Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First Fridays with Mom

     For me, it's all about balance.  I like to try and balance the time I spend doing things that are questionable type behaviors against time spent doing volunteer work or things that will help me be a better person spiritually.  Inevitably, the scale tips heavier towards the questionable behaviors more than the spiritual pursuits, but I blame my family and friends for that.  It's not like they ever call me up to go to church with them you see, but I can always count on the "I'm at Happy Hour at the Sand Bar, what are  you doing?" call to come.  It's all their fault.  The one exception to this habit, is my sainted Mother, who is not much of a barfly, but does invite me to go to church with her, and hence the habit of taking her to First Friday Mass was born.

     I think it was over 2 years ago now, that we started to go to First Fridays together, Mom had always enjoyed this, and after she moved in with my sister, she expressed a wish to continue.  I, being the dutiful son, and secondly realizing that my life could use more church in it, agreed to try and take her each month (It actually needs a lot more church in it, but I committed to just one extra visit each month, what a slacker. )  We started going to the early service at St. Mary's and we did enjoy our time there.
The view from the Sand Bar in Cdga, at the Inn on the Lake.
We got to see the St. Mary's kids and sometimes we would stay for the announcements or school awards that they would give out.  It brought me back to my time spent as a student there, a subject that I am probably overdue on blogging about, but this won't be that blog, I've already got enough material in the topic already.  So, we went for a while, but Mom's sleeping habits changed and it turned out to be a lot more work for my sister who cares for her, to get her up, dressed and fed for such an early Mass, so I sought out an alternative service.  One Sunday,  I noticed in the church bulletin, that our priest also did a First Friday Mass at a local adult assisted living facility that was right up the street from Mom, and the mass was mid-day and they were gracious enough to let us attend.  We drove the first time, but sometimes if the weather is nice, I'll push Mom in her wheelchair up the big hill that the home sets on.  I need the exercise anyway, but it's like church, rarely do I get the call to go workout with my friends either.  I clearly have to start hanging around different people, but I digress, back to the home, we normally enter through the back.  We go by the kitchen where a childhood friend works as the chef, and take the elevator to the 2nd floor.  We navigate the narrow passageways, go through the dining room, interrupting the daily game of dominoes, and enter the front formal living room.  That's where we first met The Girls.

      One definition of girl, is "a young woman from birth to adulthood", but that's not the definition I am using in this instance, I'm using one that states "A woman socializing in a group of women, like a night out with the girls" These ladies spend a lot of time socializing with each other, and they each bring a little something different to the party, let me set the scene for you first.

     My favorite resident, yeah I'll play favorites here too, sits just off to the left of us each time, and I'll call her, M. She is small, a little hunched, has a quiet raspy voice and walks with a walker. She always has the daily paper stuffed into a pocket on the front of it, and I suspect she has some memory issues too.  I actually don't have to suspect because each time we come, she'll lean over and do one of two things, sing Take Me out to the Ballgame, or recite a poem/rhyme she knew as a kid.  She never fails to do one or the other, sometimes both, and I love it each time.  She grew up in Rochester, and her father was a butcher, so her poem goes like this....

My Father was a butcher,
My Mother cuts my meat,
and I'm the little Weiner,
who runs around the street.

She says it the same way each time, and it is precious. She takes about 10 breaths to get it all out, and she speaks barely above a whisper, but she gets it out each time with perfect delivery.  Because she has some breathing troubles I cringe on the days she starts with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game", but she not only gets through it, she even adds a Cha Cha Cha to the end of some verses and throws in a hip wiggle while she does it.  Is it any wonder that she is my favorite with showmanship like that?

     Further down from M, sits B.  B is very quiet, and in fact is so quiet, most masses she nod off for a portion of the service.  That is pretty impressive considering mass is barely 40 minutes long at the home.  It's amazing how much time you save when you eliminate all the standing up, sitting and kneeling.  B should be my favorite, because I've been know to get sleepy at mass too, but she just can't compare to M's showmanship, plus she's a few chairs away which makes it a lot harder to have conversations. With varying degrees of hearing loss, and the soft spoken nature of some older folks, there tends to be a lot of repeating of things around the room. It gets pretty comical, hearing the comment of the day, repeated in the different corners of the room, so everyone can keep up on the conversation.  It's even funnier when they mis-hear it, and I can see the confused faces on one side of the room wondering how to follow a conversation that is so non sequitur.  I shouldn't laugh so much at church, and yet I do.

     K sits across the room from us, but her hearing is good and she is a visitor each month, like we are.  She drives in from Victor and with a group of ladies sometimes.  She lost a friend that used to come with her last year, and even though she was older it was unexpected.  She was at mass one month and not the next.  She was planning a trip with her daughter, so she readied her house, packed her bags and set them by the door, she went to bed, and passed away in the night.
Dining room in back, Can you pick out G?
They said her husband went the same way, sans the packed bags, ten years before her.  I hope when I go, I go with my bags packed, it just seems tidy that way.  K is spry and I went to school with her grandson, so we catch up on his goings-on sometimes.  We both attended a wedding together last year, a nephew of my wife married one of K's granddaughters, so I got to introduce my wife to one of the Girls. I'll be honest, I like to keep this little goldmine to myself, and to date, I've only shared the experience with one sister, my daughter, and my youngest son. I think the Girls like it that way.  When my sister, She who Shall not be Named, took my mother one month while I was traveling, she didn't get nearly the warmth or reception that we get.  M didn't even sing for her, go figure.

     There are a handful of other ladies that comprise my group of Girls, but they all haven't made the impression on me that these ones have.  A lot of it has to do with seating arrangements.  I look forward to learning more about them though, on my future visits for masses there.  I wondered why Mom wanted to go to First Friday Mass so much, so I asked her one day, and she told me that you receive special graces if you go.  I later learned from my sister that you have to go 9 consecutive times in order for the graces to be guaranteed.  There are 12 of them in all, but the last one seems to be the best one, it reads....

I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence: they will not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their Sacraments. My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.    

I'm no theologian, that's my brother Socrates, but the way I read it, make mass 9 times in a row on a First Friday and you get a free pass into Heaven?  Maybe there is hope for me yet, in spite of my wayward friends. 


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