Jane Beasley Raph, In Her Own Words
My Aunt Jane spent her life in academia, primarily as a Professor of Early Childhood Education at Rutgers University in New Jersey. After he retirement from Rutgers, she and her husband Ted moved to Arizona. Not content to let her active mind grow fallow, she worked in the local school district as an on-site counselor. She also taught at Arizona State University, again creating a circle of friends who loved her encouraging spirit, incisive mind and sense of humor.
She never had children due to an early partial hysterectomy caused by fibroid tumors on her ovaries. But she devoted her life nonetheless to serving others.
The following are words about Jane, by Jane. They are poems she favored and kept, along with a series of journal excerpts that she wrote for a class she took in journal writing. In them she confronts some of the challenges she faced in her life, from the loss of her sister at age 4, to the loss of her father as a young lady, and later the loss of her mother.
These excerpts were originally published as part of the memorial program for my beloved Aunt Jane. The testimonies of many present attested to her lifelong service to others, her ongoing encouragement, and her desire to see others succeed.
With sadness and love
We bid farewell, for now,
To Dr. Jane Beasley Raph
Born May 31, 1917 in Detroit, Michigan
Died September 4, 2000 in Tempe, Arizona
Peace Is With YouIt drops, finger-soft,
From the slow touch
Of your hand
It lingers, pillow-warm,
In the embrace
of your eyes
and the rose-crinkle
of your smile.
Peace is with you
It touches those
Whom you touch
those whom you see.
It brings some order
In the world
some quiet to me.
DaughtersWe are daughters
in a hand of generations
in a mold of individuality.
framed by mothers'
to do and be
what she was not
to plan our own path
Serenity to turn
a stone on its side
the larger part.
A ribbon to tie
on the curl of our own
to bless the new ones
Birth and Three DeathsThe birth is in a hospital in a Midwestern city. The young parents are seen posed against a dark, foreboding background. They have previously lost a male child at birth, were then separated. Now together, the nativity astonishes them. An infant pushes her way out of the womb, clearing the passage for her identical twin. The first baby, Jane, is the hearty one. The second, Ruth, is frail, with only a tenuous hold on life. She will lose this hold at 2 1/2 years of age. In the crystal ball of the photo we see that a fourth child, Betty, will be born soon after the death of the twin, born with an untreatable heart anomaly. The foreboding color of the background will darken.
Abandonment and LossIn this murky photo unsoftened by pinks or blues, Ruth, often ill, is held in her mother's protecting arms. Jane doesn't seem to have a place. She is handed over to a helpful neighbor, or, away from home, sometimes to a stranger who gives her mother a brief lift. Sometimes her father holds her, but he is rarely around. Jane wonders if she belongs.
In the next photo Ruth is gone. When Ruth dies, Jane cries. She misses her playmate. She looks for her in the toy chest. She looks for her in the big cupboard in the kitchen where they used to play with the pots and pans while their mother was cooking. Where is Ruth?
Continuing LossFor a short while Jane is in the center of the picture, with her mother to herself. When barely three, Jane becomes lost again in the flurry of tragedy surrounding Betty's birth. Everyone tells Jane she is a big girl now and must be kind to Betty. (Jane doesn't tell them she hasn't had a chance yet to be a little girl.) Jane learns to be a "little mother" too soon.
When Betty disappears from the family, Jane is now eight. Once more she loses her playmate. Jane remembers the times when Betty was sick. She wonders if she did something wrong or bad. When Jane's mother cries, Jane doesn't seem to be able to comfort her. Was it Betty that her mother loved best?
Rescues and SheltersThe family picture lightens. In a new home in a different city, the pains of deaths are partly buried, a little forgotten. A healthy sister, Annabeth, adds an ingredient of joy.
For Jane the school becomes foreground, a shelter where she finds playmates whom she doesn't have to look after, a new freedom. She doesn't mind sharing the teacher with 25 or 30 others. But she is glad to be chosen to stay after school to wash the blackboards, and have the teacher all to herself. a special day.
A Small StarThe backdrop here is a Midwest, wintry cold outside. Inside, the large city school is Christmas colors and confusion. It is the night of the Christmas program for parents. Two days previously the teachers had held a hurried conference. That little girl, Jane in Miss Dick's first grade can recite Night Before Christmas by heart. Strange, since she is a poor reader whose mother has had to help her at home. They decide to have Jane open the program. The blue velvet curtains are parted to have her stand in front. She "speaks her piece." It is easy. Everyone claps. Afterwards, she doesn't understand why her mother cries.
A Tenuous StarThe scene is a large banquet hall in another Midwestern city. The Camp Fire Girls are honoring their mothers. Jane is to give a toast. She is excited to be chosen, but scared she will forget her speech. She has practiced even in her sleep. Before her turn comes, she is surprised to see her tall father appear at the rear of the room. He catches her eye, waving and smiling. She feels lucky to have him there. Jane doesn't forget her words. What she doesn't know is that in another year her father will be gone from her life. She will have moved with her mother and a new sister to live with her grandparents.
Continuing SheltersJane becomes centered in school over-all safe places for her where she can retreat from pressing problems at home money, frequent moves, desertion by the father, a new life with grandparents and other relatives. In her school bag are her secret burdens: Displacements ... whom will she be handed to next? Inadequacies ... in first grade she had been a non-reader, and terrorized by numbers, had caught the fear that maybe she was stupid; "Averaged out". Her sixth-grade teacher told her mother Jane was a hard worker, used much initiative, was a good average student. Through graduate school the contents of the school bag were always with her.
On SecretsSecret treasures, secret passions, secret paths, secret hide-aways, "a family secret no one is supposed to know." Whispers in the night can't see, can't hear, mustn't know - - long ago and far away.
Most of my parents' secrets I'll never know. My own secret has been shame. I learned early that I was a bad girl. I wasn't nice to my little sister who was chronically ill. I stuck my tongue out at my mother. She washed [it] out with soap. My room was always a mess. Inside I was bad. I had to hide that.
In school I was dumb. I had trouble learning to read. I counted on my fingers until I was in the fifth grade. I was paralyzed by long divisions. Fractions were awful. Inside I was stupid.
I began hiding my shame. I tried to be good. I found out how to get approval. I became my mother's helper, a caregiver to my younger sisters, a hard working student. I got on honor rolls (always felt I was fooling the teachers). I became expert at figuring out what was expected, fitting In, filling in. I had some successes. I had failures, too. I didn't think about the latter. I became two people . . . the outside me who got the credits, the inside me who knew if anyone found out, I'd be finished.
A persisting theme in my life was fear of being found out, of not wanting anyone to know. I became secretive. Later on much was forgotten. I Just didn't tell, I didn't have to tell that my parents were divorced, that my father came to see me. I became cautious about closeness, about revealing the real me. Social drinking carried the unspoken threat of drug dependency. Drinking was a family secret rarely discussed, a secret of my father, both my grandfathers a secret, I have learned fairly recently, bequeathed to several cousins on my father's side, and in a few instances, now, to their children. Secrets. My own secret.
My FatherOctober 14,1991
I never mourned for my father when he was gone from me at 13, gone from my mother, gone from my sister who was only 3. When I was little, I had been Daddy's little girl. He held me on his lap to comfort me when I had been bad. I cried. I told him, "I'll never do that again." He hugged me. When I was around 5 years old I was allowed to walk the three blocks to the street car line to meet him when he came home from work. He was always the tallest person to get off. He would hold my hand during the walk home. Later, when he was away more, traveling, he would bring little surprises for me in his suitcase. One time when I was chosen to make a toast at a city-wide Mother's Day Banquet, he came into the big room standing by the door to hear me. I think he was the only father there.
When I was older I began to lose him. He was away more. On Sundays he might sleep for most of the day. My mother would be very cross. I learned, somehow that he was a womanizer and a drinker. Tensions between my mother and him increased. If I caught the flavor of his humor and laughed with him, my mother would frown. I began to feel guilty. I didn't know why. Once I over heard, "Johnson has a woman in every town." I knew my mother was embarrassed and sad. I cried, but I didn't let my mother see me. I really didn't understand. When he lost his job during the Depression, the marriage split apart. The three of us moved a long distance to a small town to live with my mother's family. We were never together again with him, except for a brief time one Christmas.
During college years and early teaching, I would see him occasionally in Chicago on trips to visit my mother who was now living in our house in Kansas City with my sister who was then in high school. The visits were strained. Sometimes he tried to tell me the problems had not been all his fault. But I had become very close to my mother, had experienced her heartache and humiliation. I did not believe him. I cried bitterly before and after those visits. I thought then I was weeping for my mother. Many years later I came to understand my father's abandonment of me, the development of my protections against being deserted ever again.
In graduate school I came into Chicago to accompany a friend to the hospital. On leaving the hospital I called my father to tell him I was in town, was returning to Ann Arbor on a train later that day, but would have some time to visit, if he were free. He became annoyed that I had not told him in advance of my coming, saying that since I hadn't bothered to tell him, he wouldn't bother to see me. I never talked to him again or wrote him. I only attended a graveside burial service in the little town where he had grown up. This was five or six years after the call.
Breaking ApartA Map Story Writing and Being November 7, 1989
In these early adolescent years, Jane grows taller than most of her friends, especially the boys. She grows amid a tangled web of events --gray, distant, ensnaring, little understood.
She tries to sort out where she fits in, between the devoted, conscientious mother and the handsome, gregarious father. Her place with her mother is defined somewhat by the chores her care for the much younger sister, and the mother's interest in her school work, and in making sure Jane always "looks nice." She is dimly aware of her mother's old griefs, her struggles to manage the mortgage payments each month, her embarrassment about grocery marketing when the bill goes unpaid at times. Her place with her father is less clear. His job with a large seating company has gone from a salaried, expense-account position to commissions only. Reports filter back of his womanizing, probably drinking "on the road." These tensions occur in whispers, she never hears quarrels or explanations. The father drifts deeper into debt. The split will come when he forces Jane's mother to agree to a loan on the mortgage. Foreclosure looms ahead, a dreaded specter.
Boys come into Jane's life. Lambert, in fifth grade, much shorter than she, walks her home from school. Leslie, the tallest boy in sixth grade writes her love notes. She is too shy to talk with him. And there is a mysterious bond between Jane and her father. An old snapshot pictures her with her Music folio in one hand holding her father's arm.
He is wearing his best suit and hat. Jane's smile is anxious. There is no picture of her mother and father together. On one occasion she goes with her father on an overnight sales trip to a nearby town. She has her own room in a hotel, her first. The next day they visit a former secretary who is hospitalized here. Sally and her father embrace warmly. Should her father be kissing someone other than her mother? She feels guilty. What will she do with what she knows? Sometimes Jane and her father laugh together. Her mother frowns. What is Jane doing wrong?
And so the split comes between Jane's parents. They were never to be reconciled. The 3-year old sister will never know her father. The loss for Jane of the father who chose to abandon her to far-off relatives was a terrible emptiness she could not share. Distrust of closeness became the father's legacy to her.
After Jane's Twelfth Birthday, What Happened?The crippling gloom of the Depression separates Jane's family. She is pulled away from her sheltering school. She carries her book bag with her to the small town where her mother's family lives. The father does not come.
Jane walks though the doors of the unfamiliar high school building. It is much smaller than her previous school. She doesn't know anyone. Will Jane find shelter in this place? The high school kids, just out of their central junior high, are already bonded. The ones bussed in from neighboring farms are spurned by the town kids. Those from below the tracks share a furtive took as if asking not to be noticed. The kids from West Main dominate the halls. They are rich, from old families, have enough money to congregate at the Candy Kitchen after school for treats. Then there are "all the others," most of whom come from one of two elementary schools where immigrant families, small shop-keepers, salesman, and factory workers live.
No one from any group includes Jane for the pep rallies, or the football games, of the Friday night "mix." She isn't invited to hang out with anyone on Main Street on Saturday nights. Loneliness is added to her book bag.
When Jane walks along Elm Street she sees houses lighted up in the evenings, houses where there is a mother and father and children. She is the only one who doesn't have her own home, whose father is gone. She feels ashamed, different from everyone else.
Toward Christmas of that first year Jane is walking across the town's High Level Bridge which connects a residential section with the "uptown." Beneath the bridge are railroad tracks, factories, silos. She is crying. She still has no friends. A few are beginning to talk with her in her classes. She is afraid is they find out about her, they won't even do that.
She has no money for presents for anyone, even her mother.
He mother says this year the money has to go for groceries and shoes. Jane thinks about jumping off the bridge. If she were to die, only her mother would miss her and be sad.
Things did get better.
Things Did Get Better: The Small Town High SchoolThere once was a school. It was more than walls. It was more than teachers and books and bells and classes. It was all of that. It was more.
For Jane it was friends who casually tossed off her reticence, more caught up in her big city sophistication than her family dislocation. Together they all got into whatever was going on or made up something on their own.
For Jane it was teachers who cared, who walked across a stage each year declaiming, proclaiming, outlining, underlining, assigning knowledge. Some were passionate about learning. Jane listened, read, studied, wrote, worried. She did a lot of memorizing. She somehow got it, got the spirit, and began her own walk, but not yet on the stage. That would come.
For Jane it was boys, the ones who were "keen." She was shy, didn't know how to talk with them, crossed the street to avoid having to say, "Hi." But she got better, learned to talk, had her first breathless date. Her date had more trouble breathing than she did. Her mother held her breath until Jane got home that night.
For Jane it was being included in what the Year Book referred to irreverently as the Extra Kurriks: the annual school play, gymnastics, chorus, band (flag carrier at one football game), and a girls' club, the Girl Reserves. By some Depression miracle, the school sent two students to represent the Club at the World's Fair in Chicago. Jane was one of them. This was a 2 1/2 day bus trip all expenses paid for a week. Housing and classes were on the Northwestern campus. Treks to the Fair filled the afternoon and evenings of these awed teens. An eight-acre Hall of Science portrayed the progress of civilization for the past hundred years A Century of Progress. Heady stuff. Jane's world would never be as small again.
The school was more than walls. Perhaps if walls could talk, they'd yield up the secret of how the school made a difference in young lives for the rest of their lives.
Memories that SustainMarch 6, 1990
Latin is a Language ...
It's a Friday afternoon. The dark-haired, high school Freshman dumps her books in the large attic bedroom she shares with her mother and sister. She finds her mother downstairs in the kitchen. The aroma of a large pot of soup simmering on the stove permeates the air. The chairs are piled on the table. She is scrubbing the kitchen floor ... not her floor, but the floor of her sister's family who has taken them in.
Jane announces resolutely that she has decided to drop Latin, needs the mother's signed permission. "It's too hard," she says. It's dumb, doesn't make any sense, is something I'll never use. Besides, it's a dead language. Some of the other kids are dropping it, too."
Elizabeth, the mother, listens in silence. The thick brush scrapes back and forth against the old linoleum. She doesn't look up. The soapy water forms widening arcs. She wrings out a cloth tightly. With a determined sweep she dries the arcs, completes the cleaning. Jane shifts from one foot to another. She feels like crying. She looks for signs of assent. None come.
Elizabeth raises up, pulls two chairs off the table, motions to Jane to sit down with her. What is the mother thinking? Is she remembering her own schooling begun as a freckle-faced, auburn haired little girl, who, at six was ashamed of being an immigrant kid who couldn't speak English, and who the boys called "the red-heads," an appellation she didn't understand, but whose taunting tone felt bad. Is she remembering how she dropped out of school at fourteen, left home in this same small town for a nearby city where she had a job?
The mother begins to speak, haltingly, puzzled. "I don't think I understand. Maybe you need to spend more time studying? Sometimes something new is hard, but maybe it will get easier? The school says you need four years of Latin if you want to go to college. Perhaps Latin is to help you learn more words? You have to get an education so you can be independent take care of yourself, so if your husband leaves you, you can manage on your own. I can't help you with the Latin. I wish I could. But if the school says you need Latin, you have to do what the school says."
The Learning StarsThe scene is a teacher's college located in the flat farmlands of Ohio. Corn fields border the campus. The little town boasts only a few churches and a catsup factory whose redolent tomato aroma permeates the air during the first weeks of fall. The buildings are yellow brick, too new for ivy, too ugly it would seem to develop a tradition. Softening the harshness and spareness of the these Depression years are a small faculty, passionate about learning and teaching. Miss Hayward, Reading Methods, is a stately white-haired lady who says with venom, "I'll haunt you and your classroom if you ever ask a child to read aloud before he has read it silently."
And the teacher from Georgia, Geography Methods, disdains salt and flour topological maps. Instead, in a unit on South America, as she calls the roll, she gives each student a title ... Peru, Bolivia, Argentina. She asks them to leave their seats and together become South America.. position themselves next to the proper countries, get acquainted with their neighbors.. cities, crops, governments, and walk the rivers, climb the mountains. It all seems silly at the time, but her ideas were not lost. -- And the Demonstration teacher, Miss Pigg, yes, Miss Emma Pigg, whose beautiful spirit transcends her name and her plain appearance. She lights up the classroom with her love of the rambunctious second-graders and her understanding of the nervous, young student teachers. A unifying-philosophical theme in this picture is that one does not award stars for learning, but cultivates "intrinsic motivation" .. that the star stickers must come from within.
Giving Away Stars (Becoming a Teacher)More schools stand out in this photograph. An old University in one of the first cities where she lived as a little girl has a freshman scholarship. Then a Teacher's College in the midst of farmlands where a catsup factory a few blocks from campus takes over each fall. Then her first teaching job. Then the old brick school on the wrong side of town, still Depression years at 19 . Now she can give stars although she has learned in teacher training that extrinsic motivators are bad. But the experienced teacher [in the] next room gives her first graders a star each day they "pay attention" and they go around staring up trying to see their own star. Jane loves the kids who don't always smell clean, the ones who can only speak Italian but whose family invites his teacher to his first communion, and the ones in the trailer park whose mothers always come to PTA. And shyly seek reassurance about their child.
My Little Black DressLori, tall and beautiful, yearns for the thin, slim, skinny look She buys black dresses, too small in size to fit her now. She plans to get her weight down so she can wear them sometime soon. She has had one in her closet for a year now, recently bought two more, small size, at a sale. She laughs a little about this. Sometimes, I think, she cries. Danielle buys her clothes two or three sizes too large, styles loose and full. Whatever size she now is, no one will have to know about her weight and she can even fool herself. She's playful about the games she plays with herself and clothes. Adrienne wears loose, flowing skirts, never pants. This way, she says, she keeps the world from checking out her figure, and doesn't even have to think about it herself.
Danielle knows the scales in her bathroom is no help in recovery from her eating disorder. But she doesn't throw out the scales. Maybe she hopes for the needle to point at or near a 100 or below one day? She wants to be there with the scales. Out of this discussion on body image, I began to realize that I had little black dresses in my life, too. For years I have selected what I wore carefully with an eye to the latest styles. In New York one had only to walk a few blocks on 5th Avenue to see the latest hemline, the new sleeve cut, the contours, full or sculpted for the season .... whatever. Each was designed to cover my inadequacies, my fear of failure, my terror of being ignorant, not knowing... real or imagined.. the whole bunch. If I looked OK I wouldn't be found out. Sometimes this proclivity kept me from going where women would be fashionably dressed, sharper than I at anticipating the season's new touch or color. It was if my own little black dress wouldn't be enough, especially if, unbeknownst to me, the new "in" had become big, red dresses.
The Circuits were ClosedOctober 31, 1989 (Revision: A Circuit was Not Busy, October 24 1989)
Twenty-four hours. Monterey, California. "Due to the earthquake, all our circuits are busy. Please try later." Oakland, California. The message doesn't change. An abyss of silence that deepens with the blanked-out hours that follow. An abruption of fragile connectedness among the little family, the little family that is only beginning to hold hands as they come together, the oldest, 72, the youngest, a bubbling, red-haired 3-year old.
I am frightened by the unknowns. I am terrified at the awful images erupting. I feel the vulnerability of my own people, of myself. Where are they? Where am I? Will I once more be abandoned? There is distrust at the thought that they haven't tried to reach me? or didn't think of me? Then there is the comforting correction that their phone lines, too, are closed; the discomforting correction of what may be going on with them, their own terror and fright. When will I know? The closed circuits are closing in around me.
I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself , and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I do understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart?
The trouble is nobody asks the question: and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate and leave the path.
For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length.
And there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.
-- Carlos Casteneda in The Teachings of Don-Juan. In Rick Fields, et. al. Chop Wood, Carry Water.
Quiet EnergiesNovember 21, 1989
The scene is in the nursing facility in a private room. Jane's chair is drawn next to Ted's wheelchair. They are facing each other with soft eyes. Their hands are intertwined -- his slender, strong hands, the hands of a sensitive musician; -- her hands, slender, too, somewhat gnarled, the hands of a practical organizer, a teacher, a student. Her hands are warm. They warm Ted's.
A deep bond between them of Ted's knowledge and expertness in music and Jane's enjoyment has been fractured by illness and upheavals for which neither was ready. There have been months of silence except for an occasional TV concert. Now a cassette is on the night table. A few tapes have been added. This feathery little light has been ignited by their friend. Gail. It has been fanned by the recent, sad news of Vladimir Horowitz's death. Ted and Jane recalled his playing a Schumann song cycle at the Carnegie Gala in NYC celebrating its 85th Birthday. This was a rare appearance for him. The concert was also a farewell from Clare who came with them to help them say farewell to that big city as they prepared to leave for the southwest.
Now, in this delicate renewal of music together, Jane and Ted listen first to a piano concerto of Rachmaninoff's. They are absorbed in the flow of melody carried by the strings, the haunting mellowness of the woodwinds. and the clear, rapid notes and deep chords of the piano. Then there is the soaring culmination of the entire orchestra with the soloist The concerto ends.
Ted and Jane chat briefly about their private concert, much as they might have when leaving a concert hall in the old days...... quietly a new understanding emerges. Ted says, "There is something very deep between us when we listen to music together. It's a kind of chemistry for which there are no words." Jane adds her joy in the beauty of the music being reflected in their quiet smiles and old, soft eyes.
The MythographApril 24, 1990
Hannah: "Jane, How old are you? You're 72! Wowee! How long would it be before I can be as old as you? I'm only 7. In 65 years I can be as old as you? How about my brother, Isaac? He is 10 now. In 62 years he'll be as old as you? That isn't fair. He'll beat me again. He'll be as old as you before me.
Well, when I tell my mom about this, I'll tell her that if I were 10 like Isaac, I would be as old as you in 62 years, and if Isaac were as old as I am, 7, he wouldn't get as old as you until after me ... I guess you're like my grandmother, aren't you? What was it like when you were a little girl?"
Jane: I'll tell you a story about Jane, shall I? When Jane was a little girl, not quite as old as you, she had a twin sister, Ruth. You know about twins? They look almost exactly alike. But Ruth was sick sometimes. One day she became very ill. She didn't live. She died. Jane felt sad. She missed her playmate of 2 1/2 years.
Soon after that Jane got a new baby sister named Betty. Jane and Betty were best friends, maybe like you and Breann. But Betty was born with a bad heart. Doctors didn't know how to fix bad hearts at that time. Now they know. I think they fixed your Grandpa Lou's bad heart and he is fine. Well, Betty died, too, because her heart stopped beating. Jane was sad again. But about that time she was in second grade. She was learning to read. She had friends and lots of fun times.
When Jane was in the third grade she got another sister, Annabeth. Annabeth was sort of like Jane's doll. Jane wheeled her in her doll carriage. She sang her to sleep at night. She loved Annabeth very much. Annabeth is all grown up now. Sometimes she comes to visit Jane in Scottsdale. Sometimes they tell each other stories about what they remember when they were little girls. When Jane was as old as you, she used to think about growing up and what it would be like. Do you think about growing up, Hannah?
Hannah: "Yes, I'd like to be a model ... on stages... and do everything, turn and smile and wave, and sort of dance around ... and sing. And if not a model, then maybe teach dancing to people. If I can't get a job there, then I could waitress like my mom does while she's studying to be a nurse."
Jane: Hannah, you'll make a beautiful model or teacher or waitress when you grow up. Or maybe you'll become something else you've never even thought about yet? Right now I think you're beautiful, and a good friend.
Well, now there's more to the story about Jane. She used to dream about growing up and maybe becoming a beautiful princess and living in a grand castle ... and maybe a fairy prince on a white horse would come to see her. He would marry her and carry her off to his castle which would be even grander.
As it turned out, as Jane was growing up, she discovered a different kind of castle she liked. In fact she had many castles. Because her family moved around her castles were in different lands. Her castles were schools. She loved schools. The biggest and best was in New York City. She called that one her Columbia Castle. In that city she met Ted. She didn't know at first that he would be her fairy prince, and marry her, and carry her off to his castle, but that's just what he did. His castle was on the seventh floor of a tall New York City apartment.
Every room in the castle had windows that looked out on the Hudson River. All kinds of boats were on that river--tug boats, barges, motor boats, dredging boats, fishing boats, boats carrying tourists around Manhattan Island, even canoes. One time there was an International Sailing vessel Regatta. Ships came from all over the world, and they sailed north on the Hudson to Albany, the capitol of New York State, and then returned to the gigantic New York Harbor. For several nights sailing ships would be anchored all up and down the Hudson with their masts trimmed with lights. It was like a fairy land. You've been to New York, haven't you? Did you ever think about all those apartments being castles?
Hannah: "No, but I know where I'd like to live some day. I'd like to live in California right by the beach ... in a house that if you open the windows and look down you can see only the water, no island at all. And there would be the beach, and maybe friends, and maybe a boy friend?"
Jane: Our stories aren't finished yet, are they, Hannah?
We'll talk some more one of these days.. maybe a day when you call and say, "Jane, can I come over. I'm bored." And Isaac, you've been listening to all this, Maybe we should add your story to ours, if you'd like.
Precious MomentsMarch 27, 1990
Can You Hear Yourself Listening?
Unnoticed, the cat has gone ... probably uncurled itself stretched lazily, arched its back, and vanished. Silence ....
The string quartet players on stage settle alertly into their chairs, bows suspended. The audience gathers itself into an expectant hush. Silence ....
The moon's crescent of blurred light in the evening dusk is
pillowed by feathery gray clouds. Silence ....
Angry words, venomous retorts, old furies burst forth striking
at the air. A gasp of desperation stills the flow. Silence ....
The fragrance of citrus blossoms sweetens the morning air. Unbeknownst to us the tight buds screened by the thick foliage have opened out making their presence and promise known. Silence ....
Energies and BeingApril 3,1990
Ted stands at the doorway of his room at the nursing facility maintaining a fragile balance with his cane. A pale, gaunt-like ghost of his former vigorous self, he looks lost amid the apparatus of efficiency surrounding him -- wheel chairs, walkers, medicine carts and the white-coated figures briskly bent on their tough assignments of care-giving.
As Jane rounds the corner past the nurse's station, Ted's arms reach out. His eyes fill with tears. He hugs her. "Am I glad to see you! I didn't know when you were coming. I wondered if you could find me in this place. I was worried."
Back in his wheel chair, he covers Jane's hands with-his. "I don't know why I'm crying. I think it's because I need you so much. And I'm afraid something will happen. But I don't know what that might be. I don't know what I can do. Sometimes I don't know where I am. And I don't like anyone to see me crying."
Ted, who rarely allowed himself to cry, whose feelings have been locked in at an early age, who could rarely admit to his dependencies, and his fears, is changing. And Jane, whose own dependencies and fears have been covered over by a facade of professional involvement study, travel, the culture of the good wife, and her resentments about her own expectations of herself, is also changing.
Now Ted and Jane are meeting together in a sheltered cove where quiet waves mark the passage of time. Gone are the dangerous reefs, only a vague memory. Gone are the brutal storms of rejection and battles for control. In this place, new to both of them, is the gallant nurturance of commitment to each other -- loving, caring, needing each other, and it's all right.
I am indebted for the theme of this piece, and its development to a conversation I heard last week between Bill Moyers and Toni Morrison. In essence she said something like... "Before we go we need to do something nurturing for another person. To take care of another person is morally demanding ... it is a gallant event."
Thanks to the GivingNovember 15,1990 Jane Raph
I know a nurse who says, "Yes, my husband is at home ill and needs me, too. But I have lots of loving to give." I know a nurse who gives forehead kisses toward the end of the day. Some evenings every patient on the Unit carries her blessing badge.' I know a nurse who soothes belligerence with tenderness. I know a nurse whose smile and hearty laugh radiates and ripples up and down the corridor. I know a nurse who says many times a day, "How're you doing?" and waits for an answer. I know a nurse who strides rapidly and purposefully from room to room alert for any emergency. I know a nurse who listened to me cry and comforted me. I know a nurse with a velvet touch and beautiful, understanding eyes. I know a nurse who meets stubborn resistance with beguiling alternatives. I know a nurse whose special talent is order, cleanliness, firmness of schedules. It makes for peace. I know a nurse who kids around and is loved. I know a nurse who talks with patients, who stays with them for a few moments to listen, really listen. I know a nurse who plays in a jazz band on his nights off. On duty some of the patients love to hold his hands.
I know these nurses, Aides, LPN's, RN's, all in their basic whites who may venture a pink top now and then, or a green scarf or a headband. They choose to work with the aged, the frail, the ill, some of whom have been diagnosed as having organic brain disorders, or Alzheimer's many of them needing total care. And these patients are always needing more than that. They need, also, kindness, affirmation of their dignity, gentle touching, an understanding of their confusions and their aloneness, and the warmth of smiles.
To these special nurses, givers of giving, I give heartfelt thanks in this Thanksgiving season.
Nowness (and Oldness)" %>
Writing and Being
October 3, 1989
The photo at this time shows a hospital scene that doesn't change, only varies with different rooms, different locations. Ted is recovering in Intensive Care from a 24 - hour diabetic coma. Jane and Death sat at his side. After a week more at the hospital he is returned to the nursing facility, now in a new place and room. Acute Care, it is called. As Jane walks in, Ted greets her. . . "I've been trying to figure out how to reach you. Pack up all these things right away. Get me out of here. There isn't even a bed for me to sleep in."
Jane, muffled, cowed for the moment by his fierce directive, apologetic, helpless to assuage him in confusion and despair. Then the old flow of his accusations spews forth ... "You don't care about me. You are a phony. Get the hell out of here. Go away. Don't talk to me. SHUT UP!" Ted covers his ears with his hands.
The old tapes, the old abandonments, the fears of abandonments in each of their histories splits them apart ... locked in this one angry moment toward the end of Ted's life. (Is Jane's life ending too ... she wonders). Ted struggles within himself, with his unacknowledged fears. "Don't leave me alone. I can't be without you. How dare you desert me? I always thought you'd go off and leave high and dry. Is this the time?" Jane feels again the panic of her father's desertion, being left at 12 years of age by the debonair, outgoing, fun-loving person whom she had trusted.
The unbearable curtain of silence is lowered. Jane thinks of it as the silent treatment. Closed doors, the hollow sound of footsteps, his and hers, in different rooms, on the polished, beautiful parquetry floors, hostile quiet. The thick, heavy folds of silence separating two human beings who cannot endure together, who cannot endure apart.
Joseph Campbell (The Hero with a Thousand Faces) discussed the hero (heroine) problem as illustrated in the wondrous Arabian Nights adventure of the Prince Kamar-al-Zaman and the Princess Budur:
"With the hero and heroine both following the negative way, and between them the continent of Asia, it will require a miracle to consummate the union of this eternally predestined pair. Whence can such a power come to break the life-negating spell and dissolve the wrath of the two childhood fathers?
The reply to this question would remain the same throughout the mythologies of the world. For, as is written so frequently in the sacred pages of the Koran "Well able is Allah to save." The sole problem is what the machinery of the miracle is to be. And that is a secret to be opened only in the following stages of this Arabian Nights' entertainment.
Writing and Being
September 13, 1990
Jane: I'm feeling old, vulnerable, afraid about. you, my body, I'm afraid you'll "do me in" in some way.
Body: How is that? Don't you trust me?
Jane: Well . . . I don't know . . . You are getting up in years, and you must know what that means.
Body: You haven't been paying attention to me, I mean real attention. You just keep yourself busy getting other people's opinions about me. You just got all those clean bills of health, from your internist, your GYN guy, your ophthalmologist, even your periodontist. It cost you a bundle to get me all cleared. Don't you trust them?
Jane: Well, that's now, but what if . . . ?
Body: What if ? . . . You usually sleep well, you exercise, you eat right (just like the TV commercials say . . . ) you don't have a drug dependency. I have to say you treat me O.K. Something must be going on in your head that's screwy . . or your heart? The heart beats O.K., too . . but is it pumping something out of the past?
Jane: Hum . . . I do worry. Let's say you, body were to become ill or injured, who would take care of you and me? That probably scares me the most.
Body: You can't fix up the future before it gets here, can you?
Jane: No, that's obvious, but I wish I could know what's ahead.
You see, there is this image of your age I carry around, You weren't born yesterday. You're stooped a little. . . well quite a bit to be honest with you, round shouldered, bad posture (even my best friends remind me to sit up straight . . you've heard them), your face is lined, your hands are gnarled. You have a little problem hearing . . . heavens knows what I'm missing if you aren't being alert.
Body: Say, you are really putting the screws to me. No matter what you feel, I'm here to say that I'm in good shape. I don't like you complaining about me. You'll get me into a depression, if you don't watch out.
Jane: Are you threatening me?
A Letter to my GrandmotherTempe Journal Group August 3, 1990
I've been feeling old lately, old. When I do I sometimes remember you, as you were about my age. I was in high school then. What was old like for you? For me old is forgetful in insidious ways ... storing the box of frozen mousse pops in the oven, losing one shoe, misplacing my eyeglasses (once, in the refrigerator), making a list of reminders and forgetting the list. Old is taking more time than it should to get things done. Old is having my body clock stop at noon requiring rest to rewind. Old is lines in my face, gauntness, the start of arthritis, maybe, in my right hand, my writing hand. What will I do if that worsens? Old is a nagging feeling of time running out, so much still to do. Old is a feeling of vulnerability to disease or disaster in spite of my apparent good health and secure surroundings.
I remember some things about your oldness. You were thin, wiry, spry, your face edged sharply with age, your gray hair pulled back tightly in a knot. You worked swiftly, still, at your household chores, napped in the afternoons, listened to evening news on the radio, read the local paper. But what were you thinking during those mostly quiet days? What were you feeling? You never talked about it. What else might you have liked to have done with your life? Once when I was in my twenties, worried about becoming one of those old-maid school teachers we had then, you said in your German accent ... "Jane, you've got plenty of time, you've got plenty of time." That was about as close a conversation as we ever had.
I think we are somewhat alike, diffident with strangers, a little shy, energetic. Our energies took different paths. Yours were those of a proud, hard-working peasant woman. You and grandpa, I can remember, preparing the garden soil at the first signs of spring, then planting, weeding, harvesting, canning. I recall especially my seasonal chores, the laborious (to me) picking of strawberries and raspberries, shelling peas and beans, pitting cherries.. ugh I hated the cherry juice running down my arms, and I got tired of hearing about the "long hard winter" ahead. I decided I wanted a different life, not being very sure of what that might be.
My energies took me to cities, schools, learning, teaching. Our paths did provide each of us with an escape from the kitchen. You didn't enjoy cooking and housework, preferring to be outdoors. I only enjoyed getting the essentials done, to get on with better things.
We lived in different times and circumstances. Had we taken a chance to talk together at some point, perhaps our youthful hopes and dreams would not have been so different, our sadnesses and heartbreaks understandable to each other. Your heritage to me has been your dignity, the strength you provided when there was "trouble in the family," and even with little education, yourself, your willingness to gamble on mine, and help Grandpa see the light... which wasn't always easy when giving up money was involved!
I've really loved youJuly 15, 1990
Dear Grandma, I've been thinking of you often recently. I realize I am about as old as you were when I was living on Elm Street with Aunt Minnie and Uncle Curt, and my mother and Annabeth. I was attending high school.
I recall with fondness how you looked then. You were rather small and wiry. You wore long skirts, aprons, a sweater, and a scarf tied under your chin when you stopped over on a wintry day.. Your face was wrinkled as mine is now, your cheeks a little sunken, bright eyes, and a sweet smile. What color were your eyes? Were they brown like my mother's and mine?
I didn't get to know you very well when I was little or growing up. Except for an occasional visit to Norwalk, Ohio from Des Moines, Iowa or Kansas City, Mo., I didn't see you often. My earliest memory is seeing you one Christmas. We took the train from Des Moines. I heard someone say, "It is the longest day in the year," and I didn't know what that meant. I was really excited about the trip. it was my first train ride. That is the first time I met Uncle Curt, Aunt Minnie's new husband. Both of them were to become important in my life later on , and I know you were always close with them.
The next visit to Norwalk was different. I stayed with Minnie and Curt in their new house, next door to yours, for about three months, going to Benedict School which was the same school my mother had attended many years earlier. This was the time my sister, Betty, was very ill. Aunt Minnie had come all the way out to Kansas City to help out. She had brought me back with her. She did all kinds of special things for me like making my doll some new outfits for Christmas and seeing that I got to go to the movies on Friday night with a newly arrived German couple. And I helped Uncle Curt learn English.
I came next when you and Grandpa and Aunt Minnie drove from Norwalk to Kansas City to see our new baby, Annabeth. People didn't travel in car across the Midwest all that often in those days, 1926 or 27. My mother, you always called her Lizzie, must have been so glad to see you. And I was thrilled to be able to drive back with you and stay the whole summer.
That -- summer is the time I got to know the cousins, children of Aunt Lena and Uncle Jake. I would walk over to their house. Then we would walk to the nearby city pool. In pictures of us we all looked like skinny, good kids! Do you remember us then? Now that we've all grown up, and are aging, we are still friends, but we don't see each other often. When I returned to Norwalk from Scottsdale, Arizona where I live now for my High School's 50th reunion, all four cousins and their partners came together at Marge's for a little family reunion. I was really thrilled to see all of them. You'd be surprised to know that Marge, whose mom always called her "Babe," is the only one of us left in Norwalk. She doesn't live far from Elm Street. When I've gone there in the past we always drive past the "Homestead," as we've come to call the home you and Grandpa had there for many years, with the barn behind, and the garages for the business trucks. Marg and her husband stopped to visit Ted and me on a western trip they took, and Leland and Ione stopped in once for lunch and a nice visit. Both times we looked at old snapshots of you and Grandpa and the family through the years. And we are rather amazed that through hard times and many vicissitudes you hung together, carried on, helped your children and your grandchildren, and never stopped working to maintain your honest dignity.
Now, more about you, specifically, grandma. I don't remember our ever talking together about family history, about your growing up in Germany, about friends you left when you were very young, about your own mother. I think we were both shy. I didn't know enough to ask questions. I don't remember hugs. Your hugs came in other ways. I remember many stories about you, as I got older. ..How you came to this country with your husband, your father, and two small children. You were poor. Grandpa was a mason who found work as a brick layer. When I was in high school there were still streets remaining which he had helped pave. You may have worked as a maid on West Main Street where the rich people lived. I'm not sure of that. I know that's where you sister, Lizzie, worked. You must have felt very sad that your father, who had helped all of you come to this country, was not happy here. He died within a year or two. a heavy burden that must have been for you. I guess you were brave and strong. As it turned out, your, three daughters, Minnie, Lena, and Elizabeth were strong, too. They all met adversity with courage. I think some of that strength has gone to your grandchildren, and probably your great grandchildren, as well.
After you moved to a larger house on Elm Street where you were to live the rest of your life, you did laundry, sold sweet butter you churned yourself, and fresh eggs. You always saved your money. in some ways you were like the modern working woman of today who has her own bank account, separate from her husband. Only you kept the money you earned secreted away . In the early days I expect that money was desperately needed to keep food on the table. I learned that Grandpa had to return to Germany because of illness in his family. It was you who had the cash available to pay his way. In later years it was partly your money that paid for the business Grandpa bought which he turned into a profitable coal and builder's supply business. I know he started out with a horse and wagon, and later on added coal trucks. Then his son- in-laws added huge ready mix trucks to the fleet. There were times when recall your sitting at the kitchen table "checking off" each truck that pulled in at the end of the day.
Somewhere along the way after my mother's marriage and a succession of pregnancies, you put together the money and arranged an abortion for her with your local family doctor ... secretly, of course. I don't know how often you sent money to us during our own hard times, but I think it was fairly often. Which reminds me that you also helped my mother get away from home (today we call it "moving out") when she was only 14. 1 know it was because of stress between her and Grandpa, but I never understood what that was. You never mentioned it, and my mother didn't talk about it.
Through the years you and Aunt Minnie would put together wonderful Christmas boxes each year to mail to us ... there were some times when it was our main Christmas. It would have homemade sausage and fresh eggs for the parents, and toys or clothes for us. Aunt Lena would send us a box, too. Once, you sent a $10 gold piece carefully wrapped, so only mother would find it. I don't know how many times you sent money or loaned it to us during hard times, but I think it was fairly often. All those things you did were much bigger than hugs ... I thank you for being such a loving, giving person, really very loyal. When mother, Annabeth, and I came to live in Norwalk during the depression after my parents separated, you helped in many ways, chiefly by bringing food you had grown, canned, or kept in cold storage during the winter. Mother and Minnie had a budget of $15 for setting the table for four adults and two children. Uncle Curt, hunted squirrel, rabbit, and deer, and caught fish which helped out, too. I learned about work connected with food supplying too. I got roped in to picking straw berries and raspberries, and pitting cherries (ug, how I hated that).. and shelling peas and lima beans, and husking corn. Now I'd love to taste all that fresh, home-grown stuff. You were always talking about preparing for the long, hard winter ahead. (I used to wonder if there was such a thing as a short, easy winter). As I've learned more about your background, I have a better understanding about the importance of food. You and your family must have experienced really hard times in Germany. I wish we might have talked about that.
I remember you and Grandpa starting out early in the spring to prepare for garden plantings. Even as you approached your eighties and would seem rather frail and delicate during the winter, once signs of spring appeared you would seem to gather strength and would start another season's preparation. I have several special memories of Grandpa ... plucking a chicken at the oil-cloth covered kitchen table; belting out Lutheran hymns in church which he sang with great gusto and a good voice, and his German blessing before each meal, which I still say to myself some times these days. He also paid for my second year of college ($300 at that time for room, board, and tuition.. now it's about, $3,000), and instead of expecting me to repay the loan, gave the same amount to Leland, my oldest cousin, for his education. This was a big step for him. I don't know how much education you and he had, only that you could read and write in German, and on your own, learned English. I know that you, Grandma, and Aunt Minnie were behind him on this. I've been grateful to all of you. I learned to understand a little German when I was little, but never learned to speak it. I wish I had. I used to like it when you and Grandpa would talk German between you.
Well, Grandma, this is getting to be a very long letter, and I think I'd better stop. I wasn't able to tell you when you were alive, but I want you to know that I thank you for being the kind of person you were, and for caring so much about your family, and for all of that I'd like to give you a big hug I've done some thinking about how I may be like you in certain ways, and I'll talk with you about that in a next, letter. I know I'm different, too, but I've grown up in a different age, had the advantage of' a good education arid good jobs for which I'm grateful. Perhaps my very good health which seems to be lasting is one of the gifts you and Grandpa gave to me. More later!
When Teachers Face Themselves"The utmost condition of meaninglessness in life is a state of despair. Where there is awareness of hopelessness, there is an awareness of what might be.. and this in itself contains a ray of hope. There is still a possibility., as the Prophet has said, that the well of pain might yet be filled with joy. In a state of despair the prospect is bleaker than this. To despair is to surrender. The one who completely despairs has given up the quest for meaning. He has given up the struggle to be himself or to find himself. Despair is like death, but it is deeper than death. It is a kind of living death. It is what Kierkegaard has called 'The sickness unto death.' "
Death is not in itself a symbol of despair. The prospect of death is a recurring theme in the history of a life in which there is still a surge of growth. Death can never be denied. But the one who is still in search of selfhood faces death and incorporates the thought of it into the larger sweep of his existence. He may go even further and accepted earth as something swallowed up in life."
He may believe., or try to believe, that his identity lives on after death -- a belief that many hold, but others deny. he may believe, as some have sought to believe, that he will live on in the memory of those who remain He may believe that somehow he mill survive even through his bones have been interred. He may believe, as have endeavored to believe, that he can find eternal life, not through timeless existence, but through fullness of existence. According to this belief, a self that plunges deeply into the possibilities of living captures and embraces the essence of immortality, whether or not the spirit survives the body. These are some of the ways of accepting or seeking to a accept the threat of death and the inescapable fact that death will occur."
"As was stated earlier, he who accepts himself fully accepts himself as one who will die. He who is best able to live is best prepared to die. He is one, who, though facing the prospect of dying, still lives. In a state of deeper it is otherwise. For the one who despairs, if his despair is complete, has died, while he is still alive. His is a living death.
-- Jersild "When Teachers Face Themselves" p 89-90
Can You Hear Yourself ListeningWriting and Being Precious Moments
March 27, 1990
Unnoticed, the cat has gone . . . probably uncurled itself, stretched lazily, arched its back and vanished. Silence . . . .
The string quartet players on stage settle alertly into their chairs, bows suspended.
The audience gathers itself into an unexpected hush. Silence . . . .
The moon's crescent of blurred light in the evening dusk is pillowed by feathery gray clouds. Silence . . . .
Angry words, venomous retorts, old furies burst forth striking at the air. A grasp of desperation stills the flow, Silence . . . .
The fragrance of citrus blossoms sweetens like morning air. Unbeknownst to us the tight buds screened by the thick foliage have opened out making their presence and promise known. Silence . . . .