Early Childhood Trauma

A few weeks ago I was at my sister’s house going through some old family pictures. I’ll be sharing some of the more significant ones in the coming weeks.

I’m three years old when this picture was taken. Easter weekend of 1958. I’m the one in the Easter Bunny costume… oh yeah…

Easter Madness

Easter Madness

right. I’m there in a sea of bunnies racing across some part of Golden Gate Park. I drew an arrow to show me. How do I know it’s me, you ask? How do you know it’s not?
I’m the one with the wet britches. We were hopping and hopping trying to be first across the meadow. Do you think they would have a bathroom available? And if they did, do you think I could have gotten that stupid suit off? I think not. All I know is that I was one unhappy camper.
As far as I recall, this was the last time I ever wore a bunny suit.

So Long, Alice

On Thanksgiving day, I flew down to Phoenix to see my step mom who was in failing health. (the tremendous benefit of Jean’s job at the airline). At just over a month away from her 94th birthday, Alice was quite perky and cheerful. The only signs of anything being wrong were the oxygen mask she was wearing, and the fact that she was in a hospice facility. They had found an ominous mass in her lung, and due to her age, were not going to treat.

“Everybody gets something” she said with a pragmatic shrug.

She was happy to see me, since otherwise she was alone for the holiday. We watched a football game on the tube and chatted about family stuff.

Today, I got word that Alice passed away last night. Everyone was surprised, because she seemed so full of life. Despite the dire news from the medical world, she still had a sparkle in her eye, and absolutely no fear. It seems she decided when it was time to go. She was loved by many and will be missed.

I was 30 when she married my dad. We never had a mother/son relationship, or even Step-mother/step-son, for that matter. She was my dad’s wife, and made him happy for 19+ years til he passed away. We don’t get to choose our parents, or our step parents, but we get to choose our friends. Alice and I chose each other as friends. To me that was preferable.  I’m glad I got to see her 2 weeks ago. I’m blessed that my visit made her so happy.

So long Alice, we’ll see you again.



Strange Dream

The memory is a strange and wondrous thing. (At least mine is strange)

I remember pockets of things from quite young. I remember a dream I had in the 2nd grade. It really stuck with me.

There was a girl named Edith in our second grade class. One night I had a dream that Edith had come to our house. The house we lived in, in Paso Robles was on close to 2 acres. Heading out back there was a hill (slope). In my dream, Edith and I were going out back. The hill was steep in my dream, and I had to give her a hand to help her get up to the top. When I pulled to help her up, her hand came off. It didn’t bleed or anything. It just looked like a mannequin’s hand and wrist.

I remember saying, “I pulled off your hand!” She just looked up at me with sad eyes and nodded. That’s all I recall of the dream, but I’ve remembered it all these years.

I might just be a Shrink’s delight.

Summers at the Angie Hotel

Three or four years in a row we drove from California to Lawton Oklahoma to visit Grandma Lee, my paternal Grandmother. Seems like I was between 8-12 years old during this time. All the time I knew her, she was morbidly obese, and had one leg. She’d lost her other leg as a “young girl”, the result of an accident of some kind. We had lived with her in Houston, when I was 2-3 years old, but sometime in the sixties she moved to Oklahoma. Lawton was an Army town, with Ft Sill being the local base. Back then it was a town loaded with pawn shops and whore houses.

She owned or managed a couple of hotels while she lived there. The first couple visits, she was at a hotel called The Wolverton. The next two, she was at The Angie. The Angie was an old fashioned Hotel with a long stairway from the street up to the lobby. It was kind of a seedy place. The beds were old, squeaky, spring style beds high off the hardwood floors. My grandmother lived in an apartment on the lobby level.

I remember one summer she was to go with us out to the wildlife preserve near Ft Sill. She called up a moving company. “Send me two men who can move a piano.” When the two guys showed up, they came to her apartment. “Where’s the piano?” they wanted to know.

She looked up from her wheelchair. “You’re looking at her” (She had a sense of humor about her size)

We got to know all of the porters. I don’t remember all of their names. There was Stepp, S.D., Sammy, Freckles, and others who’s names escape me. All of them treated our family like their family. I remember one of the guys taking me to the local drug store for a burger. Must have looked funny, this lanky back guy with a pudgy little white kid. I remember Sammy taking my dad and I fishing out at some lake one summer. We always looked forward to seeing those guys.

There was a geeky guy named John who lived there and was sort of an assistant manager for my grandmother. He taught me how to play ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on the guitar, as well as The Chords for ‘Gloria’. He seemed a bit of a big talker.

An attractive blond woman named Ruthie would take my sister and I swimming at The Lawtonian, a more upscale hotel around the corner. “I have friends who work here” she told us. We thought it was cool that we could go swimming, what with the hot dusty humidity of the place.

Ruthie used to help my grandmother out around the place; do her shopping for her, and whatever else she needed. There were two or three other women who were always around, helping out. I don’t remember all their names. I just remember that none were as cute as Ruthie. One of them, (Judy?) was actually kind of scary looking. Red Hair and freckles, always smoking. She was missing a tooth. She wasn’t mean to us or anything, just kind of rough.

I think I was 11 years old on this particular trip. I got my own room on one of the floors. I don’t remember what time of night it was, but the walls were not particularly sound proof. In the next room, the bedsprings were in full squeak, and whoever the woman was in the room, was in full voice. Quite the educational evening for these young ears.

The next day, I told Geeky John about what I heard. He must have reported to Grandma, because the next night I was on a different floor. I learned later that the woman in the next room was Scary Judy. I remember wondering to myself what a guy saw in her.

So it turns out that the girls there took care of Grandma Lee during the day, helping clean her apartment, and doing the shopping. In exchange, Grandma looked the other way as they plied their trade at night. After that, it made more sense, that Ruthie had friends at another hotel. I think Geeky John was sort of a wannabe pimp, and helped drive business their way. I don’t know that any of the porters ever had anything to do with that end of things.

My sister and I always laugh about our Grandma, the Madam.




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How Many Bibles

bibleA while ago I was in a local Christian bookstore. I found myself browsing the Bible section of the store. I was struck by the variety of bibles there were to choose from.
First off, there are the various translations. Biblica.com lists 16 different English translations of the Bible. King James, New King James, NIV, The Good News Bible, The Message, The New Living Translation, The New American Standard Bible, etc. Then within different translations there are different versions. The NIV has the Study Bible, the Life Application Bible, The Student Bible, Young Readers Bible… you get the picture. These various styles within the different translations have different notes, and study aids. Then you’ve got the Men’s devotional Bible, the Sports Devotional Bible, the Women’s devotional Bible. Wow. In China, the small, non-government-sanctioned churches that meet secretly in homes, share pages of bible with each other. They memorize the page, and then pass it on. Once upon a time, the bible only came in Latin. It was considered blasphemous to print a bible in the reader’s own language. It’s nice to be able to have one in your language with a style you can understand.
What I found a little crazy was the “celebrity” Bibles. There’s the New Spirit-Filled Life Daily Bible by Jack Hayford, The Everyday Life Bible: The Power of God’s Word for Everyday Living by Joyce Meyer, Hope for Today Bible by Joel Osteen, Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible: King James Version, Holy Bible, Woman Thou Art Loosed Edition by TD Jakes, The Master’s Healing Presence Bible By Benny Hinn Ministries.
I had to chuckle. Would having Joel Osteen’s name on my Bible make me more cheerful? I would be leery about putting my name on a Bible. It seems like a lot of pressure to put on one’s self.
What’s next, the Barney, “I Love you, You Love Me” Bible?
If it get’s someone to buy it, I guess whatever works…

It’s Just a Number

Just finishing my birthday  It was a good day. I didn’t have to work, and just did some personal errands.  Had some birthday cake  at our rehearsal and received the usual age abuse. I’ll refrain from revealing my age. It’s just a number after all.  Right? I said… right?geritol

Lets just say  that certain restaurants offer me a discount. I have mixed feelings about that. The discount is nice, but it means I have to publicly admit that I’m old. I suppose I won’t worry too much until the waitress offers me the discount without me asking for it. Kind of like when the clerk doesn’t card you anymore when you buy beer… only worse.

I just got to where I could accept being older than the President. That was tough, but I remember teasing my dad about getting the discount. Man, what goes around does come around. I just keep repeating to myself, “It’s just a number. It’s just a number. It’s just a number…”

On a related note, we could find Bin Laden if we just put the AARP on the job. Show me someone over 50 they haven’t found.

The Shack

Just finished reading “The Shack”, by Wm Paul Young. I don’t pretend to be a literary critic. I just like to read. It took me a while to get through it. It isn’t a particularly difficult read. I just had a lot of things going on that made it hard to do this in one stretch. It was a moving book that had me weeping as I read one day on a Metro bus. I decided then and there that I shouldn’t read it in public. We had a pastor who used to say “God’ll mess you up!” I can say that this book messed me up.
I’m not going to write here what the book was about, aside from the very general. It’s about overcoming tragedy; about healing and forgiveness. It’s about changing our notions of what relationship means.
It’s a book that has generated controversy in some circles. It messes with some of our Western traditions. Some from the more religious persuasions might not feel comfortable with how God is portrayed. To those, I can only say, It’s a novel. To some, who believe that the God of the Judeo-Christian world is merely a fairy tale, I say, okay. Read it as a fairy tale. To those who are seeking after things spiritual, I say this is a spiritual odyssey. Give it a look.
To those who would like to view the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in a fresh way, read The Shack.

Bloggers Cramp

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. I’ve been procrastinating. I’ve been waiting for some profound nugget to form in my head to launch into the blogosphere. Sorry to inform you, but it hasn’t formed yet. Stay tuned.

What Movies Make You Cry?

Filmmakers have a goal. “Of course” you say. “They want to make money”

Well, yes that’s true. But the non commercial goal is to emotionally affect us. If a film is unable to elicit excitement, amusement, sadness, anger, joy, or fear, it doesn’t seem worth the time or expense to see it. Many of these emotions can produce visible or audible reactions; laughter, screams, gasps, or tears. I love laughing out loud at a rollicking comedy. I remember seeing “Aliens” in the theater with a group of friends. The last 30-40 minutes was so intense, that I think I got an aerobic workout from the rate of my heart.

Some movies are tear jerkers. That is, they elicit such emotion as to bring tears to ones eyes. Sometimes they are tears of sadness, sometimes tears of joy. When I was in high school there was a field trip to see Zefferelli’s “Romeo and Juliet”. This was not a highlight for us macho guys. The girls on the other hand cried their eyes out. We mocked them severely. Guys didn’t cry. (at least not in public).

Well, I’m here to publicly confess that, the older I get, the more movies are able to make me cry. Okay, there. I said it. Sometimes I cry at movies. I don’t think I’m the only one. Yeah guys, I know you’re out there too. My wife sometime mocks me. She looks over at me to see it I’m tearing up at a particularly emotional scene.

What can I say? I’m an emotional guy. I remember the first movie that did me in. “Old Yeller”. I was four years old, and my parents took me to the movie theater to see it. Needless to say, I made a spectacle of myself when Old Yeller was going to have to be put down because of rabies. “Don’t shoot him! Don’t shoot him!” I screamed, in the crowded theater. My parents were a little bit embarrassed, but my mom probably cried too. That’s the last time I remember crying at a movie until I was well into my thirties. It might have been sooner than that but I’m not sure.

Sometimes I’ll merely get a lump in my throat. Other times, tears will start to form. On occasion, (Usually when I’m alone) I’ll bawl like a baby.

Sometimes a film will trigger an emotion in me that’s related to my past. “Field of Dreams” usually gets to me when Ray Kinsella asks his dad if he wants to play catch. I think that has affected me more since my dad has been gone. Another scene that gets me is in “Braveheart”. It’s When

young Murron hands young William Wallace a thistle at his father’s funeral.
A tear trickles down his cheek. That one always gets me. “The Color Purple” has the scene of Shug Avery marching from the juke joint into the church as the choir is singing “God’s Tryin’ to Tell You Something”. It is such a redemptive scene. I just love it.

There have been films that illustrate suffering to the point that I realize I’ve never begun to suffer. Two dealing with apartheid in South Africa, “The Power of One”, and “Cry Freedom”, ripped my heart to shreds. “Schindlers List” did the same. It’s a good thing I never saw them in a theater.

What movies make you cry? C’mon guys, fess up! You know some of them have gotten to ya.

How Did I Remember That?

Funny how the memory works…or doesn’t. The memories of early childhood amaze me. Not the memories themselves, but the randomness of what I do remember from birth to around age 5.robertbaby

The earliest memory was from 18 months or younger. We were living in Germany, where I was born. I have this vivid memory of being dragged around the floor, while sitting on a rug. It was a kid or two doing the dragging. Don’t remember many details, just that it was enjoyable.

My next memories were to come from Houston Texas. We stayed with my paternal Grandmother while my dad attempted a return to college. Most of my Houston memories are on the negative side. I remember burning my bare feet on the sidewalk. I also remember sitting down on an anthill, and being rapidly carried to the bathtub by my mom.

I remember there was boy close to my age next door. His name is on the tip of my brain. I remember that we stood in our respective yards, facing each other. We then simultaneously “whipped it out” and began peeing toward each other. This little recreational activity was severely frowned upon by all of the grownups in out lives.

There was an older kid, a teenager maybe. His name was Homer. He mowed my grandmothers lawn and did other assorted errands.

I also remember that I had an imaginary pet when we lived in Houston. I used to talk to him. He was an elephant and his name was Pinky. I would usually talk to him when my grandmother was trying to nap.

I remember a trip to the circus. There were cannons that scared me. Don’t remember the clowns. Clowns never scared me. On a day at Galveston cowboyBeach, we had to run for cover during a rain storm. On our last day in Houston, a u-haul trailer was packed and ready for our drive to San Francisco. I was excited to show my new basketball to Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim, when we got there. I was pretty upset that I didn’t have it. I had to be constantly reassured that it was really in the trailer. The drive from Houston to San Francisco was quite the adventure. Don’t remember anything except for that a few nights passed, as I slept in the back seat. I don’t remember if we stayed at any motels. I can’t imagine my dad doing it in one shot. (my mom never had a drivers license)

A lot of people that I talk to say they can’t remember anything before age 6 or 8. I don’t know why some of this stuff has stayed with me. I forget what people told me yesterday.

I remember trivia, like the name of Mr Wilson’s dog on the old Dennis The Mennace tv series. Mr Wilson’s Dog?! How in the world did that get stuck in there?  It was Fremont, but who cares? Why in the world can’t I remember something that will do me some good?

I can tell you that my babysitter in San Francisco,when I was 3 and 4,  was named Esther, and her husband was Elmer. But remember to pick up some milk at safeway on the way home from work? Yeah right.