- Signs and Deliverance
Daddy had me looking for signs from the time I was a little thing. It was his religion, the signs, and Daddy was as faithful to it as Mama and the rest of us were to the Baptist church. He believed that God was constantly trying to tell him something, and rather than just spitting it out in plain English, God spoke through coded messages hidden in the events of daily life. Daddy thought those messages, or signs, would inevitably lead to some reward or valuable truth that was waiting to be uncovered. He told anyone who'd listen that the key to leading a righteous life lay in being receptive to the signs God set out for you and being willing to follow whatever paths those signs pointed to. When it came to his signs, Daddy was always both receptive and willing. Thus I grew up understanding God as a timeless, powerful being who, because of His immeasurable boredom, was treating my daddy to a lifelong game of holy scavenger hunt. Follow the right signs and you win the big prize.
I didn't put much stock in Daddy's sign-following religion when I was young. I figured it was just him holding on to his country superstitions—Daddy's people were as country as could be. Mama said it wasn't about him being country; it was about him being just plain crazy, thinking any little thing that struck him as the least bit out of place was a sign from God. She used to laugh at him right to his face. I did too, until I learned better.
My conversion to Daddy's sign religion happened forty years ago when we lived in Itasca, Mississippi. I was engaged to marry a boy named Elroy whose family were big shots among the Negroes in our county on account of Elroy's father owning the most successful hog farm in the area. As the only son, Elroy was set to inherit the farm one day. Everybody said how I had lucked out by hooking him, and I agreed with them. Elroy wasn't the best-looking boy, but he was well-dressed and polite. I thought I loved him, but later I figured out I was just young and foolish enough to be flattered that someone the whole town looked up to was interested in me. And even though I didn't want to admit to myself that it mattered, there was all of that hog money.
Daddy was the one person dead-set against me marrying Elroy. He said the signs were bad because Elroy had eyes like a snake and the two of us had been introduced by my cousins, Luke and Matthew, who Daddy insisted were doomed from birth.
Luke and Matthew were born Siamese twins. They came into this world joined at the shoulder blade and lived that way for a year until the surgeons sliced them apart, leaving identical surgery scars shaped exactly like little semi-trailer trucks. After they were separated, they still loved to sleep with their shoulders pressed together. Daddy used to say that because of their awful temperaments—they could both cuss before they could walk—and the semi-truck scars, a person couldn't help but picture a highway pile-up every time they napped together. After their father Uncle Frank died in a collision with a semi on his way to bail the twins out of jail when they were thirteen years old, Daddy wouldn't shut up about how the truck-shaped scars on the boys' backs were blatant signs—signs that Uncle Frank and Aunt Precious had ignored at their family's peril.
I couldn't deny that Daddy was right about Luke and Matthew being no good, but I wouldn't hear a word against my sweet Elroy. I ignored Daddy's warnings and planned my big wedding. [End Page 493]
One afternoon, about a week before the ceremony was to take place, I drove into downtown Itasca for the final fitting of my dress. I was halfway to the bridal shop when what should happen but...