Thursday, June 24, 2010
My grandfather was a man of his era. Born in 1903, he was a farmer, a fire chief, a road crew supervisor. He was quiet, taciturn and gruff.
Except maybe to his oldest granddaughter. I am one of six kids and a weekend escape to my grandparents’ small house was always heaven. The cherry trees out front could shade me on the hottest day of the year. The crick was an endless source of amusement and my grandmother would feed me homemade goodies.
Early one hot summer Sunday morning, my grandfather found 8 year old me sitting on the front porch steps, head in my hands, distraught. He asked me what was wrong. I told him the problem. The neighbors were going to the beach and I was invited along, but I couldn’t go because I hadn’t been to church yet that morning.
I was being raised Catholic. My mother had converted when she married into my father’s Irish Catholic family and she’d converted hard. Parochial school, fish on Fridays, many, many Stations of the Cross. Missing Sunday Mass was not an option. Usually when at my grandparents, I went with the French Canandien neighbor girl but I’d overslept. Now they were going to the beach, but I had to miss the outing.
My grandfather considered my dilemma. “Go to the beach,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day. You should be out enjoying it.”
“I can’t,” I cried. Life just didn’t go on without first going to church on Sunday morning. Not life as I knew it, anyway.
My grandfather was quiet for a few minutes. When he spoke, I heard the urgency in his voice. I knew he was telling me something important. Something I’d remember for the rest of my life.
“God knows you’re a good girl. He knows you’ve never missed a Sunday before now. He doesn’t require you to always be perfect. He loves you anyway.”
I jumped up. This was a revelation. “Really?”
He smiled slightly. “Go get your bathing suit on.”
I went to the beach and had a wonderful day. When I returned at five o’clock, my mother was waiting on the front porch. “Go change,” she said. “Your grandfather is taking you to Lewiston to six o’clock Mass.”
I learned two things that day. That I didn’t always have to be a perfect little girl. And that my mother had a lot more clout over my grandfather than I’d ever imagined.