fam stories

Yesterday was the 81st anniversary of my Dad’s birth. He put it this way:

March 9, 1929 I, Paul Alexander Jenkins was born in Oak Grove, West Carroll parish, Louisana. The third son, my birth was in the Church of God parsonage. I weighed in at a huge 12 pounds at birth. While my mother was giving birth to me, the men of the Church took my father, their Pastor, on a fishing trip to get him out from “under foot”…..

The attending physician at my birth was Dr. Dallahide who was quoted in the newspaper the next day as saying, “there is a new preacher in the Church of God parsonage, weight 12 pounds, and from the sound of his voice, he will be a good one.” That birth story would be told many times as I grew up, probably shaping my future in ways no one expected. I would later become the fourth clergyman in our family in three generations. (Now six clergy in four generations.)

from my Dad’s unpublished memoirs: “Thru Many Dangers, Toils and Snares: Chronology and Memoirs” by Paul A. Jenkins

Dad died last April and I am just beginning to calm down and miss him a little. He died from Lewy Body Dementia and lost his faculties over what was probably a period of ten or so years.

I am also re-assessing my understanding of his place in his family of origin. I used to think of him (and also my brother Mark) as classic “mantle bearers.” By that I mean a position in the system (youngest male) which seeks equilibrium by subtle edging them toward their vocation.  Often this position is also the “identified victim” of the system which bears a lot of the brunt of the pathology going on.

I’m not sure this describes my Dad.

On the same page of his memoirs his tells this story about my grandfather, his father:

A town bully began throwing his weight around. He called Dad out, swaggering through town saying, “If you see that Church of God preacher, tell him I’m gunning for him.” And he had the gun on his belt to make his point. But he did not know that the little preacher had gone to college from a Steel Worker’s career. Dad was used to confronting loud-talking tormentors. When Dad met him on the street one day, he walked right up to the threatening loudmouth and looked him straight in the eye. “Tom,” Dad called his bluff with a twinkle in his eye. “I understand you are gunning for me?” The big fellow put his arm around dad’s shoulder and said warmly, “Aw, preacher, who would tell you a thing like that?” They became close friends.

Anyway, there’s a couple of family stories. I’m planning on sticking them in here from time to time. My most regular readers seem to have the last name Jenkins and might get a kick out of them.

This morning after Eileen left for work, I walked over to church and practiced organ until it was almost time for the morning Eucharist. I am doing two pieces by Calvin Hampton this Sunday. Both are actually verbatim from the Hymnal 1982.

Hampton was a New York organist who was an early victim of the HIV-AIDS epidemic.  The two pieces we are doing are his setting of “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy” and “Let all the world in every corner sing.” The first we will do as a choral piece, the second I am playing from the hymnal as the postlude. Lovely stuff.

I also started work on William Bolcom’s setting of “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

One of the people at the St. Mary’s Guild presentation I gave Monday evening brought up this hymn. She was saying how much meaning it had for her since they sang it at her church when she was younger. She wondered why the Episcopalians didn’t use the “right tune.” She was surprised when the former organist sitting near her pointed out that the “right tune” was actually in the Hymnal 1940. I added that it was in the current African American Episcopalian Hymnal “Lift Every Voice and Sing II.”

I learned Bolcom’s organ setting of “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child” for my organ recital last year.

His pieces are difficult. But I find them rewarding. It took me months to learn that piece and it will probably take me months to learn this one as well.

After rehearsing I walked up to LemonJellos for tea and granola and a day old muffin.

I am sitting there right now. God bless wifi. A buddy named Johnny Crookedfingers spotted me and sat down and kept me company for a bit [link to his livejournal profile]. Life is good.

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