Friday, November 20, 2009

Father Lowe

Father Lowe

Friday, November 20, 2006

In the seminary, what’s called, “The Baltimore Catechism,” adherence to which makes a studious Catholic think he a studious Catholic, gets thrown out the window. Serious thought enters, and the result, sometimes, is answers that don’t make sense.

I thought I would become a priest. I wouldn’t.

Too bad.

I could feel the leather in my den chair next to my bookcase welcoming me in the evenings; listen to wintry, late-fall breezes whipping up leaves that I would not have to rake on Saturday morning; taste the one beer per day (16. oz), for my nerves, that I would reward myself for yet another day of being a good and praiseworthy priest, whose sermons were entertaining, if not hysterically funny, if not a goddamned comedy act…ahem…but serenely memorable, as well, and comforting, and understanding.

That was when I thought the salient characteristic required for the priesthood was celibacy. After all, that’s why they wore those collars; to remind anybody and everybody (and themselves too) that they were celibate.

After all, sex, whatever it was, was natural. The priest had, naturally, to remind the unmarried ladies, and, I suppose himself, too, of his promise to behave…unnaturally…wait…uh…that … the natural behavior was off limits, officially out-of-bounds, no boy-girl kissey face. Whenever the party got to that point, it was time to get sick. Or play basketball.

Since I didn’t know what celibacy wasn’t, and I had lived a long and happy life—maybe 12 or 14 years so far—without even thinking about the word, it would be no problem.

But the first thing I learned in the seminary was, it isn’t celibacy. That’s a cover. Celibacy is easy, as long as you don’t know what it isn’t. Celibacy is just a detail.

It’s obedience. There’s the rub. That was a hard lesson. Obedience is much more complicated.

You have to stop your mind from being disobedient. I tried, and I learned that my mind raced through whole states of disobedience every morning. Before I got up, the mid-Atlantic states were violated, irredeemably, not a sin left in them to speak of.

True, you can commit a mortal sin against celibacy without leaving your imagination, but you can fight it. But if your mind has just a cursory doubt about a miracle you’re supposed to believe, or hot dogs on Fridays during the World Series, or why does my mother have to go-thou-and-multiply while yours goes straight up to heaven for exactly the opposite; you have to pray to keep you mind out of the…logic, and the mind can’t keep up with its own questions. The mind can deal with the body being unnatural, because the mind doesn’t take responsibility for the body. But if a mind takes responsibility for itself, it can lose itself.

A Catholic boy, 50 years ago, was not to go into an Episcopal Church. A Society of Friends Meeting House. A Jewish Temple. Why? What if I just imagine being in there. Is that a sin?

“I’m losing my patience, young man!”

So, I figured I would be a husband.

Of course, I should have taken courses in that, but who knew?

I’ve been married, more or less, three times, the only really sterling time, the current time, when we haven’t bothered, yet, with any sort of official approval, either through a representative of a state, or a representative of one or another religion.

The first time, because I thought (well, who thinks? The first time, because I thought I thought…) a certificate of marriage had anointed me a serious member of the adult community; and because—primarily, now that I think of it—outside the priesthood or the army, it was the only way that I could get out of my mother’s house without insulting her.

I knew from my father (“You volunteer for cook; they make you a photographer; you sign up as a clerk; the army makes you a medic.”) the army was untrustworthy.

So, I’m married, at 21, to a female human, with whom (I think, mind you) I am familiar, until she reveals a whole spectrum of characteristics that make me uncomfortable and that I didn’t detect—for five years of courtship.

Eleven months later, our first daughter comes home from the hospital. I drive, just as I drove her mother and her, in uteri, to the hospital (where I could not, by the way, hold the baby).
I help them into the house, where aunts, mother and mother-in-law, and maybe a female friend that I didn’t even know, hover over the exquisite child, cooing, preening, changing and trying on clothes, mainly pajamas with little feet in them.

Eventually, I mean, after an hour, one of the women says to me: “Would you like to hold her?”

Would I like to hold her? She’s my brand new daughter, my first child. And who are you?

“Yes, I think. I would like that.”

I...I mean, I guess, thanks for thinking of me…but who are you?

“Hold her like this…” She holds the baby.

“Oh, you mean the way you would hold a normal baby?” I involuntarily blurted. Well, maybe not “involuntarily.” Maybe, I sarcastically blurted.

And then, in case I had been obtuse, I said, “I mean, not like you hold a bowling ball, or a javelin.”

“Eddie!” (My mother had detected my consternation and impatience.).

“And make sure you support the head…”

I’m staying calm. Staying calm. Aw, I can’t…

“Oh. I see. That’s important, is it…”

Oh, I see. And don’t spike her, like, “Touchdown!” Splat..gush.

“That’s right. There. Look, everybody!”

Look everybody? LOOK, everybody. What? He’s holding his own baby?

I recall some of the times wherein I gave up something, let’s say a chore that involved the baby, because, beside the suggestion that I was inherently lazy, but cute lazy, it fit the wife’s view of her dominance regarding parenthood. Plus, it was easy.Men did not change diapers in 1968, because they still got away with the idea that they would be unable to handle the smell, the mess and possibly the delicacy or the fragility of a human baby.

We co-conspired with this. We who filleted fish, gutted deer and played with dead cats, co-conspired with the idea that we couldn’t change a diaper.

Times would change.

...Probably, to be continued...

1 comment:

  1. Mannnn... its soooo great to have you back, EdLowe* ..
    I so missed this wit.. this wonderful "its-always-the obvious-that-escapes-us" logic.. :) My best to your better.. no.. to your EQUAL half, Susan* :)