by Carl “Papa” Palmer
Looking in the mirror over the sun visor of our nine passenger 1959 Ford station wagon, which we really need with six children, Dad says he does not care for Ash Wednesday. His after church reflection shows the black, ashen cross on his forehead, not that different from each of ours, though more noticeable on his bald head.
“That priest makes a bigger cross every year. I think he does it on purpose,” he gripes.
Mom laughs, looks at us, winks, and says, “It’s because he’s also an artist and you have a big canvas.”
Following Mom’s lead, each kid chimes in…
“No wonder, look at how much forehead you have, Dad.”
“He really could have made it bigger, there’s still a lot more room.”
“Maybe next year he’ll use blue to match your tie.”
“I think you should keep it, Dad. It makes you look ten years younger.”
Before the younger two have their say, Dad says, “Is there anything else or should I just drive straight home without stopping for ice cream?”
That quiets us down, at least until the kickoff to Lent the next year.
Last night at Ash Wednesday service, kneeling in our pew after receiving our ashen crosses, my wife understands my silly smile, and the tears in my eyes.
(First published in Penine Ink (England) Jan 2014)
Carl “Papa” Palmer of Old Mill Road in Ridgeway, Virginia, lives in University Place, Washington. He is retired from the military and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enjoying life as “Papa” to his grand descendants and being a Franciscan Hospice volunteer.