By Barb-Arland Fye
My response to a phone call on Sunday morning caused a change in plans, but what an unexpected and delightful gift from God the day turned out to be!
A cousin from the Twin Cities, whom I hadn’t seen in about 25 years, called to say that he and his wife were in the Quad Cities for a fast-pitch softball tournament. Would I be interested in stopping by? The timing seemed perfect in a sense. I’ve been immersed in our newspaper’s coverage of marriage and family issues in preparation for next week’s World Meeting of Families and the historic visit of Pope Francis to the United States. How could I not make time for family?
Tommy told me where his team (men 60 years and older) would be playing, the color of their jerseys and that his wife JoAnn would be the score keeper. I spotted her right away and she gave me a warm hug. I wondered whether I’d recognize Tommy after so many years, but I did. His hair is white now, but his effusive smile and boyish face were easily recognizable. He was the second-oldest of the Arland cousins; I was somewhere in the middle of the pack. He came out of the dugout and gave me a big bear hug.
His team, Anytime Fitness, was in contention for the national championship. They’d won all of their previous games of the weekend and needed a victory over the Wisconsin team they were playing to advance to the final game. These 60-something players were amazing not only for their playing skills at that age, but for their obvious enthusiasm for the sport. To Tommy and JoAnn’s disappointment, Anytime Fitness had to be content with a third-place finish overall.
They stayed to watch the final game and agreed to meet my family and me later that evening for dinner. Our family follows a routine on Sunday nights based on our older son Colin’s preferences. Usually, you have to give a person with autism more advance warning about schedule changes, but Colin was elated that our whole family would be together for dinner. That doesn’t always happen.
Before dinner, though, I had another commitment covering a story for The Catholic Messenger. The event renewed my enthusiasm for the work we do at our diocesan newspaper and provided fresh insights for my faith journey.
I drove home so I could join my husband Steve and our two sons for the trip to the restaurant together. Colin and Patrick may have been introduced to Tommy and Joanne for the first time, but we settled into the family reunion like old friends. Tommy, 12 years older than me, had on occasion babysat my younger brothers and me. We joked about Tommy’s interest in watching a TV show called “Combat” while he watched us. We exchanged stories of sports-related injuries, the news that his baby sister was now a grandmother (hard for me to believe!) and his other two sisters were living close to each other in Arizona. We talked about religion. He’d read an article I’d written about our Grandma Arland and appreciated it. Tommy grew up Catholic but now attends a Lutheran church with JoAnn. He said he sees great similarities between the Catholic and Lutheran denominations.
We left the restaurant promising to stay in touch. Next week, the Catholic Church will be absorbed in family matters with the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia. Our family got a head start with our own celebration of the family.
(Barb Arland-Fye, Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)