From the Pastor: Continuing the Trip
Last week’s bulletin left you hanging in Gulf Breeze. (You do remember what happened there, don’t you?) This installment of the story picks up after the “goodbye's” were done and Aunt Irma and I were traveling back to Tampa, leaving Fr. Emmanuel to finish his exams. This time the ride was much more enjoyable. Aunt Irma was surprisingly happy and spent most of her time quietly singing or humming the theme songs to The Jetsons and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We arrived just in time for me to make it to the ceremony installing the new officers of the 4th Degree Knights of Columbus. In the morning I was able to celebrate the early Sunday Mass, a rarity for me this past year since Fr. Vincent loves to celebrate the TLM and that is the only one which fits his busy schedule. Aunt Irma, like so many of you, read the bulletin during my homily and was amazed at the story about someone with her name. “It’s a small world!” she exclaimed to a table full of parishioners at coffee and donuts after Mass. “The pastor here sounds like he could be part of my weird family! I hope I get to meet his aunt one day. Poor woman.” Fortunately, she did not make the connection between me and the parish, for, after all, we were traveling and she assumed we were there as visitors. It helped that everyone kept saying things to me like, “Hey stranger! Haven’t seen you at the 7:30 in ages!”
I checked in with my fellow priests very briefly. Fr. Chien was smiling and said he was meeting his people, getting to know the routine, and finding his way around town. Fr. Dorvil said he was just getting over a cold. Fr. Tuoc had been coughing all night long (old convent walls are not too soundproof) and it looked like he was picking up the cold just in time for his return flight to Vietnam. 20 hours on a plane with stuffy sinuses... ughh! I felt sorry for him as I wished him well. And then, just like that, we were off again. This time I was heading for Savannah, where I have a priest friend whom I haven’t seen in twenty years. We didn’t travel very far the first day, as we had an overnight stay in Clermont with my brother planned. We packed a lot into the short time we had with his family. During the day we went out on his boat. David lives on a chain of lakes and we went from one to another to another all day, just traveling around and shooting the breeze. In my days before priesthood I used to be outdoors all the time and had such a dark tan that I almost never worried about the length of time spent in the sun. Nowadays, though, I have skin as white as a vampire’s, as my cassock blocks all of the Sun’s effects except the heat. Since I had put on shorts and a tee shirt I slathered on the sunscreen yet as the hours passed I proceeded to turn from pasty white to pink to lobster red as if I were a Canadian on his first trip to Disney.
That evening we went with my niece to take care of her horses, cows, goats and chickens (these are in addition to her dogs, cat, rabbits and hedgehog at her house). Aunt Irma, who had been doing so well up to then, decided to teach Dominique a thing or two about riding. Now, we had grown up listening to her stories about how she and John Wayne used to hang out together, and, real or not (and we could never tell for sure) there she was on the back of “Tempest” with a rope in her hands. My niece is just starting to lasso in competition and my aunt was about to give her some tips on how to do it right. Unfortunately, she is not as young and agile as she once was and, instead of lassoing the calf, she wound up snagging “Skeletor”, the big male goat. Fortunately for all involved, beginners use a “breakaway” rope instead of the solid one used by more proficient ropers and it worked as promised, breaking away when the goat (which, by the way, was in another pen just the other side of the fence) reacted to being lassoed as he does to everything: he reared up and started head butting everything from the other goats to the tire swings to the oak tree. If he could have gone through the electric fence to butt Tempest, I think Aunt Irma would have been in a heap of trouble. As it was, she was the only one who seemed oblivious to the whole thing and proceeded to run the horse through the obstacle course as if nothing had happened. Tempest, for her part, seemed to have formed a bond with her rider and I think they could have won a barrel race that night. As it was, the goat destroyed the chicken coop, the calf somehow escaped and wasn’t found for two more days, Tempest is now renamed “Gentle Gulf Breeze” and everyone was, for some strange reason, overjoyed as Aunt Irma and I continued on our journey toward Savannah the next morning...
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka