“Mass again?!” cried my cherubic children.
The simple fact is that just because we went on Christmas Day (two days ago) does not negate the fact that this is Sunday and we’re going to mass.
“I’ll get you a donut if you’re good…” I replied.
And indeed they were.
I wouldn’t say I grew up in a rough neighborhood but it is the city, a landscape of glitz and grime that defines so much of the urban core of the Northeast. Personally, I loved growing up here. Our parish church, just a few blocks from home, was an easy walk if you didn’t have a car. Unfortunately that meant we could walk to school in the morning. And many mornings we did just that — even in sub-zero weather.
O come let us adore… Wait, where’d He go?!
Leaving the church after mass this morning I walked past the front of the rectory and noticed a polyethalyne blown nativity set inside the wrought iron fence. “Looks like they forgot to put baby Jesus out the other night,” I remarked. “No,” said my sister nonchalantly. “Someone took him a couple of years ago.”
This prompted several thoughts in my mind.
First, who in their right mind would steal a figurine of the Christ child? Surely that man just punched his ticket on the express train to hell. I mean, think about it… You’re walking down the street wondering what fun things you could do when you spot a Nativity set. On the lawn of the CHURCH. “Nab that baby Jesus!” you shout to your friends. They, of course, back away, seeing the horns beginning to protrude from your reddening scalp. Clearly, you are the devil.
Second, why? What purpose did this figure serve in your otherwise fabulous life? Is this all you were missing?
Finally, these things cost about ten bucks on Craigslist. If this happened two years ago, why have we not replaced him? I have half a mind to buy one online and ship it to the parish along with a length of chain and a padlock.
Moving on… After donuts I drove over to see my brother. He’s been home from the hospital since Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, he’s not been doing well. He can’t keep anything down and the pain is really getting to him. I walked in and sat down. He’s been watching reruns of Hill Street Blues. God, this must be a terrible ordeal if it’s come to this. He sat up and lit a cigarette. Don’t you dare judge. He’s not long for this world. What’s it going to do, kill him? He’ll get cancer? Exactly. But after a while the episode concluded and Steven J. Cannell’s hand let the sheet of paper fly. I finished my crossword. This is surreal. We don’t have much to say to each other. We just sit together. And that’s fine. My sister suggested we return to the hospital for better pain management. My brother suggested a shot of vodka might do the trick. Again, we don’t judge. Yes, he’s an alcoholic but who cares? I’m all for keeping the dying comfortable.
“I’ll run to the liquor store,” I said. “Is there a particular brand you like?” This question was a mistake. My brother mustered some strength and said “Pride and Clarke”. “Pride and what now?” I asked. “It’s got a red label,” he said.
I thought very carefully about my words.
“If I’m going to buy you booze, it’s going to be top shelf my friend.”
But I relented since he insisted. And when I got to the liquor store, guess where I found the Pride and Clarke. The very bottom shelf. I returned home where I poured he and I each a glass. I don’t drink vodka but this seemed appropriate. And it seemed to help out a bit. My nerves settled down, I began thinking more clearly, I got wittier, ugly people looked better. Oh wait… My brother seemed a little more peaceful so that’s what matters.
While visiting, I got a kiss from this little lady.
But it didn’t quite do the trick. That evening I met him and my sister at the ER where I sat a few hours watching reruns of Friends with him until he was admitted.
I hate this for him.
But at least he’s moved up to 90’s sitcoms. I discovered that until his most recent hospital stay, a three-week adventure just a month ago, he had never caught an episode of Friends. Well that’s good, I suppose. No man should leave this earth without having seen Friends. I can’t believe I just wrote that.
As I returned home and went to bed I reflected on the day. My brother is dying and somebody stole baby Jesus. Also I can’t get the Hill Street Blues song out of my head
What is wrong with this world?…