Friday, October 8, 2010

The Women in my Life

My wife (left), at the Midtown Farmer's Market, is visited
by our old, dear friend, Barbara!

When I don't write, you don't necessarily need to worry!
by Charlie Leck

Unlike, I am sure, great bloggers such as Stanley Fish, Andrew Sullivan and Charles Fortnay, you needn't worry when I don't blog for a few days. Usually there are very simple and straight-forward reasons why I miss a few consecutive days. Perhaps, for instance, I am in total depression about the pre-election poll results; or, I might be experiencing a real downer about my hometown baseball team; or it might be the rage I am feeling over – and the total disgust I feel for – the Reverend Rear-End Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas; or I might be consumed with trying to provide the attention that the women-in-my-life are demanding (a wife, 3 daughters, a step-daughter, 3 granddaughters and that fabulous and eccentric broad, Barbara).

Do I really want to go here or there? I mean, do I really want to try to explain the inexplicable to you – I mean, my relationship with Barbara? And, do I really want to vent the remarkable and maddening feelings I have for that jerk in Kansas who claims to be a man of God?

Ahhh, the peacefulness of mind when a man and his dog
simply stop to catch some rays. A guy and his dog at the
Midtown Farmers Market.

I'd like to sic Barbara on the crappy Reverend in Kansas. She'd slap some straight-thinking into his whacked out brain and then knee him in the groin for good measure.

With whom shall I begin? The two are such poles apart! Barbara is as nutty as the pastor, but she's loving, kind and generally harmless. The pastor is a mean kind of crazy, and that makes him boundlessly dangerous.

You've been reading plenty about the insane Reverend Fred Phelps. The Supreme Court of the United States is now considering a case about him. Fred, you see, is a homophobe – one who detests and/or fears homosexuals. He even has the children in his congregation whipped up about the matter. How utterly sad it was to see a picture of a young girl – perhaps 12 or 13 – carrying around a sign that blared out the pastor's message: "Thank God for Dead Soldiers!" She wore a t-shirt that proclaimed that "God Hates Fags!"

In 2006, the pastor had the nerve to haul members of his congregation half-way across the nation in order to demonstrate at the funeral of a fallen soldier, where they marched with signs such as those I mention above and chanted vile proclamations as they prowled around near the ceremony.

The young soldier's father sued the pastor for invading the privacy of his son's funeral and bringing emotional pain into the lives of the family members. A Maryland court agreed and awarded damages to the father. Now the Supreme Court will decide if the lower court was correct. It's not an easy matter; for the freedom to speak and protest in this country is nearly sacredly guarded and protected. Are there protests, however, that go too far?

What more need for privacy could there be than at that intimate moment when a mother and father say an eternal goodbye to a son who died too young and too horribly? Only those tender and intimate, loving moments of a husband and wife in their bedroom compare!

For a man who claims to be of God and a disciple of Jesus to spread such vile hatred while interrupting such a moment is unforgivable. If there is a religious punishment for sins, this Kansas pastor shall spend long, long days in hell.

The question of importance, of course, has to do with what his punishment shall be in the here and now! The courts have a difficult decision to make and I know – conservative or progressive – they feel the weight of this moment upon their hearts.

I'd like to travel to Kansas with my friend Barbara and have her tell the Reverend Phelps a thing or two.

Barbara is the author of a zany, autobiographical book called This Broad's Life. I remember lots and lots of people nervously awaiting this book's arrival in bookstores in 1996. Among them, of course, was her ex-husband, the Governor of the good state of Minnesota. Barbara knew things about people. She somehow had this ability to get people to tell her about the bones and other dusty, troubling items in their closets. Her book was promoted as a tell-all book about her life, loves and collisions. One only needed to open the book to its dedication to get some appreciation for the dangers that might lie ahead.
"I dedicate this book to my mother, Jane Gillis Duffy. Mother, you died without knowing how much I love and appreciate you. Do you know that now? Do you know that I have forgiven you and want your forgiveness? I hope there's a bookstore in Heaven. I hope you'll stop flirting with Saint Peter and take time to read this. It will explain a lot. It says so much that I failed to say to you when you were alive."
I met this incredible, wild and dangerous broad late in 1967. A year earlier she had lost her first-born child -- little Kristin -- to crib death. The pain she carried reverberated from her and surrounded everything about her life with insanity -- an insanity that she made-out to be outrageous comedy. I was crazy about Barbara -- not, mind you, as a man is crazy about a woman, but as one human being feels sympathy and empathy for another human being who is wildly reaching out for compassion and forgiveness. Barbara was blaming herself for losing the babe. She was painfully aware that her husband was blaming her, too, and that her marriage was nothing more than a ship wrecked and sinking on dangerous shoals. She tried to laugh her way through it. She also drank and smoked too much.

A Catholic, she tried to understand her pain and misery from the perspective of faith. In those years after I met her, she was sure God had heaped upon her all the pain that could possibly come her way. In fact, there was more to come. She was to find out, as she says in her book, "God is one creative son-of-a-bitch!"

Over the years, I proved myself a faithful friend to Barbara. We bonded. When my own life led me near those dangerous shoals, Barbara helped me navigate through them to safer waters. I'll never forget her for it and never stop feeling gratitude because of it. She gave me a new backbone when I had lost my own. And, she introduced me to my wife -- the most blessed gift anyone ever gave me.

I remember picking up my copy of Barbara's book. My wife was with me and we sat at a table in the bookstore's coffee shop and I thumbed through it, scanning page after page until I spotted my name. There was only one paragraph. I didn't feel cheated. I felt relieved. I read it aloud to dear Anne.
"While I was sitting on my duff trying to decide what the hell to do with my life, Charlie Leck came to my rescue. He offered to pay my rent for a while. Charlie had lived with me off and on when we were single. He was there the night my divorce became final. We were platonic friends, but women loved him. I introduced him to his current wife -- one of my more successful shots at matchmaking..."
Barbara served a couple of terms on the Minneapolis City Council. She was a damned good councilperson. She was a bit too outrageous, however, and she didn't follow the usual political rules. It worked okay for awhile because her constituents thought she was a breath of fresh air and real. That idea wore off and her outrageousness didn't mix with good politics. A radio station here in town hired her to do a talk show. She was damned good. Once a week she'd broadcast from her hot-tub and invited guests into it to talk with her and half of the damned metropolitan area in which she lived. Again, it worked for awhile and then wore thin and repetitive.

Now, we are both old. I'm too elderly and too tired to laugh at her craziness. I want more sanity and steadiness around me. Barbara hasn't changed. Men seem to whip through Barbara's life and they always cost her a great deal of money and then leave loneliness and pain in their wake. She's looking for another man, but she won't find one because guys my age just don't want to tax their hearts that much. They're looking for calm, safe harbors. So, Barbara needs help with the rent again.

What can I do? We've had too many laughs and too many cries and it doesn't make sense to turn my back now. She wants to launch a new career on TV, doing wacky interviews and saying outrageous things again.

"I don't know," I tell her. "Times seem more serious now. Perhaps it's the economy. Maybe it's my age."

At the end of her book, Barbara owns up to something important. It's sad, I guess, but it's also hopeful and mighty wise.
"So much of my life has been spent -- is spent -- seeking love, hoping to be loved... Love isn't a passive thing. There is a greater joy in loving than in being loved."
Damn it! Barbara could have a helluva conversation with that idiot pastor down in Kansas. I can just imagine her pulling a hat pin from her hair and walking up close to the guy and sticking that thing right into his crotch and hitting her target head-on. That would open the preacher's eyes a little bit. Trust me, I know! I know!


You can email Charles Leck
or you can sign-in to post a comment on the blog
or you can click on “follow” in the top right hand corner

No comments:

Post a Comment