Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Guest Blogger: European Vacation

Bee Gees Song of the Day: Spics and Specks

All of my life I've tossed with the day
The spicks and the specks of my life gone away

When Erica first asked me to be a guest blogger on her site, I was flattered and more than a bit enthusiastic at the prospect. A guest blogger! What an honor! And one that I was pretty sure she had not bestowed on anyone before me. But then the panic set in. After all, I had never blogged before. In fact, I had never even read a blog before Erica started sending me the links to hers. Would it be obvious to all who read me? Would I be a target for comparison with the more eloquent and experienced hostess of the blog site? Would I be pitied for my inability to measure up? How could I even put myself in such a position? And what could I write that would be even remotely interesting to the myriad of visitors to her blog site? I know nothing of Korean drama and haven’t (recently) run into any chain-smoking serial killers. I have concluded that guest blogging must be right on par with public speaking and death as a source of unadulterated stress.

So I delayed. I came up with excuses like “Oh, I’m very busy at work right now. No time for such frivolity.” But she knew it was all so much procrastination. How long could I postpone the inevitable? At what point would she realize that I was simply a coward? So here I sit, sweat beading on my brow; my hands shaking with every key stroke.

And what to write about? Well without any recent notable experience, I decided to share one of my favorite stories about my father, which I had occasion to recount while entertaining a client yesterday evening.

European Vacation

Ten years ago I had the great opportunity to take a whirlwind tour of Europe with a group of college students. Seven cities in three and a half weeks. One of those opportunities that you know won’t pop up again any time soon, so I jumped at the chance. Our last stop was Rome, where we had a scheduled audience with the Pope (John Paul II, for those who don’t keep up with these things). If you have not been to the Vatican for an “audience with the Pope,” I will share with you that it isn’t an opportunity to walk in, shake hands and chew the fat with His Grace. It is occasion to squeeze into a giant room with 50,000 other people and squint to see him walk across the stage and speak in a thick, Italian accent you cannot understand.

But that is neither here nor there. The significance of this visit was that it provided me the opportunity to obtain for my father the one thing he had always wanted: a rosary blessed by the Pope. Not knowing about such things, I asked him where I could acquire such a rare gift, and he assured me that you could walk into the Vatican gift shop and pick out one of thousands. Basically, according to my father, who is never wrong, the Pope walks into a giant Catholic warehouse where these pieces are stored, raises his hand, says a few words in Italian and blesses the whole lot of them. So there I am, after our audience with the pope, in the Vatican gift shop, inquiring of an elderly nun which of the rosaries has been blessed. She scoffed at me, and told me in her condescending, broken English that blessed items cannot be sold. I informed her that she was mistaken and explained to her what my father had told me. She just shook her head, made a clucking noise, and shuffled away. So there I was, thousands of miles away from home, unable to deliver on one simple task that would make my father happy. What made it worse was that, if I had known better, I could have bought the rosary ahead of time and taken in into the Pope extravaganza, where His Grace did, in fact, bless en masse all items brought in by the audience.

I felt dizzy. My legs felt weak. I contemplated my options. I could simply stay in Italy, never to be seen or heard from again. That way, the despair of losing his precious daughter would outweigh the fact that he didn’t have a blessed rosary…maybe. I could purchase one of the rosaries, and tell him it was blessed, but I was pretty sure that guaranteed a one-way ticket to hell for me, so best not to go down that road. I finally concluded that a genuine, Vatican-issued rosary was as close to being pope-blessed as you could get, and surely that would satisfy him.

Upon arriving back in the states, I immediately held out my father’s gift to him, and excitedly gave him my best sales pitch on the whole “Vatican-issued” bit. He held it up and, with perfect fatherly gratitude, told me it was exactly what he had wanted. I smiled, and acted like I believed him. But we both knew the truth.

I was a failure.

(Tomorrow: Redemption!…Or not.)


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