Spiritual Autobiography (I)

At the same time that Lavon chose to separate from my life of sin, Doris told me to quit going to that church with those “fanatics” and “holy rollers.”  Doris and I had once attended a musical performance by All God’s Children to see Bob play the piano.  They had an altar call at the end.  I knew that was for me because Jesus died to forgive my sins, but Doris told me to sit down and not go to the altar then, and I obeyed her.  Doris primarily feared men and the Army, but she always had a vague fear of God too.  George’s beliefs pulled her toward agnosticism, but Uncle Hugh thought he was the church’s representative so his alliance with Doris was based in European feudal history and Holy Alliance.  Father Hugh thought he was reproducing tradition and said Doris accepted Christ in her later years.  There didn’t seem to be any justice in his worldview only mercy.  I was a junior in high school when I saw the movie, “Thief in the Night,” which was a creative work based on Bible prophecy.  I’ve been following Hal Lindsay since then.  I believe that the end times will bring a change in perspective about reproductive choice because of overpopulation and scarce resources.  Hal Lindsay only talks about feminism in the same breath with witchcraft, yet I have a theology that is inclusive of Christian feminists and repentant sinners.  Why don’t Christians care about the exclusion of feminism from the church and the vulnerability that creates for Satan to move into their lives?  Women’s Studies wanted to convince me to identify with Lilith as Adam’s outcast or castaway.  Instead, I have come to like the theological work of Carol P. Christ and the spiritual quest because I think Jesus’ calling is a spiritual quest and the end times pulls me toward the fulfillment of the quest, toward the throne of Jesus.

Mary Ann did come to Leawood when Doris asked her to come and help with the care of Dad.  Mary Ann was always helpful in my losing weight.  I began dieting in earnest in May.  Ken and Debbie delivered a baby girl named Cara in May.  My dad did know he had a granddaughter, and not just grandsons, before he died.  Even though he changed to a liquid diet, Doris brought him several nutritional supplements to try.  He decided he liked Ensure which was chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry flavored drinks.  She also made him jello, milk shakes, and soup.  He didn’t need meat any more since he was bed-ridden.  Teresa came back for a short visit with Dad while he was still coherent.  I and my siblings posed for a family picture, our last one together. Since my dad no longer drove, I was allowed to drive his 1976 Ford Thunderbird which was baby blue colored with a dirty white top over the roof and around the windows.  It was a gas-guzzler.  Mary Ann drove that car also, or sometimes Doris let her drive the beige Pontiac Bonneville, which was newer than the Ford.  I lost quite a bit of weight in May and June.  Chris C. asked me to go to a movie with him.  I didn’t tell Doris.  Mary Ann drove me to the mall to meet Chris for the movie, and he drove me home.  Chris C. and I were intellectually compatible but not physically.  He was thin like a string bean, and I was short and stout.  When he drove me home, he told me his mother’s Freudian narrative about feminine psychology to make the point that my psychology wasn’t feminine because I didn’t pine for a boy and a baby of my own.  I didn’t agree with his assertion that I was incomplete without a male.  I wanted relationships with boys just not the traditional courting ritual and script to follow that would lead me into domestic captivity enslaved with a husband and dependent children.  We didn’t go out together anymore after that discussion. In the spring of my sophomore year, a junior named Jim asked me to go to a baseball game with him.  I drove and met him at the game at a baseball diamond somewhere in Stillwell, Kansas.  He was a good kisser with a sensual sexuality, but he did dream of eventually having a family one day.  After going to that baseball game, Jim tried to kiss me in the school hallway.  I didn’t want to indulge in making out at school.  He called me a bitch and vanished from my life until social media reconnected us much later in life. I was feeling so dismayed by my relations with boys at school.  I thought that they were very immature and disrespectful to females.  Dee and Debbie were each developing new networks of friends outside of this high school that we attended.  Since I was impatient with the young boys that I went to school with, I began to look for older boys abroad, boys that I could objectify and that would teach me about sex without my high school community hearing all about it.

In June, I left with Megan and Julie on a flight from Kansas City to Raleigh, North Carolina.  We were met at the Raleigh airport from someone from the Pine Needles Golf Camp who brought us to the camp from the airport.  Bonnie Bell, and LPGA golfer, was somehow associated with this golf course which had been the site of the US Open at some previous point in history.  I remember gorgeous pine forests on the road trip from the airport to the camp.  Dormitory cabins for 3 or 4 girls each were nestled among pine trees.  Bermuda grass made it difficult to get any distance with the golf ball.  Kansas would get really dry during the summer and the ball would just roll and roll over dead grass.  This North Carolina course was mostly Bermuda grass, turf, and sand and pine needles. The camp instructors would just laugh at my used golf clubs.  They said I would never get any better with those tools.  Staying with my diet was a real challenge at golf camp because they served rich deserts in the dining area. Julie was a serious athlete. We helped each other resist the temptation of the tasty treats.  She jogged and rode her bike during the summer at Leawood South to burn calories and lose weight.  We would jog the Pine Needles golf course in the moonlight together.  I didn’t show her proper sympathy though when we fell over a rope in the dark. I laughed. She cried. I didn’t understand her ACL problems and that she would probably never play pro basketball because of her knee.  We walked home with a full moon to guide our path. Julie also liked to play card games and board games to pass the time.  Julie was the one that was most influenced by Pine Needles Golf Camp.  She would eventually become a LPGA Teaching Professional and a support of the LPGA qualifying school competitions.  She accumulated knowledge of the game of golf over years of competition.  On the return trip, I made a joke in the Raleigh airport about something threating in the curling iron or clock radio.  We were led into a room and prevented from boarding the flight.  I remember state troopers and a stern lecture about air safety.  We came home on a later flight and had to tell our parents why we didn’t make the original flight.

During our sophomore year at Blue Valley, Debbie and I grew too close.  The second semester, we shared a locker and spent too much time together.  We started to argue.  One day, she threw all my stuff out of “our” locker which made me laugh.  This was like sharing a full bed with Mary Ann.  I was a bed hog, and she stole all the covers.  Debbie had her own room and her own telephone at home.  One whole side of her room was covered with shelves of albums.  Her parents gave her so much money and so little attention.  She began to share her allowance with me, and I gave her all the attention that I could.  I was always poor though and couldn’t really keep up with her.  By July, my dad was in the hospital at Suburban Medical Center on Quivira Road in Overland Park, KS.  He was there one week and returned home.  He preferred to be at home but complications with his inner organs began to develop.  After a week or two at home, an ambulance brought him back to Suburban.  He was given a private room where Doris could sleep on a couch which made into a bed.  I was glad that I had been working on fitness and conditioning because one day, I had to ride my bike to the hospital since Doris and Mary Ann had both cars.  That was a long haul pedaling up Highway 150 past Metcalf to Quivira Road with no bike lane on any road.  My dad eventually went into a coma for a few weeks before he died.  His organs were beginning to shut down.  Then one day his breathing changed which was a sign to nurses that he would die soon so we all gathered around him about 5 or 6 am in the hospital where he stopped breathing.  I kissed his cheek to convince myself that he wasn’t there anymore.  I kissed a corpse.  Doris arranged a funeral at the funeral home.  Jimmy Carter sent a letter about my father’s veteran status.  Doris received a flag also from the government.  Uncle Hugh gave the eulogy. My father was cremated.  Doris and her brother-in-law Al who lived in Buena Park, CA took my father’s ashes to Maui the following winter.  I went along, but only Doris went up in the small plane over Maui to release his ashes forever.  When my dad had changed medicine from Demerol to the hard stuff, the Demerol prescription had just been filled.  I helped myself occasionally to these happy pills but did so slowly.  I don’t think Doris paid any attention to them.  She took Lithium pills for her nerves and too help her sleep.  I wasn’t interested in those Lithium pills at all.

Debbie’s birthday was in July.  Her parents paid for her and a few friends to go see the movie, The Empire Strikes Back.  Debbie liked the movie.  I couldn’t really understand the story since I wasn’t familiar with the characters especially the alien ones.  By August, Debbie had her own car.  Then, she stated working at the bowling alley on Metcalf.  She would have car expenses and payments to make during the next year. She was also interested in photography.  She had her own dark room at home and began to develop her photographs.  She would be photographer for the school yearbook and newspaper the following two years, in additional to her development as an athlete.  She offered to drive me to school every day.  She would drive even when I had to go to school early to count candy money for prom committee and issue boxes of candy to my classmates.  She would either practice basketball or develop photos in the school dark room during the early morning hours. During our junior and senior years, some boys began to call us lesbians which didn’t bother me because I read MS. Magazine, was influenced by Gloria Steinhem, and recognized the jibe as masculine resistance to feminist independence.  Simultaneously, Doris was taking me to medical specialists to find a medical reason for the appearance of my eyes, so many doctors and so many tests.  I think Doris said that we had cobra medical benefits for a while after my dad died.  We didn’t find a medical justification though for the plastic surgery so the operation was considered cosmetic.  I would have the plastic surgery operation the following year when I was a senior.  My junior year was an emotional adjustment.  A lot of my blocked and repressed emotional turmoil was beginning to surge after my dad died.  I was trying to process my grief, but I hadn’t realized how emotionally dependent I was on my father until he was gone.  The pain in my legs from cycling was often processed with emotional grief and rage, with love and hate.  I was also grieving the loss of aspirations, the loss of Prince Charming.  Since my femininity wasn’t really in submission to masculinity, I was grieving that I would never live in a development like Leawood South as an adult because I would never marry a rich white boy.  I was enjoying Junior Golf though because of Tommy Watson and the Kansas City Country Club.  They put together a junior golf program that would rotate through many private clubs in the Greater Kansas City Area so that juniors wouldn’t have to pay guest and greens fees to play at clubs where they weren’t member.  Each week, a different club would host a junior golf day.  I grew to love Indian Hills golf course although I would never be a member there.  I had come to know Marilyn who played for Shawnee Mission East High School.  Her Celtic heritage was evident in her dark hair and eyes, but I think she may have been adopted because Indian Hills members seemed to be old money and ivy grew on the walls of their houses. Her last name was Irish.  She graduated a year or two before 1981 when I would graduate from high school, and I missed her during my last two years of high school competition.

In the fall, I wrecked the Ford driving on 435.  It was raining.  The car started hydroplaning and sliding.  On the way off the highway, the car hit one of those big light poles and knocked it over.  I left the car in the gully off the side of the highway and found a pay phone to call Doris.  I was more worried about her anger than if I was hurt.  When she asked me if I was hurt, I said that there was blood all over. Our neighbor Pam’s husband Martin drove Doris to site of the accident.  I think we went to the hospital.  I remember the windshield was shattered and having little bits of glass picked from my haid in the emergency room.  The doctor or nurse told me that I had hit my forehead on the steering wheel, and  subsequently a tooth may die in about twenty years although they didn’t understand the connection.  There was no other car involved, nor substance use.  Doris saw the bill for the light pole and made a claim for it with the insurance company. She said I wouldn’t believe how much the light pole cost.

I remember one drunken night in Debbie’s car going to Haunted Houses in Kansas City on Halloween during our junior year.  That was a blast. Just before Christmas, Debbie’s parents had an office party.  Debbie and I were supposed to help her mother out at the party.  We had to wear dresses.  We had drunk grain alcohol drinks and smoked pot before we went into the party.  I don’t remember most of the night, but I hoped that I maintained my gracious etiquette.  I remember bits of laughing a lot and trying not fall off my heels while carrying a serving tray with food.  Richard and Ken were spiking my coke with Rum at our first family gathering without George at the Leawood condo.  Debbie gave me a bong for my 17th birthday which I hid under the driver’s seat of the Ford.  Doris found it the following spring, and I was grounded for a few weeks as a result.  Debbie loved REO Speedwagon.  She had a cassette player in her Ford Mustang which was brand new.  We went to Olivia Newton John’s Physical Tour at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, MO.

Algebra II was a challenge during my junior year.  Since Dad had told me that Doris wouldn’t pay for my college tuition, I lost my academic ambition.  I did take Spanish and French that year.  There were many semester electives like sociology, psychology, and world literature as well as required courses like American Politics and Speech and American Literature.  I performed well with the ACT, but didn’t take the PSAT.  Debbie and I enrolled in an Anatomy course where we dissected cats.  Fortunately, we formed a group with Julie and Shannon who did most of the biological work in the dissection.  Julie wanted to major in physical therapy or something requiring a scientific orientation in college.  Debbie and I also volunteered for the Publicity Committee for the school play.  We said we called radio stations. The play sold out every night so no one scrutinized our contribution or lack of contribution to the effort.

During the summer of 1980, Debbie started working at the 103rd street McDonalds Restaurant instead of the bowling alley.  We were both going to finish most of the required high school course work by the end of the first semester  of our senior year so we enrolled in college credit at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) while we were still in high school.  My friend Lisa from the high school golf team would enroll in Freshman English with me at JCCC.  Her father had given her a used card to get around so we would car pool for JCCC in the mornings and to Blue Valley in the afternoons during the 2nd semester.  Debbie didn’t enroll in freshman english at JCCC.  She enrolled in an introductory class to computer programming.

In the fall semester of 1980, I had a full load of classes at Blue Valley.  My golf game had not improved since I went to Pine Needles Golf Camp where I learned what a challenge a golf course could be to an amateur’s golf game.  My emotional turmoil mixed with alcoholic and pot gave me an attitude that wasn’t conducive to the composure and execution required to win the game.  I was rarely an alternate scorer for the team although I continued to play all the tournaments.  Values like honesty and integrity became more important than winning as well.  In fact, I felt besieged by moral issues during my junior year of high school.  Coach East caught me lying to her and never trusted me again.  My anger and rage at Doris turned into an oppositional defiance of cuss words and smoking cigarettes.  I met Sheryl who played for Emporia High School in 1980 at a regional high school golf tournament.  She chewed tobacco instead of smoking the stuff.  She was smart and witty and fun to be around.  I would meet up with her again in the summer of 1981 when I began college at Emporia State University (ESU).

During the fall semester of 1980, the girls golf team began selling trash bags door-to-door in Leawood South to raise money for a trip to Tan-Tara Resort at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri.  The trash bags were bright yellow.  Our school colors were black and gold.  Many people substituted yellow for gold when it came to school colors.  Somehow, we sold school spirit with those trash bags.  We wanted to pay for Coach Taylor and his wife Nancy to go with us because they were experienced with making hotel reservations and renting and driving us in a van.  Julie, Shannon, and I began selling raking services when people started to complain about their good-for-nothing sons that won’t rake the yard.  By the spring of 1981, we had enough money for the trip.

I enrolled in Senior English in the fall of 1981.  Bob Gerye was a knowledgeable teacher.  All seniors had to pass his English class in order to graduate high school.  He loved drama and was in charge of the school play each year.  He also knew much about England.  I asked him to help me write short fiction.  He shared his knowledge about Edgar Allen Poe and O. Henry.  He said that the Harlem writers during the Harlem Renaissance wrote good short stories. He also taught me about women writers in the English literary tradition like Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell.  He also recommended that I read the short stories of Guy de Maupassant.  After about a month of after-school writing lessons, Mr. Gerye left Blue Valley High School.  A substitute teacher was brought in to replace him.  I didn’t think she cared about the English language or BV students trying to get through Senior English.  I almost didn’t pass the class although I did complete the novel, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, for my final term paper.

My high school had raised enough money for a prom at a hotel in Downtown Kansas City.  Coach East did freelance work as a poetry editor for journals.  She was the judge for a poetry contest in which my poem won and was published in the prom program publication which also had the dinner menu and a list of prom committee members.  The theme song for our prom was “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters, and that was the name of my poem likewise.

Debbie and I went to visit Saint Benedict’s college in November as prospective students.  We stayed in a dorm room on campus.  I lost my virginity to a foreign student.  Debbie disappeared with someone name Jorge.  I didn’t see her until she returned the next morning.  I’m glad that I was mentally committed that year to not regaining the weight that I had lost.  I continued losing weight all year and cycled further and further distances on rural Kansas roads.  After we enrolled at JCCC, I went on a double date with Debbie.  She had met a Jordanian named Omar at JCCC, and I went out with them and his brother, Imad.  Imad was light-skinned with black, wavy hair.  He was gorgeous and twenty-one years old.  He was a pre-Civil Engineering major and worked as Assistant Manager at Hardees on Metcalf .  As an Assistant Manager, he had to cover absent employees’ shifts and worked all the time. Imad’s brother Omar was a pre-Electrical Engineering major.  They had an older brother named Baja who was an Engineering student at KU in Lawrence, Kansas.  I had turned 18 in December of 1980.  Imad asked to see my Driver’s License before we had sex as evidence that I was 18.  He didn’t want to be guilty of any sexual offense with a minor in Overland Park, Kansas.  When I was a teenager, I was not ovulating regularly.  The doctor said it would be difficult to get pregnant.  I was glad, but with rare and unpredictable periods I couldn’t tell if I was pregnant.  How do you know if you missed a period?  There was no telling when the egg dropped or if the egg dropped for that matter.  Anyway, we did love one another.  Imad was going to go to prom with me, and then said he didn’t have enough money and backed out.  He didn’t want me to leave for ESU that summer of 1981.  He proposed. I refused.  He wanted ten kids from his future wife, no way.

Besides attending JCCC three days a week for one class, I worked in the high school office for one hour every day learning to file, answer phones and take messages, and perform clerical tasks as assigned.  It was an elective credit that I needed to graduate. During this semester, I read Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and memorized the music of “Rhapsody in Blue” for my piano recital in March.  Doris was shelling out money for gas for the car and for a graduation cap and gown.  She refused to pay for a family club membership in 1981, and I could no longer play golf at Leawood South unless she paid guest green fees to the club.  She began to draw Social Security survivor benefits after George died.  Then, Johnson County gave her the title to the condominium before I was a legal adult in Kansas which was eighteen years old.  Social Security survivor benefits would also pay for the first year of my college, but then Ronald Reagan began phasing out the school benefit program in 1982.  Doris was opening my mail and depositing the Social Security benefits check issued to me into a trust account that I couldn’t access until I was twenty-one years old.  She and I had also invested my inheritance from Aunt Jane’s life insurance into CD’s at the bank which I couldn’t cash.  I was so poor.  After graduation, I left for ESU in May with the Ford Thunderbird.  Doris paid for my classes out of that trust account.  I had no money on the weekends for food, alcohol, and cigarettes, and only a little money for gas.  She sent me so little money once a month.  Grandma lived in Emporia and so did my aunt Barb and her husband Keith.  Doris said I couldn’t take the bicycle because she “may” want to ride it.  I was subjugated to her financial abuse just like I had been to her psychological and emotional abuse as a child.  My rebellion would sprout some wings at ESU but in ways that only harmed me.

 

 

 

 

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