A Cane-Backed Rocking Chair
Donald R. Fletcher, author
I was in my last year at Princeton Seminary and was supplying the pulpit weekends, upstate at a country church. This was many years ago. The war was on—yes, World War II—and the church’s pastor had enlisted as a Navy chaplain. I was glad for that. It meant a temporary pastorate—my first—and that Martha and I could get married.
The people were friendly and helpful, even though most of them were feeling the stress of the war in some way. But, there was George. I had not seen him in church, but I met him when I went to visit his Aunt Molly—actually, his Great Aunt Molly, who was in her nineties. She was frail, and very kindly, sitting in her old-fashioned, cane-backed rocking chair. George was there, and he was confrontational.
“I’d say it was about time you got here for a visit,” he was saying. “Aunt Molly is here alone, mostly, needing a visit, and isn’t that what you preachers are supposed to do?”
“Now, George,” Molly put in, “he isn’t a full-time minister. He still has to be at the seminary during the week and can only be up here on weekends.”
I was grateful to her for taking my part. George grumbled something about part-time people, and I turned attention to a reading from the Gospel of Luke, followed by a prayer.
Over the next four months, until my graduation, I visited Molly twice; but George was not there. Molly told me that she was the only living family member that he had, both of his parents being gone.
With the summer, word came that the pastor of our church was resigning, to stay on in the Navy. As I was now ordained, the congregation invited me to become its installed pastor, and Martha and I decided that we would like that.
Then, one August evening, a truck pulled up in front of our manse, the pastor’s house. As the driver jumped out and went around to get something out of the back of the truck, I saw that it was George. He came up the steps of our front porch, and he was carrying a cane-backed rocking chair, which he set down.
“Pastor, you know this chair,” he said. “Of the few things that Aunt Molly left behind, she told me that she wanted you to have her chair.”
He couldn’t—and he didn’t—say anything more. He reached out to me, where I was standing, and gave me a long, silent hug.
Author Notes: At age 101, after publishing nine books, Don Fletcher is writing flash fiction and short prose pieces.