My writing career commenced at the ripe old age of 58, when i found myself out of work and with some spare time on my hands. My wife had encouraged me for years to do a memoir – of quite a fascinating life – but my usual answer was, “There is really nothing new to say; it has all been said or written before.”
“Oh, but, Honey!” was her tupelo-honey version of “Bullcrap!” “Just think of your 22 years with the Capuchin friars, ten as a priest in good graces with the Church! Mix into that 22 years back out on the road again, marrying me and my four children, and whipping up two more little beauties of your own. I think you have something to say and an obligation to say it.” In other words, she was not taking No for an answer! And so, in a matter of two weeks i decided to give her – in lieu of flowers, jewelry or chocolate – a very unique Mother’s Day gift. “Squeaky Kneeler” was its title, the nickname i had chosen for myself upon leaving the priesthood – but still hanging out in church. There, at St. Mary’s in Fishkill, N.Y., i’d found a little pew way in the back, and it had, by chance, a very squeaky kneeler. That will be me, said i, no longer a preacher, but i can’t help squeaking now and then.
This little book, complete with photo of my kneeler, went from my wife’s hands into the world and soon took a life of its own, making its way as far as Pope Francis’ inner circle. A thousand copies sold on Amazon and Kindle. The more that i re-read it, however, the more i knew it needed help, change, revision. i knew that there was a better way to say what i was squeaking inside, and, first and foremost, i needed to clarify just who the author is. When my good parents first took me into St. Helena’s Church in Wilmington, Delaware, for my Baptism, they chose for me the name of Michael, the High Prince of all of the saints and angels. i’m sure that they had high hopes for me as well. But, it wasn’t long before my grandfather “re-christened” me with another name, one which was to stick and echo in through the minds and mouths of many others; and, to be honest, it became the name that i preferred: KNUCKLEHEAD! One who learns very slowly, one who makes many mistakes, one who must make many an apology….but, God knows, one whose little heart is good.
Authorship clarified, what about the Soup?! Well, it seemed to me that the better way to put all of this, this unique mix of all that came to me in life, no matter how old or used before, is in terms of Soup. My wife knows me to be a master soup-maker (thanks to Father Jude Duffy, my “seminary dad” who stressed that we should learn not just out of books but all about life and independence. He made sure we learned to cook and bake.) And my Bridget points out that though my ingredients might be very common, there is no one who mixes them just the way i do, no one who applies the spices of life just like me. Generous on both laughter and tears, for example, the two being really one and the same, as i see it, the deeper the depression, the heartier the humor. i will be very liberal with blood, sweat and tears, then stir them up into one giant guffaw! There’s a lot of good STUFF in this here bowl, drawn from the stories of so many “EXTRAORDINARY ORDINARY” people who graced my life. My blog, which hopefully in time will be placed inside a bookcover, is mostly their stories. My own is quite dull and knucklish, if not for those “visitors.” And TALK ABOUT KNUCKLEHEAD!? My latest – and Greatest – act of stubbornness was in not listening to my kids who for years told me, “Books are out, Blogging’s in! Do one, dad!” It is the proper way to dish out the soup.
Most important is that you know this to be a Knucklehead’s Soup. Never do i want to sound “pontifical,” that sad, ugly word meaning “know-it-all.” Meanwhile, i am happy to present myself as my Pop Pop’s – and the Lord’s “Stubborn Gus,” though one in love with learning. But, even if i did “know-a-lot,” what is that, if knowledge does not filter through the heart to make “the Broth of Good Living?” i assure you, whatever you find in FriarDadAdventures comes straight from the heart. i hope that you will come, come often, to try my soup. (And hey! should anyone like to try my “Squeaky Kneeler,” it is still available at The Book Patch.com and on Kindle…)