The first two chapters of Mrs.
Linklater's riveting memoir have been toddler memories, but this one
will be about a memory from high school.
Is there a rule that memoirs must have recollections in chronological order? I didn't think so.
The reason I want to skip to a high school memory is that The
Book of Daniel is on TV again tonight. This new show is about an Episcopal
priest who has a pretty crazy family. Plus he talks to Jesus, which
isn't so odd, but Jesus talks back and looks like one of those
sanitized and westernized pictures you see hanging next to a photo of
Jack Kennedy in homes of people over eighty. There are those who find
the show offensive and not funny. I'm not one of them.
I was raised in the Episcopal Church. If you ever want to see where
white people who can't sing congregate on Sundays, this is the place.
Episcopalians are the Protestants that claim Henry VIII as their patron
While most Episcopal priests are
so nondescript that no one could pick them out of a lineup -- not to
mention that we have female priests who are lesbians -- the pastor at
my church was Hollywood handsome -- sent from Central Casting to
minister to the denizens of one of the wealthier suburbs of Chicago.
The summer after I graduated from high school a letter was sent to
members of the church. Our handsome Protestant priest was leaving to pursue other
interests. I read the letter as a 17 year old virgin and didn't think much about it,
until the newspapers ran a story about how the leader of one of the
country's wealthiest Episcopal dioceses had left his wife and four children for a
woman in the parish. This woman had a husband and children of her own.
She was also the heiress to a famous fortune. Oh geez, rich white
people are going to look really bad when this one is over.
My mother, who was usually circumspect with gossip, revealed that our
minister had grown up in the country town next to hers out east -- a
rascally place that had a reputation for women of the evening. She was
aware of this probably because her own father may have frequented some
of those spots doing research for his own Book of Daniel. Jack
Daniel's. She implied that our priest might have been the son of one of
those women. She had no proof, just something cryptic her own mother had once said
Meanwhile our disgraced pastor and his lover moved as far out of town
as you can go and still be on the continent, where they live to this
day as man and wife, as near as I can determine.
However, the upheaval of two families and a church wasn't the end of it. A couple of years later, when one of
our former pastor's children was a senior in high school,
she went out with some friends to collect door to door for a canned
food drive. There were several young people riding around in a car
together, which was an old limosine. They had also been drinking. At
some point during the evening, the driver lost control of the car and
hit a tree head-on. No one was wearing seat belts. One of my brother's
friends, a star swimmer, was paralyzed from the neck down. Another
young man, a gymnast, suffered several broken bones. The driver wasn't
Our former minister's daughter was killed.
Her dad came back from his new life across the country to attend his
daughter's funeral at the church where he used to work. Imagine how he
must have felt when one of the vestrymen, the guys with the programs,
wouldn't let him through the door. Apparently he lost his membership
card for behaving badly.
I don't know what ultimately happened after he was refused admittance.
Did they change their minds? But my mother went ballistic at the
hypocrisy of it all. "The church is supposed to be for the sinners!"
she ranted. Still locking him out was typical of a place that could get all hinky
about who had the right credentials to be in charge of the coffee hour. Naturally people like
that would want to keep out anyone who wasn't their kind, forgetting
that Henry VIII had created the church for his own convenience -- so he
could continue his own bad behavior.
Anyway, after forty years the scandal has finally died down somewhat.
But there are those who still remember. Me, for instance. Telling this
story helps fan the flames again. Someone has to keep a candle burning.
This memory is why The Book of Daniel, the TV show, seems more like a reality show
than a fictional sitcom. Everything on there is within the realm of
possibility as far as I'm concerned.
Which brings me to one final thing I later realized about my particular
church -- forgiveness is based on your ability to pay.
END OF CHAPTER THREE