I remember playing hockey with my brothers—Tony and Todd—when I was a kid. My mother tells me I learned to skate when I was just two years old. I suppose she’s right, since I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know how to skate. Either way, I became known as “little Cady” among Tony’s hockey-playing friends down at the outdoor ice rink near our home in Rochester, Minnesota. There was a warming house there with long, worn wooden benches and a cast-iron wood-burning stove breathing heat to packs of red-nosed rink rats every winter weekend.
I loved the ice beyond reason. When a pick-up game finished most everyone went in the warming house to thaw but I wanted to stay outside, shooting a puck at an empty net or playing goalie showdown, best of ten.
Since I was the youngest in our family, my older brothers kept a watchful eye on me. We mostly played with Tony’s friends, so he took special responsibility for me. I’m sure he saw to it that his friends went easy on me when I had the puck and he was always quick to praise me when I scored a goal.
We are much older now, Tony and I. About thirty-five years have passed since those childhood days and we have become accustomed to long separations. When I was in high school, he lived in Europe so we didn’t see each other for more than four years. During college, I seldom saw him since he lived in another state, married with family. Then, I moved around; first to Chicago, then to Colorado Springs. I saw him for our grandmother’s funeral. I saw him in the midst of transition. When we lived in Europe, I saw him no more than once every two years, if that.
So it stands to reason that I was pretty excited when he arranged to visit us in our new home this Christmastide. In spite of the scarcity of visits, we have a bond that swells my chest with hope. I look in his eyes and see: he believes in me.
We all need someone like that in our life. Tony is one of those someone’s for me. He always has been…
Once, when I was six or seven, it was particularly cold outside so my feet froze because I stayed out on the ice too long. Sitting in the warming house, Tony took off my skates and rubbed my feet with his hands. My feet felt as though they were on fire—not from the heat but from the tingling sensation that overcomes them when they are thawing out.
I began to cry. “It hurts!”
So Tony carried me home. Every step.
To this day whenever I see him I get the sense that his heart and faith still carry me and so many others like me. I understand why St. Francis called Jesus a brother because I see Jesus in mine.
Tony, you are my Brother Jesus. Thank you.