This week business once again takes me to the Providence RI area. The trip here and the trip back takes a whole day traveling, each way, because there are no direct flights and I have to connect in Chicago. So it’s a whole day sitting on an airplane or waiting for an airplane. I normally use this time to do “recreational” reading….non-business related reading that is.
I’m currently reading “If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name” by Heather Lende. The author is a social columnist and obituary writer for a small local newspaper in Haines, Alaska. I got it because I was looking for a good…but easy read as a counterpoint to my normal western history readings.
It is a good read and easy as well, but it had an unexpected consequence for me. Some of the chapters describe the obituaries, no not the obituaries, the people the author wrote the obituaries about. Haines, Alaska is a very small town and the author knew most of the people she wrote the obituaries for. It’s soulful content. Reading it I couldn’t help thinking of the people I knew who have died.
One chapter is not about an obituary but about the Catholic Rosary. The author is not a Catholic but an Episcopalian. She somehow became interested in the Catholic Rosary and as she said, “a prayer is a prayer”. Anyhow, she describes what she learned about the Rosary and the different prayers associated with it. The Hail Mary is the most prominent of the prayers contained in the Rosary. She concluded that the Rosary is more like a “mantra” than praying to God. The simple repetition provides a meditative calmness.
I consider myself a “cultural” Catholic. I was raised in a strict Catholic household. So strict that when I struck out on my own, I ceased active participation in Catholicism….or any organized religion for that matter. My mother was a devout Catholic. She died about eight months ago. It wasn’t an easy death and I sat with her several days before she died knowing the end was near. On several occasions as I sat alone with her she would become lucid and pray the Hail Mary out loud. Even though I hadn’t said that prayer in years, I prayed out loud with her. I think it helped her in the “mantra” sort of way the author described. I thought of her as I read the book and wept a little.
I don’t want this post to be a sad thing however, remembering is a good thing. Someone said that you live as long as you are remembered. So to balance things off here’s a good remembrance. The picture below shows my mother and her four boys in St. Marks Plaza in Venice, Italy in about 1958. I was about 11 years old at the time. I’m the one on the right with the camera bag. My older brother stands to the left of my mother and my next younger brother squats to the left of him.
You will note this brother (referred to by the whole family as “The Rotten One” even today) is staring intently at my mother and older brother who have pigeons eating from their hands. Either my older brother or I had just bet him twenty-five cents that he couldn’t catch a pigeon. “The Rotten One” is kinda like “Mikey” of commercial fame. When you wanted to get someone to try something you always asked/told/bet “Mikey” because “Mikey will eat ANYTHING!” So too with “The Rotten One”.
Shortly after this picture was taken, “The Rotten One” figured out that if you put the feed in your hand and got the pigeon to perch on your hand and were quick enough with your hand, you could grab the pigeon by the feet.
Pigeons thusly grabbed…with wings and head free can make a tremendous racket while spreading a lot of feathers and pigeon poop. We know this first hand (pun intended).
In 1958 Americans were still the heroes of the free world. We were loved and respected especially in Italy. The ugly American had not yet matured….but he was right there with a pigeon in his hand. I’m sure my mother said a Hail Mary for “The Rotten One” that day.
Thanks for visiting.