Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Rose Marie we love you. All the girls I've loved before.

The pregnancy had started as a source of hope for Patricia and Joe after years of many losses, and they were hopeful that this time they would have the child they long for.

Last year, Patricia's mother, Marian, had told me that Patricia and her husband, Joe, had lost four babies without one surviving child. Patricia and Joe's last baby had anacephaly, a condition where the baby has a brain stem, but no brain. Like most babies with the same condition, the baby had died soon after leaving her mother's womb. Then Marian died last October from cancer, and Patricia conceived again the same month.

I had been happy to run into Patricia at Our Lady of Peace Church one day at noon Mass when she was about three months pregnant. Patricia believed that this pregnancy was her mother Marian's sending her a rose from heaven, as St. Therese is said to do.

And then one sad day about three weeks later, I ran into Patricia again, this time with her brother Jim Fahey outside of church. Jim reached down from his 6 ft 4 in height and hugged me, and after a pause, I put my hand on Patricia's shoulder and asked how she was. When Jim shot a look at Patricia, I knew something was up. Patricia told me slowly that she had just found out that this child she was carrying too had the same diagnosis as the last baby. She had called Jim right away and they had gone together to see Fr. Paul, priest of the IVE order that runs the parish, and they had just came out from talking to him when I saw them.

I told her I would put her on my prayer list. Jim quipped, "She's putting you on her list." I looked at him in a friendly jibing way, "You're already on it." Patricia said, "How are you?" I said, "My company just got acquired by a company from Alabama." Jim said, "That means you can afford to take us to lunch." "It means I might not have a job. I would love to take you to lunch. But I have to get back to work."

As infirmarian, I let everyone in my group of secular Carmelites know about the family's needs. I hoped for a miracle or a misdiagnosis. But neither came true.

On June 15, Rose Marie Brower was born and died within perhaps a half hour.

On Saturday, June 24, Rose Marie's funeral was followed by a reception at the house that Jim and Patricia's parents owned and where Jim still frequently stays, at the top of a Fremont hill, in a gated community called Ponderosa Estates.

The funeral Mass started at 10:30 and the reception after the burial went on (for the die-hards at least) until about 12 hours later, largely because Jim started bringing out some of his best wines. (Marian told me that Jim studied wines enough so he could be a sommelier. He lived in France for some time, but I don't know where he got his training.)

Jim told us guests that one variety he had, a 1971 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon from Santa Cruz, won a blind taste test as the best wine in the world. I later found corraboration of this award at Wikipedia. A 1976 tasting in Paris had surprised everyone by giving top honors to CA wines. (It is referred to as the Judgement of Paris, evoking the famous myth of the mortal Paris's choice of the most beautiful goddess that led to the start of the Trojan War.) Then in a recap in 2006 of the blind wine tasting event, "Judges on both continents gave top honours to a 1971 Ridge Monte Bello Cabernet." Jim said he paid $100 for the large bottle he had, but after the contest, who knows what it was worth?

"The original tasting gave Californian producers a huge boost of confidence, and America is now the fourth-largest wine producer in the world.

“Not only did that tasting change people’s perception of New World wines for ever, it sparked an exchange of ideas that heralded a new golden age of wine drinking...” http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,13509-2196445,00.html

Father Christopher, OCD, had said the funeral Mass and had stayed around long enough to sip a glass of the winner of the "Judgement of Paris" wine tasting. He sat with me and Anita, another OCDS, a pretty blond woman about 30, to whom he gives spiritual direction. Fr, Christopher told us that Thurs. at 5 a.m., he'd be leaving San Jose to take a new position at the new Carmelite House of Studies in Angel, Oregon. He was a great teacher for our lay Carmelite group. I told him he is the Charlie Parker of homilies and spiritual talks. He lays down a theme and improvises on it. He liked the comparison.

After the Ridge Cabernet was gone, and Father Christopher and Anita and others in a first wave of departing guests said goodbye, Jim announced he had some Chateauneuf du Pape wines, and I said I wanted to taste them. So it came about that Jim started a wine tasting comparison between two varieties of Chateauneuf Du Pape and a California Syrah. (Just for the record, when the bottles were empty, everyone but Jim preferred the Syrah.)

At one point Jim broke into singing "Of all the girls I loved before." Then he caught himself. "That's not a good song . . . '' he said as he went off to get another bottle of wine.

After the wine comparison was over, the group of people including the mother and daughter at my table left.

I sat by myself at the empty table for a few minutes, then Jim came back from saying goodbyes and told me that if I didn't feel up to driving I could take a nap or sleeep at the house. He said I'll be right back, and then came back with a plate of food and sat with me. We talked for a while by ourselves in the growing dusk at the table at the edge of the lawn, while everyone else who was still at the house was clustered at a table on the patio next to the house.

He told me he held the baby before it died. He'd heard, as I have also heard, that the top of the head doesn't close over so it's an open wound. But he didn't see it. By the time he came in the room, she was wearing a little hat.

A nurse had baptized the baby as it was coming out of the womb.

Jim went on to say he'd had some trouble getting a priest to do the baptism. Fr. Paul had told Jim to ask the priest chaplain at the the hospital, but when the priest arrived, he was not in clerical garb, he seemed awfully full of himself, and like many liberal priests, this one was eager to tell the family how the old beliefs no longer apply. This priest told Jim "You don't need baptism, you know." Jim retorted, "God can do anything, you are right. But why not use the sacrament that He gave?" At that point the baby wasn't born yet. Either because the priest didn't think it was worth staying around to baptize the baby or for some other reason, the priest left after saying a prayer.

Jim then had called an IVE priest from another local Church, and the newcomer came, dressed in clerical garb, baptized the baby without drawing an undue amount of attention to himself, and quietly left.

We talked about other things. Jim told me some of his thoughts about marriage. He had recently turned 36, two months before my son reached the same age. He said he used to think he had to get married. But, he said, he is fulfilled the way things are. He loves to travel, goes to Italy every year and other places (like the Israel pilgrimage.) I said that I think the way people used to do things was better. At a certain age, you would pick someone out of the available choices, marrry, then work things out together. He shook his head, apparently not agreeing. .

I asked him how he enjoyed his last week's vacation in WIsconsin at an uncle's place with his sister Kathleen's big family of small children. Do you have the patience for kids? He said, Yes. But I'm not going to be Mr. Mom. I said some women want that. From my point of view, I told him that I don't like the way that so many women in second marriages end up supporting the new husband, who wants her to stay in her good corporate job so he can fulfull himself.

Patricia came by twice offering plates of leftovers the caterer had left behind from the funeral lunch. First time, I said, Patricia, we were just talking about whether marriage is worth it. (Even though I really don't have any doubts.) Oh yes, she said emphatically. "It is worth it."

The next time Patrician came by with a plate of brownies, I said, "I'm just trying to get sobered up enough to drive home. Not that your brother isn't a charming conversationalist . . .."

Mostly Joe's family was left. I went inside to sit in one of Marian's recliners while Joe's mother in law talked to me. Jim came downstairs fresh from a shower dressed in sweat shirt and jeans and told me again I could nap or stay the night, so I followed him upstairs to a spare bedroom. After I lay down, I dozed and tossed and got up and got Advil and fought a headache. After I felt able to drive, after the sounds of people leaving had ceased, and the lights in the house were out around midnight. I could hear Jim breathing in his sleep through his bedroom door as I tiptoed out of my room.
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