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Monday
Oct022017

Bloody Catholics

“Look at ‘em! Bloody Catholics filling the bloody world up with bloody people they can’t afford to bloody feed!”

              --from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life

 

When I was a kid--I couldn’t have been more than six--I asked my parents why they’d had so many goddamn children. I was Number Eleven myself, and Number Twelve had come into the world recently. It was in my mother’s arms, as new as the furniture in the living room that had also just arrived. The timing of the two was so uncanny that it wouldn’t have surprised me if my father had replied that we kids had all been promotional giveaways, my little sister having been thrown in for free when they bought the furniture at Ethan Allen.

What he told me, however, was no less remarkable:

“When two people, who are in love, sleep in the same bed together, babies happen.”

My parents, who still hugged and kissed each other after nearly twenty years of marriage, were clearly in love. Even a six-year-old could see that. What’s more, they slept together every night in a giant king-sized bed. Why, if you put two and two together, naturally you got twelve. A year and a half later, Number Thirteen showed up.

Now, compare that with the bleak conjugal life of my paternal grandparents and you’ll understand why I found what my father had told me had so convincing.

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, so much so that most of my earliest childhood memories involve them.

Let me tell you, hardly a day went by when my grandmother and grandfather were not squabbling and bickering about something. I remember my grandmother would get so fed up with her husband’s grousing that she’d turn her hearing aid off. Out of earshot, out of mind.

On top of that, Grandma and Grandpa slept not only in separate beds, but in bedrooms that lay at opposite ends of a hallway. It made perfectly good sense to me then that the two would have only one child: my father.

Now that I'm in my forties, and a father myself, I understand that Catholicism probably played just as big a part in my parents' fecundity as that big bed of theirs.