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Mike Tasos: Thank goodness for the angels among us
Mike Tasos

Christmas leftovers. 

As we mosey into late January, anything getting that as a description is probably last on the list of what we want on our plates.

There are lots of adjectives we can hang on anything not eaten since Santa left the building. If you’re exploring the fridge to see what’s there from your Christmas celebration, “congealed,” “moldy” and “Petri dish” gruel fits the bill.

Why you could even try a little activity between football games, using all three to describe what your search has yielded.

“Granny’s leftover Jell-O mold has become so congealed, there’s no way to tell the canned peaches from the lime Jell-O. If you look close enough, you’d swear the mold looks like Mona Lisa. I might have flunked high school biology, but I swear that’s worse than anything I ever saw in a Petri dish.”

It’s a safe bet that anything still up for consumption is a close relative of a fruitcake.

You’re probably with me in not wanting anything to do with those Christmas leftovers.

What about keeping Christmas alive for a while? Never mind the food. In this case, actions speak louder than indigestion.

My first contact with Sister Rosann Fraher was in 1967. I was in seventh grade at St. Lawrence School in Bakersfield, California. She entered her career after graduating from high school in 1960. 

I last saw her in 1969. I headed for high school and she was in Bakersfield for a while, before heading for her native San Francisco Bay Area, where she has taught, been a principal and has done so many other worthwhile things. Recently, to help a hearing-impaired woman, Sr. Rosann learned sign language so she could share it with others.

Is this leftover Christmas giving/sharing goulash starting to get a little clearer? 

My vow to reach out to people during the past holidays was a success. There were some I wanted to call. She was someone I needed to call. Time to get something off my chest.

I didn’t want to rush into purging what I had been carrying around for so long. We exchanged pleasantries and stories. I shared what I knew about classmates. Then it was as if Michael Buffer said, “Let’s get ready to rumble!”

I had written notes. I wanted to be clear what a conversation 50 years ago had meant.

Apparently, my dad’s alcohol-induced follies had financed his constant binges and left no money for frivolous things like Catholic school tuition. As a 13-year-old, I had no idea the Tasos boys were deadbeats.

Sr. Rosann pulled me aside and explained that in the past, the pastor had handed out blank diplomas for kids whose parents hadn’t paid.

I was devastated, embarrassed and angry. She seemed a bit embarrassed too, having to deliver this unwelcome news. In fact, during the conversation, I could tell my story had made her feel bad.

Then I pulled a Paul Harvey and relayed the rest of the story.

Her words had inspired me to remember that fateful day. And if given the opportunity, I would pay my bills, be a good dad and financially support my church.

Her words have served as inspiration after all these years. And they still do. I never wanted it said that I didn’t do my part. So, I have always wanted to do more.

Before I told her my story, Sr. Rosann she had one for me, too. 

Being a new kid at the school and having classmates surely not behind on tuition payments, I was an easy target. Imagine that, the new, poor fat kid, whose dad was a drunk and the family car was old and dented.

One day Mr. Ramos, the janitor, asked me if I knew how to box.

“No, but I’m pretty sure I could throw salt in someone’s eyes like Mr. Moto on the rasslin’ matches.”

He would have none of the silliness and we began hitting the bag, learning how to move and throw punches that meant something. Mr. Ramos instilled confidence in me.

One day, after a classmate and I had a schoolyard scuffle, we were ratted out. 

Sr. Rosann then said, if you want to fight, go out in the convent yard and fight.

I remembered my opponent and I having a brief conversation focusing on my shortcomings and what a poor excuse for a human being I was. 

I stood up and said: “Let’s get it on!” Right there where the nuns lived.

Finally, after a good half-hour, a classmate came to fetch us. His eyes got wide, and he exclaimed: “I didn’t think you’d really be fighting.”

Sister Rosann was amused by the story. I was a little embarrassed to tell a nun “I whipped his ass from one end of the yard to the other.” 

I can’t fully express what she has meant to me, even though we’d lost contact. In her line of work, her knack for giving surely comes in handy.

Any guesses who gave Mr. Ramos instructions to teach me how to fight?


Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. Musical group Alabama sings the song “Angels Among Us.” It’s so true because he spoke with one this week. Comments can be sent to miketasos@earthlink.net. He is also on Facebook.