I was just reading a blog where the woman told about a person a day and it got me thinking - I wonder if I can think of 365 people who I can talk about. I think I can.
Bill and I met back in 1970. Back then, he was a Roman Catholic priest stationed in my hometown. I went to midnight mass one Christmas and there was like an aura around him while he was preaching. No lie! Whatever he said that night gave me the courage I needed to want to take instructions in the Catholic faith.
I was strongly influenced my my paternal great-grandfather. I never saw Poppee put one bite of food into his mouth that he didn't recite his Rosary. I really didn't know what he was doing at the time because I was raised a Methodist, but it impressed itself on my young brain. My next door neighbor and another friend two doors down were both Catholic girls. I guess there were a lot of Catholics in our neighborhood. Even before them, my across-the-street neighbor was Catholic and I can remember them not having the same holidays as we did in school. When we were out and they had to go to school, I would go with them.
The nuns were fascinating to me and boy did they demand respect. When they walked into the classroom, everyone stood until told to be seated. I went to public school and we didn't have anything remotely like that. I looked forward to our holidays so I could go with them to school. My first piano teacher was Sister Francilla and was she ever a stickler for playing the piano with form. If your hands weren't curved just right over the keys, she would take the thinnest baton and whap you across the knuckles. You paid attention to what she said.
Getting back to Bill. After the new year came, I called the rectory and told the secretary I wanted to take instructions and didn't want the black headed priest or the old one, but I wanted the one with the red hair. I understand that they really got a kick out of that request. I took my instructions and after Kenny, my husband, came home from his stint in the Army, he watched the children, bought me a new dress, and I was baptised by Bill. He heard my first confession and gave me my first communion. My landlord and teacher at the high school I graduated from was my sponsor.
When Kenny was killed in an auto accident, it was time for confirmation and Mary Ann, our secretary, asked me if I was going to invite Father Bill. I said I didn't know I was supposed to do that and she said I was. I called the rectory and was told he had been transferred to Shreveport and was given the phone number. I called him and invited him. He said if possible he would be there.
The night of the confirmation we were all dressed in robes and marched into the church and were seated together. In came all of the priests, probably 20+ of them. When I saw him, I thought it would be so neat to have a husband like him as he was so kind and understanding. Of course, I feared I would be struck by lightening having a thought like that in the church. As my saints name, I picked Jude. When the Bishop got to me and I gave him my name, he was kind of taken aback. I guess most women take on lady saints names.
Afterwards, Bill introduced me to the Bishop, Bishop Greco, and told me to stay on the steps of the church. He ran off into the night with his cassock flapping in the breeze. Here he came with a wrapped gift that I still have, a paperweight with a cross inside of it. He then said goodnight and went off with the rest of the priests for supper.
At work the next day, I wrote a thank you note and asked Mary Ann, a Catholic, to read it and see if it was appropriate. I told her that one day I wished I could find someone like him to marry. She asked me if I were serious and I said I was. She said let me help you write the note. Between the two of us, we wrote one that could be read between the lines. :-) He read between the lines.
At that time, I didn't know he was doubting whether or not he had made the right decision on becoming a priest. He said that as soon as you got settled in a place and made friends of parishioners, the Church would transfer you out to somewhere else and there was never a feeling of belonging. We talked on the phone and when he was in Alex we would see each other. Ours was a courtship of letters and phone calls. In late June of 1972, we spent the day riding the backroads and talking. He made the decision to talk to the Bishop and tell him he was unsure he wanted to remain a priest.
The Bishop said for him to take a sabbatical and go off far away and think about it. He asked me if I liked the mountains and I said I loved the mountains. Now, a mountain to me was a place called Red Dirt which is a state preserve south of Natchitoches. If you are at the lookout place there, you can see for miles around. I thought it was a mountain, really.
He said he would go to Denver to think and he did. We talked on the phone every night and wrote volumes of letters which are in a box out in our barn. It was apparent that we would end up together and we decided to wait until mid-term so Melyssa could finish part of her school year. In November when I got my phone bill, it was about $2000 which was an unbelievable sum in those days. Instead of waiting and getting another bank breaker phone bill, I went to my parents and told them I was moving to Denver to be with him.
Keep in mind that my parents had never laid eyes on Bill and I was taking their only grandchildren at that time halfway across the country. My mind was made up and I resigned from my job and hired the movers to fetch my things. He lived downtown in an apartment and found the children and me a house in a suburb not too far away. After about two weeks with those living arrangements, we got a marriage license and saw a judge who married us between court cases. We had to run back and pick up Heath from kindergarten and the three of us went on our honeymoon to IHOP. He let his apartment go and moved to the house.
Also, I learned that I didn't like the mountains and wanted back on flat land. Once there, he took me up to Lookout Mountain with kids in tow and with a picnic lunch. He went up the backside which was switchbacks and steep. I thought in the mountains there would be a rail or something to keep you from falling off the road, but there wasn't. If you looked down, you would see pieces of metal. Probably where cars had crashed down the mountain. Right then and there, I realized what I thought was a mountain wasn't even a bump in the road. Mountains are nice to look at, but not something I wanted to live in. I was terrified of them. Heights and I don't do well together.
While we lived in Denver, Bill was a manager of a McDonald's working for Copus Corporation. We got to come home our second Christmas out there and my dad and youngest brother came out for a visit the next summer. My brother lost a finger while I was gone from home and there wasn't money for me to come home. When Bill's dad called to see if we wanted to come home and take over the farm, we jumped at the chance to get back home. Our farming lasted about three or four days and it was apparent that you couldn't have two farmers on one farm.
I got a job teaching since I had earned my certification in Denver and Bill went back to school for a year and a half to get his teacher's license. We are both retired educators. He raised the children as his own and although Melyssa remembers her dad, Heath doesn't. They were so young when he got killed so that is why they don't have a good memory of him.
Bill is one of the kindest and nicest persons anyone would ever want to meet. He is an only child, but isn't a selfish one. He has always given freely not only with is money, but also with his time. He is the one who taught the kids how to cook and even had Heath breaking eggs with one hand when he was only five. I remember the two of them cooked veal pinwheels as Heath's first cooking of a meal.
I think I made a wise decision and my family loves Bill. He is such a fair person, he is wise, and has been a fantastic grandfather and now a great-grandfather. Funny how I would probably have killed my children if they had up and done something like I did, but I have no regrets. I hope he doesn't either.
San Francisco [October]
2 weeks ago