Category Archives: sociology

Uncle George O’Keefe.

Some men just stand alone.

George O’Keefe was an instantly recognizable American Irish. He’d been born in Erie, PA but never spent hardly a day in any run of the mill fashion. Devout, one might say precociously, as a young boy, while other kids rode bikes or played army this kid stood on the steps and played church, preaching to his sisters’ dolls.

Amen.

And, lest one think him a shirker, George had perfect attendance at public school. For 12, solid years.

Mum met him when he took up with her sister, Frances.

As a very young man, he’d prove traits like constancy. Our grandfather, Pappy, loved to tell the story. George would always reappear, at the door, no matter the misunderstanding or disagreement. See, George was hooked – on God, his Savior Jesus, and Fran Sweet – and, he never looked back. Not once.

Defying virtually all other Irish, not a drop of alcohol could be found at his table, unless he had just poured out the wine for Communion. Then, it was the sacred blood of the Lord. He knew this, like he knew his own reflection in the mirror.

George would marry Frances, and move to Spartansburg PA and then to Clendenin, WV. His bright bell tenor rang out everywhere he went – whether founding Bible study classes or camps, or playing outside with his children no matter the season. Becky, the eldest, said he was up at dawn every day, making breakfast for the whole family and packing each lunch for school. And, even into his late 70s, still water skiing, fishing, and hitting the racquetball courts.

Beyond all this, his influence extended into the lives of countless others. One of these was my father.

Dad had met mum on a train, during R & R from the US Army. The week he decided to travel to Erie, to check out her digs, George and Frances were on hand.

Calling the Bible a comic book, Dad had no use for the obvious brand of Christianity he would confront as he stepped foot into the home of Henry and Mae Sweet on 29th Street. Mammy, the first to hand Dad a small New Testament, set about praying for his conversion; Pappy, the hardliner, was sure this WOP was a lost cause, gruffly declaring:  “He’ll never be saved”.

But, George O’Keefe was also in the room.

And, the day Dad decided to propose marriage to Mum, he’d set his shrewd little ducks in a row; praying the “sinner’s prayer” aloud, he managed to convince Pastor George O’Keefe that he meant business.  And, George, filled with the kind of faith that gave even the hardest sinner the benefit of the doubt, was more than ready to believe it. In fact, he rejoiced; when Mum and Dad got hitched, George O’Keefe “married” them.

Two years in, Mum was pregnant and Dad’s cover was blown. He’d admitted to one of his customahs in the bahbuh shahp that he was “tired of the charade.” When Mum found out, he had no choice but to divorce her.

Ten years into that chapter, God finally made His move. Drawing Dad into the church of a family friend, Pastor LeBeau, the Almighty spoke the Gospel to him one more time. So convicted was Dad of his sins that he walked out of that service and drove to Cleveland, in search of a Burlesque show to distract his heart.

That lasted about twelve minutes.

Back to Erie, into his small one room apartment, Dad dug out his New Testament and read all the verses which Mammy had underlined for him. This time, he prayed in earnest, and repented, and accepted Jesus as his Savior. And, then he told Mum.

George O’Keefe, almost as happy as she was, rejoiced once more. And, George married them all over again, the second time – performing this ceremony in the living room of the new house they would call home for the next 50 years.

In 1995, Mum was stricken, for the second time – with cancer. This time, the disease was in her brain, and terminal. After a mere five and a half weeks, she lay in a hospice bed in the room I had always called mine growing up – mute, the tumor having taken her speech entirely.

Those closest to Mum had come to visit, if they could. Among them, her youngest sister, ending an estrangement that had lasted for years. Then, early one evening, Frances and George drove in from their cottage on Lake Chautauqua.

Mum’s face had taken on the shape of the tumor’s affect. Her mouth, drooped to one side. Her eye, nearly closed. George and Frances walked into the room, and George leaned down close to her ear.

In his bright, bell tenor, with that ever present, big broad grin, George told Mum a joke about a horse. The joke, and its punchline, would be lost to the ether but Mum, as soon as she heard it, burst out laughing – the laugh of recognition, indeed of comprehension, in a rush of affirmation. And, her number ten smile flashed across her face, obliterating completely any sign of palsy or paralysis.

Then, her eyes closed and she went to sleep, never to wake again. By morning, the sun streaming in through the windows, Mum had released her spirit and was gone from the earth.

But, Uncle George had brought the gift of his presence into the room. He’d provided us one more glimpse of our mother, before death came to take her body.

This past Sunday, Uncle George passed away. He was 98 years old. And, he left with that same broad smile on his face.

Thank you, Uncle George. Thank you for being such an important part of our family and the far more inclusive family of God. When the voice of the archangel heralds the trump of God, we’ll be ready to rejoice with you for all eternity.

 

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   4/11/18

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There You Are.

 

Once you enter into the life of an addict, you are there. Not only are you there, but you might often find that you are no longer here.

Here is where only you are. But, you are no longer. A barnacle, superglued to the other, not sucking life but giving, your purpose becomes it.

Every time you try to extract, the primordial ooze of regret suffocates you like a stagnant oil spill. You are sure that, without your presence, the addict’s return to dissolution will be far worse than the time before, perhaps tragically. So, you return, just to make the sludge drop off before you shower.

And, then you go to Al Anon. Al Anon is where everybody goes who can’t leave. And, they sit around, and follow all the rules of the meeting, and bite their lips during the droners and chew their tongues when somebody cries out for an answer. And, when it is finally your turn, you know full well that everybody else is either biting it or chewing it but you adopt the mantle of denial just long enough to say your piece so that your face doesn’t come off your head and melt under the lights.

Being at Al Anon serves one purpose. It helps you accept that, from within your particular demographic, there are between nine and twenty two other hapless partners and spouses whose lives are as inextricably caught as yours is.

There are two ways people exit these meetings. They either bolt out as quickly as they arrived, or linger interminably, usually gathered around the latest newcomer. When you are the newcomer, you experience a few minutes of comfort realizing that the rules of the meeting can be bent just long enough for some actual human contact.

Thirty eight minutes later, legs crossed in a standing position, you still haven’t shaken off the last, most desperate proselytizer, the one whose week was by far the most traumatic. That one really needs you. Without you, at least in symbol, the meeting will have been meaningless.

When you finally get into your car, momentary relief that you can finally go floods your being. And, this going is of the highest value. By leaving the meeting, you have performed the only true act of departure you’ve made all week.

And, you drive away.

At this point, you have two choices.

You can keep driving. Or, you can return to the arms of the addict, who waits anxiously for you.

And, everybody knows where you will go.

You go back. You go there, because that is where you are. Even when you leave, you are still there.

There you are.

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© 4/4/18  Ruth Ann Scanzillo     All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

Lone Hometown.

 

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it”  – Winston Churchill.

Just spied that as the heading to another WordPress blogger’s post, of this day. Hoping, at the moment, that the other blogger won’t mind the borrow; Churchill’s words are just too illuminating a heading for that which must be said here, as well.

No, dear readers, friends, enemies who also read. I do not intend to write history.

In this, my hometown, my options for shaking the earth have diminished to nearly nil.

Why? Because, in this blog of well over 500 essays and poems, whether the reader wants to hear about them or not all my sins are confessed. Before you, I am unafraid. I defend only truth.

This is a challenge to the actions of those who render the vulnerable both implicated or condemned. The late Fr Mike Annis, beloved man of God and brilliant mind, told me my ability to read others was uncanny and that I should be careful to avoid alienating until trust was established. This has been a difficult charge. But, I have learned, approaching the age of 61, that some people – for reasons driven by unspoken motive – will not be trustworthy. It is these I have sought to expose, in an attempt to nullify the power they wield over those they seek to control.

But in this, my hometown, there will be those whose sphere of power will just grow larger. The truth will be buried by their actions. Because, as soon as these are challenged, all their energy will be spent contriving ways and means with which to discredit the truth teller. And, with enough resources at their disposal, they might silence the lone voice.

Yes. Sometimes, too many become convinced that the story they have been given is the truth. Famous words: if a lie is repeated enough times, it becomes a truth to those who accept it.

At this juncture, perhaps you, my reader, can relate. Perhaps you, too, have held a truth all alone. Perhaps you have watched those who would have rallied in support of your veracity retreat toward those who have nefariously captured their trust. Perhaps you know the isolation.

At moments like this one, faith is the only buoy. We really do find faith when all else has failed us – all people, all circumstances, all events, all hopes or dreams.  I am convinced, now, that faith is far more than the substance of things hoped for or the evidence of things not seen; beyond this, faith is further evidence that humanity carries within its collective soul an ultimate gravitation toward the higher Spirit. We do not seek that Spirit often – only at moments of absolute finality, when all else has truly failed.

I may very well carry to my grave the truths which burden my heart, today. But, my Creator knows exactly what they are, and in that source of the truest power I forever place all my trust.

To the rest, I say: go forth, and write the history you intend for the world to believe. Most of the history books of the past seventy five years are being revised, as we speak. Apparently, the truth they should have contained is only finally coming to light.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   4/3/18    All rights those of this author, who speaks the truth, and whose name appears above this line. May God strike down all evil forces, everywhere, which rise up in protest.

littlebarefeetblog.com