An old man, trapped on a small island of cement in the middle of 82nd avenue, crying.
I pull over and brave the current of prisoners, being swept north in their bubbles of metal and plastic……
I reach the island and its lone resident, hugging desperately to a worn and tattered 18 inch long teddy bear, weeping uncontrollably for the answer of why his mother abandoned him 75 years ago on this very spot. This island of cement had become a memorial for this once child of 8 years.
It was 1935 and it was autumn for the leaves were changing. His name is Marcus Samuel Barker. His Dad had died the year before of the Flu. “Mom had a chance at a job, but couldn’t have me with her. So she gave me $2 and a blanket, then climb on the wagon and left. I tried to follow,” he said, “but the wagon sped up and left me behind. I started walking towards the river and came to a church and went in. It was warm and quiet and I went up front to ask God why?
“While I was waiting for God to answer I fell asleep on the altar. Turned out to be a Franciscan Church and a priest found me and they kept me and so I eventually became a priest.”
Then he said,” I just retired.”
Then this sheepish grin came over his face and he whispers, “Well you never really retire….” Then with a sigh and the drying of the eyes and the blowing of the nose he says, “So each year I come here and pray and weep for my mother, even though she is long dead.”
Then together we braved the flow of traffic and I offered him a ride home. He accepts but insists on buying me a soda.
As we sit in a little dive on Foster, Marcus is staring into his glass and then says, “You’re a pastor or a priest, aren’t you?”
I smiled and said, “Guilty as charged.”
“ I knew it,” he said. “Only a priest would sit in the middle of a four lane road and listen to and old man’s story.”
Smiling I say, “Convicted as charged. But! I am not Catholic I am Celtic.”
Marcus waves his hand as though brushing off the answer. “You are a Shepherd just as I am. We both serve the King. We are brothers!”
The meeting was over and I dropped him off at the door of Our Lady of Sorrows just in time for Mass. Marcus laid his hand on my shoulder and prayed for me and then with a wink and a smile says, “See ya pastor,” and gets out and slips into the doorway of the Church.
On a side note; Marcus went home to the Lord last year.