God bless you, Aunt Agnes

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Let me finish tonight with this.

When my brothers and I were young we had a young teenage girl to look up to. Our Aunt Agnes was only a half generation ahead of us. Our mom’s youngest sister, she still lived with our grandpop and grandmom. She had the front room. It’s where she kept her hockey stick and marble-back copy books and other girl stuff. That room was her room and we brothers, as I said, looked up to her as someone really special. She took us to movies and to malt shops—which was magical—and, sometimes, she’d be called to simply babysit us.

But again: she was a teenager, kind of a celebrity to us. She traveled with friends of her age, all older and much more exciting than any of us.

Aunt Agnes was smart in school. She won a scholarship to Mount St. Joseph’s. She was the row house girl from North Philly, taking the subway and bus up to posh Chestnut Hill.

When she won a scholarship to college, she gave it up. She didn’t want to keep it from a girl who needed it. She had other plans. She’d decided to join the convent, to become a Sister of St. Joseph like her older sister Eleanor. When she told her mother her decision, her mother said, “Wait ‘til your father hears this!” What was he going to think of a second daughter of his joining the convent? When she told Grandpop, he said, “Do what will make you happy.” And she did.

I was looking though the e-mails I’ve gotten from Aunt Agnes. Here’s a typical one from October. It was just after the first presidential debate when I went ballistic over Obama’s weak performance:

On Saturday I attended a meeting of over 500 sisters. As usual, during break time, many sisters I didn’t know told me how much they appreciated Hardball.


All the talk back then was about the president’s first debate and my, shall we say, dramatic reaction to the president’s weak performance.

Your viewers love your enthusiasm. So whatever show parodied your presentation missed the positive message. As usual, though, you were a good sport about it.


God bless you for your concern for the poor, the weak, and the elderly—that’s my Aunt Agnes, who’s gone to heaven.

God bless you, Aunt Agnes

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