Friday, July 29, 2011

The Many Faces of Pat

Six years my junior, Pat Moorehead Ewens turned 75 this week, Though I don’t remember it, I first met Pat when she was a camper at Camp Killoqua, a lovely but less than rustic Camp Fire Girls Camp near Everett Washington. Pat was from a rural logging town, and the camping experience must have been thrilling for her. Pat has the pictures to prove it! Who knows, I might have taught her to swim for I was the Assistant Waterfront Director on tiny Cranberry Lake. I was Miss Bonnie, 19, and I think I thought I was big stuff. It was many years later we were to discover this confluence of our lives.

Last Sunday Pat hosted a most unusual birthday party at a delightful English tea house in Menlo Park , about an hour’s drive from here. Lisa’s Tea Treasures is anexperience in English elegance..

The invitation encouraged we bring favorite poems, wear hats, pearls, and gloves. What fun! Most of us wore long dresses as well, as we marveled over the tea cozies, bone china, and cucumber sandwiches.

As I reflect on Pat’s accomplishments, I smile at how she has always steered her own course for her life has been as unique as her 75th birthday party. I’m indebted to dear friend Andrea for bringing Pat and I back together.

At one time Pat, then Sister Pat, was Andrea’s English teacher in a convent in Yakima, WA. Just as she has been for so many others, Pat was a steady anchor in Andrea’s young, rather troubled life. They always remained dear friends. Eventually Pat changed vocations, went back to school, married, and moved to California where Andrea and Stacy lived, Sadly, her dear husband died, which gave Andrea a chance to be there for Pat. For more years than I can count we have celebrated holidays and birthdays together. Time marched on and eventually Pat surprised as all by adopting two children from Russia, first Mila and then Maria, both young adults now.

As the girls matured a new page was turned when Pat reunited with a college friend who had left the priesthood. Love bloomed, which is the story of how Pat has made yet another transition. She now hangs her hat most of the year in another rural setting: North Lake, WI, where I’m sure her new family rejoices in her energy, talents, and poetry. I salute you, Pat. You are an inspiration to so many.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Whats on the front burner

Thanks for the many thoughtful notes I got last week about trust. The kitchen remodelling project is still in limbo. Meanwhile, so many other strange things have happened this week I can't decide what to focus on. In general I'm feeling stronger and more flexible. My only physical complaint is I seem to have poison oak or some other allergy in my eyes. Annoying, but as the Minnesotans say, it could be worse. Its wonderful what five or six days a week of pilates classes will do for an old timer. Hope my commitment has steel girders.
Yesterday to my pleasure had a visit with Stephanie visiting from London. (Steph was Lee's caregiver the last four years of her life). She looks wonderful and her stories of UK living are so enlightening to one who has never travelled there. To my delight Kodi remembered her well and could still do a high five, a trick she taught him about seven years ago. Steph sports a new piece of body art on her right arm which Steph designed but even she agrees it looks remarkably like Kodi.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Sometimes a certain theme seems to run through my life. This week it is trust.

For this Balinese woman walking a country lane near Ubud balancing a heavy load on her head is something she has probably practiced all her life. Balinese women have studied temple dancing since childhood and they exhibit exceptional grace as well as spiritual centeredness. Still, she looks tentative, doesn’t she? Likewise, I once caught these dear Parisian dogs on the corner by my small hotel trying to decide the attractiveness of each other. Thinking about this dilemma as I waited for friend Carol to arrive this morning for coffee at the Rockridge cafĂ© I thumbed though the local newspaper. The first page concerned property values and stated in bold letters “First Impressions Are Not Always What You Think.” Too much.

I confess. Trust has always been an issue for me. It probably comes from growing up insecure, for after all I am a depression baby, and WW2 hit when I was 11. Many times in my childhood my mother was not the Rock of Gibralter and my dad's death at 15 left me bereft. Many times I’ve perused this subject with my niece, Cheari, who has impeccable trust in herself, relying on research and personal experience. Such self confidence in believing in yourself is beyond my reckon and I envy it greatly. When I asked her thoughts on the subject she responded in part : “When I think of the word trust, I ponder whether it means trust in someone or something else, or in oneself, and my immediate thought brings me to a place of having trust placed in me. How often have any of us heard the phrase “I would trust him or her with my life”? She went on to say:

“For more years than I can count, my dogs and cats have trusted me with their lives, and ultimately with their deaths, although the consciousness of that resided in me and not them.”

Of course, as a psychotherapist I often dealt with the issue of partner/marital trust.Sadly it is an issue that touches many lives and I feel like I have experienced it deeply through the pain of others. Last Tuesday I woke shivering with summer fog swirling around and decided to skip the gym and curl up with the heating pad and a book, so downloaded on my kindle (bless it) Jaycee Dugard's book, which I finished by dark. One thing different about the book from the tv showings is how many times she spoke of her struggle with the issue of trust. But what is up for me right now is a more nuts and bolts issue. I’ve been toying with having my sixty -year old kitchen cabinets replaced, refaced, or refinished, and/or my yucky pink kitchen tiles replaced. I’ve had five different companies/designers here to give me ideas and bids. I’m exhausted with weighing one against another, as they all have something different to offer. I can’t trust my experience as I’ve never contemplated this before, and it feels like too much money and confusion to take a wrong path. I may end up doing nothing just so I can get a good night’s sleep without obsessing on who to trust.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Promise Unkept

One of the things I did yesterday, my 81ast birthday, was to celebrate by having lunch with a dear friend who helps to bridge the losses in my life. Between the bean and barley soup and the salad estiva Dolores and I caught up on each other’s lives and relived tender memories of her brother, Bill, and his lifelong partner Dean. Though not genetically related, Bill and Dean were like brothers to Lee and I. Most birthdays were spent in their loving company. Like us if they were living they would be celebrating that the Defense of Marriage Act is finally being challenged by higher courts as unconstitutional. How fair is it that neither Dean nor I could claim our spouses social security? Some things in life are not fair but this is one injustice I hope to see changed perhaps even in my lifetime.

After Bill’s sudden death from brain cancer leaving us all in despair, Dean decided to relocate to the state of Ohio, where his family lived. Distraught over the loss of Bill, Dean’s Parkinson’s disease was progressing rapidly and in Ohio his two sisters would care for him. It turned out to be a bad call, for as much as his sisters loved him and cared for him in his last year of life they fought like bull and torreador in a ring with each other. Then there was the religion thing. Growing up gay in rural America in the thirties had to be agony for any kid, let alone a quiet, sensitive one like Dean.

I’ve never been to Ohio but Dean’s childhood was peppered with rejection, guilt, torment, and revival meetings. He reported that by age 16 he had been saved eleven times. It never worked, of course. He was emancipated from the arms of the Southern Baptists by a stint in the Navy, producing masculine looking tattoos from a drunken binge in Japan and a commitment to living a life as a hair dresser in the more gay friendly Bay Area, which he did the rest of his life until Bill’s death.

The last thing he said to me before he left to drive across country with his brother was “Bonnie, promise me you won’t let the Southern Baptists get me.” This is the story of how I failed in that promise.

Now I’ve never even been to a Baptist church, and I suppose the name of any other evangelical religion could be substituted, but once in Ohio the local minister, at the sisters’ urging I’m sure, was relentless in converting this sinner. Dean would call me often, urging me to visit, complaining how lonely he was for any gay contact, making jokes about the minister. When he had his new bedroom painted purple it comforted him a bit. I never found the time to visit, a regret on my part.

As he was dying in an Ohio VA hospital, the sisters kept loving vigil. Dean was in a coma and I couldn’t speak with him.

I intuited the sisters would be calling the chaplain to save their beloved unrepentant brother. Remembering my promise to Dean that I would protect him from this, I called the hospital and spoke at length to a chaplain, explaining my promise and Dean’s wishes. A long silence followed. Finally I asked the religion of the chaplain. “Southern Baptist” he said. My next inquiry: ”Are there any chaplains in the hospital who aren’t Southern Baptists?” Long silence. Finally the chaplain said, “Miss Crosse, what can I do for you? You sound upset. Shall I pray for you?”

I tried to hang up the receiver softly, but I think my rage was not totally held in check. I comforted myself that Dean was unconscious and could not know what was going on. I probably checked the freezer for Chunky Monkey.

As I shared this story with Dolores yesterday, my rage is gone, and I feel only gratitude for Bill and Dean’s love and caring in my life. How could I be so blessed?

As the Minnesotans say, it could be worse.

I love the picture of Bill and Dean shown above because to me it captures their love for each other and their tenderness as human beings.

Friday, July 1, 2011

It Could Be Worse

A week from today I'll be counting eighty-one candles on my crown and celebrating the passage of same sex marriage in New York state. I think this means it will become constitutional all over the country, though maybe not in my lifetime. Sadly I'll never be able to claim Lee's social security, but my younger friends may be more fortunate. I'm doing pilates four or five times a week, painting a little, eating and sleeping well, and blessing my friends and furry tail wagger. IT COULD BE WORSE!

Even though I promised not to write anything more about my Provence trip, I just have to share one more insight. Among the painters on my trip were three Northern Minnesotans. Not only their accents but their down to earth humor and good sportswomanship kept us all entertained. Most often we giggled or convulsed at their colloquialisms. Since coming home I’ve decided that these three expressions address almost any celebration, event or catastrophe one could encounter in a lifetime: “you betcha’ ”, “it could be worse”, and “oof da”. The latter expresses something bad, sad or distasteful. For me that means liver, raw oysters and quail eggs.

Listening to Obama’s speech Wednesday I found occasion to mutter each of the three at different points. As I observed more and more Tea Party members declaring for president this week I fantasize what if it split the Republican party throwing a majority to the Democrats? A fun fantasy, you betcha'.

Last weekend Kodi and I visited surrogate daughter Catherine at their new (to them) someday-to-be retirement home in Santa Rosa. We had a glorious time. I thought I didn’t overindulge but when I came home I was up two pounds on the scale. (OOf da.) Tuesday when I planned to work in the roses we experienced a major downpour that beat many of the stalks to the ground. In the Bay Area this is unheard of; we’ve had more rain in June than we had in January. Yesterday I clipped all the branches that were broken and dotting the ground and now I have overflowing vases of roses all over the house. (It could be worse.)

According to Rachel Maddow ‘s program, as of this Friday the Kansas legislature has manipulated regulations to virtually eliminate all abortions in the state, including rape and incest. What happened to Roe v Wade? (Oof da.)

Yesterday I heard that one of Sandy Delehanty’s paintings had been accepted to another national show. That will make her a signature member of the Watercolor Society. You deserve it, Sandy. Congrats. (You betcha).

Earlier this week I painted the scene above of two French ladies deep in conversation on market day in Ile Sur la Sorgue. I can’t figure out if they are saying oof da, you betcha’, or it could be worse. You decide!