We girls from the convent were encouraged by the nuns to visit any family we might have during the Easter holiday. With my aunt only an hour away, I boarded a bus which would take me to the small town of Puyallup in Washington.
While brushing glaze on our Easter ham, my aunt offered to buy me a new hat if I would drive her to her church on Easter morning. However, there were two problems with this new hat business. First, my aunt was Presbyterian and I was a Catholic. It was a venial sin for me to attend any service other than Catholic.
“Nonsense,” said my aunt when I told her of this rule. My second problem: I had never driven a car.
“More nonsense, anyone can drive a car,” she retorted.
By Easter morning I had made my decision to wear my new hat and drive. I would deal with the wrath of God and Hell later.
Following the service, my aunt introduced me to the Reverend Kirk.
“Callan,” Reverend Kirk replied, “I have known only one person by that name; a soldier, Patrick Callan.”
My aunt’s eyes widened. I remember pushing her hand off my arm and, turning back to the reverend. I said that Patrick Callan was my father’s name.
Looking at my aunt’s face, I could see anger; my aunt never forgave my father’s treatment of my mother. I decided it was best to leave. I said goodbye to the reverend and miraculously, drove the car home.
Later that afternoon I walked back to the church. I opened the door of the sanctuary. The smells of Easter lilies hung in the air of the now-emptied church.
“I was sure you would come back,” Reverend Kirk said as he came up behind me.
Motioning to a pew, he said he had a story to tell me if I would like to hear it.
“It was during World War II,” Reverend Kirk began. “I officiated at the wedding of Beryle James, a woman whose family was part of my congregation. She married a soldier by the name of Patrick Callan. The marriage took place at the family farm in Oakesdale, Wash. Patrick had been married before and had a young daughter who lived elsewhere.
“After the wedding, Beryl moved to an apartment near Fort Lewis military base. A few months went by, and Beryle’s health began to deteriorate. Beryle returned to the family’s farm where she would be under her mother’s care. Soon after her return, Patrick was summoned to return to the farm. Beryl was dying.”
Reverend Kirk met Patrick at the train station; Beryle had died just hours before Patrick arrived. The following day the funeral was held in the garden, where only a few months before, the wedding had taken place.
“After the funeral, I never heard from Patrick again,” he added.
Walking back to my aunt’s home, I recalled a pretty pillow sent to me when I was seven. My aunt said it came from “Beryle somebody.” No more was said, and the pillow disappeared soon after.
Thirty years later, in 1995, I discovered an outdated will of my father’s. It stated my father had purchased two cemetery plots, and that he wished to be buried next to Beryle should he die in the war.
With this information, I decided it was time to look for Beryle’s gravesite. In the small town of Oakesdale I located Beryle’s sister, who overwhelmed me with stories and photos of the wedding. Staring at those photos I was stunned. Here was my father, involved in another life unknown to me.
The next day, I found Beryl’s gravesite on a hilltop overlooking the family farm, her mother and father buried alongside.
The next year I visited my father’s gravesite on a hilltop in the Willamette Valley National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon, with fellow soldiers buried alongside.
Although my fate for my transgression is still to be determined, I feel our Maker will forgive my onetime association with the Presbyterians.
- Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Smoked 8 pound Spiral Cut Ham with Orange Marmalade Glaze
Place ham face down in pan.
Heat ham at 275 degrees for two hours.
Mix together and heat until bubbling:
2 cups Orange Marmalade
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
Remove ham from oven and brush on glaze.
Return ham to oven for one hour.