With all the problems that are going on in the world and in my family, I thought that I would share a story that happened over forty years ago, one which my sister and I laughed about again just last week.
The question had come up on Facebook:
“Is there a friend that you have that you should never sit next to at a solemn occasion?”
That would be my sister. She has always been quite funny and has a quick wit.
She’s also irreverent.
My mother is from a large family. My mother’s youngest half-brother married young. His oldest daughter was only about eight years younger than my mother. (There is some discrepancy in my mother’s age, and I will probably talk about that sometime soon.)
We didn’t see that corner of the family often at all. They spoke on the phone to my mother in spurts, but they didn’t live nearby. Both of that uncle’s daughters had many children of their own right away which made it even harder to get together, plus, they had their mother’s family with whom they hung out.
Fast-forward many years after having been out of touch and my oldest cousin’s son was on his way to the priesthood. A year before ordination, he was to make his final vows, so my sister and I decided to go and represent this side of the family.
My cousin’s in-laws were quite well-known in ecclesiastic circles. Two of my cousin’s brothers-in-law were quite famous priests in the diocese and a sister-in-law was the most well-known and popular nun there as well. So suffice it to say that even though there is always a big, enthusiastic turn-out for any young man who was making it to the priesthood by the clergy, religious, family and teachers, this one pulled out all the stops.
There were all of the clergy and religious who had taught the (then) young man in various Catholic schools since Kindergarten, all of those who went to the seminary with him, (those who had been ordained and the younger students), the nuns and brothers who taught him in the high-school seminary and those who had attended the seminary with a priest-cousin on his mother’s other side of the family, plus others who attended classes with him at Catholic University.
Then we had the religious friends, colleagues and acquaintances of the family, especially the religious sisters, brothers and priests, who were friends of his nun aunt and his priest uncles.
Habits and Roman collars were everywhere. My sister and I made jokes that we and a few others were in a distinct minority to be dressed in, well, ‘civvies’.
My sister and I sat in one of the very front pews with extended family. There was quiet chatter in the church until the ceremony was to begin; then silence fell.
Unfortunately, I suddenly sneezed just then. I sneezed as silently as I could, but my eyes were wide with embarrassment. I looked to my sister, who exaggeratedly looked around the church over the sea of religious garb and said to me very quietly, “Gehsunheit.”
I knew it was completely and purposely opposite of the “God bless yous” I would have gotten from that crowd, had I been heard. Well, the people there didn’t hear the sneeze, but if the music had not started at that point, they would have heard me doing my best to choke back laughter,
and not being completely successful at it.
It was all so sudden; there was no way for my sister to have anticipated what was to happen, or what she was going to say.
She pulled many a joke on people and I may tell some of those in the future, but this one wins first prize.
As I said, some forty-two (?) years later, we can still laugh about it.
I never told my cousin this story, and I have no idea why. She, her husband, her sister and I had become quite close in their last years. They all had good senses of humor, and even his priest brother and nun sister would have laughed.
I speak to “Father Cousin Bob” once in a while, but I have never told him this story. My sister suggested that I should and yes, I think it’s about time that I did.
I remember it anytime and every time someone says, “Gehusndheit”, and I can still feel the laughter in me.