Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mother's Visit

To: Donna Banta
From: Mark Crawford
Subject: Mother's visit

Dear Donna,

Most of the week went fine. Mother seems to have  come to terms with the fact that I'm no longer Mormon and that I live with a man. (Although she still asks where Byron sleeps, and when I tell her she still smiles, shakes her head and says, "Oh p-shaw!") We did the usual. San Francisco, Carmel. In the evenings Mother filled me in on the family in Salt Lake City and taught Byron how to cook "Utah Style." (Believe me, Donna, the man's a saint, and I don't mean the "latter-day" kind.)

On Sunday Byron and I planned to drop Mother off at church, go for brunch, then pick her up after. We made a slight detour to collect her friend, Sister Hickey, who is no longer able to drive. We parked and escorted the elderly sister into the building, as it took three people to manage her walker, oxygen tank, scriptures, and bag of medications.

Once she and Mother were safe in their pew, Byron and I raced for the door, only to be confronted by Bishop Zimmerman and a young member of the Aaronic Priesthood. The bishop's tie was askew and his lapels were covered in Post-it notes. He answered e-mail on his Blackberry as he spoke. "Mark! Thank goodness you're here! I need you to run to the store for the sacrament bread. Give the loaves to Dallin here when you get back." He pressed a wad of cash into my palm and disappeared. I looked down at Dallin. He was in desperate need of a bar of soap. "Listen kid," I said, "why don't you run to the Safeway on the corner and get the bread?" "I can't," he replied. "Why not?" I asked. "Because it's a sin." As the ward's token reprobate, I was the only candidate capable of breaking the Sabbath to provide the Abbottsville "saints" (including my mother) with their holy communion.

After Byron and I delivered the bread to Dallin, our exit was again hampered, this time by a commotion in the foyer. Bishop Zimmerman blocked our path, panting. One of the Post-its had attached itself to his earlobe. I tactfully returned it to his lapel. "Mark! Thank goodness you're back! Sister Turley's water just broke. I need you to sit with their kids during Sacrament Meeting while Brother Turley takes her to the hospital." Mother moved into my range of vision, her eyes imploring. "It's only an hour," said Byron. "We'll still have time for brunch." (As I said, the man's a saint.)

The Turley brood, a foursome ranging from age two through eight, sat on the second row from the front. While former Stake President Taylor waxed sentimental about his genealogy, Byron engaged the twin girls in what he thought would be a game of cat's cradle, but looked more like the bondage scenario in a DVD we recently rented. I might have been turned on, if I hadn't been so intent on dislodging the Cheerio one of the Turley brats stuffed in my ear.

Needless to say, we wasted no time ferrying the kids to Primary. We handed off the two year old to a wild-eyed nursery leader. "I need more help!" she cried, and grabbed Byron as well. I vowed to rescue him after I unloaded the other three, but upon entering the Primary room, Sister Zimmerman called out, "Mark! Thank goodness you're here! Sister Turley was supposed to play the piano, only now she's in labor. Will you fill in?" "Um, OK. Where's the music?" "I don't know. Can't you just wing it?" Sure I could wing it. I wing it all the time for my music students at Grafton College, but the Primary Songbook was not part of my repertoire. I fell back on The Eensy Weensy Spider, Puff the Magic Dragon, and Hey Jude.

After the better part of an hour I announced, "Any more singing will have to be done a capella." Sister Zimmerman thanked me, then asked, "On your way out would you mind tending to little Missy Skousen? She needs to pee." I drew a breath. "All right, I'll fetch her mother." "She just passed out from morning sickness." I refused to be rattled. "Fine, I'll find her father." "He's in the Elders' Quorum." Missy and I walked hand in hand to the Elders' classroom where we were greeted by a chorus of, "Mark! Thank goodness you're here!"

Some forty-five minutes later, I left the Elders, confident I had taught one of the best lessons of the year. (Good thing Brother Harold had that deck of cards.) Saint Byron waited for me in the foyer, head to toe in glitter. We loaded Mother, Sister Hickey and the portable ER into the car. Then as we left the church parking lot, Sister Hickey took a long pull on her oxygen tank, and wheezed, "Where are we going for brunch?"

I'll close for now, as Saint Byron is heading to the bar with our martini pitcher. God knows I need one.


P.S. Do you know how to get off the Fourth Ward mailing list?


  1. Ha! Asking the sinner to go buy the sacrament bread! Because his soul was already a lost cause you know.

  2. It's true, I am a lost cause, and strangely I'm OK with when are they going to take me off their e-mail list?!