Axis of Happiness

The morning Henry Evans stopped by my office to tell me to go to Chicago, I was in the middle of my chapter-a-day habit: still in the Book of Hosea, much to my dismay, still in the Old Testament after years of dogged reading. This habit required skimming the day’s chapter of the Bible (usually the length of one onion-skin page), then reading the extensive commentaries in the footnotes, then finally reading the chapter again—all of this took on average forty-five minutes. I did this at work because it was where I lived—fourteen hours a day, often six days a week. I couldn’t help knowing some of the Bible because I was a P.K. (preacher’s kid), but I’d started reading this fat copy of the NIV Study Bible with its elephant-gray leather cover because my mother left it for me along with her modest wedding jewelry when she died three years ago.

I hadn’t always liked being around my mother while she was alive. For years she’d suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. The chronic pain had given her pale, square face a kind of pinched, sour expression. The parishioners at my father’s church called my mother a saint, and I suppose she was. But as her daughter, I didn’t feel like I knew her very well, because she was so busy serving others.

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