Hangin' with St. Anthony of Padua
No, I'm not Catholic. Neither is my stepfather, The Bear. Having had a brush with death once in my life, I can tell you that if you were ever exposed to the Catholic faith, it will rear up at those critical times. As the car I was in skidded across black ice on Siskiyou Summit towards a really huge dropoff, I found Hail Mary coming out of my face. I didn't even know I knew it, and have not been able to duplicate this feat of knee-jerk recall since then. But there it was. Apparently, Catholicism dribbles into your soul with breastmilk. Got a call from Mom a few minutes ago, that The Bear is back in the hospital, and they're looking at amputating his entire foot. Depending on his circulation. They're gonna poke around, and do what they feel is best, and let everyone know when it's over. Naturally, he's terrified. Mom's beyond terror; she's existing in that oddly calm place where you deal with the facts as they present themselves, and you do not think through the minutes. One at a time. Mindfully. The Bear and I have been somewhat estranged for quite a few years, over several cataclysmic differences in lifestyle choice, and we chose icy distance rather than the sort of fits of temper we're both predisposed to. This is a relief to all within the blast zone. Mom's been sort of hanging between us, keeping us forcibly aware of each other, if not precisely in contact. Which is fine. Things most likely would have continued on that way indefinitely. Funny how crisis makes you deeply reexamine your philosophical position on all kinds of things. So here I sit in front of my laptop, trying to figure out where my emotions are going to land. And sure enough, the Catholic thing comes creeping out. And Blessed Google lets me know that sure enough, the Man of the (Next Few) Hours (before the surgery, where all I can think of to do is pray and light candles and incense and pace holes in the floor) is St. Anthony of Padua. He's a busy guy, also the Patron Saint of against shipwrecks, against starvation, American Indians, animals, asses, barrenness, boatmen, Brazil, domestic animals, elderly people, expectant mothers, faith in the Blessed Sacrament, fishermen, harvests, horses, Lisbon, lost articles, lower animals, mail, mariners, oppressed people, Padua, Italy, paupers, poor people, Portugal, pregnant women, sailors, seekers of lost articles, shipwrecks, swineherds, Tigua Indians, travel hostesses, travellers, watermen. Whew. I'm trying to decide if it's more relevant, to the amputation angle, that he's about lost articles, or that he's about mariners. The Bear asked to speak to me, and I let him know that I thought he was going a bit out of his way, but that Rowan was going to be thrilled to have a peg-legged Pirate of a Grandfather. He liked that. I didn't make any jokes about eyepatches; that seemed somewhat gauche. Read that again: he asked to speak to me. Woah. An olive branch thrown in fear is still an olive branch, and it's just beyond churlish to do anything else but grab it out of the air with grace and compassion. But maybe even beyond that, an olive branch handed out during such a time might even mean more. You can be sure that someone in a hospital bed spends a lot of time thinking of their own mortality (and if they weren't to begin with, the crosses over the doors sure help you along that way). To be thought of as someone worthy of reaching to... I think that might mean something after all. So while I wait to hear word from the surgery theater, I've lit my candle, I've listened to the church bells from St. Basil's, the church around the corner, and had a pleasant chat with St. Anthony. We're gonna be spending a companionable evening together. Amen.