Pushing back

When I was a kid, I would walk to the library every single weekday in the summer, and once a week during the school year. Mrs. Mary Fretz, the librarian, gave me my adult card once I pretty much polished off the children’s section, and helped me access whatever I wanted.

In the third grade, I did a book report on “The Cardinal,” a best-seller that included a priest having an affair, his sister getting pregnant and dying because she couldn’t get an abortion, and all kinds of ecclesiastical shenanagans. When I turned it in, my mom got a call from the nun who taught me.

She warned my mother the book was on the Church’s “condemned” list. My mother said I could read whatever I wanted, and that the adult parts would go right over my head. “And if it doesn’t, then that proves she’s old enough to read it.”

I was very impressed, because this was a rare time Mom stuck up for me. Maybe because she thought she could make her own choices (I remember she was fond of reading John O’Hara). Or maybe she was tired because she had five kids and didn’t want to hear some nun lecture her.

But the thing about that book that stuck with me? The Irish belief that God would strike you down whatever you were most proud of. So naturally I worry about going blind and not being able to read.