Category Archives: WWII

How the Good Souls Are Taken.

After not one, but two, articles appeared in major newspapers covering so-called “White Christian Nationalists” devotion to the Trump regime, I figured that piece I’d been toying with writing had better hit the page. God’s inspiration should never be ignored, after all. Oh; and, believe me: I mean that, sincerely.

For all practical purposes, I am a voice of the “white Evangelical Christian.” My family was established into the fellowship of the Fundamentalist sect of the Plymouth Brethren by our grandfather, a street preacher who’d migrated from eastern PA to get a job building cranes and raise his children. A couple elders of “the meeting” on East Avenue in Erie met him, at the local jail, and invited him to join their assembly. Soon Henry, his wife Mae, and their four daughters Dora Mae, Betty, Frances, and Martha, would be born and raised among them, attending Sunday School, Morning Worship and Gospel Meeting – all on Lord’s Day – plus, Prayer Meeting and Bible Study on Tuesday and Friday.

Aunt Frances, the most liberal thinker among his offspring, would go radical and marry a Baptist minister. The rest raised all of us on the self-same attendance regimen and its accompanying rules for dress and decorum; head coverings for the women, seated silence for all females in the presence of their men.

Pappy, as we grandkids would come to call him, was a closet Republican who came to accept that, like the rest of the Brethren, his citizenship was in Heaven and that God would put into office whom He will – with no need for his actual vote. My parents, and our entire extended family (with the exception of the Baptists) modeled after their patriarch, listening intently to the election results on the radio but refusing to participate in the democratic process.

I accepted Jesus into my heart at age six, but registered to vote at age thirty one, in 1988, the year our grandmother’s soul left her body for the seventh Heaven. The competition for the office of President was Bush/Dukakis and I, torn between Dukakis’ education plan and Bush’s GOP platform of fiscal conservatism and social traditionalism sat, biting my nails until the polls closed – never placing my vote.

The next time being a Christian became relevant in my political world was the year 2000. For some reason, though I’d long since left the constraints of the PBs and church culture in general, I’d found myself in the convocation of our local mega-congregation, curiously named at the time “First Assembly”. Movie screens were mounted to the left and right of the sanctuary, primarily intended to present praise lyrics but, on this occasion, the projectionist was preparing a form of worship from which there would be no escape.

I don’t remember what was said from the lectern, by way of introduction. I just remember the ceiling lights dimming and strains of the Battle Hymn of the Republic wafting from speakers mounted throughout the large, wide church as an authoritative baritone underscored in narrative what we were about to experience.

This was no missionary appeal, with its opening report about life in the Caribbean or African interior. This was a film about George W Bush, designed specifically for the church congregations of all America. There were images of uniformed military, and family photos of the Bush dynasty, splayed out across a metamessage of persuasion as moving as an altar call at the City Mission. I was aghast, astonished; what was politics doing amongst the faithful? Furthermore how, two thousand years after the birth of Christ, did a piece of campaign propaganda ever find its way into the First Assembly of God?

Now, twenty one years hence, I think I know.

Now, I recall my immediate family’s open defense of the President soon to be history. I trace back further, through conversations with my beloved former student, a high ranking military officer of the US Army Air Force and born-again Christian, his ardent support of the George W. whom he actually met filling his eyes with light. Mostly, I call to mind prayer breakfasts for whose keynote speaker politicians were pinned, political rallies populated by entire church contingents, the voice of America’s morally upright finally being heard by a mainstream society clearly in precipitous decay.

Here’s the thing about “true” Christians, the ones who read the Bibles they own and who live for the Christ they call their Saviour. Once they’ve accepted the doctrines which dictate that the Truth is theirs for the delivering, they hear the mandating call to go out and preach that gospel to every tongue, people, and nation. These having spent generations separated from the World and all its fleshly lustings, some shrewd political strategist finally realized that one more call, tactically placed, couched in all the trappings of a real conviction to act, would render an entire demographic literally clamoring for a place in the palm of their hand.

Now, there would be no need for the subliminal strains of an electric organ cued by a pastor’s gentle request for bowed heads. Just a country song, sung by a Christian entertainer, and youth group car washes popped up in every church parking lot in the nation – complete with bumper stickers declaring the candidate of consensus. Just a message, insidious in its power, that the marginalized faithful were important, thrust into the spotlight of the Almighty God’s intention for His people and summoned to a service no true Christian could, in good conscience, refuse.

What nobody calculated was the incredible intractability of the true Christian. To say they are an emboldened fringe is a dangerous oversimplification; this is far beyond extremism. These are both Fundamentalist and Evangelical. This is an entire mentality of infinite scope, with eternal life its branded hallmark. Psychologists would say that theirs is not a dilemma. The path is clear; wavering is not part of their lexicon. They shall not be moved.

Somewhere between the promise of prosperity and sinless perfection, the message these march has the Kingdom of God all over it. Pandora’s box should have been left tightly closed, just like the fellowship of the Plymouth Brethren, exclusive unto itself. But, politics played its ever-greedy hand, and now we all pay the price for that unforgivable sin.

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© 1/18/2021 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting authentic original stories.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Bloodstone.

 

Dad never knew his parents.

Uncle Gabriel and Aunt Marietta told him stories.  Raimondo was a foreman, a tenor, a brute and a womanizer; Giovina, defenseless, speaking only Italian dialect, had been committed to a sanitarium by her husband. Tony, her third child, was born there.

Dad would be taken from her, at birth, to live alternately at the Bracchi’s foster home or the Walter E Fernald School in Waverly, Mass.  But, on or about age 15, to bolt, literally running away, he with his institutionally bequeathed harmonica and trumpet trained lip, caught the freight cars and rode them all the way to Louisiana.

From the deep South, this rambler would take odd farmhand jobs and then head West, learning life and copying a cigar box set of “spoons” by carving a John Deere plowhandle into his own hand held rhythm section. Together with harmonica in his right, bones in the left, he became a bona fide panhandling drifter, his travels reaching their ultimate end at the California coast. After a week invited to stay with a touring big band, he joined the US Army.

The Army would send him back east, to Fort Riley KS.  Training there for the impending war, he would ride yet another rail, this time a steamer to New York on a final R&R, and meet Mum, with whom he sat and sang and played out his life story all night. By the time the fighting broke out, they were already married.

Deployed to Germany, where he would serve under Patton as a forward observer, reach Corporal as lead bugler organizing a parade for the dignitaries, and earn the Bronze during the Battle of the Bulge Dad had many interactions with every walk of life. Somehow, along the way, he acquired mementos: two decorative swords, of fine silver; a German luger pistol; an emerald cut topaz from a fraulein named Kitty; and, a bloodstone pinkie ring, set in gold.

When I was eleven, Dad gave me that bloodstone as a reward for learning his favorite piano piece, “Alpine Glow”. I have worn that ring, nearly every day, for the past fifty one years.

In spite of everything he did tell us, there was still so much we never knew about Dad. There were gaps, in time, for which there was no clear explanation. There were the repeated AWOLS, and the stint on Pearl Harbor day (his birthday) in the guard house, and one more memento, that oval silver tag with the name Tony Marino bearing his social security number which he wore as a cabbie.

Still, there was his sister Frances and her husband Al, who played clarinet for Artie Shaw, first cousins, same surname; his brother whom he’d met at the Fernald, Luigi, whom everyone called Tom, no physical resemblance, living as an electrician in Hartford. There was his niece, Rhonda Lee, who died tragically at age 51; his nephew, Richard, whom we’d only seen once; and Rima, beloved to Mum, who actually came back with her husband Ange to see Dad in the year before his death. These were those we did know, only as we did know them.

Research reveals that the bloodstone is claimed as an excellent blood cleanser and powerful healer, heightening intuition and increasing creativity, grounding and protecting against geopathic and electromagnetic stress. My memory speaks that Dad’s bloodstone was acquired in exchange for a pack of smokes. It’s owner never revealed anything about the ring to him, as far as we ever knew.

My hand, through which his blood still flows, bears Dad’s ring to the end. What Dad never knew, and what we never knew about him, are in God’s.

 

Bloodstone

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© 12/18/19   Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Neither copying, in whole or part, nor translation permitted by anyone at any time. Thank you for being the better person.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Separately Together*

[ *this piece written, entirely oblivious of Dr. Martin Spurin’s book, Separately Together © 2016 ]

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I can still see her face, and hear her voice.

Carol Burnett, on the Tonight Show, crowing:  “Oh, I’d LOVE to get married, again! He could live in his house – right next door – and, I could live in mine!”

Perhaps it’s simply that she and I share a birthday. Stars aligned, and all that. Needing our independence, abhoring being led around by anyone – especially a h.u.s.band.

But, just yesterday, an article appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Apparently, seniors like me – single, little baggage, or kids all grown and gone – are finding themselves perfectly content to sustain relationships without the benefit of cohabitation.

In fact, there were several couples cited by name and photograph enjoying just such a radical lifestyle. Yes; imagine that. Loving somebody, without living with somebody.

Up until encountering that societal revelation, I’d been struggling mightily with my relationship of the past two and a half years. Both of us over 60, each of us happy in our own homes, I’d been driving out more than three times weekly to spend much of my time on his property with him; after all, I’d been retired from my full time teaching position for over five years, and he was still trying to eke out the final two before he could leave his position as a dialysis nurse to our regional medical center and take his own. I rationalized that being on site had to be a help, rather than a hindrance.

But, I was underfoot. The things I did, all voluntary, were not required by him. My desire to modify my surroundings to make them feel more welcoming to me were taken as criticisms, as if he needed to make changes heretofore unnecessary. The pop of color I wanted to add to his dreary den in the form of pillows and throws pleased me but, to him, they were just more things and, invariably – considering the presence of his two Rottweilers – more laundry.

On the nights I’d spend there with him, he’d need to be asleep well before 10 in order to rise by 4:30am, while I’d need several more hours of nocturnal biorhythms to wind down. Likewise, the mornings on his rare days off he’d already be up and roasting coffee before I’d even had my REM phase of sleep.

As winter encroached, his desire to keep the house at 64 degrees F hit my small boned body like a rush of blowing snow when the door opens. I shivered until my heart almost hurt, resorting to leaving my coat on through dinner until he commented that doing so was unsettling. Wearily, I’d pull on double layers and endure, not so secretly wishing I could just crawl into my warm bed.

After the first full year, taking stock and keeping tabs became my subconscious ritual. How many times had I driven out, vs his effort to spend a day with me at my house? When I counted the dollars spent on gas, and declared them, this was cause for one of many, increasing disagreements which became verbal volleys which, in turn, escalated into a pattern of lashing out every time I had overstayed my welcome. At the height of each of these, I would pack up whatever I’d brought with me and drive away. Unbeknownst to both of us ( until the counselor intervened ) he interpreted these actions as evidence of an unstable relationship which lacked the emotional security he sought.

Were we breaking up? Were we getting back together? What, exactly, were we doing?

Admittedly, we’d talked about what we’d do, going forward. He’d alluded more than once to selling his 2 acre rural idyll and downsizing to a condo near the water; I’d openly stated that, after 30 years, I would never sell my house. This was clearly our impasse, and I wondered if it would become our deal breaker.

Imagine my astonishment.

Entering the fray: The 100th Monkey Phenomenon. The Wall Street journalist had been doing the study and, here, as by fire, were the results: couples meeting later in life were opting to stay in their own, individual homes and sustain their loving relationships anyway.  And, by all accounts, they were actually happy.

Mum and Dad loved each other, exclusively. Theirs was a match made on a train, circa 1940; Providential meeting, whirlwind courtship, broken engagement (hers) and a wedding before the war. Living together, for them, was a trial. Dad took to jogging to get out of the house, and Mum sat at her sewing machine to be alone. They held out until death, leaving so much for the family to vividly recall. My brothers had long since left town, but I’d stayed as witness.

Now, I love to witness my partner drive away. I know where he’s going, and I know where I am. I’m home, where I can keep him in my heart and thoughts until we meet up in the next day or so. It’s called space, and now it’s okay to both want and need it. And, it requires faith, expressed and exercised. Trust is better nourished when tested.

Yes. We are two old habits, and we cannot break. And now, we can still love each other, thank God.

Even if, on this particular night, we only see and hear each other in our dreams.

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© 9/5/19  [essay by] Ruth Ann Scanzillo.      All rights those of the author (of the essay), whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original [ essay] material.

littlebarefeetblog.com