Friday, August 21, 2015
Sometime around 1995 I found things so busy and complicated in Santa Fe that I decided I would return to Arkansas. I thought probably Fayetteville would be my destination. In a 1968 Dodge Scoobydoo van with two kayaks and a bicycle on top, and with a dog named Meshach, I set out one summer afternoon. It was in some ways a sad leave-taking. I had arrived thinking that the rest of my life would be spent with Lin, with whom I had arrived. We were still friends. In fact, it was in his garage, once our garage, that I outfitted the van for the journey. Although I told friends who said I shouldn't go that 'the road goes both ways', I did not know whether that would be true for me or not.
My plot was to go to Fayetteville and start a church near the university. It seemed that it might be helpful if students could experience some of the riches of the ancient church, and explore where their own beliefs and experiences fit into the great complexities of christianity. It was miserably hot when Meshach and I arrived on an August afternoon, but the people were friendly, and I quickly found a place to rent, but the lease would not be ready until the following week. Since I had only visited my family in Jonesboro twice since 1989, it seemed that a trip to my mother's air-conditioned comfort might be a good thing.
Mother and I were both surprised at my arrival. I had not called her: it was Thursday, and we talked on Sundays. I had not expected her to be so frail. There were things she had not been telling me during our weekly Sunday afternoon conversations. I thought I should stay in Jonesboro. Being a romantic, she assumed I had come because of failed love, and was seeking refuge. (I would find over the next few years that romance was the only thing mother was interested in except moving the furniture.)
The next few years, about six, were a roller coaster. Rather than returning to the Ozarks, which had never really been my home, but more my back yard, I returned to Crowley's Ridge. (Looking for a picture for this post, I found my old friend Norm Laver's site which describes some of the oddities and occupants of the ridge: http://normanlavers.net/ .) I learned stuff I would never have learned in Santa Fe, which was in many ways the intellectual/cultural antipode of Jonesboro. There came to be a pattern to the years there. Looking back, I'm not sure I was very helpful to mother, who had decided to die and was doing it by starvation. Perhaps I should have let her. She would decide she had some fatal disease, but that she didn't want treatment. Each night I would hear her praying in a loud voice--god might be hard of hearing, or she may have wanted me to hear--that she was ready, would he please take her that night. Finally she would feel so bad she would agree to go to the doctor, who would run tests and say there was nothing wrong with her but that she would eat. She would feel better and evict me. I would go back to Santa Fe for a visit, or to Charleston--another post; please wait--and just get relaxed when the phone would ring and I would be summoned back.
The problem with starvation in one's seventies is that one never really recovers. Eventually, after a period in an assisted living home, and return to her house, and a period in a nursing home, and a return to her house, mother did have a treatable malady: her gall bladder was over it. In the hospital, 'recovering', she said to the nurse that she didn't want to eat any more, pushed the breakfast tray away, and died.