Home alone

Port-O-Call: Centerville, Cape Cod — first cookout of summer

As we all know, dear readers, the Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. It rained that weekend. It’s still raining. The television weather map shows the sun breaking through everywhere but on Cape Cod, where “there will be torrential rain all week,” according to the forecaster.

In spring, the weather on the Cape isn’t controlled by high or low pressure systems, but rather by the ocean. Cape Cod sticks 65 miles out into the sea. The Federal Emergency Management Agency actually considers Cape Cod to be an island. That makes us one of the largest barrier islands in the world, bravely protecting the mainland from the brunt of Atlantic storms. 

What do visitors to Cape Cod do when it rains? The answer in just one word — eat. The beaches are empty and the quaint streets are deserted. Clerks in the shops stand around idly with their arms folded. But the restaurants are full of patrons. Even the local movie house serves a compete menu. 

Everyone is anxious to have the first cookout of the season, but unstable weather makes such plans risky. My grill stands ready and the porch furniture is out, but they remain unused. 

Today Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., hosted a cookout for the priests of Cape Cod. It was a technical cookout. The hotdogs and hamburgers were cooked outside on the grill, but we priests and bishops ate inside on folding tables set up in the parlor, well-protected from the cold drizzle. No matter. “A good time was had by all,” as they say. Meals shared together are more about social interaction than anything else. 

One rainy afternoon recently, I decided to run some errands. It was a chance to go down to the Town Hall and get a license for my latest greyhound, Lurch. He is, I have decided, “a keeper.” 

“Did you get a letter from us about your dog?” asked the clerk. “Yes, I did. It expired,” I answered, summarizing the situation in a few words. “I know the letter said your dog license had expired,” commented the clerk. “No, I mean the dog expired,” I clarified. “Oh, then how can I help you?” “I would like a dog license,” I explained succinctly. “You want a license for a deceased dog?” queried the clerk. “No. No. I have another dog now. Here are his papers.” She read the documents. “So, Mr. Rescue, what is your address?” “My name isn’t ‘Rescue.’” “But it says right here your name is ‘Rescue.’” “It’s a rescue dog,” I elucidated. “Oh. What is your address?” “511 Main Street,” I responded with what I thought was sufficient clarity. “Do you have any other address?” the clerk inquired. “Why, yes I do. No. 569.” “At which address does your dog live?” “No. 569 is a Post Office box. The dog lives at my house, not the post office,” I explained patiently.

“I see your dog’s name is “Lurcher,” observed the clerk. “That’s not his name; that’s his training. He was raised for hunting purposes.” “Oh, I see,” said the clerk, having found the dog’s name on the document. “Says here his name is Ronnie.” “Well, it used to be,” I clarified. Now his name is Lurch.” “Lurcher?” “No, Lurch, not Lurcher.” This was taking longer than I expected. 

“Here’s your dog license, Mr. Rescue. That will be $8, please.” I paid the fee. “Notice it expires in three weeks. You need to come back to renew the license after Lurcher gets his booster shot.” 

And this is how we spend rainy days and Mondays in Falmouth (when we’re not hanging out at the Quarterdeck Restaurant or scoffing strawberry shortcake at the bishop’s cottage).

Between the rain drops, I try to visit the nursing home every day to check on Father Frank Wallace. He spends most of the day sleeping. I never wake him. Sometimes, though, especially in the afternoon, I’ll find him alert and we chat briefly (if he’s wearing his hearing aides). 

Father Ray Cambra is busy packing in preparation for his transfer. He is excited to be named a pastor in Seekonk. I’m happy for him, but, in a certain sense, I’m also a bit sad. I will miss his priestly companionship and our collaboration in parish ministry. 

His transfer will also mean I am home alone. Alone is how the majority of priests live their lives, so it is not unexpected. In fact, the Parish Pastoral Council and I planned for the eventuality of a one-priest parish years ago. 

Here, there’s a housekeeper’s room (there hasn’t been a live-in housekeeper in decades), a guest room (used once a year when the missionary visits), a senior curate’s suite (in which I live), a junior curate’s room (we have no junior curate), and a spacious pastor’s suite (unused). 

Maybe I could rent out rooms to parishioners whose homes are overflowing with summer house guests. Maybe not. There’s actually nothing wrong with living alone. Of course, it helps if you have a dog — even if his name is Lurch. 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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