Tag Archives: absurdist humor

How You Say in English?

For some time now I have prayed and held fast to that elusive virtue of hope that God would bless our home with new life.  Our two saints in training have certainly given me a run for the money in supplying plentiful material for my practice of the other virtues.  But hope… Hope is a hard one to practice.  It’s so esoteric.  And certainly not for lack of trying; but we keep coming up empty.

Trust me, this is not going anywhere near where you think it’s going.

A few months ago my adoring wife asked me how I felt about taking in a foreign exchange student for a few weeks.  Her exact words were “We’re taking a foreign exchange student for a few weeks.”  Adorable.  The kid would be coming from Spain.  I like the Spanish people.  Perhaps he knows Brazilian pop star Xuxa!  Or perhaps she’s from a completely different continent and speaks Portugese.  Whatever.  I put nothing past Our Lord and Savior and recognize that He can answer prayers however He sees fit.  This, dear readers, might just be our little baby (at least for a few weeks).  Sure he shares none of our genetic code but we’re all European!  And he’s 15 so there’s that.

We got our home ready for our new arrival.  I think they call it nesting.  I made his room up for him.  I wonder if he’ll be a Mets fan like his old man host father family.  Of course we’ll have to call the church and schedule the baptism.  Imagine my shock when I found out that my wife had consigned the crib and that our new exchange son was 15 and would in all likelihood return to Spain after three weeks leaving us again childless except for the two we already have.  Since this would be baby’s first visit to his new home country we wanted to instill a bit of pride in our great land.  We hung the red, white, and blue bunting from our windows and raised Old Glory above the garage eaves.  Little Champ is going to love America.  I’m so freaking excited!

Barajas_interior1

Found this picture online of a generic orphanage in Spain.  How lonely must have been his days…

We waited at the delivery airport with American flag balloons and a copy of People for our new bundle of joy student.  He would need to be brought up to speed on culture quickly.  Also I do not speak Spanish except for a few dozen words I picked up in Newark as a kid.  I know just what to say in traffic.  Ordering at a restaurant, not so much.  They tell me his name was Javier but we have renamed him Sylvester after the second century pope.  I may have started legal adoption paperwork.  Who can say.

Sylvester arrived with a group of similar adoptees after a ten hour flight from Madrid.  I think that’s where the orphanage is.  His birth parents had left him there… to board his plane to the United States.  We wanted his experience of America and of Texas in particular to be spectacular.  We even arranged for 100 degree heat and spongy humidity.  He’ll never forget this.  In fact, none of his group are likely to forget any of these few weeks.

Adopting an exchange student whom you’re not really adopting is a challenge.  We had been told that his English was OK but that we weren’t to speak Spanish to him.  Again, that’s not really a problem for us.  But just to try some immersion techniques I turned the on the radio on our drive home.  Unfortunately it was a Justin Bieber song called Despacito.  He laughed.  Then he said “I think he’s just rhyming words.”  “Yes, son,” I told him, remembering so well all the little lessons I’m supposed to teach my young ones.  It comes back so naturally.  “That’s what most songs do.  They rhyme.  That means the words sound alike.”  My wife chimed in at this point.  “No, he means the words the song is rhyming are nonsensical.  Burrito, bandito, Frito.  It’s just a silly song.”  I’ll say.  Must remember where I put all the Baby Einstein DVD’s.

Pope_Sylvester_I

His namesake.  Noble.  Pious.

When we got home I heated a bottle of milk.  Then we took Sylvesteriér to dinner.  Just something light.  We figured Cheesecake Factory would suffice.  My little boy’s eyes popped out of his head when he saw the portion sizes.  That’s right, little man, Mommy and Daddy will always take care of you in America.  We had also been told not to let him go to sleep until it got late on our time.  Listen here, orphanage, we’ve done this before.  I’ll put my kids to bed when I see fit.  Still there was some logic to their thinking.  He had been up for close to 24 hours.  Clearly we should force him to stay awake a few more and everything would be beautiful.

On a side note, another parent had taken a child from this group and texted us a picture of her girl petting a zebra.  I’m not even joking.  This was within two hours of landing.  I wondered if they had simply gone to the zoo.  Turns out the woman has a zebra on her property.  Apparently she bought the Neverland Ranch.

Over the next week or so we’ve gotten to know Sylvester quite well.  It’s amazing how much personality they have even at this age.  Since he appears to be a bit older than we were expecting in a baby I may have to have that certain talk with him sooner than I was thinking.  It’s a good thing I can just draw pictures since he still hasn’t learned to talk… English.

And I can’t believe it’s almost time to take the boy out to Sears for his portraits!  The time goes by so quickly.  There’s still so much to do with him.  I haven’t even taught him how to shoot a gun.  On that front, when I asked if he would want to go to a range with me he seemed afraid to even hear the word gun.  Oh the things they’ve done to you, Sylvester.  The tales from your orphanage are frightening, no doubt, and one day you will have to share them with American Daddy.

My wife tells me we’re apparently going to have to let go of him in a week or so.  I told her I have a passport and disguises.  No one’s taking my son from me!

We took him to an amusement park today.  He delighted in riding the coasters.  I think we shall also take him to an open pit barbecue.  He’d like that.  During the past week I started my new job.  I took Sylvester with me to the mall to get a few things.  He went to the Nike store.  And he pronounced it just like it looks.  I bought a sports coat from a respectable men’s clothier.  The next day I wore my jacket to work.  After work Sylvester came up to me and told me that I had looked very “elegant” in my jacket.  I don’t know what English vocab program they’re using but I like it.

Last week we took him to mass on Sunday.  Trying to immerse him constantly into our family life and Americana we figured we’d subject him to the stylings of Dan Schutte and Marty Haugen.  Fortunately for him the Kenyan choir was singing.  This must seem like such a strange place for him.

Oh, watching my boy grow up has been so exciting.  Before I know it the paperwork will be official and we can rest assured that no one will ever take our Sylvester away from us.

Perhaps tomorrow he wants to try Taco Bell.

I’m so proud.

Thanks be to God for hearing my prayer!

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Pizza and Prayer

Oh the things that transpire in my presence…

I’ll never fully understand it.  Is it a gift?  A curse?  I’ll enlighten you and let you make the call.  Keep in mind these things really all happen to me.  And I have no idea why.

You remember the broken toes and the boot, right?  Keep that mess in mind.

Friday afternoon I headed home from another exciting work week.  I had spent 40+ hours with the most amazing teenagers who allowed me graciously to feed off their natural energy.  Together we learned and had fun.

I was teetering on that strange precipice I find myself on from time to time – loving the job I’ve been given but never realizing the respect I think all grown men want to feel for their efforts, however meager, at supporting their families while staying true to your vocation.  Hey, it can be tough sometimes.  Then you start to feel awful at the realization of how enormous your pride is.  If no one ever recognizes me for being the best teacher in the history of teaching (or for just getting my ass out of bed at 5:45 every morning when not many years ago I didn’t know there was a second 5:45); then God sees all and knows all and hopefully I’m not letting him down too much.  He knows I’m a screw-up and he still chose me to do this job.  Glad His hand is straight because my lines are way crooked.  Listen, I got 125 of these kids to stop Snapchatting long enough to understand the basics of sacramental theology this week.

Still it is nice to get a pat on the back once in a while and when I walked in the door I got just that.  My kids, the most important people in my life, had planned out a “thank you surprise” for me.  A note by the front door in my son’s handwriting said “Daddy, we wanted to say thank you for all the work you do for us so we could have fun things like a trip to Disneyland this summer [past].  Follow the map on the back for your surprise.”

“How nice of them,” I thought.

The map, an incredibly well drawn floorplan of my house, had me go to my room and get changed.  This isn’t too hard these days since I’m already in shorts thanks to the boot.  Next step was to head to the kitchen for a surprise dinner.

Unfortunately, Mommy wasn’t quite ready with the surprise dinner.  That’s because she had only just ordered it.  But after a few minutes I was instructed to head to the porch.  Not sure why, I took the opportunity to light a smoke and take in the warmth of a Texas September evening.

And then it began.  “It” is the strange vortex that whirls into and out of my life depositing bits of crazy in its wake.  Occasionally bits of lies and falsehoods are trapped and then exposed as well.  A car pulled up and a young man of about 18 stepped up fumbling with a red oven bag.  I popped my head back inside.  “Honey, did you order pizza?” I asked.  She replied in the affirmative.  She even told me it had been paid for but that there was a bill by the door for his tip.

By the time I was fully back on the porch the pizza boy was standing in front of me.

“Looks like you’ve got a” – he paused while flipping a fistful of receipts upside down and rightside up again – “large cheese pie, a small, I mean a medium, wait looks like a 10 inch three-cheese blend and another 10 inch with mushrooms and onions.”  I was just about to correct him for his lack of an Oxford comma when he interjected “Oh, and an order of cheesy bread.”  Only in America could we possibly have come up with “cheesy bread” and not come up with a less descriptive name for it.

“Sounds good, buddy,” I said.  “Until two minutes ago I didn’t know I was having pizza so anything’s a bonus.”

I signed my receipt against the pillar supporting my porch roof, took the stack of pizzas, and handed him the paper trail.  I was turning to walk back inside when the dim bulb on my front walk blurted something out.

“Can I ask you something?” he asked.

I held my tongue from saying “Just did, dumbass.”

Can I pray for your foot?” he said pointing down at the boot.

“Oh… sure,” I said.  “That would be nice.”  I said this assuming he would return to his car and offer up a quick Hail Mary and be on his way.

Instead…

He dropped to both knees right in front of me.  Listen pal, I’ve got neighbors and this is an odd position for both of us.  But he began to pray.

Staring intently at my foot with both hands hovering over my boot he intoned: “Father, we pray that you would send your healing power to” – he looked up – “what’s your name?”

“Harvey.”  Hey, I didn’t know what else to do.

“- for Harvey.  We pray that you would bless him and heal his foot, especially all the ligaments and tendons and the muscles and bones.  Heal his ankle.  Heal his brokenness.”

I was too afraid to take a picture of Pizza Nut so I had Buddy, my Russell Terrier stand in.

This continued for another minute.  And then it got weird(er).

Clamping both of his pizza hands firmly on my boot, he began to pulse some kind of bizarre energy into my leg.  It was worse than that time I got drunk and watched Charo videos with my sister.  His voice took on a crazed tone.

“We command it in Jesus’ name!  Heal his ankle!  I command it in Jesus’ name!  Heal his ankle!”

I have no problem with his prayer at all.  I actually thought it was a very kind gesture.

What I did not have was the heart to tell him that it was just two broken toes and they’re getting better.  Not a ligament tear or tendon pull in sight and my ankles are great.  Also, I have the badass-est calves this side of the Pecos.

I didn’t even know what to say other than “Amen?”  He stood up and mumbled something about believing in the power of prayer because he’s a Christian.  Again I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that he’s a Christian because he recognizes the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth.  We stared at each other momentarily before I headed into my house with a stack of pizza and a feeling that my leg had just been exorcised by a Papa John’s pizza boy and that I, may in fact, need to have my confirmation revalidated.

How does one even top that?

What an eventful evening…  The rest of the surprise, you ask?  The kids had a movie picked out for me.  But not even Disney in all its movie magic could top my pizza prayer.

The only thing that could’ve made it gloriously perfect would have been if the order were actually correct.