A last look from my father's steeple

This is your first time and my last time up the narrow, winding stairs where we slowly make our steep climb. My father preached beneath this steeple. Hands on the walls, our fingers read the old brick like Braille. Up the groaning, wooden stairs where your perfume lingers, we continue to climb, wishing there was a rail or something in the dark to hold on to. As we ascend, the hour draws near. Climbing around the clockwork, we spot on the wall where years before I'd scrawled, ``Stuart Coleman was here.'' You smile and I can only smirk. Past the huge bells I hurry you - for the hour draws near. Finally reaching the door, framed and splintered with light, we unbolt it and step on through to see what we came here for: ``What a view from this height!'' From my father's steeple, we can see the entire city up here: houses, trees, and cars, people walking in the streets below; we see modern port and sunken pier; the Cooper River Bridge, whose arcs span over the gray water's gentle flow; buildings, parking lots, and parks. The skyline is needled with spires. Of the Four Corners of Law, this church stands tallest and inspires within me the deepest awe. In your lighthearted way, you tell me, ``I thought palms only grew where I come from - in L.A.'' Then you ask me seriously, ``Do you have any ... you know, qualms about moving out there? leaving the South behind?'' Watching the wind through your hair, I realize Charleston won't change my mind. Looking around my hometown, gently squeezing your eager hand, I hear from inside the steeple those bells tolling over the time-kept land. The hour's come and I pull you near. There will be no final farewells - but remember - we were here.

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