It seems that being my friend is not good for your health of late. For a second time in less that a month — a friend has died early on a Sunday morning.
Julio was a Spanish priest of the Congregation of the Mission. He was one of my favorite people in the world, despite the fact that we communicated in an odd-ball spanglish language. His english was far better than my spanish, but he was always far more comfortable in spanish. We would meet most often at Maison Mére (the motherhouse for the CM’s) in Paris, although we also had the occasion to work together in New York a couple of times. Julio would come in bearing a sheet of paper, filled with tiny script, and proclaim “I have a few leetle questions!” They were never few, and never little!
We laughed and ate and drank our way through many levels of the web: HTML 1.0 hand coded, all the way to WordPress 3.3.2. With the others that we worked with, we explored parts of Paris and attempted to translate the phrase “Systemic Change” into comprehensible Spanish (a literal or direct translation does not successfully convey the meaning — it probably conveys something totally out of line with the intent).
One evening in New York, the resident New Yorker in the group was occupied with other obligations and ask me to escort Julio and Claude (a french priest and another story altogether!) from Jamaica Queens for a trip to the top of the Empire State Building and dinner in Manhattan. Mind you, I am an Alabama native who had braved Manhattan a couple of times in the firm control of others who knew what they were doing. Oh, and I had to be told how one might hail a taxi and how to know which ones were available! Off we went — we took the photograph at the Empire State Bld., we rode the elevators, we admired the city view from the top of the building and I think we bought a souvenir or two. We wandered toward Times Square and found dinner at Dallas BBQ (or something with a name like that). Not Alabama style BBQ, but still, a pretty good dinner. We walked up to St. Patrick’s, but it was closed up for the night by that time. And, I got us a taxi back out to St. John’s area in Jamaica. And I brought home change! The 3 of us laughed and spoke a variation of spanglish that incorporated French as well. SpaFranglish? I’ve never been afraid to tackle Manhattan since!
That year, when we left Julio off in Harlem (he was staying overnight with some Spanish priests who lived there) he gave me a hug that I shall not forget. He smiled a smile that is what I see in my mind’s eye when I sing the refrain to “Pescador/Lord You Have Come”
Lord, with your eyes set upon me, gently smiling, you have called my name
The Spanish is more beautiful, but I’ll have to copy it from the music to be sure I spell it correctly
I remember the year my husband (JP) and daughter (Marie) made the trip to Paris with me for the sort of annual meeting. On the first evening in town, a group of us walked up to see Notre Dame at night. Our guide was Juan Julian (another spanish priest) and he and Julio debated whether Notre Dame was best seen by night or by day. They then proceded to argue over who would buy Marie’s gelato for her (all the while, she was trying to pay for it herself. One of the Spaniards won.)
The last time I saw him in person was also in Paris. Due to an unfortunate turn of events, Julio and I were the last 2 left in Paris at the end of the week. I was able to reschedule my flight so that we left within an hour of each other. We both had colds. We enjoyed my favorite lunch – [French] soup a l’onion at a cafe near the motherhouse and shared a taxi out to Charles de Gaul airport. That was the day of trying to sort out the concept of Systemic Change. I’m not sure he every completely bought in to it, but we discussed in spanglish. the cabbie turned out to be a spaniard as well, despite working in Paris and speaking French. All was well until we stopped to drop Julio at his terminal on the way to my terminal. Again, there was the hug, the kiss on both cheeks, the sad parting. I sat in the back of the cab, and the cabbie paused before asking if it was ok to leave. I have no idea what he thought the relationship was. But as I look back, I wonder if I somehow knew that I would not see mi amigo in person ever again.