Spiritual Autobiography (G)

My parents had often taken Mary Ann and I to the St. Joseph Country Club for dinner.  My parents always went out to dinner on Saturday evenings.  I remember having to learn to dance with my father as a child.  I think it was the box-step waltz.  After I learned formal etiquette, they made friends with Charlie and Merle Burns and went out to dinner with them on Saturday evenings.  Sometimes I went along.  My dad liked to dine at the Black Angus Club in St. Joseph.  We also often went to Kona Kai’s Tiki Room in Kansas City, Missouri.  They served Polynesian food and alcoholic drinks with umbrellas. Charlie and Merle Burns moved to Palo Alto, CA shortly before we moved to Leawood in 1977.  Once we moved to Leawood, KS, we went with Megan’s parents once to Jess & Jims Steakhouse in Martin City, KS.  At that time in 1977, Leawood South didn’t have formal dining at the Golf Club.  They had a grill.  Kids from families that were members of the golf club often ordered lunch or dinner and signed tickets for the purchase which was billed to the member to pay.  I found out quickly that I could not order meals and soda beverages at the club because my dad couldn’t afford the bill.  We could hardly afford to live in Leawood South.  The membership dues and property taxes were sort of a revolution for the family budget to accommodate.

Megan would be my guide to the formalities of an upper middle-class life that I had not known previously except for fine dining and also vacations to Maui, Hawaii in February.  My dad liked steak.  He was also a workaholic so he needed time away from work at the Lake of the Ozarks or annual trips to Hawaii just to relax.   Megan’s parents were Norma and John. Megan’s father was a lawyer.  She was an honors student and a Student Council Rep for all four years of high school.  Her father’s inspiration for Megan was to promise, if she was awarded a full golf scholarship and graduated with a 4.0 grade point average from high-school, a brand new car to take to college with her.  Megan planned to be a lawyer one day, but she also loved education just for the sake of learning and knowledge production.  At fourteen years of age, leadership was important to Megan.  Norma and Megan really made an effort that first year to help my family integrate and live in the community at Leawood South.

Doris had to join the Kansas Ladies Golf Association and establish a handicap.  I didn’t need a handicap until the following summer in 1978 when I would join the Junior Golf program at Leawood South. Doris had a wealthy widowed Aunt Alice who owned a home nearby in Prairie Village, KS.  Aunt Alice also owned a second home at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri where we spent many extended weekends and holidays in the sixties and seventies.  After we moved to Leawood, we didn’t go to the Lake for vacations anymore.  Doris could really be amazing with packing coolers of food to take on vacations.  Even to go to that cabin in Estes Park which had no electricity. We didn’t have to pay to stay at Aunt Alice’s place in the Ozarks, but we were supposed to leave the property the same we found it.  The property was shared with her kids so any time there had to be scheduled.  The house had a big picture window that looked out over the lake which was really a breathtaking view when the moon was full and the light reflected from the water.  Now that we lived in Leawood, we often visited Aunt Alice at her home in Prairie Village.  She had a bridge club meet at her Prairie Village house once a week. My parents used to take Mary Ann and I to visit a Grandmother Minnie of Doris that was in a nursing home in Bonner Springs, KS.  That was a memorable experience especially old people smells and old people parked in wheelchairs that gobbled like turkeys on Thanksgiving and were demented.  Megan’s family was a member of the Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village.  Their family had a moral value system that my family never tried to claim although visiting the elderly was the value that my parents were attempting to transmit with those visits to Bonner Springs.  Megan’s parents were older and richer than mine.  John and Norma had traveled in Europe quite a bit before Norma had Megan, her only child, late in life.  Their house was next to the Golf Club’s parking lot.  The seventh hole tee platform was their back yard. The seventh hole was near the first hole tee platform (both by the clubhouse).  Our condo was near the first hole green.  I would have to walk up the golf course alongside the first hole fairway to get to the Club’s putting green or to go to Megan’s.

My new piano teacher was located in Grandview, Missouri, too far away for me to travel there on my own.  Doris drove me there once a week for a piano lesson.  I couldn’t play by ear and had to use a metronome to get the rhythm right.  This teacher was always striving for professional standards in my piano performance.  She would teach me to play rolled chords at take my piano performance to a higher level over the next four years.  I loved romantic literature and piano, and my piano teacher knew much about Schumann, Chopin, List, and Wagner.  The St. Joseph Symphony had often given free performances for class field trips to attend.  I developed my ear for different instruments by attending symphony concerts, but I always loved the strings the most.  I could create beautiful artistic expression on the keyboard from that place of pain, of emotional pain that was not allowed expression in the patriarchal family structure that I knew.   Goethe’s philosophy was most important in my writing and musical performance at this point to make beauty from internal pain. I would learn musical dynamics like forte, mezzo-piano, pianissimo, and especially cadence and the importance of the pause in musical expression from this new piano teacher.

Elvis Presley died in August 1977.  I was watching TV in Leawood when a special report was broadcast about the death of the King of Rock N’ Roll.  I was stunned, but “the King” wasn’t really my generation as much as he was Teresa and Ken’s generation.  It made ponder how much youth culture defines a generation.

Music is all measured every note and rest.  I had committed to learning to play the piano when my father bought the instrument.  I had agreed to practice the piano for one-half of an hour every day.  If I didn’t practice one day, then I would have to practice for one hour on another day so that I would actually practice the piano for three and one-half hours every week.  As I began to play golf on the high school team with practice after school every day, meeting the piano commitment was challenging.  Sometimes I had to practice the piano for three and one-half hours on Saturdays or Sundays to make up for all the weekdays that I didn’t practice the piano.  After my sophomore year in high school, I also began to seriously count and burn calories for the rest of my high school life.  My emotional eating became binging once we moved to Leawood, and I didn’t throw it all up to stay slim.  I couldn’t ride my bike when I was overeating because all the fat would go instantly to my hips and thighs.  I would gain weight from the overeating.  I learned to associate cycling with reduced caloric intake, but I wasn’t riding much of the bike that first summer before high school in Leawood.  I did walk though.  After you entered Leawood South at the front entrance from State Line Road, you had to turn right or left which became a two-mile residential loop around the front-half of the golf course.  I walked that loop.  By my sophomore year, I would walk and jog that loop in February and March at night for the next three years.  Fat and out of shape, I was not a pretty sight to see when I exercised, no form nor could I catch my breath.  Thank goodness for safety in that neighborhood because I relished night excursions.  All the kids ventured through the golf course at night to get to one another’s houses.

That summer, Doris and I played golf with Norma and Megan several times.  My sister Teresa, Steve, Mike and Jeff came to visit us in Leawood for a few days.  They no longer lived in Greeley, but had moved to Arvada, Colorado.  I went to the Kansas City Zoo and Worlds of Fun with them.  It was strange to not have a back yard because Teresa had brought the kids to St. Joe often where I and the boys played in the back yard.  The condo was certainly different.  The house itself made strange noises at nights.  My parents said it is a new building and settling on a foundation.  I was depressed that summer, and finally I started griping about how I didn’t like the new place.  My dad wanted to know what I didn’t like, and all I could think of was how much I missed my dog and my friends in St. Joe.  I told him I couldn’t sleep at night because of all the noises the building made.  As a result, my father attempted to stay awake one weekday night and listen so he could demonstrate to me that the building wasn’t haunted.  Then, I really felt bad because I knew he would still get up and go to work the next day.  Finally, about 1 or 2 am he fell asleep in the chair with his neck bent funny so I woke him up and told he could go to bed now and thanked him for caring about me.

In August, Megan introduced me to Karen who would also play golf on the high school team.  I didn’t get to know Karen until the team started to practice after school in the fall.  She had a fraternal team named Kevin, and their family also lived in Leawood South.  Megan and Lisa often scored in the eighties and Karen often scored in the nineties.  Karen had broken 90, but on a bad day, she could score over 100 for eighteen holes of golf.  As a freshman, I sought to break 100, but on a bad day I could score over 110.  After only a few tournaments, I realized that I could bring down the whole team’s outcome with one my one bad score.  The team need alternate players who could score better than me because just four scores were required and made up the team’s score.  If I found alternates, than I wouldn’t be solely responsible for the team’s outcome.  I met Carla and Dee that freshman fall at Blue Valley High School and each of them agreed to practice and play with the girls golf team, except Dee also played Volleyball as a fall sport, so she had time constraints but worked something out with Coach Taylor so she could play with us a tournaments which meant one day a week out of school and on the golf course. We won the regional and state tournaments for 3A High Schools in Kansas.  The following year, Blue Valley would become a 5A Division High School which would mean stiffer competition.  Coach Taylor was the girls’ and boys’ golf coach and the boys’ basketball coach during the winter season.

The high school had some kind of agreement with Leawood South Golf Club for the girls to practice there in the fall and the boys’ team in the spring.  Coach Rick Taylor didn’t live in Leawood South.  He actually lived in a residential development near the high school.  He wasn’t a club member either, just a public servant.  He would play nine holes of golf with us a couple of days a week at Leawood South.  He would also rent a van and pick us up the morning of a golf tournament, and drive us to and from the golf tournament.  I had to learn their organized sports system in Kansas and new competitors like Shawnee Mission Schools, Piper, Louisville, Council Grove, Emporia, and Wakeeney.  Each of these schools would host a tournament during the season leading up to regional and state tournaments at the end of the season which awarded a lot of heavy medals that were sewed onto a varsity letter jacket but which became enormously heavy on one side of the coat by the end of four years of high school competition.

Megan and Karen were close friends to me during my freshman year.  We had sleep overs and rode the school bus to and from school.  They had many friends with vested interests in the fact that they had been in that school district together from grade school.  Todd S. was always loud and mean to me the minute I boarded the bus to go to school in the mornings.  There were a lot of sophomores and juniors as well.  There was one girl that lived near me named Susan who was my age.  She was pretty and popular but she didn’t play golf.  Her father did some kind of security work that she couldn’t talk about except that he wasn’t home much.  I never did get to know her well.  The boys continued to make fun of my eye or tell me how ugly I was my freshman year.  I started to pretend I could just blend into the lockers or the baseboard of the hall walls and disassociate from the ridicule.  Finally, in the following spring, Coach Taylor persuaded the boy golfers and boys in his gym class to be more sociable towards me.  I’m not sure I would made it through high school without Coach Taylor.

I would often play nine holes of golf in the evenings during the week, and Saturday evenings especially, because the course would be vacant.  That’s how I met Mr. Thorp.  Besides a beautiful home with a swimming pool, he owned his own golf cart.  He was a banker.  He liked to drive through nine holes of golf pretty fasht, and he would start asking me to join him.  Riding in a golf cart was a privilege to go with his 7&7’s and a little ziploc bag of cut limes for his drinks.  Mr. Thorp’s son was in my class at school.  I enjoyed talking to a rich man about golf, and Leawood South was his community.

In my freshman year, I came to class late one day.  Since I hadn’t reached the classroom, I didn’t have a hall pass to be in the school corridor.  I received one day’s suspension in the detention room from Dr. Austin, the principal.  That’s where I met Bill.  He was in the freshman class also, even in my Algebra I class.  We worked math problems together that day.  He also lived in Leawood South.  We played junior golf together the following summer and developed a platonic friendship although I don’t think he ever believed platonic friendships were possibly between the sexes.  He played golf on the boys’ team in the spring.  They had so many boys competing for Varsity golf positions that he played Junior Varsity golf before becoming a Varsity golfer for Blue Valley.  Dr. Austin played golf.  He would join the girls team for a practice in the fall, and he would join the boys team for a practice in the spring.  Sometimes, he would come to a golf tournament and meet the media when we won the state tournament.

Karen’s family was practical and moved to Leawood for the same reason my family did because of the impact that Leawood’s development would have on the market-value of the home when the property was resold.  In Karen’s home, you had to remove your shoes before walking on the carpet.  Kevin was a nice guy and would play golf on the boys’ team in the spring.  He wanted to eventually coach boys and teach them the game of golf.  He and his father shared a common interest in sports.  Their father was able to play golf during the week on the men’s day for golf which was Wednesday and sometimes Thursday.  My father would never take a day off work every week to play golf.  These men that could do so were a curiosity to me.  This community was comprised of doctors, lawyers, real estate developers, bankers, and business entrepreneurs.  Karen’s mom favored Kevin.  Karen had real intellectual goals and aspired to go to the University of Kansas, but she didn’t think she could get an academic scholarship.  Her father often threatened to not pay for her college education, and she had serious obedience and performance goals set by him for her achievement that would stress her out.  I think it was Karen’s feminine psychology that made her so boy crazy as a teenager.  She insisted that we go to Banana’s on Sunday afternoons.  Banana’s was a disco located on Metcalf that opened up for teenagers on Sunday afternoons for a few hours.  I think it was 5pm to 8pm with no alcoholic beverages served to minors of course.  I hardly knew anyone so of course I would go with her and meet boys that weren’t interested in me.  I would also listen to her talk about boys through nine holes of golf at practice.  I had never been friends with anyone like her though, so preoccupied with beauty and boys.  Mary Ann and Doris had always told me to not chase boys.  To Karen and her mother, boys and men were everything, the center of their lives.  Yet, Karen had serious goals and objectives for herself and wasn’t flighty or ditsy.  After about one year of friendship, Karen quit calling me on the phone and eventually quit the girls’ golf team too.

Megan was ever watchful for opportunities for me to serve community.  One time, my high school needed someone to wear the tiger mascot costume so I did the deed.  I met some of the cheerleaders with that gig. At the beginning of my sophomore year, my high school class needed a class treasurer because no one would run for election.  I did serve one year as class treasurer, a decision-making year for the class officers about fundraising for the prom.  Even though I lost the election race at the beginning of my junior year, I found a much more valuable position serving on the prom committee. In the summer of ’78 before my junior year, Doris and I volunteered at Leawood South when the LPGA held a golf tournament there.  We held up “Quiet Please” for the gallery when the lady pros were teeing off or putting.  It was neat to see them in person and not just on TV.  Mostly, I remember the caddies, black caddie.  One of them asked me to meet him after which was kind of thrilling, but which brought me face-to-face with racial taboos that I had been taught in racist St. Joe and within my family.  My role on the Prom Committee my junior year was inspiring for my career aspirations in business and the beginning of my professional interest in Asset Accounting.  The Prom Committee members would be selling candy that had been given to us by a wholesaler.  I would work with the Prom Committee Sponsor (high school faculty member) to count the money turned in for each box of candy sold (revenue) and issue a new box of candy (inventory) to the sales person.  If there was a serious cash shortage after the sale of a box of candy, the sales person could pay the difference to the prom committee to be issued a new box to sell.  Shortages of under $1 per box were forgiven by the Prom Committee.  I sold candy also. These candy sales went on for more than a year before we had enough money to have pay for a prom at a downtown hotel in Kansas City.

Doris had purchased my dad a set of used golf clubs when she bought mine.  He was never serious about the sport, but he would play at the Guys and Dolls Tournament at Leawood South which was a favorite annual tournament for Doris every fall.  That Christmas, we went to a company Christmas party at Bob Sleeker’s house in Overland Park, KS.  Doris and I sat on Santa’s lap, and then my dad sat on Santa’s lap for a laugh from everyone there.  I think that must have been his boss, Mike Hollowell, dressed as Santa.  The following spring of my freshman year, my father found out he had a tumor in his lung.  He had a biopsy and the cancer was found to be malignant.  He had mesothelioma which wasn’t caused by cigarettes but rather by asbestos.  He didn’t know where the asbestos came from, but he quit smoking.  At first, he experienced a kind of disparate attempt to seize hold of life.  He quit smoking and tried to ride a bicycle, but only briefly.  Then, he had part of one lung removed, followed by chemotherapy. Teresa and Steve and the boys returned to visit us in Leawood. That summer of ’78, my father went shirtless to show off his scar from surgery, and practiced his rehabilitation which was sucking in air and making a ball move around inside the breathing apparatus to strengthen his lung.  We had hoped that the malignancy was gone from his body.

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