Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Birthday to My Sister Sheila

I hated Father Reddington, the pastor of our parish, Sacred Heart, long before he was unfair to my sister.  He'd become our priest when I was about twelve, replacing the wonderful and kind Father Mannion, who was retiring.

Sheila and I attended high school catechism class together in Warsaw, one night a week, twelve miles from our home.  Towards the end of the course, Father Reddington passed out a mimeographed set of questions with the answers.  We were to learn the answers by heart exactly.

In order to show off his teaching I guess, the parents would be invited to come to the final class and watch a round-robin contest as we spouted off the useless knowledge we'd gained.  A wrong answer and you were sent from the front rows of students to the back of the room where the parents were sitting.  The last one standing would be the champion.

If the question, for instance, was "Why did God create us?" and the mimeographed answer was "To know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him" and you happened to answer "To know, love, and serve Him" -- WRONG!  GO SIT WITH THE PARENTS WHOM YOU HAVE EMBARRASSED!

Sheila and I had all the answers down pat, but we also knew that one of the answers was wrong.  We decided the best thing would be to recite the wrong answer, figuring that we'd be eliminated if we didn't answer what the bull-headed and dim-witted Father Reddington thought was the answer.

On the big night, when it came to be Sheila's turn at a question, it just happened to be the question with the incorrect answer.  Sheila answered it exactly as it had been given us on the mimeographed sheet.

"Wrong!" Father Reddington shot out.

Sheila protested that, yes it was wrong, but it was his fault -- it was the answer he'd given us.

Father Reddington claimed that after he'd passed out the mimeographed sheets the week before he'd issued a verbal correction early in the week, and he had made sure that everyone got it, and so and so was supposed to telephone us.

Oh, great!  We had no telephone.

So Sheila and I had not got word of the correction ... only the kids who lived in Warsaw had gotten it, but Father Unfair would brook no plea for fairness.  Sheila was eliminated.  That was that, and Father Unfair swished on to the next question.

Later, inasmuch as there were only perhaps sixteen students and twenty questions, and four or five of us were getting every answer right, our inquisitor had to go back to the beginning and start the questions again.  Eventually, inevitably, I happened to get that very same question that Sheila had answered "incorrectly".  I, having already heard it answered at least a couple of times by the Warsaw students, and knowing what the correct answer was anyhow, answered it exactly as they had.

So now -- jesus, was he dumb -- Father Reddington looked to Sheila in the back and said, "See, your own brother got the correction so that proves that you got it too."

Eventually, once it became boringly clear that none of the four or five of us left standing were going to answer any question incorrectly -- we'd all by now had a turn at every question -- Father Unfair declared us co-champions. 

Sheila was furious at the unfairness.  I've no doubt she wanted to give him a fat lip.

I knew her to be capable of landing a good punch.

She'd once landed a good one on me when I had been teasing her about someone being her boyfriend who wasn't her boyfriend.

Her fist left my lip swollen, split, bleeding.  I was so embarrassed that I didn't go to school the next day.
I'm sure I didn't appreciate her toughness while I was nursing my ego and nursing my lip, but bygones become bygones, and I had actually forgotten this incident until another sister reminded me of it recently.

Whatever ... these days I like having a tough sister!

She and her husband Tom gave me two wonderful nieces and a wonderful nephew, and did a great job of raising them.  I was proud when Sheila and Tom had invited me to be the godfather of their first child, Mary Anne.  Then they made me doubly proud when they asked me to be godfather to their second daughter, Elizabeth Anne.  When, at both of their weddings, I was listed on the program as "Godfather of the Bride" my pride rose anew.

Over these many years (Sheila has four grandchildren now, the oldest is a high school Senior) I've had tons of fun and table games and laughs and basketball and good food at Sheila's house.

Thanks, Sheila!  Love you!

(I do sort of regret that Father Unfair didn't get the punch he deserved; some bygones just can't be conveniently forgotten.)


  1. George, Great Story! Father Redington was an Idiot. Being around him would make you want to become an agnostic or atheist, I wish Sheila would have given him a fat lip. I am sure a couple of Our Fathers and Hail Mary's and she would have been forgiven. G

  2. George, Wonderful story; I had forgotten all about that. Not the fat lip though, sorry Joan reminded you. Thanks for remembering me in such a special way. I love you. Sheila

  3. Love to Aunt Sheila; she's a special person in the Fitzgerald Family. When you are young, with brothers, sometimes a slug is the only way to deal with them! Cindy

  4. You have such a talent for telling these memories. I am drawn into the experience. I love to read your blog.

  5. Mom kept telling me I needed to read this and now I know why. It's wonderful. And, Father Unfair was such a jerk--but you already know that.