“Reeee--chaaadddddd!”, Allen would bellow in his best Hillaire Bellocian accent from across his office using the speakerphone. “Allain here.” Then, there would be a momentary pause during which Allen would return to his desk, reposition himself in the chair located behind his desk, pick up and speak directly into the telephone handset, and in a somewhat more mellifluous and sonorous tone (Allen’s words, not mine) tinged with an unmistakable Mississippi accent that would cause even the most resistant human of beings to melt like butter on steamed vegetables, Allen would inquire spryly, “So, whatchya doing there big guy? Have you completed your Katlick ablutions for the day?”
There was always something soothing when Allen would ask that question. It put me at ease no matter what my mood. It set the stage for good conversation. I am sure many of you have had the same experience.
“So, whatchya doing there big guy?”
I heard that telephone greeting countless times over the past twenty five years, normally once a week and, depending upon what was going on, sometimes even a couple of times a week. The first time I heard that greeting, Allen was working at Helmrich and Payne. When we connected, I heard Allen telling his secretary, Annette, that he was talking to the Pope and that he’d get back to her just as soon as his papal audience had concluded. Subsequent to Allen’s retirement from H&P, I heard that greeting from Allen at his B&B and ASTD, Inc., office located in the Philtower Building. There, Allen once bellowed out to his secretary, Patsy, “Hey, Baby, it’s the Katlick Preeelate.” Sometimes I heard that greeting before Allen was scheduled to eat lunch, which provided Allen multiple opportunities to regale me with stories about a very interesting cast of characters, including Bob Burlingame, Sam Brenner, and host of others who belonged to Allen’s “good ol’ boys” network that he either had exercised with earlier in the morning at St. John’s Hospital or was to lunch with at the restaurant located on the first floor of the Philtower Building or at Nelson’s Buffeteria down a couple of blocks on Boston Avenue. At other times, I heard that greeting after Allen had eaten lunch. He’d regale me with stories about the “glorious four way” which, I must admit, I knew nothing about—thinking it some exotic form of Presbyterian prayer—prior to Allen’s first extolling of its glories. I doubt I will ever hear of “four way” described quite in that manner again.
Ever the staunch Presbyterian elder, Allen adopted me as his “Katlick Preeelate,” “Romish priest,” “Mackerel Snapper” and a host of what otherwise would be blatantly offensive and impermissible anti-Catholic appellations in this post-Vatican II era. Indeed, I am the one Allen called “His Holiness” as well as the one who sold Allen his “Popemobile.” Let there be no doubt about it, however. Over the years, Allen relished any opportunity to teach me the content of the “kattykism” Allen had learned during his juvenile years attending Sunday school, especially as that content related to all of those allegedly true—in Allen’s mind, at least—historical atrocities perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church and what Allen called its “adherents,” likening people like me to the “Klingons,” that well-statured warrior race made famous in Star Trek whose members possess a genetic predisposition to hostility and a fatalistic streak as well. I think it safe to say, Allen relished even more when I would have nothing of his juvenile confessional humor and would tartly remind him that “really good” Presbyterians aren’t allowed to imbibe alcoholic beverages, that only good papist, Romish Katlicks are. “Allen, you should become a Romish Katlick,” I would say. “Then, you could drink the way you Presbyterians are supposed pray. Frequently….and fervently!” That was one mystery of the Church Allen believed persuasive enough to tip the balance in favor of converting.
Allen enjoyed that and other such tart retorts. But, he loved it even more when, having baited me by positing some absolutely outrageous opinion on just about any matter—and especially political and economic matters—I would resort out of a sense of exasperation to the use of some plain, good old‑fashioned, in-your-face crisp language that would absolutely stupefy Allen, rendering him speechless. Believe me, that was a difficult feat to achieve. But, when I did, boy did I relish it!
For example, during a trip with Allen and Patsy to Scotland, Allen and I were descending into the dark and cold dungeon that had been carved out of the stone foundation beneath St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Edinburgh. Ever the ecumenically-minded Christian gentleman, Allen was trailing behind me, camcorder in-hand, recording for posterity the event that had brought Allen back to his Scotch Presbyterian roots. As if Allen believed he was Michael Moore directing and narrating a pre‑Vatican II Presbyterian documentary that would set the facts of the Protestant Reformation straight once and for all time, Allen peppered me with statements like “You know, Reeee--chaaadddddd, this is where you Katlicks tortured that poor soul, John Knox” and “You know, Reeee--chaaadddddd, this is the place where you papists imprisoned anyone who had the courage to tell that Pope of Rome what the Bible really taught.” If you listen carefully to the videotape, you can actually hear Allen chortle, snort, and snicker after he would utter each false assertion and I would not respond. He was just turning up the heat, so to speak, for le grand finale.
I finally had enough when Allen opined, “Reeee--chaaadddddd, don’t you see the evil you and your fellow Romish papists had in your hearts?” I turned around and looked straight into the camcorder. I took my right index finger, pointed it directly into the camera lens, and then moved it slowly away from the camera, carefully tracing a line as if I was going to point downward toward the dungeon where, I was hoping Allen presumed I would say that he belonged, just like John Knox and all of his other henchmen heretics. Ever the vigilant cameraman, Allen followed my right index finger as I pointed not downward toward the dungeon but to my posterior and said, “Allen, you can kiss this papist’s arse.” Allen was stupefied. I had rendered Allen speechless. The “Katlick Preeelate” had prevailed!
Allen always relished showing that videotape and telling everyone watching it with him that, yes, this was a genuine “Katlick Preeelate.”
During that same trip, Patsy, Allen, and I were staying at a bed and breakfast located on a working farm about one hundred miles north of Edinburgh. When we arrived after having visited a couple of distilleries along the “Scotch Whiskey Trail,” the host and hostess—who, in Allen’s expert judgment, he told me, were surely very conservative Scotch Presbyterians, “Don’tchya think so, Reeee--chaaadddddd?” he asked—received us warmly, showed us to our rooms, and graciously invited us to visit with them in the front sitting room after we had unpacked our belongings. Allen was convinced the couple would be interrogating us and Allen was bound and determined to tell the couple they were hosting a “Katlick Preeelate” in their domicile. You could see the anxious anticipation in Allen’s demeanor.
After Allen, Patsy, and I had arrived in the sitting room and were shown where to sit on a formal couch that made me feel like we were three co-conspirators being brought into the principal’s office to be interrogated for some miscreant behavior, the host inquired what we did for a living. Patsy replied first, telling the couple that she was Allen’s wife. Allen told the couple that he was a geologist who owned an oil and gas exploration company. As Allen was speaking, I saw him frothing at the mouth and smacking his lips in lusty anticipation of being able to introduce me as the “Katlick Preeelate.” So, I jumped right into the middle of the conversation immediately after the words “oil and gas exploration company” had rolled off Allen’s lips. I said, “I am a college administrator at a small college outside of Boston.” If only you could have seen Allen’s demeanor! He was crestfallen, as my self-introduction had sucked the wind out of his sails. Allen would not be able to see the expression of horror on the faces of our B&B host and hostess.
That was only the beginning, however.
Being the good “Katlick Preeelate” that I am, I inquired as to whether our host and hostess as well as Allen and Patsy would like to imbibe in some of the wonderful scotch whiskeys we had purchased along the way. Patsy responded “No,” excusing herself to go upstairs and take a nap before going out for dinner. The host and hostess were aghast at what I had proposed, responding in a very prim and proper tone, “No, thank you.” Allen immediately jumped in before I took his silence as agreement with our host and hostess: “Yes, Reeee--chaaadddddd, I’d just love to join you.” As aghast as the host and hostess were at the notion that their guests would be imbibing in adult beverages inside of their house, the host did ask his wife to go into the kitchen and procure two orange juice glasses for us so that we might enjoy what he called a “wee dram.”
Enjoy a wee dram we did…and two…and three, at which point our host inquired about where we intended to dine. After Allen identified the restaurant, our host told us it was located up the road a mile or two on the left hand side of the highway and that it had very good food. He then politely asked, “Would you like me to drive?” “Oh no,” Allen bellowed in his good ’ol boy Mississippi accent and with a big grin on his face. “That’s not necessary at all. We have a rental car and I’m used to driving on the left side of the road.” “Oh, but I’d be very happy to,” our host interjected with a bit of impertinence. “That’s so very good of you,” Allen said. “But, really, we’re all set. Since the restaurant is so close, there should be no problems finding the place or our way back.” “You do know,” our host noted as he leaned toward us and said in a somewhat more muted and stern tone, “We have very strict drinking and driving laws in Scotland.” “Don’t worry about a thing,” Allen said, “Reeee--chaaadddddd won’t be driving.” I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it didn’t. I had expected Allen to say “Don’t worry about a thing, the Katlick Preeelate has the Holy Spirit guiding us! Oh, by the by, did I forget to mention to you that Reeee--chaaadddddd is a Katlick Preeelate?”
Then there was the trip Allen, Patsy, and I made to California’s Russian River valley vineyards, Santa Rosa, and Mendocino County. Our agenda was to visit as many vineyards and tasting rooms as was humanly possible in the space of five days. Gosh, what stories there are of that trip! But, there is one particular story where I stupefied Allen, rendering him once again, speechless.
We had dinner in a German restaurant where the waiters had literally fawned all over Patsy. You’d have thought her the Queen of England…but the waiters were. When we got back to our hotel, which was located at the top of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, we retired to our respective rooms. Every bathroom was equipped with a Jacuzzi bathtub situated beside a large window so that you could relax in the tub as the hot water massaged your tired and wine-sodden body and watch the beautiful sunset. So, I filled up the bathtub with warm water, turned on the Jacuzzi, and after pouring a glass of champagne, got in. There was a little container of bubble bath solution, so I poured it in and got into the tub. It was all very relaxing and “skeenick,” as Allen would say. However, the bubbles kept multiplying and multiplying and multiplying. I didn’t know what to do! As the bubbles grew with such magnitude they threatened to bury me in the Jacuzzi, I stood up and noticed in the wall-sized mirror located opposite the Jacuzzi that I looked like the Michelin man with bubbles upon bubbles upon bubbles covering my otherwise gloriously naked body! Not knowing what to do, I turned off the Jacuzzi, toweled off the bubbles, and put on the body-sized, white, heavy cotton robe provided by the hotel.
I then proceeded out of my room to Allen and Patsy’s room and banged on the door. “Who is it?” Allen asked sonorously. “It’s me, Allen. I need to talk with you.” After a momentary pause, Allen came to the door, opened it, and asked, “What’s up big guy? Just look at you! You’re a sight for sore eyes, Reeee--chaaadddddd! What’s happening big guy?” I explained the whole story to Allen, except I included a term specially chosen to catch his attention: “Allen, it was all romantic and everything but….” Allen was stupefied. Turning back to his room, Allen said: “Ba-aa-aaa-by, did you hear what His Holiness just said?” Turning back to me, Allen said: “Reeee--chaaadddddd, now what just did you mean ‘romantic’? You can’t be using terms like that! You’re a Katlick Preeelate, for gracious sake!”
Earlier, I mentioned in passing that Allen would frequently introduce me to others using “what otherwise would be somewhat offensive anti-Catholic appellations.” But, I never once took offense. Why? Because Allen and I were good friends. Isn’t it true that friends allow one another rather wide latitude when it comes to joshing with each another? Friends don’t take offense when they make jokes at one another’s expense, because friends know the intention is neither to belittle nor to embarrass. However, if someone other than a friend had said the exact same thing, a war of words and fisticuffs would surely ensue. I’d suggest that it is only with friends that you can really josh about one another’s shortcomings, faults, and foibles which, of course, we all possess.
As St. Augustine commented in his Confessions upon these kinds of experiences shared by friends:
There were other joys to be found in their company which still more powerfully captivated my mind—the charms of talking and laughing together and kindly giving way to each other’s wishes, reading elegantly written books together, sharing jokes and delighting to honor one another, disagreeing occasionally but without rancor, as a person might disagree with himself, and lending a bit of spice to life by that rare disagreement to our much more frequent accord. We would teach and learn from each other, sadly missing any who were absent and blithely welcoming them when they returned. Such signs of friendship sprang from the hearts of friends who loved and knew their love returned, signs to be read in smiles, words, glances and a thousand gracious gestures. So were sparks kindled and our minds were fused inseparably, out of many becoming one.
what we esteem in our friends, and so highly do we esteem it that our
conscience feels guilt if we fail to love someone who responds to us
with love, or do not return the love of one who offers love to us, and
this without seeking any bodily gratification from the other save signs
of his goodwill.
Yes, indeed, isn’t that what friendship is all about and how it fills our lives with joy?
But, then, St. Augustine continued:
this springs our grief when a friend dies, from this comes the darkness
of sorrow and the heart drenched with tears because sweetness has turned
to bitterness, so that as the dying lose their lives, life becomes no
better than death for those who live on. Blessed is he who loves You,
and loves his friend in You and his enemy for Your sake. He alone loses
no one dear to him, to whom all are dead in the One who is never lost.
And who is this but our God, the God who made heaven and earth….
“So, whatchya doing big guy?”
For Allen, that wasn’t an idle question. He really wanted to know what others were doing. But, more importantly, Allen wanted to know what people were thinking, even if he disagreed with them and they with Allen. For example, I always thought Allen was far more conservative than that liberal, Rush Limbaugh. And, strangely, Allen thought Rush way far to the left of me! “Me? Rigidly conservative?” we’d ask each other rhetorically. And in all of the ensuing talking and laughing, discussing what we had read or made up out of whole cloth thin air, the sharing of jokes and joshing with one another, disagreeing sometimes as we might disagree ourselves, didn’t Allen Braumiller enrich all of our lives?
In God’s providence, all of that is now ended. But, as Allen the Presbyterian elder and I the Katlick Preeelate would both agree, we have not lost someone dear to us, because Allen has died in the One who is never lost, the God who made heaven and earth and created Allen for the express purpose of enriching our lives in grace and virtue. Yes, we certainly will miss the gift God has given. But, we weep not for Allen, only ourselves, because Allen has fulfilled all that God asked of him. Who of us could do more? Today, our task is to wipe those tears away and to invite God to fill our hearts with gratitude and thanksgiving, because God has been so incredibly good to us by revealing His love for us in the person and life of Allen Spooner Braumiller.
And so, with hearts filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for the gift God has graced us with in the person and life of Allen Spooner Braumiller who taught us this important spiritual lesson, we pray:
V. Eternal rest grant unto Allen, O Lord.
R. And let perpetual light shine upon him.
V. May Allen’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.
Allen’s daughter, Dana, also wrote on February 6, 2010, in memorial of her father...
Finding words to convey the meaning and influence of my father in my life is difficult. It’s difficult because so many of our interactions transcend mere words.
My father was a great teacher. He love all of life and his enthusiasm for nature and all things living was contagious and I caught that enthusiasm from as far back as I an remember. He shared all the knowledge that he had with me about trees and plants and animals and all the ways that everything living had a direct connection to each other. We looked at the moon and the stars and marveled over the sheer vastness of the universe and all the possibilities that went beyond the naked eye. And of course, he loved rocks. But it wasn’t just rocks that he loved. He loved to tell me the types of each and how it was formed and how old it was. When we looked down at what was our feet and beneath us, he saw the world as it shifted, heated, cooled and was continuously changing an knew what appeared to be lifeless was actually very much alive. It was alive because of the energy required, the explosive forces to bring about that continuous change.
It wasn’t my father’s personality to love these things, it was his very being. On this level, our spirits connected and will remain forever connected. I cannot look at the sky, the ocean, the trees or the stars without seeing my Dad and that spirit is alive in me and will never die. When I sit outside with my grandchildren, we marvel over a lizard that comes looking for dinner. We look at the birds and talk about where they might be going. We look at the clouds and stars and talk and talk about everything that comes to mind, about what they mean.
This is life and it is infinite. It cannot be killed. Thus, with my father. Don’t anybody be sad, just look around you. I see him swimming with the dolphins. He is neither young nor old. He just is. His energy is timeless and it’s very much still with us.
Dad, I loved you for who you couldn’t help but be. You were honest that way and I am so honored to do my best to keep that energy alive and give it away to those that can respect it and can receive of it.
Please, everybody, know that this truly is the first day of the rest of your life. Don’t waste a minute of it. Squeeze every drop of meaning out of every minute of your day. Tell the people you love that you love them and honor the world as my father did and he will be alive in you too.
For me, his exit from our view is not sorrow, but celebration. I celebrate all that he was and that he gave and when you leave here today, look all around yourself. He’s in that bird flying by, that dog barking as you pass, the clouds, the sun, the moon and the stars. Tell him “Hi.” Live your day. Be happy.
I love you, Dad.
[Dana Braumiller died at the age of 54 on Saturday, April 28, 2012, of complications resulting from emphysema.]
And so, with hearts filled with gratitude and thanksgiving for the gift God has graced us with in the person and life of Allen Spooner Braumiller who taught us this important spiritual lesson, we pray:
In my absence, the Rev. Thomas Gray of Kirk, co-pastor of the Hills
in honor of Allen Spooner Braumiller. Prior to his retirement,
Allen served as
Does today’s homily raise any
question(s) that you would like