Dec 3, 2011

After the funeral there was a reception in the church hall. A short, blue-haired woman with quite a jaw suddenly appeared. She was very short and I am not tall but for a moment I felt like a giant. She wanted to know if I were the husband of the departed.  No, I said and looked around to point him out but he had disappeared.  Do I look like a man in my 80s, I wanted to say.  But then perhaps, I do, I thought.

Then I saw the priest.  I waited until he was finished eating and was talking to just one person, a widow I was told. I sat down next to him as the woman was saying, "pray for me father. I'm doing this surgery next Wednesday."

"I certainly will," he said. "Now which surgery is this again?"

"The growth I told you about," she said.

"Ah yes," said the priest. "But it's not malignant. Right?"

"No, thank God," she said. "But 've been seeing a man who would like me to have it removed."

"Why does it bother him? It's on your back, isn't it?"

"Yes, but he thinks it's unsightly.  Even though he doesn't see it, just knowing it's there bothers him."

The priest turned to me.  "Makes you think of Steve Jobs, doesn't it?"

"Well," he said turning back to the woman. "I'm sure he has some unsightly things about him, doesn't he? He may need me to say Mass more than you."

She nodded and asked once more for divine help.  The priest promised he would intercede as best he could, and then turned to me and bore into me with his look. "So what is your name again" he asked in his brogue.

I told him.  And I told him that I was touched by his eulogy for the departed.  "Sure," he said, "Well, we're all at the station, aren't we.  The train is always at the station, we're all there, looking down from the train happy or sad we're leaving, or else looking up at the people about to leave and happy or sad we're not going too."

And then he went on to tell me his whole life story in about 20 minutes.  You understand we'd never met.  And although we agreed to lunch, I don't suppose we'll meet again.  I even told him his church was  in danger of becoming irrelevant.  He was the first to agree.

Then, suddenly, I was the confessor and he was telling me about growing up in the old country and how his father beat the living bejesus out of him, and drank himself to death and it was Frank McCourtville if there ever was, all the cliches, and how he couldn't forgive his father until much later, and he described the scene exactly, how he was trying to help some man who reminded him of his father and somehow the moment drew out his compassion and that was the end of his hatred.  Almost.  And he went on about his father's legacy, all of his own drinking and carousing, even as a priest, and how he hasn't had a drink in a long time, but how long wasn't clear, but of course it's still a constant danger and then one night he was at a restaurant I think it was, and he had his hand on a woman's knee under the table and her husband was across the table.  Both parishoners.  When this was wasn't clear but it seem recently.

"Not a good situation," he said to me, his eyes glistening for some reason.  "But like I said we're all either on the train or standing at the station."

"Sure," I said.

"And which are you?" and he was looking right through me with those eyes, say what you will, doubt them if you like, but the eyes that see it all.

1 comment:

Anjuli said...

interesting. You seem to have something about you which makes people feel they can say anything.