I received a message today from a friend who informed me that her mother was “on the edge of her seat” awaiting the next installment. I will take that as high praise from a reader and offer to you now the fourth installment. NB: These “parts” might cover more than one day at a time as we go forward.
Thursday February 11, 2021
Sister came out of her room this morning and poured her morning coffee. Mercifully for her, the convent had not taken that simple ritual away from her. She lifted the mug to her lips, took a long draw, and then slammed the coffee cup onto the counter. “Hooooly Mutha! That’s some damn good java,” she said. I believe Sister had found her voice. Sister then picked up her small, black copy of the 1962 Roman Missal and stepped out onto the front porch to pray her morning prayers. I mean, I do have heat in my house but whatever. Meanwhile I mulled over our options for the day. I needed to be back at the homestead by 9 PM to pick up my sister from the airport. “Perhaps,” I thought, “I can one day make a movie and I’ll call it When Sister Meets Sister.” I had gotten as far as making them detectives and pairing them with a quadriplegic man servant (comedy gold right there) when I remembered that Sister had wanted to travel to Waco. If you thought she had a JFK obsession, you should ask her about the Branch Davidians.
Sadly for Sister, neither a trip to the Branch nor to Magnolia nor to the Dr. Pepper Museum (a very real place in Waco) were in the cards today. You see, an ominous weather event had swept through overnight. No, it’s not the fabled blizzard you tuned in to read all about. Patience. Rather this was that blizzard’s harbinger. And what a tragedy this brought with it. I started to look at news on my phone and was stunned at what I was seeing. Apparently every school district in North Texas had closed for the day due to weather. I looked out my window assuming that Sister might have gotten buried in a drift. Instead of a blanket of white I saw a white woman in a white habit under a literal blanket of white. Sister had grabbed a fleece on her way out the door. But not a flake in sight. I went back to my phone. Turns out this system had produced patches of lethal black ice. Here I must state with love that Texas drivers are not good drivers in decent weather. Also, the local governments lack the equipment to treat the roads as they would have been treated where I grew up. Rather, towns will send out police in squad cars to park at the bottom of highway entrance ramps in a blocking fashion. This does not work, though, when someone is already on the road when it gets closed. Sadly, that morning 135 vehicles were involved in one of the worst mass accidents ever just to our west in Fort Worth. Several people died. Please say a pray for them.
Sister and I drove to mass at a local oratory that had been kind enough to host us all week. Normally we would have gone to our parish but Sister knew some of the members of this particular community. I noticed that the roads were indeed slick but I wasn’t too concerned. I wasn’t getting on any highways. We arrived and went in for mass. In the quiet of the chapel I attempted to meditate on the Passion. The door swung open. The door slammed into a crucifix on the wall. That crucifix fell and hit me on the head. Meditation complete. Our Lord ALWAYS hears our prayers. The door had been flung open by the children of a mutual friend to Sister and me. The family had come to join us for mass. Afterward we all went out to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. Sitting at the table I asked Sister if she wanted a drink. It was lunchtime and we were at a place known for their margaritas. Sister locked eyes with the waiter and spewed something at him in flawless Spanish. I picked up something about a drink, a chimichanga, the Argentine Dirty War of the 1970’s, and bull castration. My Spanish is a little non-existent. Juan, our waiter, turned pale. He fumbled with his pad and pen. In his eyes, a glaze of sheer terror. Sister lifted her head back up (for she had dipped her eyes back to the menu) and said calmly, “¡Andale!… or should I say… Raus?” Juan backed away swiftly from the table, never turning his back to Sister, and then ducked into the kitchen. I had no idea she was a polyglot! What fun! Before I could say burrito Juan had returned to our table. He was now dressed in finery. Deep red velvet bolero jacket with tassels. Golden embroidered sombrero. His hair was now white so there was that. He was attended by three similarly dressed servers carrying trays of the finest selections of chips and queso. I honestly thought it all came from a food services truck. Each of the servers had hair blonder than mine and the bluest eyes. The last of Juan’s assistants handed Sister an envelope. “Third Secret of Fatima,” she said. “Can’t reveal until the year 2000”, as she tucked the envelope into her sock clearly having buried the Millennium in her subconscious.
I think something happened to Sister when she put that new hat on yesterday. I think it unlocked something of her youth. I think it tripped something within her personality as if her brain suddenly said, “Sister, it’s OK. You don’t have to be scared anymore. You can come out and play. You do you!” Or maybe it was the Yankee Candles.
I returned home to get my daughter ready for choir practice. Sister remained with friends a while. She may have had Juan arrested for some old Nazi war crime. Perhaps she just got more queso. Some things are better left unthought. Unfortunately for my daughter, choir practice was canceled due to ice that had already melted away. She and I had our own choir practice at the piano. A few scales for warm up and then we rehearsed the song “Dance Ten, Looks Three” from A Chorus Line. I don’t know if it will ever make it into the Latin mass rotation but it sure is fun to play on the keyboard. Don’t worry, I had her hum over any “colorful” lyrics.
I looked around my house and noticed it didn’t like quite as “fresh” as it had a few days ago. Should I call Alma again? No, not enough time. Instead I went around and swept, mopped, cleaned toilets, etc. It’s kind of what I do. I gravitate to my own kind. That’s why I spend time cleaning toilets and taking out the trash. Because I am garbage. After I finished I put together another gift basket to place in one of the bedrooms. This one was very special to me. It was a basket of Texas goodies and other treats for a very special person who was coming to Texas for the first time. In fact, if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be in Texas to make this gift basket. Truth be told, I wouldn’t be anywhere but in the ground. When I was a young boy of 4, my older sister saved my life by tossing me from the second floor of a burning building. This part is 1000% true in case you were wondering. I’ve always been close with this sister and I was so happy she could make the trip to see us. Sadly, her husband died a few short months ago. He was one of the absolute best human beings you would ever want to know and we have all been saddened by his loss. I hoped that in bringing my sister for a visit, she might be able to see that there is fun in life still and share some of that fun with us.
I headed out to the airport and waited at baggage claim with a sign that said “Welcome back from rehab!” She slapped the back of my head when we met. We drove home. Out came the cheeseboard, crackers, and bar cart. We were celebrating life. Sister asked my sister if she wanted a Yankee Candle. I explained that whole mess to her. She stuck to her rum and coke. After a while my sister began to regale us with a tale of her children who are champion Irish dancers. They frequently attend competitions that take place in hotel ballrooms and the like. “Sister,” said my sister, “You don’t know what this shitshow is like. You got these older, I don’t know what you’d call ’em, ‘dance moms’, right, Sister? These ladies use these dance things as their night out on the town, ya’ know, Sis? Know what I’m sayin’?” Sister was intrigued. I could see her attempting to formulate into hand symbols my sister’s flawless Jersey. Then came the phrase that pays. “Sister, nah, Sister… listen to me. We’re talkin’ hoes on heels here.” Sister couldn’t find the right symbols for that one.
And then we all went to bed.
In tomorrow’s installment we’ll get my sister’s take on JFK and we’ll venture into a genuine Texas bingo hall. B-I-N-G-O, friends, Bingo was his name-o.