Saturday, May 22, 2010

Happy Pentecost!

Did I ever tell you that Pentecost is one of my favorite holy days? It ranks right behind Easter in terms of my attachment to it. I have this thing about the Holy Spirit. I suppose the intellectuality of the Spirit appeals to me. The Spirit represents wisdom to me. It is one gift of the Spirit I have always coveted—if you can covet such things.

We used to warn each other not to ask for patience, because then God would give us trials in which to display such a gift. Tongues—I used to think that that would be a cool thing to have. Later I realized that through the opportunity to read scripture at Mass, as Isaiah said, the Lord indeed has given me a well trained tongue, that I might speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.

A friend of mine used to wear a button on his cap that bore the legend PBPGIFWMY, that is, Please Be Patient. God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet. I have lately been reminded that this growing in the Spirit is a process that goes on for your whole life.

In the belief that I can’t do it alone, I am exploring a new Men’s Bible Study and prayer group that is being formed in my parish. I used to belong to a small group of four or five men who met in each other’s houses, but it has been many years since I’ve done anything like that. Pete is still in the parish, but Emerick has passed on, Joe moved away.

I still remember Emerick’s simple question: what is grace? Sure that I could find the answer, I scoured scripture for instances of grace in an effort to arrive at a definition. I presented my findings to him at a later meeting. He responded, not with satisfaction at my answer but with another question—something like, “What else?” That stopped me cold. I obviously never recovered, since I still talk about it.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sometimes you can't catch a break

I took Friday off to go to the dentist, and decided to get the chest xray that my doctor wanted. So anyway I was in the backyard when our neighbor Aleta called across the yard, “Are you busy?” “What do you need” I asked.

Now for those of you who don’t know Aleta, she is a very nice lady who has been our neighbor for thirty years. She worked as a legal secretary before she retired. She was divorced long before we met her, and several of her kids still live in the area.

She came over and we stood in the driveway while she told me, “I got troubles” and started to cry. She said she had just been diagnosed with breast cancer--and she's 85. She is always in her garden all summer, cutting her grass, weeding—she said, “I’m still going out to buy plants” as if she weren’t going to be around to see them produce vegetables in her garden. Kathy called her later and we reassured her that she was in our prayers.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Big 3-9

Kathy and I celebrated the big 3-9 on Saturday by going out to a little French restaurant here called Le Bistro du Beaujolais. You can find the menu here: We both opened up with the Mini Vol au Vent d’Escargots. I had called ahead to make sure they didn’t mince the little guys like some places do. (They didn’t.) Kathy had the Pavé de Romsteak Sauce au Bleu , I ordered the Truite farcie au Crabe. We are pretty sure there was heroin in the mashed potatoes. She let me have a taste and I was so infatuated with both her steak and the potatoes that she ordered a whole dinner to go so I could have it for Sunday.

It was a small place in an old house, but it held a lot of people. When we arrived, the tiny parking lot was full, so we made our own space. Once inside, there were rooms of empty tables, so we couldn’t figure out where everyone was. We must have arrived early by their standards, since the tables filled up later. There was an honest to goodness French family sitting next to us (what’s that they say about Chinese restaurants? If real Chinese people eat there, it must be good?) I gave Kathy an anniversary card that she found amusing, such that the woman at the other table looked over and wondered what was so funny. We passed the card around their table, too.

We both had dessert—Remy Martin for Kathy and chocolate mousse for me, though the red wine pears were sounding pretty good. When we go back, I’ll get the steak and Kathy wants to try the
Boeuf Bourguignon. Remembering mom’s big vat on the stove with a quarter inch layer of congealed fat on top kind of put me off beef burgundy, though.

Appropriately, we had started the evening out by going to 4:30 Mass in the same church in which we had been married, so that was kind of nice. There was one photo of us sitting in the sanctuary on that day, that I remembered, so I sort of superimposed that over the scene at Mass while we sat in our pew.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Happy Resurrection Day

We’re just home from a wonderful Easter vigil Mass. It was even more special than usual because Kathy was a reader, taking a part of the Exodus reading. A woman who had read at the vigil for many years (Maureen) passed away a few weeks ago, and two readers decided to leave, so I was really stuck. Kathy volunteered to read—only the second time she has ever been up there—and she did a great job. Holy Saturday is always the day when I think about how my life, how my family, how the whole world would be different if Jesus had not existed, if He had not come, taught, died and rose. Would all our cities resemble Pottersville, from "It's a Wonderful Life", where the 'working poor' are crushed by avaricious landlords like Mr. Potter? Or would they descend into the hedonistic vision of "Back to the Future", where Biff uses the sports almanac to build a gambling empire? If we couldn't be 'good Christians', what would we be? How would we treat each other without Christ's example to emulate?

Take a look around at your world and imagine all the church spires gone, no minister to turn to in times of despair, no one to share your faith with, because you wouldn't have any to share. This is the one day when we can say "What if", and maybe come to a better appreciation of tomorrow's gift. Perhaps Easter is a better time than New Year's Eve to resolve to do better in the coming year, since it marks the beginning of our real New Year, our acceptance of salvation.How would your life be different without Easter?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poker night

Seven year old Max came over on Tuesday, which is getting to be poker night, since that’s what we’ve been doing lately with him. Before the big game, though, he had some of Nana’s famous mac n cheese. We shut off the TV to visit, and I asked him about school. He was typically noncommittal, though he did talk to two girls in his class, Krista and Katerina.

He started talking about those hand buzzers that kids use to shock each other, and how one might be built. His dad cautioned him strongly about playing with electricity, but asked him, theoretically, how he might go about making such a thing. Max surprised us all by saying, “I have a diagram in my pocket.” Sure enough, there it was: an exploded view of a buzzer, complete with “battery holder” and “copper wire”. Shane said it looked like the kid version of the Anarchist’s Handbook.

Nana was the big winner in poker, taking the “all in” hand at the end.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Look who' s 60

Today is my 60th birthday. I’ve come to terms with it. It was a little rough for the past year or so leading up to it, as I thought about what it might mean. Growing up, anyone who was 60 was really old! I remember that 50 kind of felt good. 60 is not much different, though I might be creaking a little more than I did ten years ago.

I’m fresh from my birthday dinner with the in-laws. We tried a place that none of us had ever been to before. It bills itself as “comfort food with a twist”. We had a nice time with great food—one brother in law even cleaned his plate of his chicken parm, and the other liked his steak. I had lamb chops and discovered that I really don’t care for lamb chops, but I could see where they were going with it.

Everything was going along just fine until the checks came. There were errors on all three of them. Ours was correct the second time (we wound up owing more). Kathy and I left, though, while the others waited for their checks to be corrected for the third time. Too bad. We were thinking of returning there some time.

I spend the day doing things I like to do: I got a haircut, and walking back from the barber, I saw a pretty girl in a red Corvette stuck in the snow across the street from our house. What to do? I got a board and some carpeting from our garage and went to the rescue. Later I went to Borders and got a book on the photo software I use, and wandered aimlessly around the store for a while. So it was pretty much a perfect day.

As long as I keep up with walking the dog a few miles a day, swimming and weight training, I should be able to keep age at bay. After all, isn’t 60 the new 40?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Memories of Maureen

One of our friends from church, a woman named Maureen, died a couple of weeks ago. We think she had pancreatic cancer, since she went so fast. Two weeks before she died, she was in church, telling us how she was having a hard time with her treatments, with blood counts so low that they couldn’t even administer the treatments. She went into the hospice which is just up the hill from our house. I went to see her one day, but I yielded my time to a couple of ladies who had driven over from the east side to see her. They used to teach with her. Turns out I should have just gone up with them, since on that day she was lucid, talking to visitors, but by the next day, when I finally got back there, she was just sleeping.

I was fortunate to be invited to do the readings at her funeral, since her two adult children said they would not be able to get through it. The night after she died I was in her house, planning the liturgy with her husband and the priest who was going to help with the Mass. Her kids traded stories about their mom while the five grandchildren meandered, crawled and otherwise orbited the table where we grownups sat.

Maureen and her mom (who passed away two years ago) had a standing hair appointment every Thursday. Sometimes the kids would go with them. Her daughter said it was a wonder they didn’t develop lung disease, since the women would get into the car after the appointment and pull cans of hairspray out from under their seats and liberally spray their hair, locking it into place. The kids could (and did) bounce wadded up paper off their mother’s hair helmet.

One time when Maureen and her husband John were in Las Vegas, the hair appointment loomed large when, at the airport gate, the agent announced that they needed two people to give up their seats for some VIP’s who needed to fly out that night. They offered a sweet deal: two $500 ticket vouchers, transportation to a hotel, dinner that night, and first class seats back home on the following day. John wanted to grab it, and Maureen said no—she had to get to her hairdressers the next day! Once on the plane, John couldn’t help himself, “I hope you enjoy your $1,000 hair appointment,” he scowled.

We gave her a nice sendoff, with trumpets and a tympani and some great hymns.