Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Patron Saint

So I was raised Catholic. Confirmed and everything. When you go through confirmation, you're supposed to pick a patron saint. A lot of kids pick saints who share their first or middle names, so your confirmation name is the same. However, there is one unwritten but seemingly unbreakable rule, at least among secularly-schooled, CCD crowd: Girls don't pick patron saints with boys' names and vice versa.

I really wanted to pick St. Francis of Assisi (patron saint of animals) or St. Anthony (patron saint of lost things), but above all else, I was a 13-year-old girl who was REALLY excited about getting her braces off the day before. Standing out and being different and being the only girl with a boy saint? Not happening. So I picked St. Angela Merici. She believed in educating young girls and redistributed her wealth to the poor, which is frankly pretty feminist for a 15th century Italian chick. Anyway.

The thing is? I lose stuff. Always have, always will. Even when I was a baby, I lost stuff.

I had a Lovey, an omnipresent security blanket, (seen here being rescued from the wash line for me by my sister circa 1980) the remnants of which may or may not at this very moment be tucked into a nightstand right next to my bed. Just in case.

(Seen here on my way to my first day of preschool with Lovey, my bag, and Tommy the Tomcat, the first stray to find me, at my feet.)

Lovey went everywhere with me, and therefore, like all things I really want or need to have at a moment's notice, got lost. All the time.

No words can strike fear in my parents' hearts like the words: "I can't find Lovey!" Seriously, next time I'm home, I'm going to wait until my dad is drifting off to sleep in his chair, stand behind him, say those words, and see what happens. Just as an experiment! In the name of science!

Anyway, whenever something was lost, and this was often, my family would pray to St. Anthony: "Good St. Anthony, come around; something's lost and can't be found." For years, this worked like a charm for me. I said this prayer all the time. Things would turn up in the oddest places, places that had been checked numerous times.

Until 1999 or so, when I moved from communion-taking Catholic to communion-abstaining Lapsed Catholic. There are lot of reasons for this, but suffice it to say, the habitual plea for help to St. Anthony, by and large, went unheeded. I've been on my own searching for my keys since I deliberately began voting pro-choice.

So I've been really tired and overworked lately, even more so than usual. Work provides a phenomenal amount of gear that I schlep EVERYWHERE. I have- no joke- hundreds of gadgets and lenses and transmitters and things that go beep in the night- including a three-month-old $400 cell phone. (I didn't buy this, mind you, it was assigned to me. ) I have a deliberate system, a pocket for everything, a hook for keys, a spot for press IDs, etc., but when I get tired, I tend to throw everything in the bags and try to sort it all out later.

This? Is my personal recipe for DOOM.

The first thing that went missing was the $400 cell phone. I had it on opening night of Phantom, and it was on complete vibrate mode in my lap because I still was on call. The next morning, it was gone. Of course, I tore the house apart, dismantled the car, went back to the school, and called it incessantly, listening for telltale thrum of redemption. No luck. Now, the Nournal Jews replaces your first lost company-issued cell phone, an offer I took advantage of in my second year of employment there. The second lost phone is all on you, er, me. I so do not have $400 lying around right now.

Then, I lost a $100 transmitter card that plugs into my laptop and transmits photos and videos to the newsroom via cell phone signal. This is one of those things that has a specific place where it goes so it doesn't get lost. (Because I already lost one in 2005, but in my defense that was a CRAZY spot news scene where there 19 people were injured when the 12-person van they were crammed in hit a tractor trailer. I was the first press on the scene. They were actually triaging people with TAGS. Dude. Terrifying.)

Back to the present. In the midst of dismantling all my bags for the third time in five days (first two rounds for the cell phone, third for the transmitter card), I kind of lost it. It was downright Biblical. I wept. There may have been gnashing of teeth. (How DOES one gnash one's teeth?)

And then... in the middle of plundering my laptop bag, I realized I left a packet of snapshots of Joel and me as children at the office. I was scanning them for a wedding project, and I left them by the scanner. This envelope contained every original snapshot of Joel and his brother Brian, whom you may know passed away in 1998.*

I was driving back to the office, at 11:30 at night, no question.

In the car, crossing the Zappan Bee Tridge, St. Anthony and I had a long talk. All I wanted help finding was the pictures. I prayed. Hard. Don't laugh, but I may have used the words "prodigal Catholic daughter" in my prayer. I promised to give money to Catholic Charities. NOT the Catholic Priests Pediophilia Defense Fund, I told him, but a Catholic charity like the one that ran the after-school program I volunteered for in college.

I arrived at the office close to midnight. The envelope was still by the scanner. Thank God. I got home about 30 minutes later, and slowly started to repack my laptop bag, the contents of which were still all over the living room floor. As I was putting all my gadgets back in their proper places, my hand slid into a pocket that had been checked numerous times, and touched... metal. It was the $100 transmitter card.

Exhausted, I went to bed.

When I woke up a scant six hours later, I had a message on my personal cell phone. My $400 work cell phone- missing with a dead battery for six days- had been located at Nyack High School.

Yeah. Uh huh.

How does St. Anthony's fund for prevention of AIDS and other diseases in 47 schools spread around the slums of Nairobi sound? Sounds good to me, too. :)

*Super Fun Bonus: Courtesy of the scanner, I give you quite possibly the cutest picture ever taken of my future husband (on the right) and his brother.

Also? Joel is a robot.


Michelle said...

So, do you believe that prayer brought you to the missing items? I am not judging or telling you how I feel, but simply asking...

Also, do you (or does Joel) mind sharing how his brother died?

Chunky Photojournalist Barbie said...

Regarding prayer? I don't know. It was more of a Twilight Zone experience, to be honest. Just... eerie, but positive, nonetheless.

It was kind of like this experience back in September, when I was *just* thinking about Welles Crowther (a 9/11 hero) and using a red bandana his mom gave me to dry my camera outside a mosque. It was... a little too coincidental, and it made me feel good inside. Eerie, but positive.

I know a lot of people who believe wholeheartedly in the power of prayer, and I respect that. My issue with the whole God and prayer thing essentially hinges on the "Why do bad things happen to good people?" question. I dislike when people of faith refer to things like my cell phone prayer experience and say, "Woot! Answered prayer! The Lord is so good!" when, like, children are dying at the hands of their abusers.. It doesn't make sense to me. I would buy a thousand cell phones if a similarly heartfelt prayer could save the life of a child.

That said, I'm perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief on other issues that require faith and faith alone. I do believe that Brian, for example, has tried to tell Joel and his parents that he's okay, wherever he is. All those little things you hear about, like songs on the radio at *just* the right moment, dreams, animals acting like there's someone there that no one else can see, lightbulbs doing weird things, they've definitely all happened, like, A LOT. If you believe in that stuff, then Brian has done everything but throw a sheet over his head and run through the house shouting, "I'm here! I'm fine! Love you! Boo!" :)

I believe that, and that's an act of faith. Other people's prayers are *their* acts of faith. As for Brian's story, it's definitely not a secret or anything, but it isn't mine to tell in this particular space. I'll check with Joel and get back to you. :)

Luke said...

You do NOT look happy about going to preschool in that picture. I wouldn't be, either. And the hairstyle is a good look for you.

shannon said...

I love that picture of Joel and Brian. Love it.

I picked my Confirmation saint much the same way. Really wanted to St. Francis, but you know, the whole guy thing. (I was in college when I was Confirmed) I went with St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, she of the educating girls in the US when other people weren't doing it, instead.

Lo Lo said...

Great post!

I picked St. Rose of Lima for my patron Saint, as I found her story fascinating. I think at the time I also related to her because she had VERY long brown hair like I used to, and that made me feel connected to her in some way. Weird, right?

Also, I have to comment that I myself do pray often, and find it comforting and relaxing. I'm not talking like a 30 second prayer either. I guess it works in its own way for everyone.

cindy w said...

My great aunt Connie (who passed away several years ago) was sort of our family's personal St. Anthony. If you lost something, tell her about it, she'd pray on it, and it would turn up. Every time. (Huh. I think you just gave me a good idea for a blog entry right there.)

I don't know if it really matters if your prayer was heard by St. Anthony or not. It could just as easily be that the act of praying helped you calm down and re-center your focus so that you were able to see the missing items that you overlooked when you were distressed. The point is that the prayer helped, regardless of whether it involved any divine intervention or not.

Btw, I'm only half-Catholic (and not confirmed), but I'm totally planning on burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard to help us get a buyer. Anything that helps, right?

P.S. That picture of Joel and his brother is maybe the cutest thing ever.

Becky said...

All of those pictures are a riot! Thanks for sharing them. =)

Anonymous said...

DUDE. This gave me the shivers.
It also left me thinking, "Damn! Why did I have to grow up UNITARIAN of all religions? Sure, I'm still married in church and all, and I'm sure I'm missing out on a childhood full of repression, but WE AIN'T GOT NO SAINTS HERE."

Then I remembered that UU is based on BYOT- building your own theology. I'm totally including St. Anthony in mine, as I lose things in the same way you do, and also have a crazy system (and expensive electronics) to attempt to maintain order. :)

Joel said...


Brian died of a condition known as viral myocarditis. Essentially, a virus entered his body, and of anywhere it could have gone, it began to attack his heart. It mimmicked the flu. Since it was January, this was reasonable. However, 5 days after he began showing symptoms, he was watching television and his heart stopped. The ambulance arrived quickly. My mother and I performed CPR but it did no good. The virus had inflamed the muscle of his heart and weakened it to the point where it could no longer pump blood. He had gone to the doctor 2 days earlier and was diagnosed with an infection but there was no way to know short of an EKG to determine that his heart was in danger. Teenage kids don't get EKGs for flu-like symptoms. If it was caught, he likely would have needed a heart transplant.