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JEFF BEHRENS: Love can be a strange thing

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

It was a lazy afternoon. We had a good lunch and I headed back upstairs, took off my habit and crawled into bed. I had been up since four in the morning and the lack of sleep was catching up to me.

It was not long before I fell asleep. I do not remember dreaming, but I do remember being suddenly awakened by a loud crack of thunder. It was really loud, and it reverberated for what seemed like several minutes, its low rumbles rolling into the distance. I do not know why thunder and lightning does that. How it is a flash of light that makes a roar, and then re-echoes over and over again, seemingly looking for another place to hit.

When I awoke from the blast of lightning, I fumbled for a while in my thoughts, and then clarity came to me with Frank Korp. I do not know why. He was as clear to me as running water. As fresh as if I was with him yesterday. Yet I have not seen him in over 35 years.

He was the janitor in a parish I was assigned to a long time ago. I really liked him. He was a friendly man, always had a smile on his face, and how can I put it? He was as giving as can be. He loved the kids in the school. He saw me as a kid, as a new priest who was as young as his son. He made me laugh. He would come out with the funniest things about people he knew, about places he went, about things that happened to him in his life.

He was neat. His shirts were always pressed really nice. He was always clean shaven, and looked wide awake, never tired from a lack of sleep or over work. He was proud of what he did. The school and church were immaculate.

He loved showing me the boiler room. It was a large room, in the center part of the school, and he had it so clean that you could eat off the floor. I swear, the floor was as clean as a freshly washed dish. It shined.

And in the corner of the boiler room was a jukebox that I had managed to get from a man in the parish. I do not think that Frank liked it there, but since I was a priest in the parish, he went along with it. It vanished a few months later, after he showed it so me. I think that it was stolen, but I never found out what happened to it.

He had a van back then. One day, he wanted to show it to me. He opened the rear door and there was a bed and a carpet. He said it was where he lived. I looked, smiled, and did not say anything. I knew that he was married but that things were not going well.

I did meet his wife, just once. She lived up the street from me and I heard that she was very sick. She had cancer. One day she was standing in front of her house, and I walked over to meet her. She shook my hand and said that she had heard of me. I said that was nice, and that was the extent of my chat with her. She said she did not feel that good and turned and walked back into the house.

When she died, I heard that she and Frank had reconciled. There was a huge spread of flowers at her wake, a blanket of flowers with a card signed, with love, from Frank. I thought that was beautiful.

Love is a strange thing. We sometimes marry it, and it causes trouble if the circuitry is not right. But, hey. It causes trouble even when the circuitry is made in heaven. It may take time and years for the wires to align, to get just right and have the current flow. I think we all try to do that.

And it may take a bolt of lightning to make me realize that I really loved Frank Korp and never told him that. He is long gone now, but as real to me as if he was right here with me. Kind of like the light that shines, even though I have no idea where it comes from. Like something from heaven.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Highway 212 SW, Conyers. His email address is james@trappist.net.