I finally came across a copy of the KQED Perspective I did in 2007. I had taken a class of how to write and present a topic for this well-known radio format and was thrilled when my offering was accepted. I recorded it at the KQED studios in San Francisco. It is no longer in their archives, so I was excited to find a copy in my own files. For all you single folk out there…enjoy!
water licks the quay
tasting concrete not sand
determined to find welcome
one wave, fraught with foamy fervor
demands attention and
another, hardly noticed
crawls away defeated
rise from the depths of a bay
crisscrossed with struts and steel
bound on three sides by
tacky tourist traps
waves of tears from decades past
emerging from an immigrant isle
less angelic than its name
salt-tinged waves seep under a golden bridge
entering these protected waters
with no identity except hope
now doomed to lick and find
never able to rise above the jutting wall of
positioned to keep them in their place
yet still they come
with relentless repetition
fueled by courage that defies reason
seeking what they do not have
On this International Women’s Day, I was thrilled to discover the Fifty-Eighth Catalogue of Ohio Wesleyan University, which lists my grandmother, Ava Catherine Roberts as a resident of Monnett Hall, and the recipient of the Degree of Bachelor of Literature in 1902.
The Catalogue states that at Monnett Hall “the rooms are furnished with the exception of bed clothing and towels.” And in addition to bringing their own linens, each student “should come provided with waterproof, umbrella, and overshoes; also tumbler, teaspoons, knife and fork, for use in her own room.” The regular expenses at that dormitory for women taking only literary studies was $60 to $70 and covered scholarship, incidental fee, board, room, light, and heat for a term of 12 weeks. If students took Music or Art, which I’m sure my grandmother did, expenses went up $15. This did not include books or washing. Books were $3 to $5 a term. Washing was $2.50 to $5 a term but “facilities are afforded whereby those who desire can do a part of their own laundry work.” A comment is made that “charges at Monnett Hall are low compared with the advantages and comforts offered…much lower than usual in colleges of like grade.” However “all extravagances in dress of habits of life is discouraged by the officers of the University, and we hope to have the hearty cooperation of patrons and students in this direction.” In addition, “on reaching Delaware, young women are expected to take a street car, or one of the hacks found at each train, and go directly to Monnett Hall. The hackman will see that the trunks are promptly delivered at the Hall.”
Ohio Wesleyan Female College was established in 1853. It was incorporated into the Ohio Wesleyan University in 1877 “to secure an equal educational opportunity with men” according to the Board Of Trustees minutes from June of 1877.
There were 828 men and 557 women in attendance at Ohio Wesleyan 1902—a significantly higher proportion of women than were in attendance at Stanford University when I was a Freshman in 1961.
Degrees achieved by women in 1902 at Ohio Wesleyan—one hundred and seventeen years ago!
- Degree of Master of Music (2 of 18)
- Degree of Bachelor of Arts (13 of 53)
- Degree of Bachelor of Science (1 of 18) Martha Bellis Hixon (who appears to have also obtained her Master of Music!)
- Degree of Bachelor of Literature (28 of 41) Highest percentage reflecting that this was the degree obtained primarily to teach. My grandmother taught English and German before her marriage.
- Degree of Doctor of Medicine (4 of 30) Way to go Edith Crooks, Pearl Hahn, Margaret Alexander, and Elizabeth Weaver!
Ava Catherine taught English and German prior to her marriage to Charles Kinnison. They lived in Willoughby, Ohio and had two girls–Hilda born in 1908 and my mother, Ava Margaret, born in 1914 (seen at 17 standing in this photo).
My mother followed in her mother’s footsteps and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1937 with a Degree in Political Science.
Obtaining a PhD was mandatory considering the history of the women in my family!
Between recent infirmities and age, I’m not up to marching, so I created this video as my contribution to the efforts to resist policies that foster the inhumane treatment of immigrants.
The soundtrack is borrowed with much gratitude from my favorite French singer, France Gall, who recently passed away.
Here is a link to my video on YouTube.
A recent visit to San Francisco’s MOMA for the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition and the purchase of a book on Matisse spurred me on to drag out my seldom used oil paints and create something myself. I do not consider myself an oil painter, perhaps more of a wanna be. A few paintings here and there over the years. So this is more about the inspiration to try something creative at any age than an expression of a true artist.
I was inspired particularly by Matisse’s Interior at Collioure and also by Vincent van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles (Musee D’Orsay), a print of which hangs in my bedroom.
As my painting evolved, I found myself wanting to portray the sleeping girl as a child who has lost her dream of being a ballerina to a malady that requires her to wear a leg brace. But the common artistic device of showing the exterior through an open window, common in Matisse’s day, allowed me to bring a different world view to the sleeping child. There stands a beautiful pink flamingo in it’s natural pink tutu, standing proud and free on one leg, bringing her a message of wholeness no matter what our circumstances.
I’ve placed it near some of my other favorites in my living room.
What hour took you that day, that fourth Wednesday of January in 2017? Where was I? Was I sitting through a boring meeting sorting out policy issues? Was I driving home exhausted, listening to debates contentious political issues on NPR and rethinking my decision to remain in a high profile health care position at age seventy-three? Or was it later as I tried to keep the peace between my four and seven year old granddaughters while preparing their dinner of sliced tomatoes, beef and rice, and yogurt, and hoping that the promise of dessert would keep the mayhem to a minimum until their mother returned?
How could it be that the enormity of your last breath faded into eternity before reaching my senses so many miles and decades away? And what mystic force drew me to my computer on a rainy afternoon five weeks later and led my fingers to type your name and the word obituary? Running late for the play, I found myself reading the words once with disbelief, twice with an aching teenage heart, and a third time with tears that no one could possibly understand.
I skimmed over your accomplishments listed one by one, more reminiscent of a resume than a tribute to the vibrant young man who stole my heart in 1961. Your devoted companion, three fine sons, five enchanting granddaughters, a dear sister (I remember you telling me how much you loved her), even nephews and cousins, all dutifully named. Were they there at the end? I have to believe they were. You were too precious to me not to be a million times more cherished by the ones who were truly in your life.
Your loved ones know nothing of me, nor the grief I feel. Yet I too caught glimpses of that courageous man who fought on as his life and body progressively diminished, often quite literally, throughout an arduous and determined battle against diabetes. Ordeals made bearable by your impish humor—writing me after your second amputation that you used to be six foot four but now were four foot six!
They know nothing of those months we spent together so many decades ago, these people who shared a lifetime with you and are trying to make it through each day, hoping their grief will lessen with time but perhaps grateful that your ordeals have come to an end.
Our writing brought us together. You penned more than a half-dozen novels, well-crafted, filled with romance and suspense. I discovered them online in 2008. I had written two novels myself, the first bearing the back story of our romance at Stanford—I, the naïve freshman dreamer and you, the charming, seasoned senior. Degrees of Obsession was an apt title for a paean to a first love that refused to fade and, in fact, ultimately had no replacement. I searched further and found what I believed to be your home address and mailed my fictitious version of our romance to you. Within days your name popped up in my email inbox, causing the same palpitations that had seized my heart forty-seven years earlier. I had a trip to Southern California already planned and we met soon after.
You greeted me at your door in your wheelchair, the body of that handsome, virile young man I had known hidden behind a beard and infirmity but the magnetic eyes and alluring basso voice still recognizable. We exchanged a few sweet nothings and then you wheeled your chair chose to me and drew me into your arms so that I could smell the scent of that special cologne that you always used, the musky one created by that haberdasher in Beverly Hills. You had dabbed in on knowing that it would take us back to our beginnings and for the first time I heard from your lips the true story of our parting. How after I had made a suicide gesture and was forced by Stanford officials to tell my parents, that they had called the University and demanded action. How you had been hauled in by Captain Midnight, the campus cop, for a three-hour inquisition and had been told to never speak to me again. How they threatened to keep you from graduating and going on to law school if you defied their orders. And worst of all, how these despicable actions on the part of my family had left you with a lifelong impact that was eons beyond the broken heart that I had endured.
What a gift that was. Knowing, after all these decades, that you had loved me after all. An unforeseen resolution to the agony of unrequited first love that few are privileged to find, told in an embrace filled not with the fumbling passion of youth but with the grace and forgiveness of age. I thought with amazement how brave you had been on that one occasion, sitting on the hood of your white MGA, the gray wool sweater I had given you on your 21st birthday draped around your shoulders on a hot June day, and calling me over. And I, on the way to the Anthropology class we mutually shared, caught up in the pique and heartache of a rejected eighteen-year-old turning away, giving up that one in a million chance for reconciliation. But even then in your sweet honesty, you explained that had I made a different choice, I might not have fared better, that your road as a husband had often been a rocky one.
So here are the EXCERPTS FROM MY NOVEL that tell our story, from my point of view of course, for those out there who care to read it, as told through the voice of my protagonist, Dr. Charlie Pedersen. I called her “Charlie” because it was the nickname you gave me. I called you “Danny”.
Not too many days ago,
my mind developed a mind of her own.
It happened almost the very second that my eyes read
that sappy online blog.
You can make a choice about moving on.
I, as usual, rejected the pop psychology blather.
Sure, I said in my best know-it-all sarcastic voice.
I’ve tried for six years, count ‘em, six years,
With help, without help,
praying, ranting, practicing the old fake it ‘til you make it.
All to no avail.
But, somewhere inside my head, I repeated the corny line
with the perfunctory obedience of a stubborn child.
Instantly, my mind,
which had spent a lifetime lurking unseen, unheard,
somewhere inside my left parietal lobe,
came to life and grabbed on to the new revolutionary idea.
In a flurry of celebration, my mind shouted,
We’re moving on? Awesome!
I’m so sick of thinking those same useless thoughts,
so bored with your futile wishing and hoping.
How many times are you going to make me plod through the same daydream,
the one with your version of a happy ending,
the one that gets rid of the wife and his bad habits,
the one that rights all the wrongs,
and vindicates six years of avoiding reality?
At the same time my mind seemed to have compassion for
the five year old me,
the child inside who still wonders why Daddy left,
why no one asked her to the prom,
why the years without love have far outdistanced
any moments of bliss, and
who still wants her fairy tale ending.
But now that my mind has finally spoken up
And has convinced me that torturing her
isn’t going to solve my problems,
I can’t seem to go back.
The fact that the very next day I had not one but two offers for
coffee and conversation, and a third close on their heels,
added a karmic underscore.
As with all things
life rummages about and finds
chinks in the armor of even our
best intentions and insights.
The cancelling of one offer,
a disappointing turn of events with the other,
and tears surged over the spillway of my cheeks,
creating deep gouges of despondency.
Thoughts of revenge clamored for my attention,
pounding on the door of my mind
with a battering ram of malevolence.
A full out assault demanding
justice for wrongs done.
My mind, without comment, declined to cooperate.
out of patience with my lifetime of self-pity,
of conjuring up happiness in my head
instead of creating it in my real life,
my mind refused to send the emails that would
illuminate then destroy their lives.
Then, she sat with me on the edge of the bed
until the gush of tears turned to a drowsy drop or two,
coaxed me under the covers and
lullabied me to sleep.
Upon waking this morning,
she got me dressed and fed,
sat me down to write this poem,
put on my make up
and shuffled me out the door
for lunch with prospect number three.
No promises, she reminded me,
but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
But out the door I went.
I have flown on Southwest to San Diego many times. During one flight, it came to me that perhaps I needed to be on a very different kind of journey and Flight of the Soul was the result. Now I have turned it into a video poem for those in recovery of any kind.
For more poems for recovery visit this page.
Last Sunday I took an inspirational course from Kai Carlson-Wee, a Jones Lecturer in Poetry at the Stanford University Creating Writing Program, on Moving Images. It inspired me to take my poems for recovery and begin turning each of them into video poems. And as we learned in his workshop, the music, images, and words can infuse each other with new meaning, new directions, and a more exciting creative experience. My first effort,appropriately enough, is Dreaming Into the New Year.
Enjoy the video poem version.
Quote from a Twelve Step daily reader:
When I say to myself that I am going to turn all my problems over to God, this does not give me leave to shirk my responsibilities. I have been given certain tools with which to run my life, and the free will to use them. They include judgment, intelligence, good will and the power to reason. Perhaps much of my trouble stems from having misused these tools. Judgment may have been warped by resentment, my intelligence by failure to face issues honestly. Good will can be lost when we are unable to be tolerant of the faults of others. The power to reason can be dulled when we fail to detach ourselves from the emotional content of a problem.
When I am desperate enough to ask for help, I will not expect it to come in the form of easy solutions. I must play a part in solving my problems, but my HP will provide the guidance and strength to take the right action.
My thoughts on this passage, November, 2016:
I need to use the tools I’ve been given. Too often my judgment has been warped by resentment when I’ve envied others and by neediness when I’ve want MORE than has been my portion. My intelligence has been underused when I failed to face issues honestly and try to substitute fantasy for reality. My good will has been lost when I refused to tolerate the faults of others or forgive them as God has forgiven me. My power to reason disappeared every time I let my emotions override my good sense. And I certainly have expected easy solutions.
Getting past a lifetime “dream” does not come easily. The “dream” lingers but like thousands of diehard Cubs fans who lived out their lives without achieving their dream of a World Series win, I may live out my life without my dream of finding a life partner coming true. But that doesn’t mean those fans didn’t go to the games, cheer on their team, live the rest of their lives to the best of their ability, even though that one big dream didn’t come true. So I can keep playing the game, leave myself open to another season of loss, and cheer myself on for the efforts I do make. I can work on becoming a better player—healthier, stronger, more sociable. I can choose not to be resentful when other teams win, some of them over and over. And in the meantime, I can stop making the game of finding a life partner my focus. I can live my life fully with work and family, with faith and friends. And maybe I will look down from heaven one day, as those many departed Cubs fans did, and see my grandchildren or great grandchildren finding life partners and win that relationship World Series that I never won. And perhaps they will think of me in that moment, and I will watch with a grateful heart and tears of joy as they raise a toast to me at their weddings and thank me for being a Grandma that helped them be the people they were created to be, willing and able to make good choices for life partners. And then I’ll hoist a beer and join those Cubs fans in heaven in a round of Take Me Out to the Ballgame!