“From the Chapel” is a series of short, daily reflections on life and faith in a time of uncertainty. As people across the world cope with the effects of the coronavirus — including the social isolation necessary to combat its spread — these reflections remind us of the hope that lies at the heart of the Gospel.
Our third-oldest child, and second-oldest son, left the nest today. As of Saturday, he’s a graduate of Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Early on in these posts, I wrote about driving out to Loras to pick up Stephen and his brother Jacob when the college closed its campus for the semester. It’s been comforting to have both of them — and all of our children — home with us over the past nine or so weeks, but now Stephen is headed back to Iowa, where he will be working for a couple of parishes. He was waiting this afternoon for the arrival of the MacBook Air that we and his grandparents bought him for a graduation present, and a half-hour after the FedEx man dropped it off, Stephen hugged his mother and me, dried his eyes (as we dried ours), and was on his way.
A lot has been written about the things young people have missed because of COVID-19: spring sports, musicals, proms, graduation ceremonies (Loras will hold theirs in October to coincide with homecoming weekend, assuming that the campus reopens in the fall), weddings and receptions with everyone in attendance. Stephen’s send-off was different than it would have been in another time: No goodbye dinner at Chapman’s Huntington taproom, just a Memorial Day dinner cooked on the flattop because I couldn’t get the grill lit, and a viewing of our well-worn DVD of “The Flamingo Kid.”
I don’t remember when I first saw “The Flamingo Kid,” but I know it wasn’t in 1984, when it was released to theaters. Whenever it was, though, I connected with it immediately, to the point where I’ve occasionally even offered it as the answer when, as an icebreaker at a professional gathering, someone asked each of us to name our favorite movie. Set in the summer of 1963, this story of a young man (played by a 20-year-old Matt Dillon) who wants something more than what he thinks his father (Hector Elizondo) is able to offer him may seem like another overly sentimental film by director and writer Garry Marshall (of “Happy Days” fame), but if it doesn’t cause you to tear up, you never struggled as a son to relate to your father, or as a father to your son.
Years later, we picked up the DVD, and our children connected with it as well, which I guess says something about our own family dynamics. It’s become annual viewing right before school begins — and thus, not surprisingly, before Stephen headed off on his own.
You won’t find “The Flamingo Kid” on any of the streaming services — it’s never been there. But if you have a DVD or Blu-Ray player, this deeply Catholic story (by a Lutheran writer and director) of love and anger and pride and deceit and forgiveness and redemption is well worth adding to your Amazon wish list.
Scott P. Richert is publisher for OSV.