The Gifted Underachiever

My life so far

Heaven-bound on a 5-string banjo

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I don’t think there’s ever a wrong time to begin to take a reckoning of one’s life. I’m sure my kids think that at my age my affairs should be in order. So, contrary to past practices I may just start listening to them.

Well, if there is one thing that will definitely keep me from getting into heaven it’s that banjo I stole from a nun. Yes, that’s correct. I have misappropriated a musical instrument from a woman of the cloth, one who has dedicated herself to God. So one could almost say I took God’s banjo.

This took place in the Sixties, I think. Flashbacks are notoriously inaccurate, but I think it was late 60s or very early 70s. One of my closest religious friends was a Sister of the Most Holy Sacrament who used to be Sister Antonia but later became Sister Camille. I wish I could remember her last name, but it sounded Hispanic and she was from Scott, La.

We traveled to Cincinnati with her sister, another nun and her sister’s friend. There were a lot of sisters in the car, but none of them were mine. Well, there were nuns, too, but I digress. There was a liturgical music convention in Cinci, so road trip! It was her dad’s car and it was huge – so huge that I could play guitar in the back seat while everybody sang. Great convention. Wish I could remember everything that happened, but, Rose from Erie, Pa – hi!

Anyway, we took our time going up there. I remember stopping in Nashville and playing guitar on the steps of the Parthenon in Centennial Park with all of the other hippies. Next stops were the Hermitage and then Mammoth Cave.

The trip back was just as memorable as it was the first time in my life I tasted real Mexican food that did not even remotely resemble Hormel Hot Tamales. Then we visited Jerusalem, which was actually a reasonable facsimile in miniature at the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Ala.

So Sister Antonia expands my horizons and gives me all of the great adventures, and I repay her by stealing her banjo, right? Wait, not so fast.

We stayed close, and I visited her a few times while I was in college. Somehow, I mentioned that I would like to see if I could learn another musical instrument. “Like a banjo?” I can still hear her ask. It just so happened that she had a banjo, a five string. It didn’t have a resonator, but it still played like a banjo. I told her I’d love to play with it for a while and then I’ll bring it back.

Well, the “while” has lasted for almost 40 years now, and I’m thinking that if I don’t get this banjo into the right hands that I’ll need papal dispensation to gain any kind of altitude in the afterlife.

So, Camille, if you’re out there, please drop me a line. Not only do I want to return the banjo, I’d love to catch up and reminisce.

Oh, just to get you started, I didn’t make it the priesthood. In fact, I fell about seven kids short.

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