It is the afternoon of September 12, 2021, when I find myself mind traveling to East Walpole, Massachusetts to surprise my second son on his forty second birthday. It is a bright sunny day with tones of fall in the air. There is a spattering of different shaped and colored leaves being softly nudged off their branches with the help of a five miles per hour westerly breeze.
Frankie is playing out back and foils my surprise by yelling, “it’s nonno,” upon seeing me. I’m surprised that he recognizes me. Heck, I only get to see him once or twice a year. Lee, Kelly and Mila come out to greet me. After a brief tour of their newly purchased house, which is more spacious in many ways from their previous home, we settle down to watch the Patriots – Dolphin’s game. It feels good being with my son’s family on a Sunday afternoon, something that I sorely miss – being over 300 miles away. I sit back sipping a beer with one eye on the game and the other on the two little ones who are playing with some toy dinosaurs and a doll around our feet.
From the kitchen, Kelly prods Frankie to tell me about his new school. He tells me that he goes to the same school as his cousin. Mila sees Frankie talking to me and she babbles something incoherent to me. I look over and see my son proudly smiling at the interaction of his daughter and nonno. She continues to watch me with that innocent childish curiosity. I think of how blessed my son is to have a boy and a girl. Looking back at the family dynamics the tendency has been families made up of all boys or all girls.
The Patriots finally score their first touchdown of the Mac Jones era, and the cheers get Frankie’s attention who turns to his dad to ask what happened. He’s told to watch the replay. After seeing it he jumps and cheers along. Seeing this reminds me of the days when I would sit with my three sons watching Boston sports teams compete. My how time has flown.
The game is frustratingly dull, yet the score is very close. It goes down to the wire with sadly the Patriots losing to the Dolphins by one point. Years back the loss would have put a damper to the rest of the day but now maybe because of the distance the loss is meaningless especially when I get to enjoy this day with family.
The Warren family arrives with balloons and cake for my son. I get to spend some time catching up with Kelly’s side of the family, the ones that provide help and support for them. I thank God for them. I’m glad that Frankie and Mila have grandparents that live close by and see on a regular basis.
All in all, it was a wonderful day even if I experienced it all in my mind. As I cherished the thoughts, I am reminded of the message in today’s Gospel of denying oneself, picking up the cross and following Jesus.