April 1, 2016

My Pal Jumbo Never Went To Mass Until----Then He Never Missed Mass Again*

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

*This column also appeared in Aleteia on Easter Sunday, 2016

Jumbo Feeney and I grew up together in the Bronx and we have been best friends since "Hector was a pup". We can go a year without talking to each other and when we get on the phone together it is just like we spoke ten minutes ago. I love the guy. But sometimes he drives me nuts. Why? Because he has an opinion on most things known to man (oops,and woman) and will never admit he is wrong.

When I see his name and number on the screen of my smart phone I usually do not answer right away. I need time to mentally prepare for the impending event. I know that invariably, when I answer, Jumbo will be in mid sentence having been already talking as if I had been on the phone the last minute or two. I will not have a clue as to what he talking about and it takes me a minute or two to figure it out. By the time I do he is already four minutes into his conversation of speaking to no-one.  It is a fantastic dynamic we have. So the first thing I do is  quickly pray very hard for all the gifts of the Holy Spirit to immediately explode within me . I need all the help I can get.

 Yesterday I see Jumbo's name and number on the screen. (If my phone was truly smart it would wait until I was ready for the call but it doesn't care). I immediately violate my own rule and answer the phone. Jumbo is talking and already in mid sentence, "---you know what I'm talking about Petie, right?"

I think fast and say, "Uh, sure Jumbo. What was that you said first? You couldn't do what?"

It was a smart move on my part. Jumbo says, "Oh man, weren't you listening?"

"I was hanging on every word, Jumbo, but you were talking so fast I missed part of it."

"Petie, (he has always called me Petie) I am going to Mass this Sunday. What do you think of that?"
He paused and waited for my non-reply. Then he hollered into the phone, "Hey Petie, you there? Say something, will ya? Hope I didn't give you a heart attack or something."

Jumbo Feeney had not been to Mass in decades. He would go for a social event like a wedding or a funeral but never on his own. But he sounded different. As if he really meant it.

I recovered and said, "Uh, no, nothing like that. Just some mild chest pains and a headache. They are subsiding."

I waited a moment and said, Okay Jumbo, what happened? It has been many years since you went to Mass on your own."

"Okay Petie, here it is. And I ain't never told this to anyone so keep it under your hat. Every night when Midge and I go to bed she grabs my hand and we say a Hail Mary. Then she says, "God loves you Jumbo." Then we go to sleep."

"That's a beautiful thing, Jumbo. Midge is a great gal. She loves you a lot."

"Yeah, I know, I know. But I never paid attention and just let her say her prayer and that was that. And she never bugged me about it, ever."

"So what happened?"

"Well, last night, Midge was acting weird and suddenly passed out. I kind of freaked out. She fell down on the floor and was out cold. Jimmy quickly says to me, "Grandpa, its grandma's blood sugar. She needs something sweet to eat. You have  to check her blood sugar. "

I said, "Damn Jumbo, so what happened?"

"Petie, I didn't know what to do. She has diabetes all these years and I didn't know what to do. I went blank. So, my twelve year old grandson gets Midge's blood sugar kit out, sticks her finger and finds out her sugar is 39. He gets some OJ and some sugar and some stuff for her to eat and he saved her Petie. My grandson  saved my wife while I stood there like a useless ass. If he wasn't there I----." Then I heard my 6'5", 250 pound buddy, stifle a sob.

It was a startling story and I didn't know what to say to him. I can hear Jumbo's tear filled voice say to me, "Petie, Jimmy and I got her  on the couch and she is now sitting up. She takes a deep breath, looks at me and asks me if I will you please go to Mass with her on Easter Sunday."

"So, what did you tell her?"

"I put my arm around her shoulder, looked her square in those beautiful green eyes and said, 'Midge, I swear to you, I will go to Mass with you every Sunday from this Easter on. I swear it. All those times you told me that 'God loves me', well Midgie, you were right. The least I can do is give Him some time back. After all, He gave me you back. I owe Him big time."

"Hey Jumbo, give Midge  a hug for me, will ya. And, Happy Easter. Love ya, man."

"Yeah, love ya too, Petie. Happy Easter."

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