Happy Birthday! I Got You a Blanket.

“This morning, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, condescended to come and dwell within me, and gave Himself to me!”

Any day that starts with those words is a good day for me.

In fact, any day above ground is a good day for me. But today was a special day in many other ways. First, though, it is Advent and Our Lord has seen fit to give me many opportunities for growth in holiness. I, unfortunately, being a notorious sinner, will probably bungle the whole thing. But here’s what we’ve got… I’ve got daily Mass (Deo Gratias!), my daily rosary (and He’s given me plenty of time in each day to get it done), the St. Andrew Christmas novena, my ongoing St. Rita novena (I am still praying for all of you!), an Immaculate Conception novena, and in a few days, a Guadalupe novena. Couple that with the fact that our parish priests have done such a good job of driving home the need to fast, sacrifice, and mortify more; and this Advent could be the best ever.

But this morning… I hopped out of bed at 6AM more cheerful than I am usually am. I went for my coffee (I take it black, thank you) and said the Angelus. Then I began with my morning prayers. I do this on my front porch with the aforementioned coffee (and usually a smoke). This morning it was a chilly 35 degrees – just like I like it and just perfect for the classic red union suit I wore under my PJ’s and robe. And THEN I went to Mass to celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew, who is my patron saint by way of my confirmation and so I bear his name (buried in the midst of a few others).

I spent most of the day running a few errands. I took my sister to the airport. She had been visiting for Thanksgiving. I spent the rest of a few gift cards I had for Lowes on a giant new tool for my workshop that I’ve had my eye on. Believe me, I’m not a carpenter but woodworking runs in my family and I have done a few projects that I think are kind of cool. With this baby, I will be doing a whole lot more.

Why is any of this important?

You might remember the reference in last night’s post to the Brazilian steakhouse. All of it – Mass, the new tools, lunch with my sister and kids? I was celebrating two of the most significant moments in my life.

Today is my twin sister’s birthday. The problem is that I don’t get to visit her these days. We live kind of far apart but we’ll always be close. It’s a twin thing. I asked another sister if she could pick up my birthday present for the twin and deliver it and she graciously agreed. It’s funny, but I’ve been getting her the same gift for years now. Every year it’s the same old thing. It’s a blanket. It’s my way of taking care of the earthly abode she will one day inhabit again.

Nice arrangement if I do say so myself.

OK, so for those who aren’t familiar, the above is called a grave blanket and they are ubiquitous in the Northeast this time of year. I don’t know if they are as common in other parts of the country but I have not see many outside of my homeland. She would have been 45 today and I think that’s just grand. It is my solemn duty to celebrate for her and I have never let her down on that front. Therefore, the party continues through the night.

But it also continues for another, equally significant reason. You see, 32 years after my twin was born, to the day (and three minutes earlier on that same day), my beautiful daughter was born. Today I can no longer say I have “children” in the proper sense as both of mine are now teenagers. But no matter how old she gets, she will always be my baby girl. I remember joking with my wife when we were expecting our daughter that one day my wife would come home to find me and the daughter watching Hallmark Christmas movies while drinking hot chocolate and eating candy. This, I figured, would be how I would bond with a daughter.

Well, here we are. As I write this, I’m back in my PJ’s. My daughter demanded it. Also, I don’t really have PJ’s. I’m a grown man; they’re lounge pants for sleeping in cold weather. Regardless, we’re nestled on the couch, the dog between us receiving the petting of both of us in an alternating pattern. I just put my hot chocolate down for a bit. On the screen? You guessed it. Kristin Chenowith in a Hallmark Christmas movie. The plots are ridiculously predictable and that’s OK. It was what the daughter wanted and for her birthday, I will comply.

By the way, all those prayers I was eager to pray earlier? It might just have to do a little something with wanting to make sure I stand a chance at getting to spend just one more birthday with my sister. I am three minutes older, but she lives in eternity now so that one’s going to be a little odd. Also, there’s a fun little fact about me buried in the post. I hope you spot it because my late father, the actuary, was truly impressed that I beat all probability with this one.

May God bless us all and the Virgin protect us!

St. Rita and St. Andrew, pray for us!

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