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Memoir - 1984

Betty, a former model, intelligent, up-beat Betty. For the next two years, the four of us met after work once a week at one or the other’s place. The hostess cooked, making lovely dinners, then we each shared what we were reading at the time. We decided to learn to meditate and practiced together. We had a lot of laughs sharing dating experiences since three of us were single. Betty, married, reminded us of the funny, funny things that had happened to all of us in our marriages. We became the best of friends.


I spent those two years learning to meditate in order to empty my controlling mind and be open to wisdom, to knowing. I used mantras recited to and from work to clear my mind of clutter. “Why did he say that this morning?” or “I should not have eaten that extra sweet roll this morning,” or “I hope today goes well at the office,” you know, that clutter. I chose to use the mantras to keep my mind open to wisdom. I don’t know what or how this universe came about or what it is in the larger scheme of things but I do feel I have some inner guidance when I remain open to wisdom.


I believe that our conscious thoughts and behaviors affect our health, our appearance, the quality of life and to some extent the course of our life. Of course, we have no control over birthplace or genes or the personality we begin to awaken to as we grow out of infancy. Of course, circumstance of environment influences the person we become as we grow into adulthood, but I believe that at some point we have the option, the opportunity, perhaps even the responsibility to influence the course of life with our beliefs and behaviors. I believe we program the subconscious daily to form our body and mind for the future and are surprised when “life” gives us lemons, forgetting that we wrote much of the script ourselves.


As I learned to meditate and consciously open myself, to release control, I began to feel more alert and aware. I began to write poetry, it simply poured out of me. I, not that I recommend it, wrote poetry on my cardboard sun-screen while driving to work because it just poured out of my head and I had to get it down. I took a drawing class and did well. I began to draw and paint with acrylics. I painted landscapes and portraits and more. It was a glorious time.


1984

****

In less than two years after Scott and Chuck were born, Mike and Lynn, Peg and Donnie and Cris and Eugene were pregnant.  Peggy had a doctor’s appointment hopping to discover the sex of her baby and I was invited to tag along. Donnie was late and had not arrived but the nurse began and the sonogram began to appear on the screen. I thought, “Geeze, I can’t make heads or tails of that. It looks like two heads.”


About that time the nurse said, “Oh my, there are two.”“Two what?” asked Peggy.


“You have two babies. You are having twins,” the nurse said. She was as excited as we were. No, more like it, we were stunned. Excitement came through the door as Donnie rushed in and we all had to look again.                 

                                   

Soon after, the family gathered at my apartment for dinner. We had two little guys running about and were amazing that we had all these babies due at the same time.


“Jeeze guys, I asked for babies and you really know how to deliver,” I joyfully complemented.


As we sat around after dessert, pregnant Cris and her husband, Gene stood up and said, “We have a surprise.” They held up two little rubber baby dolls. We all sat silently staring at those little dolls. Finally, someone spoke (I think it was Mike.)


“Are you saying you are also having twins?”


“Why else would I be this huge?” asked Cris. She was enormous and was already very uncomfortable.



CYCLES

 

I watch my children struggling with loves and life,

See them so serious dealing with happiness and strife.

It’s as if I am a prism with life shining through,

Once again, there I am dealing with life anew.

Here my darling let me show you how to avoid

The mistakes, the sorrow, so you won’t be annoyed

With life’s problems and tangles tugging at your mind.

I can speak with the voice of experience, from my life of that same kind.

 

But it seems they are not interested in my ideas and advice.

After all their lives are “special, different, unique” to be precise.

Does this sound familiar like something often said

Long ago to loving friends, to mother and dad?

What a cycle we’ve created looking forward and reverse,

An old familiar melody, same song, different verse.

I look at all men running here, limping there.

I observe each life and see joys and despair.

It seems their past and future too are but a mirror of my own,

Searching, as we do, for something perfect and unknown.

 

We are all so very special, we couldn’t possibly be the same.

How can I even imagine all lives are but the same game

Played at random with different faces and settings and skills,

Causing struggle, even wars from a clashing of wills.

I see the many prisms so clear and so bright,

Such beauty shining through, we’re all points of that same light.

Each life with its struggle with passion and death,

No recognition of who we are, a reflection at best.

 

I am startled as I see our sameness and deeply know

What I’m living is only a dream with nowhere to go.

As we strive and shop and clean for a limited time,

I turn to the source of the light, I search, I mime.

I meditate at length, reach out for wisdom desired.

I try to fix my children, save the world, never tire.

Then again I hear the knowing entrenched within my heart,

I’m not to judge, not to fix, only love, that’s my part.

So I’ll keep working and playing and answering the phone,

Searching as we do for something perfect and unknown


Blond, blue eyed baby girl, Dominee, was born to Mike and Lynn February of 1984 and twin boys to Cris in March. Her pregnancy was painful, she was bedridden the final month because she gave birth to two almost seven-pound boys.


Peggy, however, had an easier pregnancy, but when the tiny girls were born, Amy was whisked away, some problem. The doctor soon came in to tell us that Amy was hydrocephalic.


“Is that bad? We don’t really know what that means,” her mother asked.


“There is too much water in her head. We will get the water drained off and make an evaluation.”


“How do you do that?”


“We will put a tube in her head and drain the water into her stomach.”


“Oh, OK,” said her mother with complete confidence that the doctors would make everything ok.


Paula, her twin, was doing fine but the girls were so very tiny and fragile looking we were nervous trying to hold them.


The morning that the doctors were to share their evaluation of Amy’s condition, I received a phone call at work from Peggy, she was crying, sobbing.


 “There is little brain matter. She probably won’t live long.”


“Oh my god! Peg.”


“Donnie isn’t here. He hasn’t gotten here yet.”


“I’m on my way.”


I rushed into my daughter’s room at the hospital where she lay sobbing and we clung to one another.


How could I help her? How could this be?


They took the girls home with the admonition that Amy could not possibly live long. Peg and Donnie put monitors close to the babies and held their breath. Amy hung in there just like her sister Paula and when they took the girls in for their first check-up Amy had much more brain matter than when she left the hospital.


“No, that’s just not possible,” the doctors said. They rechecked all the past tests and records and took more images.


Still, “That’s just not possible. Brain matter does not grow after birth,” they repeated.


Well, they took the girls home and when Paula crawled, Amy crawled and - - - to make a long story short, at thirty years old, Amy had a job, an apartment, a car and a baby boy. Completely deaf, she hears and speaks clearly with two cochlear implants. Do not play dominoes or any other game with her. She will, “whip your butt.” Amy is unable to foresee consequences from actions, which, of course, limits her, but she has a mom that has given much of her life to bring Amy to as normal a life as possible.


                                                                                                ****

I became concerned about Cris’ and Eugene’s parenting when their boys were little. I dropped by the apartment to find Cris and Eugene stoned in a dark living room with two little two-year-old boys in their crowded, small bedroom with the admonition, “Do not come out.” Consequences were corporal if they did. Eventually, Cris said, “Don’t come over mom. It just makes things worse between Gene and me.” The family even considered trying for custody of the boys. We thought the discipline was harsh and non-consistent, but there was no serious abuse or neglect that we could take to court.  


Sleeping Boy

 

There is the face of this beautiful child

Whom I love so true.

There is the hand of my boy so fair

Reaching up to the blue.

There is the heart yet filled with love

Imprisoned there within.

There is the soul darkly enmeshed in life,

Confusion at the din.

 

See in his face, glowing peacefully in sleep,

At rest from the world.

See in his hand, gone limp on his chest,

The fingers slightly curled.

Look at the peace that surrounds my boy

As he escapes in rest.

See in his form the inner light

With him through this test.

 

Cris called one night crying, hysterical. I picked her up on a street corner not far from their apartment naked wrapped in a quilt with a little boy under each arm. Divorce followed soon after.


Cris never felt she belonged. She seemed depressed as a teenager. She always brought those that had been rejected at school home with her, the misfits. She told me often that she felt she didn’t belong in the family. “You and Peg and Anna are petite. I am so big.”


“You are your handsome father’s daughter. You have his thick, wavy hair. Look at your beautiful face and body. You are beautiful.”


“I don’t feel beautiful. I feel big and stupid.”


She had followed four siblings through the school system. She never felt she measured up to their reputation. I do believe we influence our child in the womb as she forms. Did the fact that I was so troubled, in a sad state over my marriage, that I did not want to be pregnant for the fifth time plant this sadness in my child?


“I hate these big legs. I just feel like an outsider,” she would complain. One of the first things Cris said to me when she called to announce she had met someone after her divorce was, “and he even loves my big legs.”


After her divorce, I tried to help Cris as much as possible. She called on her brother Mike often and in addition to working on her old cars he contributed money and groceries. She had a hard time keeping jobs. Mike and I had both given her our credit card to buy groceries and she bought jeans and had her nails done instead. We didn’t do that again. My main goal at that point was to make sure the boys had enough to eat and periodically took groceries. I took the boys to buy school clothes as did their father. I picked them up some weekends and we went to museums and the zoo and parks and fed the ducks.


Robert Lee had a house on the Gulf Coast and we took the boys down to spend time on the beach.

Cris remarried, but it didn’t last. She had many physical issues that kept her in constant pain. Drugs became a problem. The boys were rebellious throughout their school years and dropped out early. Andy was diagnosed as bipolar as a child and as a grown man was sent to prison for twelve years.

Preparing to go, he called, “Gran, I’m so scared,” he whispered on the phone. -- -- Sobbing, I could only say, “I know, I know.”


“They say I’ll be out in six.”


“Oh my god Andy. I was hoping for more.”


Andy had been incarcerated for months and his mother had not visited him. Living in Colorado at that time, I flew down and his mother and I visited. He was doing well, healthy and upbeat. He had taken every class they had offered and we were all hopeful. He was upbeat and saying all the right things about the future. But the illness keeps him struggling with life.


Reese grew into an exceptional, fine man, finished his education and is raising his two girls.


                                                                                                ****

Those thirteen children I had wanted? Well, five children, their spouses and those wonderful grandchildren and WaLa! I had that and more.


After years of trying to have a child, Anna and David adopted our beloved “Baby John,” a name that stuck well into adolescence to John’s chagrin. Within a year Anna was Pregnant.


The first Christmas after the twins were born, we gathered in my small house to celebrate, a Christmas with tree, tricycles, wrapping paper and ribbons, new toys, twelve adults, two two-year old toddlers and five babies. At the end of the day, two of my sons-in-law said, “Mom, were not doing this again.”


But we did. Years later, when the grandchildren now numbered nine and were much older and bigger, we gathered at my nice, roomy apartment in Bedford, Texas. All the families came. They came from Colorado and all points of Texas and now, the kids needed bicycles, basketball hoops and all sorts of large gifts. Once again, the tree, paper, gifts, ribbons, people, Christmas dinner - - - well my apartment was not THAT roomy and once again my sons-in-law moaned, “Mom, we gotta stop doin this.”


*****

As I closed out my Business Brokerage, still working for Educational Equipment Company, the owner of one of our competitors, School House AV in Plano, Texas north of Dallas, called me. We had spoken in the past when one or the other needed equipment for an emergency.


“I hear you don’t have enough to do over there.”


“Who told you that?”


“Your salesman. Why don’t you come work for me?”


“Drive to Plano every day in our terrible traffic?  Even no traffic would eat up half my life.”


“I want to open a branch in Arlington. Come run it for me.”


“Hmmmmm,” thinks I.


“Let’s meet for lunch tomorrow and talk,” says he.


                                                                                                ****

I loved our new office in Arlington, a small city between Ft. Worth and Dallas, a short commute for me. There were three of us, my assistant and her husband, the repair/delivery guy. They were a cute couple with two small boys. I enjoyed working with them and we were really busy with sales, repairs and deliveries and pick-ups. Inventory control was more demanding than Educational Equipment had been.

The repairman, we’ll call him Guy, was always after his poor wife about something sexual they disagreed about. I would discreetly go to the warehouse in back when that started, but eventually he would try to draw me in.


“Do you see anything wrong with a mirror in the bedroom? She had no problem with a mirror in the bedroom when we first married.”


I finally had to say, “Guy, that’s just not appropriate conversation for the office.”


However, his wife confided in me that she had “Gotten religion” and really felt sex was dirty and “Besides, I’m uncomfortable having sex with our boys in the house. Our house is small and Guy is noisy.”


Oh geeze, that “religion” thing again. I simply listened and gave no advice, but when she decided to go on a diet she asked for advice. We talked about salads and low-calorie foods and she decided on the 200 calorie diet drinks. After a week she complained that she was gaining weight.


“You’re having breakfast and I know you bring a salad for lunch, are you having the diet drink for dinner?”


“Yes, but it is hard to get that diet drink down after a big meal.”


Be calm Barb. Don’t embarrass this woman,” I am saying to myself. When I mentioned to her that the diet drink was to replace a meal, not add to it. She was shocked.


“I’d starve to death if that was all I had for dinner,” she moaned.


One day, complaining about her grocery bills, she talked about the cost of those little cheese and cracker packs she got the boys for school lunch. I suggested she buy a block of cheese and a box of crackers and make the lunches from that. It would cut the expense by more than half.


“Oh, I can’t afford that.”


“That expense will pay for several weeks of lunches. In the long run you will be spending much less per day.”


“Her eyes glazed over and she just stared at me. I don’t think she was ever able to pull that off.


                                                                                                ****

As Jewell and Alice and Betty and I continued to visit the “New Age” church in Dallas, I met Howard Johnson, a nephew of the Howard Johnson that started the hotel chain. His career had been establishing and management of the restaurants in those hotels. He had been retired for years, but was working with the city of Irving on a building project. He was a very nice person, charming and affable. After our paths crossed several times, and he became aware of my work history, he asked if I might be available to work with him on his Irving project part-time. He needed secretarial help and suggested evenings three days a week. The second week he suggested dinner out one night and I demurred. The third week he let me know that he was also a masseuse. “Would I like a massage?”


“Howard, I am not interested in a relationship,” I cautioned.


“Oh, no suggestion intended. I’m a really good masseuse and just thought you might enjoy a free massage,” he alarmed.


The third week, Howard came back into the room completely nude where I was working.


“What the hell Howard?”


“Barb, nothing untoward here. I’m a member of a nudist colony and have a meeting to attend after we finish here. Would you like to attend with me? Nothing sexual, just a group of dear friends who feel comfortable being natural. You could undress in my bedroom. I could even give you a massage before we leave for the meeting.


Needless to say, it took me about five minutes to give notice and be out the door and into my car.


Sadly, Howard died before he and the city could complete their grandiose plans.


I was invited to a Regression Meditation during that same period and since I was still struggling to discipline myself to meditate, or should I say let go enough to meditate, I was eager to go. The door was opened after I rang the bell, I am sure by a person, but all I saw was a huge standard sized blond poodle greeting me. He was powerful. I immediately knew he had been a male lion at one time.  He turned and walked away to lead me into the room with me thinking, “What the hell was that?”


A dozen women sat around that room chatting until our leader asked us to lie on the carpeted floor. Once all was quiet, he began to talk us down, down into relaxation. I heard his voice for only a short time for I was soon elsewhere. I was a tall, handsome Arab man locked in a jail looking through thick, carved wooden bars. I was peering through those bars thick as table legs at a beautiful woman in flowing Arabian Nights style dress of blues and violets. A flowing wrap draped over her long, thick black hair. We looked into one another’s eyes as she signaled a servant to set the jail aflame. I knew I had it coming. That woman would be Robert in this life.


As everyone stirred, I arose also barely aware of the others in the room. My experience had been as real as my breath. I expressed my gratitude for the experience in a daze as I made my exit.


****

Jewell, Alice and Betty and I continued to spend time together. Alice and Jewell decided to have some work done. Face Lift work. With few wrinkles and even less sagging, they wanted to look thirtyish instead of fiftyish. On a lark, we three had joined an on-line dating service, made videos and had a few dates. The two of them had not been happy with the responses they had received, thus the face work. We had all had some hilarious experiences with some who had replied to our videos, but were soon tired of the tired.


I took chicken soup to Jewell’s house where the two of them were recuperating from their face lifts to be greeted by a horrendous apparition at the front door. They were swollen and black and blue. I wished them well, a speedy recovery and hoped the end results would be worth the suffering.


                                                                                                ****

I drove to our main office in Plano, north of Dallas, once a week for a meeting and as I started home one spring day it was pouring rain. There were strong winds and the rain just never let up. I finally braved the elements to get to my car, I really needed to get back to Arlington over an hour away. It was almost 3:00 in the afternoon. As I drove, the rain poured heaver and heaver. I could not see other cars on the road except faint head lights and tail lights that were really close. We were all creeping along. As I was slowly driving past the fence just off the airport, I heard a roar that sounded like a plane was trying to land on top of my car.


When I got back to the office in Arlington there was a message to call my boss. He was in a rage.

“Nice try. If I hadn’t called, I would not have known you had taken three hours to get to Arlington. A little shopping trip along the way?”


I mentioned the storm and began to describe my trip, but he was having none of it. He told me how disappointed he was in me for another fifteen minutes and hung up.


The breaking news on the TV that night was about the plane that landed at Love Field at 3:00 that afternoon during the storm and had come in too low and clipped a fuel storage tank. The fuel storage tank right on the other side of that fence next to the road I was on at 3:00 in the afternoon. The plane had landed safely.


After three years, the owner announced he was closing the Arlington office and I was moved to Plano along with our inventory. the main office of Schoolhouse Audio Visual was different. It was in an old house that had been converted and I would be making an hour long commute each day. The owner had not kept up with the times and was still selling the same equipment to schools that he had when he started in business years before. Overhead projectors, Kodak slide projectors, podiums and small portable speakers were fast becoming things of the past. Soon, I was not sure why I was there in Plano since a young woman kept the books, the owner ordered and tracked all inventory and there was one salesman working out of that office who took all phone calls. There was an office cat and his litter box sat in front of the coffee machine in the very small room with the refrigerator so one had to reach over the smelly thing to pour coffee.


1989

****

Soon after my transfer to the Plano office, Randy, still working for Frontier Airlines, was coming to town. We decided to meet at his friend Bill’s house, not too far from the airport and not too far from my office in Plano. Randy would then spend the night there before he had to leave the next morning. Bill’s low, white house was a big sprawling thing on two beautiful wooded acres. The large windows and French doors leading onto large decks over looked a small private lake. It was lovely to be there and he and his partner were outstanding cooks and set a beautiful table.


After a great dinner, we took our wine to the big open living room filled with white sofas and plants. Randy said he had met someone, another Robert. It was really good to see him coming out of grief and sadness. I had sent a couple of hand painted Christmas cards to Randy but had never really talked to him about the painting I had been doing since taking that drawing class. I had been doing portraits and had even had a commission to paint a portrait of a friend’s children.  


I brought several portraits and landscapes in from my car and he went crazy.


“Mom, Mom! Why didn’t you tell me you were doing this kind of work? Oh my god! I want them all.”


Of course, that was very satisfying. I loved that he loved them. He chose two and they hang on his wall today along with portraits of him and his husband of thirty years, Robert Thomas.


As I was preparing to leave, the guys were concerned about my long drive home and I said I was looking for a place nearby now that I was working in Plano. Bill said, “You’ve found it. Look out the window.”


There was a pretty guest house with a deck out over the lake on one edge of the property. They had had it made for the grounds keeper and his wife, but the couple had recently left.


“If you’ll keep the grounds up you can stay at no cost,” he joked. We walked out and had a tour of that lovely, roomy house full of light from the many windows and the sliding doors out onto the deck and I moved in the following week.


There was a family of raccoons that came to sit on the railing of that deck each morning. The mother was a huge animal and she brought her three kits. They would sit there and watch me through the glass doors. Knowing they could be dangerous, I did not plan to reach out to them but I did slowly open the door and slowly move towards them to see just how close I could get. She would wait until I was within arm’s length before she sauntered off. Had the people who lived there before me fed them?


On weekends I could jack my music up to vibrate the walls as I cleaned house and did laundry or cooked up food for the coming week. No one around to be bothered by my beloved classical music and The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.  I loved that beautiful place.


Within a few months, at Schoolhouse AV’s Plano office, the owner’s lady friend began to come to the office each day. They would sit talking, heads together, going over the books because they had let the bookkeeper go. The bookkeeper had repeatedly shared way too much each morning about last night’s date, often a new pick-up from the bar.  And then she found her father. She had never known him since he had left her mother before she was born. So as soon as I moved to the Plano office, she took vacation time to visit him. I was glad to cover for her. It gave me more to do. She was all aglow and thrilled when she returned, telling us repeatedly how exciting her vacation had been. Telling us, as we stood dazed and astonished, how she had seduced her father and what a romping time they had had for four days. The owner took her aside and advised her to tell no one else about her vacation and why.


She had no idea. She had never heard of incest.


This was one of the most depressing jobs I had ever had in my life. Even the fiasco with the attorney, which was terrible had not dragged on like that time at Schoolhouse. The drab old house filled with the smell of kitty litter, the secretive, unfriendly people and the lack of business took one down every day. 


                                                                                                ****

I still saw Robert regularly, but was no longer dancing with Pat and friends. Living in Plano I was seeing Jewell and Alice less. Betty’s husband had been transferred to California and we missed her. I was still writing poetry and having branched out into writing essays, I heard about a writing retreat and decided to attend. I thought it would be great fun to meet other writers. Three other women from my area reached out wanting to car pool for the hour-long drive to the retreat south-west of Ft. Worth on a small farm. I drove to Sal’s house and she drove us to Mary’s house. The three of us drove to pick-up Burl. Burl lived in a Chicano neighborhood. Her big, canary yellow Dodge pickup was parked in the drive. No response at the front door of a sagging, unpainted house, so we went to the back. Burl was on her screened in back porch printing the Chicano Madonna Emblem onto t-shirts. She had a thriving t-shirt business that she had built after being released from prison. Burl was a muscular six-foot-tall woman with a big hearty voice in t-shirt, tight jeans and boots. Lone pigtails hung down to her chest. She regaled us with her big voice as we drove to the farm about her desire to save Chicano youth from a life of crime that had sent her to prison for several years.


The farm was treed with a big house nestled among large oaks. We discovered the barn which sheltered goats and horses as we explored the property after our long drive. That first evening, we had dinner and became acquainted with the dozen other women there.


The farm house was rustic, warm and inviting. Inside, the second story was a balcony where we all slept on cots. It overlooked the large, open living area below. Outside, the upper floor was smaller than below so that the windows of that balcony overlooked the roof of the first floor. Peacocks and guineafowls woke us the next morning calling as they strutted around on the roof outside our windows.

When we gathered to share our written words after breakfast, I enjoyed hearing the varied ideas, confessions and poetry of the other women. We were all amateurs, shared freely and had a lot of laughs and surprises. Burl was rough and tumble in demeanor with a laugh to shake the walls; then she read to us. Her prose was very beautiful and moving. We four, though very different in so many ways, felt close and connected on our drive home.


1986

****

 

I thought I had to see each of my grandbabies every week or the world would come to an end.  Then, Donnie was transferred to Albuquerque.  It was great for them but I was distraught. They were taking my babies away to New Mexico. We, Robert and PaPa and Mike and I, helped them move Scott and the two-year-old twins. Early on, sweet Robert drove me all the way to Albuquerque every three or four weeks. I just had to see those babies. Eventually I could last six to eight weeks.


One of our trips had Anna and David with us and we all decided to drive to Santa Fe one day. After a tour of the town and shopping and a great meal we drove on up to Taos. We visited the Pueblo deep into more shopping. The men stayed in the vans and Peggy, Anna and I were touring the shops when I walked into one and saw a striking Indian man behind the counter. His distinct profile and high color struck me. His black hair was pulled back into a long, soft pony tail at the nape of his neck. He wore a long sleeve button-down blue shirt, leather vest with black pants and a leather belt with a flashy silver buckle. A heavy turquoise necklace hung around his neck. My head began to swim. I felt I could not breath. He never looked my way, never looked up from the counter he was behind, but I had to get out of that room and was not sure I could move. I was suffocating. It was not fear. It was a past passion. It must have ended badly. I managed to get to the van and my daughter said, “Are you OK?” I must have looked a little pale.  

     

Peggy and Donnie were only there for two years when Donnie was transferred again, this time to Colorado Springs, Colorado. Once again, we, the same moving crew, helped with the move. Randy was already living in Denver. Frontier had transferred him there.


The first house in Colorado Springs Peg and Donnie rented backed up to Colorado’s Black Forest. I flew up one weekend and woke early one morning before anyone else. I walked out into the cool, Colorado air. Their Blue Heeler joined and we walked into those dark, cool woods.



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