A Friendless Proselyter in Iowa

Last week I got a lengthy email from a priest in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He had read my book, The Home for the Friendless and told me that two of my childhood friends mentioned in Part 4 were boys he had known well. I often wondered what happened with those two rowdy brothers and I soon found out. One of them became a priest and was Spiritual Director to the Cedar Rapids priest before his ordination. What a treat that was to hear about the 12-year-old I threw hand grenades (gourds) with when we played war in our garden.

The priest told me even more that threw me back in time. He said that he shops at a Hy-Vee Grocery Store across the street from where our house once stood. This modern store probably took the place of Tom Combs’ homey old corner grocery that had a gas hose sitting on a platform above the cars. The gasoline drained into car tanks by gravity and no pumping was required.

During our exchange of letters, my new friend, the priest, wrote this note:
“I have always wanted to write about my own great grandmother who was born in Iowa in the 1870′s. She lost triplets up in Canada when the nurse gave medicine to the babies instead of to my great grandmother. All three of her babies died.”

Stories give birth to stories just as women give birth to children. When the grieving parents moved back to Iowa they were thrust into another story that was even more dramatic than the first one. When the priest read my book he was reminded of his own life which proves that one family’s saga is a link in a chain of families with stories to tell. If you’ve ever sat around after dinner with guests who started sharing tales, you know how storytelling can go on and on.

What is the most inspiring kernel in your family’s story that you have not told or written down yet?

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