My denomination has a rule. That rule says, “When you move, move.” That is to say we are not to try and keep relationships with former church members because they have a different pastor now. When she was six, she didn't care about the rules. She began writing me. Since she was six, I made an exception and I answered her letters. They have come almost weekly. Through her I have been able to keep up with who was doing what, who's sick, who died, who had left the church, who joined, and even, over the last three years, who was the latest young boy to deserve her attention.
Because of that correspondence I did get to be there at significant stages of her life. I was there when her mother fought her cancer. I was there when she sang the National Anthem at a sporting event. And this last week I was there when her new niece was baptized in a private ceremony where the local priest was gracious enough to include me in the liturgy.
After the ceremony, after everyone was picking up and cleaning up the parish hall, she and I found ourselves sitting on a bench outside the sanctuary.
“So, what's new in your life?” I asked.
“What's new? You saw what's new. I'm an aunt. I don't understand my sister. She's a junior in college. She could have waited a couple of years before getting pregnant. But, then again, I love that kid. And it's kind of neat to be an aunt.”
“Besides being an aunt, what's new. School? Boy friend? College plans? Catch me up on things.”
“Well, school's good. Boy friend is out of the question right now. I've decided I have enough adolescent mood swings all by myself. College? Well, maybe Duke or Emory, although I'm considering going ahead and applying to Yale. The worst they could say is 'no'. Right?”
“Right,” I said.
“How about your Mom and your Dad?”
“My Mom and my Dad. Oh, my goodness. I just hope things will change now that the election's over.”
“What do I mean? Just be glad you're not the pastor here any longer. I'd have called you over for some pastoral counseling so many times you wouldn't believe it. Mom was for Mitt Romney. Dad was for President Obama. You would think that after all the years they've been married they would have learned to talk nicely to each other. Oh, my goodness, you should have heard them.”
“Who were you for?”
“Oh, no, I spent the whole year not telling anyone that. If either of them knew what I thought … Well, there's no way I could win.”
“But the election's over. They should be okay now, right?”
“Okay now, are you kidding? Did you read the news stories that Senator Marco Rubio is speaking in Iowa this week? It's already started again.” She took a deep breath and said, “You know, I wish they'd quit running for office and run for America.”