A day of gifts
It has been the most amazing Father's Day one could imagine.
It started in the usual Sunday way -- me having stayed up too late the night before, screwing around on the internet. Dragging my carcass out of bed with not enough sleep, and barely enough time to scramble around and get ready for church.
My beautiful wife and kids had some gorgeous gifts ready for me shortly after I awoke. Two great photos of the kids, a homemade card by our older, and the news that we were all going to church together. Normally the older and I head out that way together, leaving Mama and the baby at home for a couple of relatively quiet hours. But today, we'd break that pattern for the sake of being together.
Sunday Mass was spectacular in a number of ways. It was an extraordinary combination of darkness and light.
First was the light. A couple had decided to get married at the regular Sunday service -- something that rarely happens -- and a busload of well-wishers in their finery were on hand for the occasion. The choir is off for the summer, and there wasn't even a keyboardist on hand, but the congregation, led by one of the superb cantors, put forth some inspiring singing in the perfect acoustics and bright solstice morning light.
But also came the darkness. Whispered in the pews, later confirmed with an announcement and a prayer. One of parishioner couples lost an infant child in a fall this week. "They just turned their backs for a minute," said one man in front of us.
Unspeakable. The kind of horrifying event that turns every reflection into an instant cliche. I'm not sure I know who the mom is, but I think it's that nice gal who sits just a few rows in front of us. I know that baby. I touched that baby.
There were some broken-up people in that part of the church today, pretty obviously family members of the lost child (though the person I think is the mom wasn't there). A few rows back, I held my own bouncing baby daughter on my lap, and I put my hand on the head of my other daughter next to me, and I closed my eyes for a minute.
Our pastor was incredibly "on." He gave a sermon that lifted you right out of your seat. He made every word read from the good book really come to life, as only he can. He tied the wedding party in to the rest of us. He made us laugh, he made us think. He moved the ceremony along at exactly the right speed. Nobody turned around to look at the clock. When the time came for applause for the newlyweds, it rang out strong and long. It wasn't canned at all.
The pastor will be leaving us soon, transferred to a new assignment. No one could replace him. We will all miss him.
On the way home, we noticed that our neighborhood had been badly vandalized last night by some taggers. Nasty purple paint all up and down one of the main streets near our house. After lunch, I grabbed my graffiti cleanup bucket and headed over to put in an hour in the hot sun trying to take some of it down. I wasn't able to erase all the garbage that had been painted on all the benches and signs, but at least I made the tags unreadable, which ought to serve as a deterrent of sorts.
As I soaked up nearly a roll of paper towels with paint and solvent, I thought about how police protection and mental health services in our community are so deficient. We waste so much money building luxury condos, and our elected officials boast of all their "smart development." But look what else we're developing -- people so sick they run around in the middle of the night defacing public property as their only means to express themselves. And with L.A.-style levels of aggression, too.
Oh, well. It feels good when a tag becomes illegible, even better when you can get it so clean you'd never know it was there. I did my part.
Then came the afternoon siesta, and a great one it was, with daughter no. 1 supplying a cuddle, a "Hello Kitty" pillow, and the blanket with monkeys on it. When I awoke, much later, I managed to remain in the full prone and locked position, and catch the last inning and a half of a fantastic baseball game on television. The Yankees and the Dodgers. Much drama at a packed stadium in Chavez Ravine. I got to see the Dodgers' relief pitcher Gagne, upon whose arrival on the mound the Dodger faithful declare "Game Over." Well, the Yanks almost got to him, but not quite enough. The Yankee leftfielder Matsui badly muffed a ball hit his way, and the batter got all the way around, an inside-the-park homer. The Dodgers escaped with a one-run victory.
A delicious dinner of leftover halibut and red wine ensued. As the meal wound down, and in between trips out to move the lawn sprinkler, I scanned the front page of the Sunday New York Times. There I spied a heart-rending story about pregnant couples who get back bad news on their ultrasounds and other prenatal tests. They are forced to decide what to do at the prospect of a baby with birth defects. It brought back memories of a few years ago, when my wife and I learned on several different unhappy occasions about a branch of medicine known as "pregnancy pathology." I was fully prepared to give up on being a parent. Lucky for me, my wonderful bride wasn't.
And I put down that newspaper, and I went upstairs for a big, long, tight family hug. And I cried a little.