We love bluegrass music. We enjoy other music, too, even the longhair stuff, but when we’re rolling down I-35 there’s nothing quite like The Lewis Family singing “The Old Family Table. Although the Lewis Family is hardly my favorite—arguably the corniest group out there—today, as we neared home, that song got under my skin. It’s a melancholy song, one drawing dusty old memories, guilt and regret from deep recesses of my memory.
When our family wore smooth edges on our old, round, oak pedestal table, we were the third generation to do so. “Living by faith” missionaries sat there with our family, consuming alarming amounts of pasta with meat sauce, evidently storing nutrition just in case the next meal didn’t appear. A traveling evangelist clowned around under it, playing with our children and their green Gumby figure – “Mr. Bill needs to get saved!” One regular visitor subjected himself to our kids’ unsuccessful attempts to stump him with obscure Bible questions.
One of the advantages of a round table is that it can seat an unlimited number of people so long as they don’t need room for their elbows.
My grandmother had promised me that table, but when she died, she hadn’t left instructions, so I bought it at auction. After refinishing it, I considered it thrice mine: promised, purchased and redeemed.
As the Lewis Family sang, bitter tears fall suddenly as I remember how my Dad wanted to know if he could buy the table Grandma’s table replaced, and I said no. I said I thought we’d cut it down and make a coffee table out of it, which of course we never did. I hate realizing I disappointed Dad, and to this day, I don’t know why I did it. It was petty. He didn’t make anything of it, just as I don’t make anything of disappointments my children sometimes deal me, but I knew it hurt.
How I wish I could go back and be nicer to Dad! But I know he is in Heaven now, and I know he is perfectly happy there, and probably understood then.
We spent some time during this weekend in Arkansas visiting with two other couples who have been married, as we have, since shortly after the earth’s crust had cooled. We shared common experiences, relating how difficult it is to assemble our children, or even friends, for any celebration of birthdays or anniversaries.
My perspective has altered again, for the good. I can’t go back, but I resolve to remember and honor Dad’s memory with generosity of spirit, releasing my children from any expectations beyond the respect and honor they’ve already shown; blessing us beyond anything we could have imagined. May what began at our old family table grace generations to come.