Slapped in the Face and Blessed

By Fred Tomasello Jr., Guest Contributor

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Why does reality slap us at 2:30 in the morning?

The dream seemed real. Three evil men were in our home. I executed each one by shooting them in the head with a small, 5-shot .38 caliber revolver. The fact that I killed three men didn’t bother me. The real problem was the dark red blood oozing out onto our furniture, our hardwood floor and our rugs. That would trouble my wife Kathy because we don’t have enough peroxide in the house to get those stains out.

As I awakened, I realized I didn’t kill anyone. What was scary and strange was that Kathy wasn’t home. She was in the hospital. The day before, in the afternoon, using my BP cuff, Kathy’s pulse fluttered irregularly between 90 and 120 beats per minute.

When she finally got my attention I didn’t know what to do. Praying for spiritual assistance came to mind. I should ask God to heal my wife, to cast out whatever evil was troubling her heart. Instead, I began searching the Internet for guidance.

She telephoned the Registered Nurse service at Blue Cross Blue Shield, our health benefit plan and put him on the speaker phone. In a firm, clearly authoritarian and Godly voice, the RN ordered us to go to the nearest Emergency Room.

So we did.

My beautiful Lotus flower, floating above the muck. My wonderful partner, friend and wife, Kathy Blair!

Because of Covid, I couldn’t go any further than the waiting room. They finally took Kathy to a room where a Medical Doctor could see her and analyze the results of her blood test, her chest X-ray and her Electro Cardio Gram. By phone message, Kathy told me they gave her a shot to thin her blood, started an IV medicine drip of some kind and were admitting her to a room where they could monitor her heart until they stabilized her.

Kathy admitted she was afraid and I admitted I was too. She told me the best thing for me to do was to go home and feed the cats. She would call me later.

As I lay here in bed this morning, I reflected on the many times in my life when I felt so helpless that I prayed for spiritual help.

Belief in God was drilled into me in Catholic School. If you were “good” and died in a state of grace, you went to Heaven where you were immediately given anything you wanted. Even spaghetti and meat balls, every day. Getting into Heaven was the challenge. To help us, God gave us the 10 Commandments, and the Catholic Church added a few more commandments to clearly define Mortal and Venial sins. As the nuns explained to us, nearly everything was a sin. If you died with a sin staining your soul, you went to Hell with the Devil instead of Heaven with God. When we misbehaved, we were locked into a closet with the Devil. I never saw or met the Devil in there but it sure was dark. I never saw or met God outside the closet but I felt quite sure about both.

In the New Testament, Jesus taught us a key prayer when He says, “THY will be done,” not MY will be done. So I return to the same accusatory anger—why does God’s will allow bad things to happen to good people? If that is HIS will, then why the hell did he create us?

The “cure” for sin was to go to confession, tell the priest your sins, say the prayer called The Act of Contrition, accept the priest’s absolution, leave the booth and pray on our knees the prescribed Hail Mary’s, Our Father’s and Glory Be’s. No problem for me in the early years but when I reached puberty, some commandments, especially those defined by the church, became difficult to follow like those concerning sex, impure thoughts and touching myself in an impure manner.

In the school yard, seeing an attractive girl translated to mentally fornicating her or later masturbating, “jacking off,” to a mental image of her breasts, cleavage or crotch. There were magazines in our local drugstore that contained images of partly naked women that stuck to my brain and erected my penis. We used to sit on the terrazzo floor with a large Life magazine open to conceal the sexually explicit girlie magazine inside. Soon, to be more efficient and less private, I stole a magazine and took it to our “fort” in the woods where we used it to “jack off.”

That Saturday afternoon, at confession, I was going through my “regular sins” like, “I punched my sister and made her cry three times this past week; I had impure thoughts in the school yard about 15 times; I took the name of the Lord in vain about five times; I stole a magazine and touched myself in an impure manner about 20 times since my last confession.”

The priest interrupted me.

“Did you just say you stole a magazine? Do you still have it?”

When I answered yes, the priest said, “I can’t absolve you of your sins until you return the magazine. When you return the magazine, come back and receive your absolution.”

Stunned, I left the confessional. With all the kids watching me, I knelt down and pretended to pray while pondering what to do. I had my bicycle outside so I decided to ride to the “fort,” pick up the magazine, return it to the drugstore and ride back to confession and receive my absolution.

First Communion pic. St. Joseph Catholic School, Tampa FL, around 1954. Back then we had a family doctor who took care of everything. Today, there are “bureaucratic specialists” and electronic portals that magnify and mystify what was once a simple procedure: Call your doctor.

What if I’m struck by a car and killed? I’m going straight to Hell forever! So I prayed for God to keep me safe while I did what I had to do. At the “fort” the rain had flooded our brush-covered fox-hole and the magazine was soaked. I rolled the magazine up, jammed it behind my belt and covered it with my shirt as I sped to the drugstore. When I got there, I stopped my bike, opened the front door and flung the wet magazine as hard as I could into the store before heading back to confession.

Some of the kids who were at confession when I left looked at me quizzically so I whispered that “I forgot a big sin so I had to go back inside.” They gravely nodded like they understood why I came back and let me go next in line. The same priest was there and gave me absolution.

The stress that these strong beliefs caused during this incident stayed with me for years and when the Catholic Church changed their commandment about eating meat on Friday, that it was now OK, I questioned what happened to those in Hell who did that in the past.

During the war in Vietnam, I saw people blown to smithereens and their parts eaten by maggots. Once, we collected arms and legs without knowing to whom those limbs actually belonged, so I also questioned the “resurrection of the body.” I became angry at God for allowing wars, famine, pestilence, and other ways that brought harm, affliction and death on good people.

I still felt an inclination towards the “Divine” because when a mortar round popped high into the air, and we were all in our foxholes, hunkered down and praying our asses off, all God had to do was give that round a little burst of wind, allow the propellant to be damp, or interfere some way with any other physical phenomenon that would spare those of us who prayed and kill someone else rather than me. When that actually happened, I felt guilty. And when I thanked God for sparing me, the guilt doubled, like God and I, together, killed them.

So, during that time, I came to the conclusion that this “religious” praying process was bullshit.

Everything happens for a reason. There are no “accidents.” Science proves this.

But when it’s my wife Kathy who’s in danger of dying, and there’s nothing I can do, does it help to pray?

In the New Testament, Jesus taught us a key prayer when He says “THY will be done,” not MY will be done. So I return to the same accusatory anger—why does God’s will allow bad things to happen to good people? If that is HIS will, then why the hell did he create us?

In the early days of computer programming, the mainframe would print out, “Circular reference error. Your error is fatal. Program terminated.” To prevent this story from continuing in an endless loop, let’s get back to my wife Kathy.

Sunday morning, I picked her up at the hospital. She was released with two prescriptions for A-fib emailed to a CVS pharmacy near our home. We go into the drug store and the pharmacists looks into his computer.

“Yes, we have your prescriptions from the hospital, but they’re blocked by our system. The doctor who signed them recently moved to Florida from another state and his license is expired so we can’t fill or release these prescriptions.” Kathy calls the hospital and connects with the RN who released her and he says he will get this corrected. And so we go home.

Monday, August 9, 2021.

Kathy calls the cardiologist who saw her at the hospital for an appointment but her name isn’t coming up on their computer so they will call her back. When Kathy tells them about the problem with the two prescriptions, Kathy is told to call the “Round Nurse” at the hospital. That number results in a recording saying they are receiving lots of calls so “please leave a message and we will call you back.” When the cardiologist’s office calls back, Kathy gets an appointment for Wednesday, August 11. When Kathy tells them she still needs the two prescriptions, the cardiologist’s office gives her a different number to call. So she does. She gets yet another recording and leaves the same message.

The doctor’s office calls back and tells Kathy they are ordering two prescriptions of their own because they can’t read the handwriting of the original doctor at the hospital. Kathy asks them to send the two Rx’s to a Sam’s club near us where she gets all her Rx’s so they can message us when the medicine is ready.

At 3 p.m. we pick up the Rx’s. Kathy seems happy, healthy and stable.

I’m not.

I’m watching all this and praying, but not for peace. My prayer is that somehow I can shoot and kill everyone responsible for this high-tech bureaucratic nightmare of incompetence. The small, 5-shot .38 caliber revolver won’t be sufficient. I’ll need an M-60 machine gun with a 500-round belt of linked ammo to handle all these assholes. I’ll pray the barrel doesn’t melt down before I’m done.

Kathy has more patience than I. She is compassionate, intelligent and resourceful. I want corrective action, justice and competence – NOW!

We never know what will happen, but events like this will continue until we die. If we want to color our lives in a positive manner, we can say that every day is an “adventure.” Sometimes we’re slapped in the face. Other times we’re blessed with feelings of thanksgiving.

We need more than prayers and spirituality, folks.

We all need to do our jobs.

Here’s Kathy, the “patient,” making numerous phone calls, documenting everything, using the internet, Facebook and her cell phone to untangle the bureaucratic bullshit that prevails today.

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