Category Archives: Rainy Day Stories

My Tribute to Father Bill

Two years ago, I made an effort to begin going to Sunday mass again.  I’d been absent more often than not during the preceding years for a plethora of reasons — weekend work schedules, out-of-town family events, and caring for my mother in her home in another state. Father Bill was the priest on the Sunday I’d returned to join the faithful.

I watched as he entered the church from the sacristy. Walking across the altar was difficult for him, I understood why he didn’t participate in the processional at the beginning of mass.  I lamented the state of the Church, and its continued problems recruiting young priests.  During that mass, Father Bill touched my heart with his thoughtful, quiet homily and the devotion and passion of his voice as he sung the hymns.

On the walk home, I confided in my husband how moved I was by Father Bill’s story which reminded so much of an event that occurred when we attended Midnight Mass in Rome over two decades ago. When I got home, I wrote a short story about that special night.

It has been over a week since Father Bill fell and broke his hip. After surgery, he seemed to be doing well and the hospital staff planned on getting him up to walk. Within a few days, his condition worsened, and Father Bill was called to his heavenly home. He will be sorely missed by the parishioners in our little village.

He struggled to walk, yet he bolstered himself to come and say mass each week even on the coldest winter days. The effort would waylay many younger people. When our pastor Father John spoke of Father Bill, he equated him with characters from stories similar to the tales of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Lord of the Rings. Father Bill was the old king who went into battle when he was needed and fought valiantly in the service of others. Not a single dry eye in the church this past Sunday… Godspeed, Father Bill, this story is for you.

Midnight Song

The dimly lit courtyard held a snaking line of visitors IMG_6562.PNGwhich buzzed with muted conversations, the shuffling of feet, and an occasional entreaty by a youngster to the elders who accompanied them.  The group waited in anticipation to hear Pope John Paul II say Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.  Among the crowd were people of all ages, colors, and ethnicities.  Ahead of us, the melodic cadence of Italian came from an animated troupe while behind us stood a gathering of nuns with dark veils covering their hair and wooden crosses hanging from the rosary beads secured at their waists.

In our group were military families taking a trip to Rome on Christmas weekend.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime event for my small family.  I had purchased a crucifix to hang in our home and brought my rosary so both items could be blessed by the Pope during Midnight Mass.  Growing up in a Catholic family, my favorite mass of the year was this one celebrated on Christmas Eve.

When I was a young girl, we would get bundled up in our winter coats, boots, and mittens and crawl into our beat-up Chevy for the drive along snowy highways with the moonlight lighting the snow-covered fields until they glowed.  The country church we attended it’s a well-known fact you had to get there early because the church reached its capacity for Midnight Mass. If you arrived late, you’d have to stand in the back and for a young child, it was reminiscent of standing among a suffocating forest of human legs.

The choir would start off the standard hymns I’d learned when my dad would play the Christmas album, “Sing Along with Mitch.”  The voices of the faithful would swell with hope and love infused into their harmonies.  Our song was a prayerful offering to the Creator.

In that dark Vatican courtyard, as we tried to stay warm, stomping our feet and rubbing our hands together, our small military group began to sing Silent Night to keep our minds off the December chill in the air and to pass the time.  The Canadian nuns joined us and soon a trickle of other groups followed, providing a mixture of accented baritones, sopranos, tenors and altos.  Our song grew in strength into something so pure it connected us all at that moment.  One carol followed another until the stone walls surrounding us echoed with our words. Goosebumps popped up on my arms, and I felt a chill deep in my chest as I sang along.  We–the travelers to this place on this specific night–were one in song and in fellowship.

I remember that night like it happened yesterday and not twenty-four years ago.  We connected to strangers with our familiar song.  I haven’t any photos or videos to document the moment but they aren’t needed because the memories are permanently engraved in my mind and heart.  I wonder if the other people remember that evening as fondly.

Birthday Wishes and Dreams

I started writing this short story for the One Million Project’s writing group’s Weekend Write-In Challenge.  This week’s prompt was “Birthday”. I wanted to do something different with the current chapter I was working on for my current work-in-progress — Never Show Your Hand.  The following is the result of my efforts.  I hope you like it!

Over a year has passed, and my heart still bleeds without him. Why didn’t I realize he never felt the same love for me as I did for him? 

Clare’s skis skimmed over the crusty snow as she pushed her body to its limits.  She initially used the intensive training for the Birkebeiner cross-country ski race as a way to burn off all of the anger, frustration, and pain from a broken heart but it became much more than a fitness goal.  It became a challenge to keep her promise to fulfill her destiny, to not look back, and to savor the feeling of being complete.  Not because a man was by her side, but as a result of loving the flawed, stubborn, fabulous woman that she’d become.

Her birthday was around the corner, and although Clare hadn’t celebrated her birthday for several years, she planned to make this year’s a memorable one by participating in the Birke and moving forward without her husband, Wyatt.  She dug into the hillside with her poles as she pointed the tips of her skis out putting her body weight on the inner edges of her skis as she climbed the steep slope, making a herringbone pattern in the snow.

By the time she reached the top, her forehead was beaded with sweat under her stocking cap and her pants formed frosty clouds of mist with each expired breath. The tiny hairs in her nostrils, now frozen, prickled inside her nose, and her lungs ached with the effort of breathing.  She pushed on knowing the actual Birke would be punishing in the extreme and she couldn’t quit because it was too hard.

When she reached the top of the hill, the sunshine reflected off the snow-covered countryside blinding her, and she squinted behind her sunglasses.  It made her a bit homesick and reminded her of the last time she’d cross-country skied with her twin brother, Noah. That day had been sunny and brisk much like the current one.  He would be so proud of her for pursuing this goal.  It had been something they’d talked about doing together.

Shit! Clare wished he could participate in the event with her.  Instead of wishing for things that could never happen she began her strong skating stride and pictured him skiing next to her — her skiing guardian angel — urging her to move faster and taunting her that he was going to whip her butt. Before she realized it, she’d reached the end of her practice run.

Bundling her gear into the Jeep, she headed for home. Clare let her yellow Lab, Max, outside as soon as she opened the door.  She’d finished removing her boots and padded across the floor to warm her hands by the radiator.

Her forehead creased with surprise at the sound of rapping on her door. The hairs on her neck raised when she realized Max hadn’t alerted her to someone’s arrival. Maybe it was Loretta or Dave checking on her. She couldn’t help the sense of trepidation as she walked towards the door. Her body was beginning to tense as her heart rate picked up. Freaking great. It wasn’t the best time to lose it.

Should I ask who it is? Or go for it and be ready to kickbox their ass into yesterday?
Clare went for it swinging the door wide as she positioned her body into a defensive position. Her hands trembled and black spots danced into her vision.
“Clare, babe, are you okay?” Wyatt stood in front of her. He was the last thing she saw before she passed out cold.

The Sound of Silence, NOT!

At eighty-five years of age, Miss Lydia decided to get “one of those new-fangled phones” everyone seemed to be peering at with heads bent.  Several of the ladies in her church group had them, and they talked incessantly about “time facing” and “gaggling it.”  Whatever that meant, it sounded like a bunch of nonsense, but her nephew, Clyde, wanted her to have one for safety reasons.  A bunch of bull-pucky!

The nice young man at the phone store tried to explain the features available on the phone, including why the only user manual was “on the line” and not printed out like normal.  Frustrated, Miss Lydia returned home with her new gadget.  She set it on the table beside her and watched it like someone would keep an eye on a rattler.

Clarice Travers stopped by after getting off work at the library.  She oohed and aahed over what she called a cell phone, offering to help Miss Lydia set up some ring tones.

“It would be nice if a phone rang like a real phone.”  The octogenarian didn’t cotton to changing anything what wasn’t broken.

“I can set that up, and I’ll do a couple of other alerts for texts, emails, and Facebook.  You are on Facebook, aren’t you?”  Clarice glanced up with raised eyebrows, smiling when Miss Lydia made a dismissive wave with her hand.  “I’ll help you set it up another day if you’d like?”

Miss Lydia didn’t respond.  Her head had settled back against her recliner, and her eyes were closed.  She’d fallen asleep.  Clarice finished setting up the alerts and laid the cell phone on the end table by Miss Lydia’s chair before letting herself out the door.

“Be-doh, be-doh, be-doh!”  Miss Lydia sat up abruptly.  What in the world was that?  She listened intently for a repeat of the sound which woke her but didn’t hear it any longer, and she decided it must have been some whippersnapper outside making noise again.  Those teenagers were always driving by with their radios blaring day and night.

Getting up out of her chair took a bit of doing due to her stiff joints and rheumatism, she hobbled into the bathroom.  As she washed her hands, she heard that same “Be-doh” noise.  She stormed out of the bathroom as quickly as a woman in advanced years could manage.  Once more the sound had disappeared.

“Those juvenile delinquents made a loop around the block.  Umph!  Don’t they realize some people take a little rest in the afternoon?”  Miss Lydia knew she needed to…What was it Clyde would say?  Oh, yes.  ‘Cool my jets.’

She approached the recliner looking out the window for the troublemakers.  The sound of a bugle and the rattling of her new phone on the side table had her putting her hand over her heart in shock.  She prodded it with her finger, but it remained silent.

She did remember how to do one thing with her new phone.  Her finger pressed downward on a button at the side of her purchase.  Miss Lydia had an inkling on how to turn it off.

Written for the Weekend Write-In Challenge on May 14, 2017.