I pray. Amen. This would be our ritual every night that
I can remember growing up in my fathers house.
were some days during my high school years where Id skip
my prayers at night, my thinking I was getting too old for that.
Yet the fear of the Lord prompted me to remember and say an extra
prayer whenever Id miss one. My father would say, Youre
never too grown for the Lord to whip you.
father was a man that instilled fear in me, just from his voice
alone. He only had to tell me once to do something or stop doing
something, and I would. My siblings, however, seemed to test his
every word. They failed. Their punishment? A belt whipping. A
switching. Or a hand spanking. Youd think after a couple
of hand spankings from my father, who had hands the size of a
baseball mitt, they would learn to obey him on first call. But
noooo. They were hard-headed, my father would tell them. You
need to act like your sister, hed say, comparing my
well-mannered behavior to their disobedient conduct. Only my obedience
stemmed from my fear of him. I obeyed out of fear. The same fear
I had of God.
father fell ill when I was eighteen years old. Well, in actuality,
he had a nervous breakdown. We never called it a nervous breakdown.
We called it the episode. During that time, being anywhere near
crazy was humiliating because, of course, you know people in small
southern towns talked. Or better yet, gossiped. No one wanted
their personal business to be the talk of the town.
There was such a thing as southern pride.
failed to realize that our shame of his condition resulted in
our denial of the seriousness of his illness. It was an illness
and not an episode. If you think I feared my father before, I
truly feared him after the episode. My fear was in the unknown.
I had never known my father to ever lose control or to be so vulnerable
as to want to take his own life as well as the lives of his children.
I never thought of my father as weak. But that day I saw a weakness
in my father, humanness, and I didnt know how to deal with
that. I didnt understand it, so I could make neither heads
nor tails of the situation. All I knew was my father had fallen,
and I had no idea how to help him regain that stature that had
made me fear him with the fear of God. I feared what he had become.
What I couldnt know or understand.
Parker Williams is an English Instructor who teaches English
Composition and Grammar at a community college. Williams is a
Barton College graduate with a B.S. in Communications and a Masters
of Education in English from East Carolina University. She is
also the author of a fictional novel Liquor House Music
and publishes writing and publishing articles online. Visit Katrinas
website at http://www.stepartdesigns.com
for more writing and publishing tips. Email Katrina at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
Katrina Parker Williams