Traveling in a van means I changed from traveling clothes into a suit in church bathrooms. I learned to hate men’s church bathrooms. So many of them are back behind the furnace. Seldom is there an adequate mirror, and almost never are there hooks to hang my suit on while I skinny out of my jeans. Lids are scarce. Something is bound to get wet. Men can’t be trusted with carpeting. Sometimes we get a door on the cubicle. You must decide what you intend to do before you enter for there is no turning around once you are in there.
Funny thing about church bathrooms. When they are remodeled, the church spends $6000 on the women’s room and $3.64 on the men’s room. The women get wall-to-wall carpeting, mirrors and Formica. The men get a new pail.
I survived by improvising. For evening events, I would find a Sunday school room, put a chair under the door knob and change clothes in the dark. Having gotten my britches and shirt on, I would turn the light on and use the exterior window as a mirror. Stained glass will not work. With the darkness outside, my reflection shows on the window perfectly to put on my tie, comb my hair, get my mustache on straight.
One evening in South Carolina, after a great potluck, I grabbed my tie and coat, excused myself and headed for the men’s room to finish dressing for the evening meeting. As I reached for the men’s room door knob, a lady standing at the drinking fountain said, “Sir, you’ll have to wait, there is already someone in there.” I thanked her and replied, “That’s okay. I’ll just find a window to use.”
It wasn’t until after I had “used” the window that I realized why the lady got that shocked look on her face, wrapped her cloak around her tightly and backed away from me. She didn’t stay for the singing and concluded some fierce things about Yankees.
Months later, I told that favorite bathroom story on a Sunday morning in one of Iowa’s largest United Methodist Churches. After service, the family was standing at the product table when a man stopped to say he agreed about church restrooms. My mother was standing near. She thought the man said “restaurant” and replied, “I raised him in one.”
There are times when no matter how precise you say things or how hard you try, you don’t get it right or people misunderstand. Families fall apart, fathers fail, mother’s come unglued and children make very bad decisions. Other times all of the above happen on one day before lunch.
We met such a family. After the glass had been swept up and the sticky words had been washed off the walls, a teenage daughter and sister had packed and left. The following weeks were grisly. Lots of tears and regrets. Mom and Dad decided they would go back to church. They arrived at the church entrance at the same time the absent daughter arrived. The usher didn’t know about the declared war and just swept the whole family together and ushered them to the family pew.
No one looked at each other or spoke a word. We sang a medley of songs that concluded with “Have I told you lately that I love you?” I told a story about our son Doug who tells those who are posing for a photo, “Will you moisten lips—preferably you own!” I invited people to grab a hand, squeeze; hold on tight and to sing with us. The broken family tentatively reached out and then got into heavy-duty hugging.
Restoration is such a fine family word.
Perhaps, God found a friend in Abraham because He knew the first Hebrew would follow Him, even when life was temporarily in the toilet.
Meanderings—Swapping Road Stories with Abraham’s Tour Group
©2018 D. Dean Benton
An ebook available in May.