All of Us – #195

Fr. Larry Lisowski Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Parish Catholic Church in Chicago

“Hello, A D watch repair. This is Mabel. How can I help you?”

“Good morning Mabel. This is Father Larry.”

“Father Larry. Not again? Don’t tell me.” Mabel said after she recognized my voice.

“Yes. I did it again,” I humbly confessed to her over the phone.

I needed my cheap wristwatch repaired again. I got it about four years ago at Target. Every time I drop it, one of the markers for the hour falls off and needs to be carefully glued back into place. 

I found this neat mom and pop repair shop one day when I was going down Clark street on my way through Wrigleyville. It’s just north of the ballpark. There is nothing fancy about the store, but the friendly and professional service is what brings me back every time I drop my watch. This is about the 5th marker that needed to be glued back into place. Even though it is cheap, I like the watch because it keeps good time.

Over the years, I got to know Mabel and her husband Anibal. They are my age. As Anibal did his steady surgery on my watch, I would wait around and talk to his wife Mabel. They knew I was a priest and often asked how my parish was going. I would joke with them that overall sin is down and the stock market is up. In return, I learned about their marriage, their children and their family. In the brief fifteen minutes that it would take to get my watch back up to speed, it is amazing how much you can learn about a person. 

“So when can I come in? Is Anibal going to be in today?” I asked.

“Father, I need to tell you we have a new repair man. Anibal died.”

The sadness in her voice was clear.

“He died! O my God! What happened?” I was totally surprised by the news because Anibal was in his early 60’s.

“Well he got sick with pneumonia.” She said. “And then things got worse and he just wasn’t able to bounce back.

When he was in the hospital he got worse even though they tried all kinds of things.”

Still stunned by the news, I said, “Oh, I am so sorry to hear that. He was such a nice guy. I really liked him.”

I knew this was a great loss for her because the two were an inseparable pair. They were a good tag-team for the store. You could tell they were close. Mabel took care of the phone calls and the walk-ins that came in through the front door. Her husband Anibal did the repairs at his little desk, usually squinting looking through his high-powered monocle.

I told Mabel that I would be in that Saturday and she said she was excited to see me.

When I got to the store, the first thing that I did was to give Mabel a hug. I didn’t have to say much at all, but I knew it would be good medicine for her. I gave her my broken watch and she passed it on to the new guy now sitting at Anibal’s workbench. In the back of my mind I wondered if he was as good as Anibal. It’s the same feeling you get when you go to a new barber, mechanic or dentist. You just wonder and compare.

As I waited, Mabel told me more about her husband’s life. He was only 62 when he died. She reminisced about where he went to school, and how they met, and his service to our country, and how he got into repairing watches. As she spoke fondly of him, I could tell there was still a void in her life left by his death.

A phone rang and Mabel had to excuse herself to answer the call. As she tended to the customer on the phone I went over to take a gander at a display case filled with watches. There were all kinds of watches precisely placed on the glass shelves; some big and some small, men’s and women’s, some gold and some silver, and a few on the high-end. I wondered who would buy them and use them.

Then in an eerie way I thought about the whole notion of time. This was a good place to reflect about such a thing. I realized that only God really knows how much time we have in our life. Someone once told me the fable that when we are born there is an hourglass filled with sand, and when we are born it is turned over and the sand inside begins to descend downwards like an old egg timer. But, only God knows how much sand is in our hourglass. Some folks have more, some have less. Plus, we don’t have the power to add any sand to the hourglass. 

In theory then, Anibal’s sand ran out. I wonder if Anibal, when working on all kinds of watches at his bench, ever wondered about how much time God gave him? From what Mabel told me, he used his time well, for family, friends, and work. 

This is a very sacred time for us as Catholics as we begin this Holy Week. In these next several days we reverently and symbolically trace the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through our prayer, worship and song. We will remember Jesus’ time with us here on earth that was filled with love, mercy and compassion.

I really hope that you can spend some time at Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Parish this Holy Week and take advantage of all the various services that will be performed. May we use well the precious time that God gives us.

I met Mabel and Anibal for only fifteen minutes at a time, and a unique and rewarding relationship formed us. This was such an unexpected blessing.

May Jesus Christ surprise us as we spend time with him this Holy Week.

–  Fr. Larry