So I get to my seat on the plane. I’m next to an older man, who’s talking with the younger guy next to him. I get the vibe that they just met – they’re not traveling together. I wonder if Older guy will speak to me. He doesn’t. At least not right away. He is telling Young Guy about the book he is reading, Centennial. I chip in and say “Did you just move here, then?” He laughs, and says “yeah”. I joked, ‘yep, it’s required reading for all new people, isn’t it”. Young guy asks him where it is that he lives in Denver. He laughs and says, “ohhhhh, somewhere. There’s other people there…..south, maybe. Near Hampden.” I say, “that would be Englewood”. He says” Thank you! Thank you for telling me where I am living. It’s good to know.”
He’s got a really good energy. I immediately like him and start wondering about him. What’s his story? What has brought him to Denver? What does he do for a living? I finally tire of wondering and lean into him and say, “So, what do you do?”
He laughs. “I’m retired.”
Me: “And so what did you used to do?”
He laughs. “ I was a Catholic priest.”
Me: “Oh. My. God”
Him: “Well, yeah, there’s a little of Him in me.”
I was not expecting that. I glance up towards the sky and think “ok, I can see you are about to drop another anvil on my head……The Monty-Python-Flashing- Neon- Light- Hand of God is pointing my way……Here’s comes some important information.
So for two hours, we talked about God, religion, marriage, parenting, abortion, passion, and Jon-Benet Ramsey. Young guy slept through it all. I, of course, had opened with my “5 questions I have for God after I die and I finally get to talk to somebody.” Which are:
1. What is the deal with marriage??
2. What is the deal with parenting??
3. What is the deal with abortion?
4. Who killed Jon-Benet Ramsey”
5. What the fuck is up with religion?
He laughed. His name is Ben Myers, and he laughs a lot. He is 71. He’s a gem. If he was the priest at a Catholic parish in my time, I would go to his church. And I’m not Catholic.
His philosophy is “let your conscience be your guide”. He says the Bible is a book of great stories. He thinks some people just need religion because they like everything to be black and white. He says when you get a crush on somebody or get infatuated or think you’ve fallen in love with someone ‘else, congratulate yourself for being normal. Hurray, you’re sane. Enjoy it. Love as many people as you can. Just honor the boundaries you have agreed upon with your partner. In response to my question about marriage he said, “Well, people used to only live for about 40 years!!!”
Hahahahahahahaha. He said it is absolutely a challenge to try and do marriage the way our lives are now.
His favorite saying is “Life is a mystery.” “Some things are just going to be mysteries.”
I wish I had the conversation on tape. It was hilarious and warm. He was wise and appreciative. I asked him what it means to be retired for a priest. Get a break on any of the vows???? He laughed quite a bit at that. There was a moment were I was struck by the fact that I think I was slightly flirting with a 71 year old priest. Turns out that no, once a priest, always a priest.
He said if you ever have any more questions, kiddo, just give me a call.
I said, if you ever need to ask a civilian about anything, just give me a call.
Regarding Jon-Benet: “According to my information, the mother did it.”
I loved that I didn’t change my style a bit for him. The f-word was used. He was everything I could ever hope for in a clergy person or in any person for that matter. He told me that NOTHING is perfect. We weren’t made perfectly, the world wasn’t made perfectly, we are not supposed to be perfect. I asked a bunch of my usual metaphysical, tautological, mind-fucking questions which he handled with ease.
So I don’t have to feel guilty for loving other people than my husband. What matters is how I act on it. I read a quote from the Indigo Girls the other day that went like this
"All the shiny little trinkets of temptation, something new instead of
something old / All you gotta do is scratch beneath the surface, and it's
fool's gold." --Indigo Girls
I get what they are saying, although it sounds a bit harsh to say ‘fool’s gold’. But the reality is that no matter what relationship you are in, you are still you. And you are still likely to have the same freaky neurotic shit you do now, no matter who the person is.
I thank god for the incredible people I have met in my life and have been in love with. Yeah, I wonder “what if” quite a bit. I think everybody does. I love how no one tells you how hard marriage really is before you do it. Parenthood, too.
It’s all part of the yin and the yang, I have come to believe.
Eventually, I told Ben I loved him and wished him the best in Colorado. I was no longer feeling sad, confused or anything other than content.
I just know that God has a sense of humor. I love God for that. While hugging the arch in St. Louis, I had prayed for strength and understanding. So he sends me a Ben Myers. Rock on, dude.