4/12/80: “You’re not much of a kid anymore,” I say to Jeremy. He really straightens up while I cut his hair. “That’s great,” he says when I finish, looking in the mirror. David, thirteen, just home from soccer practice, looks disgruntled when I say, “You soak in the bath, David. You’ve been working hard.” I suddenly correct myself, and say, “You’ve been playing hard.” His face lights up. It is amazing how our viewpoints affect others’ perceptions of themselves. People easily become discouraged, but what they really want is a happy thought. To imagine oneself playing is much easier on the psyche. He then starts to share with me some soccer footnotes.
Laurie had to have goat’s milk when she had asthma and we were all just little boys and girls in growing families around south Everett, near the Casino Tavern. Nasturtiums, astors and peonies grew beneath red shake exterior siding along the cement embankment of dank basements storing canned fruit for the winter. Mom and dad went to play pinochle in a house in the woods and we went to bed early among strange scents of an unfamiliar bedroom. Night’s sleep wouldn’t fall naturally into place, like the playing cards shuffled and divided among the parents, who became men and women in the sudden neon light of Las Vegas gambling party language and snack food trays: cheese and bologna sandwiches, Nalley’s potato chips, Oly’s beer, pickles and Coke available besides.
They were busy and preoccupied with winning and losing, the intensity of a game, so I’d sometimes manage to stay up aloof after eleven when the small fry had fallen into slumberland, peering into faces too intent to question my motives. There was a cheer present in these Friday or Saturday night events that otherwise intruded upon my rest, and I was mighty sorry if sent back to bed.
Raw energy, uncouth and uncovered, permeated my senses in the still, small quarters of a child’s place. I was not consumed, but lifted out of myself, enough to take the chance of a midnight rejection. Go back to your room! my Dad might thunder. Not always. Sometimes, I’d stay up and watch the game, and eat. Otherwise, it was three square meals a day.
It’s rather merry among the mixed nuts and off-brand potato chips at 1:00 in the morning.
We never went out to dinner at a restaurant. The women cooked and cooked and cooked, one meal after another, one year to the next, until finally in my junior of high school a cheap smorgasbord was installed at the B&M shopping center.
This isn’t a podunk town, but it has less class than most. It was an average-size community of 60,000 before expansion in the ’70’s; restaurants were few and traditionally lousy. Mom’s one of the best cooks in town, I bet, and she’s had enough experience. But before she got married she was known for her beauty.
“You mean Dickie got Helen Caswell?” Dad’s sister ad-libbed in the living room the story of courtship as remembered forty years later on a rare visit back to her hometown in August with her husband Whit, who was meeting the relatives like a bridegroom. “You make it sound like one of them is better than the other,” he said. The whole family was spellbound by Aunt Vallene’s outburst of memory. Mother was immensely pleased, as if some immortal truth had finally been arrived at. I myself was somewhat impressed by the recollection: it fit in well with my own superficial responses to life. That is something that really counts in this life: who gets who. You can be the greatest guy or gal in the world, but if you’re married to a dud, you lose a lot of credibility. An apparent flaw in the diamond of eternal beauty, truth, and faith, a flaw not even good works can totally efface.
Knowing leads to not knowing — mystery. Not knowing usually means nothing has happened of any interest. Pretend mystery is what most men and women settle for, having nothing vital to share.
That’s why a single man or woman in good standing should be very choosey of a mate, I think. The inner life of contentment with a well-chosen mate should blend and harmonize with the outer circumstances of one’s life, so that it is plain for everyone to see that the relationship is a happy choice for both people, and well-approved even by those who share no common interests. A man can raise himself up by marrying an excellent woman and become better but an excellent man who marries a woman lacking his substance will be unable to attain the perfection he desires in family living.
It scares me now, how much I told Chuck Roy. What will he think? Will he be blown away? It didn’t seem so unusual, my confessions, after he made some, and I did edit my original full confession. Still, will he be shocked? Was it necessary? What prompted me? Ego or some expediency? One thing stands out in regard to my writing. It seemed futile to hide the obvious. I thought I’d be inhibited from telling the true story of my life if I began to play concealment games. But, so soon? Just because he wrote me one letter after six months’ silence? I wanted to lay it all out. Less time wasted that way. If he accepts me now, the rest is a breeze. I’ve got a lot of writing to get done. Better to bring the parts of my past to a head and know where I stand in his life, of Christ; any less of a game is frivolous, empty. Knowing leads to not knowing — mystery. Not knowing usually means nothing has happened of any interest. Pretend mystery is what most men and women settle for, having nothing vital to share.
I can see that once again I have made an investment of faith, in regard to Chuck Roy. “Thirteen pages!” the Pastor says. My writing productivity frightens him as much as my sexual potential frightened Chas. Fanciful thinking to respond so magnanimously to Chuck Roy’s letter of interest as to my position with the Lord. He assumed that all my writing was now salvation army stuff, and told me I needed an alarm clock to wake me up. But he was nice about it, said he hadn’t found anyone to fill my shoes, nor had he forgotten our ecstasy of body and mind together. Wants to see me. Suddenly, since he may have received my letter, I am more open to doubt. Some lines fill me with wonder. Other parts are iffy. Well, that’s realistic. Up and down, take me all together, good and bad. If I have to do any persuading, or argue the point, that’s different. A woman or man loses ground, if sincerity turns to defensive lines of reasoning, disturbed by lack of confidence.
Chuck Roy’s letter was kind of depressing. A part I skipped over, about the other women — why was he telling me? I was flattered by the male chauvinist painted descriptions of his crazy love life in L.A.; confiding in me, admitting his weakness, was a real plus, showed he was afraid of alienating me, and to gain my good graces was to confess the nitty-gritty of past confusion: this woman and that, and “you, my dear, are the only one who could have lasted,” had “you stayed in L.A.,” he said. Now, the humdinger of all this is the fact that the man who urged me to “leave it all behind” during my afternoon of hysteria, by his own confession had experienced a similar moment before we met. At that time he was living with ten guys and a gal in the music business in a roach-infested apartment at Hermosa Beach, losing his “fuckin mind,” he said. What became ruefully apparent to me was the fact that the sanity we feared losing was threatened by a life of sin, in the most basic sense. His sins were more carnal than mine, at the breaking points each came to; but the effect, though not always immediate, is cumulative. I wonder if Chuck Roy senses his betrayal, not of trust, but of good fortune, what God had granted, his lust for a self-centered life given up. Once he decided to send the letter, other things seemed to be balanced in his mind — impatience to receive my response prompted the phone call. Maybe he got worried it would be too late.
The things he said about the Lord, derogatory in a way, may merely be stimulated interest testing my response. Would I have any new light to shed on his old antagonism. “The Lord took my best friend away,” he’d said twice, and in a song. Perhaps I am an uncanny reminder of his previous experience. Is he trying to get back at the Lord vindictively? Or is it just purely innocence and ignorance? I thought he cared, writing the letter, etc. How little we know one another’s motives. How easily doubt creeps in when ecstasy brings me down. Our phone conversation was lots of fun. “I feel like I’ve been to the bottom of a well, and back up,” he said. Now the waiting period has begun. How long until the next letter? Will he be encouraged, or uninterested? Is he really the man for me? I am certainly fastened to the facts of his existence, hardly able to think of anything else. It is the kind of relationship I wanted fourteen years ago, when I met Allen and married. I made do then. Every seven years I start a new life, how true. Now is the best time ever. I have almost everything I’ve always wanted: the possibility of an ideal man to marry, a book in the offing, stability, children, God present in my life. There is no compromising temptation. He brings me the best, and I am challenged to handle myself, as I allow that experience into my life, in a way that will benefit all the most. Deliberate, yet non-manipulative. 12:10, I felt him loving me.
4/17/80: Francie’s testimony of a quick cancer cure, as I piece her thoughts together, on paper, as we’re being rushed out of the Pastor’s house after a Thursday morning women’s prayer group:
I felt like I was hanging onto the side of a mountain with fingernails and onslaughts of avalanche just missing me. “They’re gonna get you,” was the fear and reality imminent. I knew where I was at, how much I was suffering, didn’t need nobody to point at me and say, “Oh, you poor thing, how could you take it? I couldn’t take it.” Or, shaking heads like what I was going through was too much. I already had been warned by the Lord about self-pity from the beginning. Those negative attitudes were sometimes just enough to threaten my grasp on the side of that mountain.
The miracle is that she used the mind Christ gave her to push away the deceitful support of others. She realized the importance of dealing with her reality, personally and socially, on a mental plane to be aware of. That, in conjunction with the miraculous saving grace of faith in Jesus, and Jesus only, healed her of pain and growing debilitation after surgery was being contemplated for a second time. I especially empathized with her because of her acute awareness during her illness of the entrenched system of sickness this society reinforces, as she lived moment by moment with nurses and others who dispensed her medication either carelessly or grudgingly. Her awareness also contributed to saving her. This is one of the many prayer requests the Lord has honored in our congregation. Bottom level experience. She had three small children at home. Those same conflicts she expressed exist wherever we go in the world. There are those who want more, a better world than the one trying to drag them down or keep them tied up in a bag of disease, cause and effect relationship between roles one establishes in living. No matter how high we go in life, the bag is where we seem to be, as opposed to where we’re going; the sky’s the limit.
How can I apply this to where I am now? Very broadly speaking, every time I have the incentive to feel good and live it up — meaning, lots of excitement and challenge in daily living, because things are going smoothly, people loving me — I start to notice the dark spots where danger might exist, places, perhaps, where I’ve been hurt doing things the hard way, without Christ leading.
I see a police car when I pull out into the street. If it isn’t him who stops me, it might be someone who is still up-tight, someone like a boss or a parent. I have to check myself and remember it’s just the enemy in me and concentrate on Jesus’ promises to his believers. I can be absolutely paranoid when everything starts fitting in with personal dreams being fulfilled. They’re going to get me for being happy: that’s the underlying suspicion with the potential to sabotage my strength, renewed only in Jesus.
Occasions when “they” did get me, hold my wings back, are traced more easily in the present than the past. In the past I was too self-absorbed to detect the full effect of different people whom I automatically accepted as part of a set design. Only now is the child bold enough to confront feelings with those right-guard thinkers. It is hard to recall the exact words in childhood which leveled me, and made me cower, subconsciously afraid, though consciously occupied and aggressive, even boastful.
4/18/80: Will I remember these days — living across the street from my parents in a small tract house built in the ’40’s, when I slept late and, getting up, straight away began cleaning chores, or if Mom and Dad went somewhere for a few days, took care of their property and animals?
Today, I would have liked to be lazy longer or to sit down and write while fresh from slumber, but temptation ceased when I awoke and remembered their old dog Sam locked in their garage for the night. So I dressed and went over to feed him and let him roam in the yard, picked up the mail, left some chocolate chip cookies on the table for their return. Doing chores reminds me of lives I passed by in L.A., a kind of laid-back jet-set existence for the bourgeoisie, who, like the rich, don’t rely on neighbors to help them out, but on children and relatives from other parts of the city. Unlike the rich, though, they reject strangers.
After this I am let down, unless I sit in a chair and let myself be overwhelmed by my accomplishments. Rest is a way, after expending physical energy, to get my bearings.
Making something beautiful out of nothing is possible for angels. I can do that, too. Hallelujah. We rejoiced after praying for needs. Doreen had an ear infection. I hoped Chuck Roy would receive my letter in the best possible light. Gail cried for some reason. Brian fell off a roof Tuesday and is having knee trouble. We prayed about that. And then later I prayed alone, hoping for a miracle — instant recovery.
Last night in the mirror I saw a new me, a face almost frightening in its novelty, and I could feel an energy, body heat, with cool drafty edges, so that I was comfortable with the intensified warmth, soul on ice.
Woodnymph, Kevin is always disappearing. He appears in front of the refrigerator like a genie, daring devilish dreams and wandering nightmares. Strings pull, security, trying to bolt him down and throw a net over angelic intentions, to hold him back from service to the unknown mysteries of the universe which Christ reveals to his disciples, who aren’t afraid of the dark, the unknown, the novel, when it’s time to move ahead in the tunnel of love, powered by his strength and foresight. Oh wonderful redeemer of the light, making yourself known in the shadows of our flights and fancies . . . oh, white knight bringing us to the shadows of another illusion, so we can discover reality in your great heart, what is truth. “The truth shall set them free,” and every man sets about to discover the great truths in his own existence, which will open the gates to that enchanted place where we have no doubt to trick us. These are the rumblings of destiny, great purveyors.
Setting aglow the vacant lot between houses, a life tree spreads leaves so abundantly reaching across the span of time winter dropped, it sets my heart on fire, to watch it grow. Spring leaps into being, polka-dotted, dilated, around the corner leaping commensurate with space and rainfall drops its pussywillow heart of buttons and pearls upon the garden, imagination forms, in conjunction with the divine will of all in Jesus Christ.
4/20/80: Combatting the materialistic spirit begins with the principle of immobility; slower reflexes prove to be rewarding to me. Lying on the sofa, “I want popcorn.” Almost jumped up to make it, but remembered an earlier message today and yesterday. A physical “need” is apt to merely sap my strength if it motivates me to “do.” Ultimately, a too-quick response shows I don’t value my time, or essence, at that moment. Activity of a trivial nature hangs me up, compulsive, when I lose command of my senses, breaks up the natural meditative process or flow of mental energy, which puts me in a higher scheme of priorities. My little discipline paid off: after ten minutes of lounging, David came in and asked me if I’d like some popcorn. Patience becomes a reinforcing mode. How long could I lie on the sofa, having needs met, in an unspoken grace, watching the day move swiftly through a series of one-act plays sliced by the natural flow of energy in a neighborhood of boys and family across the street, and over all, the effects of my nature at rest with Mother Nature outdoors.
The Cloud Crowd hang around more or less convinced that heaven is a hope, worth striving for, and believing in Jesus’ teachings. Learning takes place in the sea, and consciousness is above sea level. If a perfect balance is achieved along the way, one begins to walk a tightrope in which all sorts of things are imagined, the worst and the best compete for attention, in an existence which bears out the dual nature of reality, not so much moment to moment — as the world would have us think, contributing to our paranoia — as from one space to the next.
Mellow times and tension-filled times work together for the survival of the individual. The rhythm is slow and fast. The beat is the ongoing impulse of the music. Rock ’n roll is a good discipline. A beast of burden is one who works all the time, and a deadhead is one who sponges off the efforts of others, mentally and spiritually. Both are slaves of Satan, rather than Christ’s servants. Neither can appreciate the smooth sensation of living in the middle, where love grows; we all want to be in tune, because it feels right and wholesome. In the middle, experience becomes truly exhilarating.