Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

“There are many more layers to innocence than one might ever imagine, and we are ever unaware of them until each barrier is breached.”― Paula ReedHester: The Missing Years of the The Scarlet Letter……..

Night Wind, graphite on paper A4, (8x10)…...

Night Wind, graphite on paper A4, (8×10)……

Part of the story, an aside……..

My brother, Number 5 (with me being number 1) of my siblings, lived in Houma with his Cajun princess bride. All of us had chipped in and made their wedding possible in the house in New Orleans. Only my aunt and myself were happy for him and his beautiful bride. The rest of my siblings, including Capitán, thought they could have picked someone better for him. There was great and inappropriate hatred expressed by sisters number 2, 3 and 6 that made the bride cry. It was both a happy and sad day.

So when my sister (number 6) came to New Orleans to stir the pot of evil with my aunt, her long fingers reached out to my brother. Unbeknown to her case manager she was mingling and meeting with the local drug lords and even some who had ventured from Miami to take advantage of her semi freedom. I saw her with these burly types who reeked of darkness; and when she involved my innocent and emotionally slow brother I felt she had gone too far and stepped forward. I tried to tell her case manager who laughed at me. I even called the local FBI to report her but her case manager had already notified her and she had contacted Capitán who was now in town, who told the FBI that I was jealous and trying to defame my poor sister in order to keep all the family money…. and they believed him and told me not to bother them again. (My family in New New Orleans did have some very powerful and corrupt contacts.)

So the evilness of it all began to take shape as my sister began to ply my brother with drugs and convince him to leave his wife and children and go back to Ecuador into the loving (?) arms of Capitán, the man who had emotionally tortured and abused him as a child.

When Michael called me and asked me what he should do, I immediately called sister #2 in Ecuador to ask what the devil was going on and why. My sister responded, ” You are not considered a member of this family and what we do is none of your business. If we need your help, someone will contact you and tell you what to do.”

Like hell they will, I told her…her need to dominate and control everything had just gone too far. “Remember”, I said, “when we were children and if we did not do what you wanted us to do you would tell us “do not speak to me further, you are dead in my eyes”? Well my dear sister, please consider yourself dead in MY eyes.”

I did what I could but one day Michael was gone and his wife called me in tears. There was nothing I could do. In his innocence he could not defend against all the lies they told him and once back in Ecuador, they took his passport and his life became misery as they tried to make him into something he could not be. It took him nearly 3 years to escape and return to his wife and children, but he was changed, his wife was changed, so much damage had been done that could not be reversed.

Although I stayed in touch with my sister-in-law during his absence and did what I could to help her, I did not see my brother again for many years. By that time I had disowned all my family and although I loved him dearly I could not keep contact with him for fear the family would use him to get to me, he never could understand that I was trying to protect him. We would both hug each other and cry.

It would be many more years later I would get a call; from sister #2 saying “Michael is near death and demands to talk to you.”

I said my tearful goodbyes and told him how much he was loved. I would only later learn from a stray conversation, that he was divorced and had stage 4-lung cancer.

I spoke to my sister-in-law once once a few years later when my mother died, but it was only a casual conversation about Michael’s share of the inheritance and since my mother had basically disinherited me, I could not answer any of her questions; I could only advise her to contact the attorney in charge of the estate.

I often wondered what happens when all the barriers to innocence are breached, do we take the remaining shards and try to hold onto the illusion of what we once held to be true? Or do we rebuild a new illusion that allows us to carry on as we discard the shroud that once tried to devour our souls?

What does happen to the dreamer when there are no more dreams?

“If all is illusion, let’s choose the most beautiful… “- Jodorowsky

unfinished graphite sketch of one of my paintings, 2015, 15x25 cm (6 x10)

unfinished graphite sketch of one of my paintings, 2015, 15×25 cm (6 x10)     …….

The story continues……

.. My sisters unrelenting plan to win my aunt over to her side continued at a steady pace. There was nothing I could say or do to deter the situation. This accomplishment was made easier by the fact that my aunt was starting to go a little dotty and was developing a mild paranoia brought on by recent stress factors, such as her cat dying, a few friends dying, a bad tenant that had to be evicted and the apartment totally repaired from damage, among other small things. I was blamed for most of the occurrences (since I was suppose to be taking care of things) and just accepted it because I understood what was happening.

. I continued to do what Nan had asked me to do. As her condition worsened we moved her out of her boyfriends apartment into her house, in which we were currently living and renovating. I hired help during the day to watch over her and eventually by the second year had to hire an overnight home health care nurse as her Alzheimer’s worsened.

. The boyfriend’s duplex was repaired, and sold for a large profit. This made the wolves at the door salivate.

. My aunt had a serious car accident, she was not injured, but she lost her license. This event became a major set back for her emotionally. The upstairs apartment was re-rented to a nice young girl who decided I was the enemy and became very protective of my aunt. My sister was still living upstairs in the other apartment but it had been over a year since I saw her and she would not answer my phone calls.

. By year 3 Nan had deteriorated so much she could barely walk, getting good night help became a problem since Nan would now refuse to listen to anyone but me. I was operating on 3 hours a night sleep and it was beginning to stress me out. I sat down with Nan in one of her more coherent moments and we discussed her moving into a nursing home. She agreed and selected the one she wanted. That move caused a furor in the family claiming that was my intention all along and my aunt became even more paranoid that I was going to do the same thing to her and take all the money.

. We finished the renovation of Nans old house and put it up for sale. A bidding war ensured and the property was sold for several hundred thousand over the asking price. The vultures were very restless with this amount of money being deposited into Nans account. (It is very hard to sneeze twice in New Orleans without everyone knowing about it.) With the help of the accountant the money was invested and protected. With the sale of the house, we moved to the third property in Lacombe, about 25 minutes outside of New Orleans.

. My departure from the city allowed my sister to encourage the family to take full control of my aunt, which they did. All of a sudden my services were needed less and less as my aunt would state, “my family will take care of that, and if I need your help, someone will let you know.”

. Then my aunt decided, with assistance of course, that she no longer wanted to share lawyers with Nan and wanted her own lawyer. I tried to convince her that this would not be in her best interest since Nan’s lawyer was the best in town, but my aunt was unwavering. So I agreed.

. Once she had her new lawyer, her next step was to remove my power of attorney and give it to my cousin, whom I knew without a doubt, along with my sister, was the force behind everything.

. I did what I could to help my aunt by obeying her wishes as much as possible. I came into town daily to visit Nan and check on her progress, and I would also go by my aunt’s house to check on her. However, now my aunt insisted that someone else always be present when I came over, as she was not sure she could trust me. So the upstairs tenant would be called down or we would stand outside the house so the neighbors could see.

Alzheimer’s is without a doubt devastating, but at the same time it is quite amazing, for even though Nans deterioration was escalating at a daily rate, she would have moments of complete clarity where she would tell me how the nurses were treating her, asking about the properties, her accounts, and we would have normal conversations about everyday things, and then she would just fade back into that empty space. There was only one glitch with these awakenings, when she talked about the nurses it was what was happening currently, but when she talked about life and people, she would pick up where she left off, the exact time before the onset of the disease.   Here again, I was the only one visiting her and even though I would offer my observances to my aunt, she no longer pretended to be interested, she only wanted updates on the money. At the same time I began to see the signs of deterioration in my aunt: she would repeat the same statement two or three times in a row, loose track of the date or year and she was frequently disoriented, and she would become hostile if I asked too many questions or if I made too many suggestions. A perfect example: I would suggest we visit the doctor so he could check on her medication (a year previous her doctor had prescribed a memory medication.) She told me that “her family” (I was not included in that group it seems) convinced her that this medication was harming her and she had stopped taking it, and she thought I was just trying to make her sick so I could put her into a nursing home.  There was no convincing her otherwise.

. My sister was now doing all the little things I use to do: cooking, small repairs, making arrangements, going with her to social functions…etc. This additional rejection emotionally stressed me even further and I sought council with the mother superior at the nursing home, who advised me to stop trying to be a martyr and let God do what needed to be done. So I took one step back, and then another.

. The work on Lacombe was continuing. It was a beautiful piece of property, 4 acres on a running stream filled with ancient oaks with 15-foot trunk circumferences. The house itself was a miniature plantation style house, built in the 1930’s and badly in need of repair. Living in New Mexico I truly missed the sound of water and the green and this place seem to wrap its arms around me. We had finished the renovation of our old adobe in New Mexico before coming to Louisiana and we talked about maybe it was time to move on. I felt my continuing obligation to Nan and in spite of how my aunt was treating me, I thought if I was living closer in a more permanent situation I could at least keep an eye on her and protect her as best as I could.

Sitting down with Nan’s attorney he did not see any problem and would go ahead and draw up the papers for us to buy the property at a fair market value. We then put our house in New Mexico up for sale and within 3 days of it going to market there was a bidding war; we took the highest bid and the deed was done.

Oh, but fate and karma can be most wicked, for as soon as I announced that we had sold our home in New Mexico, would be buying the Lacombe property and staying in Louisiana, Capitán came into town.

I had stopped being a martyr, but I still foolishly held onto my beautiful illusions, my love and empathy for my aunt and Nan unrelenting and my need to fulfill my promise made me dig in my heels and stand my ground. The family had brought in the big gun and my life was to become a small nightmare.

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

― William Wilberforce

Night Lines graphite on paper 8x10

Night Lines
graphite on paper
8×10….

…Back-tracking ….an aside that is part of the story…….

Beatrice was my grandmother’s housekeeper/maid. Beatrice cleaned house, washed clothes, helped cook and care for my grandmothers 9 children. Beatrice only had the one daughter, LiliMae, born about the same time as my aunt (circa 1924). Beatrice would bring her to work with her six days a week until she was old enough to attend school. Hence, LiliMae and my aunt grew up together.

I do not think LiliMae went very far in school for as Beatrice became too old to continue with the heavy daily work, LiliMae took over and when my grandmother died, she stayed on and worked for my aunt and other members of the family including my own.

The family took good care of Beatrice and continued her salary until the day she died and then paid not only for her funeral and burial but that of her husbands as well. LiliMae stayed in the run down rented shotgun home of her mothers, married a good and kind man and continued working six days a week. My aunt and Uncle took care of all her extra needs whatever they might be. This was all quite normal in New Orleans where slavery was still alive and well just hidden under the veneer of social correctness.

LiliMae, being 1 or 2 years older/younger than my aunt (I never knew for sure) was in her late 70’s when I arrived on the scene in New Orleans. Still working for my aunt but only every so often as she was quite frail and arthritic from all the years of hard work. LiliMae’s husband had long since departed and my aunt was “taking care” of her in the sense that she would take her to the grocery or just go buy groceries for her or to the doctor if LiliMae could not go by herself, and of course as tradition demanded, she continued her weekly salary.

With my arrival and the fact that my aunt was now getting a regular month stipend and had more opportunities to go out and spend her money in the social circles, she turned the care and feeding of LiliMae over to me, proclaiming in the classic southern princess tradition, that she “just couldn’t take it any more”.

Yes, LiliMae was a bit of a pain, a 4-foot 3-inch scrawny whirlwind of a woman, an incessant talker and complainer, she reminded me of my maternal grandmother, but I always had a tender spot in my heart for her and her plight in life and her ability to continue despite any and all obstacles thrown at her.

So once a week I went to see LiliMae. Now this was a very big thing for her and when I arrived she would come out of the house, before she would let me come in, and loudly make sure the entire neighborhood knew who I was and what I doing there and the fact that I (“a white girl”) was taking care of her “black ass” as she use to say. This would continue on for several months until LiliMae’s knees gave out and the doctor suggested a knee replacement. Medicare took care of most of the cost and my aunt (or rather Nan) paid the rest. The recovery was slow and so home health care was needed. But something else was going on and it was two months later when the second of the home health care agencies quit because LiliMae was beginning to prove to be “too difficult to handle”, that I realized there was a serious problem. I took her to another doctor and after some test she was diagnosed with bi-polar dementia. I managed to find another agency to help out and make sure that LiliMae was taking all the correct medications, to do her exercises so she could get out of the wheelchair, but it was becoming a downhill battle.

Of course I kept my aunt informed of everything that was going on except the fact that before her surgery, she had me take her to the bank one day and added my name to her account in case of an emergency. She said I was the only person she could trust not to steal her money. LiliMae knew my aunt larcenous heart very well and I could not, in good faith, tell her of this occurrence. Over the years LiliMae had managed to set aside over $20,000 from her salary and gifts and whatever, and she was afraid my aunt would take it all back.

A year passed and by this time my sister had her hooks deep into my aunt and along with my first cousin Nora they decided that LiliMae was a “family” concern and that “thank you very much” but she would take over now, and boom!, that was that. My relationship with my aunt was strained at best at this point and with my hands being tied and no voice in the matter, I stepped back.

One month later they, the family, put LiliMae into a State-run nursing home. My aunt being the closest thing to a living relative signed the papers and walked away. Within a week my aunt had made arrangements for all of LiliMaes possessions to be sold at auction. I do not know what she did with the funds.

No one asked me about anything, so I waited out of curiosity to see what was going to happen. Two weeks passed and my aunt called me saying, “The nursing home wanted to “talk to you”. When I asked about what she responded, “I have no idea”. I knew she was lying through her teeth as she always did when she did not want to face anything difficult. So my aunt and I went to the nursing home and we discussed the financials, I explained the situation and said of course I would turn over the account to the state for her care. My aunt never said another word except “well that’s taken care of”.

I would visit LiliMae once a week until she no longer recognized me; the home had put her in bindings to keep her from hurting herself, she was heavily medicated, and she would nonsensically rant to anyone who was close. My aunt never mentioned her name again; it was like she never existed.

LiliMae died of a heart attack about a month after I stopped coming to see her, I received a note from the Home saying they wanted me to know since I was the only one who ever visited her and that she would be buried next to her husband.

I laid a flowers on her grave and there was, like most things those days, a sad finality to it all, and perhaps I was the only person who shed a tear.

 

“Stab the body and it heals, but injure the heart and the wound lasts a lifetime.”― Mineko Iwasaki

Quick Sketch, part of a Sketchbook Project, Brooklyn Library of Art.

Quick Sketch, part of a Sketchbook Project, Brooklyn Library of Art……

The story continues……

Well, sort of…… I have tried and tried to write this and the major result was panic attacks, and nightmares……that means the gory details need to be put back into the box for a while longer. But I did manage to get the first part done, the important part, the part that was the linchpin that consumed everyone and everything…..

The letter came without warning, there were no premonitions, no feelings of ripples in the force; but when it arrived my heart went cold with trepidation.

My youngest sister the omega to my alpha had been in a Jersey prison for over a year for new, continued and unabated crimes of money laundering, among other things, for the South American Cartel. She had led a life of crime, a sociopath, amoral to the nth degree, no concept of right or wrong, doing only what she wanted. I had always been there to rescue her one way or another when no one else would. I loved her fiercely and had always hoped beyond hope she would learn a lesson, any lesson but that was not her fate. My opinion did not change when I read the letter saying she had parole coming up and could she please spend it near family and would I write a letter saying I would accept responsibility for her.

We had just finished the renovation and rental of Nan’s boyfriends duplex. Her condition was deteriorating so we moved her out of the duplex where she had been living alone since her boyfriend’s death, into her old house with us. We were living there at the time, starting renovations. It was a beautiful but dilapidated Victorian in Mid City that had been splint into upper and lower apartments. We cleaned up most of the downstairs and had re-built the main staircase ourselves. Only one bedroom upstairs and the bath had been finished so we turned the front parlor into a bedroom/sitting room in which she would be comfortable. Things were moving along smoothly, my aunt was happy with her income, I continued to write speeches and invocations for her to use with the numerous women’s clubs to which she belonged. I had hired a daytime helper to aid in taking care of Nan since she was becoming very wobbly on her feet and this also allowed me more time to work on the renovations, help my aunt with her garden, do her cooking and other mundane everyday items.

I showed the ominous letter to my husband who immediately said “you can’t turn your back on your sister when she needs you most!” “Oh yes I can, this time is different.” I responded proclaiming my premonitions that I saw lying between the lines of the handwritten request. He persisted and I conceded by saying I would give it thought for a couple of days. However, he went behind my back and mentioned it to my aunt who deluged me with feelings of guilt. But I stood my ground and said, “If both of you want to recuse her once again so bad, then you write the letter”… and to my astonishment, they did. My husband writing he and I would take responsibility. Nothing I said would change their minds, both my husband and aunt stating, “it’s not as bad as you think!”

She arrived at a halfway house located near Mid City. Contrite, shamed and grateful, looking worn, pale, undernourished, but I knew most of it was all false pretense, I could feel the deception that shrouded her like a dark aura. I gave my best smile and said we would help as much as we could, knowing I would keep a very close eye on her.

It was just one week later when my aunt called me and asked me to come over to her house to meet with my sister’s probation officer. I knew something was terribly wrong for I felt my skin was crawling with imaginary spiders, and my heart was beating fast. I sat down at my aunt’s dining room table with my sister, my aunt and the probation officer as an appeal was made by my sister to move in with me so she could finish her parole closer to family and not isolated in the half-way house. Oh it was a sorrowful plea, and I said I was sorry but that was not possible, explaining the situation as logically and sympathetically as I could. Then my aunt stood up and looked at me with such distress, I cringed as she said, “How can you say something so mean and cruel! Of course she can live with family! I will take full responsibility!” I protested loudly stating again all the rational reason why this should not happen. But the parole officer had been blinded by my sister’s performance as a contrite and repentant person just looking for another change to do good that she immediately agreed to my aunt’s proposal, and accused me of being the kind of person my poor sister could do without.

The devils handmaiden has now taken control. Within a week the upstairs apartment was made ready and my sister moved into my aunt’s house with a smile.

I did my best to again explain my reasoning to my aunt and my husband, but both were oblivious to my pleas, both were overwhelmed by my sisters performance, her humility, her wretchedness. For the first time in my life I knew fear.

The crack in the mirror of my soul was so resounding, I thought perhaps an earthquake alert might be issued. No one had to tell me that I must now prepare for battle; no one had to tell me that I would stand alone with sword in hand. Once again, no one would believe a word I said, I could not stop what I knew was going to happen. So I did the only thing I could do, I went to the attorney who was handling Nan’s and my aunts affairs, the one person who would take me seriously, advised him of the situation, the potential danger and together we closed any and all loopholes, any cracks that might let the dark fog of evil destroy the sanctuary that had been created to protect my two aunts and the money……..

…….The rest of the story I will continue later in bullet points.

Red Sky, oil on canvas, 91x152 cm (36x60

Red Sky, oil on canvas, 91×152 cm (36×60)

“Again I see you, but me I don’t see! The magical mirror in which I saw myself has been broken, And only a piece of me I see in each fatal fragment – …”

Fernando Pessoa, Poems of Fernando Pessoa

..The Story continues…..

It is nearly impossible to write about that 3-year period; even after 20 years the pain and agony of the betrayal of everything I knew to be true still brings tears to my eyes, my heart rips open and my breath quickens.

Pieces. I will give you the pieces and the main facts. I will try to be the observer and be brief.

The holidays were almost always spent in New Orleans. We would go there or my aunt and uncle would come to us. Thanksgiving or Christmas, we switched around. Then one day my uncle while watching the news grabbed his chest and died.

The pain of his passing was no less or greater than the death of any one individual on earth, but my aunt really never recovered.

Traveling to New Orleans, we buried him and I settled what little was left of his estate. My aunt had never written a check in her life, she had no concept of a budget or even where money came from. My uncle had given her everything she wanted, shielded her from everything else, and in doing so died penniless and in great debt. Through a great attorney, the IRS would not act on the 200,000 tax lien against house and property.  The arrangement was that at the death of my aunt the property would be sold and the IRS would take its due. Because of this lien, I was able to notify the debtors they would have to stand behind the IRS, and all consequently wrote off the 80,000 in additional debts. My aunt’s only income would be my uncle’s meager social security. However, his sister Nan was quite frugal and wise in her ways and came to the rescue, willing to share what she had and my aunt took whatever she could.

Two years later, Nan’s boyfriend of 26 years, clutched his chest and died leaving her his entire estate along with the unfinished estates of his 3 sibling and nearly one half a million in cash. Not only did my aunt’s eyes gleam, but also so did Capitan’s halfway around the world.

So it was a fateful Thanksgiving that my aunt came to visit us, and laid out a desperate situation and begged me to come to New Orleans and help. She feared that the “family” now stealthily control by Capitan though my first cousin, was trying to rob poor Nan blind.

Both of these women were in their 80’s, and I felt the obligation to aide where I could. January of 1994, I flew back to New Orleans to have a look for myself at the situation. What I saw was an unacceptable situation that needed to be righted.

I went back home, telling my husband I would only be gone for a month or two to try to put things in order. Within the first few days of my arrival the family went into hysteria. Driven by the unknown quantity of me, and the fact I was not under their control, they declared war. The lawyers of the family issued verbal threats on my continued health, written threats were received anonymously in the mail.

The situation was plain to see: here were two old ladies, one already going a bit dotty and the other, my aunt, filled with a bit of greed and jealously over Nan’s inheritance; and there were a bunch of vultures on the side calling themselves family, willing to help them both into an early grave so they could get their hands on all the property and the money.

The first thing I did was to go directly to a old friend of Capitan’s, a prominent attorney, whose name I remembered hearing when I was a child, and I retained one of their best estate lawyers. Both aunts then gave me absolute power of attorney and the family took one step back. Licked their wounds and planned the next attack.

Though the attorney and a good accountant we were able to settle all of the open estates and have a proper succession of Nan’s boyfriends family so everything was in Nan’s name with my aunt as the primary beneficiary upon her death. In the meantime they would both enjoy a comfortable living on the invested proceeds of the estate.

Everything seemed to be running smoothly. Nan was living in her boyfriends duplex, visiting her own house once in a while with a handyman/gardener to manage the grounds and repairs as needed. The property and house in Lacombe, La would just sit until the aunt’s were ready to sell. Bank accounts had been established and each aunt would receive a stipend of nearly $5,000 a month; I thought I could now leave, letting Nan and Patty get on with their lives and just visit occasionally.

Little did I know that while all this was going on, my beloved aunt was telling the family she had no idea what I was doing or why I had come down and just taken over.

Unaware of her conversations with the family, I filled her in on all the details and she told me everything would be fine and she would call if needed. Then I went to speak to Nan. We had coffee at one of her favorite spots and I explained to her how since everything was in order and running smoothly I would head back home and if she needed me I was only a plane ride away.

She broke into tears. She began to tell me things Patty had said to the family in her presence, thinking she did not hear or understand. “Since Clarence (her boyfriend) died”, she said, “I have been praying and praying for someone to come and help me. And when you came I knew God had sent an angel. I do not know if I can manage without you but if you must, go I will understand.”

We spoke for a long time, my empathetic heart breaking with each spoken word, knowing that staying was something I now had to do because deep in my heart, I knew what would happen without my physical presence to stand as guardian.

I looked into my souls mirror and saw the first cracks, but I looked away, my altruism taking hold, my “polyananess” ignoring the small red flags, I just knew this was something I had to do, had to fix, had to help, had to protect.

I did not even consider that there would be no one to protect me.

A Leap of Faith

Posted: November 23, 2014 in Art, journal, Women, Writing
Tags:

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit………

fetish-sitting, 2005, oil on canvas, 28 x30 (71x76cm)

fetish-sitting, 2005, oil on canvas, 28 x30 (71x76cm)……

The story continues……

I am not ashamed to admit that my work and life as an on-air radio personality in New Orleans was grand and quite fun. It all reached a peak you might say that Mardi Gras season when I was asked to be the Grand Marshal of the oldest and largest all-female organization, the Krewe of Iris.

I was terribly honored, but my aunt was even more honored by osmosis and demanded that she ride along side of me in the Cadillac convertible. That night became the culmination of one of her societal dreams. A grand night it was, we both wore exquisite gowns, had a ton of beads and trinkets to throw and the ball that followed was glorious; the memory of which became part of every dinner conversation at my aunt’s house for years.

In early February before all this excitement, I received a telephone call from a very old and dear friend and former lover I had not heard from in at least 6 years. I remember well when we broke up prior to my leaving to go sailing as he re-married his first wife. During our conversation, he said he had been divorced for a couple of years, would be coming to New Orleans and would like to see me and with a bit of trepidation , I agreed.

By March of 1977, the city had quieted down and things were back into the same old routine. Of course in New Orleans, the parades never end, there is always something going on to keep one amused! My old friend arrived for the weekend and we enjoyed the time catching up on each other’s lives. I asked how he found me since I did not have a telephone and he had left a message at my aunt’s house. He told me he managed to get the telephone company to allow him to look though the microfiche from 5 years ago. He remembered me making a call from his apartment to my aunt.   I of course found that rather remarkable. He said my spirit had haunted him ever since. He returned to Houston and I did not give the visit a second thought until several weeks later when he invited me to visit him in Texas. The wooing began.

After that visit he called every other night, sent me small gifts like a cheese burger via express mail and other silly things. In April he returned to New Orleans for the weekend and asked me to marry him, said he could not live without me, and ever since we met I was part of his soul. He said he would take care of me, protect me, that he wanted me to paint, to use my God-given talent that he would help to make that possible. He said many things and over a dressed oyster po’boy and a beer, I said yes.

My family screamed when I told them…he is not the one! They said. But then swimming against the current was my forte. The newspapers filled with the announcement and carried pre-wedding photos. One of which was translated into an unsigned oil painting and arrived as an anonymous gift accompanied by a note saying I would be missed.

My aunt and uncle would host the wedding in their house; it would be a small affair. I asked my uncle to give me away. I sent my father a letter explaining my decision, there was no comment other than.. “ perhaps that was not the man I would have chosen for you”, and I responded “I never would have asked you to choose for me”. Needless to say he would not be coming to the wedding, my mother also declined. One sister did come, not sure why, and on the 6th day of the 6th month in a 6 year, with a few friends and some New Orleans family members who were willing to be seen with me, a lovely little ceremony with a chocolate wedding cake was held, and I made a promise.

Sixty days later, we left Houston and moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I realized I had possibly made a mistake. Perhaps I was still on the re-bound from my one true love, perhaps I thought there were no further options based on my past history, perhaps I had misread all the signs, perhaps my expectations were not reasonable. I loved this man, but I was not in-love, and yet I still considered him to be my best friend. It all came down to one fact, I was here, it was now and I had made a promise.

I remember having a very vivid prophetic recurring dream: I was standing on the edge of a cliff, around my feet were scattered remnants of past things. Behind me a great storm was gathering, ahead of me on the other side of this great crevasse was a softly lighted path. In the dream, I was terribly frightened and would wake up in a sweat.

In real life, I took a deep breath. I gave up my pretty dresses for jeans and flannel shirts, my heels for boots, and my manicured nails for ink and paint stained fingers. My hands would grow strong and calloused. I held tight to that paint brush as I stepped off the cliff.

I did not fall.

“We are all exactly where we are supposed to be, doing what we need to do at any point in time.” Unknown–

Paper Play 7 mixed media on paper A4 (8x10)

Paper Play 7
mixed media on paper
A4 (8×10)—

 

 

The story continues……….

If bridges were burning behind me, I did not notice, but the smoke did cloud my eyes for a while as I moved forward in life. Once the air cleared, everything was bright and new again, another door opening, leading me forward and my heart beat with anticipation as the plane landed on that cloudy and humid day.

New Orleans has such a unique pervasive smell. It envelopes one like a favorite old blanket in need of a good wash. Centuries of stale beer, urine, fried oysters, and mold have saturated every brick with an empyrean scent, one known only to those who were shaped from the muddy waters of this city’s embrace. Of course there was also the dampness that always hits you in the face, forcing you to breathe though a wet sponge soggily saying: Welcome Home. That is, if I was going to call some place home, this was as good a place as anywhere, better, because here there were open arms waiting to embrace.

Embrace is a mild word as my aunt and uncle consumed me with love and affection, and plans. I would live with them until I found a place, I needed a job, I needed to meet so and so, I needed clothes, “my god” my aunt said, “what are you wearing, you don’t own a stitch of decent rags!”

I found a wonderful one bedroom in an old Victorian and then I hit the pavement looking for work. My first cousin crawled out of the woodwork offering to help me find a job as she had an employment agency. I agreed even though I knew I would never meet her standards or that of her clients. She reminded me of her position, the favor she was extending and how difficult it might be for someone of my character. I smiled and continued looking on my own.

Fortune lead me to the doorstep of WSMB AM Radio and a position as a receptionist. This pleased my aunt immensely and was considered an acceptable position, since one of her sisters and a brother had worked in radio. The work was simple and I had the pleasure of meeting every big star that came into town.  It was a small station and overall only number three in the market but they had a stellar morning show that was entrenched in the number one slot for morning drive time. My cousin would call once a week with a job offer for me and I would say I have a job and she would say but this better; and I would say but it pays less, and she would but it’s what you should have. I would then politely thank her and hang up, shaking my head.

My life was going along quite nicely. In my spare time I was writing for my aunt again, and her talks, installations and speeches were gaining popularity within the social circles she traveled. My relationship with my aunt and uncle took on a deeper closeness that is difficult to explain. To say I was wrapped in the comfort of love, feeling protected, strong and secure would be an understatement.

Within 2 months, I was promoted to continuity at the station and a month after that I made a proposal that would change the course of my life.

The station had a problem slot: afternoon drive-time: 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. They were last in the ratings and everything they tried failed.  I listened to all the noise, the talk, the discussions going around and one day I walked into the manager’s office and said, ” John, why don’t you put a woman on the air.”

He laughed and said. “That’s never been done, and who would you suggest?”

“Me”, I answered.

There was silence and then he said, “bring me a proposal and we shall see.”

I bravely said, OK! And as I walked out of the office I was shaking but smiling. Three days later I presented the who, what, why and the benefits of putting a woman on the air, mainly me, in a 10-page proposal. The station manager smiled and said. “We’ll let you know.”

Three weeks later I was called into the office and told that the only way they could put me on air was if I had a 3rd degree engineers license so I could work the “board”.  OK, I said and went out, got information, learned it, took the test and came back with an endorsed license in hand.

Within a week I was on the air and within a month the ratings rose to put us in 3rd place.  The station thought it would be better if there was a duo so there could be more repartee, and we went though 6 men who refused to play with me, only wanting to get rid of me and take over. Then Richard came along, 20 years my senior and a veteran in radio with that unique deep voice.  We were magic and a star show was born. Within weeks we were number one in the afternoon drive time and I became the first woman on-air in the city of New Orleans. My aunt was especially ecstatic since a lot of my conversations were about her eccentricity without ever mentioning her name, but all of her friends knew and her popularity soared along with mine.

However, I was not recognized for that accomplishment because our greatest competitor and the number 1 station in the city, decided to fight back by putting a woman on in the morning drive time slot and she became known as the first woman on-air and received all the publicity. Simply because the morning time was the highest earning sales time slot. That was fine with me, Richard and I held onto our number 1 position for the afternoon, I became a star and advertising for our show increased exponentially to make our show extremely profitable for the station. I was asked to MC numerous charity events and special events like the Summer Pops. No matter where I went, there was free food and drink, people knowing I would mention them on the air. I got to interview every big name star that came into town, and aside from Richard’s and my repartee, up to date music became our signature. No other station could touch us.

I rode this lovely train for over a year and then I received a phone call, out of the blue, that would set me on an unexpected path that I would follow for the rest of my life.