immune?

“A child who is protected from all controversial ideas is as vulnerable as
a child who is protected from every germ.
The infection, when it comes- and it will come–may overwhelm the system,
be it the immune system or the belief system.”

Jane Smiley


(more ripe muscadines / Julie Cook / 2017)

“As Maine goes, so goes the Nation”

A popular and most likely long forgotten expression, which dates back to the turning
of the 19th to 20th centuries…
As it seems Maine had a knack at her picking leaders…
elections that became the accurate prognosticators to presidential elections.

Maine was known as a bellwether state, or that of being a bit of a trendsetter.
It seems that “Maine’s September election of a governor predicted the party
outcome of the November presidential election in 19 out of the 26 presidential
election years from 1832 to 1932, or 73 percent of the time.
(wikipedia)

Eventually Maine’s prediction proclivities gave way to other states becoming
the standing trendsetter.
From Vermont to Ohio to Florida…to who knows the next trendsetting state…
as our likes and dislikes rustle in the breeze like fallen and dried up leaves.

For we as a people have always been a rather predictable lot…
with both our likes and dislikes, of which have always been rooted in a strong
belief system.

Yet what was traditionally tied to a value system, that being a reflection of what we considered important and which in turn reflected our our voting habits,
has been in recent times seemingly turned upside down.

Because as society and culture, that belief and value system has been undergoing a metamorphosis of sorts.
No longer are we as predictable as we once were because we have grown both jaded and fickle.

We use to know what was of importance…
and we were never ashamed to admit such.

We treasured our faith, our families, our nation.
Everything else simply fell into place underneath.

We were tenacious about it.
We sacrificed for it.
And we defended and protected it…
unto the death.

We were civic minded and duty minded…both of which were tied into our values
of faith, family and country.
People around the globe actually admired this shared value system of ours.

We knew the good guys….
and they always seemed to be us.

And then one day, what particular day no one really knows for sure, all of that
changed…because we changed.

What was once held as sacred and important became something else.
What exactly that is… we’re simply not certain.
But different it is.

Yesterday I noticed that two of my favorite across the pond clerics had each
posted the same political cartoon along with a fiery disdain.
That being the Rev. Gavin Ashenden and The Rev David Roberston.

Both residents of the UK, one in England the other in Scotland…
both members of different denominations…One Anglican and the other
Reformed Presbyterian.
Yet both men have neither cowered or shied away from taking a sound
stand literally in the name of God for that God and His very Word.

There is no compromise nor bending to cultural norms for either of them.
God’s word is just that, God’s Word.
It matters not that said Word is no longer considered popular
or favored by the masses.
It matters not that our culture is such that it wishes to rewrite God’s Word.
It matters not that society has decided that God did not mean what He actually
said nor that He and His Word have each failed to keep up the the times.

And each one of these men of God have taken a great deal of flack for their faith
as well as for their defense of that Faith.
Each man has been maligned, not surprisingly, by the British press.

So when each cleric took to posting a defense for a
poor fellow who is currently being depicted in the latest snide
UK political cartoon…a conservative politician being castigated for his
Christian Faith, I took notice.

Not necessarily a supporter of all of this particular Tory’s views,
each of these shepherds have however gone out of their way to be very vocal,
crying foul regarding this recent new low media attack against a man who is committed
to not only to his political principles but ardently committed to his Christian faith.

Each minister notes that the media is not only attacking a politician, which is certainly nothing new, but now the attack is against this man’s faith, his
Christian Faith—ridiculing it and anyone else who just so happens to proclaim
to be a Christian.


(The Times)

Please read their postings on each of the following links:

The Man Who Could Make Me Vote Tory

A letter submitted to the Times for publication. 

So if you think that that large body of water which separates our two lands is enough to keep us immune from that same sort of attack against a Faith that you just happen to hold dear…you best think again…

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.
As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.
That is why the world hates you.

John 15:19

Good old fashioned hate, with an extra dose of love

“I hate and love. And why, perhaps you’ll ask.
I don’t know: but I feel, and I’m tormented.”

― Catullus

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(detail of an embroidered bee on a pair of pants / Julie Cook / 2015)

Looking in the closet, deciding what to wear, I opt for the yellow pants with the embroidered bees.
In honor of Dad.
You should know Georgia Tech’s mascot is a yellow jacket.
Yellow Jacket. . .Bee. . .
Comme ci, Comme ça

Every state has its own hyped up in-state college rivalry.
You know, those colleges within each state which vie for bragging rights from one another–with such being anything from the highest recruited freshman class to the nicest campus, the best football team, the best basketball team, the best gymnastics team, the best debate team, the top research facility. . .yada, yada, yada. . .as the list goes on and on.

Here in the South we simply call it “good old fashioned hate”
Someone wrote a book about such using that very title so I’m assuming that’s what we call it.
Here in Georgia that love / hate relationship exists between The University of Georgia and The Georgia Institute of Technology, better known as Georgia Tech, or simply Tech.

I come from a long line of Georgia Tech graduates. . .
My brother, my dad, my uncle, my grandfather, my cousins, even my son took a few course at Tech.
I on the other hand earned my degree from The University of Georgia, otherwise known as Georgia or simply UGA.

People often ask about my family’s rivalry but it’s never a problem. . . not until each fateful fall Saturday in late November when The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets meet The University of Georgia Bulldogs on the gridiron—-then there’s a problem. My Uncle would get so upset, he couldn’t bear to watch the game or even listen to it on the radio—simply too stressful.

Ask anyone from Ohio how they feel about Michigan.
Ask anyone form Michigan how they feel about Ohio.
Ask anyone from Auburn how they feel about Alabama.
Ask anyone form Alabama how they feel about Auburn.
You learn quite quickly that you’ve simply created fertile ground for a fight, plain and simple,
like I say, good old fashioned hate. . .

My deep sense of rivalry satisfaction however, comes in knowing that a man who graduated from both Emory University and Georgia Tech, who claims allegiance to a yellow jacket nation, actually had to endure paying for his daughter to attend college at his much hated arch nemesis.
Enough said.

As I sat in the waiting room, the nurse stepped out to change the channel of music.
U2 was currently singing yet she told me that they needed to change the tempo as Bono was just a little too lively for my dad. I know Dad didn’t complain, probably wasn’t even paying attention, but I let her change it nonetheless.
Eva Cassidy began singing a somber and melodic Fields of Gold.
“This is to make me feel better?!” I mused to myself.
The nurse immediately noted my “bee” pants saying how cute they were.
I explained I wear them for dad.
We then chat about that whole Georgia / Georgia Tech thing. . .

Looking over at Dad, I notice that he just looks so, well. . .old.
Small and tiny, shrinking.
His clothes seem to swallow him these days.
His hair, what hair remains, sits most days a bit disheveled on his mostly bald head.
His glasses, too big for his now tiny face, are always dusty, clouding his rummy eyes.
He’s pale and frail.
Usually listing to the right as he walks. . .make that, shuffles.
We made small talk. . .or actually I attempted to make small talk as Dad rarely initiates conversation.
I asked a few short questions in order to fill the quiet of the waiting room, albeit for Bono’s singing.
“I don’t know” was Dad’s reply, “you know my short term memory isn’t good.”
“I just looked at him, feeling sad, as he began staring forward with his chin dropped in his hand as his arm was propped up on his knee.
As they call him back to see the doctor, telling me they’ll come for me when he’s finished, I lose myself in my thoughts as the song Mad World begins to play. . .
All around me are familiar faces
Worn out places,
worn out faces. . .

Not making me feel better at all. . .

The nurse finally calls me back.
I walk in as Dad is sitting in a chair looking rather small.
I take a seat by him on the doctor’s stool.
“Oh you’re wearing bee pants. . .”
“Yes Dad, just for you” I proudly smile.
He beams a smile of satisfaction.
He becomes fretful about a new prescription the doctor had told him about but I reassure him that we’ll find out more when the doctor comes back in to go over the lab results.

Dad’s hemoglobin is low. It’s been low.
Meaning he’s anemic.
There are symptoms and signs. . .
Dad is most likely bleeding internally, most likely intestinal.
Last visit they shot him full of Vitamin B-12.
Added lots of D and changed up some of the prescriptions.
He seems much better than last visit.
Not as pale, not as wobbly, not as poorly.
At 87 with one so frail, a colonoscopy is asking a lot.
As the doctor had explained to me on our last visit. . .”say he has a colonoscopy and say they find cancer—what do you do?” The odds wouldn’t be in Dad’s favor with surgery. And what of treatment? What of chemo or something even more aggressive. . .would he, could he survive?
We all agreed, with Dad leading the charge, we will wait and see. . .monitor.
Sounds good. . .

So today his levels are still low, but stable. . .so all is good. . . for now

It’s a quick ride home as he is only a Point A to Point B sort of individual. .
no diversions whatsoever!!
He tells me multiple times that he’s worried about Gloria as she’s constantly hurting and frustrated that her hands aren’t as apt to do what she wants them to do. I tell him that I hope the doctor can prescribe something for the arthritis.
He smacks his lips.
In fact the entire time we’ve been in the car, he’s licking his lips or rather moving his tongue over the top of his mouth. . . you know, the way you do when your mouth is dry and you’re trying to work up enough saliva to make it unsticky. . .but the sound is one that is enough to drive a person crazy.
I realize that his mouth is most likely dry from all of his prescription and I make a mental note to say something to the doctor on our next trip back in a couple of weeks.

There was a time I’d have gone nuts over the endless smacking sound and of the constant litany of the same worried question after worried question. My patience with Dad has not always been great.
He tends to be very obsessive compulsive. Especially in regard to my brother. I won’t go into that whole story—suffice it knowing that he committed suicide years ago and dad has a very unhealthy conscious decision in choosing not to heal.
He is a dog with a bone, refusing to let go. . .
For years he refused counseling, always preferring to wallow.
I had a hard time with Dad and all of that.

Yet thankfully time and age have a funny way of sorting things out.
Dad, unbeknownst to himself, is continually teaching me about the important things in life . . .with the kicker being that I’m finally open and appreciative to such.
Funny how that works.
And the most amazing thing of it all. . .
is that a diehard yellow jacket hating Bulldog can proudly wear a pair of yellow bee pants. . .
just for Dad. . .
Good old fashioned hate steeped in love. . .

Buckeyes

“Oh where, tell me where was your buckeye cabin made?
Twas built among the merry boys who wield the plough and spade,
Where the log cabins stand, in the bonnie buckeye shade.

Oh what, tell me what is to be your cabin’s fate?
We’ll wheel it to the capital and place it there elate,
for a token and a sign of the bonnie Buckeye state.”

( song for the William Henry Harrison 1840 campaign)

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Beautiful buckeye butterflies / Carrollton and Pine Mt. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2014

Age of lost Innocence

Go in thy native innocence, rely
On what thou hast of virtue, summon all,
For God towards thee hath done his part, do thine.

JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost

DSCN1611
(photograph: statues in park — Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook /2013)

Isn’t this a great image—life among the lifeless. There is a small park in downtown Chicago, along Michigan Ave, that has life size sculptures of human forms cast in bronze and aluminum positioned throughout the park in very life like poses–some are sitting on the benches, some kneeling on the grass, some standing with faces looking upward as if gazing heavenward. The sculptures are either silver or a brownish bronze color–basically unisex, without definitive facial features.

Visitors to the park naturally want to interact with the statues. Children climb on them, people (aka tourists) pose with them, pigeons and seagulls desecrate them, and many people just exist among them–namely the current homeless individuals who are seeking refuge on one of the park’s many benches. I found them both inviting and, well, “put-offish”—meaning I didn’t feel like running up to them and interacting but I was, however, drawn to them by curiosity.

Today at home the front doorbell rang. This always sends me in a heightened state of alarm as we live out a bit, in a more rural section of our community, with our house situated a good bit off the road. Anyone coming to our house is most likely someone I know. When the front doorbell rings, that usually means a “stranger.” Today, however, I was expecting the AT&T guy coming to upgrade our modem as we are technological dinosaurs. It was high time we move forward a bit more into this new century.

When I went to the door, I saw two young men, sans any sort of uniform or identifying clothing, standing on my front walk–arms full of papers and an iPad. “AT&T?” I ask a bit concerned. The one young man closest to me asks in an unmistakable “slavic-esque” accent–“Oh you want cell phone?” all with a sweet smile. “No” I flatly answer even more confused. The young man immediately introduces himself and his friend and hands me a bunch of paperwork, legal documents, all as he’s telling me that they are students from Europe.

The paperwork includes what I assume is documentation from our local police and sheriff’s office approving them to be “peddling” whatever it is that they are about to attempt peddling in my direction. I ask where it is that they are from as I recognize the accent as eastern Eropean—wondering if it is not Russian as I have taught numerous Russian kids. “We are from Estonia” he tells me.

The young man closest to me then begins asking if I have children and that they are…immediately I cut him off as I know that they are trying to sell educational information for young children. I politely explain that I am a retired educator with a grown son.
“No, you cannot be retired, you look so young, what is your secret?”
“Good genes I suppose”
“Oh I will never be so fortunate”
I ask him how old he is and he responds
“25”
“Well, see you don’t look 25….”
…and then I think that at 25, you don’t want to be told that you look younger than you are, so I just stop.

He kept fumbling with the papers, notebooks and the iPad, which had Google maps pulled up to a map of my street, house, etc. I tell them that there are subdivisions scattered about that may have parents interested in the books but that I was not interested. He turns the iPad in my directions asking me about my neighbors pointing at house after house on the screen. All of this is a bit disconcerting as he just keeps on pointing to house after house on the iPad inquiring about potential buyers—all while I try as politely but firmly as possible to send them on their way.

All the while all sorts of bad scenarios are running through my mind..with the main concern being that these guys are not legit–perhaps simply working under the assumption of being educational book salesmen all the while with some sort of sinister underlying plan taking place. Maybe my husband comes home this evening to find that I have “vanished without a trace”….

I hate being suspicious and I hate feeling creeped out by two nice looking young men, the same age as my son, who are here in this country from Estonia, for God knows what, “working a summer job” peddling books. I want to think that what they told me was the truth–I want to believe people. However given the time in which we live, with the local, as well as national, News reminding us daily that we live with bad people who are often deranged or simply intent on harming others— yesterday morning I was less than at ease standing at my front door.

When I was young, I went door to door selling my Girl Scout cookies. I dressed up on Halloween and went door to door ringing bells in search of treats vs tricks. I rode my bike to the local mall to “hang out” with my friends who also had ridden their bikes to the mall. Did I let my young son do any of the things that I did when he was little? No! When he was a cub scout, he sold his popcorn to my fellow colleagues at school, going from classroom to classroom after school vs door to door of “strangers”. He rode his bike up and down our driveway only. He “trick or treated” only to the houses of his grandparents and cousins.

Life is not as simple as it once was. We live in a day of suspicion and of constant danger–or so it seems. Look at Ohio and the three girls held hostage for so long that they are now grown woman–all happening under the watchful eyes of an unassuming neighborhood. The cases of Elizabeth Smart and Casey Dugard—and the latest story of Hannah Anderson…not to mention the hundreds of missing children who are going “missing” each and every day that simply don’t make the headlines.

Vigilance is the key word when traveling, most usually abroad as American tourists must be ever mindful of where they are at all times, but sadly, that same vigilance is now necessary in our own front yards.

When the boys got back into their car and drove up my driveway, I pulled the door shut, locking it, hoping the AT&T man would hurry up……..

Forgiveness, one step at a time

“Jules, your family has put the dysfunction in dysfunctional long before it was popular.”
He said it not with sarcasm, not with contempt but more of a passing state of resignation…
as though he was simply voicing a troubling thought out loud.

I looked down at my feet–tennis shoes no doubt and most likely jeans.
I adjusted my position in the elegant leather wingback chair.
The office was rich with dark coffered paneling–a gothic office in a Gothic Cathedral.
A copy of Diego Velázquez’s Crucifixion graced the wall—–one of my favorite paintings.

This certainly wasn’t the first time I’d sat in his office.

I was probably 18, or maybe I was 22—it didn’t matter as I had been finding myself in his office
since I was 15.

Behind his desk, on a credenza, sat several baseballs in displays cases…you see he
wasn’t just any ol priest or a random dean of a cathedral, he was also Chaplin to the Braves Baseball team—
Yet most importantly he was my “godpoppa”– a surrogate father.

I loved him immensely and I needed him terribly.

I was drowning and he offered a lifeline—one that I clung to
Just as I still love him to this day— despite the passage of time, he still finds that precious time for me.

We also shared something in common.

We were both adopted.

So I believed he always understood some things about me that I had yet to grasp or realize myself.

This was just one more visit in a long line of visits.

There really were no answers to my troubles– he was simply gracious in allowing me some of his
precious and limited time.
Time from his busy and frantic schedule, allowing a “woe some” young person an opportunity to vent,
to share, to describe the latest story—the latest incident in a never-ending stream of incidents that
only seemed to be escalating with time.

My family suffered through something that many people today now painfully acknowledge and recognize.
But for my family, at the time, our turmoil was pretty much just for us to experience.

The trouble was my brother and his trouble was mental illness.

Mental illness is now finding itself front and center of national headlines—
as there are more and more violent ramifications reverberating throughout our society.
My younger brother, unbeknownst to my parents at the time, suffered a mental illness.
It would be years before it was diagnosed, but the years of turmoil would not be lost on anyone.
And by the time of his diagnoses, it was really too late.

Both my brother and I were adopted.
We were not biologically related and were 5 years apart in age.
Something never seemed quite “right” about Ed.
He was a colicky baby, crying often and difficult to soothe.
My aunt often quips that she knew they should have taken him back as soon as they had gotten him.

A bad apple so to speak.
However, it was 1963, no one really knew much or talked much about the baggage babies can carry
from traumatic pregnancies and/ or births.
We didn’t know or understand the effects of the mother’s life on babies while in utero and
how that could/ would transcend to life and living of these yet to be born children.

Ed was different from the very beginning.

Back then, adoption agencies worked hard to match babies with the adopting families—
skin tone, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, etc.
Ed, however, looked quite different from the rest of us.
He was faired skinned, freckles, light haired, lanky.

I suppose growing up, discovering you are adopted and then looking at your family,
you immediately notice you are more different than you first realized,
which only adds to that already existing sense of alienation.

Given the fact that I was 5 years older and that I was prone to having that bossy big sister demeanor,
certainly did not ingratiate me ever to Ed.
We were more like oil and water, which I can now only imagine having grated on our parent’s nerves
and frustraton.

However, they loved us both very, very much.

In school, Ed struggled.
He was ADHD but no one knew about that particular “condition” at the time.
Believing that hyperactive element to be a part of Ed’s troubles,
our family’s pediatrician told my mother to give Ed coffee, as the Medical field was currently
looking at the use of caffeine, a stimulant, in the treatment of kids who were simply “all over the place”
counteracting that hyperness.

I’ll skip most of the growing up and won’t bore you with the mundane details.
However you need to know that my memories of family meals were not the happy Norman Rockwell
images that we all so long for—–but then again, are any family’s time together pictures of such tranquil images?

I can’t recall an evening that didn’t see some sort of fight or struggle.
Ed wouldn’t eat.
Dad would get mad, telling Ed that he could just sit there all night until he ate.

One night it was two hours before Dad gave in and told him to go to bed.
Mother would begin to cry.
As frustration set in, I would get mad.

I couldn’t understand why things always had to be so hard.
It was supper for crying out loud, can’t we eat in some sort of peace or harmony?!
Mother would leave the table in tears.

This was the typical evening.

If it wasn’t fighting over supper, it was homework.
I would just go to my room and drown my adolescent sorrows in James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James”,
“Fire and Rain”, “Don’t let me be lonely tonight”—-
playing his album over and over and over.

And yes there were the thoughts of suicide.
What teenager, who was an adolescent ball of emotional hormones, who was experiencing unhappiness
night after night, wouldn’t entertain such thoughts??
What other remedy was there to such a problem?

Thank God for that gothic office in that gothic Cathedral and for the life-line I had found there.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I was aware of how bad things really were with my family.
It was my 22nd birthday. Mom and Dad had not called all day wishing me a happy birthday.
This was long before cell phones, texting or e-mail.
It was a long distance to Athens from Atlanta—the rates went down after 5PM so I was expecting my call.
By 8 PM I was getting a little sad, as well as concerned.
Finally, I called home.

A collect call of course.
Mother answered.
No words of happy birthday but rather “everything here is fine.”
Great, I thought, but does anyone remember what today is?
I wonder out loud.
“Oh, Happy Birthday Sweetie, Ed’s fine.”

That’s odd.
I wasn’t asking about Ed, and truthfully didn’t particularly care.

This was a surreal conversation and happy birthday to me.
Mother told me Dad was busy and would talk to me later—doubly odd to say the least.

It wasn’t for a week or so later that I discovered the truth behind that strange evening’s call.

It seems that Ed had decided to run away.

He took mother’s car, two thousand dollars (where in the world he came up with money is beyond my soul,
as we did not have that kind of money lying around)
and his bass guitar.
He decided he would go to California
(why do all young people seem to want to run away to either California or New York?!)
to live in the desert and look at the stars.
Okay.

He made it to the US/ Mexican boarder when the Boarder Patrol stopped him.
They searched the car.
I suppose seeing some 16-year-old kid driving an old mom car pulling up to the US/ Mexican Boarder
threw up a giant red flag.

When they opened the trunk they found wet underwear hung over the bass guitar, drying.
They also found the money.

The Agents called my parents and told them that had they not stopped him,
he most likely would have been stopped in Mexico and most likely would have been killed by
the border bandits when they found the large sum of cash on a wayward kid.
Dad had to fly out to get him and drive back to Georgia.
I said then and there, they should have left him to his own devices.

Later, when it was time for me to start my student teaching,
I had to move back home in order to student teach at a school in the Atlanta Metro area.
My brother at the time was attending GA Tech.

Living between our great Aunt, who had run a boarding house during the War and
that of our house—–all depending on his mood.

He was really super smart but really super socially awkward.

There was one evening, in particular, that I recall most vividly.

It was my first-day student teaching.
To say I was nervous was an understatement.
And it just so happened that mother was in the hospital at the time,
as she had to have a hysterectomy.
I had to juggle the new teaching post,
running to the hospital, getting ready to help take care of mom and help take care of my dad.

That evening I had come home after a very long day of school and hospital duty
only to find Ed in the den with all of his record albums spread out all over the floor.
I sat on the floor, looking over what all he had.
Ours was a tenuous relationship and his temper was explosive–
I had to tread very lightly and truly wanted to be able to get along with him.

The conversation turned to mother.
He had fallen into the habit of referring to her only as “woman”,
as he did not consider her his mother.
I found this to be infuriating.
But the whole adoption thing was coming to a head in him, to such a level, none of
us fully grasped.

The stories of his explosive temper were becoming legendary.
Mother would have prepared him a baked potato.
If he had found it not to his liking, the potato was slung against the wall as he would spew foulness from his mouth.
Calling mother a ‘fucking bitch.’
There were holes in the walls from thrown hammers or screwdrivers or the wayward fist.

I could not fathom how on earth Mother and Dad could or would tolerate such behavior.
It made me crazy.
I was mad at them for letting him control the whole house.
I was thankful to be living away at college, spending summers away working at boarding summer camps—–
dreading ever coming home.

What I couldn’t understand, at the time, was that they had tried counseling.
Ed refused to attend.
The whole “tough love, kick him out on his own” approach was more then their hearts would allow.

This particular evening was not to be any different.

As I brought up the fact that Mother was in the hospital and that he should go see her,
he reacted in typical explosive behavior.
He blew up at me.
Why?
I have not a clue.
He proceeded to take a ball bad to every album sitting on the floor, smashing all in sight,
waving the bat at me and telling me my head was next.

He next stormed off to his room where I knew he kept a revolver.

When did my family every have a gun in the house is beyond my soul.

I left the house.

I went to the only place I knew I could find safety and solace—my godparents.

I called the house hours later only to have Dad answer the phone.
I recounted the series of events.
Dad got mad at me for “setting” Ed off.

Are you kidding me??!! He got mad at me??
WOW!!

As life with Ed is now becoming a small book, I will condense the remainder of all of this–
and bless you for reading all of this.

Ed eventually moved out of the house.
Attending Ga Tech sporadically and living in one of our great aunt’s boarding rooms,
as her large house was all but empty.

Mother by this time was broken and beaten.
I eventually got married and moved away.
Thank God.

By the time I was 25 and Ed was 20, Mother was diagnosed with cancer.
I know in my rational mind that people do not give other people cancer.
It doesn’t work that way.
Mother was sick for all of 6 short weeks.
It was as if she gave in to the cancer as an escape.
She had no will or desire to fight as her “fight” had left her long ago.

I blamed Ed for her death.

Like I say, people don’t give people cancer but I believed with all of my heart that
he had killed her.
And I resented the hell out of him for it.

By this time he was deeply involved in his quest for answers regarding his adoption.
He had also been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
It was at this point for my dad that he would do anything to help Ed find “peace”.
To say that my dad didn’t love him would certainly be a lie.
I just wish Ed could have understood that at the time.

It was the first case of it’s kind in the state of Georgia.
Ed had his adoption annulled.
My dad went before a judge, on behalf of Ed, asking that it be so.
Ed had exhaustively sought his birth parents, finding his mother and narrowing down who
his father had been.
In the annulment, he relinquished his identity of being Ed and took on the name
from his biological birth certificate–Timothy William Sommers.

There is still so much to all of this that time simply will not allow me to go into more detail,
as I am certain your eyes are already glazing over.
I am also certain that you realize that this story does not have the happiest of endings—
but it is an ending all the same.

By the time I was 31 I received a call at work.
I was teaching at the time.
They called me to the front office.
Ed was currently living in Ohio, continuing his quest to establish a relationship with his biological mother.
Upon meeting her he called my dad telling dad that he now understood why he was the way he was—
seems the old expression holds true—nuts don’t fall from the tree.

This particular day, when I reached the front office, I saw something in the face of our school secretary.
She was handing me the phone telling me it was my dad.
No one had to tell me what I was about to hear.
Dad was on the phone, telling me that the State Patrol in Akron, Ohio had called him.
They had found Ed dead in his apartment from a single gunshot wound.

You would think that this would be the sad ending to a sad story,but it is not, thankfully—

I am a firm believer in Redemption and Grace.
God’s hand has been too evident throughout my life, despite a troubling growing-up.
And yes I wholeheartedly believe that what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger.

It took me a long time to stop blaming Ed for mother’s death,
and for resenting him for how terrible our family was because of him.
I even had a great deal of resentment for my dad for not being stronger to do something,
anything to stop the craziness.

It wasn’t until years later that I found the forgiveness I so long needed—
not so much for Ed’s sake but rather for my own.

I had a student who was terribly troubled and had a severe drug problem.
He was removed from our school and sent to an alternative school.
I was terribly frustrated in that here was a kid that I never could reach and felt as if I had
somehow failed with him.
Shortly after his removal from school, he killed himself.

Being raised in an Anglican church, to me, suicide, at the time,
was very taboo.
Many victims of such were not even given church funerals.
I had always thought it to be the greatest sin against God—as it was a slap in the face
for a most precious gift of life.

The husband of a dear friend, who at the time was a Methodist minister,
sent me an email regarding the situation.
He told me that at the time when a person seems to be at their lowest point on this earth…
a time when we cannot know what is transpiring between that person and God—
how can we say that at that decisive moment when a person pulls a trigger,
or takes a drug, or breathes in a poisonous breath,
that God is not right there, right then still offering His undying and unyielding Grace and Forgiveness?

I can’t answer that.

And so it goes.

That God is so much bigger than me, my brother, this student, my parents, the cancer,
and all the tragedies any and all of us ever experience!!

After all of the years and all of the energy, the oh so negative energy,
I could and can look at my brother, and yes despite an annulment, he will always remain my brother,
I could and can find forgiveness.

Yes the story is sad—but it is not hopeless—
as long as there is light on the Earth, there will always remain Hope.

I must forgive as I too have much to be forgiven for in this life, just as we all do–
for it is one step, one day, one act at a time—

God remains Sovereign!
His Forgiveness and Grace endless…
Thank God and Amen!!!