Mr. Terza and the Gift
A death, sudden and violent, it is not the material one looks for to come along to write about. How can one say anything that approaches the pathos it prompts? One is bound to come across as trite to everyone and runs the risk of being offensive to those closest to the departed that God has called in this way.
With this caveat given, I do want to write something about Mr. Terza and beg pardon at the outset for what I know will be a failed attempt to honor him.
I need a prop, and I have one – it’s sitting right next to the laptop. It was a Christmas gift from Mr. Terza, which through the years has been a reminder of him – not a generic “him”, but the essence of Mr. Terza. For all I know his wife may have picked out this gift, but that is all the better if it is so.
It was a KK gift. Mr. Terza got the short end of the stick in drawing lots and got my name as the one to give presents during the Advent Season. But I made the task a little more difficult: on the slip of paper that I was to write my name on for the drawing, I added a note: Please don’t get me anything. Instead, whatever you give, please make it something for Mom. Mr. Terza honored this request perfectly with little gifts throughout Advent that were a delight to bring to Mom and a highlight of her day to receive. It was a great Advent.
And the prop that is in front of me brings to mind Christmas and Christmas giving and Christmas everything. Christmas is the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. He is the Gift of all Gifts from Our Heavenly Father. He is tenderness and beauty, loveable and adorable. He is poor, but He has been taken care of by His loving Mother who has wrapped Him in swaddling clothes. Swaddling clothes, it has been determined, enable a baby to sleep more deeply and comfortably. Though lying in a manger with straw as his bed, the Little Lord Jesus was resting in heavenly peace.
For the final gift Mr. Terza got Mom a ruby red sweater. It was a great sweater until I washed it without following directions and it shrank. Sorry Mr. Terza, I could never bring myself to tell you what I had done.
The sweater isn’t here, but another part of the ensemble is. They are the fuzzy, long, warm matching ruby red socks that did for Mom what the swaddling clothes did for Our Lord. They kept Mom warm and cozy even during the coldest nights.
Mom had been taken from her home where she had lived since 1941 and brought right next door to Seton. The goodness of those at Seton, students, parents and teachers, made that transition possible.
To me, these socks bring back Mr. Terza’s voice, especially the way that he would call my mom “Mom”. He had adopted her, and the socks are the warmth and kindness that Mr. Terza showed so easily and naturally.
They are, in a sense, the father in him who had raised nine children, with all the sweat and love that that vocation demands.
They are the teacher in him, who after retirement from the real world, came into that other world that exists in a classroom. He taught Latin, giving life to a dead language and life to classes of teens who more likely than not wanted to be thinking of other things than declensions.
They are the endurance that enabled him to come to the school Mass while fighting cancer and looking anything but like someone who should be out and about. And that same strength enabled him to say so casually to Mrs. Larsen and me in the teachers’ room, “I am going blind”, after he learned that he had macular degeneration.
They are the husband in him who appropriately at death was beside Mrs. Terza, faithful in an age that values independence above fidelity.
The elastic has long since gone out of the socks, but I have never thought of getting rid of them. They are too great a gift ever to give thought to that so they remain in the sock bag.
The red socks have often brought Mr. Terza to mind and will continue to do so.
Thank you for the socks, and sorry about the sweater.
May God reward you greatly and continue to bless your wonderful family.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.