Spiritual Autobiography (J)

After my father died in August of 1979, Doris wanted a week to herself to grieve and adjust.  Teresa came to Leawood for the funeral.  Then, I flew back with her to Colorado.  One day, we met Aunt Jane for lunch in Boulder.  Then, Jane drove us around the University of Colorado(CU) Boulder campus.  The campus seemed huge to me.  Teresa thought that I could work in Colorado and establish residency to attend CU.  When I saw the CU Football Stadium, though, I felt kind of scared.  I understood that my fear was a result of my emotional immaturity, but that didn’t help me overcome this negative emotion.  Jane said that CU didn’t have a Women’s Studies program, only a few classes and possibly a certificate.  I was interested in Feminism, but I didn’t know what I could do with a degree in Women’s Studies.  I wanted to major in Psychology.  I was interested in neither Psychoanalysis nor Freud.  I felt fascinated by dendrites, synapses, and neurotransmitters or chemical absorption in the Central Nervous System.  I think I declared Psychology as a major at ESU.

Aunt Jane died a year after we had visited the CU campus from a cerebral aneurysm.  She had two living sisters at the time, Barb and Peg.  Peg was a real estate agent and was married to Jim.  Jim was Jane’s Executor for her estate.  My birth mother Shirley was a beneficiary to Jane’s life insurance policy from her employment at CU.  As Shirley’s children, Teresa, Ken, and I were secondary beneficiaries.  As I grew up, Dad had taken Doris, Mary Ann, and I to visit Barb and Keith several times after we had visited Grandma in Emporia.  After Jane and George died, Doris and I went to Emporia to play nine holes of golf with Barb, Keith, Peg, and Jim. Keith had been the ESU football coach for years and in 1981 was Director of the ESU Athletic Department.  He also was the men’s golf coach. Barb didn’t have a professional identity.  She was mother to my cousins Doug and Mike.  She and Keith loved the movie, Pat and Mike.  I think she identified with Katherine Hepburn in the movie because of her association with Keith and Jane in post secondary education’s athletics.  Anyway, Jane’s sisters didn’t live the native tradition like Pop did.  Barb role-modeled feminine psychology.  She and Keith wanted to assimilate as white Americans.  They thought this was the best way to support Doug’s role as an U.S. Air Force officer.

I moved into the Morse Hall dormitory on the ESU campus.  Dormitory residency was required of all freshmen.  My dorm room was on the ground floor.  The dormitory building had a door that led into a foyer at a ninety degree angle to the residence halls which were perpendicular to the door.  The foyer opened into a TV or commons room.  In the summer, my roommate was Debbie from Burlington, Kansas.  In the fall, we were joined by Becky from Hays, Kansas and Renee from Dodge, Kansas. Becky had a vivacious personality and had been a cheerleader in Hays.  She had a curly blond permanent in her hair that was just long enough to cover her ears that made me think of Goldilocks.  In contrast, Renee was a dish-water blond with straight, shoulder-length.  She seemed quiet in contrast to Becky.

When I moved into the dorm room, I met Debbie who was already there.  She was a brunette like me.  I asked her to go to the bars with me that first night.

“I’m from a small town where ladies don’t go to bars unescorted,” she exclaimed.  After I said that I was from Kansas City, she added, “I get that conventional wisdom from my mother.  I may have to think that one through.”

I went to the bar by myself that night.  Barb came to visit my dorm room in a few days.  We went for a walk together.  Barb had been upwardly mobile in Emporia after the boys moved away.  Her climb seemed to have peaked when they joined the Emporia Country Club.  She and Keith owned a home near campus and planned to retire to New Mexico.  They usually had me over to their house for dinner on Sundays while I was at ESU because that cafeteria card Doris had bought wasn’t covering my needs and expenses.

Doris had been endorsing my Social Security checks by writing “For Deposit Only,” on the back of the check and depositing them into a checking account with both of our names on the account.  However, the bank account was a Missouri trust account that required me to be twenty-one years old to make a withdrawal of money.  Then from those deposited funds, Doris paid the tuition, the dorm rent, and bought a meal card to the cafeteria in the Student Union that was only good during the week.  She also sent me $100 a month from the Social Security funds and expected that to suffice for food on the weekends.  Since the money I received from Doris went to alcohol, cigarettes, and to pay back small loans, the Ford was only filled with gas once a month.  People I knew at ESU called the Ford “a tank.”  It was four-door gas guzzler.  We took it one weekend to the clubs in Topeka.  Even though it was a gas guzzler, it could hold more people who chipped in to pay the gas.

After I met my roommate Debbie, I met people in the TV or commons room.  Early every morning, an older lady watched TV there wearing her robe and slippers.  I tried to get to know her.  She said she wasn’t a freshman, and spoke with a tone that suggested I shouldn’t be conversing with her.  She was a teacher and was taking a graduate course at ESU during the summer.  Emporia State was known in Kansas as a teachers’ school.  I didn’t ask the robed figure any more questions about herself.  Since I often missed the curfew at night, I would see her in the morning when the dormitory doors opened.  I also would sometimes cram for exams overnight in the commons area because the light at my desk would bother my roommates if I stayed in the dorm room while I read four or five chapters into the dawn hours when the robed figure would enter the TV room.

During the summer of 1981, a Malaysian student wearing a shift or wrap-around skirt made of linen or muslin material, with flip-flops or thongs on his feet like he lived in the tropics somewhere between the coastline and the jungle, was also often in the TV room.  He knew very little English.  Trying to communicate with him reminded me of a middle school experience in which I had to teach a Russian immigrant the English language with no knowledge of the Russian language, often requiring me to draw a picture or act out like in a game of charades where there are no words.  He was watching TV to learn English.  He was new to the United States.  He only knew where his dorm room was on campus and where the English as a Second Language (ESL) department was on campus.  The only help for him was the ESL department.  He wore a skirt and thongs until November when he first saw snow.  Then, someone in the ESL department helped him get some shoes and a winter coat.  After he learned to speak English better, he made some Muslim friends at ESU.

Jesus would continue to reach from me because He had died for me.  Jena was the Christian vessel who made me understand the depth of Christian love.  Jesus was a moral authority that would spiritually hold me accountable, and love was the means by which I would acquire Christian virtue.  Jena lived on the same floor in Morse Hall at ESU.  She was brought up to live her faith and model Christian love, the kind of love described in the Bible in Corinthians 13:4.  We talked quite a bit during the summer semester at ESU.  Jena was not a freshman so she already knew many people that would return in the fall to fill the dormitory.  Jena had pretty eyes that were beginning to fail her functionally.  She already carried a stick like a blind person although she rarely needed this aid to get around.  She was friends with many Christians.  Because of her growing disability, she had made many Christians friends that were physically- challenged with a variety of disabilities.  Jena was always reaching out to others with the Christian gospel.  She herself had little money although she didn’t lack a charitable attitude. Her patient and forbearing love often lead non-Christians to take advantage of her and the little money she had including me.  Jena forgave me for my inebriated actions including the time that she tried to wrestle my car keys out of my hands when I wanted to go out.  She ended up on the floor, but I didn’t hurt her physically in the tussle.  Jena was the first person to whom I had to make amends.  I began to have serious blackouts with my binge drinking that summer.  One morning, I couldn’t remember where I left the Ford, so I went to the last place I did remember.  Fortunately, that person knew where I had left my car the previous evening.

I attended my first AA meetings in Emporia.  The AA meetings weren’t on campus.  The people who spoke at the meetings were much older adult alcoholics with damaged relationships and families, failed jobs, and lost dreams because of drinking alcohol.  I could only work the first step of their program.  Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual and moral program of recovery.  I believe Jesus led me to this fellowship because He would become my Higher Power that I would need to establish sobriety in my life as a young adult.  Jena knew of another Christian group that owned a home next to the campus.  They rented some rooms in the house to students who also ate meals in the home.  That group invited me to dinner before we went to see Mike Warnke speak about his book, Satan Seller.  That group also received a grant from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to setup a fellowship and prayer group for young women on campus.  They rented a room in the Student Union and setup a table in the room with chips or treats and soda pop.  Many female athletes attended ESU on athletic scholarships, and many female athletes were majoring in Physical Education to become teachers and coaches in Kansas.  At the fellowship group for young women on campus, I met someone who became very important to me, but someone who was deeply troubled because her father was  a Pentacostal minister and someone who hated herself because her father would never understand who she was.  At the end of our relationship, her future was an open question about whether she would live a lie just to keep her relationship on good terms with her father or not.  She would not be the first child of a Pentecostal minister that I would meet who had to make difficult decisions about sexual orientation and felt ostracized by important people in their families for who they were.

That summer of 1981, I was enrolled in Introduction to Psychology and Interpersonal Communications courses.  I was delighted to find Sheryl in the psychology course, the girl I had met the previous fall at the high school girls golf regional tournament..  The teacher of the psychology course was discouraging because he was clearly tired of his subject.   He was an old man who lectured in monotone and made Pavlov’s dog and behavioral conditioning into boring material.  I did learn though that I wouldn’t be able to do much with a Psychology degree unless I also earned a Masters degree.  I kind of liked the “one day at a time” approach of Alcoholics Anonymous when it came to the financing that I would need for Higher Education because I knew I didn’t have the money and wasn’t sure I ever would have the funds to complete the prerequisites for a profession or career.  Sheryl was charming and witty.  She had many friends with whom she played softball.  In contrast, I didn’t know any softball players other than her. I heard she was good at softball.  The young women that I knew at ESU from Kansas City played women’s rugby or women’s basketball.  Through these women, I met many others who lived in Wichita and Topeka.  During the following fall semester, I met Lee Ann, a graduate psychology student.  I volunteered to take a test for her graduate research in Psychology.  She administered a Rorschach test to me.  After I had left ESU in 1982, I heard that Lee Ann had died.  She was said to be a good driver but had driven her car into a big tree at a high rate of speed.  People who knew her said she had killed herself which made me feel sad for her and for psychology as a discipline. I went on at ESU to take Developmental Psychology course at ESU also, but the course wasn’t based on the “live cycle” so I had to enroll in Developmental Psychology again in the nineties when I attended the Community College of Denver so I would complete the “life cycle” version which is an important component of Human Services’ knowledge base to professionally help people.

During the course in Interpersonal Communications, the teacher passed around a paper on which students were to put their address and telephone number.  I didn’t anticipate a problem with disclosing that information; however, a male African student decided he liked my smile.  He began to show up at my dorm room in Morse Hall and to repeatedly call me.  I made incremental decisions along the way that I thought would alleviate the situation and only made matters worse.  Finally, I thought I would go out with him socially to a club and convince him that I wasn’t interested.  The night turned into a disaster.  He had an underage girlfriend who chased that night with her friends onto campus.  I thought I would run between two campus building in the dark which was the worst mistake of all.  She was prosecuted by the State of Kansas for assault and battery on state property.  I was just a witness to a crime, although ESU campus police took many photos of my black eyes and bruised face.  I had tried to lay down and pretend I was unconscious so she would stop hitting me in the face.  She then proceeded to jump on my rib cage with both feet several times.  I hurt more in the ribs which were bruised than I hurt in my face.  I scared my roommate Debbie when I came into the dorm because I had had a white top on that was really stained from a nose bleed.  The campus police called Barb and Keith to take me to the hospital which they did.  I slept overnight at their house that night.  I had really upset people in the dorm because I was such a mess. Since the defendant in the crime was a minor child her name didn’t ever become public knowledge even when she was tried in September.

The trial began during rush week so I had to go to court and miss some important rush activities in order to testify.  I wasn’t really interested in the greek system of sororities and fraternities.  I didn’t understand that sorority sisters might be good connections to have in a later professional career or anything like that.  Barb had been in a sorority so I could claim a legacy from her, but I saw the Greek system with lackluster.  I was at one sorority party that included cookies and Koolaid, when Sheryl and some other girls showed up outside the sorority house and convinced to leave the sorority to get drunk with them.  They seemed to be having a much better time that I was.  That was the end of my interest in sororities, no more dress up and tea parties for me.

I started the spring semester of 1982 at ESU.  I had a new dorm room in Central Morse Hall with a girl who just wasn’t friendly.  I didn’t like my situation.  Fortunately, a woman named Anne from Massachusetts was looking for a roommate so I requested to share a dorm room with her.  She had a rebellious streak also and was highly intelligent.  She shared knowledge with me from her advanced course classes in Psychology at ESU.   Her grandparents owned a farm just outside of Emporia, KS that her family would one day inherit.  I enjoyed the spring semester because of Anne and people who Anne knew.  I also conversed from time-to-time with Jena who I would see in the dorms and in the cafeteria.  She didn’t eat in the cafeteria though only in her room.  The previous fall, I had worked for a month or so as a cashier at Site Oil, a convenience store and gas station on 6th Ave.  Because of the Social Security benefits that I received, I could only work a few hours a week which I did.  At the time, I was seeing a Yemini man that I will call Nate, a foreigh student at ESU who was twenty-five years old.  I eventually quit the job at Site Oil because I preferred to go out with Nate on the weekends rather than count inventory on the store shelves and measure the gasoline in the tanks outside of Site Oil.  I never grew bored with counting money though.  Nate was a pre-civil engineering student and studied calculus with his friends during the week.  I usually only saw him on the weekends although we would talk on the phone several times during the week.  In the Freudian sense, this relationship was much like the one that I had with my father since my father had frequently traveled for business during the week and was only home on the weekends.  I loved Nate, and he was good to me during the time I knew him.

After I left ESU in May of 1982, I moved back in with Doris in Leawood, KS.  Doris pressured me to find full-time work during the summer before I began the Fall Semester at Johnson County Community College (JCCC).  I worked for one month at Allstate as a claims investigator on the telephone.  I would make the initial call to customers after an Allstate claim was filed.  I learned advanced telephone skills as well as how to get precise information from customers with the questions that I asked them.  My work there was prepatory to the claim advisor’s decision-making role with the company.  I had a personality clash with the supervisor who wanted to micro-manage everything I did.  I wasn’t used to having to be at my desk by the end of my fifteen-minute break or having to be accountable by a time clock for when I punched in and out.  After a month, I just quit that job.  Once I had enrolled at JCCC for the fall semester, I found a job listing in their career office for a part-time file clerk at an accounting office located on College Boulevard right behind Leawood South where I was hired.

I continued to correspond by letter with Jena who still resided at Morse Hall at ESU.  We quit writing to one another a year later when her eyesight began to fail.  I felt sad that the person who had brought light into my dark world was losing her vision and entering a dark world of her own.  She couldn’t read my letters any more, and felt uneasy with asking her personal assistant or another student to read my letters to her.  She didn’t want her loss of sight to be a burden for anyone else.  She was always so thoughtful.  I hope the Light that she shared with me will never be extinguished in my life.  I had learned from Jena the difference between God’s love and will and the love from my personal relationships with people in the material world that wasn’t so forgiving or steadfast.  I knew I need God’s love for redemption and continued to walk toward that Light.  Maybe I will meet Jena again in Heaven one day.







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