Monday, December 28, 2009


My grandmother was new to the small Catholic town when she met my grandfather. The young daughter to a Protestant pastor, he a young Catholic man, they later wed during a quiet ceremony with only two witnesses standing by.

Years later, she is Grandma, he is Gramps. Together they have raised a large family with tough love, boisterous debates, piano lessons, boat trips, good food, great laughs and strong Catholic traditions and faith.

"Religion." I say in their dining room after pork roast and mashed potatoes. "What should I do about religion?"

My mother and father raised me to be a good Catholic girl. Penance. First Communion. Confirmation. Even a school run by an old scary nun. Scott was raised to be a good Jewish boy. Bris. Bar Mitzvah. He even went to a Jewish summer camp. His mother wanted him to find a nice Jewish girl to marry, but he met me instead. And because of the times, we were able to have a large, loud wedding with 150 witnesses standing by.

"As long as you raise them with a foundation. With faith." They tell me, referring to the future children I hadn't mentioned yet.
"They can make their own decisions later, like you are now."

And before I can say Jesus, a passionate discussion snowballs into a fat white man with a carrot for a nose. Slumped beside Grandma's pink beeswax candles, the man melts. The man is doubt. My brother points to the charcoal stone buttons, the red and blue striped soggy scarf and the sinking top hat, but Grandpa lights a fire under the table and turns Frosty into a warm puddle.

"I never quite understood the difference between the father, the son and the holy spirit." I say.

"Can you explain the difference between ice, water and steam? If you can, you can understand the difference between The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit." Dark creases empty and fill his wrinkled eyes as he fights for faith, as he has always fought for faith. A retired engineer, he tells us about the religious debates he once had with the atheist scientists in his college class. "When I think of the entire universe: stars, people, the world, I cannot imagine that it all evolved from two molecules that just accidentally bumped into one another. I cannot help but believe that there is a higher power that created it all."

Grandma wipes crumbs into a pile as she explains her blind faith. When her eldest child died overseas in the 1980s, she tells us, it was this blind faith which led her to recovery. Led her to find relief from grief during daily morning masses.

There is more conviction and passion coming from my grandparents' dining room table than all the altars of my childhood churches. Perhaps this is why I ask them, "Religion. What should I do about religion?" and not a priest or rabbi.