April 29, 1998
Ten of us were having dinner at a long table in a Mexican restaurant appropriately named “Los Gringos Locos” when I suddenly felt the floor roll to one side and then the other. I looked up and caught the eye of son Kurt, who lives here, and he gave me a funny grin and said, “That was an earthquake.”
No kidding? I figured we might have been hit by a runaway train, or that the place had slid into the ocean and we were rocking and rolling. I looked at diners around us and was relieved to see they didn’t seem to be concerned about anything beyond their rice and refried beans.
I was about to decide it was all a joke when the television set over the bar offered a ‘special report’ saying there has indeed been a quake, registering 3.8 on the Richter scale, with its epicenter at nearby Alhambra.
Just as I was about to slip under the table to await the dreaded aftershocks, Hal Aebischer, an uncle of Kurt’s wife Rory, and a 40-year resident in this renowned state of disaster, smiled and said, “It’s nothing. It’s just our way of welcoming you to California.”
Thanks a lot, and if you ever visit Kansas we’ll try to whip up a tornado for you.
The Snider family gathered here to help with the baptism of Cole Bennett Snider, this first-born of Kurt and Rory. Also here were my wife’s brother, Warren Linville, and his wife, Harriet, from up the coast at Morro Bay.
Let me hasten to add that Harriet is officially the Rev. Harriet Lee Burton Linville, and Episcopal priest, and the pastor of St. Peter’s By the Sea in Morro Bay. She laid here added blessing on the baby, and was being asked to do the same, and more, for me.
What happened was that I came down with a near-terminal case 0f the advanced California Crud, and when the Rev. Harriet showed up I told her she might be called upon to administer the last rites. I asked her if they would work, considering that we were not of the same religious persuasion.
“We’re close enough,” she replied, “and I’m ready any time you are.”
Fortunately, I was blessed with a miracle cure, which came about when I called Dr. Robert O’Neill’s office in Topeka, and the angels of mercy there arranged for the miracle drug to be available for me here. I say a miracle is a miracle no matter how it happens.
The baptism was last Sunday, following a high Mass, at St. Bede’s. A high Mass is like a low Mass, except that it goes into overtime, or extra innings. At this Mass, daughter Amy and I were selected from the sellout crowd to carry the bread and wine from the back of the church to the altar. Why they’re in the back of the church to begin with is something that I never have been able to figure out.
Neither am I sure why Amy and I were selected. It could have been that we were the two most impressive people in the congregation, or it could have been that we were on the end of the pew, toward the back and I had on a tie.
Whatever the reason, a guy named Bill tapped me and asked if we could do it. I said we’d be honored, but he’d have to tell us what the local ritual was, because we were from out of town. He asked where and I said Kansas, and he said he was once stationed at Forbes. I asked if he had once been a SAC pilot, and the two of us surely were the only two men in California ready to return to Topeka.
At the baptism, I was the victim of a despicable conspiracy. I had been slated to stand in for the godfather, Amy’s husband Duff, but at the past minute, Kurt dumped me in favor of his brother Steve. Their excuse was that the stand-in would have to hold the baby, and they feared that because of my advanced years I might drop him. The truth is that Steve blackmailed Kurt, which is not hard to do if you know him even slightly.
O.K. (for Ole King) Cole Slaw went through the baptism like a champ, without a whimper. When it was over, we all agreed that our baby was the best-looking and best-behaved of the four watered down that day, and that he was also blessed with the best parents, aunts, uncles and grandmas. The enthusiasm waned noticeably when they got to grandpa.
But I don’t mind. They say he has his grandma’s blue eyes, but he resembles me too. He is soft, he slobbers, he looks ahead to feeding time as I look ahead to the cocktail hour, and his belling hangs over his diaper. He’ll outgrow all this, but there’s no way I will.
It must be that we enjoyed him, and each other. Otherwise, how do you explain the fact that we all delayed our departure to spend one more day in sunny California? I think we would have done it if we had been in Alaska.