What can YOU say in six sentences?
In the '60s my family spent weekends with a couple they affectionately referred to as "Betty and James the pains", a loud and messy duo who were late to everything and clearly had severe undiagnosed ADHD.
There's video footage of my mother and Betty dancing the "twist", then James holding Betty over his knee for a playful spanking - a young James Garner and freckled Patty Duke beaming on old 8 mm reels.
In a shopping strip on Fort Worth's Vaughn Avenue, beside Wayne's Convenience store where my brother was often sent to buy a forgotten gallon of milk or loaf of Mrs. Baird's, there was a makeshift Baptist church where James would occasionally preach. We sat in metal fold-up chairs while "Brother" James paced on a small stage, emphasized Bible truths with his hands slicing and pounding the air, and though I was too young to understand the message, his 6'3" frame made me feel safe and his voice was mesmerizing, like a Boom! married to a violin; sometimes he sang beside my mother, dwarfing her 5'2" frame as she harmonized with a tamborine bouncing on one hip.
It was a Monday in 1984 when James and Betty knocked on my apartment door in Houston, late as usual, Betty frazzled and asking if I had a pair of pantyhose because she had "a dadgum runner"; their lined but familiar faces were like warm ghosts from a life that died more than seventeen years before, which made the drive to Jack Rowe Funeral Home awkward, maybe because their presence made me feel too young to be behind the wheel.
My mother's funeral was attended by many of her friends, my sister and I the only family except for the pains who officated with uncharacteristic poise; Betty sang a poem my mother had written about light and Jesus, while James mended souls from the pulpit.