The things we lose, the things we find

Andrew Atkins.

Andrew Atkins

A simple Google query lets me know that St. Anthony is, indeed, the patron saint of lost things.

“Tony, Tony, come on down — something’s lost, and I need it found.”

That’s the prayer my grandma taught me the day she gave me the St. Anthony necklace; I was eight. This was probably the closest my grandma would ever come to being shady towards me. Yes, call upon our father who art in Heaven to offer aid to the child who loses everything the moment it leaves his line of sight.

Though I have to admit: My grandma was onto something. To this day, I’d lose my right butt cheek if it wasn’t attached to the left.

Jokes aside, I think my grandma wasn’t telling me everything when she gave me the necklace. In fact, I think the “lost thing” she had in mind was actually me.

I am the child of two divorced parents.

My dad often spent his time in one of three states: drunk in his studio, drunk at the bar or drunk in his room. My mom spent most of her time working two jobs to fill in the gaps my dad very clearly couldn’t.

Eventually, my mom moved my sister and I into my grandma’s house. My grandma spent most of her time juggling my sister’s outbursts and delinquent behavior with my total meltdowns every time somebody raised their voice at me.

My mom eventually met someone else, and we moved in with my stepdad.

When we moved out, my grandma knew that, for the first time in her life, I would not be under her protection. So she called upon the only thing she could: her faith.

She gave me a St. Anthony necklace.

I visited my grandma periodically. We would go to church and then Waffle House afterward (the main draw for me). As she neared the end of her life, my mom and I would visit every Saturday with groceries and we would help out around the house. My mom would cook and I would do various chores: mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway or weeding the flower beds.  

On one of these visits, about a month before my grandma died, she looked at me and asked “Where’s your necklace? Why aren’t you wearing it?”  

No, Grandma. I didn’t lose it. But I always remembered to wear it after that.

I still wear the necklace she gave me whenever I feel like I need a little extra strength to get through the day. I like to think that she gives me extra guidance.

I know my grandma hoped I would be able to find something in myself that I couldn’t entirely find in the chaos of the world around me. Was it peace? Was it love? Was it family? I don’t know exactly.

But whatever it was — don’t worry, Grandma. I found it.

Andrew Atkins is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected]