COUSINS AND A POPE
God’s gifts are varied, and He has ways of surprising us.
March 12th. Most of my days blend one into another, and time passes by without many highlights. This is good. This past Tuesday, however, Mom had a rough morning and was completely exhausted. I kind of felt that way as well. Then my brother Jim called to say that two of our cousins, Greg and Joan from Houston, were in Trinidad, Colorado, making their way slowly to visit us. Yikes! This was good news, but news of short notice. I emailed my sisters Kath and Wendy to tell them. They said they would get here as soon as they could – after work and a two hour drive. I asked nephew Nathaniel to text his mom (Barb) at work to let her know what was up. I began cleaning.
All went well, then Barb came home. Apparently, the full implications of what was happening lost something in the text transmission, especially that we were having company for dinner. Barb sort of looked numb when she found out. But she sprang into action and with two hours before guest arrival began preparing a supper while her children were sent to the store for food. In the time that Barb prepared a whole meal, I made the contribution of slicing strawberries for a fruit salad and radishes for a lettuce salad. They were very well sliced.
We were having an Italian feast to welcome Greg and Joan and in anticipation of our new Bishop of Rome. All went well. The house was pretty clean, Kath and Wendy arrived in good time, the food was great and Greg and Joan brought a vitality that caused Lent to be temporally suspended. They told of their day, which included going to Harris Bilingual School in Fort Collins. This is the school named for Mom’s Aunt Mame who was a longtime educator. The people at the school, including the principal and receptionist, were so excited to meet Greg and Joan and brought out files that had information on Aunt Mame.
After supper, Greg and Joan asked if they could go in and see their aunt. Mom had been sleeping the whole day. We walked into the room, and Greg broke down in tears. You see, his mom, Mom’s sister, our Aunt Jane had died in April of last year. Greg with much help from Joan and two other sisters, Barbara and Debbie, had taken care of their mom for years and in her final struggle with throat cancer. All the emotions were set in motion by their seeing Mom.
They were so tender and loving of Mom as she slept there, looking very serene. Greg asked if we could pray. So we all (Greg, Joan, Kath, Barb, Wendy, Nathaniel and Valerie and I) joined hands circling Mom’s bed and prayed an Our Father, invoked Aunt Jane’s intercession for Mom and then sang “Silent Night”. It was beautiful.
Just a little background on our Handley cousins. They come from a family of nine children. Their dad died in a plane crash with the youngest in the family an infant. His plane was missing for quite some time. Before it was found, when a plane would fly overhead, they would yell up to the plane, “Daddy, we are here, come home.” Joan, who is Miss Vitality, has 14 children, and she homeschooled them in a neighborhood of Houston where she still lives in a house with a very leaky roof. Her one daughter is married to the billionaire son of the owner of the Houston Texanas and her twin sister is marrying someone of equal wealth in April. Greg and Joan joke that at the lavish gatherings they sometimes find themselves that they are Jethro and Ellie May. They are total characters and very happy siblings. It was very obvious that Aunt Jane received the best sort of care.
The only disappointment of the evening was that Kath and Wendy had planned to go out to the farm to get pictures – boxes of our family pictures, but also really old pictures and memorabilia that Mom has from her side of the family. This is stuff that dates to the early 1800’s. They didn’t have time to get the stuff, but promised to go to the farm and bring it up the next evening.
March 13th. I got up at 3:30 a.m. to see if there would be smoke. Watching three different views of a smokestack is intrinsically dull and difficult in the best of situations, but on little sleep, tortuous. I would turn away from the computer screen, say some part of morning prayers, turn and look for smoke, and repeat, over and over. Of course, when the black smoke came, I was no where near the screen. Went to Mass. By the time the next round of voting was taking place and the possibility of smoke hung in the air, I had EWTN on and was washing the dishes from last night’s gathering. No smoke, No smoke. No smoke. I reached the certainty that there was no pope yet. Time to get Mom back up. (She gets up at 5:30 a.m. for about an hour, then goes back to bed to get up again at about 11:30.) It was closer to noon, when we went in to help her up. She was having a much better day and was very happy. After we finished helping her into her wheelchair, I told her that I was going to go see if we had a pope yet. There on the screen was “Habemus Papem”. So I had missed the smoke again, but that mattered little now that I knew we had a pope. I ran in to tell Mom. She was sitting up well, so I asked her if she wanted to go out and watch to see who our new pope was, and to learn what name he had chosen so we could see who had won our family contest on naming the pope. Mom was obliging.
We sat in front of the screen, holding hands as we waited and waited. About five times in that wait period, I started to tear up. I’d fight it off, and I am just not sure why I was so emotional waiting to see who our Holy Father was, but I think it is just the whole Catholic thing. The beauty, the joy, the greatness that being Catholic is and having one who is the Vicar of Our Lord.
Mrs. Carroll called from Seton to say that the student body was in the gym where Mrs. Parriot had set up a screen so everyone could watch. She said she and some others were in Mrs. Cooper’s office to watch where it was a little quieter. She was anticipating the name for the contest too!
Mom’s adopted Cardinal to pray for was Cardinal Touran of France who came out to make the Habemus Papam proclamation and then to give us the name of the Cardinal turned Pope and his new name. I had no idea what he said, except at the end, I thought he said Francesco. But I was confused, and the commentators were silent. So I waited. Then we learned it was Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina and his name: Francis Tremendous!
And then the beautiful words and prayers of Pope Francis. His prayers for Holy Opa, Benedict; his asking for us all to pray in silence for blessings from Our Heavenly Father upon him; and then his blessing of the crowd. He seemed so serene, so humble, so magnificent.
Mom had sat so patiently through the hour wait, and as soon as the Holy Father turned to leave, she slumped over in her chair, ready to go back to bed. She sat up in her bed, and was still just so happy. Her ninth pope: Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis . Not a bad list! And it didn’t matter at all that he had chosen a name which meant no winner in the contest, or did it? More on that later – rules committee in still deliberating.
That night, Greg and Joan, after being taken on a tour of Denver by Jim, were bringing a Latino feast to the house in honor of our new pope. When they got here, we went into Mom’s room and just had a very good time – Mom was awake and happy and Greg and Joan were telling us of their private jet trip to Paris and Rome that they had made with their Mom after she had found out that her cancer was not treatable. The story included Joan’s name being painted on the top of the Eiffel Tower by someone who became enamored with her on their visit. [I can’t do the story justice.]
Not sure what they eat in Argentina except beef – my brother Dave worked there for a while and they ate a lot of beef. But Greg brought fajitas. We were waiting on Kath and Wendy to arrive from the farm with the pictures. They had sent a message saying that they were on their way but needed new socks. We wondered.
Kath and Wendy did arrive, shoe and sockless. The road to the farm was a quagmire from the melting snow, so they got stuck, car overheated and they had to walk through the mud to the house about a quarter of a mile. Then, they had to drag the plastic tote of pictures through the mud back to the car. Heroism abounds in our family.
So it was Argentina fiesta time in honor of Pope Francis. We decided to bring out the contents of our entire wine cellar. This amounted to two bottles – ones that were brought for the celebration of Mrs. Carroll’s and Father Riley’s birthdays last August 10th. Father had brought one bottle and Ben Akers the other. We never got around to drinking any of either of them. They had sat on a counter in the kitchen (that’s the wine cellar) since then. But we decided that we needed to toast our new Holy Father, so they were brought to the table. We rehearsed the little Spanish drinking chant: Arriba! Abajo! Al centro! Adentro! [Up! (raise glasses) Down! (lower glasses) To the middle! (clink glasses in the middle of the table) Inside! – or – Down the hatch! We all had it down, and we made a toast to a long and holy reign for Pope Francis I and then did the chant. We had to keep repeating it for several pictures. We really had it down! [Lent was being suspended again.]
After dinner, we spent time laughing at our youthful pictures, praising the cuteness we once had and marveling at the history of our relatives contained in the archives that Mom has and that Kath and Wendy had heroically brought.
This continued well into the night, with a break for brownies and ice cream. [Lent was out the window.]
The celebration will continue tonight, with Kath and Wendy planning to make their 3rd trip up here. I’ll have more on that and the results of the Pope Name Contest in the next posting.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.