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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel S.J. Scheid SCP

What is Father Dan Thinking? 9-17-23

“Do you want to give me a kiss?” – “I might never kiss you again!”


At last weekend’s parish retreat, the leader asked “Who is a saint for you?” Kate Scheid came to mind for a few reasons. Being the spouse of a priest is nearly qualification of its own. Celebratory times are compromised, sometimes.


On Valentine’s Day 2012 my dad lay dying in a nursing home. We drove two hours to his bedside and, with many members of my family, ate pizza we ordered in to his room while we kept vigil. Dad didn’t die that night (he lingered a few more days) so we drove the two hours home. Some Valentine’s Day! – we still chuckle about that one every fourteenth of February.


Last night was our fourteenth wedding anniversary and was one of the rare times I didn’t go out in clerical dress, but that didn’t stop me from tending to someone. Kate and I had dinner in the Inner Sunset and took the Number 7 bus back home. “Let’s get off at Stanyan and walk Haight Street,” we agreed. On the corner of Cole and Haight on the sidewalk lay Charlie, next to his wheelchair. I know Charlie. He has one leg amputated above the knee, crab-like pincers for hands (imagine just thumbs and fused ring and pinkie fingers), a catheter, and a colostomy. When I first met Charlie he was on a mean drunk and convinced me to push him to the nearest liquor store to buy him a pint of vodka. Usually he’s much more pleasant; often our encounter involves my lighting his tobacco or opening his bottle, since he can’t work a lighter or twist a cap the way his hands are. One Sunday morning, on my walk in the six-o’clock hour, I came upon Charlie out of his wheelchair. “Father, am I glad to see you!” he said. “Can you help me into my chair?” It was not an easy procedure. I was in my cassock; Charlie was essentially dead-weight as he couldn’t push up with his one leg. That, and I had to be careful not to squeeze his catheter or colostomy bags. We managed.


So, last night, there was Charlie again. I looked at Kate, and Kate looked at me, and we stopped. Charlie had discharge papers on the seat of his wheelchair (how a 68-year-old amputee with dodgy plumbing and claws for hands can be discharged from the hospital onto the street is another issue…) and asked if I could light his cigar for him. There was enough breeze that my lighter wouldn’t stay lit long enough, so I took his cigar, put it to my lips, lit it, and poked it back into his mouth. “What else do you need, Charlie?” “Can you call an ambulance to help me?” “Of course.” So I dialed 911 and spoke to a very earnest operator who summoned help. While we waited, I sat with Charlie and introduced him to Kate, told him it was our wedding anniversary, and asked if he ever had been in love. His eyes twinkled a bit and he said “Once or twice.” A few minutes later, the EMTs arrived and I turned Charlie’s care over to them. Kate and I stopped at Zam Zam, where I had a shot of their highest-proof whiskey as a bit of disinfectant – medicinal purposes only! – and asked Kate the question I opened this column with. “I can’t believe you put that in your mouth!” she continued.


So yes, here’s to Saint Kate! Happy Anniversary, and thank you for another story that we’ll look back on and chuckle about every September twelfth.


God’s blessings and peace,


Dan+

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