Monday, January 25, 2010

"Passion...when you believe in something, with all your heart."

A few years back, our Saint Catherine's Parish of Broad Brook was in the middle of an inevitable decision. Our Priest broke the news, "They've [the Arch Bishop's office] asked if we could join in with Saint Phillips of East Windsor." I can still recall the hush that went up and over the pews that morning. "Their priest is retiring and I will be responsible for both parishes..." The thought stayed with me for some time. Since that day, over three years ago, we have become "one" family. However, you will see how this has played out in Chapter 3, as Alexandra's fears of closing Saint Anthony's...bring back memories of losing her mom.

Chapter 3

Friends think living in a trailer park is cool.
“You got everything you need at your finger tips.”
They don't have to live in three rooms at one time. I mean, how many kids can have one leg in their bedroom, another in a family room—and stretch all the way to the kitchen? Me!
Grandpa thinks he gives me my own space, but for the longest time it felt like I was under a microscope, like the gray, double lens ones in his Science class. “You need anything, Alexandra?” or “How ya feeling, Alexandra?” The questions never stopped, all day, every day. Grandpa worried about me so much it was driving me crazy. Now I wait, wait for Grandpa to do some of the things he use do without thinking. He use to be worrying about me, and now I think it's the other way around.
And I think it's because everything my Grandpa's gone through. Wearing him out like leather on an old basketball. But somehow he keeps going, even after becoming a widower years ago, when my grandmother passed away. Grandpa says he's got a big hole in his heart. That's why it's hard for me to figure out what to call him. I mean, Coach spent so much time taking care of my mother when she was little—all by himself. And now he's taking care of me. It's kind of like having a mother, father, and grandpa wrapped in one.
One thing I'm good at, is thinking. Thinking about how stupid Coach's rules are: Lights out by 9:00, no television and my personal favorite, “You should have a book in your hands at least once a day—every day—for your whole life.” Give me a break! How about a book that can teach us how to win a game?
From here to Renishski's, everyones talking, news is spreading throughout Saint Anthony's that the Diocese of Harweckton is closing our school and our 126-year-old-parish.
I overheard everything at the P.T.A. meeting. That's a meeting where parents squeeze into our basement—like sardines in a can, and talk into a microphone. Sometimes things can get heated. Coach just calls it, “Passion.”
“What's passion?” I asked.
“When you believe in something with all your heart.” Grandpa answered, side-stepping and tipping his hat. Coach says the problem is sometimes the other person has a heart that has a whole different passion. And that's how it sounded when the meeting began.
“If the Bishop thinks I'm traveling clear across town to put my envelope in a Saint Catherine basket, he's got another thing coming!” one mother insisted.
“I still don't know what they're taking about,” I shrugged. “Passion's confusing!”
“Don't worry,”Coach nodded. “Some day you'll have it, and won't even know
it—until the time is right!”
Father Luciano turned everyone's attention to his own passion: bringing two parish communities together as one.
“Our decision isn't based on school spirit,” Father Luciano insisted, taking off his glasses and pushing his head up his collar. “We're trying to reunite two families,” he added. “Saint Catherine's and Saint Anthony's.”
A groan went up and down the isle, like Father Luciano had just asked us to give up eating ice cream for Lent. “What's the big deal?” I whispered to Grandpa, who sat covering his face with the palm of his hand.
But before Grandpa could tell me what all the moaning was about, the subject changed from making one large parish, to having one less coach—Grandpa.
Some people at the meeting thought Coach should have quit years ago, “Seventeen losing seasons in a row!” one parent said, talking like he'd played in every game. Coach didn't look up at the man, even though Grandpa had always had a way of letting negative comments drip—like water off a duck's back. But tonight, I couldn't tell if the water was rolling off or getting ready to drown him.
Some people were impossible to understand.
I mean, really hard to figure out.
One read a statement on the back of a grocery list, “Coach Buck has the inability to strategically maneuver players during vulnerable points in a game...”
“What?” I shrugged.
I had no idea what he was saying and Father Louie even asked him what he was talking about.
“Mr. Buckowinski doesn't care if our team wins the game at the expense of allowing all kids to play!” Not every kid, I thought.
I felt like grabbing the microphone and telling everyone what it was like living in a trailer. No car, no T.V., talk about cutting expenses.
“Everybody knows,” another parent shouted. “Coach Buck spends more time talking to himself then talking to--”
“Let's focus,” Sister Mary Catherine interrupted. “On Father's desire to bring our two—”
“Personalities together?” one parent chuckled.
I pulled Grandpa's coat up over his shoulders. “Let's go,” I whispered.
“Looking forward to seeing you all at the next home game!” I said, as the two of us marched out the basement door and into the night. The fresh air felt good.
“Don't get worked up over things you can't change,” Grandpa said.
Although Coach was getting old, I didn't think he was ready for retirement.
“You ready to call it quits?” I asked.
“What would I do if I retired?” he said, waiting for me like I had the answer in my back pocket. I think Grandpa needs to stay busy, just like the man who sells hot dogs on the corner of South and Main. When the man is slow—he's grumpier than a room full of kids not getting recess. And when he's busy—he forgets all the worries stored inside.
I think teaching and coaching helps Grandpa keep his mind off of losing my grandma. Sister Mary Catherine said Grandma was just the opposite of Grandpa, “Tasteful, eloquent and even-tempered.” That's what they say about my mom too. Only they don't talk about her as much. Whenever I ask questions, everyone gets so they can't even put a whole sentence together; and before you know it, tissues are passed around the room so fast, it's like the usual in Renishi's Barber Shop all over again.
I know Grandpa always had a rough side, a side that was hard to figure out. But now his tough side is changing, both at home and at school—and I don't know why.
“Hold the beaker away from your body and try not to pour the mystery substance onto the knuckle-head in front of you!” Kids were always glued to every word. Even the teachers who were half way up the staircase stood still and listened to Leo Buckowinski.
“Take your iodine droppers and put five drops into the solution...just like putting ketchup on a hot dog!”
“What if we don't like hot dogs?” Someone would always crack. And then the room would be filled to the brim with laughter.
I just wish now—I could be one of the kids laughing.