Humm… ‘Gracefully letting go of things not meant for us’ is not always an easy task. Whether it’s an investment that didn’t work out, or a child you loved and lost, or one who has decided they don’t love you and are willing to do everything they can to hurt you, letting go is what we must do. It’s something we don’t do for the benefit of others, but for ourselves. It is not selfish for foolish, it’s sanity. Yesterday is past and in order to move forward we need to protect today and tomorrow by keeping our hearts full of love, our spirits high, staying creative and busy and living in the moment. Of course the other option is to wallow in our loss… Not really a smart choice is it?
My parents, having struggled through the great depression a few years earlier, knew the art of doing without. My father bounced from place to place looking for enough work to buy food to feed his children, and my mother lived in hope of maybe having enough left over to keep her growing kids’ feet in shoes presentable enough to wear to school.
I was born a typical American Christian baby. My parents’ daily lives were spent in abject fear and terror, threatened in no uncertain terms to get me baptized before I choked on my Gerber’s applesauce and rode the devil’s express to hell and eternal damnation.
“But he is a loving God. Don’t question why bad things happen to unbaptized babies…Sorry, but they are going to hell if they don’t belong to the church.”
I was born into a “duck and cover” world of mushroom clouds. Where our dad wore a Civil Defense armband and walked around the neighborhood on random occasions, ready to help people find shelter from “the bomb”. Each of us wore a chain around our neck with a plastic tag with our blood type printed on it so if we were vaporized while we hid under our school desks they would know how to fix us.
It was a place where fragile looking tiny little men with their foreheads wrapped in bandanas made from rising sun flags flew their propeller airplanes into big war ships, and a strange little man with a curious moustache shot himself in the head in his underground cement apartment… It was where newsreel footage of rotting corpses stacked like cords of firewood and mountains of ashes that once were 6 million people played to horrified audiences on “dish night” in movie theaters. Patrons left carrying the latest piece of their new dinnerware under their arms while they discussed the holocaust and wondered if the theater might give out cups and saucers the next week.
Robert Tew once wrote: “Sometimes what you fear the most to do is the very thing that will set you free.” That’s what this book is all about… killing off a few more old demons and setting myself free. While I’m at it, I’ll share some fun bits and pieces of my life that will hopefully give you a few good chuckles and just maybe make you stop and think about what’s really important.
We live in a world of contradictions. Life is nothing like what any of us expected. Like each generation before us, we find ourselves longing for the simpler, more personal, slower times of our youth all the while walking down the street with machines in our pockets capable of giving us answers for anything we might want to know while connecting us one-on-one with people around the globe.
The amount of information on the internet increases exponentially in the blink of an eye. Those dusty, outdated volumes of the Encyclopedia of Britannia and Book of Knowledge that our parents struggled to buy and keep current so we could use them to write our term papers have been relegated as doorstops or for pressing flowers. At last, access to knowledge, good, accurate and plain spoken truth, finally has the ability to set anyone who seeks it, free. The only price is wading through all the untruths, lies and misinformation that any crackpot would have you believe to support his cause.
The power of the few to control the masses gets smaller each passing week and the powerful are not pleased. They’re busy trying to find ways to keep us where they want us. But like black people, gay men and lesbian women, the rest of the world will not be retreating into their closets to be stifled by ignorance ever again.
The young boy born the year Mister Truman dropped his atom bomb on those “Slanty Eyed Bastards” has been knocked around, threatened, bruised and disillusioned. But as it turned out he was born a seeker, and when things just didn’t add up, he went after the answers with voracity of purpose and a sense of humor.
Now I have a story to tell you…
Across the city, in a slightly decaying, huge brick house the Alva and Ida show was already in full swing. Ida sat in front of the television set, still dressed only in her bathrobe. She was on her usual roll with the Sunday morning religious television shows.
The ritual started faithfully with the Seven Hundred Club. She thought they were too political and cried too much, so as soon as the other stations had better programs, she proceeded directly into a parade of Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggart, Herbert W. Armstrong and Robert Schuller. Their favorite personality had been Katherine Kuhlman, until she, like all the two elderly sister’s family and friends, had died. Now, the Hour Of Power with its dynamic Dr. Schuller was the single most important event in their week.
Their second favorite past time was visiting.
The house, now long neglected, had six bedrooms, six bathrooms and a library on the second floor. The third floor had been servant’s quarters, but that was long ago. There were no servants anymore. Economics and mobility had dictated that the two women relocate themselves to the first floor. Their beds now occupied the dining room and the grand old living room with its two huge solariums was sealed off with masking tape around the doors. Throw rugs were jammed against the cracks at the bottoms to keep out the cold winter drafts. The only rooms in use now were the kitchen, the small first floor bath and the dining room. The giant oil furnace in the basement sat cold and unused. Now the house was heated by a kerosene space heater, but the women were always careful to leave a window cracked to prevent asphyxiation.
Ida reached over to the ancient black and white television and turned it up a little louder. Still straining to hear what was going on, she looked down at her large, transistor radio sized antique hearing aid and adjusted its volume too. “For God’s sake, Ida, turn it down!” Alva screamed from the kitchen.
“I’m deaf, you know!” Ida yelled back as Alva made her way into the room with a plate of hot scones, butter and jam. She positioned it half way between the two of them on the TV table then reached over to turn the set down.
“You’re going to wake the dead!” She said loudly.
“I’m going to bake the bread?” Ida looked puzzled. “I thought YOU were making SCONES,” she shouted the way deaf people often do.
“I said you’re going to wake up the whole neighborhood with this racket!” Alva spoke directly into the hearing aid’s front. Finally understanding, Ida reached in and increased the volume on the device until it began to squeal and hiss.
“I’m deaf, you know!” She parroted again. “You don’t have any trouble hearing him so why don’t you tell me what he’s saying?” She gestured at the television.
Alva buttered a scone and extended her knife toward the jam. The two knife points met and dueled briefly before Ida; whose eyes never left her sister’s, withdrew her knife, made a quick lunge from a different angle, and made off with the lone plump strawberry from the jam dish. “Ahh!” She exclaimed, as she returned Alva’s cold stare with a devilish grin.
The sisters had lived together all their lives. Now, Ida at eighty-eight and Alva at eighty-six, were nearly alone. Once successful milliners to the city’s rich, they had owned a fashionable shop in the older section of downtown. True to the spinster tradition, they saved everything they could for their old age but the trouble now was that they had both outlived their old age nest egg. Nobody planned to live this long. Their combined Social Security checks were barely enough to pay taxes on the old family home and buy basics. They ate as well as any eighty years old, but had nothing left with which to buy luxuries. Alva made a simple muslin pouch with a wide fabric strap for Ida’s old hearing aid. They hesitated to replace anything or even worry about it for that matter, thinking all the time that tomorrow just might not come.
Their family now consisted of only a great-nephew and two great-nieces that would stop by from time to time to see if there were still alive. The relatives didn’t seem very concerned, knowing the two old women had already spent every dime of their savings and that the house wasn’t worth much in the declining neighborhood and its poor condition. For all outward purposes, the two were twins. They dressed alike, had the same habits, likes and dislikes. Everyone who was exposed to their antics referred to them as “The Girls”.
“Oh look Ida, that handsome Bob Schuller has a new, “Jesus Lights Up My Life”, Challenger Space Shuttle Lamp!” They both leaned closer to the screen for details. Ida reached for the volume control. “I think we should send for it!” Alva exclaimed, picking up a paper and pencil.
The living quarters were already full of TV spiritual artifacts. Their latest acquisition, a pair of simulated stained glass window ornaments proclaiming, “I’m God’s Chosen One” were firmly attached to the window with their plastic suction cups. Since the good Doctor Schuller didn’t offer “We’re God’s Chosen Two”, the girls argued briefly over who was the “one”, then decided to send for two of the ornaments. Besides, they were free for the asking. Being truly caring viewers, however, they always enclosed a check to help carry on the television ministry they enjoyed so much. Next to the window ornaments, the Airwick Solid imitation, church stained glass window stick-on completed the grouping. Even though they couldn’t afford it, the purchases were fundamental for them. Last year, when Ida had a bout with pneumonia and seemed to be losing ground, it was a small, free booklet from Robert Schuller that reminded her she could do it and she fought a little harder for her health. “Let’s get dressed,” Alva shouted as she reached over and turned off the television.
“I don’t need a rest! I just got up, for heaven sakes!” Ida retorted. “What do you want me to do, sleep my life away?”
“Get dressed!” Alva shouted again and Ida did as she was told. Alva reached for the Sunday paper’s folded open pages and tore out a small section, creased it and placed it carefully in her purse.
They each had two visiting dresses in their closet. Sometimes they would dress alike, other times they wore different outfits to change the pace. Alva laced Ida’s Red Cross platform heels too tight and the sister let out a screech in pain. About forty-five minutes later they were ready to go, with only the hat selection remaining. All the straw hats had been covered in plastic to await another uncertain spring. Now it was time for felt and feathers. They made their selections and carefully but shakily adjusted each other’s veils to the right level. They checked themselves in the wavy old yellowing mirror on the front of the antique wardrobe. The light wasn’t as good there, but they felt they looked younger in this particular mirror. “We’re going to be late!” Ida hollered looking down and shaking her Benrus to be sure it was still working.
“Horse pucky!” Alva replied.
“We’ll take the street car,” she shouted.
“There haven’t been street cars for years. We’ll take the bus.” Alva loudly solved the problem. She was exhausted! A few moments later they were on their way down the slick early morning sidewalks, making slow but cautious progress toward the corner bus stop.
There is an excellent article on CNN by Rachael Held Evans about Why Millenials are leaving the church. You can find it here: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/27/why-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/
Great article, Rachel – I’m afraid your common sense statements of the facts will fall on still deaf ears. The “church” doesn’t know how to change; it’s as simple as that. The clergy is still under control of a generation who actually believe the Bible is the literal word of God…complete with all the insane comments in the book. Of course they pick and choose what is really the “true” word of God from whatever passages suit the message or threat they feel they need to make to control the population. The simple truth is that the internet and social media has usurped the power of the “church” to control the people, and people who once occupied pews now find it easier to find likeminded believers (of all faiths and creeds) online and can be exposed to any theology they want by simply using Google. I left the Missouri Synod Lutheran church and found Unity. It suits me fine. I think people are discovering they don’t need anyone in between them and God. Churches can install all the Starbucks coffee kiosks they want, but it isn’t going to bring people back if they keep spewing everything except the love that Jesus preached and based his ministry on. We don’t need anyone to hear our confessions and we don’t have to swallow as “gospel” all the hatred and threats that are spewed from pulpits anymore. I am sure God is looking down on all of this with a smile and a sigh of relief. But I must admit, I keep waiting for the lightening bolts to strike the insane televangelist money-changers. If panicky clergy bemoaning empty offering baskets returning to the alters want to know the real reason the pews are empty, they need to watch some cable religious programming to see what the millenials are laughing at. The loudest voice is what is heard, and for a long time now, that loud voice has been the religious crackpots who have hijacked the simple message that God is love.
In a review, someone referred to me today as an “author”. I took pause when the person related that term to an ability to make them feel something very deeply. I gave thanks for the comment, and more thanks for the gift of the talent to make that person feel what they did. This may sound stupidly simple, but to me it was a very big thing indeed.
… details shortly
My author’s page at Amazon.com has been upgraded to include the most recent postings from my blog and twitter. Now you can get more of me than you ever wanted in one location:
Oh yes…. almost forgot. You can buy my books there too!