It Was Fascination…

stock_exchangeIn my second appointment with Father Michael, he surprised me by talking about the stock market. A long time before, I had told him that I’d inherited some money from my very special aunt. I explained that my intention had been to stop working at my very stressful job. I thought I’d take a break for a while and then try to find something ‘fulfilling’, non-stressful-and without a three to four hour round-trip commute.

Well, the economy and the stock market tanked. I felt uncomfortable considering taking a modest-salaried job from someone who needed the money way more than I did. So I busied myself with a few trips, some family wedding preparations and lots of genealogical research. I was amazed at times how quickly the days passed as I worked on the family tree. And so I explained all this to Father Michael.

We talked about my aunt, who was a true individual for her era. I explained how she sometimes had worked three part time jobs, was frugal and saved. I told Father M how my aunt loved to swim in Lake Michigan and spent all her spare time on the beach in the summer. She was able to convince one of her bosses that she could do a full day’s work in four to five hours. She’d get to work at 6 AM and be at the lakefront by 11AM…..with her boss’s blessing. In the winter, she just went home early. This same boss was extremely generous with my aunt and gave her huge Christmas bonuses. I remember one for $6000 one year and $10,000 a few years later. And this was in the early 60’s!  My aunt invested in the market, with guidance from her boss. Father Michael remarked “the brothers and I often marvel at these amazing women and the amount of money they amass.”  He was quite impressed. Interesting to me that rich women were the subject of priory discussion.

Father M was also completely intrigued by the stock market. He asked me some surprisingly blunt and,to be honest, nosy questions. I answered most, but was taken aback by quite a few of them. One was about the approximate percentage and dollar amount of profit I had earned the past year. There were more that were similar to that; Father M was quite bold.He stared at me with those big eyes, looking completely guileless. I just stared back at him and didn’t answer. I very much had the feeling that he was trying to gauge exactly how much money I had in investments. Perhaps I was wrong…..

Father Michael changed the subject a bit and talked about his older brother’s losses in the market. He asked me what my broker’s new strategy was. I told him “Well, he’s always telling me ‘stay the course'”. Father Michael said that was what his brother was doing, but he hadn’t recovered all his losses. But he assured me that his brother’s business had continued to do very well.  This conversation just amazed me. I had never expected to discuss this with Father.

Father M then admitted to being a little embarrassed by his interest in finances. He relayed how he had been “prayer partners” with a lady in the parish,who had recently passed away. He told me “You know I’d go over to her house and she would go over all her stocks and investments and how they were doing. She knew I was fascinated with them. But then it would be time for our prayer and I would find it difficult to NOT think about those stocks!”  I admired his honesty in admitting that.

Funny, now I remember how I purchased some $20 instant tickets as a special treat for Father after the cancer diagnosis. Father Michael was so excited, but he put off scratching the tickets till late in the evening. Later he texted me that all he could think about during evening prayer was what he would do if he won a million dollars. So I’m thinking “well, of course he’ll be helping the poor”. I was NOT expecting “Hey, I’ll be calling you from Hawaii”. Another time he told me “You know what happens if I win, right?”  I said “No-what happens?”  Father Michael: “I’m outta here!”

Father Michael — as he would say- “What a hoot !”

Karma, Lady Luck and Aquinas Institute

IllinoisLottery-Instant-Win

 

Father Michael loved lottery tickets, raffles and slot machines. I told him once about how my husband had ‘won big’ at a penny slot machine at the casino. I felt a little embarrassed admitting we liked casinos and the lottery. I explained to Father M that it kind of ‘runs’ in my family. Well, Father Michael was just entranced; I needn’t have worried. He was a ‘gambler’ from way back. I had told him the big win story on the phone and a few days later he was still thinking about it and sent me this email:

I am blown away by the casino story. I have dreamed of a big win but it has never happened. When my dear mother was alive I would go with her and we’d have a ball. She would say ‘Fr Michael  let’s go to mass and then to the casino and we will come home and have a drink’. It was just perfect. And I always laughed. She was much more of a winner than I  was.

One day we should sneak away and win a bundle!!!!

Blessings

Fr. Michael

Well, I was floored. Later I found out that Father Michael also loved Instant Lottery tickets . He advised me too, that if he ever got a chance to buy any kind of raffle tickets, he always did. So that became a way that I gave small gifts to Father Michael-I’d buy him instant tickets! When there was a raffle ticket available, I got him one of those too. He was always so grateful -and sooooo excited.

After Father’s cancer diagnosis, I bought him some tickets every week. He would hold onto them for a few days before scratching, savoring the possibilities as long as he could. At one point, Father M confided to me that he really wanted to win a million dollars for Aquinas Institute of Theology in St Louis. Father Michael had so enjoyed serving on the AI Board of Trustees for several years. Gosh, I prayed that he’d win that million. He did win small amounts regularly. A few times, he actually won $100! He enjoyed treating his brothers to pizza with those wins.  But the ‘big win’ was not to be. I can recall some very funny ‘ravings’ of Father Michael about the ‘ low return’ rate of these tickets. Father M kept saying he was going to call up the governor( a man with Dominican ties) and take him to task about it. Father Michael was so funny; he could get so perturbed by losing. Once I had bought him several extra tickets and later asked how he’d done. “They were ALL DUDS!!!” he exclaimed, looking just like a dejected little boy.

Oh, yes we did go to a casino once. That was a trip. We had a snack early and then quickly got into the slots. I had brought a nice bankroll to share. I really wanted Father Michael to win something substantial. He was always so hopeful. Well, we lost and lost! At one point I grabbed what I thought was $20 from my purse to give to Father Michael. It turned out to be two holy cards ! I laughed and started to put them back , but Father M said “no, let me have them”. He read the prayers on the back first and then  proceeded to tuck each holy card into the sides of his machine’s screen. Then he started to rub the screen up and down as he remarked “I see all the old ladies do this”. The person sitting on the other side of Father was watching him, getting quite a kick out of  all the ritual. THEN Father Michael raises his right hand and BLESSES the machine!!! I really lost it then; I almost fell off the chair , I was laughing so much. But Father Michael, as serious as could be, was the picture of devotion and determination—and HOPE ! We still lost. Never got through my bankroll; Father Michael was anxious to get back to St Pius for prayer.

Father Michael loved to hear about my casino visits, especially as he became more homebound. He’d often tell me ” You have good Karma, I knew you’d do well”. I’d say ” we’re Catholics- should we even be using the word Karma?” Father M would just smile. I’d often take a picture of good hits at the casino and send them to Father Michael. He would always respond immediately with a “Well done!”, “How much were you betting?” or my personal favorite, “YEAH!!!!”

Again these are some of the little things-certainly worldly-but I know all of them helped Father Michael in his cancer battle. Perhaps they were just distractions from the pain and the difficulties on the journey. But Father Michael reveled in their simple delights. On my last visit to Father Michael,  he told me “I sure would like to go to the casino with you again”.

FYI-if anyone would like to donate to Aquinas Institute, here is a link to their online giving page:

http://www.ai.edu/Online-Payments/Online-Payments-and-Donations

the Fr. Michael G. Kyte, O.P., Excellence in Preaching Fund, Dominicans, 1910 S. Ashland Ave, Chicago, IL 60608. – See more at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/chicagotribune/obituary.aspx?n=michael-kyte&pid=170399841&fhid=6266#sthash.7K2dHOrY.dpuf

Also there is a new special fund dedicated to preparing our future preachers studying at AI: The Father Michael G. Kyte, O.P. Excellence in Preaching Fund, 1910 S Ashland Av, Chicago IL 60608