Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.
The Great Louie Armstrong Performs Hello Dolly
You cannot add more minutes to the day, but you can utilize each one to the fullest.
Chapter 25 ~ Rosa Is Ready To Spill Her Guts About Joe’s Dad
Father Tim pointed to the table motioning Joe and Sam to take a seat. Joe noticed two place settings already on and Sam sat on the table. One place setting was at the head of the table. The other was on the side in the middle of the table. Joe tapped Sam on the arm an moved his head toward to the side of the table with no place settings. Joe and Sam no sooner sat down when Rosa came with two more plates, napkins and silver ware and set them in front of them.
She stared at Joe for a moment, “Chu looks jus like him. Why you want find that …” She turned and went back to the stove.
Sam said, “The apple pie smells delicious. The whole house smells better than any restaurant I ever been in.”
Rosa turned around and smiled, “You got to be a good man. Chu watch out for the guy next to you. The apple don’t fall far the tree.”
“Rosa,” said Father Time.
“Lo Siento,” said Rosa.
Father Tim said, “Rosa’s story is important. We’ll wait until after we eat, then we can talk. Where do you live, Joe?”
“I live in Columbus. That’s where I’ve lived my whole life. My parents were killed in a car crash a little while back. I’m their only child. I was going through the their things when I found this letter …”
Father Tim held up his hand motioning Joe to stop, “So you’re a Buckeye. You go to Ohio State?”
“I’m a Buckeye through and through.”
“What about you, Sam? Are you from Ohio?” asked Father Tim.
“Hell no. Opps, excuse me. I better watch my tongue,” a red faced Sam apologized.
“No need to apologize, Sam. I’ve heard worse and I’ve said worse. If that’s the worse thing we ever do, we’re in good shape when our time comes.”
Sam said, “I’m not a Catholic, but I don’t hold anything against you. In fact, I like what you said. Is that one of your church teachings?”
Father Tim laughed, “I rely on God’s mercy and love. I make enough mistakes every day that I’d be lost if I didn’t have a merciful God.”
“You mind fist bumping me with that?” asked Sam extending his right arm with his fist closed. They fist bumped. Then Sam said, “When I was a kid I cut the grass at Saint Patricks in Terre Haute. I think the pastor hired me because I hung out with Teddy Cochran. Teddy was an altar boy.”
“So, you’re a Hoosier. Terre Haute was home of the legendary Larry Bird. He was some kind of special basketball player.”
“You like basketball? Everybody in Indiana loves basketball. They ain’t much for football.”
“I went to college in Indiana,” said Father Tim.
“You went to Purdue or IU?” asked Sam.
“No, I went to the small football university to the North, Notre Dame.”
“You’re one of those Fighting Irish?” exclaimed Sam.
“Through and through. I bleed green every fall during football season. This weekend they play Michigan State at home and I have tickets. I can’t wait.”
“Enough football talk. It’s time to eat,” said Rosa setting a platter of chicken fajitas with grilled onions and peppers on the center of the table. Then she placed two bowls of salsa, a bowl of sour cream, a plate of flour tortillas, and grated mozzarella cheese on the table.
Sam started to reach for a tortilla when Joe punched Sam’s thigh. Sam brought his hand back and placed it on his lap.
Father Tim smiled and said, “We’ll thank the Lord for our food. Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounties through Christ our Lord, Amen. Bless Joe and Sam on their travels. Keep them safe. And, whatever Joe finds, let him find your peace above all else.”
Joe fought back a growing lump in his throat, nodded and smiled at Father Tim.
Rosa said, “What chu all waiting for. Dig in. What chu don’t eat, I gonna take to the women’s shelter down the street. I always make five times more than Father Tim can eat.”
Joe learned Rosa’s parents immigrated from Monterrey, Mexico. She was born in the US two weeks after they crossed the Rio Grande some fifty years earlier. Her parents were migrant workers, campesinos, she called them and they worked the farms from the Rio Grande Valley up to the Canadian border every year. Father Tim said Rosa started working at rectory as the housekeeper about the same time he came twenty-five years ago.
Father Tim noticed Rosa hadn’t eaten a bite. He said, “Rosa, you’re not going to eat until you tell your story. Go ahead. Joe and Sam will listen while they eat.”
“You betcha. I not gonna eat until I spill my guts.”
Then Rosa told her story.
Chapter 24 ~ Joe Picks Up Clues to His Father’s Past
Joe and Sam traveled across Missouri Route 36. The landscape was a mixture of wooded areas, cornfields, soybean fields, and small towns. Joe set the cruise control at 70, just over the posted speed limit of 65 mph. They stopped three hours later in Cameron for a fill up and bathroom break when Sam threatened to let go in Joe’s BMW. It was fall, they talked football and the baseball playoffs. Sam was pulling for the Cardinals to go deep into the baseball playoffs, but he had no hope for University of Indiana football. Joe talked about the Cleveland Indians going deep in the baseball playoffs. Both men agreed it would be good to a Cleveland against St. Louis in the World Series. When they weren’t talking sports, Sam twice asked Joe for his iPhone. Twice Joe told him no.
When they left Cameron, they exited Route 36 and turned onto Interstate 35. Interstate 35 travels through Kansas City and straight to Wichita. If you stay on it long enough, north or south, you’ll end up in Canada or Mexico. Once they entered Kansas, I-35 turned into a toll road. Joe picked up a ticket from an automatic ticket dispenser. The speed limit was 70 mph.
Sam broke the silence, “You got yourself wound up tighter than a squirrel during squirrel hunting season.”
Joe gave Sam a half glance, “There’s no such thing as squirrel hunting season. I’m not a hunter and you know that.”
“That’s what you know. You went to college and you think you got all the answers. You don’t got half the answers, any fool kin see that.”
“When is squirrel hunting season?” said Joe giving Sam a smug look.
Sam chuckled to himself. Then he said, “You grew up in the city, am I right?”
“So? Lots of people grow up in the city,” said Joe.
“Hell, if you grew up in the country where the real folks live, you’d learn every day is squirrel hunting season. That’s why squirrels are always twitching and acting like it’s their last day alive, which it probably is. In the city where they been domesticated. You been domesticated? Jody wants to domesticate you.”
Joe shook his head, “That’s a lame answer. It’s not official. And, I’m not interested in Jody. I am not domesticated.”
Sam laughed, “Touchy, touchy. She’s reeling you in bit by bit. You got her lure stuck in the corner of your mouth. Sam lowered his window and stuck his arm outside the car and waved it. Take a look Joe, this is all open range, it’s called the Flint Hills. You won’t see a house here. It’s got the richest grazing land in the world. Ranchers bring their cattle in here all over the world during the summer to get fat. In the spring, they do controlled burning to make sure the grasses stay pure. Sometimes the turnpike gets shutdown because of the smoke.”
“How do you know all this stuff?” asked Joe.
“You think I stayed in Terre Haute all my life? I learned the way any smart man learns, by living. Try it sometimes.”
“I didn’t mean to say you were dumb. I was only asking a question,” said Joe.
This was the way the conversation went between Joe and Sam as they traveled down I-35 through Lawrence, Topeka, Emporia, El Dorado, and until the came to Exit 50 in Wichita. They exited onto Kellogg and took a left on Rock Road and drove for a mile until they came to E. Douglas. Joe took a left. He said, “It’s a little after one, let’s go to Blessed Sacrament Church and see if anyone knows anything about Joe Ritchie, then we’ll grab some lunch.”
Sam nodded. Then he said, “You want some advice or you going to be stubborn?”
“What?” said Joe.
“You’re going to be traveling through an independent town in the middle of Wichita. It’s Eastborough. The speed limit is twenty miles an hour. The cops will nail your butt if you’re going twenty one miles an hour. If you want a ticket, it’s up to you. I won’t say another word.”
Joe glanced at his speedometer. It read forty miles an hour. He hit the brakes as his BMW went past a sign saying, Entering Eastborough, Drive Safely. Speed Limit 20 – Strictly Enforced.
Joe said, “I owe you Sam.”
“Don’t mention it, you can git me a decent lunch. I don’t want no salad or fast food.”
Ten minutes later Joe pulled into the parking lot of Blessed Sacrament Church. Joe and Sam walked to the rectory, rang the door bell, and were answered a minute later by a small dark haired, Latina woman Joe assumed was the housekeeper. She said, “Can I help chu?”
Joe said, “Is the pastor in?”
“What chu want wit Father Tim? He’s busy, he gonna eat lunch in ten minutes. If you selling, give me the information, I’ll give it to him. If you converting, come back in an hour. If you need to go to confession, those are on Saturday.”
“I really need to see him. It will only take a few minutes, promise. I’m not selling anything. I’m trying to find my father.”
“Why dint you say so in the first,” said the housekeeper. She left and walked down the hallway before disappearing to her left.
Sam nudged Joe, “Git a load of that smell. I smell apple pie in the oven and some of those Mexican fajitas on the stove with green peppers and onions. Father Tim does okay. I bet he weighs over two hundred pounds the way that senora feeds him
A moment later, a thin gray haired man, in black pants, black shirt and Roman collar came down the hallway. He smiled at Joe and Sam and when he was five feet away, he said, “I’m Father Tim. How can I help you?”
Joe gave Sam a quick glance then said, “Hello, Father Tim. This is my friend, Sam. My name is Joe Astore. I’m trying to find my father Joe Ritchie. I heard he worked years ago. You probably never heard of him, perhaps there is a custodian or someone who might have known him. I just learned he’s my father and I’m trying to find him.”
“My God, Joe Ritchie. Joe Ritchie. You’re Joe Ritchie’s son. I can see the resemblance. Come in gentlemen. Would you like to stay for lunch and we can talk? I’m starving.”
Sam spoke, “That’s kind of you, Father Tim. We accept your invitation.”
Father Tim started walking down the hall toward the kitchen, he spoke as he walked, “I knew Joe Ritchie. This is my second tour at Blessed Sacrament. The first time, a number of years ago, I was a much younger priest. Blessed Sacrament was my first assignment after my ordination. Time flies, that was twenty-five years ago. Now, I’m back as the pastor, and I have two new priests trying to learn the ropes, just like I did back then.”
Father Tim turned to is right and entered a large kitchen area with a table and six chairs. He said, “Rosa, do you mind setting two more places for at the table. Joe and Sam are going to join us.” Then Father Tim said, “Joe Ritchie was hired as church custodian one month after I arrived. Oh, yes I know Joe Ritchie. What do you want to know?
Rosa looked over her shoulder, “Joe Reechee?” Then she said something in Spanish neither Joe or Sam understood.
“Rosa, Joe here will want to know your story, too,” said Father Tim.
There is something in me maybe someday to be written; now it is folded, and folded, and folded, like a note in school.