My life, for the most part, is one unending string of serene moments. That's been the case ever since I stopped drinking ... and suffered through the first couple of years of sobriety.
Whenever life got disruptive, even for a little while, it generally involved some interaction I was forced to undertake, or to endure, with my biological family of origin.
Things had been pretty quiet on that front for a few years now until a phone call came on Monday evening from my aunt informing me that her first cousin (and my late mom's), the family priest, had passed away that day.
Albert (his name) had, by all accounts, started out in life as a prissy little thing who loved dressing up... like a priest. I remember comments being made about how he was always holier than everybody else and would walk around with a rosary draped over his hands. They packed him off to seminary when he was 18. I can actually remember attending his ordination in Connecticut even though I was only 4 at the time. He was then sent off to Puerto Rico to do his time as a parish priest somewhere in the mountains (no cabanas or beach boys), coming home only occasionally to preside over baptisms, weddings and funerals.
In time I became an altar boy and celebrated mass with Albert a couple of times at the local parish church.
But eventually I outgrew Roman Catholicism (when I grew pubes and realized that they were wrong about me) and I once shocked Albert by playing "The Vatican Rag" by Tom Lehrer for him. Things were never the same between us after that.
We lost touch for years, others kept up the family cohesion. Eventually he got reassigned back to the states. In 1995 I copped a giant resentment over the fact that he wouldn't come home from Pittsburgh to preside at my mom's funeral. I ran into him and his brother, Victor, at my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary a few years back. Albert had had a foot removed because of diabetes and his brother now helped him around.
After that we started exchanging Christmas cards every year. His were religious but not odious, mine were secular but respectful. We'd both jot a short note to each other expressing our sincere wishes for the health and happiness of the other in the coming year and that would be the end of that.
And now he's gone.
The family (his brother) won't have much to say about the funeral arrangements. The Order he belonged to will pretty much dictate policy in that regard. And trying to find out their plans is like trying to pull sanctified teeth.
Meanwhile, I'm forced to interact on a nearly daily basis with a bunch of people I really don't have very much in common with these days. They tend to be racist, bigoted, homophobic, alcoholic, drug-addicted (legal), co-dependents who love to live their lives as self-inflicted victims. I've been thinking that they'd gotten even nuttier in the last 15 years.
But I was telling this to a friend of mine in recovery earlier today and he said, "Maybe they're not any crazier than they used to be. Maybe you're just a helluva lot saner."
And all of a sudden I was overcome with a feeling of yukiness. How am I supposed to love these people when I can't even stand to be around them anymore?