In sorting out an old toy box at my father's house, I found two coloring-activity books left behind from childhood. One is titled With Jesus by the Sea; the other, Captain Kangaroo Trace and Color, the 1960 "authorized edition based on the popular TV program." Jesus and "the Captain": the two kindly but otherworldly men who sustained me as a child. They were both real, just out of reach and untouchable.

The ghost of holy Jesus lived inside me. This meant he knew everything I said and did. But that was only half the story. He had also lived fleshly, long ago and far away, not in a house but by the Galilee, before he died forsaken for me. Jesus talked a lot to an invisible but always present and never sleeping God the Father, who lived in the sky but also in God's house, the church. I was supposed to love him if not like him, but actually I was afraid of his smoting and smiting. On Sundays at the stroke of noon, my pastor-father would close a church service with a biblical benediction. "The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you." Knowing this was from the Old Testament, I figured this smiling face referred to God the Father, but it was hard for me to connect the dots.

The Captain lived here and now in a one-room house with dumb puppets. He welcomed visitors and read picture books from behind the TV screen, any TV in any house, but only early in the morning. I could see and hear him in his house or linoleum yard; he just couldn't see and hear me. Every few days he talked to the always present but usually sleeping Grandfather Clock. This involved calling Grandfather's name and jarring him awake, to ask him a puzzling question. "Let's ...

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