3 May 2007

open mouth, insert foot

Let me tell you a story.

Years ago, my mother and father were away on a trip up north, where my dad would fish and mom would paint, and both enjoyed themselves tremendously. While they were away their parish received a new priest.

Mom and Dad also belonged to the parish bowling league that met every Thursday night. Dad was in fact the league's president. The Thursday night after he returned from his fishing trip he was approached in the bowling alley by a little bald man, who introduced himself as "Walter".

"I heard you were looking for some new bowlers," said Walter to my father. "I used to bowl, but it's been a long time and I'm afraid I'm not very good."

"That's alright," my father said to Walter. "We're only here to have fun."

They spent the time before the bowling started chatting, and Dad found himself taking a liking to the little fellow. Oddly, though, the subject of profession never came up.

As it turned out, Walter was put on the team playing my father's that night. Dad cheered him on in his friendly, gruff way.

Before I continue on, let me say that Dad's "way" of behaving around other men was formed during his time in army, with all the loud, friendly (or not) back slapping, snarking and profane style that entails.

Back to the story.

Walter got up for his turn, and Dad, wanting to encourage him, watched him carefully as Walter threw what he claimed was his first ball in years. It was a strike.

As was his next.

And the one after that.

Dad was laughing as he said loudly: "Walter, you lied to me, you son of a gun!" (Soldiers don't generally say "gun" in this context. Nor did my dad. I'm just cleaning it up.)

Somehow, Dad missed the series of dropped jaws of all the other bowlers, and continued with his profane, backhanded encouragement throughout the evening, punctuating the evening with "Walter, you lying son of a gun, you've been bowling all this time!" and the like whenever Walter threw a strike.

The evening ended, the men shook hands, promised to see each other the next bowling night, and they went to their homes for the evening. Dad thought no more about the night.

Until Sunday morning, that is, when he saw the little bald lying son of a gun going in procession down to the altar, and going to the pulpit to preach, and consecrating the host... Yes, Walter, the lying son of a gun, was the new priest. Dad felt as though he could sink into the floor and vanish.

After Mass Dad sought ought Walter, or "Monsignor," as he should be called, and apologized to him profusely, stammering in his embarrassment. But Monsignor merely laughed and brushed it off. "Think nothing of it," he said. "I'm sure many people have called me an SOB behind my back over the years. It was refreshing to have someone say it to my face."

They remained friends during Monsignor's time at the parish, and he was an occasional visitor to our home. And after a fishing trip, Dad always brought Monsignor some of his Walleye for the Monsignor's table, which I'm sure he ate the very next Friday.

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