This weekend was one of both happiness and sadness. Well, that’s not really saying much, every day is one of both happiness and sadness normally. However, this was one of SIGNIFICANT happiness and sadness because this was the weekend we said goodbye to Josh before he heads off to his higher purpose in life.
I won’t bother you with details on Friday because I didn’t do anything except clean the bathroom and do laundry. Well, I worked too, but you already knew that, right? Nor Sunday because I didn't feel well and slept the whole day. So, we will focus on Saturday.
SATURDAY: I awoke early, again, because apparently I still haven’t figured out that I am allowed to sleep late on weekends. I was supposed to drive out to Josh’s house between 9:30 and 10:00 so we could get an early start on what became our ALL DAY CATHOLIC DAY OF FUN! We actually named it that, I’m not kidding. Josh, who still harbors secret hopes that I am going to convert to Catholicism, wanted to take me to see the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and to go to the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman. The Shrine, which is what I’m going to call it in this instance, was an extremely beautiful church, dedicated to the infant Jesus, that is attached to a cloistered convent. Josh had warned me in advance not to wear shorts so that I could go into the place. So, I wore my most comfy khaki pants and a sleeveless shirt. However, when we got there, there was a sign that said sleeveless shirts were against the dress code. Gah! So I was all set to go into the gift shop and buy a t-shirt, but we found out that they loan out cover-ups for those of us with the audacity to dress like heathens. I guess my arm flap was going to incite lust or something, but when in Rome… So I grabbed a random sweater off of the pile and we proceeded to tour the place. It was really, very gorgeous. I’ve studied enough about cathedrals to know what to expect in these big Catholic churches, but I was still a little overwhelmed. My first thought when entering the piazza and seeing the statue of the infant Jesus was, and I feel bad about it now, the movie “Talledega Nights” when he says all of his prayers to the little-tiny-baby-Jesus. Oy. Anyway, one of the first people we met was a Franciscan monk wearing Birkenstocks and carrying a backpack over his robe. He was very nice and he and Josh talked about their training. He seemed tickled to find out that I was protestant. I get that a lot from people when I go to church with Josh. Anyways, we saw a display on the Shroud of Turin and we went inside the crypt chapel where they were filming some kind of thing for the catholic channel. I felt bad because I was wearing flip flops, and I had to kind of scrunch up my toes and walk slowly so they wouldn’t pop up against my feet. I got a cramp in my toe from that! Then we went inside the main church and there were NUNS! I am fascinated with nuns, but I don’t know why. We actually came in right in the middle of their novenas, so I got to hear them pray aloud, the one who was leading the prayers had a beautiful voice. I shocked Josh by kneeling down with him on the kneeling bench and praying with him. I suppose he thought that I was going to sit there, drool and stare or something. We were in a church after all. I may not worship the same way he does, but it’s still the same God we’re talking to. OK, well, I did open my eyes and stare some because it was a beautiful church. The alter area was gilded gold and it was very gothic in style. The ceilings were vaulted and the stations of the cross were carved in high relief and they flanked some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I’d ever seen. I’m a sucker for stained glass windows, though. The tabernacle was also gold and carved and the confessionals and pews were made from dark wood. It was so pretty. The nuns just kept on praying, and I wondered if they were ever going to stop. Turns out they don’t. Someone is always in there praying and keeping the Eucharist company. Of course, they aren’t always doing it aloud, but that is what this particular group of nuns do. After Josh and I left there, we bumped into a real, live Dominican friar who Josh talked to while I returned the sweater I had borrowed. He was also really nice and funny. Josh says that the Dominicans are considered the “Funny Friars” and they don’t take vows of silence. That’s good, because I don’t think Josh would last a week! We went to the gift shop where we ended up in line behind some “Jersey Catholics” who, I swear, could have been part of the cast of “The Soprano’s.” They bought handfuls of stuff and kept walking off and picking up other things to buy. They also said stuff like “What? Yeah, bring me anotha baby ova heah. Oh yeah, buy it for y’self, go’on.” I finally lost my composure when the lady behind the counter had to say “I’m sorry, but we only have grown up Jesuses, but no more baby ones.” Josh had to punch me in the arm to calm me down. I wound up buying a St. Domonic medallion – since he’s Josh’s order’s patron (and he has a dog) – and a St. Anthony coin thing. Josh says that St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost stuff, so I figured it couldn’t hurt. I got a mug that has a picture of the pope on it with his arms raised like Richard Nixon, and the words "PAPA BEN" across the top. Something about that mug makes me laugh. I also bought Josh, as a going away gift, a car rosary. It’s much smaller than a regular one, so you can pray while driving and not get tangled up. With the way Josh drives, he’s going to need one! When we left there, we drove through Cullman and stopped at this gi-normous Catholic church to look inside. There was a wedding going on, and I wanted to crash it but Josh wouldn’t let me. He wouldn’t even let me sign the register! BOO! From there we went to the Ave Maria Grotto, which we had visited before years ago. He’s fascinated by the place, so we took some time to look around. We also went to the Abby burial grounds and the cemetery chapel and he took me to the church on the grounds of St. Bernards. It was lovely and quiet. I waited for him to do his confession thing and then we went to lunch.
By then we were starving, but we were supposed to have dinner in a couple of hours with the rest of our friends and we didn’t want to stuff ourselves. We went to All Steak and ordered some appetizers and some orange rolls. Oh, my. I had forgotten how good they were. We wound up gorging ourselves on the rolls and then Josh bought more to take home with him! At this point we were tired and slowly slipping into sugar comas. So we went home.
We had a good time on the drive home and we laughed a lot, but it was sad too. It’s always sad to know it’s the last time you’re going to do something. We’ve been friends for at least 8 years, and he is one of those people who is easy to be friends with. We can talk about almost anything, and he isn’t the kind of person who waits around for you to get in touch with him first. He calls and wants to go to dinner, or go see a movie or whatever, and he’s always up for something if you call him. Sure, he has the knack of calling at the worst possible time sometimes, but that’s such a small thing in the big picture. He also brought me chocolate when he knew I was upset. How many guys who don’t have to do nice things like that, actually do it? Not very many.
Anthony, Shannon, Steve, Josh and I, all had dinner at Red Robin that night, and we had a great time. There was a sad undercurrent, of course, but that was to be expected. After dinner, we stood in the parking lot and talked until we all got quiet and knew we had to say goodbye. I’m glad we spent the day together. Saying goodbye is always easier when you have a little closure. : )
On a happier note, we plan to visit him in Colorado as soon as we can go over there, and he is coming back to Alabama for a while in March. He’s also asked me to make his 15 decade rosary, which I thought was so sweet. He’ll wear it on his habit, and he said he wanted one that was important to him and not one just bought for the job.
So there we go. Josh has left the building.