You may read this at some date in the future, but not soon. I’ve stopped blogging for a while and instead write in this diary when I feel the need. I find the Internet to be too time consuming and I’m busy with other projects as well as answering the phone. People I’ve met in the past 20 years who read the blog seem to want to call me up and tell me how much fun it was to sit and talk with me at the drop-in center or on a bench in town or in the hot dog place where I work a couple of days each week scrubbing pots and pans and continuing to work on my Spanish.
We’re still listed in the phone book as Our Lady’s Monastery of West Saugerties. No more Ardent Brothers, St. Anne and M&M were shut down by a Dublin commission and now live in England. They are lucky to not be sitting in a Dublin jail. I haven’t heard from either of them and such may be part of their agreement with County Cork’s prosecution solicitor.
I haven’t seen Sally Prendel since the night of the fire. She has written me a note every once in while, however. She married a man from Woodstock who stole her heart and gave her babies. He is a fairly successful musician in the area and the two manage a small recording studio while she continues to sell real estate occasionally. This particular note I will always keep.
You ask me what I do with my life. I spend a good deal of time with my children and often take them with me on walks in the woods. I pass by the two old stumps from time to time, but have never seen anyone seated on them since the afternoon I walked by, heard a noise and turned to find you sitting there. I sometimes wonder if indeed our meeting was my dream, but you have said it was yours. I also wonder if indeed it was a dream. For two strangers to happen upon each other in the woods and be moved to confess everything about themselves, the minute details of their joys and worries, is indeed miraculous. I walked back down the mountain trail that day, troubled but convinced I had met my guardian angel. I have since decided such a notion is too complicated or too simple, maybe both.
Not long ago on a soft summer afternoon, as I passed the stumps I heard a small sound and turned to see absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. I sat down on the damp surface of one stump while my little boy knelt on the forest floor twenty feet away and scooped up armfuls of leaves, tossing them into the air. My four year old daughter climbed up on the other stump.
“Mommy, there’s a word here on the seat,” she said.
I stood, took a step and looked down.
“Where do you see it, Jessica?” I said.
“Over here, near the back,” came the answer.
Crudely dug out with a knife was one
“What does it say, Mommy?” she asked.
I was unable to respond for a moment. Then I told her, “It says He is with us, honey.”
I remembered your phrase, “a manifestation of God personalized for my feeble mind,” but I told Jessica the word had been left by her guardian angel.
Is a guardian angel real or someone we’ve made up? Maybe it is woven into the fabric of who we are to each other as humans. Or could it be a manifestation for our feeble minds? Does it matter? Maybe it’s just part of the dance. Love, Sally.”
Julio turned legitimate and joined the Xaverian Brothers, finished college and taught high school in Malden, MA for three years before joining a mission in Kenya, where he remains today. I asked him a year ago if he remembered the smell of orange jasmine. He laughed and said he tries not to.
Lance’s lawyer helped me to create some kind of legal entity where I administer the money discovered in the accounts on the day we drove to the bank in the village. We’ve changed banks.
The third letter I mailed for Agnes before the fire, the envelope addressed to a solicitor in Fermoy, named me the sole heir of Agnes’ personal estate, a portfolio of bonds from the original Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company, purchased by his grandfather and later held in trust for Agnes (Michael John Moriarty) by his family’s law firm when he entered the Ardent Brothers many years before. It’s market value at the time of his death was somewhere in excess of $4,000,000 USD. For this money, Lance and I became co-executors and within five years he doubled its value. The fund is run as a charity and benefits a wide variety of those with temporary financial needs.
The fourth and final letter from Agnes arrived at the office of a local attorney wrapped in a note requesting the woman send it to Jesse after Agnes’ death. She promptly forgot it until running into me in the hot dog parlor while I cleaned her table.
My dear brother in Christ, Jessica. I am not sorry for what I’ve done, despite your fretting and whining. I have harmed only myself. As for your uncomfortableness with my opinion of your behaviors, I was only the light shining on the person you had become. I am about to saddle you with more responsibility, this time financial. Perhaps you feel I should let you alone and leave you to your old age, but it’s precisely because you are coming closer to death year by year that I intend to goad you even from here, wherever I have wound up. Before you die, you need to amount to something. I’m sure that was your intention when you were a young man. It remains His intention for you to this day. I have come to believe that God requires nothing heroic of us, let alone saintly. He wants only for us to leave the sidelines and to join the dance. This may be your last invitation. Don’t refuse as I did.
Aside from your proclivity to run and hide, a trait so remindful of myself, I thank you for being a splendid abbot to me. Your Brother in Christ’s Love, Agnes.”
The brothers decided to remain in Saugerties. We bought an old farmhouse in Blue Mountain and five of us still reside there today: Izzy, Bouncer, Beep Beep, Kickstart and myself. Harpo died a year after the fire and the other brothers drifted off to one mission pursuit or another. Two, Headless and Raiser, are no longer religious brothers. Both are married and have children.
Modern chemistry has saved Beep Beep in the form of effective new drugs and as long as he takes them he is fairly normal. He hasn’t taken his clothes off except for showers and bed in the past three years. He works part time at the little market in Blue Mountain. He tells me his favorite customer is a trucker named Sally who stops occasionally. She’s a Red Sox fan. When Beep talks about her, Bouncer gets very quiet. I hear the toot-toot of an air horn from time to time when a truck passes the house.
Terd entered the Capuchin Monastery in France and has never been heard from since. I hope he is launched on his true path, but I can’t say I’d be terribly surprised to see him again staring in our kitchen window.
And me, I’m just getting older. I went up on the roof of this house once, but the view from down here in the valley is boring and my knees aren’t as trustworthy they used to be. Besides, this house has a terrific cellar! Laid up stone and lots of nooks and crannies. For an old house, the cellar is quite well sealed and stays cool in the summer and warm from the furnace in the winter. Tapioca and I just love it.
F I N I S