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.