27 10 2007

 The following is an assignment I did for the Rockguild writers class. We were asked this question; “If you bumped into someone you hadn’t spoken to in a long time, how would that conversation go?”

Here is my answer. It is a long one but I am kinda missing my brother today so I thought I would share this story. Most of it is factual.

  Lisa loved the smell of this place. As she stood in line waiting for her turn to order her usual morning coffee she noticed that there were no familiar faces behind the counter. It appeared that there had been some changes made to the ordering process and the line was much longer than normal. A little annoyed, she glanced up to the overhead menu to make sure that hadn’t changed as well. Just then she felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around to see…   “Lucky!” she exclaimed and threw her arms around his neck.   “Hi Sis. Long time no see.” he said.   “I’ll say!” she chuckled. “I just can’t believe I am looking at you! You look fantastic.”   It felt to Lisa like they were the only two people in the coffee shop. Her heart was pounding with joy at the delight of seeing this brother that she missed for so long. He had a way of disappearing from the family for months at a time but this time had been ten long years. And yet, he looked young and vibrantly healthy. He looked very different from the last time she had seen him. There was something she had never seen before in the eyes of this previously tortured soul.   “I know there are a hundred things running through your mind right now.” he said, breaking the spell of the moment. Lisa had made up her mind in an instant that she was going to blow off work for as long as she and her brother could spend together.    “I think of you often. Sometimes I play over our last conversations in my mind and hope that I said all the right things.” Lisa was feeling a bit awkward. “I really wanted to see you paint the mural on the wall at the playground like you had planned. That was such a positive and ambitious goal. I know it would have been beautiful and it would have made the children so happy.” she babbled excitedly as they both took a step forward in the line. She thought about some of the imaginative paintings her talented brother had created.   “That was the clearest  my mind had been  in a long time and I knew exactly what the mural would look like.  I just wanted to give something back. It seemed like the place to start giving was to the kids.” Lucky’s smile was warm and genuine.    “What it is like?” Lisa almost whispered.   “I knew you would ask me that” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “I spent the longest time just standing there. Staring.  It is not possible to drink it all in with your understanding. I don’t know how I can describe to you what it is like to look at the Lamb on the Throne or to hear the angels singing. Everything has a feel to it, even the air itself. It lands on your skin like a soft, fine mist. It feels like … love… acceptance. It is everything you promised it would be and more.”   These words were coming from a man who knew heart ache and rejection.    His given name was, Paul Joseph Palombi, Jr. He was named after his father who deserted his family when Paul, Jr. was in high school.  After a failed marriage of his own and a dishonorable discharge from the Army, Paul served two years in a NY prison for armed robbery in the 1960s. A year or so after his release he joined an outlaw motorcycle club called the Devil’s Disciples. It was during this time that he acquired the name which he would be called for the rest of his life.    He had been caught shoplifting and in an attempt to dodge the store manager who was chasing him, Paul ran away from the store. The unfortunate thing was that he left his motorcycle parked in front of the store and someone recognized it as the shoplifter’s. The police impounded the motorcycle and instead of turning himself in and getting his bike back, Lucky and his friends decided to steal his bike back. They all got caught and they all were arrested and Lucky had to sell his motorcycle in order to pay for a lawyer. It did not take a Rhodes Scholar to see a pattern here. Someone in the club decided that a fitting name for this unfortunate misfit should be Lucky. There you have it; a legend was born.    He moved his way up in the ranks of the Devil’s Disciples until he was arrested again. Lucky and his brothers in the club were selling drugs out of their clubhouse. A federal agent tried to befriend them and infiltrate the operation but the guys found out what he was up to. They tied him up and forced him to drink from a bottle of wine telling him that it was laced with their best LSD.  They then placed the frantic agent in the trunk of Lucky’s car and drove him around Bostonfor a couple of hours before releasing him. He immediately made his way to the nearest hospital and identified himself while insisting that the doctors pump his stomach. He instructed the medical personnel to keep the contents of his stomach as evidence. To his dismay, the contents revealed a mixture of Bali Hai wine and Bayer aspirin. Lucky went to prison for six years on charges of kidnapping. When he came out, the club that he felt such a part of had completely changed and he didn’t fit in anymore.      Lisa had gone from being his little Sis to being one of his drinking buddies. They came from a dysfunctional family and these two siblings used their offbeat senses of humor and their talents to get them through life. Both had become alcoholic at a young age but Lisa reached the end of her rope first. To her brother’s surprise, she went to Alcoholics Anonymous, got sober and stayed that way. Five years later, she had a spiritual awakening, gave her life to Jesus, met a decent, sober man and got married.   Lucky continued to drink to excess. He was a shattered soul who had a hard time holding down a job. At one low point of his life, he worked in a bar and lived in his panel van.     One night, Lisa was at a Gospel Music concert and she was touched by a song titled, “Don’t call me lucky; call me blessed.”  It was as if God was answering her prayers for her brother by telling her what to pray for. She knew, first hand, that God could change the very nature of a person. She was living proof of that fact. Other stories rang in her memory of Abram being changed in name and nature to Abraham; Sarai to Sarah; Jacob to Israel; Saul to Paul.  Lisa began to pray that God would change her brother from Lucky to Blessed. She asked God to change the name and the nature of the lonely, mixed up man.   The last time Lisa and Lucky spoke was over the phone. He was living in Boston, Mass. and she was in North Carolina. The doctors told Lucky that he had a very aggressive form of cancer in his throat.  Radiation therapy had burned him so badly it resulted in a tracheotomy.  His physician gave him the bad news that they had done all they could. He called his sister to tell her.    When she got the devastating report, her first thought was, “Where will my brother spend eternity?”  She screwed up her courage and said, “Lucky, the most important thing you can do now is make sure you are all right with God.” The silence on his end of the phone felt like an eternity. Lisa knew it was painful for him to talk through the tracheotomy, so she was trying to give him some time.    “I don’t think that God is so mad at me that He won’t let me fish in the big pond when I get there.” he finally responded.   “Are you sure you are going to get there?”   “I believe in God. I’m just not sure if he believes in me.” Lucky confided.   Lisa thought that was the saddest thing she had ever heard. She understood how he felt and, immediately, the Bible story about the thief on the cross came to her mind. She told her brother about how the condemned man had messed up so badly that he was being put to death for the crimes he had committed.    “God believed in him, Lucky and you ain’t no badder than him.”  She had slipped back into her street jargon but it was a language they both understood. “And Jesus promised that criminal that he would be in Heaven that very day!” Lucky realized that he was not so unique. He saw that there was hope and he made a decision to believe that Jesus knew all about this man called Lucky and yet, still loved him enough to want to forgive him of all his sins.    Because he had talked for so long, his throat was in a great deal of pain so Lisa offered to pray on his behalf. She told him that she wanted this prayer to reflect his own words to God, so if she said anything that he did not agree with, he should stop her. Lisa prayed and at the end of the prayer she heard her brother croak the word, “Amen.”     Lisa had been so lost in all these memories that she was startled by the sound of a buzzer. She was quickly brought back to her place in the coffee shop.   “When did they get a buzzer in this place?” Lisa turned her attention to the young man behind the coffee counter. He was ceaselessly pushing the annoying buzzer. Lisa thought she saw yellow numbers reflecting off his forehead.  Turning around to see where the reflection was coming from, she saw her alarm clock blinking a yellow 6:55AM.   Lisa sat up in the bed, realizing that she had been dreaming. She looked at her clock again which also showed today’s date. It was June 10, 2005. Ten years to the day when she received the phone call telling her that her brother Lucky had been found dead in his Boston apartment.   Filled with gratitude for the gentle, loving way that God reminded her of the things that really matter, Lisa started her day with prayer.   “Thank You, Lord, for displaying to me that You have the grace to transform the life of a man who never should have been called Lucky. You never abandoned Your child. You knew his real name from the beginning of time and You have called him Blessed.”   In the recesses of her mind, she heard a strong, sure voice say, “Amen.”



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