The Middle of the Story

This morning I dropped my bucket down the blog well. When I pulled it back up, it was empty, or so I thought. But while I was outside getting my steps, I remembered Paul Harvey and the News. Growing up, I loved listening to him on Bisbee’s KSUN Radio because he always ended his newscasts with a little anecdote hat added texture to one of the stories he’d already told. Remembering that made me think perhaps I should do the same. And since I’m evidently writing my autobiography in disjointed weekly installments, I thought it might be interesting to string several of those beads of stories in a row.

Several times when I’ve faced a crisis in my life, various people of faith have been placed in my path to lend a hand. Last week, I told you how Jeff and Mary Ann Swenson helped me leave a difficult sojourn in western Washington and return to Arizona to catch my emotional breath, not unlike the way Ali Reynolds was forced to return to Sedona to sort out her difficulties. (See any resemblance there? I thought so.). This week I’m going to tell you about my friends, Estelle and LaRoque Dubose (RokieDokie, as she always called him) and Reverend Mac McKinley of what was then El Encanto Congregational Church in Phoenix.

For a year or so after returning to Arizona, I was in Bisbee working with my Dad, who sold life insurance for the same company I did. In fact, that’s why I went to work for the Equitable in the first place. Eventually, hoping to be made a district manager, I moved to Tucson but when no manager job was forthcoming there, I was offered a similar position in Phoenix the Phoenix office—a job I quickly I accepted. When I told the Tucson manager I was moving to Phoenix, he asked me why. I told him because the manager there had offered me a position. “I would have,” he said, “but I was waiting for your dad to tell me that you were ready.” Wrong answer, and I didn’t let the door hit me on the butt on my way out.

But the three years I spent in Phoenix weren’t exactly a bed of roses either, because I was essentially a married single mom, stuck in a relationship that was spiraling more and more out control with each passing day. Handling the kids and the household were my responsibility. When my husband worked, it was often out of town. One Sunday morning as he was getting ready to return to Vegas, he asked me to stop by a bar on our way to the airport so he could cash a check. “Why don’t you cash checks at the bank?” my son piped up from the back seat. That was an excellent question, and one I should have started asking years earlier.

I enrolled my kids a co-op preschool situated directly across the parking lot from my office. It was a great school, but it required parents to volunteer on a weekly basis. So once a week, I put on my dress-for-success clothing and then worked at the preschool for two hours before walking over to the office. In the mornings I had to get everyone up, dressed, and fed before we headed for the preschool and work. When school let out at noon, I took the kids home where they stayed with a babysitter until I got off work.

One of my fellow district managers had a wife who laid out his clothing every day, did the washing and ironing, and cooked all his meals. They were also childless at the time. Even so, he always managed to show up late for agency meetings. Every time that happened, I wanted to punch his lights out.

In 1980, I finally had enough. I hit the wall and got a divorce, but the problem was, I knew I was still susceptible. I had divorced my husband, but I hadn’t stopped loving him, and I knew if he asked me to take him back, I probably would. That meant I had to get out of Dodge. So I listed the house with a real estate agent for and made arrangements to transfer my insurance sales job to Seattle where I could live with my sister. The problem is, once I made those arrangements, nothing happened—absolutely NOTHING!

As we’ve all learned while dealing with Covid, living in limbo is hell, and that’s where I was, stuck in limbo for months on end. I knew I was leaving Phoenix, but I had yet to do so. With no time certain for our departure, I became more and more lost. Estelle and LaRoque were clients of mine. Estelle was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She’s the reason J.P. was named after a town rather than after his father. Estelle was also one of the most positive-minded people I’ve ever met. One day while we were visiting she asked me how I was doing in that sweet south Texas drawl of hers.

I told her that things at home were so bad that I couldn’t even pray about them. “I’ll tell you what,” she said, “you pray for the little things—for help in doing whatever you need to do to get through the day, and I’ll pray for the big things. I’ll pray to see you in your perfect place.” Sounded like a good deal to me.

But things were still bad at home. I wasn’t sleeping at night. In fact the only place I could sleep was in church. Every Sunday I’d make it through the opening hymn, the announcements, the scripture reading, the offertory, the children’s sermon, and the choir anthem, but as soon as the sermon started, I’d be out like a light. One day the sermon was entitled “On sleeping in church.” I didn’t hear a word of it. On the way out, I shook hands with Mac and told him how sorry I was. “Don’t worry,” he said, “clearly you’re getting just what you need from being here.”

The next Sunday, for the children’s sermon, Mac invited the kids to sit down and hold out one hand. Then he reached into a pocket in his robe, pulled out a roll of one dollar bills, and handed each child one to hold. Then he reached into his other pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill. He offered that to the kids as well, but the only way to take the ten meant letting go of the one. Not a single one of the kids did so—they all clung to the one. Meanwhile, I was sitting in a pew feeling as though someone had just put my finger in an electrical socket. I was still clinging to my one—to my old life. My house hadn’t sold because I wasn’t ready to let it go.

I went home that very afternoon, called the newspaper, and placed a want ad giving away my two dogs and my cat. Shortly after that my house sold, and we were off to Seattle with all our worldly goods loaded into a U-Haul trailer hitched behind my 1976 Cutlass Supreme Brougham that my first husband said I never should have bought and would never be able to pay for.

Yes, indeed, sometimes you really do have to let go of the one.

As I mentioned above, this is the middle of the story. If you want to know the rest, you’ll need to stay tuned next week, same time, same station.

Fortunately, I already know now what I’ll be writing about then, so for next week’s blog the well shouldn’t be empty.