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Summer in a Red Mustang with Cookies
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do better. I thought they should have waited for someone else,
someone more like me. In May, St. Christopher, along with thirtyone
other saints got the boot from the Vatican and were forever
banished from the Roman Catholic calendar. My father, a long
time renegade from the Catholic Church was outraged that the
only saint worth a prayer could be treated so unjustly. Who was
going to save his soul? Who was going to protect him from himself
? What would he do with the fourteen karat gold St.
Christopher’s medallion he wore around his neck, the one his
beloved mother gave him the day he left to go overseas to fight in
the “War to End all Wars?” She gave it to him to protect him from
the “bullets and bombs,” he always said. Too bad she wasn’t wearing
one herself the Saturday evening she stepped off the curb, her
body, mind and soul freshly cleansed after five minutes in the
confessional, when a drunk driver in a beat-up pick-up truck, with
its right headlight burned out, ran a red light and struck her dead
instantly. She was three days shy of her sixtieth birthday. My father
didn’t even know she was dead until he returned from the war but
by then everyone in his family had moved on with their lives and
were unwilling to grieve or shed another tear for her. I never knew
my grandfather because my father never forgave him for the way he
mistreated his mother all their married life and for not being the
one hit by that truck. My father was convinced that had the drunk
not killed her, his old man surely would have. They hadn’t spoken
since my grandfather, with his new and very pregnant wife hanging
on his arm, told him the news about his mother’s death like he was
talking about one of the checkout girls at Kresges.
It was a year full of rock star weddings and suicides, movie star
deaths, trips to the moon, starvation in Biafra, a war in Vietnam,
civil unrest in Ireland, protests everywhere, Woodstock, Charles
Manson, Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick. With all that going
on in the world, my meeting Beth was hardly significant let alone
newsworthy, but it was the single most important moment in my
life, an event that changed me forever.
“Do you believe in euthanasia?” That was the first thing she
asked me. The truth is, I didn’t know what she was talking about.
Until I met her I couldn’t even spell words like that much less have
an opinion. Not that I wasn’t intelligent; I was young with limited
experience. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about important issues, it’s
just that my world was small and the things that concerned me
didn’t extend much further than the street I lived on. That bland,
anywhere street, with its plain ordinary people casually
two-stepping from one pointless day to the next was the subject