IN MY OPINION
Books Read in 2006
17 August 2006
My mother says that Father Joe has had a mild stroke and is in the hospital. I suppose I should be upset about that. He's been a major part of my life since I was 10, but, like the death of my grandmother and the death of my father, Father Joe's passing whenever it comes will not make a ripple on my emotional pond.
Father Joe came into our lives in about 1953 when my mother decided to become a Catholic. She took instructions from him and my parents became part of his social group. He was tall and handsome and charismatic and people always flocked around him.
They partied a lot in those days, his group. There was always lots of booze and lots of food and lots of music. Father Joe had a marvelous voice and loved to sing and I can still hear the voices of his group in our living room, his tenor soaring above all of them, as they harmonized a capella to "In the evening by the moonlight" or "There's a long, long road a-winding" or gathered around the piano while my father played and they all sang along.
I was 10, which would have made Karen 6 when we met him. I knew instantly that he thought Karen was the cutest thing that he'd ever seen and that he didn't like that shy fat sister of hers at all. His eyes always lit up when Karen was around. I don't remember his ever really paying much attention to me. It's one of those things you just learn to accept: Father Joe doesn't like me. So what? But I have to admit that down deep it hurt to know that he didn't care at all.
When I went away to college, I joined the Newman Club, the Catholic club on campus, where I made all of the close friends I still have today. The year after I joined, Father Joe was reassigned from where he had been to the Newman Club at Berkeley. I was the first person he saw when he arrived. From that day until I finally left school, any time there was anything that upset him about the club, he would rant and rage at me, as if it were my fault, or as if it were up to me to fix it. I guess he felt that since we were "old friends" or since he was part of my family (which he was), it was logical that he take out his Irish temper on me. I started trying to avoid him whenever I could.
His problem was that he was so much like my father. Stubborn Irishman with a great sense of humor, but spoiling for a fight and always having to be right.
He started a group of students which went to Mexico every year to work among the poor there and he wanted me to be a part of it, almost as desperately as I had no interest in it. He was angry that I didn't leap immediately at his suggestion and never gave up trying to get me involved. To this day, I am still on the group's mailing list. I recently received an invitation to spend a fortune per person for a dinner to celebrate his 50th anniversary as a priest. I passed.
He was (and still is) one of my mother's best friends, though, and so I never really complained about this too much. It was just who Father Joe was and I had learned long ago to accept that we would never ever be friends.
He was broken hearted when Karen died. I don't, in all honesty, remember much about her funeral, except that I know Father Joe officiated.
When my father died, he was there again. I had a specific piece of music I wanted played at the funeral and went over and over with him how it was to be done. Naturally he didn't like my idea and completely ignored it and did it his way. It changed the whole feel of the funeral and I was furious that he had taken it upon himself to override my wishes (or that he just hadn't cared enough about what I was saying to actually listen to me).
When David died, we didn't know who was going to perform the services. I had no close ties in the Catholic church here and it just seemed logical to have Father Joe do the honors. Old family friend, and all. I am still livid when I think of what he did to David's funeral. Never once talked with me at all before he arrived in Davis except to say that he wanted to use the occasion to lecture David's friends on the evils of alcohol (ironic, since he's probably an unrecovered alcoholic himself). I specifically told him that was the one thing I did NOT want to him to do.
When we arrived at the funeral home, he made no attempt to come and greet me. There were no words of comfort or of support or even acknowledgement that we had suffered a loss. I had to go to greet him...and then, in direct opposition to my request, he used the opportunity to lecture David's friends on the evils of drink. When we assumed he was going to the cemetery with us, he was angry because he had a party to go to that night and wanted to leave right away. He came to the cemetery, grudgingly, hastily blessed the grave site, and left as soon as he could.
When Paul died, the very last thing I wanted was Father Joe's involvement. I invited my friend David Gerrold, a Universal Life Minister, to do the service. He did a beautiful service that was absolutely perfect. My friend Olivia ran interference at the memorial service and wouldn't let Father Joe come near me, but engaged him in conversation every time she saw him start to come toward me.
Father Joe has always been a renegade priest. Though he's a member of a specific order, he's always worked independently and has problems getting along in a parish setting. He has done great good for a lot of people. He has helped a lot of people in Mexico and other countries south of our border, and in Ireland as well, where he still has relatives and where he visited frequently. He has made a huge difference in the lives of many people and I am glad that he has been in this world.
But good people don't always get along with everyone and he and I were always oil and water to each other. I can't remember the last time I saw him, but we argued, so it's just as well I haven't seen him in a long time.
His health is not good and I doubt that he will be around to officiate at the service honoring my mother after her death she will be the one to outlive him.
I have always been glad that she had him as a friend. I just wish that he could have liked me, if only a little.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Fr. Joe and Me, 1958