Yesterday was the South Side St. Paddy's Day Parade, but my thoughts were turned to St. Joseph*. Here's the deal - every year my cousin Willie opens up his bungalow over on Bell to about 200 people - mostly cousins and relatives and neighbors, but also Willie's endless parade of friends. Willie is one of the most genuine human beings and Christian gentleman to the steely backbone ( the anti-Hickey so to speak). Willie and Kerry and Bart, Maggie and Liam host a great Party that is often guested by the Great. President Barack Obama, Paul Vallas, Alderman Rugai,Tom Dart, Judge Tom Murphy, members of the Irish Government have all attended the Mass and Irish Breakfast with Willie before the Parade.
My role was to help cook bacon and Irish Bangers, but since the growth of this event exceeded the time and material needed to feed the folks, Willie has contracted the work out to Calabria. My job now is to help with the coffee. Nephew Bart and myself had to get the filled urns and pitchers and plastic vessels from Karim at Dunkin Donuts on 104th and Western.
I got to Willie's with the coffee and set things up, but then had to leave and get my car locked into the driveway at home. Anyone and everyone decides to make parking a personal entitlement. 'Park Here! Open Driveway! We won't have to walk a block or so - What's he going to do Tow Us? Flatten our Tires?' Well, it is a thought, Jasper. The Parade route on Western gets locked at 10 A.M. and it becomes impossible to cross Western Ave.
I got my car back home and started to walk the eight long and short blocks back to Willie's. A frantic woman had lost her little boy between 108th and 107th on Artesian. I asked her where and she said , 'I stopped to talk to a friend here on Artesian and turned around and he was gone! He's wearing a lime green T-shirt with dragons and Cubs hat- He's four years old - Oh, My God!.' Knowing the greatness of my neighbors, no little guy would go unnoticed and I tried to reassure her. I told her I would walk south on Artesian. It was still early and the thick crowds had yet to smother Western Ave. Down Artesian I went with a purpose and eyes wide open. Look, I am a gold-plated jerk about many things, but kids are not one of them - especially lost kids. I cut East on 109th and made my way back North on the west side of Western Ave, keeping an eye peeled for a solitary, crying four year old boy with a Lime Green Dragon t-shirt and a Cubs hat.
Nothing. I was getting as frantic as the poor Mom back on Artesian. I walked through the parking lot at County Fair and talked to two cops and they said no dice on the little guy. I crossed the parking lot to DiCola's and walked through that area and in back of the Quaker Meeting House. Nothing. I had lost Conor, Nora, and Clare for moments of pure anguish and self-loathing at museums, malls and marathons ( which I watch, but choose not to Run). There is nothing more horrific to a parent.
At 107th and Campbell I found the woman - girl really - talking to a tall bruiser who had a lime-green Buckeen with a CUBS hat perched on his shoulders. 'Thank you so much! This is my boy friend, Joe Petraikus and he chased Larry back to me.'
It turns out that Larry (4) went to pet a puppy and had ducked out of sight and followed the puppy and its owners west on 107th Street. The woman's boyfriend Joe the Loogan, a sobriquet I kept to myself by the way given the size and sinews of the lad, saw the wandering Larry and scooped him up.
It was too late to head back to Willie's and so I returned home to write an article for Chicago Daily Observer. I started thinking about Joe the Loogan, Larry and I never got Mom's name.
Joe, like the Patron of the Catholic Church, the patron of Fathers, the patron of workers, the patron Saint of Italians and Sicilians, was man who cared for the child who belonged to another. Joe found a little boy who had wandered off and agonized his mother, just like St. Joseph, the blue collar tradesman of Royal Blood, found his wife's little boy in a Temple full of wise men. Joe the Loogan found a little boy in waves of green costumes pushing strollers and wagons.
St. Joseph is the best saint. He teaches us males what it means to be a man - how to love with unconditional courage and gentle toughness. Toughness means not what one can dish out - pain, abuse, terror - but how much one can endure - doubt,discomfort and sometimes disgrace. Italians and Poles celebrated the masculine St. Joseph who worked quietly with his hands and protected his wife and child from the idiot who governed them.
We Irish celebrate a loner who worked miracles with his words. We need to crowd in on St. Joseph more than we do - I know I could use some manning up,
St. Joseph teaches us to Man up. Celebrate St. Joseph - no goofy green hats, and Miller Brewing keeps their hands off him. March 19th - St. Joseph Watch Over Us Guys!
*Joseph was foster father to Jesus. There are many children separated from families and parents who need foster parents. Please consider contacting your local Catholic Charities or Division of Family Services about becoming a foster parent.
Prayer -Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church, watch over the Church as carefully as you watched over Jesus, help protect it and guide it as you did with your adopted son. Amen