Grandpa's Story
“The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary and she was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

She stood in silence, a porcelain sentinel in a miniature cove at the front of the church. Her right hand was raised with thumb tucked unnaturally into the palm; her left hand clutched the material above her heart. She looked on, emotionless.

“Behold the hand made of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to thy word.”

Below her feet lay an incline of red and blue votive candels which flickered in “Promise me, promise me.” whispers. The walls were staines with the scent of their aspirations; their being lit, relit and eventually expiring.

“Pray for us oh Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy...”

Waves of heavy, oak pews crushed the tranquility of the blue lady’s face. The marble arches stood strong, the darkly stained oak unyeilding. An elderly man knelt in the middle of the masses with his hand on his forhead, eyes closed. His body hunched over the pew in front of him as he drew one knee up to relieve the pressure from his back. Eyebrows still knotted he raised his head.


He twisted his body to the side and scooped his hat from beside him. He gripped the pew in front of him and with all of his weight softly rose to the attention of the stained glass saints that circled the building. This church was dead to him now, it held nothing for him outside of pity.

He turned to the back of the building, the emptiness mimicked his footsteps and hung clumsily in the air. He reached for the outside door, a breath of night air engulfed him and made him feel cold and damp. He stepped from the hollow onto the pavement. The alley was lit by a street lamp attached to the building, it threw shadows at his gate and yard. For 55 years he had lived behind Our Lady of Charity church; he supported this church, it’s where he baptised his five sons, sent them to school, and held his wife’s funeral.

He unlatched the gate and walked into his yard, the sidewalk to his door needed the grass trimmed around it. He would do that tomorrow. As he approached the door he reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys, sliding one into the lock he twisted and twisted until the deadbolt gave way. He opened his door and stepped into the kitchen pausing at the letter on the table.

Dear Mr. Meinholz:

I greatly appreciate your continual interest to resolve the parish problem and more personally your own dilema. If there is anything I can do to assist you with coming to a mutually satisfactory conclusion don’t hesitate to call on me.

May I be so bold as to suggest that an agreement could be made within a few days (3-5 days) so that at that time agreements could be reached we, the parish, could file all necessary forms required by city law. (timeliness is urgent because of City Hall processes which take so long) In order for this to take place we ust own all properties.

It could be possible, by coming to a legal agreement, that you would have time to relocate; live in your house free of any cost while you search with pain and difficulty for a new location.

Further more, if you request a higher payment for your property I am open to such a discussion.

I greatly desire to be able to announce (and eliminate bad rumors) to the parish at large the plans which you personally received from me about the new church building.

I do not desire to be your enemy but only do what I see and others approve of as a good plan.

Again, thank you, God bless you and please pray for me.

Gratefully yours,

Father John

Christian turned off the kitchen light. He walked through the living room and up the stairway to his bedroom in the dark. He knew he would lie awake but gave in to the cause and went to bed.

He was up early the next morning. At 8:35 the doorbell rang, he opened the shade to find his son Mark waiting to come in.

“What did you have for breakfast?” Mark asked looking down at the toast crumbs around the toaster.

“Oh, I had some orange juice and cerial. Toast. Would you like some?”

“Thanks dad but I had breakfst already.” Mark set a folder full of papers down on the dining room table. “You know it’s not too late to change your mind.”

“No this is what I want to do, this is the right thing to do.” He sat down next to the table; his eyebrows knotted in the same way they did when he prayed, the same way when he was confused.

“What time did Father John say he was coming over this morning?” Mark asked leaning into his father’s answer.

“Nine o’clock or so.” he said knowing his son was just trying to pass time. “I’m going to make some coffee.”

By nine o’clock the coffee was ready and on warm, the preist was there and waiting like a watchdog, accompanied by three of the church council members.

“Well Mr. Meinholz, I’m glad to see that you are making such a generous sacrifice for Our Lady of Charity.” the preist said looking at the council members for approval. “You know Mr. Meinholz, we’ll see what we can do about putting the altar right over the spot where your house stood.”

“That’s a lie!” Mark could not stay seated. “In order to do that you would have to build the altar right in front of the main doors. People would have to walk around the altar to get to their seats. If you’re trying to glamorize this whole mess don’t, ‘cause what you’re doing isn’t glamorous, it’s a sin.”

Christian put an elbow on the table and cupped his hand over his eyes. He was tired of fighting, accepting the loss would come as a relief and to get out now would leave him with some respect. Father John came into the parish after Father Raymond died, he brought with him the reputation of wanting to make a name for himself by expanding the churches he was assigned to. Our Lady of Charty was in a stable community but expanding the church would mean a bigger church erected next to the old building and the old church turned into a gymnasium for the school children. The only one standing in the way was the stubborn German.

Christian would call his sons with stories of the weekly happenings. The first being how Father John arranged to have the nuns move out of the convent next door. The nuns, having watched Christian’s children and grandchildren come through that house, were all sent away. Some to a retirement home, others were scattered to different areas. Less than a week after the move the convent was under demolition. The parish purchased the house on the other side of Christian and demolished it as well, until all that was standing was Christian’s house.

After each step in the process the priest would invite himself over to talk to the old man. At one point the priest told Christian that the newly leveled land around him would be put to use as a parking lot if he refused to move. He brought council members with him to put presure on the old man and rumors spread that the stubborn German had thrown a stick in the spoke of progress. Christian began to feel that when he walked into mass on Sunday, half of the congregation looked at him with resentment, the other half with pity. It was at this time that he asked his sons to help him. It was a battle between what he truly wanted and what he felt was his moral responsibility. It had gotten to a point when what he wanted for himself was tainted with pressure and criticism, he had made the decision to leave his home.

“This is how I am earning my way into Heaven.” he would say to himself.

His sons were by his side to make sure that the house would not come easy. Our Lady Of Charity was to buy the house, find Christian an acceptable condominium, pay for all moving expenses and the first year’s taxes. Christian would give up his home of 55 years and start his life over at the age of 86.

“We are trying our best to have everyone leave here happy today.” Father John announced. “The lawyers have taken care of all the necessary paperwork and the signing of the contracts is all that needs to be finished.”

Mark pushed his chair back, “Fine.”

Christian picked up the pen and pulled the papers close to him, “Elizabeth forgive me.” and signed his name.

By a quarter of eleven the priest and his council members had gone. Mark had finished washing up the coffe cups and had set them in the drainer to dry.

“We’ll all come by about eleven tomorrow to help you sort things out. We’ll bring lunch and supper with us so you wont have to worry about anything.”

“I’ll have to get more ice cream.” Christian replied “I will miss walking to Leo’s Frozen Custard you know.”

“I know dad.” Mark wrung out the dish rag and hung it over the faucet. “If you’d like I could treat you to lunch?”

“No, hat’s okay.” he said “I’ve got to trim the grass around the sidewalk. It’s getting bad.”

“Dad, you really don’t need to do that.” Mark said

“It needs to be done.”

Okay then, we’ll see you tomorrow. I’ll give you a call later tonight to see how you are doing.”

Mark picked his jacket off the back of the kitchen chair. “Take care, dad.”

Christian watched as his son left. He went to the kitchen window and stood there for a long time trying to remember what it was like to look out of that window and not see the shopping center that was a block away. Remembering the slow pitches he fed to his sons in the open field next door. Remembering the crayfish the kids used to catch at the creek and bring home. Elizabeth died looking out a window; she was watching him prune his rose bushes. He came in to wash his hands and found her on the floor, there was blood.

It was time to trim the grass, time to keep busy.


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