Finding Meaning

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Luck of the Irish

By Skip Hellewell

To honor St. Patrick’s Day, I should tell the story of John Monahan, a son of Ireland no longer with us. I worked for John at a Procter & Gamble plant that used to be in Long Beach. I was starting my career; he was nearing the end of his. He had been a soldier at my age, in WWII. I never met his wife. They were locked in a bitter divorce during the years I knew John. I guess he fought in two wars. The divorce dragged on so long, it outlasted the original lawyers. Many mean things were done. Perhaps it was his stoicism; she wanted to get a reaction, it seemed, and he refused to show emotion.

To deal with the stress of the divorce, John took up landscape painting. I don’t know how good an artist he was, but as part of the settlement, his wife demanded half of the paintings. They were technically still married, she pointed out, during the years he had been painting. They met and took turns picking. That was hard for him, as she seemed to know and choose his favorite paintings. When it was finally done and he had signed over half his P&G stock to her—a lot of money in that time, thanks to the success of Tide— he returned to the office and simply said, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.”

John was a tough guy. Once at an off-site business meeting in a hotel room, two hoodlums broke in and announced a hold-up. One had a pistol, the other a knife. There were a half-dozen of us and they had picked the wrong group. I think the police advise to just go along in such events; better that no one gets hurt. I would have gladly given them my money, but I didn’t have any. Long story short, my associates declined to give up their wallets, a fight broke out, a couple of shots were fired, and the would-be burglars fled. My sole contribution was to hurl a lamp as they exited. John had gone after the guy holding the knife and got shot in the hip. Just a flesh wound, as they say, for he was soon back at work. John was a tough guy.

Not long after, I moved on and lost track of John. There was a tight bond between the career P&G people and they continued to meet socially for years after they retired. They had a name for their group, the Ivory Club. There was a man I especially respected and I kept in touch with annual Christmas cards. Once I went to his home to visit and reminisce about times past. John had passed away by this time, but I wondered if he ever found happiness after the bitterness of his divorce. “Did John ever marry again?” I asked. My friend gave me a long look before replying, “Yes…to his first wife.”

Love is a strange thing. The rules seem as complex and surprising as quantum physics. It can cause great hurt, yet has incredible power to heal. All I know is I’m grateful the Beautiful Wife still seems to care for me after all these years. And as to you and the love in your life, I wish you the luck of the Irish. There’s meaning in that.

Skip fell in love with Laguna on a ‘50s surfing trip. He’s a student of Laguna history and the author of “Loving Laguna: A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach.” Email: [email protected]


Places to worship (all on Sunday, unless noted):

Baha’i’s of Laguna Beach—contact [email protected] for events and meetings.

Calvary Chapel Seaside, 21540 Wesley Drive (Lang Park Community Center), 10:30 a.m.

Chabad Jewish Center, 30804 S. Coast Hwy, Fri. 7 p.m., Sat. 10:30 a.m., Sun. 8 a.m.

Church by the Sea, 468 Legion St., 9 & 10:45 a.m.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 682 Park Ave., 10 a.m.

First Church of Christ, Scientist, 635 High Dr., 10 a.m.

ISKCON (Hare Krishna), 285 Legion St., 5 p.m., with 6:45 feast.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, 20912 Laguna Canyon Rd., 1:00 p.m.

Laguna Beach Net-Works, 286 St. Ann’s Dr., 10 a.m.

Laguna Presbyterian, 415 Forest Ave., 8:30 & 10 a.m.

Neighborhood Congregational Church (UCC), 340 St. Ann’s Drive, 10 a.m.

United Methodist Church, 21632 Wesley, 10 a.m.

St. Catherine of Siena (Catholic), 1042 Temple Terrace, 7:30, 9, 11, 1:30 p.m. (Spanish), 5:30 p.m.  There are 8 a.m. masses on other days and Saturday 5:30 p.m. vigils.

St. Francis by the Sea (American Catholic), 430 Park, 9:30 a.m.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 428 Park Ave., 8:00 & 10:30 a.m.

Unitarian Universalist, 429 Cypress St., 10:30 a.m.






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  1. Love your uplifting articles Skip! Keep them coming, with all the meaningless news and events in life, It is a beautiful reminder to focus on the things that matter most!


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