Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Godfatherhood

On Sunday, my two sisters and I took my mom over to visit two of her oldest and dearest friends, whom we call "aunt" and "uncle" even though they aren't related to us by blood.  This wonderful couple lives less than an hour away from Mom; it's not a long trip, but when you don't drive anymore, it gets harder and harder to make non-essential outings like this happen.  Mom had met up for lunch with Aunt E recently, and in the wake of that happy reunion she kept mentioning how much she'd love to see Uncle J, who has suffered from poor health and is mostly wheelchair-bound now.  She hadn't seen him since my father's funeral more than two years ago, and she missed him. We decided that since he doesn't get out too much anymore, we wanted to get her over there to visit with him, and we are so glad we did!  What a wonderful time we had.
The Three Amigos.

Aunt E had a pitcher of iced tea and a plate of pound cake and cookies ready to serve us, and we all sat around their dining room table and reminisced.  They still live on the same plot of land that my sisters and I used to visit when we were kids, but their old farm house was destroyed by a fire years ago and they have since rebuilt and created an absolutely stunning new home, a cozy nest with just about the best in-home library and reading nook I've ever seen.  (#goals)  These sweet octogenarian "besties" talked about the "old days," and how as young parents, both couples had named each other as guardians for their children, if--God forbid--they had died before they'd had a chance to raise them.  They talked and laughed about their grand plan to live on a boat together after retirement and travel the world.  That dream, sadly but not surprisingly, didn't come to fruition.  But they stayed close through the decades.

I wished so much that my father could have been at the table with us, guffawing in his inimitable way.  He just loved Uncle J, who was like the brother he never had.  The two of them grew up together.  They (along with Uncle J's brother, Uncle D) attended the same small town high school in Upstate NY.  Uncle J settled into adult life not far from where they'd grown up, but my parents started out their married life far away from the North Country.  Our family lived for a number of years in NJ and Delaware, until I was about 8.  That's when we returned to the same small NY town where Dad and Uncle J had spent their boyhood together and the old friends were practically neighbors again.  Less than two years later, however, we left my dad's beloved old hometown, but only to move about 45 minutes away.  Fear not, my parents always kept their ties with Aunt E and Uncle J, and the four of them got together frequently.

When I was a young teen, I had a few overnights, all by myself, at Aunt E and Uncle J's home, trying to determine if I would like to spend part of my summer living with them as a "mother's helper."  They had these adorable young children...but I was a shy and timid sort of girl, and I worried about getting homesick.  So I didn't do it.  At our little get-together Sunday, I reminded them about this.  And I said, "It's kind of late for an apology--but I'm so sorry I couldn't do it!"

Did I mention that Uncle J is my godfather?  I am one lucky girl, let me tell you.  I never knew my godmother, a woman with whom my mother was great friends in her youth, but whose friendship didn't survive the years.  I only heard from my godmother once that I can recall, when she sent me a necklace as a present for my 16th or 18th birthday--I can't remember which.  But I totally won the godfather lottery.  Uncle J is a brilliant lawyer known far and wide in the small towns of the North Country.  He's honorable and kind, and his sense of humor is unmatched: he's one of those proverbial  Irish storytellers who delivers his jokes with a gravelly voice and a twinkle in his eye.  His body has gotten weaker, but his mind is as sharp as ever and I could listen to him talk all day.

All of these traits make Uncle J very lovable.  But here is what happened on Sunday that made me realize just how fortunate I am that my parents named him as my spiritual sponsor for this sometimes difficult journey called life. I told my sister that I wanted a picture with my godfather; and then I told Aunt E that since I never got a chance to know the one I'd been given, I was adopting her as my godmother--so she needed to be in the picture, too.  Aunt E and I sat down in chairs on either side of Uncle J's wheelchair.  As my sister was getting ready to take the shot (or maybe it was after the pictures had been taken, I can't quite recall), Uncle J looked at me and asked, "Do you still go to church?"  "Yes!" I answered.  "I do."  He said simply, "Good."  Then I continued, "And so do our boys.  They've even gone on Catholic Match to find girls who share their Faith..." I didn't want to babble on and on, which I could have; so I just kind of thanked him by saying, "If you've been praying for me, I'm sure that helped!"  I asked him if he went to the parish we used to go to during those two years we lived in my dad's old hometown, but he said, no, there was a church closer to where he and Aunt E live.  And that was about it.

It was a short conversation, with just a few simple words--"Do you still go to church?"  "Yes." "Good."--employed to convey something so much bigger.  Simple words, yet profound ones.  I think Uncle J was wondering if his godfatherhood (is that a word?) had been successful.  It meant the world to me, I'll tell you.  I will never forget how he made me feel during that visit.

It made the saying goodbye part very hard, and I was choked up with tears.  I've rarely seen Uncle J during my adult life, as my husband and I settled for many years in NH, and have since moved to VA to be near our grown married children.  But we are now spending the summer months in Upstate NY every year (managing our Oyster Haven vacation rental and catching up with extended family in the area), and we're just a stone's throw from where my godfather and adopted godmother live; so I'm going to make it a point to see them as often as I can.  Also, every day when we pray our Rosary, my husband and I recite a special intention for our godchildren; from now on, we will add one for our godparents--living and deceased--as well!

God has been so, so good to me.  Sunday's reminder that I have, and have always had, Uncle J (the best godfather!) in my corner is one more blessing for which I shall be eternally grateful.


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