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Archive for May, 2016|Monthly archive page

Junk Drawer Essay: Pieces of Childhood Continued

In Deep Thoughts, Junk Drawer, Real Life on May 26, 2016 at 5:15 pm

 

I am pretty much certain I have explained in previous posts my idea of “Pieces of my Childhood”.  Perhaps a brief  reiteration is called for, however.

If you live in the same town you grew up in, and also if you live enough years, you will see the town you live in change, and things of your youth will disappear. Some are as simple as a food or candy.(Anyone seen Kraft Fudgies or Post Fortified Oat Flakes the last 10 years?) Others large buildings and landmarks. (The Biltmore Hotel, Elmwood Swimming Park,  Springlake Amusement Park)  When one of these disappears forever I generally just say aloud: A piece of my childhood died today. Sometimes if it was especially significant I will call my sister to let her know that something from our childhood is no more.  This happened a couple years back with the Redskin Theatre. This was the theatre my sister and I sat in all day watching movies over and over and over. They literally paved paradise and put up a parking lot. It was a sad day.

So recently, in Oklahoma City’s revamp of our downtown area (which I approve of for the most part, we have made significant progress in bringing our downtown area back to life.) a piece of my childhood was torn down.

I had a very wayward youth, from the age of 13 or thereabouts I was on the wrong track for 5 years, a hippy runaway homeless street person. The government called me “In Need of Supervision”. Kind of a catch-all phrase for juvenile delinquent I guess. At 16 it caught up with me and I was sent to Tecumseh Girls Town, a “Maximum Security Reformatory” for girls. I never had a clue why I was sent there, I hadn’t committed any crime, and in truth, even the folks who ran the place were confused on what sent me there. But I was there, so I made the most of it. I had never finished school of course, being a street person, and they said I could go at my own pace, so I finished 8th to the 12th grade in one year. Since school was done, I decided to enroll in some of the other elective classes they had, and chose “Creative Writing” given by a sweet woman named Patti Bivens. (I have looked for her on the interwebbies but not found her, if you do know her, point her my way.)  I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories. Patti encouraged me and told me I had a lot of talent for writing. Her encouragement would lead to a lifelong love of writing.

Sometime during the summer of that year there was a Poetry Festival in downtown Oklahoma City, and Ms. Bivens got permission to take two of her pupils to attend. I was chosen as one of them. Off campus trips for girls in reform school was rare and I felt blessed and privileged to be chosen.

It was held at what was called at the time the “Mummer’s Theatre”. A very rare and very unique building (later called “The Stage Center”. ) built in the Exoskeleton Architecture style that had come into vogue in the 70’s, it was either loved or hated, depending on who you spoke to.

 

I loved it. Each stage on the interior was in one of the various modules. Seating was in the round, so the stage itself was in the center of the audience.

 

The festival was very open, and people took the stage to read their poetry. I was surprised when Patti escorted me center stage, my little folder of poems I had written under my arm. I read one which was generally about the idea of being classified in various ways by the Government. I lost this poem, but have been aware all of my life that it was published in the pamphlet or brochure/playbill that they handed out that evening. It is a regret that I do not have that brochure, and I have searched for it online at various times.

It was special to me because I got a standing ovation. It is the only standing ovation I have ever received.  This was also such an affirmation of my worth as a human being, and also that perhaps I did have some talent in writing. Young wayward kids need that. I did.

Every year of my life if I drove past this building I would be reminded of that moment. And now it is gone. They tore it down 2 years ago. A piece of my childhood died.

 

 

Friends and Old Memories

In Deep Thoughts, Real Life on May 21, 2016 at 12:39 pm

My visitor for the past couple weeks would surprise and confuse most who do not know me well, or who have a kind of fixed thinking about relationships and how they must be, and how they must end. I have always tried to maintain the good of relationships, even when they become a memory. Love never ends. Bitterness poisons the heart.

When we first learned I had terminal brain cancer, we knew there were quite a few people who should be notified personally, by a phone call. Some would learn through social media, of course, but many people I know do not use social media at all, some do not even own computers. But also there are those whose lives we still touch, despite distance and time. We live in their memories, and shall continue to do so after death. My sister came to me and said: “Do we call David?” There was no hesitation. “Of course we do.” I could not imagine his learning, perhaps years from now, that I had died and he was only just learning about it through some distant anonymous source or random comment.

David Spangler. He is my ex-husband. Although I have always hated the EX. John and I had long talks about this subject with regards to his wife and my husband. It is harder when you have children by your previous spouse. To EX someone whom you have progeny by, seems to me to attempt to EX that parentage in some way and feels wrong —-parent is a permanent relationship, bound in a special bond of love—to try to negate that is an attempt to negate love, which is eternal. So I told John he could call her “ The mother of his children” rather than Ex-wife, if he needed some proper nomenclature for her.
John and I had many conversations about relationships, and our own unique one, which developed because of my own spiritual and religious beliefs co-mingling with his over the course of 17 years and was mostly known only to ourselves. I was surprised that his sons after John’s death used this to spew so much hatred and grief on me that to this day I weep when I think about it. They never understood that some relationships do not fit into a convenient box. John did, and I am eternally grateful for him, and that God would send this man to me, to care for me and love me, and to enjoy his role as my champion in life, my protector and help-mate. We thought of our relationship as similar to that of St. John the Evangelist and Mary, mother of God. God had given me to John to protect and love. He filled this role with honor. He was an honorable man.

So the question was do we tell David, my husband, that I am dying. Denise made the call. Although we had of course, having no children, “lost touch” with each other, I have always kept track or tried to find those people in my life who still hold a place in my heart. Many of you on my friends list here on Facebook are friends because I never forgot you. I have always loved you. So I knew where he was on the planet, and also his having a father who was a priest in the Episcopal Church, well, priests are not hard to find. There are directories. Who’s who books, and knowing David as I do, I knew he would not be far from his parents. I did not wish to speak first, and Denise and David were very close as well. Our divorce, tho contentious at first, that initial ugliness that happens in all divorces, faded away and all that was left was love and deep regret. Part of this whole dying thing I have learned, is dealing with life’s regrets. David was a big regret. Our marriage was good and strong, but I was a very driven woman, in college, getting my degree, and David, who was so much more intelligent than I, a National Merit Scholar, had no ambition. This was our fight. Our only fight. Much later in life I would learn the unimportance and silliness of this argument. How silly it is to define ones-self solely by the career path chosen. By how you make your money. This is so little of who you truly are. David was happy to work for money in any way he could but his life—his being was not tied to it, as mine was, as a Nurse. His LIFE was home, and other interests, reading, and enjoying the variety of life on earth and the world and all that was in it. But I would learn much later this valuable lesson of how much of what you think is you, is not you at all. Much of what you do for a “living” is completely different and apart from what you do for a LIFE.

It was a couple days after Denise made her call that I finally spoke to David. There was a lot of weeping and apologies on my side. He did not need them, nor did he want them, but I gave them anyway. Soon, we were having frequent phone calls filled with memories, and of course he insisted on coming to see me. He was thousands of miles away, and had a few problems to correct to make the journey, but he finally arrived a couple weeks ago, and has taken some of the workload off Denise in my care, and has been a great comfort to me. He never remarried either. I could feel John close to me, knowing that I needed this. Some peace regarding John’s sons finally settled that grief in my soul. Some men do not grow up to be anything like their father, but something completely alien. But there are honorable men, who grow into it of their own volition and sometimes despite overwhelming odds or because of them.

I have enjoyed this visit with an old and very dear friend. A man I loved enough to marry. A man I still love, though granted not in the same way I loved him while I was his wife. We are still great friends. There has been a lot of laughter in my home these past weeks, even though my physical condition has been rapidly deteriorating. There has been much pain, pain that I cannot control and happily old pains healed.

There is love in my house. And that can only do me good.

 

The Neglected Garden

In Deep Thoughts, Real Life on May 3, 2016 at 5:09 am

 

Usually an early Spring like this one has been would have been a source of great joy to me. I would be out everyday, working and cleaning up the garden, watching things come up and bloom. Clearing paths, watching the wildlife venture out from hiding places, and sitting on the patio in complete awe of God’s creation.

Wonderwood is a perennial garden. Everything comes up from the ground and there is very little that I must plant, unless I have made plans for a few annuals here and there to give me color, and perhaps some spring bulbs. There is actually a bag of spring bulbs hanging in my coat closet now, the last ones that my beloved John bought me before he died. Oriental Lilies. On sale at the end of the season last year that I scarfed up for planting this year.

But this year I am too weak. I cannot lift myself from the ground if I were to sit and work the beds, so I watch as my flowers come up among leaf clutter and weeds. Their beauty is not marred that much by it,  but there is a sadness to it for me. I remember when my grandmother became too weak to work her garden, it depressed her terribly.  I was still driving then, and my brother Paul and I would drive to Shawnee every week to weed and plant her annuals, and water her beds. Then all she had to do was putter around. It made her happy again, and she told me her neighbor told her that her garden looked the best it had ever been.

Wonderwood was my attempt to bring a feeling of the wild beauty of our family’s traditional gathering spot, Platt National Park in Sulphur, Oklahoma.  (Now the Chickasaw National Recreation Area) to my back yard. I had other plans as well, big ones, to make it look even more like Platt, I wanted to build a miniature facsimile of one of the picnic pavilions. John and I discussed it often.

Now I sit and look out the window and make plans for things that I want to be dug up and moved to Mysi’s garden, or my sister’s.  Over the years I have made plans for this inevitability. It took me years to separate out specific flowers and shrubs so that upon my death she might go to one bed and pull the whole thing and transplant it to her own home. The one in front has all the deep purple Iris, Tulips, and 12 white Peonies just waiting for her shovel.

Denise came over and dug up 4 trees. I hope they all live, and she will have some nice shade and a reminder of me as she gazes out the window in years to come. So far, so good.

By now I would have had some annuals in pots, the porch would have most of my indoor plants that have been wintered indoors in their usual places, and I would have washed it down numerous times so it would be a pleasant place to sit out. In the back, the patio would have been cleaned up twice, and more pots planted. The ground cover from the patio to the back of the yard would have been whacked down to ready itself for growth. It never got this initial trim so the Back garden is a wild woodland. forest. But interestingly, it does look more and more like I transplanted a small plot of land from Sulphur to my backyard.

 

And in its own way, at this time, that is somehow perfect.

 

 

Sweet Dreams are Made of This

In Faith, Real Life on May 2, 2016 at 7:04 am

20 years of study, more than 170 books on religion and philosophy read, 5 years of inquiry, 4 years of writing letters and phone calls to local priests, 7 letters to the Pope, hundreds of thousands of prayers said, hundreds of Masses attended without benefit of sacrament,  A yearning in my soul that could not be quenched,  Knowing that my time was growing shorter and shorter, Trials of faith that sent me into despondency and despair. Traveling through a 2 year Dark Night of the Soul without any spiritual adviser, Continually returning to call out  to Jesus: I trust in you. Thy will be done.

And finally April 30, 2016. I can say: I am Catholic.  More than that, I had my first communion. This was always my goal. The altar and the Eucharist.  To partake of the true body and blood of my savior.

 

If you begin an earnest and honest study of the Catholic Church there is a time when you realize that transubstantiation is true. Once your mind and heart and spirit accepts this reality, then nothing can keep you from that altar.  The hunger in your soul is almost unbearable.

Because I was not catholic however, I could not take communion in the Catholic church. So I set about to join. As I pointed out in previous posts, I had already overcome many barriers in doctrine through my studies.  Becoming catholic requires going to catechism classes called RCIA, but because of my own personal situation this was almost impossible for me to do. I attempted several times but either they were held at night when the bus was not running ( I even learned to ride the bus to try to accomplish this.) Or they were in places where the bus did not run.

My journey to it was just more difficult than most because of the logistics of my life. First, I have been sick with heart problems for many years, I am an agoraphobic and do not like to be around a lot of people, it gives me panic attacks. I do not drive and do not have ready access to a vehicle. This journey was also very private to me. My faith always has been. I am a quiet contemplative prayer person when it comes to my spiritual life. I also did not personally know one person who was Catholic. That is, until my sister married one.  I had a couple conversations with him about it, but they were casual really, but I digress.

Before I became Catholic, I would spend some hours in Eucharistic Adoration. Most especially in the Chapel of the Holy Innocents in prayer for women considering abortion. It was to me at least a special time to spend with Jesus, without partaking of communion itself.  I could also get there by bus. (2 hour ride to and from)

Then the cancer came with its prognosis of a fairly rapid death, and my situation, to me seemed dire. No one else did, it seemed. I continued to call write  and contact people. We puzzled over the lack of action.   I told my sister that this may be something that just won’t happen. I may have to resign myself to this fact.  No one from the powers that be were acting on it.  I wrote one last letter to the Pope. The priest from the local church came to my house 3 times but then he forgot me one day and did not show up, nor did he tell me he wasn’t coming, and I got a little testy with him and he blew me off entirely. The nun the pope sent me got testy with me and then left town for Rome.

Then the priest called. I was shocked.  He said he would receive me on Pentecost.  I said I would attempt to live that long, but in truth, I am never even certain I will wake up the next day, since the tumors are now pressing on my spinal cord and may click off my on switch at any time. He moved the day to the following Saturday, which was April 30.

It was simple, and my sister, her husband and a very old and dear friend Mary Kay stood with me as sponsors.  They were all in tears, especially my sister, who had listened to my own weeping in despair and knew my innermost thoughts and prayers. I was in a daze. And then I was the happiest person on the face of the planet.

I am Catholic.

I know because God told me, that the body of Christ in the Eucharist will strengthen me for my painful journey ahead of me.  The struggle and the frustration and the trials to arrive at the altar were also part of my strengthening for this journey.  God has his plan, and it is always perfect.