Edgar Allan Poe has nothing on me. My severe depression I could maybe downgrade to but a “funk”; however just as the lead singer with Heavy Metal “Iron Maiden” recently penned a new book from the depths of despair forgoing the hunt and peck system and instead scrawling upon yellow legal pads, I likewise someday must exorcise my grief and grievances. Lately, Donna Brazile and Hillary Clinton, not to mention Joe Biden, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Chris Matthews, also contributed book-of-the-month entries lamenting precarious life on this earth in these frenetic, explosive times! I’ve decided to write my next book. though, when and if I survive these past few months from Hell and have at last possibly begun to sense the humorous aspect of my personal nightmare. It just might morph into a kid’s book, for goodness’ sake! Jennifer for whom I write these columns emphasizes the positive via her news blog, and we discussed at a local restaurant how tricky “looking on the bright side” can sometimes be. But, here I am…I can do this. “If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe
My late mother took a shine to a creative little Sunday School student of hers many years past, nurturing Jayne’s spunk and talents, and to this day Jayne Mullendore Oliver, whose mischievous, impish dad was my father’s preferred golfing partner, continues to appreciate with much fondness my mom’s attentiveness. Paying it forward, the mother of three boosts my spirits now that I have grown older and need an occasional pat on the back. Several Christmases ago, she brought me a framed photograph of “yours truly” shivering in the cold alongside my favorite person (and son) Roy, both of us hugging a costumed reindeer at an evening downtown Christmas celebration…she appeared at my door outta the blue precisely when I needed such a happy surprise. Last December, she elevated my spirits once again with an inscribed diary plus a delicate ring tray embellished by an exquisite quote from novelist Jane Austen. Oh, I shall never forget that moment! The doorbell rang; I stepped outside to chat awhile, onto the snow covered icy porch, and her daughter handed me the beautifully wrapped present; I was barefoot and wearing shorts and a tee shirt; I proceeded accidentally to lock the temperamental, defective (darn it!) storm door behind myself! Nevertheless, I eventually got back inside, shed some tears overwhelmed both by Jayne’s thoughtfulness plus a minor case of frostbite — yet lived to tell this tale.
In the spring of 2016, I attended a memorial service for Dr. Wilson…the best-looking physician who ever lived and the dad of my favorite veterinarian, Kim Egolf, whom I miss terribly. She now practices in Silver Lake, Indiana. She and her sister offered eulogies that melted my heart (listening from a pew constructed by John himself) within a small rural church setting, and afterwards we conversed downstairs over finger sandwiches and punch. I shared anecdotes with those two precious Wilson daughters, mentioning their father’s fascination with my own sisters when John, Shirley and Sarah grew up together in the same neighborhood in the 1940s and where I still live in the presently most cluttered (and messiest) house which I was carried into as an infant and baby sister extraordinaire! (I recently parted with a grade school photograph of Johnny Wilson that he must have exchanged with my much older sis…Kim was thrilled that I shared!) I once considered myself an interior decorator of sorts, but writing, mounds of memorabilia, and a constant parade of rescued animals have taken their decided toll upon proper, usually futile and unfulfilling, housekeeping. I have kept the house in the family however at all costs…three roofing jobs and countless repairs later. I have lived in this same spot for nearly my entire life…frequently wondering whatever possessed me and how very much of this world and its wonders I have been denied. When reminiscing with John’s daughters, I realized that small town memories of, for example, one steady, accommodating physician who not only bandaged my skinned knees and took time to share great advice through a girl’s various stages of life while also tending to my parents’ good health until their deaths, are rare these days…and staying in one spot ain’t so bad after all.
This week’s local newspaper, a periodical which I truly hoped would feature my son Roy’s Ann Arbor Civic Theatre Best Actor award this autumn (an oversight I have trouble forgiving for this was the only bright spot in these past few months–ah, well–actually even emoting and singing upon the same University of Michigan “boards” once graced by both actor Jimmy Stewart and actress Helen Hayes!) contained an obituary which transported me back in time. Sweet Vera Plattner, mother of my friend Jone, died at age 104. Vera and Jone moved two houses away from our family around 1956 and began life without their husband and father Merle in a tiny, upstairs, very special apartment at Virginia Lillich’s. (Johnny Lillich, the boy next door whom I idolized defriended me on Facebook as we must be of different political persuasions in these strange times–oh, be still my heart?) I admired Vera and Jone so much. Vera used to cut my hair when I was a high schooler; she was a fabulous beautician as is my current hairdresser Yvette — for 30 years now. Yvette and I laugh and share happinesses and heartaches all year long every year! I wonder if Yvette knows how much she means to me! Well, she does now! (She also makes an intriguing appearance in one of my books because we both love animals to the max!) I must visit Smith’s Funeral Home to re-connect with Jone and offer my condolences; my childhood friend ranks as one of the brightest students whom Columbia City Joint High School ever produced. (And, by the way, that apartment, as well as the apartment above Stuart Smith’s “Carriage House”, housed some of “Our Town’s” niftiest people of all time…in and out they came and went…now’s there’s a story idea! If only, Henry Mancini could write the theme song!)
Thus, as the holidays approach, I vow that I shall not be eating turkeys or pigs or cattle or chickens (cranberries and sweet potatoes maybe); I instead need to begin to realize how thankful I am for real, genuine persons who have enriched my life and who have encouraged rather than discouraged. And might I add to my list of names, which I recollect when I try to drift off to sleep, my first serious boyfriend Mike Andrews (a dear soul now deceased and a Vietnam vet) and his super mom Eileen and Keith Kleespie (who passed away this past summer) and his super mom Cornelia…and the rediscovered Madeleine Jo Biddle? And may I strive in earnest, before I enroll at some nursing home somewhere, to advocate for the demise of factory farms and age discrimination and homophobia and misogyny and divisiveness and bullying and gerrymandering and voter suppression, and bigotry in all of its forms? I pledge to speak out boldly on behalf of: women’s rights to breathe in and out…no more “waiting to exhale“; inclusiveness; gun control; fading of “demographics” gab; and for the absolute necessity of veganism and spaying and neutering not only domestic pets but also deer (it’s possible!), farm animals (no more unbridled, assembly-line reproduction and stock-piling), and wildlife (hunted down and harassed by self-proclaimed sportsmen); and for the return of the art of conversation face to face, and, oh YES, the resurgence of fearless kindness. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas and in 2018, let’s all count our blessings instead of sheep! (This column is dedicated to tiny messenger TRUTU whom Roy dubbed my “Jesus kitten” and who alerted me to disappointing truths while converting me into a wacky combination of Howard Hughes and Jane Goodall…one day I’ll write his story because he continues to matter to me a lot. Special thanks to that little runt of the litter for valuable lessons taught.)
“Her own thoughts and reflections were habitually her best companions.” ~ Jane Austen’s MANSFIELD PARK (typed on ring tray, a welcome and heartwarming gift from Jayne Mullendore, Christmas 2016!)