Carl Powell, Dan Dumire, Easter, Eileen Powell, Flesh, Jamie Curtis, Jodi Flower, John Powell, Max Powell, Mount Charleston, Muscle Shoals- Alabama, Nevada, Our Lady of Sarto Catholic Church, Paschal Feast, Powell Family, Religious Conversion, Shawn Powell, Shibboleth- Iowa, Susan Gregory Dumire, Taylor Maden, Vigil, Wine
Saturday, April 4, 2015
Sunday, April 5, 2015
Tonight marks the seven hundred and fifteenth three a.m. that has descended on me since my reason for living was ripped from me in an automobile crash. I sit in a comfortable chair in a luxurious hotel suite, curtains thrown open on the eastern facing windows, the albedo of the full moon bathing the gorgeous young woman who shares my king sized bed in ethereal light, a magical luminescence that makes her appear even lovelier than she did in daylight. She is three and a half decades my junior, which not only does not disturb me, it actually fills my 3:00 a.m. with delight. Young as she is, I love her with a passion.
Hours earlier this young woman had been drinking wine with me at a ritual celebration the likes of which few would believe. We had shared wine and as I left our bed, the smell of incense lingering in her hair, remembrance of how the feel of the oils that had been placed on skin during the revelries felt, I smile; the taste and texture of body and blood still lingering on my tongue. It had been a long celebration, one whose lengths and breadths I had participated in only once before. The other time I had been with my now dead wife at a time when she was the same age as the beautiful girl who now shares my room.
The festivities, the high feast, the rapturous repose, was an annual high celebration but last night was special. I had traveled two hours and over two hundred kilometers to participate in the Paschal Feast in attendance of another beautiful young lady. The girl who shared my bed was just shy of her twenty second birthday, while the lovely for whom we had traveled 120 plus miles was fully eleven percent her senior. The twenty century old ceremony had included the welcome and initiation into the blessed fold of the young woman to whom my son was betrothed. At this Easter Vigil Jaime Curtis had been baptized, eucharized and confirmed in her newly embraced faith, all in one fell swoop. Max and Jamie were to be married in exactly 18 weeks, 126 days, some 3,000 plus hours, and today she had done what so many have acceded to in the past. She had assumed the faith of her affianced.
Though sleep eluded me on this 3:00 a.m. as it had so many previous, this morning my head was filled with glory rather than Gorgons. Tonight the thoughts that snaked and slithered through my mind, though insistent, were at least kind and uplifting. Still, I was lonely and thinking it would be cruel to wake my lovely daughter who slept so enchantingly in our room I decide to reach out to a third lovely. At three in the morning I held strong desire that the woman who was a mere 15 years my junior, the one who did swell my libido, might be available and able to fill my head and heart with her presence even though, as she lay 1,500 miles and two time zones to my west, she would not be available to fill my arms.
I hoped that the woman I had met a mere 91 days previous, the vision who replaced my recently black, moribund, flailing and failing spirit with a renewed zest for life could fulfill my need for connection. I sent a text message to Jodi Flower: “Dearest one, it is three a.m. in the Heartland and I am filled with sweet joy, not bitter melancholy. Are you awake and able to chat? TEXT me if so and I will call you. Shawn is asleep in the hotel room we are sharing.” Message sent I grabbed pad and pen and after a few minutes of scribbling wrote:
Beneath winter’s blanket that gives no heat,
Her last visitation on fields of white.
New life of spring amassed in Irish peat,
Hypnotic sphere in sky of twinkling night.
April’s full moon soon shall shine on brown Earth,
Fill our cold, dormant hearts with spring’s caress.
Vernal longings postponed for all we cursed,
Ache for crocus, hyacinth, sweet iris!
Cold, icy blasts beneath clear star swept sky,
Whence will be sweet gentle June’s lover’s moon?
Know that with next Luna comes sweet reprise,
Seasons will rise and swift Mercury too.
End of cold shoulders and impassiveness,
Earth again painted with nature’s pallet!
After typing this into my phone, and using the spell check feature that I found so handy, I sent my quick ode to Equinox to my own celestial object. I soon received the gratifying triple knock on my phone that indicated receipt of a text message. Jodi’s reply was succinct: “WOW! Love poems at one in the morning. Love it! Am just tying up some loose ends. Give me ten minutes before you call.”
Softly under my breath I sang, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed?” Ninety one days ago my spirits had been rekindled when I’d had a chance encounter with a lovely young lady in Las Vegas. The ensuing three months since my meeting with Jodi Flower in Sin City had done more to reignite my drowned passions than anything had since May of 1993 and the birth of the daughter who currently shared my room.
Alone in my thoughts my spirits flagged slightly as I again thought of the circumstances that had brought me here. Jamie hailed from Shibboleth, Iowa which is located along the north central edge of the state. She and my son Maximillian had met in Ames, Iowa and having graduated two years prior from Iowa State and set up house in Urbandale, had decided to be married on August eighth of this year. I had made the two hour, 120 plus mile, drive with my daughter and without her young beau, Taylor. Taylor is a nice young man and truth be told I was ecstatic he had entered Shawn’s life and ended what I have come to think of as, ‘The Portia Phase’ of my little girl’s development. I love both my children fiercely and want first and foremost for them to be healthy and happy; still, I was silently pleased that she was now finding happiness in the arms of a man as opposed to a woman. Sue me if that offends you.
Portia is a beautiful girl with a lovely spirit but my ego had been crushed when I learned that she and my only daughter were closer than roommates. I was glad Shawn had moved on to a beautiful young man with a lovely spirit and hoped that her proclivities would remain opposite as opposed to same sex driven. Shawn and I had rendezvoused with Jamie’s family at Max’s around 7:30 Saturday evening and after celebrating Easter Vigil Mass together we were spending the night in a Des Moines area hotel rather than driving home in the wee hours of the night.
Contrary to my daughter’s wishes I had gently nixed the idea of Taylor accompanying us on this solemn but joyful occasion. I was confident that at 22 years of age Shawn had done more than hold hands with her young man but I did not yet wish to share a hotel room with him, nor was I in any way desirous of shelling out money for the two of them to sleep together in one room while I slept in another, especially on Easter. Some propriety must be observed, mustn’t it? Shawn had good naturedly if not graciously acceded to my wish and it had been the two of us, plus Jamie’s family, that sat in the pews at Our Lady of Sarto in Urbandale, Iowa, not the church of the same name that I attended in Rapida Cedro.
I have eschewed Easter Vigil since being dragged there by my lovely new wife back in 1982. Eighty two marked our first Easter spent together as husband and wife and we looked forward to the renewing rituals of celebrating Christ’s rising from the tomb. Easter also fell mid-April that year and a warming trend, especially after a long Michigan winter, can make almost anyone believe in God’s Glory, at least for a day or two!
To add to Easter’s inherent pleasure an old friend I’d grown up with as a child had called and left a message that he was in town for the weekend. Dan Dunmire and I had been fast friends throughout school but he had joined the Army right out of high school and had subsequently met his wife Susan Gregory Dunmire while in service. I had seen Dan and Susan a time or two over the eight years that had passed since I matriculated and he became Government Issue and it was always nice to catch up with them. Having learned that they were staying at Dan’s folks’ house I dialed his number and when a sweet southern alto had sing-songed, “Hello, this is the Dunmire’s, Susan speaking,” I had responded a bit too quickly for her sorghum speech patterns.
My rocket speed recitation of, “Hi, Susan, this is John! Is Dan there?” Had been met by a charmingly southern rejoinder.
“Slow down, slow down! You talk faster than I can think!” she had agitatedly replied.
Her response brought a huge smile to my face and a governor to my tongue. I repeated myself far more slowly saying, “Hi, Susan,” pause. “This is Jon,” pause. “Is Dan there?”
“Goodness, Jon! He’s right here, hang on just a minute, please.”
Susan hailed from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which is located in the North West corner of the state. It is a land where Yankees talk funny and the residents are glad to let “Furiners” know it. Susan had been brought up a Baptist and Dan went to whatever church was convenient but Eileen was set on bringing the young couple to Easter Vigil Mass with us. The Saint John Church and Student Center was selected and we four made our way into the chapel early enough to insure that we would have seats.
I do not recall having previously attended an Easter Vigil service prior to the one Dan, Susan, Eileen and I attended. I do not know why my parents did not bring their five children whose ages spanned a decade to Easter Vigil but I have a theory on this. Easter Vigil is one hell of a celebration. We walked outside, made our way back inside, ‘celebrated’ infant baptism, adult baptism, first Holy Communion, and Confirmation at which point Dan leaned over to me and whispered, “If they roll a casket to that altar I am bolting!” which set me to laughing far louder than pleased my young wife. Dan was right though, we celebrated half of the Church’s sacraments in about a two and a half hour period.
I can imagine my father, Carl, sitting through a two and a half hour celebration of Mass: I can see him doing it once in his lifetime. Looking forward to voluntarily repeating such a plenitude of things Paschal after only thirty three short years I had asked myself, “Why?” The answer is simple. The blessed Sacraments include Baptism, Penance, Eucharist, Confirmation, Matrimony or Holy Orders, though in some rare circumstances both, then Anointing of the Sick, or what we geezers call Extreme Unction. Jamie Curtis was graduating from her RCIA class and would be baptized a Catholic this evening and I was willing to sit through two and a half hours of holy hell in order to be there for her!
Eileen and I had been born into Catholic families and reared the same. This had not been the case for Jamie nor for either of my grandmothers. My maternal grandmother had been shamed into becoming Catholic when one of my double Great Aunts told her that her marriage before a justice of the peace was sinful and that she had best repent, come into the loving arms of Mother Church and renew her vows before a priest in a proper religious ceremony lest she live her days in sin and bear children who were spiritual bastards.
My Father’s mother had hailed from a proud Methodist family who felt that marrying a lowly Catholic immigrant was beneath her and had shunned their daughter and her husband for years following her conversion and marriage. Both of these women had immersed themselves in Mother Church and now here was Jamie Curtis following in my grandmother’s footsteps. Jamie, after attending classes on all things Catholic, was to celebrate her new found faith at tonight’s Mass and I was there to celebrate with her.
Jamie Curtis is likely the best thing that’s ever happened to my son. Her no nonsense, pragmatic and disciplined approach to life was a wonderful counterpart to Max’s happy-go-lucky, take it as it comes, why worry about tomorrow demeanor. They make a great team and it always makes me a little sad when I remember that Eileen was taken from us before my son and Jamie became engaged. I’m sure she too would have been very happy with their intended tying of a lifelong knot.
Like clockwork my phone did its little triple tap that indicated receipt of a text. “Phone me, Shakespeare, I long to be one with your Longfellow,” was Jodi’s scintillating and much appreciated invitation. Who could help but be smitten with a woman like that?
I added slippers to my fashionista disapproved nocturnal vestment of ratty sweat pants and 2012 Cyman triathlon tee shirt and slipping my phone and room key into my pants’ pocket made my way to the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express. Not surprisingly the lobby was empty- the night desk clerk was not even visible- but the counter held three carafes of coffee labeled decafe, robust and classic. I tend to be a drinker of robust hotel coffee but today settled for decafe con leche, which, as it turned out, was not only caffeine free, but lukewarm to boot. Today I was living life on the edge!
The phone signaled a single ring in my ear and as Jodi picked up my brain said, ‘Give me a ping, Vasili. One ping only, please,’ in a classic Sean Connery accent. What it heard through the wonders of cell towers, microchips and amplifiers was the sweetest voice this side of heaven greeting me with, “John Powell, poet extraordinaire! How the hell are you, you old goat?”
“Deprived and depraved according to Billy Joe McAllister. How are you, sweet desert flower?”
“Exhausted, if truth be told. I promised myself I’d finish tallying up last month’s bills for my clients and then be in bed before midnight and here it is after one o’clock. I can only give you a few minutes of time before I gotta’ get to bed. Big day tomorrow.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What have you got planned on our high holy day? Certainly not something as pedestrian and bourgeois as church?”
“Well, yes and no. I plan to be climbing to the top of Mount Charleston as the sun is rising while all the good, God fearing folks rejoice in the Son’s rising. Little group of us will make the ascent and then celebrate spring’s arrival up there. Not a Wiccan wingding but certainly not a traditional resurrection reconciliation either. How about you?”
“I attended Easter Vigil Mass with Shawn, Max, Jamie and her family. Jamie got baptized a Catholic today and I went along to show solidarity. Ceremony turned out to be every bit as long as I remembered but devastatingly beautiful. Haven’t felt this Catholic since I hit puberty, if you know what I mean. As Bono would say, “He moves in mysterious ways.”
“Yeah, and as Matthew McConaughey would say, ‘It’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright!’ Wow. That’s great! I’m so happy for you.”
“Yeah, me too. What’s Mount Charleston?”
“Pretty challenging peak about forty minutes from here. We’re supposed to meet at five a.m. so we can start climbing around six, so I just called to whisper sweet nothings in your ear and make sure everything was fine your way.”
“Five? I really need to let you go, huh? You won’t even catch four hours if you fall asleep right now.”
“Nope, but I should be okay. Catnapped today and should be able to again tomorrow. Wish I could be there and sleep in your arms tonight, sweetie pie.”
“You and me both, gorgeous. Six weeks and you’ll be here. Hey, I’m going to let you go. I just wanted to talk to somebody special and that’s you. Goodnight, angel.”
“Goodnight, John. Feel free to send me more poems, they make me think of you.”
“I’ll do it then! Be careful tomorrow, and have fun.”
“Oh, I plan to; on both accounts. Goodnight, John,” she said and I heard the line go dead.
The line was dead but my heart was not and at least for tonight my demons were caged. “Good thing I chose decafe,” I said to no one, “Now I should be able to fall back to sleep.”