Epiphany Erection

I don’t have a penis. I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s one of the qualities that attracted Tighe to me many, many years ago.


I don’t even know what it’s like to have a penis. Nor do I know what an erection feels like. But I’ve been around enough penises—peni?—to know that erections come at inconvenient times.


Like at church. On Epiphany Sunday.


Because I guess that happens. In fact, I know that happens. To Sam anyway.


And so this Sunday at church, we were seated next to Tighe’s grandparents, down the row from one of Tighe’s uncles, his wife and their two daughters, and immediately behind another uncle, aunt, and cousin. Oh, good—a totally anonymous setting.


Just as we were removing our coats and getting settled in the pew, Sam made that announcement to me.


“My penis is big!”


“What?” I whispered back, kneeling down to his face.


The processional song was loud and I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly.


“My penis is big!”


Okay, that was exactly what I had thought he said.


“Do you need to pee? Should we go to the bathroom?”


“NO! My penis is big, my penis is big!”


He wasn’t bragging, he was distressed. He had an erection that was bothering him, pressing up against the zipper on his corduroy pants. He needed help.


From my seat in the pew, I tugged on Tighe’s jacket for back-up. This was a father-son problem. Not my domain.


“I think we need to get him out of here!”


I handed him to Tighe just as the music was ending.


Oh, good, I thought, now Tighe will be able to hear him. And so will this half of the church.


“My penis is big! I have a big penis!”


Louder. Obviously. Why has he never learned to whisper?


“Ok, it’ll go down,” Tighe murmured to him. “Think about baseball.”


“No! It’s big! I have a big penis!” He was even louder this time, getting increasingly desperate.


“Sshhh!” Tighe looked down the row in both directions, trying to determine the quickest escape route while I tried to stifle my laughs.


“My penis is big!”


Sam was at a full-on hysterical screech now.


As Tighe carted him away and out of the sanctuary, the frenzied shrieks faded to the point that the only word I could still make out was…penis.


Of course.


In the lobby, Tighe got creative trying to help our distraught son.


“Okay, Sam. Try and run around.”


“No! It’s big, my penis is big!” He was getting teary now—relieved that someone was listening to him, but frustrated that that cellular skyscraper remained in his pants.


He dragged him to the empty bathroom by the main doors.


“Let’s try and pee,” Tighe advised, helping him unfasten his pants.


“No, I not have to pee!”


Regardless he peed, and as he did so, Tighe commented, “See? It’s not that big.”


“Yes, it is. My penis is big.”


That time it sounded like a brag.


They returned to us in the pew, so Tighe could meditate on Jesus or whatever and Sam could ingest some fruit snacks, color on himself with marker, and wrestle on the floor with Nate.


During the passing of the peace just before communion, I leaned into Tighe’s grandmother who was seated next to me.

“Could you hear what Sam was saying before Tighe took him out?”


“Did he say what I think he was saying?”


I smiled sheepishly and nodded. I think my cheeks even reddened.


“It’s okay,” she said. “God gives us children to keep us humble.”


What an epiphany.


In the lobby after mass had ended, we were recounting the blood flow problem in Sam’s pants when Tighe’s aunt put everything in perspective.


“Well, at least it wasn’t Tighe yelling that.”


So true. Those days are surely over.