From the Pastor: The Last of the Road Trip
Bulletin article, July 22
If you read last week’s bulletin you know that my Aunt Irma and I stopped by my brother’s house for a day. A strange day. Or, at least, you read about the trip and there was enough that seemed believable that you thought that maybe it was true. But some of you have doubts about the veracity of the whole thing because sometimes Aunt Irma seems just so.... well, too odd to be believable. And right you are to wonder about that part of it! She is a tad odd in just about every story I tell about her. But I am a bit odd, too, in case you haven’t noticed. So is the rest of the family. Deal with it. We have to! I sometimes recount her antics and perhaps, you are thinking, I am doing a disservice to her as I portray her like that for the whole world (or at least to the 14 people who read the article) to see. You are not the only ones to have questions like that. While I was at my brother’s house, his daughter asked me something along the same line of thought. “Do you ever talk about me in your homilies?” she asked, a bit concerned that I preach as strangely as I act. “No.” I answered, “Because about twenty-two years ago I mentioned your mother in one of my homilies and I thought she was going to kill me. I cannot take a chance like that again. You see, the professor in every homily class I took at the seminary suggested that we tell stories about our family as a means of ‘making personal contact’ with the people. So I dutifully did so for one of my first homilies. I don’t even remember exactly what I said but it had something to do with your mother not liking mayonnaise on a sandwich or liking a lot of mayonnaise on a sandwich, or something like that. Somebody tattled and you would have thought, from her reaction, that I had told everyone her confession.” Not able to hold back, my niece immediately yelled into the next room, “Mom! Do you remember...?” Fortunately for me, she did not! But I made sure to not mention that, while I don’t preach (much) about my family (except for poor mom, who is just such an easy target, sitting there in one of the front pews) I sometimes write about them. Including Dominique. Don’t anyone tell her! (And, just for the record, she really does take care of all of those animals I mentioned last week, and she really is lassoing with a breakaway rope. But, like mayo on a sandwich, she may not want you to know that for some reason, so shhhhh!)
Anyway, back to the prudence of writing about Aunt Irma. Since I had such a close call last week with her reading about herself in the bulletin, I thought I would ask her if it was OK. She said it was fine by her as long as I didn’t write about what condiments she likes and doesn’t like on sandwiches. It must be a family thing. So now I can conclude the story about our trip. We left my brother’s house headed toward Savannah but had one more stop to make before getting there. At the border of Georgia and two Florida dioceses, Pensacola-Tallahassee and St. Augustine, an old priest friend of mine, Fr. Dat Tran, is in charge of two parishes. I haven’t seen him in ages so we made a little detour and surprised him. He wanted to know how my Vietnamese was coming along. (You might have rightly concluded from his name that he is Vietnamese!) He offered to teach me a few words, but I don’t trust him at all in that regard. While he was still in the seminary his bishop was going to address a large group of Vietnamese at some function and Dat was with him. He had been practicing for weeks just to say something simple like, “I am so glad to be here with you” and once he had finally said it in front of the crowd he turned to my buddy and asked how he did, if his pronunciation was understandable. Dat looked quizzically at him and said, “Was that Vietnamese? I thought you were speaking Spanish.” No, I was not going to let him teach me any Vietnamese phrases, for no matter what he told me I was saying, I could never believe him. Strange family, strange friends, never dull.
By the time we got back on the road, though, it was quite apparent that I was at the beginning stages of the cold I had been telling you that was going around at the rectory. That made for quite a dilemma. My priest friend in Savannah is a hospital chaplain, and I couldn’t go see him because infecting him would put him out of commission. So I spent the rest of my time off laying in a hotel room coughing and blowing my nose while Aunt Irma explored Savannah with Fr. Smith. The last I heard from her was a text message: “FYI. Dnt wnt 2 get sk 2 so hopped freighter 2 Denmark. The captn is FoaF. Dnt worry about me. CUS.” And with that, my story ends and work begins once again. Cough, cough.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka