Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chapter Forty Two: Christmas festivities piled on

There was so much to take in before Christmas I could hardly do it, just in my own family alone, that is the family I had left on earth to struggle on without me.  My sister Deana arrived in Phoenix where I used to live and where she used to live a few days before hand. Coral was no where to be seen even though Deana was her sister, too. For once she did not appear just because I thought about her, so I had to assume she was doing something very important elsewhere.
Jerome and Deana got together, and I rushed to join them hoping they would say something about me.
I got there just in time to hear Jerome say, "I am so glad to see you, Aunt Deana.  That way I won't miss Mom so much. I thought we could meet for lunch to the Farmer's Market where I used to meet Mom during the last years of her life."
Deana settled down to tell him about her busy and active life in San Francisco.  Finally Jerome said, "Since Mom joined Aunt Marsha and Aunt Romina in the hereafter I have not known what to do with myself!"
I reeled in shock.  It was not until that moment, I swear to you, that I remembered that my sisters Marsha and Romina had gone to the hereafter before I did.  No wonder my sister Coral had not responded to my thoughts of her.  She was probably waiting for me to get my memory back so Romina and Marsha could join us, too.  Now I looked down the street and I saw Coral walking toward me with two women trailing along with her.  I went to greet them.
"Hello," said Romina.  "I wondered when you were going to remember that we died before you did.  Don't worry.  Passing sometimes knocks all of your memories loose.  You might not know for months whether you are coming and going."
I looked Romina up and down.  What had happened to her?  I seemed to remember she had been ill for months.
"Yes," said Romina, already reading minds as spirits do, "I died of cancer.  Quite a few years back, but for some reason or another the only sister you wanted to see when you arrived was Coral who died when you were still children."
"I thought Coral was all I could handle," I said.  "I knew I needed to see her first.  She is very different, of course, than when we were children, but we did not know what kind of person she was going to be."
"And I passed two years ago," said Marsha. "Quite suddenly.  I hadn't really been sick to speak of.  My passing was just as much of a shock to me as it was to everyone else.  I haven't gotten used to my passing, let alone to yours.  I kept asking Coral when we were going to see you. She said when she is ready she will let us know."
We all sat down on a bench where we would be more comfortable just outside the cafe where I could still see my sister Deana talking very animatedly to my son Jerome.
"Jerome and Deana look like they hare having a good time," said Marsha, peeking in. "I wish we could join them.  Those old fashioned family get togethers are what I miss. We have just come from Utah and Deborah is doing fine.  I don't think there is any danger of her joining us for at least two or three years.  I said, let me get used to -------  passing."
She looked at me with a shocked face for a moment. "I can't for the life of me think of your name and you are my own sister!"
And you know I could not think of my name either.  I had used so many aliases for myself in my novels and plays, I felt as though I had a split personality.  "It doesn't matter," I said.  "I know I have a name.  It will come to me in a moment."
"How are your other kids?" asked Marsha, "Santos and Vivienne and Rafe?" 
Marsha seemed to be trying to prove she knew my other kids' names even if she didn't know mine, and even if I could not remember my name either. I was sure she must remember Jerome then who at that moment  was sitting not twenty feet from us with our other sister Deana.
"Have you seen Daddy and Mother?" asked Marsha.
"Yes, I have," I said.  "They just turned up.  Although I did not feel I was ready to see either one of them."
Marsha said, "We wanted to see you when you first arrived, but Coral told us that you were having trouble seeing relatives, and so far you had not remembered that Romina and I had even died.  The only sister you thought you had in the hereafter was her.  She said we had better wait until your memory came back.  You might be traumatized if we just showed up."
"I might have been," I said.  "I thought I almost went into shock when I looked up and saw Daddy.  I wanted to run away."
"How strange," said Marsha, "You wanted to run away from your own father?"
"You should have seen how I acted for years after I passed," interrupted Romina.  Marsha and I both stopped and stared at her.  "I did not know anybody.  Coral kept coming to see me and every time she came I was irritated and would say, 'Who ARE you?'
"But she was very patient and told me over and over who she was. I would say, 'I don't remember any sister who died, are you sure?'  She would say, 'I am sure.'
Marsha said very firmly, "I have not had any memory loss to speak of."
Coral looked surprised.  "Oh come now, Marsha, you are not going to remember what you don't remember.  You are not a reliable source.  Nobody is for a number of months after they pass.  For many dying is a mind blowing event.  We are not prepared for a spirit existence in most cases. So for a long time, many people are literally lost in the spirit world."
"I am very glad to find out I have more sisters in the spirit world," I said.  "Now I know I won't be lonely."
"If we can just get along," said Marsha. "There is no quarreling in the spirit world, or at least it feels like a lot bigger sin to quarrel over here.  I have to watch my tongue.  If I say something the least bit sharp all these spirits look at me like I have lost my manners."
"Of course," said Coral, "They are not your kids. People come over here all the time who have been misbehaving for years with their kids.  Look at Daddy and Mother.  It took Daddy years to learn to mind his manners again.  He snarled at his kids for years."
"Yes, he did," I said.  "That's why I didn't want to see him.  I remember now.  I was afraid he was still snarling, but when he did seek me out, he did not snarl once."
"Yes," said Marsha.  "Daddy is acting quite civilized.  Mother is still a little flaky, but she hasn't been here as long as Daddy has."
"Yes, Mother threatened to reincarnate early because I didn't seem to want to see her," I said, "but I was afraid she would lose her temper, too.  You know how she was.  You could not look sideways at her without her thinking you were 'sassing' her."
"Oh no," said Marsha.  "Mother could not stand 'sassy' kids.  She wanted to slap their smart mouths for them."
"I would not see Daddy for months," said Romina.  "I recall telling a nurse in the hospital where I was staying not to let that mean man back into see me.  The nurse said he had been very kind to me.  I said, I don't care, I know he is a very mean man and he will hurt me when you are not looking, so don't ever let him in to see me again!"
"You pay for your sins," said Coral.  "Mother and Dad were upset because none of their daughters wanted to see them.  I said, think about it, they don't want rude nasty people who call themselves parents coming to see them when they are upset and in shock from dying."
"I refused to speak to Mother and Dad when I was incarcerated in a mental hospital on earth," I said.  "I was very ill and I knew all their histrionics would upset me, so I turned my face to the wall."
"They thought you were acting very crazy," said Marsha.  "So I asked you the next time I visited if you were going to stop talking to me.  You said as long as you don't argue with me, I won't stop talking to you."
"Everyone is very stressed after going through the dying process.  People are too ill to be screamed at, I can assure you of that," said Coral.
I said, "I had to work hard to keep from dying at 20 years old.  I was afraid Mother and Dad would sap my strength and I would not survive."
"They said you had an irrational fear you were going to die.  It was part of your delusion."
"Huh!" I said.  "That is all they knew.  If they had seen me semi-conscious for hours they would have thought I was close to dying all right."
"But nobody ever saw you like that," said Marsha.  "None of the family that is," she added hastily.  "I have been trying to find your doctor since I arrived here, to see if he can tell me more about what was going on during your hospitalization."
"He is ninety years old," I said, "He should be over here.  Maybe he will tell you now and maybe he won't.  He was only an Intern then, but he would have been warned not to be talking freely about my case, since he had had no authority to treat me."
"That is why nobody really knew what happened to you," said Marsha.
"I did," I said, somewhat indignantly.  "I was there."
"I mean except you," said Marsha, "but were you in your right mind?  Or have you been mentally ill and delusional your whole life?"
My mouth fell open.
Coral with her irrepressible sense of humor began to laugh uproariously.  "I love how people talk when they have just recently passed.  They say the funniest things."
"You see," Coral said to me without mentioning my name so I would know who I was, "Marsha is still in such a confused state of mind that she is wondering if you were not mentally ill for years.  You did get incarcerated. Usually people don't start acting like you did until they get over here, but you were very ill, so it is understandable, but were you mentally ill or were you just physically ill as you claimed?  It was all very confusing.  It was all perfectly clear to you, but was anyone willing to take your word for it after you had been carried away by the men in white?"
"The answer is they weren't," I said, "and that is how all the trouble started." But I decided until I could remember my own name I had better not try to straighten anybody out.  Coral kept nodding as though she was reading my mind but thought it best for me not to mention that I still didn't remember who I was.  Maybe tomorrow I might remember.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chapter Forty One: Christmas could be good or bad depending on whether you have a job

I didn't know what to do with Christmas coming on fast.  I was afraid to leave my family circle for fear my family would not make it through the holidays.  I was surprised to find out lil Santee was home after spending a couple of years in California going to high school. I listened to my ghetto son, Santos, talking on his cell phone to find out if anything had happened to lil Santee I should be alarmed about.  He said to somebody I don't know who he didn't think he did anything really wrong, but he had insisted Santee do pushups every day when he was young and now he had fists of steel.  I told Santee when I was alive he should get his fists registered as lethal weapons since his arm muscles were like rocks.  And Santee had hit a kid who seemed to take it all right, but after two months decided to press charges.  I guess the more he thought about hard he got hit the madder he became.  Lil Santee was probably homesick anyway, so he came on home.  I hoped he would not get in trouble in Arizona, since the reason he had gone to California to school in the first place was because of some trouble he got into there.  It was mighty easy for a sixteen year old to get into some melee they hardly thought was anything at all and ruin their lives.
Santee used to tease me by saying he wanted to grow up and do drugs and go to jail.  His mother and dad were both working day and night to try to keep him off the streets and out of jail for his first fourteen years.  His relatives in California had done the same thing, and told him finally if he got in trouble one more time, he was gone.
No teen aged boy can keep from getting in trouble at least one more time, or that is what my sons had always done, first Rafe, and then Jerome and well, Santos, although he was my ghetto son but he had gotten into the least trouble of any of them.  He wanted to play basketball on the varsity team so he stayed away from drugs and alcohol.  He did not even smoke.
Santos was also the only one of my sons who said he was not going to buy a fancy car and pay big car payments.  When he got home from the navy he ran his little second hand car until Santee's mother's car broke down, and he gave it to her and started riding an old vintage motorcycle he bought or he took the fast transit.  He was the only young guy I knew who willingly took public transportation anywhere.
Santee's mother thought it was everyone in her family's god given right to waste her time all day long chauffeuring them everywhere.  After my VW got stolen by the guy who drove me back east because he thought I should see the country before I died, I walked everywhere and so did Santos unless we could not get there on foot and then we took a bus.
I left the old mansion and rushed back to California where I found out Jerome was trying to contact his nephew to see if he had done anything about getting back in school.
I dared not leave Arizona until the Christmas holidays were over.  Lil Santee made everybody nervous and over excited when he came around.  First of all he was a sensational looking kid that all the girls were starting to notice.  He did not seem to know what to do with his new found appeal for girls and kept changing girlfriends to his mother's disgust.  He probably thought there was safety in numbers.  His dad had warned him that he did not want a baby when he was only seventeen as his mother had been when she had him.  Santos was not much older and was just headed out to sail around the world, so he was not available to help take care of his kid for three years.
By that time lil Santee was completely out of control at three and Santos had to exercise military discipline on him that greatly upset this mother and other grandmother and even me. Could lil Santee be blamed because military discipline had not been available to him for the first three years of his life?  He was about as shocked as a little boy could be when his father attempted to straighten him up.  So there was quite a hallabaloo centered around Santee for quite a long time.  Santos and lil Santee's mother even got back together for the sake of their child, but it still looked as though lil Santee was thoroughly confused.  He did not like his father he used to tell me quite often at first.  He told me once that on a scale of 1-10 for bad fathers, his dad was a 11.  He confided that he might even kill him when he grew up.  But I did notice that people enjoyed lil Santee more than they had before.  His behavior improved despite his dad's ruthlessness. 
Santos granted that his son was not a poster child for good behavior still.  Instead of the sunshine he said he was the thunder.  I thought that was a poetic way to put it and must have meant that Santos admired his spirit, but he was bound and determined he would win the battle of wills the first few years at least.
Santos sounded like he was still down and out in California.  I told him to try the veterans' organization when he got home. They would surely find some place for hm to stay.  They could not let a seven year veteran go homeless or could they?  Santos did say his back was better.  Now he just had to find a job that would not interrupt the healing.
So I thought I better find a place to perch just like one of the snowbirds who flew into Arizona when the first big blizzard hit back east.  We would enjoy the mild weather together during the holidays.  And hope for better times to come for all the down and out of work citizens like Santos.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chapter Forty: Changing my mind about looking up the outlaws in the family and meeting up with Grandma instead

I thought better of looking up any of the outlaws in the family as they might not have changed sufficiently to be good company.  I thought I had better wait for them to look me up.  That way they might have some good news about the change for the better in their characters.
Instead I ran into Grandma on my dad's side.  I am convinced that if you need to see someone in the hereafter all you have to do is walk down a road, any road, and you will run into them.  Grandma looked happy to see me.  She said she was wondering how I was doing.
I said, fine, but I had been in a quandary about looking up relatives I had not got along with or who had even been genuine bad eggs.
"Oh stay away from them," said Grandma.  "They need time to find themselves and make up their minds they want to change."
"How are your daughters doing?"  Grandma didn't know it, but her only two daughters were women I had clashed with.  I thought maybe I could find out from Grandma if they were making progress, without really telling her I was trying to avoid them, too.
Grandma like all the other spirits I had talked to read my mind, "I know you did not get along very well with my daughters," she said.  "We were all very confounded by the men in the family.  We really did not understand them."
"I know they did not understand Daddy!" I burst out.  "What is more they wished him ill.  I was quite shocked to hear one of them say the family of an alcoholic would be better off if he died."
"Oh dear," said Grandma.  "I never taught them to think that, as I was always worried sick about my sons who drank. But they weren't their sons, so maybe they felt they could distance themselves."
"Are you still as religious as you used to be?" I asked.  I didn't want to beat around the bush with Grandma.  I had always admired her ability to care about her family, even me, the daughter of one of the alcoholics.  She would willingly tend me and my sisters any time Mother asked her.  And she acted like she enjoyed us.
"No, not what you called religious on earth.  I found my soul was a lot more tried when I figured out the truth that was hidden from me in my marriage.  I didn't really want to deal with the problems while on earth.  They were just too hard.  But afterwards I made up my mind to look at every single thing that could have affected my sons and helped kill them.  Not a one of them lived to a ripe old age."
"I thought your heart broke when your youngest son died when he was only 22," I said. 
"Yes, and I thought I was raising him so carefully.  I didn't think he would go down the same path as his three older brothers.  But he did."
"I suppose you thought Grandpa was a bad influence."
"He didn't drink, but he was a bad influence in other ways.  But I allowed it.  I thought well as long as he doesn't drink, he's a good man, but that was hardly the case.  I was the one who set the rules.  But I was too young to know what I was up against.  Too naive, like so many young girls are, especially in that area."
I nodded.  Grandma could not help but know a good deal more now than she had when she was alive.  She had to know for example that my dad was spending time in the gay men's hereafter.  She could never have handled what I had learned about him when I was a child while she was on the earth.
"You were a very bright child," said Grandma, "and you kept on educating yourself about the different ways human beings act, especially after you became very troubled about your dad's behavior."
"His secrets and lies caused me a world of grief," I told her.
"Oh, I know.  As soon as I realized from the way you were acting in college you must have your suspicions, I resolved that I needed to educate myself.  My word, all I had ever read were church books.  Addie, my oldest daughter, thought herself well educated but she missed about as much as I did along the way.  I had to wise her up, and she did not appreciate it.  At least not for a while."
"I don't know how anybody can deny the truth forever," I said.  "I also suspected Grandpa, too, even though he did not drink.  He lived like he was a lone bachelor most of the time, only he was surrounded by men and boys.  I am afraid the boys did learn some awful lessons from some of his behaviors."
"Oh, they did, but I could hardly keep them away from their own father.  There was so much that he taught them that was good.  He knew how to do so many things.  He was a very well rounded cowboy and farmer.  I don't know what happened to him, either, but by the time I met him he was set in his ways, and he was not going to change.  He was just going to hide what I was sure not to like."
"Did you suspect he was hiding some of his behaviors from you?"
"If I did suspect it, I could not imagine him actually doing anything, since I was so unfamiliar with other worlds he inhabited.  Your dad must have picked up on his behavior when he was very young, probably because he had experienced some of those kind of feelings. I just could not imagine that I had something so difficult to contend with.  I always had the feeling I was living with a devil, not exactly your Grandfather, but just a devil in general who was always mocking me in my dreams. It was my ignorance that made me an easy victim."
Well, Grandma was certainly forthright enough.  She sounded so much different now than the woman I had known back on earth, with her brow furrowed in sorrow, looking as though she was expecting nothing but blows until the end of her sad life.
"How could I be happy," said Grandma, "when my sons were all dying?  And I did not know what was killing them.  Well, it was secrets and lies.  Not getting things out in the open, not confronting men about suspicions and doubts.  Your Grandpa made a good living for us.  I told myself that I was lucky.  No other woman had it any better.  Ha!"
"Well," I said.  "I thought and thought about talking to Addie.  I gave up talking to Aunt Ophelia.  I finally decided Aunt Addie could not take any talk about Daddy's real problem and what Grandpa's legacy had created in the way of danger for the young on that ranch.  I just hoped nobody was going to get damaged too badly, but I am afraid they did."
"Yes," said Grandma.  "I just had to go my way and let Addie and Ophelia go at their own pace.  I had to find out the truth.  Nobody loses sons as I did without something being very wrong. I told your Grandpa this.  As usual he lost his temper, so I did not see him any more.  He realized the jig was up.  I had found out enough just following everyone around on earth and playing detective to suspect what was amiss.  I had to not worry about what Addie and Ophelia thought.  I just had to worry about my own consciousness.  Not theirs."
"Guess that is what I will have to do, too," I said.  "I thought someday I would like to talk to the family, but that is probably not possible until I get used to the hereafter.  I don't feel comfortable talking to many people who have passed.  I am just not used to the idea they are going to come back into my life, maybe, to talk about what happened on earth."
"It's a very difficult thing to do," said Grandma.  "Talk to the family about the mistakes you may have made.  I used to blame other people for my sons' drinking even when they were older!  I tried to make things as convenient for them as possible, if they were going to drink.  They were not to blame."
"My dad was always very fond of you, and he tried his best to force me to follow in Aunt Addie's footsteps.  So he must have admired her, too."
"She was a respectable woman.  Everyone looked up to her.  You would have thought she would have been just a little kinder and more tolerant.  But her dad's money rather spoiled her as it so often does. Caused her to feel too arrogant.  She enjoyed being the daughter of a man considered well to do."
"He wasn't a millionaire," I said.  "And Grandpa did help a lot of people.  In his own way he was quite saintly."
"He was just trying to make up for what he knew I did not know.  I could see how I had been deceived once I became suspicious, but that wasn't until I was gone from the earth and had made a determined effort to find out why my sons died.  Your dad nearly died too many times, so I counted him, too.  If you girls had not made a superhuman effort to try to reach him, I would have buried him, too. It wasn't thanks to Addie and Ophelia that he lived, it was thanks to his daughters, even though you, at least, suspected about all there was to know about his abnormal behaviors as a married man.  His drinking was bad enough.  I don't know how your mother endured the life she led with him."
"Poor Mother.  She was not a happy woman, naturally,  but I did get the chance to discuss my suspicions with her before she died, and after she had given it some thought, she said she believed it, because she had her memories, too.  She was like you.  It didn't occur to her when she was young she might be marrying a man who was already out of reach and would never be a good husband.  But he had prospects!  That is what drew Mother to him.  She had been raised in poverty, so the son of a man with property sounded more appealing to her than a poor boy she could love."
"She paid a high price for her marriage to him," said Grandma.  "I was around to see much of what was happening when I was doing my detective work.  She went from bad to worse getting even with him." 
"I have observed other marriages like theirs," I told Grandma.  "They are not like regular marriages to be sure."
"I didn't chase the men in retaliation," said Grandma.  "I spent all my time in church when I wasn't required to be on the ranch for the summer work.  I tried to leave as soon as it got cold.  That old ranch house was nothing but a hollow shell.  Your grandpa would never build a new house for me to live in.  I think he was afraid I would not leave and go back to town for the winter.  Addie talked him into building a new house, and it was twice as warm as my old brick house in town with that coal furnace she made him buy."
"Daughters can sometimes manage such men better than their wives can," I said, "since they always have ulterior motives. I lived in that old ranch house one winter, and never could get warm even though we had our beds right next to the heaterola.  Those high windows let in all the cold.  It was a very pleasant house in the summer, but in the winter it was miserable."
"Exactly," said Grandma. 
Grandma shook her head and said she had to go, that she thought we had talked long enough to know how the other stood.
Away she went.  I felt very curious about where she was going and what she was going to do.  Now she was a very intriguing woman to me.  She had always loved me, I thought, truly.  I had been lucky to have such a good grandma.  She just did not go bad when things were tough. She bided her time, and now I could see she had gone searching for answers to her questions and doubts.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chapter Thirty Nine: Trying to find out why Jesus seems strangely absent in my hereafter life

I felt a little guilty because I had hardly thought about Jesus at all in the hereafter.  I hoped someone would show up to talk to me about this oversight as I was sure that many other people had gone to their different religious hereafters and were hearing talk I never heard in my meanderings here and there.
"I say if you don't need Jesus, you are doing fine!" said a hearty voice in my ear.  I looked around startled to see who this might be and was shocked to see a man I thought looked familiar but for the moment I could not place him.  I hoped as we talked I would remember who he was.
"I was like you when I first passed," he said, "wondering if I was religious enough, but here all your illusions are stripped away, and you begin to realize that we are all born on earth with limited powers.  Over the centuries people gave Jesus similar powers to God because that was comforting to them.  You must admit that at times you have derived comfort from the thought of Jesus caring about your pain and coming to give succor."
"Why yes, I have," I said, startled, recalling a near death experience where an angel actually hovered over me ready to greet me, should my death occur.  It was in fact the presence of the divine personage which I thought might be Jesus that saved my life.  I was so overjoyed to see him that I know it showed on my face and in my eyes, and my tormenter dropped his hands and refrained from choking me as he said he was going to do.  He recognized I was beyond pain, so then he thought of the consequences of such an act and changed his mind. I always thought if the angel had not come I might have died, so he had saved me because I was overjoyed to see him."
"Yes," said the man, "it is possible to have a great love for these personages whose powers your religion taught you were so great.  But you probably scaled down your expectations about what they could do for you as soon as you grew up and developed more power in your own right.  Jesus comes to those with no power at the moment to save themselves.  Children need an angel when they are in dire danger, someone to cling to, when all others have failed them, and they are dying or being killed." 
"That is certainly true, I said, 'but I do think that people have a very tough time upgrading religion to fit the needs of the members better.  They always get stuck in a rut and think that admitting to a need for change will cause people to doubt their doctrines."
"I am John," said the man.  "You really don't know me, but I often come to newcomers to answer questions about religion since it confounds so many.  People are running everywhere looking for this heaven and that one. It is a most confusing time."
"Well, I thought I was doing well enough by myself," I said.  "I do think the most important thing is to love one another, so I have been searching out the family members I left behind to make sure they are okay before I seek out any task to do here that will take too much time and energy."
"That is what most people do," said John.  "You are not alone.  I went back to my home town many times before I was satisfied I could be gone for any length of time without it falling apart.  I feared my kids would die, my grandkids get in dire trouble, and the house would burn down."
"My son's abode did burn down!" I said startled. "Since I came here.  I experienced an awful fright  that he was going to be burned up with it."
"Oh, you don't want any of your kids to join you for a while!" said John.  "And some of them are bound to shake the veil, curious to see where you have gone."
"If you would just sit down over here," I said, directing him to nice park bench, "and talk a while I would be grateful.  You sound like you might even have been a minister of a sort.  I am sure I could benefit from talking to you."
John went on talking in his pleasant voice, "I do think many religions emphasizes the supernatural instead of teaching people to be strong themselves.  The stronger people are the less they are going to need their human leaders to be omnipotent. You have to remember that people argued for centuries about the nature of Jesus. People are always deciding they do not believe he was the only truly begotten son of God, that we are all the sons and daughters of God.  The stronger we are the less supernatural we expect someone else to be.  I am of the opinion that it would be hard for any man born of woman to be that much more powerful than any other man.  Jesus included.  I have not really got into any serious trouble for believing this.  I found out my children would just as soon look to me for guidance if they could as to Jesus."
"I do think that such opinions are bound to receive sharp rebukes from some of the Christians I have known, but I have never really argued against the Christians for I believe they have their reasons and needs, so I just leave them alone and go my way in peace."
"I didn't really quarrel with anyone about their religion," said John.  "I decided I just didn't need that particular religion as much as they did."
"That's about what I thought," I said.  "Well, thank you, John, for your kind words.  You seem so familiar I thought I knew you, but I realize now if I had met anyone as rational as you are I would remember them."
"I notice people's faces and can tell in a minute they are conflicted about religion.  I usually stop and talk to them a minute just to see if I can relieve their concerns."
"I was just needing to talk a little bit to acknowledge the fact that there is religion and belief in the world, even though I don't seem to belong to any of the faiths.  I have investigated quite a few, and just did not feel comfortable spending my Sundays in what they call 'worship'.  The way people think they should act on Sundays tends to get me down."
"I have never tried to make anyone feel guilty about how they chose to 'worship' on Sunday.  Nor do I want them to try to make me feel guilty for how I worship.  I often spend my time on Sundays as a volunteer talking to people like yourself who are wandering about looking a bit lost."
"Thank you for stopping.  I was thinking perhaps something is missing in me because I am not missing Sunday worship.  On earth I would always be aware of other peoples' ways of worship, but here there are no visible churches or religious hereafters so I am not aware if people are still worshiping in the hereafter as they did on earth."
"I would say it is a more questioning kind of worship.  They are wondering what is expected of them now they have arrived here. I have gone to my church's hereafter, but I must say the preaching has nearly always lost its' bombastic flavor. I think that is a very good thing.  People immediately begin to let the doubts they had surface, wondering if what they are saying is really relevant."
"Hmm.  I suppose that is why I have not sought any of the religious hereafters out.  I have spent so many years not worshiping in church I thought I would be very uncomfortable in a church in the hereafter."
"It's a curious thing to go see what people expect in the hereafter.  They try to bring it about themselves if they can't find it.  People get up in turns and try to express their bewilderment and confusion about what they have experienced in the hereafter.  Things have not materialized quite like they expected.  But that is because so much pomp and hypocrisy has been burned out of people in their dying.  Most are so changed they are hardly recognize themselves let alone anyone else.  It is surprising what a bit of humility will do to change a person."
"I hope they are more determined to sort out reality from fantasy, lies from truth," I said.  "It has been my experience on earth that people would believe almost anything if it sounded exciting.  Pigs can really fly.  That sort of thing."
"Yes, a prophet rises up and tells a willing group of followers some stories that aren't quite the truth but are passed on for generations as new revelations. But as you might know, when their followers get here they expect to see the truth personified.  In other words they expect their religious pigs to fly, and when they can't they are very disillusioned."
"Nobody really had to believe these stories in the first place, but who knows why people believe what they do. I guess then that everyone has moved up a step in being able to discern the truth.  That is encouraging."
"I would say that going through the death experience winnows out a lot of the chaff.  You cherish the truth a little more, don't you think?"
"I have certainly realized that love of family and friends and fellow country men is really what matters. Most religions teach that, but in garbled ways.  The religious might love family when it is easy.  But the wastrels are going to get easily rejected.  It is easy to love a person without problems.  The problem people are the ones who try our souls."
"Indeed," said John.
I started thinking about some more difficult members of my family who had passed to this side.  I was thinking that maybe it was time to go find one or two more of them while I was feeling strengthened with my chat with John.  I doubted he had been one of the problem people.  He seemed too much together.
"Oh, I used to drink," said John, reading my mind as those experienced spirits so often do," in my younger days.  I had plenty to overcome.  So good-by now, Sister, I hope I have helped you today and we can have a pleasant chat again someday."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Chapter Thirty Eight: Still another urgent matter distracts Coral before we can visit my sister Deana

Coral suddenly stopped in mid stride and said another urgent matter was demanding her attention immediately back in the Children's Paradise.  She promised me that we would be seeing our sister Deana very soon and vanished before I could say another word.
Coral had left me to get wherever I wanted to go on my own, so I decided to take my time.  Instead of worrying about how I would teleport myself somewhere when I didn't quite know how to do it, I went to the airport instead and boarded a plane.  I knew it was silly, but I soon spotted an empty seat and I sat down in it, prepared to take a nap when a woman suddenly came and sat down, practically on top of me.  I whooshed out of her way and now wondered if I was going to have to stand up all the way.  I thought it would be very uncomfortable to try to leave the plane while it was in mid flight.  I soon felt like a prisoner, wondering when I could get off in a place where I knew somebody. 
I felt I should have gone on to Deana's by myself and hung around her place, but I wanted Coral to figure out a time when Deana would be very congenial with the spirits. I thought we would have a much better visit if that were the case.  I knew that Deana was planning to visit her son in Phoenix at Christmas so I thought that would be a better time to make contact with her.  When she was looking up one of my children.  I could follow her around and quite enjoy myself.  Itt would take Coral to make a trip to San Francisco really exciting.
I finally managed to arrive in Phoenix by plane and disembarked.  Coral was apparently going to leave me to my own devices to check out the hereafters that interested me.  I resolved to ask James Dean the next time I saw him if there was a millionaires' paradise, and of course there would have to be a movie stars' hereafter.  Maybe that was Red River where he had taken me to live for a few days.
I wondered where Red River was and how I could get back there.  I was sitting on a park bench when Jimmy showed up.  "You are pretty hard to keep track of," he teased me.  "Are you having a good time?"
"A good time?" I questioned, "Is that what I am supposed to be having?"
"Well, yes, so to speak.  I don't think you deserve a bad time."
"I was just wondering if all the millionaires and the movie stars bunch together in their hereafters just as they did on earth."
"They go where they feel the most comfortable, but of course with no money, the millionaires' paradise is less exciting.  Millionaires and movie stars have the same trouble trying to do relevant activity as you do."
"Surely not!" I said perversely.  "They don't get to read about their famous selves in the newspapers every day, it is true, but don't they have trouble feeling equal to everybody else?"
"So you were not as famous as movie stars.  Is that what is bothering you?"
"Well, not exactly.  But I do feel more comfortable with you since you were famous for such a short time."
"I was here and gone.  In the total scheme of things, I was hardly famous at all."
"You have probably done all the penance you need to do for aspiring to be so much more important than other people.  Famous movie stars make it very difficult to think that what you do for your relatively small circle of people is enough, when they are getting practically every public utterance into the public domain."
"These people are extremists.  They have bought the idea that fame is progress which it might not be, necessarily.  You should see what a struggle some of these extremely famous people have trying to slip back into being ordinary every day people.  They come here and expect to continue on with a life of fame which keeps fading more and more in spite of everything they can do. The worst thing an old star has to contend with is feeling unimportant without that constant media attention they fed on in spite of themselves."
"You say that is their state of reality here, but it is hard to believe.  Although I do not have any desire to meet any more famous people than you were. I had to pay too much attention to them in life, while they did not help me with a little recognition."
"Naturally not," said Jimmy.  "It wasn't about you.  It was about them.  They were the worshiped and you were the worshiper. You managed to evade the sure road to fame, so you remained accessible to the common people.  You were one of them.  Had you become a 'star' you would have gotten a good deal more inaccessible, but people do not realize how costly fame is going to be. They will spend years trying to get back down to earth so to speak."
"A lot of problems follow us into the hereafter I think you are saying," I observed.
"Oh yes, no problem is left behind.  Now the movie stars have to figure out how to get out there and mix and mingle with the common people once again.  It is not going to do them any good to bunch up and tell endless stories about the old days when fame and fortune was their lot."
I figured that was why I had run into Jimmy.  He must have been looking for me, or he would never have found me. I did not expect any of the other movie stars even to care who I was or where I went or what I did.
"No," said Jimmy reading my mind, "The other movie stars are not going to come looking for you.  They don't even know you exist.  It took me quite a while before I responded to your signal on earth, telling me to beam in if I became too sad about my sudden demise.  You would talk to me. I finally beamed back which led to a solid friendship with a nobody. One of the famous stars would say who are you talking to Jimmy?  I would say a friend, and he would be surprised because he did not know your name. You were not famous."
Jimmy, I felt, was trying to tell me how it was in Hollywood.  Not that I did not know it, but he reaffirmed my own observations that caused me not to want to go movie star hunting in their hereafter.  None of them would know me from Adam, while I would have been reading about them for years, going faithfully to their movies, analyzing them, and in every way I could trying to affirm their importance to our way of life on earth."
"You probably won't be ready to meet Brando for years," said Jimmy, "or rather he will not be ready to meet you. If ever an actor was worshiped on earth it was him. He tried to downplay his status as probably the most famous actor in the world at one time, but he still reveled in it, and in spite of himself he promoted the whole idea at the same time as he denigrated it."
"Hm, but what does he do, how does he talk all day?"
"You don't want to know," said Jimmy.  "It is not interesting. He lost his way a long time ago, and now he has to figure out how to be just one of many and still do his best.  He got so he would not do anything unless he received maximum attention.  He was good looking, sexy, and he knew he 'had it.'  So he made the most money he could out of that.  He became very famous but ended up doing shoddy work.  Had he been able to keep things more in perspective his work would have been better.  He ended up depending on his charisma to bring in big bucks with him hardly lifting a finger.  That was very cynical of him."
"You sound quite aggravated with him."
"Do I?" said Jimmy.  "Well, I wish I could take you to see him but he is still too arrogant to be of use to someone like you. He would not know how to treat you.  I could not bear that."
"Is he getting any better?"
"I hope so," said Jimmy, tersely.  "People are trying to help him.  He says he wants to change.  I am troubled to think he stopped developing in his spirit so soon, and I worshiped him.  But I knew I was apt to be very disillusioned by him.  I started to feel so disillusioned with Hollywood it is probably what led to my death.  Stars you met would say it was a superficial life, but they were really not interested in changing anything.  They wanted to experience the full decadence of fame anyway."
"You must have been very busy here after you recovered, trying to help make the changes from this side."
"Yes, I worked with you to change things.  I formed the partnership with you from the hereafter you could not get Brando to form with you on earth by any means known to man.  I recognized your talent.  He did not.  You would have helped him keep developing his spirit, but he did not want that.  He really chose the decadence of fame instead.  He took every wrong road he could once he attracted the notice of the rich and famous.  He wanted to be rich and famous, and that is all he wanted."
"I knew he would never recognize my talent. He would have thought I was insisting on ordinariness."
"Exactly.  He did not want to be thought ordinary."
"I did not want to get above myself.  People tend to inflate the importance of talent."
"Of course.  How else will they be able to command the worship of millions?  They have got to make ordinary talent seem so extraordinary it deserves excessive compensation."
"Brando would not risk being too focused.  That would have disturbed people.  He was going to stay famous longer making a few turkeys.  His mistakes and self indulgences would cause people to identify with him if in no other way. His was the kind of talent I needed to do one of my plays, and then we could both have stayed thin, doing some difficult plays together.  I studied his style.  I wrote plays for him I thought would enhance his acting career, but because of the very nature of fame he was going to turn them down so he could go with a more famous writer.  For a while there, every play that achieved a big success, he wanted to play in because he figured they would make him more famous. Even if the leading part did not fit him at all. He did not even use good sense charting the course of his career.  He started thinking stupid."
"Yes!" said Jimmy.  "That is exactly what he did that was so exasperating.  Self indulgent.  Undisciplined.  He started to personify the worst traits of an actor rapidly becoming too famous to serve his talent well."
"Yes, that was it," I said, "and he was not going to listen to anyone telling him the facts of life he did not want to hear.  So his meteoric career ended up disillusioning people with a fatuous dedication to fame instead of to excellence in acting and movie making." 
"He became a waste of people's time, and that is the worst sin an actor can commit who was offered the opportunities Brando was."
"Well, okay, " I said, "I did not really expect to get to work with Brando, but I do not want people to think it was because I did not have the talent."
"Oh yes, you had talent to burn, but nobody saw it. As happens so many times in life.  A woman, too.  That was going to make it even more difficult for you to get recognition of any sort.  Just measure how far a woman of talent goes in life, and you will know what the progress of women has been toward equality with men."
Jimmy was full of remarks that made me feel a little better.
Jimmy last words to me that day were, "Brando could have been a key figure in connecting to talent, he had that kind of mind, but he did not choose to do it.  Enough said."
Jimmy and I walked on down the street together in silence.  I was thinking about my son Jerome and his taste for fame, and was hoping he would do a better job than Brando had of reining himself in and checking on his spiritual well being often enough to keep in touch with what was really important in life and the hereafter.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chapter Thirty Eight: Coral makes a sudden detour to my sister Deborah's house

Coral stood up as though she was ready to go to my sister Deana's house when she said she had an urgent feeling we must go at once to my sister Deborah's house, which was in Utah, far away from the exotic city of San Francisco.  I was so alarmed by her purposeful change of plans I went along without saying anything.  Besides a trip to Coral was nothing but a hop, skip, and a jump so I knew she thought we could always go back to Deana's later.
Finally I said, "What is wrong with Deborah?"
The only thing I could think of that would cause Coral to make this determined side journey was Deborah was in imminent danger of dying.
"Deborah is not dying," said Coral, "but she could if she doesn't change her ways."
"Do you think we are going to be able to get her to change?" I said doubtfully.  "Besides Deborah is practically perfect.  She has done so little wrong in her life it makes me tired to think about it."
"Those are the kind who can die when they least expect it," said Coral.  "Because they don't look after their own needs well enough."
I knew that Deborah's husband had been having many medical problems lately.  Yes, they could put Deborah in danger, too, I was aware.  Her health was rather fragile too, although you would not have known from the amount of work she managed to get done, of all sorts. It was always dangerous to be a caretaker.  I had been one myself for my former companion before Terrance and nearly lost my life as a result.  I just was not expecting a long painful siege of cancer especially when dear heart refused to go to the doctor and did not know that was what he had.  But he assured me that he had lived in pain all his life and this was no different.  He finally started agreeing to make doctor appointments, but before he would go he would cancel.  As a result he did not know he had cancer until just days before he died.
He appeared to be as shocked as I was that the hospital suggested he sign up for hospice immediately.  He refused, but he had no more got home than another terrible pain hit him late at night and he told me to call hospice he was finally ready to accept the fact that he was dying.
Could Deborah be that close to death without realizing it?
"No, no," said Coral, reading my mind.  "I have just found out if I feel an urgency to see a sister I better do it.  I better get there and do a hands on intervention."
I was very curious about the wording Coral was using.  A spirit doing a hands on intervention?  Is that what Coral had been doing all these years.
 As soon as we walked into Deborah's Coral with a determined look in her eyes took Deborah by the arm and sat her down in a chair.  "Now you rest!" she said firmly.
"Deborah doesn't know she is tired any more," Coral told me, "so when she goes to extremes I have learned to just walk in and sit her down.  She seems to get my message. Sometimes she will even sigh and say, I didn't know I was so tired."
I was quite fascinated by how Coral helped her sisters in a crisis.  "Otherwise she will work til she drops," Coral went on.  "Some people just don't know when to quit!"
 I figured Deborah must have gotten too tired with all her Thanksgiving activities with her family.  I thought it was really quite admirable of Coral to rush to her side clear from San Francisco to sit her down in a chair, but if Deborah was receiving this intervention from a spirit, she must have felt delightfully soothed and rejuvenated after a few hours. 
Coral then went straight out the door. "Some people just have too much git up and go," she said.  "Now I am ready to go back to San Francisco.  Are you?"
This was a new side of Coral I had never seen before, the healer.  But it seemed very effective, as before we left I peeked in and Deborah was sleeping peacefully in her chair.
Coral said, "I must have given you a start, but I did not want Deborah to get into any serious trouble. She's got a ways to go helping Marv through his ordeals.  She might even have a few ordeals of her own before she is ready to join us on the other side."
In a few minutes we were back in San Francisco ready to visit our sister Deana once again.  I was almost disoriented, Coral flew across the country so fast.  All she had to do is think of a place and almost instantaneously she was there.  It took her longer to help me get there along with her, as my thinking was not lightning fast like hers.  But I laughed to think about how fast I had been able to travel when I thought Deborah was in danger.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chapter Thirty Seven: Having another informative conversation with my sister Coral about how we function in the hereafter

I hated to take Coral away from her important work with the children she was helping to raise just to ask her a bunch of questions, but I was very often stumped about how to exist in my spirit form, light as a feather, but feeling rather insubstantial as a result.
"You will get used to feeling light all the time," said Coral, "and you will soon see it as a great advantage in getting around.  Oooh, when I think of having to transport that  heavy body to San Francisco where we are going, I shudder."
We had already arrived in San Francisco and were waiting in a park for a good time to intrude into the family festivities.  "I like to find myself in this park," said Coral, "after I arrive in San Francisco to visit Deana.  It is one of my favorite places next to the Farmer's market on the bay.  Deana and Lianna always take people to the Farmer's Market which is why I am so familiar with it."
"Don't you get hungry when you see so much wonderful fruits and vegetables for sale?"
"Not a bit," said Coral.  "That isn't me. Remember I grew up raising those fruits and vegetables, and I was mighty glad I didn't have to weed any more and bottle all our produce, but I watched my sisters from afar many times working their fingers to the bone."
"I just can't imagine an existence yet where you don't live to eat!"
"Well, it isn't necessary.  We have learned that we actually generate and transfer energy to each other to keep ourselves going.  Communication is the nourishment in the hereafter, but that is a hard lesson to learn, and many more would die from lack of it that will live if they think they are kept alive by something like food."
I tried to wrap my mind around the explanation that Coral was giving me about how the spirit was sustained without any visible signs of nourishment.  Coral ought to know so I tried to believe her.
"You mean," I said, "that the love the family gives each other is what keeps people alive, not the fresh food and vegetables?"
"The food and vegetables are an expression of the love, so that is why they sustain.  Look how hard our parents had to work, at first, to raise a garden, until the daughters were old enough to help plant and weed."
"Yes," I said.  "I get that, but it is the leaving out the food that I am having trouble with."
"Keep in mind that you discarded your body.  Your body was what really thrived on the food as lessons were being taught about what was even more important, the love that was passing back and forth between family members."
"I always knew it was important to love and support family," I said, "and I must say that is a hard lesson to learn.  This is the first time I have been back to see a sister since I arrived to the other side, because I either fought with them or their husbands didn't like me. I think my sister Deana will be able to receive me because she has no hostile husband and is happy since she moved to San Francisco to be around her daughter and her grandchildren.  Her daughter's husband is not even very hostile to her or to me."
I added, "I think you and I should go together to pay visits to our sisters from the hereafter.  I am sure you have had your relationship with each one of them, so you will be of great help getting me started in a hereafter to earth association."
"Yes, because they are getting older and apt to join us at any given moment.  Deborah is busy working on your novel about the hereafter.  I must say I found your ideas about the hereafter in that novel absolutely hilarious.  It is a little different than you imagined isn't it?"
"Well, yes.  I can't get used to being so well weightless.  Maybe because I was too heavy for years.  I certainly hope that discomfort will end.  I can't help but feel I am missing something.  That I am not all here."
"You aren't," said Coral, breaking into her characteristic peals of laughter.  "A good deal of you is missing." She patted me.  "Don't worry.  Other fatties complain of feeling too light.  They hardly believe they are there, which is understandable considering they did not feel substantial enough in life, so kept gaining weight to be more visible.  It is a strange phenomenon."
"Coral, really?  You think I gained weight to have more substance?"
"Yes, you did not feel that you were regarded as having enough to you.  You disappointed people with your paltry achievements.  I didn't think that, but they did.  I thought you were doing extremely well considering the odds you were facing, but you always ate when you felt defensive."
"I know I did," I acknowledged. "Even I knew that.  It was kind of an instinctive and primitive way to prove they were wrong."
"Deana is doing quite well with her weight.  Romina and Marsha are still thin, but we can't imagine at what cost.  We will have to go visit them to find out.  Deborah has done fairly well, because she had to lose weight or die.  Having developed severe diabetes."
"I hope she has a few years with her grandchildren before she passes.  They will miss her she is such a hands on grandma.  I was never able to be hands on when I got older. But I did not expect to spend so much time back on earth chasing around to make sure my kids and grandkids are okay and are surviving my passing all right."
"It's time for us to go visit Deana," said Coral, getting up.  "I think Santos has visited with her a few hours now, and we should be able to come in without intruding.  Deana is so alert she will probably pick up our presence.  That will be good so she can tell Santos.  Santos needs to start recognizing your signal so he can receive messages from you without actually having to be in the same realms.  You have established very good contact with your son Jerome and daughter Vivienne, but you will have to work more on Rafe and Santos to get them 'online' so to speak."  Coral laughed heartily at her own small joke, "Especially since your son Santos is such a raving caving skeptic.  It's going to be hard for him to believe in the current you, but maybe communicating with you will appeal to his sense of humor, and that will help."
"I would never have gotten through to Jerome without his barking dog," I said. "But Vivienne can pick up my presence in her dreams. She must have inherited the dream gene like Deana did."
"I preferred the direct communication I was able to have with you due to your years of writing spirit dialogues.  In order to make sure I got my message through to Deana in a dream, I was forced to listen to a great many of her dreams.  I was finally convinced she could get my message, after she learned to interpret her own dreams better.  It is no wonder people don't believe in a hereafter when the communication is so shaky.  But people learn by doing."
"I hate to think the fate of the world is going to depend on how well I can get through to my kids, Jerome, Vivienne, Rafe, and Santos in spirit form who need to get my message that life is eternal."
"It is very important just to convey that simple message, we live.  If the people in the world can really believe we survive death, maybe they will be more careful about dispatching great numbers to the hereafter including their own precious children who will survive death just like the rest of us have."
"There really isn't anything made up about this existence," I observed. "I am now here and must make do with being a wraith. But I still seemed to function about as well as I used to.  My thoughts have somehow arrived with me intact without a body to help me express them.  That is the real miracle.  People on earth are convinced we need the miraculous brain in order to live, think, breathe, remember and so on."
"We do while we are there," said Coral, "but at the moment of passing, the spirit essence unhooks from what can be now be seen as an arbitrary way of existing.  In the lighter more economical spirit form, there is a great deal less tortured maintenance."
"I always wondered how, for example, a person could get their memory back after their inherited brain condition blocked it out."
"It is like a block is removed leaving the spirit essence which retains the memory in a more advanced way than you can possibly imagine.  But the body becomes totally impaired in many of its parts before death.  The advanced Alzheimer condition will not change until death, but once the body with the blocked brain cells falls away memory is restored. It sometimes takes a while for a person who died with Alzheimer's to believe that, but eventually they trust and have faith again, and then they experience a miraculous restoring of memory.  They are so grateful, it is a sight to see.  It is like they received a gift from God."
"Hmm," I said, "Thank goodness, I did not experience such severe memory loss before death, but I am sure Paul did.  Alzheimer's runs in his family.  I wonder if his memory has been restored."
"As much of it as he wants," said Coral cautiously.  "Come now, it is time to visit Deana, Santos, and Liana and the kids and her husband, whoever is in San Francisco we love and cherish!"

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chapter Thirty Six: Walking down the road looking for a new adventure in the hereafter

I had discovered you kind of had to manufacture your own fun in the hereafter by not doing anything that you had heard preached would be required once you entered heaven.  I was able to avoid Mormon heaven successfully.  I was sure I knew what that would consist of.  Some good Mormon preaching was all that would be required by good Mormons to be happy and feel like they had found the 'right' place, but I had always been bored in church, so that kind of heaven was not my cup of tea.
I had checked on my kids who were all alive and well, but I was alarmed because up on Facebook my oldest great grandson, Tristam, was asking for prayers on his behalf.  I immediately extended some prayers for him, because I figured no good looking fifteen year old ever asked for prayers unless he was really in need.  There were a lot of ways a teen could get in big trouble.  I did not dare think about my other wild teen grandson, Santee, who was just sixteen.  I hoped he would survive the four day holidays also.  His mother was probably not going to get him until the Christmas holiday, as he was quite far away and she would have to save up the money to go bring him home, as his father, my youngest son, Santos, was not working and would not be able to help her financially.
Santos' back injury required he quit his job to a big hotel where he had to do too much lifting to move heavy equipment into the area for big shows the conventions staged.  Santos did not want to completely wreck his back, so hard times or not, he took the termination from his job rather than electing to keep on lifting until he was a complete physical wreck.  I just hoped Santos would still be able to eat by Christmas.  He seemed to be hoarding his little reserve of cash pretty well.  Santos always had been able to live on practically nothing before he would resort to a boring job.  He also did not want a back breaking job either, it seemed, which I thought might lead to hardship now, but not like a worse injury would.

Thinking of Santos I found myself in the old mansion where he was living rent free and saw that he was also talking on his cell phone to the guy that owned the place, a movie maker originally from India.  Santos was finalizing plans to go somewhere with him the next day in the same vicinity in San Francisco where his Aunt Deana lived, my youngest sister.  Santos had decided to accompany Lev who would drop him off coming and going to a business meeting with some of the people who had engaged him to make a documentary.  This was a good opportunity for Santos to explore any possibilities of earning more than just his room and utilities, working for Lev.  He had gone to film school, but he was having a hard time making a living at it, for sure.
I wished I could drop in on Santos' son, my grandson Santee, as he was called, but I didn't really know how to find him.  I would have to try to overhear news about him as Santos talked to people on his cell phone.
I wondered if I ought not to hop in the car when Santos and his landlord Lev were riding north, but I was afraid Santos might think I was snooping even if he did not know about it.  I was still not comfortable listening in on conversations I knew I would never have been privy to when I was alive.  I would have to feel the need to be more of a detective before I could be a dedicated eavesdropper.
I decided to get to Deana's on my own and I would be there when Santos dropped in and could get in on a few of the laughs and good times.  It would be good for Santos to see his aunt and his cousin, her daughter, Lianna.  They had always got along well.  Her son, Eric, a few years younger, was Santos best pal while they were growing up.  They were like brothers.
I had sensed that Santos was going to catch a break, and hearing he had a chance to take a trip with Lev, I was sure this was an opportunity.  It would be a good time to impress Lev with his need for something to keep body and soul together and maybe fulfill a little bit of his dream to be a movie maker.  But Lev knew lots and lots of desperately poor people in India I was sure, so he was not going to go out of his way help spoiled young Americans, but he must have liked Santos and Eric or he wouldn't still be friends with them.  They had a small history of interaction, and Eric was good at never letting a connection die.  He was always renewing and refreshing his ties to people who might come in handy in the movie making business.
Becoming a movie maker was a very tough goal as Eric and Santos had long since found out.
Yes, next was a trip to San Francisco.  I was determined! I had never gone that far away alone as a spirit.  I didn't know but what I ought to ask Coral to go with me, as Deana was her sister, too, and she had surely been to visit her in the 69 years since she had passed.  Deana had been only two or three years old when Coral left us.
Deana's symbol for Coral in her dreams was a butterfly.  I thought that was lovely.  She had spent so many years as a spirit, you might say she led a truly butterfly existence.  What was Deanna's symbol for me?  I had forgotten.  I know her own was an elephant, and my sister Deborah's symbol was a swan.  Romina's was a deer.  I couldn't remember Marsha's. Maybe I was a lioness since I had been born in July.  I just could not think what I was. I needed to find out as I would probably be appearing as that animal in Deana's dreams right about now.  She had probably already picked up my portending visit to her fair city. 
Oh, I could hardly wait.  Coral and I could have such a good time in San Francisco!  Just following Deana around was a trip. Maybe we could even get in on the revolution Deana was always talking about!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Chapter Thirty Five: I return to Daughter Vivienne's on Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving holiday rolled around before I knew it, and I woke up that morning determined I must mix and mingle with Vivienne and her guests to make sure she was all right.  I soon learned that she and Jerome had not been able to get on the same page and were once again spending the holiday apart although in the same town.  But Vivienne seemed to have adjusted as she was fairly cheerful while cooking her turkey.  It would be her first Thanksgiving holiday without me, visible that is, although she must have suspected that I was there in spirit.
Her lemon tree was loaded with lemons.  Her dog's eyes followed her every move as usual when she was home.  He was getting old.  I was afraid she would miss him when he died more than she did me, she was so attached to him. Her son Earl was playing scrabble on his I-pod.  I hoped he was thinking of me as he practiced as I had tried to get all my grandsons interested in scrabble so I would have somebody to play with but he was the only one who had taken any interest in it.  We had a few games before I passed on, too few in my estimation, but scrabble did not excite the children compared to video games. It just wasn't violent enough.  But I had taken to playing it all the time in my old age in order to rest my eyes from computer work.
I was worried about whether Jerome had gotten too depressed during the holidays, and decided I had better go check on him, too. Rafe had gone out of town to have Thanksgiving with his girlfriend's parents.  Rafe had always deferred to girlfriends and wives when it came to holidays.  I was used to that, so sometimes a year might go by before I laid eyes on Rafe even though we lived in the same town.  He only called on special occasions like my birthday and maybe Christmas.  Sometimes I never even heard from him at Christmas, but that was when he would be breaking up with a wife or girlfriend and was extra depressed.
I roamed around Vivienne's a little while, making sure she was now in a good mood with the end of the Thanksgiving festivities in sight.  Cooking a turkey was extra stressful for her as she followed recipes and tried to make everything come out cooked at the same time.  I saw that her mother-in-law somehow turned off the fancy oven after she put in the rolls.  It was a while before Vivienne noticed, so when everything was ready to serve the rolls weren't done which stressed Vivienne, but she was very good and did not snap at her mother-in-law.  I knew better than even get near her kitchen when I was alive for fear I would mess things up.
Finally the rolls got done properly when they were half way through the meal. Vivienne's older son, Jefe, was home from college.  He was a dear boy, who had such a lovely temperament it was hard for him to cause trouble at all.  He always found jobs and earned money to help with his expenses.  He was determined to run up as little student debt as possible.  His girlfriend was simply lovely.  She was a college girl, too.

I could see Jerome talking on the phone when I got to his place.  He looked animated and happy which was a big relief.  I had hoped he would not take his estrangement from Vivienne too hard my first year missing from the scene, but maybe he reasoned that since I wasn't there, maybe they ought to celebrate holidays apart, since they had always clashed on something or other while trying to celebrate together.
I did not know quite why myself.  Maybe Vivienne and Jerome were too much a like or too different.  Take your pick. I happened to look out at Rafe's pool and saw a man sitting at a table by the pool.  I wondered idly who it was and then was shocked to see with a second look that it was Paul, Jerome's and Rafe's father from the spirit world!
The first thing I thought of was whether Jerome's dog had seen him, too.  I wondered how I could find out since she was lying beside Jerome so she could touch him now and then and make sure he was okay as he talked on the phone.  If he got upset it was her job to lick his hand and comfort him from whatever blow he had received over the phone.
I decided while he was still talking I would just go on out and say hello to Paul.
"I wondered when I was going to see you," I said as I went through the door.  Paul looked up and smiled.  He seemed fairly glad to see me.  Or at least he wasn't hostile.
"I thought I would drop by and see how Jerome was making it through the holiday.  They have always been hard for him," he said.
"It looks like he is going to be all right now," I said cautiously.  "How are you, Paul?  They are still looking for your bones.  I wish you could tell them where they are so they could give up this six year search."
"Don't worry," said Paul, "When the seven years is up,  they are going to have to notify the government.  The gravy train will stop. My bank account will drop to zero."
"Good thing there is a cut off point when there is a missing body," I said.  "Although Jerome does not expect to see any of the money that should have accumulated but has probably been spent."
"That's what you get when you have kids with two wives," said Paul.  "I have told Maylene she should love her brothers, but she couldn't seem to do it, and she is afraid of Jerome when he loses his temper."
"My daughter by my second husband and Jerome clash, too.  You see Jerome spent Thanksgiving alone because Vivienne did not want him to arrive late.  That's not how she does things."
"I knew he was alone," said Paul.  "I tried to stay alive as long as I could, but I took a wrong turn and never could find my way home again."
This seemed to be his idea of a joke, so I said nothing, as I did not think it was all that funny.
Just then Jerome opened the door and came out and his dog Jilly immediately spotted me and barked!  She might have been barking at Paul, too, as I am sure he was just as visible to her seeing eyes as I was.
"Mom?  Are you here?" said Jerome, peering around. "Have you come back to check on Sonny?  I am all right."
I felt uncomfortable with him not sensing his dad was there, too, although I had gotten tired of him feeling so haunted by his dad when he was doing that show about him all over the country.  But his dad had been gone longer than I had, I was sure, and he seemed used to being ignored.  He didn't act like it bothered him.
"His dog has taken to seeing me," I said.  "That's how Jerome knows I am here. I am sure he can see you, too."
Paul looked interested at that bit of information.  "Is that right?  Trust Jerome to find a dog who can see spirits, considering who his mother is."
Jilly laid down by Jerome and put her nose on his foot. She seemed resigned to spirits surrounding Jerome and made no further protests.
"Mom," said Jerome, "I know you are here because of Jilly's bark.  I know her barks.  She just as well have said, your mom is here, Jerome. I have felt Dad around all day.  He doesn't want me to be lonely on Thanksgiving either."
Paul perked up.  I thought he was even tearing up, he seemed so moved by the fact that Jerome had sensed his presence.
"I hope you and Dad stay friends in the hereafter just as you were here," said Jerome. "I would appreciate it if you would try to find out where he lay down and died, so we can get this long ordeal over with."
Paul laughed, but shook his head.  "How in the hell does he think you can tell him, if me and all my relatives have not been able to get across to him where my remains are?  It's not easy for a spirit to tell those left behind something they need to know.  He will just have to move on.  How long can you keep looking for bones anyway?"
Paul sounded exasperated enough that I did not think it would be wise for me to try to find out anything today.  I was just going to settle for seeing him.  I told Paul that I was going to leave to go check on some more relatives maybe.
Paul didn't say anything.  He just sat there, so I figured he would stick around Rafe's place now, maybe even for a few days.  That way he could see Rafe, too, when he came back.  I was sure Rafe had to go back to work on Monday.
I went out through the fence and down the road, wondering what other great adventure was going to befall me now in the hereafter.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chapter Thirty Four: I decide to leave Terrance in Rehab for a while before disturbing him

I decided not to go hunting for Terrance after all because he was probably getting settled among the alcoholics who had not rejected eternal life and was just finding what that was all about.  I did not want to interrupt anything.  Now I started to run down my check list to see if I ought to be somewhere else.  Was anyone in the family, sick or in trouble or even dying?
I wanted to ask Coral what was being done for molested children as I thought a whole lot of troubles on earth started with this happening to a child.  I was pretty sure this had been my dad's fate when he was too young to do anything about it.  Molested children was such a difficult issue on earth people had not followed up on very many studies about what happened to them when they grew up.  I was sure they would discover that a certain percentage of them may have turned molester themselves and some might continue these activities in spite of how they got started, after they married and had a family and tried to live 'normal' lives.
Many molested children simply did not tell anybody, so were not on in any public record of having been molested.
Coral said that of course children murdered in sexual assaults were some of the most heart breaking cases their benefactors had to help try to recover from such horrors.  So she knew all about that branch of the Children's Paradise.
I told Coral I wanted to try to establish a connection in the hereafter to some of the people arriving there who had been molested as children as I had been.  I had attempted to connect to other victims on earth, but did not quite know how to go about it in the hereafter.  I said, you need something like an Internet here like we have on earth and Coral burst into peals of laughter.
We have something better than your Internet, she told me, and we can always use it, too, if we need to.  She told me they were just leaving me alone to get comfortable upon passing.  She had not realized I wanted to connect to more people.
I was really quite mystified at this point about how the hereafter worked.  "What country do you belong to?" I asked Coral.  "Who is your president?"
Coral again burst into peals of laughter.  "Excuse me for laughing at you," she said, "but I always get a kick out of all the misconceptions people have about how the hereafter is supposed to work.  We don't have a president, and we are not divided up into countries.  We just serve as needed."
This did not tell me a whole lot.  Coral read my mind and said, "Do you want to go visit President Obama?"
"No!" I said startled.  "I doubt if he would pay any attention to me but how about visiting former President Kennedy?"
"You got it," said Coral, snapping her fingers.  "I would love to take you to a conference with President Kennedy.  He has assured us if someone arrives from earth that we think has done a good job alerting people to danger, he will see them immediately if we contact him."
Coral acted like she could hardly wait and soon had me hurrying off as fast as I could go for this historic meeting!  As soon as we arrived she told someone that she wanted to see John Kennedy, the former president of the United States , as one of her relatives had arrived she thought he needed to meet.
John Kennedy himself soon came striding out to talk to us.  He shook hands with Coral and Coral introduced me!  Yes, I found myself shaking hands with John Kennedy a lot sooner than I expected to, I can tell you that.
"First of all," I found myself saying quite boldly, "James Dean, the movie actor who was killed before you passed came from the hereafter about two months before your assassination and told me 'someone in governmental circles in his forties with a theatrical personality is going to die'."
"That describes me pretty well," said John Kennedy.
"The fact that Jimmy brought the message threw me off.  I kept thinking it was going to be an important person in the movie business who was very political.  I just could not imagine that the assassination of a president was going to take place."
"I lived dangerously," said Kennedy.
"I am James Dean's age, younger than you are," I said. I was born in 1931."
"Were you a democrat?  Did you vote for me?"
"Yes, despite the fact that I was disturbed by some aspects of your personality. I have read many books about you since.  I could not help myself.  Like many Americans, I studied you in depth, trying to understand what happened, as we were all so affected by the assassination."
"I could not believe it was happening to me either," said Kennedy. "But in retrospect I could see why my character, my excesses, played a part in my destiny."
"I was asking my sister Coral, how are you governed here?"
"Naturally I play a role in the hereafter just as I did there as many people want to see me.  They want to know what my take is on my relatively few years in office.  They want to know what I would have done differently, and so on. But I no longer feel I belong to any country since here we are working more for the good of mankind.  Whoever suffers on the earth affects the well being and good health of all the others. I know that might sound a little extreme, but since nuclear weapons even a dictator of a small country could conceivably destroy the earth as we know it with a nuclear attack so to my mind people have to think what is good for all more than they used to.  People who come to the hereafter are disappointed because I no longer talk like a politician perpetually running for office."
"I would be disappointed if you did.  I always wondered what you would have done when the abortion issue came along.  Your brother Teddy abandoned the Catholic position on abortion and supported pro choice.  I saw him once when a political meeting was held in the old Le Grand Hotel ballroom. He was trying to help Kerry get elected to office.  I came specifically to ask him about the abortion issue, but of course nobody was allowed to talk to him.  The loyal democrats surrounding him saw to that.  My being a registered democrat made no difference.  This was a very disappointing meeting to me.  Nobody said anything thoughtful.'
"That's the trouble with the democrats going so strongly with a pro choice democratic platform.  They just as well have knocked out all the Catholic supporters, which is one reason I think they have struggled ever since.  You can't fight the good that religions do, regardless of the fact that they also do bad.
As a matter of fact the Kennedy brothers have had some of their most heated debates among themselves since Teddy joined us on this side on the issue of abortion.  It is a most troublesome issue for the Kennedy brothers especially who were raised Catholic. So this is the kind of discussion you would have initiated with my brother Teddy?  I am going to tell him that I just spoke in the hereafter to a woman who wanted to debate the abortion issue with him on the campaign trail.  I take it you were a pro life activist?"
"As much as I could be.  I took it upon myself to write protest letters to my newspaper in particular, the Arizona Republic, which went liberal in a big way and printed many many columns supporting abortion, telling women how to accept it, how not to feel guilty, which has become known among pro life activists as a 'liberal bias'. I connected up to pro life Catholic activists toward the end of my life who reactivated a lot of protesting to abortion clinics trying to 'save one baby at a time'".
"Oh yes," said Kennedy, "I told Bobby look at how the media is going pro choice.  This is fooling the democrats into thinking that the country is going pro choice, but instead many of the people abandoned their newspapers which had become too liberal for them to accept on the subject of abortion."
"I say that the divisiveness that has developed is as much the fault of the liberals as it is of the conservatives or more because with the embrace of the abortion solution endorsing the violence of bloodshed, the liberals lost a lot of ground they had gained in being for civil rights for all minorities and so on. I could see big trouble down the road coming for the democratic party, and now it is here."
"I agree with you!" said Kennedy.  "I could not have said it better.  Thank you, for bringing your sister to meet me," he said, turning to Coral.  "I, who was turned out of office, by the fatal shedding of my blood, as was my brother taken out before he could ever run, we would know why a solution involving blood shed is not the right answer."
I felt that I should go, that my visit to former President Kennedy was as fruitful as it was possible at this time.  I was the one who was weary from being granted the privilege of meeting him.  I needed to go off and digest his words, and reflect how easy it had been to get in to see him, where on earth it would have been next to impossible to meet a president or even a former one and say to him what I had just said to former President Kennedy, as it had been impossible to say a truthful honest word about what I thought to Teddy Kennedy, campaigning for John Kerry in the very complex where I lived. The democratic faithful were there to protect him from the slightest strain and to get their pictures taken with one of the Kennedys.
I still did not know a whole lot more about the Hereafter now that I had talked to him, but I did know that all things were possible, it seemed, and that what you thought was a lot more important here than it was regarded on earth.  Which was very encouraging.  Coral seemed very happy, too, with our meeting.  Oh my God, what an experience!  I needed to digest this meeting before I made my next move!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chapter Thirty Three: Coral and I go back to check on Terrance in the Camp of the Resisters

I asked Coral to go back with me to the grim and frightening Camp of the Resisters to check on Terrance again, my companion for seven years up until a year before I passed.  Once again I was frightened by the bank looks on the faces of the Resisters.  I looked directly into the eyes or tried to of as many as I could until we came to the spot where we had last seen Terrance.  To my surprise and fear Terrance was no where to be found.  Had he managed to destroy himself completely resisting the gift of eternal life?  But Coral shouted, "Hooray!" which somewhat reassured me.  "Seeing you brought him out of his profound state of depression," she said.  "I am sure of it.  He has probably gone to the Alcoholics Hereafter. That's a step up from here." 
"They have a hereafter for alcoholics?" I asked.
"Of course," said Coral.  "They have got a hereafter for every kind of person. People create havens with the kind of people they feel comfortable with who might prove helpful in their struggle to accept the awesome burden of eternal life." 
I knew that Terrance would have turned down eternal life if he could.  He associated it with religion and anything connected to religion he was bound to reject.  But the religious always tried to take the credit for there even being eternal life.
"Life itself is eternal," said Coral, as usual reading my mind.  She had developed this wonderful gift to the point she could really startle me.  "Life came first and then came religion."
"Hmm," I said.  I didn't quite know what line to take with Coral as she seemed intensely devoted to the cause of the children in Paradise. Did that constitute religious in the hereafter or had the religious ruined their reputation in heaven with screwy ideas mixed with belief which had cause a lot of trouble on earth? 
"I want to ask you right now, Coral," I said.  "Does Jesus really exist?  Have you seen him?"
"Of course, he exists," said Coral. "But we all get so tired of people complaining that Jesus has not shown himself as they were led to expect he would when they got to this place."
"Well, I know," I said.  "I think people are a little unrealistic in their expectations of what Jesus could do, like he was a magician who could be all things to all people."
"Make no mistake," said Coral, "Some of the masters have developed great powers. But nobody has as great a power as the Christians think Jesus does."
"I got tired of arguing with Terrance about religion.  His contempt for the religious knew no bounds.  I thought he went overboard in his rebellion. He used it for an excuse to drink.  The religious drove him to drink, make no mistake."
"I know,' said Coral, matter of factly.  "I suppose you will have to argue with him again if you should happen to want to look him up, but since he is off the booze, progress might be quicker."
"Oh, yes," I said brightening at the very thought. "I am so glad there is no alcohol or no money in the hereafter.  That ought to facilitate change as nothing else could."
"You will find as time goes by people still find ways to indulge themselves using tricks of the mind.  That's what the Resisters are doing.  They take pleasure flouting the religious by refusing eternal life."
"I believe that is exactly what Terrance would do.  He did not indicate to me even by a flicker of an eyelash he recognized me.  I wasn't sure he did.  That is the stuff of nightmares.  For Terrance really did have a brilliant mind, at one time, that is."
"A lot of the Resisters do," said Coral.  "Which is why they frighten people.  Now is there any place else you want to go in your attempt to run Terrance down?"
"Could I find him in the Hereafter for Alcoholics if that is where he is?  I would like to pursue this matter to some kind of better conclusion.  I don't think I can rest easy until I have found him.  I want to know for sure that he has gone to a better place."
"Oh people sometimes jump around here like Paddy's fleas," said Coral.  I was surprised to hear her use an old metaphor my mother used to say to us when we were kids. "You have seen them.  Some are not satisfied until they have found the hell they think they deserve, but they usually don't spend too much time there before they are ready to climb right back out.  I have seen people absolutely determined they were going to find the Lake of Fire so they could jump in it."
"No rehab for them, huh?" I asked.  "They just wanted to burn?"
"It's another way of destroying yourself completely, burning in Hell's Fires.  That sounds easier to a lot of sinners than repenting and trying to change themselves."
"Do you think Daddy tried to lose himself in Hell?"
"Oh, probably," said Coral, "And then he decided to go to the Alcoholics' Hereafter for rehab. I think that is where he has spent most of his time since he passed.  He may have spent some time with the Gay Men in their paradise, but he doesn't feel entirely comfortable there, so he goes back and forth."
"Oh, then you did know all about Daddy?"
"I told you I was always seeing him, and Mother, too.  After all, they were the only parents I had, so I was glad to be reunited with them.  I found the children they lost, so I was happy to introduce them to their parents, too."
"I will never get used to all the people who have been saved in the hereafter," I said.
"Oh, if you add up all the people you know who have died, you will know there has been a passle come here during your life time.  If one is saved all are saved.  Life does not pick and choose."
"It just takes some getting used to.  I recall Mother mourning over miscarrying her twins.  She used to say that she sinned, which was the reason she lost the only boys she ever conceived."
"She was talking about the one she secretly aborted, whose name is Rose."
"I suppose there are doctors and nurses here who specialize in saving the babies who miscarry or are killed in an abortion."
"Yes, they are very skilled."
"But why would people be so sure that these babies would not survive death?"
"People who come to believe in abortion generally don't believe there is eternal life or that anyone survives death."
"Then it would seem that taking that life would be even more brutal, since they do not believe there is any other."
"I am not sure what they are thinking," said Coral, "or even if they are thinking really.  There are plenty of signs of spirit life if people train their eyes to see.  The spirits manifest as much as they can.  It is the nature of the escape hatch that death provides when there is too much pain that makes it difficult to perceive life after death.  If spirits were seen too easily, passing from this realm would not be an escape.  Spirit life has to be somewhat hidden to protect those who have been tortured to death.  When the tormented finally die of their pain, they know they are 'safe.'  Their tormenter can no longer 'see' them in order to torture them further."
"Do the tormenters sometimes try to track down their former victims so they can try to hurt them more?"
"Oh yes, but it is more difficult for them to torture their victims here after they have passed, too.  They may still have evil in their hearts but they don't have the kind of power they did on earth.  You will see."
"I could listen to you all day, Coral.  There is so much I need to know about this existence."
"There is plenty of time for you to learn," said Coral, "After all, you have forever!"  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Chapter Thirty Two: I go find the old mansion in California where my youngest son, Santos, is staying

With a little help from Coral, after all, I made it to California and found my way to the old mansion where Santos was holed up trying to make a little money to eat on, since his room and utilities were paid for by his presence.  It was his benefactor's idea that he could keep his property from being vandalized, but his idea of how he could make a little money on the side had not materialized into anything concrete, so what money Santos had taken with him was melting away every day paying for his living expenses.  After all, he did have to eat.  He could not live on air as I did, being a wraith. 
I followed Santos around part of one day.  He did not do much except take a long walk.  He seemed pretty down, naturally.  He was working a little on his novel, and his cousin was coming once a week to take him out to a movie or something.  His cousin had urged him to come down, so he probably felt guilty because Santos' money was running out with nothing to show for it.  He still had his phone turned on and was talking to his son every day or so.  He would go up on Facebook and say a word or two here and there.
Santos had always been a man of fewer words than Jerome or his sister Vivienne.  He and my oldest son Rafe were more alike in that regard.  Maybe they were like my dad who was a man of few words except when he got mad and then he could cuss for three days. I was surprised that Santos had managed to write nearly a full length novel.  I noticed he was still getting it out and working on it, so all was not lost.
Santos was a war veteran having served seven years in the navy.  I hoped he would apply to a war veteran's association for help if he got too poor.  Jobs just were not plentiful.  Less plentiful than I had ever know them to be, except possibly during the great depression.  I was barely born then, so it did not affect me as later periods of hard times did.
I had not been able to do anything during this last period of hard times except offer my kids some money when they ran clear out.  I lived in the old El Grande Hotel government housing complex so they could not move in with me.  Santos had stayed with me a while once and so had Rafe back when he was out of work once, only that was to another government housing project where we lived when Vivienne and Santos were still kids.
Now I did not want them to move in with me at all!  Ha.  No, I did not want Santos or any of the rest of my kids to get so discouraged they gave up on life.  I didn't think Santos would.  He was not the suicidal type.  He was not an alcoholic as far as I knew.  He never drank in high school at all.  He was very clean living because he was into sports.  He could not play basketball if he got into trouble with substance abuse.
Santos learned to drink pretty well in the navy but since he had not got as early a start on alcohol abuse as Rafe and Jerome, he did not seem to be an alcoholic to me.  I would rather have said he was addicted to video games and a cards called 'Magic' which I never understood. He was teaching his son, young Santos, to do the same.
Now of course he could not afford to drink at all.  Maybe that was one good thing about his impecunious state.  He had never smoked.  Since Santos had grown up with me as his mother after I had run out of my inheritance entirely we had lived in about as complete poverty as it is possible to be in. We survived on food stamps and welfare and government housing.  I was not able to get government disability until Santos was a senior.
Relatives bought him his sneakers to play ball.  The only thing he complained about was the style of the shirts he had to wear, bought from the thrift store.  They were not fashionable and up to date and he was sure they would be recognized as second hand, but other than that he said little.
Although on one occasion I remember him getting mad and tipping all our own furniture upside down saying it all belonged in the dump.  He even said, 'Why do you have to be so god damned poor?"  Otherwise he was a good sport and made do with two old TVs that passed for one.  He had to hit one of them to make the sound go on, but Santos knew just how hard to hit it.  The other one provided the picture.
The furniture was terrible.  In California people gave me couches so at one time I had a living room with four couches in it, one by every wall.  But in Phoenix for some reason nobody ever gave me any couches even though the couch was so bad it needed to go to the dump all right.  People were afraid of my neighborhood so they would not visit.  So did not see this terrible old couch.  We had to make do with it for thirteen years.  Mother did give me her platform rocker when she left town once.  She also let me borrow her big colored TV set for a while when she left for a few months.
Unfortunately, a gang of thieves in the neighborhood saw it on through the window and watched my comings and goings.  One night when I went to the grocery store not even a block a way, they broke Santos' bedroom window, stepped in, and wrapped it in one of my good quilts and took it out the front door.
Santos came home before I got back and found the door open and the TV gone, so after he cursed a blue streak, he got out the broken down TVs again so he wouldn't have to go without.  We hardly had enough money to eat on, let alone buy another TV set.  Mother was angry because I let hers get stolen.  I should never have turned it on without shutting the blinds and keeping it on the wall to the street, where it was less apt to be seen by thieves scouting apartments for something to break in and steal.
Vivienne kept getting jobs in high school so she could buy a prom dress and so on, but Santos wanted to play varsity basketball so he could not spare the time for a part time job.  He was afraid he would not make the team if he did not practice all the hours the black coach recommended.  He being white, he was sure he would be cut if he did anything as time consuming as take a part time job.  He never did get one until he took a class that provided one during school hours when he was a senior.
Vivienne bought a prom dress that cost a $100.  I thought that was a little high for a poor girl, but if it made her happy I wasn't going to tell her she could not afford it.  She earned the money for it, after all, working to McDonald's on the corner.
Those were the days.  I recalled how I used to sit out jars with what I called tooth paste water in them.  The next morning there would be cockroaches in every one of the jars.  The pesticide guy must have been a crook because he did not ever kill one cock roach.  He claimed they all went back in the walls to die.  That's why we never saw any dead ones due to his spraying every month.
A big hole had already opened up above the shower from the shower above leaking.  The contractor had stinted on the materials and holes were opening up in the floors of all the bathrooms, despite the fact that the complex was only six years old.  They finally had to rebuild mine, the hole got so big, but they were never able to fix the hole above the shower.  It would always open up again.
The sewer pipes did not slant enough and the sewer was always getting stopped up.  If you did not stay alert sewer water would bubble up out of the toilet and go all over the floors.  I kept a big wrench handy and when I heard the gurgles I would run outside and unscrew the lid off a pipe sticking about two feet out of the ground, and the sewer water that was backing up would run out on the lawn, sometimes leaving feces, toilet paper and so on, rotting there for days.  I hated that, but crooked contractors were a way of life with government housing, since they were very apt to get away with charging the government high prices and then substituting poor material, and getting past inspectors.
I got so I would immediately call the plumber they used myself. He could come out with rotor rooter equipment and push the blockage out, so a mess did not come out on my lawn.
This was our home and I hated feces and toilet paper coming out on the lawn anytime.  Nobody said anything about me calling the plumber, but then we did not have a manager half the time, so there was really nobody but me to call the plumber sometimes.  As long as they paid for it, it was okay.
I became used to all the conditions of poverty and Santos had been raised when I was the poorest I had ever been and the most disabled.  I had spent all my inheritance.  Even a hundred thousand dollars was not going to last forever.  I lived on it twelve years with a couple of jobs after it ran out, both of which resulted in bad bouts of chronic fatigue.
I paid for two operations with my inheritance, including a Caesarian for Santos.  I paid for Vivienne's birth. And I bought a new volkswagon.  I never bought any clothes for me, not even thrift store clothes as the thrift stores were not as good as they later became.  I just wore my clothes until they practically became rags.
Being on the way to complete disability is a hard way to go when you are having kids, but we survived.  Santos and Vivienne's dad never contributed a penny for their upbringing.  I think he sent $50 once or maybe it was $80 for a new bike for Santos, and that was it.  Once in a while we saw him and I would be incensed at the new toys he had bought for himself, but I knew it would not pay to try to get any child support out of him.
He regarded these as my children.  I had told him they were mine when he said he was going to hit me in the stomach and kill Santos when I was pregnant with him.  I said oh, you are going to kill Santos and me both.  He said, oh it won't hurt you.  I said, I think if you hit me in the stomach hard enough to kill Santos it will probably half way kill me, too.  I had not heard of that method of killing an unborn child before, or ever had a man threaten to use this method on me.
I naturally told him that he could just leave and this would be my baby.  I would raise him and he could go hang.  So that is what he did, he left and I raised Santos.
I naturally did not trust him too much to have anything to do with the kids, even though he did see them maybe three times after that.  He acted like he just did not care if he ever saw Santos.  He had formed some sort of attachment to Vivienne I thought, naturally, since she was a beautiful little girl, but I think he only saw Santos maybe once when he was a child.  He never saw him play basketball even though he came to town once when he could have done. He was content just to see Vivienne. 
I thought that was all very sad, but Santos was a cheerful kid on the whole.  He did not let all these harsh cold facts of life bother him all that much.  He turned out to be a tough ghetto kid.  Made varsity in his junior year on an almost completely black basketball team with a black coach.  It was a good team and went to state and  won state championships while Santos was going to school there.  Santos was taller than any of my other kids despite his dad being a much shorter squirt.  After his dad lost weight he looked like a little shrimp compared to Santos.
Santos had dreams of playing college basketball and even going to the NBA but his black coach declined to recommend him.  If he had had a white coach he probably would have done, and he probably would have played basketball better with a white coach, but that was the breaks for a white kid after blacks were allowed to enter sports and became the main stays at a lot of big high schools and colleges across the land in basketball and football especially.
Turn about was fair play.  Santos never carried any grudges.  Yeah, he was a pretty unique kid.  I called him my ghetto son.  He was always talking about the 'ghetto' where he had been raised....