See you later, Robert Trapani.

Posted: January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

I remember the first time I met Robert Trapani. It was at one of those marriage “retreats” sponsored by the district youth department, and both my wife and I found his candor a refreshing change of pace from the usual fare dished out by preachers in plastic suits. But that’s a common story, one that many of us share; the story of Robert Trapani, the Marriage Guy.

Robert Trapani, the Marriage Guy, was the guy that made people laugh, cry, and face the issues of their marriages with understanding. Good stuff…no denying. When I first heard him, he was unique and one of a kind. Seemed like no one else would say what he would, address things like he would, and leave people with the hope of better relationships. Yes, good stuff. Indeed. But like I said, that’s the common story. The Robert Trapani that had the greatest influence in my life wasn’t the Marriage Guy. No. It was Robert Trapani, the Sweater-Vest Guy.

I’ll explain.

It was years later when I was serving as pastor to a somewhat recalcitrant flock that I asked him to come and speak at a marriage seminar in our assembly. You know, be the Marriage Guy. He did. And those who attended loved him, as usual. But it was during the day on what I think was Saturday that I met Sweater-Vest Guy. After picking him up from his lodgings, we went over to the church and talked for a long, long time. During our conversation he plied me with question after question about my likes and dislikes, hopes, dreams, fears. I told him little things about myself that most people other than family weren’t aware of. Little things like how I hated choir music, but loved classical. And rock. I told him that I despised golf, found it excruciatingly boring, and would rather pull out my own fingernails than play that “game”. I told him that I loved science fiction, that I preferred Asimov to Heinlein, and thought that Dune was very theological.

And I told him that I hated conferences. I told him that sitting in a room full of guys pretending to like each other was horrifying, and that having to be all “hail-fellow-well-met” (complete with synthetic smile) made me ill. I told him that I felt like an oddball, that I didn’t fit in, and that I always felt like an outsider. I told him that I didn’t understand why God had called me into His service. I told him that I was the worst pastor in the world because I couldn’t force myself to enjoy “visitation”…and God knows I’d tried. And I told him that it was impossible for me to be concerned about dear Sister Babbage’s corns.

On and on and on I went; the dam had broken and there was no way to stop the rush. We sat in my study while I talked. We went out for coffee while I talked. We came back to the Sanctuary while I talked. I talked about myself…a lot. But those of you who knew him understand that he had this way of getting you to do just that. It was while we were standing in the Sanctuary that I finally wound down. I was spent. I had nothing left to say. It was then that he said in his outside voice;

“Young man, look at me!”

I was startled. He was loud. There were only two of us there. Who else would I be looking at? Then he repeated himself;

“I said; Young man, look at me!”

I did. I did what I thought he wanted. As I looked I saw a poochy-faced, older, balding man who was rather thick around the middle. He was wearing charcoal grey pants, wool blend, I think. Conservative shoes. Broughams, perhaps? An Oxford cloth, button down shirt. Blue. And a sweater-vest, cardigan style. That was blue too, I think. I remember that sweater-vest. Wool. Buttoned up. All in all he looked very professorial. It was a good look for him.

After the minute or so it took for me to take all this in, he spoke again, gently this time, and said;

“You’re looking at yourself in 30 years.”

It turned out that he loved both classical music and science fiction, too. He didn’t enjoy conferences all that much. And he too felt often felt like an oddball. I learned from him that there were others like me out there, others who weren’t certain all the time, others who had questions they couldn’t ask. I don’t know how long he talked with me, but as he talked I began to feel something I’d never felt from anyone other than my family; complete and utter acceptance. I was okay. There wasn’t anything wrong with me, after all. Then he summed up with this little benediction;

“I give you permission to be yourself.”

I needed that permission…and he granted it to me. I didn’t have to pretend to be like everyone else any more. I didn’t have to try so hard to fit in. I was the person God had made me to be. So when I remember Robert Trapani, it’s not Marriage Guy I call to mind. Nope. It’s Sweater-Vest Guy…the guy who gave me permission to be the person God made me.

I’ll miss you, Robert Trapani. See you later.

Comments
  1. Mark Robinette says:

    Thank you – we like this! one of the Trapani family.
    His oddball son-in-law.

    • Dennis Munn says:

      Mark;

      Your father-in-law came into my life at a most critical time, and I’ll always be thankful he did. I’m sincerely glad that your family approves of the post.

      -dennis-

  2. Julia Trapani Rose says:

    Thanks for posting this. I read it to my mother with tears in my eyes.

    His daughter…Julia Trapani Rose

  3. Love the story Mark, I didn’t know he passed, but please tell your wife I give my condolance. I also had a wonderful father. one of a kind that the world is a sader but more gentle place because he lived here. Love you guys, It was great seeing you and your lovely family at Tracy’s house..

  4. Joseph Clark says:

    Awesome blog! I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t know why God saw fit to call me to Pastor at 57 years old. I did not seek it, didn’t want it. But Brother Trapani was ever the encourager. I felt his acceptance was an assurance that I needed at that particular time. He made us all feel like he was our best friend. Indeed he was everyone’s best friend! What a beautiful influence he was. I will never forget Brother and Sister Trapani and Geoff, Tony, Julia, and Andrea. Awesome family, words cannot convey what I feel.

    • Dennis Munn says:

      Thank you, sir, for taking the time to comment. It’s wonderful to experience that kind of acceptance, Joseph. It’s all too rare. Perhaps it’s something that we can pass on to others.

      -dennis-

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