Granny had been brought up in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and went to church once every two or three years, usually on Mother’s Day, hoping my father would join her and learn to appreciate her innumerable virtues. He never went. On Sunday mornings, he worshiped God at the Bobby Jones Golf Course—no exceptions. I would have to go with Granny in his place, a boy of ten who, one time, embarrassed her by grabbing a handful of Oysterettes and chug-a-lugging two or three tiny glasses of Welch’s grape juice before she grabbed my arm and explained to the old lady sitting next to her, “His mother takes him to the Episcopal church.”
At the age of 50, my father suddenly, inexplicably announced that he, too, intended to become an Episcopalian. Granny, who despised my mother, felt betrayed. One evening when my father was attending Confirmation class, she found my mother in the kitchen and blurted out, “I’d never go to the Episcopal church. Some of the biggest sinners in town go there. Old Alva Barringer teaches Sunday School there, and she’s sleeping with half the men in town”—a charge that I later discovered, though a wild exaggeration, contained an element of truth.
Taken aback, my mother said, “Granny, we’re all sinners.”
“I’m not,” she...