29 December 2012


Had it not been for Ross Jackson, it is quite possible that I would not now be living in Pukekohe.  I have said   that it was on my visit to Ross in the winter of 1980 that he, Richard Flinn, and I decided to work towards the establishment of a Reformed church in Pukekohe.  No such decision would have been imaginable if my and Susan's relationship to Ross and Glenys Jackson had not been as close as it was.

That closeness was not obvious from the beginning of our acquaintanceship.  Ross and I are rather contrasting types of person.  My interests are wide-ranging, and I have a fair ability to acquire knowledge of a number of subjects.  In this, Ross and I are very much alike.  What I lack, and Ross possesses, is any real talent for the practical side of life.  It is, nevertheless, the case that from early on, he and Glenys became Susan's and my closest friends.  During the three years we lived in Auckland before moving to Yap, we helped one another in very many ways.  When either of us had need of counsel, each turned to the other.  It is, perhaps, simply the case that, though I am 8 years Ross's senior, he and I were at comparable stages in our spiritual history during those three years.

In 1976, Ross and Glenys moved to Balclutha for a three-year stint as a rural schoolteacher; Sue and I moved to Yap.  And during the four subsequent years, our families grew pretty nearly synchronously.  They and we exchanged endless communications by the exchange of cassette tapes.  We were both Calvinists in outlook.  We both home-schooled.

And we were both involved in computing.  When Ross went to work for Interactive Applications Ltd, he advised me to send them my curriculum vitae.  And in September, 1983, by pre-arrangement, I talked to Ross on the telephone.

Telephonic communication between Yap and the rest of the world was, in 1980, not trivially easy.  There were two places that could talk, via radio, to telephone links via Guam.  One was the Yap Communications Stations, at the airport; the other was the United States Coast Guard station in Gagil.  We went to the Coast Guard station.

IAL wanted to hire me.

The business had rather a relaxed air about it, in fact.  I told Ross that I could not simply give a month's notice and leave.  That was all right.  IAL would take me on whenever I was available.

It must be understood that these were early days in commercial microcomputing.  It may not be the case that anyone who was capable of writing, say, a noughts-and-crosses game in BASIC could call himself a programmer and get a job - but this was not far from the truth, I think.  I had done a fair job of doing what programming was needed for us in Yap during the two years previous.  I had, after all, had a significant amount of programming experience using mainframe computers before that.  And I had Ross's recommendation behind me.

I gave Ross to understand that I would get back to him soon, with a final word.  I would talk with Susan.

I did talk with Susan.  It was clear that I was fairly keen on the idea.  It is quite likely that Sue's own positive feelings were as much negative ones about living in Yap as positive about moving back to New Zealand.  For her, life in Yap - and life with me in Yap - were very difficult.

I recall saying to her, rather as a comment in passing, that she understood, naturally, did she not, that this was almost certain to be a one-way trip - that if we moved back to New Zealand, it was very unlikely we would ever leave.

She burst into astonished tears.

Grandma Stretcher

My Grandmother Stretcher was a character.  I remember her being involved in numerous activities but the one that stands out the most was her involvement with Christian Science.  I do not know when or how she developed this but it was the centre of her life when I was growing up.  I don't think that my grandfather was involved in it.

There were many practices that she commited herself to:  served at the Christian Science Reading Room in the village of Bybee near Sellwood in Portland.  Read all of the publications of CS - mostly "Science and Health" by Mary Baker Eddie and her copy of this was marked in many, many places.  Attended the Sunday morning service and the mid-weekly one, too.  Would not go to a doctor if she was ill - my mother had to almost call the police to get her to go into a hospital when she was really sick and then the whole time she was there, she threatened to "escape".  Taught Sunday School at the church - and she talked about CS all the time.  Her faith was very strong.

I admired my grandmother for this but we all thought it was a bit nutty.  Nutty or not, my grandmother got action from God - most of the time.  I can remember one summer afternoon when my cousins were visiting from California and all of us (my sister Candace, my two cousins, my grandmother and I) decided to walk to the local Safeway grocery store.  It was hot and we all wanted ice cream cones.

On the way home, dark clouds overhead burst into rain that was strong and seemingly unending.  We were soaked and had quite a way to walk home.  My grandmother told us that we were all going to gather under the big tree up ahead and pray to God for the rain to stop.  She told us to pray the Lord's prayer - and just keep praying it.  I can remember thinking that this was never going to work and we were going to be stuck under the tree for the next hour or more.

So we started praying outloud - in those days you never-ever told your grandmother that what she suggested wasn't going to work.  Well, the rain stopped - quite quickly.  The sun came out and dried up the sidewalk and we walked home.  When we arrived our clothes were dry and everyone was happy. 

My grandmother never said a word about it.  She had "perfect peace" (a phrase she often used) and that was it.

Grandma had grown up in Canada and most of her brothers and sisters still lived there.  My mother often took all of us up there to visit them.  It was fun and they spent a lot of time laughing and tell stories and eating amazing food.  I loved the food and the fact that they always had dessert.  There was also morning and afternoon tea with piles of muffins, cakes, etc....

One summer Grandma's brother  Uncle Arthur visited Portland.  I can remember being scared when I first saw him.  I wasn't that young but he was from "another time".  He had been living in Montana and working on farms.  He was huge with a handle-bar mustache.  What really impressed me was when  my grandmother asked him to tell my sister and me about the years he was a stagecoach driver in the midwest of the US.  She had photos of him driving the coaches with the horses.  It all seemed a bit unreal.

We wanted to know if he ever got chased by robbers.  Of course, they would have had to have guns as we had seen on television.   I remember thinking that maybe he had know Davy Crockett - I didn't know much about history when I was nine. 

No he didn't know Davy Crockett or Kit Carson but he had been the main driver for Theodore Roosevelt when he travelled the mid-west.  Now, this didn't impress me at all - who was that?  Oh, okay, he was President of the United States at the time and I did end up going to a high school in Seattle named after him - but I didn't think much of it then.

And every year - at least, I suppose, until I was about ten, she took us on vacation!

24 December 2012


New trousers can be a problem.  I have worn the same type all through the autumn and winter  and carried my cell phone in the deep, front, left pocket.  Great place and always handy.

Two days ago I decided to switch trousers - it is getting hotter and I wanted to mow the lawn.  I finished the job and decided that these different trousers needed a wash. Sadly, I didn't only wash the trousers.  I also washed my cell phone as I had placed it in a new location - back pocket - and didn't think to check.

John had been trying to call me and got no answer.  He rang me on our home phone and asked why he couldn't get through to my cell  phone and I didn't know.  Panic - looking all over for it and knowing I would find it under papers, in my purse, etc....

Just to double check, I looked into the washing machine.  I hadn't seen it there when I took the trousers out to  hang up. .....well, I wasn't looking for a cell phone then, either.

Oh yuk - was it really in there?  Face the truth - it was there.

I rang John and told him and he was very straight forward about it - he reminded me that we had been talking about getting me a different phone.  Okay - it was my choice but he really thought that I needed a better phone.

These types of plans always make me nervous.  It's the unknown.  If I got a better car, no worries.  I know how to drive a car.  If I got a better house, no problem.  I know about living in a house - but new machines - it's not the same.

The next day,  Saturday, John and I went to the Vodafone shop - this place makes me really nervous.  Most of the people in there speak a foreign language that they all seem to effortlessly understand.  All I can do is look at the phones on the display racks and think about what colour I might like if I were buying one.

Somehow we ended up looking at the Samsung Galaxy S III - why would I need a cell phone like that?  It looks complicated.


I have to tell you that I am in love with it.  These Samsung people really know what they are doing.   

All of you foreign language speakers already know what it does - the email, the camera, the GPS, the apps (that is my new vocabulary), the weather - just too deluxe.

John helped me to download some of the books off my Kindle.  I now am reading John Grisham's latest  book while waiting in line at the grocery store.

One of the apps I have got is the the Opus Dei readings, etc that I use.  It is all there and it is wonderful.   There are even photos of Saint Josemaria. No more having to sit with a book - I now carry one in my front pocket - note - in the front pocket :-)

The first night after I got the phone, I kept waking up trying to "find" it - I kept seeing water and couldn't grasp the phone as it was bobbing on the waves.  That's my continual concern, that I will wash this one, too.

Time will tell.

23 December 2012


I remember so very well the birth of Adele.  It is not surprising, I suppose, that the closer to the present time I write, the clearer memories become; nevertheless, a major reason I remember more about Adele's birth is because of the involvement of Johnny, Helen, and Eddie - and particularly of Helen.

When Helen was born, Sue was in Palau.  When Eddie was born - well, I don't know where Johnny and Helen were.  It is possible that someone - possibly Ken Atkinson - stayed at the house to take care of them. But when Adele was born, although, it is true, the three other children stayed at home, possibly, again, with Ken, or with George Smith, they were very much involved in the few days afterwards when I would go to visit her in hospital.

The most moving memory I have from that time was in relation to Helen.  Sue was in hospital, in labour.  Dr Andres (Filipino doctor) was her doctor.  I put the children to bed and prepared to go down to the hospital. I kissed Helen good-night, and she asked me, whether the new baby would be a girl.  I said that I didn't know, of course, but that whatever the baby was would be just right, because the new baby would be God's gift to us.  Helen - just five (Adele was born 14 September, 1982) - said, "All right.  But God could give us a girl if He wanted, couldn't He?"  "Yes, darling, He could."  It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life, next morning, when I was able to tell Helen that, yes, God had give her a sister.  The four of us - me, Johnny, Helen (we three walking), and Eddie (in a push-chair) went down to the hospital together, Helen singing "we are going to the hospital."

Adele was to be our last child.  Even at the time I was beginning to see, very dimly, the goodness of having children.  I had accepted, early on, without thinking, the 'normal' view that children are a burden; that contraceptives are there to help prevent that burden's becoming too heavy; that four children is a large family.  By the time Adele was born I was very much changed.  I do not say that I consciously hoped we would have more children.  I was not so aware of any but the 'normal' view.  I do just know that, even then, I would have been glad if we had had more.  We did not.

Johnny had been born in Auckland, and, of course, baptised in the Reformed Church of Avondale.  I had actually forgotten that Helen, like Eddie, was baptised in Guam.  In Helen's case, we had waited over a year.  Eddie was born in March, 1980, and we went to Guam in June.

But Adele was born 14 September, 1982 - shortly after our furlough, and long before our next.

I talked with the Harold (can't remember his last name), junior pastor at the Yap Evangelical Church.  Would he baptise Adele?

Harold was upset.  He said that, officially, the Yap Evangelical Church probably did not have a position on infant baptism; he himself was Lutheran, and would gladly baptise her; but Heinz, the senior pastor, would definitely not be happy if he did.

I wrote to the elders of the Avondale Reformed Church, where, officially, at least, her membership still lay.  I was deeply touched by the response.

They sent me a letter, signed by all of them, with their encouragement for the performance of the Sacrament. They sent the rite to be followed, from the Reformed Psalter Hymnal.  On Friday the 20th May, 1983, with Father Paul Horgan SJ and our friend George Smith as witnesses, I baptised her in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

It cannot have escaped me at the time - it certainly does not now - that it was strange that I did not ask Father Horgan to baptise Adele.  I can only say that the idea was unthinkable to me then.  I was, by this time, deeply committed to Jim Jordan's writings.  Only two years later (as I recall) I was to receive a letter from Jim that, had I had it at this time, might well have led me to ask Father Horgan to perform the Sacrament.  That was to come.  Nonetheless, Adele was baptised - and it is God Himself Who bestows grace in baptism.  It is not dependent on the minister himself.

This was in May.  About this time, my friend Ross Jackson had quit his job teaching at Pukekohe High School, and was working as a programmer in a small company called Interactive Applications Ltd, started only two years before.  In September, 1983, an event took place that was 'high-tech' for Yap: I telephoned Ross.

15 December 2012

Eggs and things

That I had decided to leave Yap and move to Pukekohe is shown by the fact that, although four years, nearly, passed between my overseas trip and our leaving, in my memory the time seems much less than that - a few months, perhaps.  Yet during those four years:
  • Adele was born
  • Johnny received his first four years of education
  • Helen received her first two years of education
  • Ross Jackson resigned his job as high school teacher and began to work full-time as a programmer
I returned from my trip in July or August, 1980.  Poor Susan had been sick with the 'flu the whole time I was away - and she had taken in a housemate, our dear friend Ken Atkinson.  Ken had been a Peace Corps Volunteer; was now, I think, working somewhere in Yap.  He was - is, I trust - a deeply faithful Christian, and was terrified lest anyone should suppose he was staying at our house with Susan with improper designs. Sue had been then, still now is, very uneasy when sleeping in the house if I am away.  Ken was, therefore, her 'security blanket.'  Each morning before dawn he stole out of the house - poor Ken!

It was, I suppose, about now that Sue began home-schooling Johnny in earnest.  The Christian Liberty Academy in Arlington Heights, Illinois, is a Christian school with a home-schooling programme for sale.  We started to use it, and, although it was somewhat overpoweringly fundamentalist and right-wing, found it very good.  Johnny, and, later, Helen, were taught using their materials from then until, I suppose, the end of our first year returned to New Zealand, 1984.  Indeed, from about late 1980 until around 1998, our lives revolved in a major way around home-schooling.  The person who received the greatest educational benefit from this may have been Susan herself.  She has done considerable work during the years since our children grew up teaching others.  Had she become a trained educator early on, I think she would have found her deepest secular vocation in life.

In March, 1982 our biannual furlough came around.  This time I stayed at home (with, it turned out, a - relatively mild! - typhoon for company), whilst Susan went to the US, with four children.  Well, three of them required tickets.  She was three months pregnant with Adele, but no one asked her about that :-)

This trip Sue did not go to Los Angeles.  She went to Seattle, but stayed most of the time with her sister Candace and her husband Ross (they had no children then) in Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island.  Things must have been crowded, as Sue's mother flew up from Los Angeles and stayed with them.  She thinks it possible that Ross may actually have gone to stay with a friend whilst they were there; one can hardly blame him!  Excluding him, the house contained three adult women and three (born) children.  During her stay there she was able to see her 'best friend' Mary Lee (now Mary Barton - or was she perhaps married at the time already?).

A week or ten days there, and then to Hilo.  My mother and father had a house in Hilo on Hilo Bay; my sister, and sometimes my father, lived on the farm in Pa'auilo.  I wonder if Johnny may actually remember something of this trip.  He was not quite seven at the time, old enough to have some recollection.  Susan tells me that my sister Robin took Johnny and Helen up to the farm for most of that time; Sue remained in Hilo with Eddie.

My mother was very keen on birds.  All birds.  Every sort of bird.  She raised some sort of exotic chicken and sold them - at, I am sure, a good profit - in Hilo to fanciers of this breed.

Never one to rely simply on nature, she had had my father build a quite-large incubator for the eggs of these creatures.  I remember seeing it once.  I think it had two trays with wire bottoms, each of which might have held - I have only my visual memory here - perhaps two dozen eggs.  There was a tray of water at the bottom to keep the humidity correct.  And there was a thermostat.

The thermostat's setting was controlled by a dial that could easily be twisted by hand.  It could, in fact, easily be twisted by a two-year-old boy's hand.

I am sure my mother forgave Eddie.  It was, nevertheless, difficult.  Fifty or so cooked fancy chicken embryos take some forgiving.

Sue returned home in, I suppose, April, 1982.  On 14 September, Adele was born.
Portland, Oregon has many old neighbourhoods.  Sellwood-East Moreland is the one my mother's family lived in.  She was born (1914) in their home.  I am not sure when her parents moved into the house but I think that they were the first family to live there.  I have looked at the house on Google maps and it is just the same.

Just like my other grandmother's house in Laurelhurst, my sister Candace and I roller skated a lot when we were younger when staying there.  We also walked to the large park nearby and played on the swings and swam in the outdoor  pool.  It was a lovely neighbourhood and quite frankly I just took it for granted.  My parents had both grown up in these good places, knew a lot of people there and to me there was a sense of belonging.  I can remember being "forced" to talk to a lot of the people my family knew there - to answer questions they asked me - so boring - but I am glad about it now and it contributed to my sense being part of something.  I never had the same feeling about Seattle when our family later moved there.

My mother's mother (Clara) was from Canada and my mother's father (Everett Stretcher) originally from Indiana.  Both of them migrated to Portland, met and were married there.  My grandfather came from a farming family in Indiana. He worked in a management position for the Portland Public Schools for many years and during that time he  bought a farm outside of Portland.  He spent time there during the weekends and then when he retired,  the farm was his "job".  My sister and I have a lot of good memories of the farm.  I never really knew my grandfather; he died when I was just two.  I did know my grandmother quite well.  She died when I was 18.  She was a bit of a character.  I loved her; I do think she was sometimes a fair bit of a problem for her daughter, my mother.

Candace (my sister) and I are not too clear about many of the details about our grandfather's family.  Some of them also located to Portland and we would  go to their farms outside of Portland for Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, etc...  I remember the food - when the adults weren't looking, there would be "let's see how many rolls we can stuff in our mouths" contests - or "how much pumpkin, pecan or apple pie could you eat" contests - the kitchens were often in separate rooms and the adults would be sitting in the lounge and kids roaming around - near the kitchen.  This is the truth.  There was so much food, no one ever really noticed that we had taken some of it.

The adults wouldn't let us watch TV during these family occasions  and of course there weren't DVDs, etc. so what else we were to do but eat? 

The home where we often met belonged to my great-aunt Hazel Stretcher who lived in Hillsboro, Oregon outside of Portland.  It was a sleepy little town then.  Aunt Hazel played the organ and in the corner of her dining room was one.  It had various levels of keyboards on it with all kinds of pedals - it was huge.  It was amazing to watch her play it - hands and feet moving very fast.   Of course we wanted to "play" it too but were not allowed to touch it.

It reminds me of my other aunt's piano - Aunt Haddie (my father's mother's sister) had a grand piano, a Steinway, in a room off her lounge.  The piano took up almost the whole room.  There was only enough space for a couch at the end of the piano.  My sister and I played house under that piano when we were small.  There was a "support" under the piano in the middle of it.  The support divided the areas of the piano into "rooms" for my sister and me to play in or that is how we saw it. 

One incident that I will always remember is Candace and I going under the piano to play and me realising that something was different than before.  I looked up into the underside of the piano and saw many, many hooks that had been placed into the piano - they all had rings hanging off of them.  Most of the hooks had two or three rings.  There were also strings of pearls and other stones strung along the hooks - I wasn't sure why any of them were there but I knew that they belonged to Aunt Haddie.  I can remember getting up from under the piano and telling my father, who was sitting on the couch in the room, what I had seen and all he said was "Judas Priest" - his favourite remark - then later telling me it was my aunt's way of hiding things - what robber would look under a piano?

As I said, my maternal grandmother was definitely a 'character.'  Perhaps that has something to do with my parents' later move to Seattle.

09 December 2012


Laurelhurst is an old neighbourhood in Portland, Oregon. My great-grand parents and some of their children lived there from 1912.  No one from the family lives there now but it is such a memorable backdrop to my memories of my grandmother.

Her parents lived in the first house built in Laurelhurst - 805 Hazelfern Place - phone number BE 4 8675.  It is easy for me to remember these things.  I sometimes look at her house on a google map - it looks the same as does the other houses in the neighbourhood.

The house was large and had a big basement that my sister and I used as a roller skating rink.  We put things in the middle of the floor and spent hours skating in a circle with our friends.  It rains a lot in Portland so during the winters we had to play inside.

My grandmother Lois Parker Peery (we called her Lolo) married when she was older - over 25 - had my father in 1914 and the next year  left her husband and returned with her son to Laurelhurst.  We do not know much about my grandfather. I never met him.  My sister Candace has told me that my father told her that his father was an alcoholic.  We don't know much.  This person's name was never mentioned in the family.  Never by my grandmother.

By the time I was born, she was sixty, still living at 805 (my father's name for her house) and working.  She continued to work part time until she was over seventy.  This was unusual for women at the time.

She was lovely to me and I have fond thoughts of her.  She was a quiet person but also very determined.  I was told that she was a very good Bridge player and was always popular (a word that I found funny as a kid to describe my grandmother - that word was reserved for my friends) but I believe it was true.

Good social training was important to her and very important to her sisters - my great aunts.  They were constantly after my sister and me to have good manners - they never let up. It was a drag but I am grateful for it now.  They told me that I would be.

I spent quite a lot of time at Lolo's house when I was younger.  She never learned to drive so we were often walking home from the bus or walking to an aunt's house and I got to know Laurelhurst well.

There are many stories that I could share.  One that stands out clearly is the Christmas we had  at her house with all of the relatives in the area who could attend. There was a large Christmas  tree standing in one corner of the living room and there were many gifts sitting under it. Very exciting as the gifts were piled up -  My sister and I got to hand them  out to the those there. 

All of a sudden the tree started to tilt - it sort of tilted one way and then another - and before anyone could grab it, the tree fell on  the ground - ornaments, lights, water from the container holding it - tons of "rain" - thin strips of shiny light weight foil that were put on  the tree branches  for added decoration - all of it a mess. 

My sister and I grabbed gifts and tried to salvage what we could - my father was helping while most of the relatives sat there looking on - it was crazy.  My Dad was able to get the tree back up and things went on all right after that - but it turned out to be family memory that was often talked about.

Lolo was a very good cook and she and my father made chocolates together, too.  There had been talk of them having a business making candy. It never happened but they did buy a lot of equipment and made candy during the holidays for friends.  Any holiday was a reason for this - Easter, Mother's Day, Christmas, etc...  When I learned to drive, I took boxes to friends for them.

I remember having chocolate, walnuts, hazelnuts, special boxes, brown paper candy cups, measuring scales, steel covered tables, copper bowls, temperature gauges, huge trays, Kitchen Aid mixers, flavourings  - all kinds of things around to make candy with.

Of course I have two parents - and so I have four grand-parents.  My mother's father, Grandpa Stretcher, I never knew, because he died when I was only two.  But Grandma Stretcher I certainly knew well.

08 December 2012


When I had arrived as a new linguistics lecturer in Auckland in February, 1973, I had been a Christian a little over three years.  I was beginning to feel I knew something of the faith, but was certainly still very much a beginner.

I quickly became close friends with two younger men (I was just 30), men who had been brought up as Christians, and, therefore, not beginners.  Yet I think that for Christian University students, there is a sense in which they are beginners as well.  Indeed, both were new graduate students; had been undergraduates for three years; were, thus, in something of the same condition as I.

Ross Jackson was doing his MSc in chemistry; Richard Flinn was working on an MA in political studies.  Both were Baptists; both were destined to play central roles in my and Susan's lives.

By the end of the three years - 1973-5 - that we lived in Auckland, and I lectured in linguistics at the University, Ross was a Reformed Christian.  Was Richard?  He had, in any case, gone to the United States to study theology at the Reformed Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.  When he finished his studies, he was Reformed.  He returned to Auckland and started the North Shore Reformed Church.  Ross, after graduation, had taught high school in Balclutha, and then returned to his home town of Pukekohe, where he taught chemistry.

By June 1980, therefore, Richard was minister of North Shore Reformed Church; Ross was chemistry teacher at Pukekohe High School; and the three of us had been in copious and serious discussions for five years through the exchange of letters and of cassette tapes.

I don't know that I had anything very specific in mind by including Pukekohe and the Jacksons in my itinerary, except that I was very definitely looking for an alternative to what we were doing in Yap, and Auckland was quite definitely the place we (or at least I!) considered home.

I had acquired my first microcomputer in early 1978.  Ross was not far behind.  When I visited him in June or July, 1980, he had set up a little computer lab at the high school - of, as I recall, Commodore computers - and had, in fact, invented something like Ethernet's Collision Detection scheme for sharing a single floppy drive amongst several computers.  Ross and I were very much interested in computing technology by this time.

We had another concern in common.  Our oldest children - Johnny and BethAnna, respectively - were born 12 days apart in July, 1975.  Each was five years old now - and in each case (his and mine), we were concerned about education.

Richard's church had started a Christian School - this one, I believe.  Ross told me that he and Glenys intended to sell their house in Pukekohe and buy a house in Auckland, probably on the North Shore.  In this way they would be able to send their children to the school, worship at a Reformed church (the nearest in Pukekohe is St James Presbyterian.

Why, exactly, did this not seem right to me?  Perhaps it was because by now Sue and I were very keen on home-schooling.  For whatever reason, I urged Ross to stay in Pukekohe, where he had grown up, and where, therefore, he had roots and might have influence.  He could home-school, as Sue and I were proposing to do.  And, I said, if there is no suitable Reformed or Presbyterian church, one should be started!  Why, after all, should Pukekohe be deprived of the benefit of Reformed Christianity?

I was a week at Ross's house.  On the day I left to return to Yap (via, I think, Honolulu and Guam), Ross and I had lunch, or, perhaps, afternoon tea, with Richard Flinn.  I pressed my idea.  Richard was, at first, a little doubtful, and he asked me whether I was ready to be a part of the idea of starting a Reformed church in Pukekohe.  He would, he said, support the idea if there were two, or, preferably, three families as the nucleus; he would not do so for one.

I would have to start to look for work in Auckland - and I knew it would have to be computer work.

24 November 2012

the beginning of the end

I have spoken before about the questionableness of my motives in leaving linguistics for computing.  In particular, my letter to Gary North in 1980 put forward three reasons why I was restless staying where I was:
  1. Money.  We had been living in Yap rent-free.  The word was that this was going to change.  Indeed, the continuation of government expatriate employees was in question.  If we stayed in Yap, could we continue to make a living?
  2. The fading of my linguistic work.  I said that I was doing more and more strictly computer work, and administrative work using the computer - e.g. preparing funding applications.
  3. Ideological distaste for working for governments.  Should I be an independent entrepreneur?
I say quite frankly that Number 3. above was almost entirely an aping of Gary's own economic gospel.  He was, or wrote as though he was, opposed to government employment.  Almost, one imagined that he was opposed to employment tout court, as a kind of second-class way of living.  He thought - or I believed he thought - that a free man ought always and only to be a private contractor.  I was an avid reader of his books and thought that I agreed with him - or at least that I ought to.

Number 2. was quite true.  I think I made it sound as though this was something imposed on me.  In fact, it was, in considerable part, because computing was much more fun than linguistics.  But for whatever reason, I was making little or no progress with my dictionary work; indeed, it stands now about where I left it at the time.  I am trying, in spare time, to rectify this at present - putting some of the work onto the web, and working on preparing texts for the site.  Perhaps before I die, some of the production of the years 1976-84 will finally be available to linguistics.  Nevertheless, for now, I was more 'into' computing than linguistics.

Number 1. was probably true as well - but only a foolish man (you may draw your own conclusions) could have believed that a change was inevitably to be for the better.

We were due for our two-year home furlough.  We had another problem - a religious problem.  Eddie was not baptised.  The Yap Evangelical Church, though sponsored by the Liebenzellmission people, was itself, in practice, if not in creed, Baptist - that is, it would not baptise infants.

It never occurred to me, of course, to ask Father Horgan to baptise Eddie.  We worked up the following plan - based on the money for our home trip, plus some extra cash that we would have to put in:
  • We would all five fly to Guam, where there was a Reformed Church.  The pastor there would baptise Eddie (all this had been arranged by mail).
  • Susan, Johnny, Helen, and Eddie would return to Yap.
  • I would do a three-cornered trip:
    • Guam-Pa'auilo
    • Pa'auilo-Tyler
    • Tyler-Pukekohe
  • and then return home
The trip to Pa'auilo was for more than simply a visit to my family.  I seriously (honest!!) imagined that one option for me was to go to work on my father's farm, and, eventually, to make a living as a farmer.  To any who know me, such a thought must be jaw-dropping.  My father was, in fact, very polite about my pretensions - but he certainly knew how unlikely any such thing was.  He said, when I was there, that if I had any desire to move to the Big Island, I would be far better advised to try to get a computing job with one of the support companies associated with the Mauna Kea Observatories.

I enjoyed that part of the trip very much, nevertheless.  I was very glad that I had, indeed, visited them; I was not again to see my mother, father, and sister for twenty-two years.

Until this trip to Tyler, Texas, I had never been anywhere east of Reno, Nevada.  To fly to Tyler, I arrived in Dallas in the morning and had to spend the day at the airport there, waiting for the local flight to Tyler that evening.  My innocence of the way of life of much of the country in which I was born and where I had reached at least chronological adulthood is revealed by my astonishment at Texans.

Walking around the airport were quite a few men wearing what I think of as 'cowboy hats,' and wearing what were certainly designed as riding boots.  They were often accompanied by women with 'beehive hair-dos.'  'Obviously tourists,' I thought, 'who have seen too many movies about Texas.'

They were Texans.  That was obvious from their speech, and from references to their home places.  I am still amazed in retrospect.

Tyler was lovely.  It was a medium-sized town, with lovely streets - at least the area where my well-to-do friend Gary lived was lovely!  I felt in a way like a Catholic on his first visit to the Vatican, for Tyler was where all my recent theological growth had come from.  I met Jim Jordan (who was to become important in my becoming a Catholic).  I met Michael Gilstrap, a fellow Tylerite - and now a Catholic.  I met many others whose names shone in my theological firmament.

But I shied away from a commitment to work with Gary.  Gary took his free-men-should-be-entrepreneurs philosophy seriously.  He offered to contract with me for one year, at a salary that I feared I could not live on, to help him get computerised.

This was scary - but deeper down was a genuine feeling that I was somehow betraying a trust in leaving linguistics.

I left Tyler and flew to Pukekohe.  The shape of the rest of my and Susan's life was determined by this trip.

False step

How Reese Peery and Lois Parker came to marry one another Susan does not know.  Their marriage may have taken place as late as the beginning of 1914, although it seems possible that it would have been earlier.  Reese would have been 31 then, Lois 27.  We suppose - and statistics may support the idea - that people tended to marry young 'back then.'  Sue's father - Edwin Parker Peery - was born 16 October, 1914.  There is no reason to doubt - and, with the knowledge we have of Lolo's character and beliefs, every reason to believe - that they were married more than nine months before that.

But beliefs and character may have been at the root of their separation.  'Parker' (as he was always known) was born - and never knew his father.  Sue does not know when Reese and Lolo were divorced, but from her memories, she is sure that it was when her father was still an infant.

One fact of the world they lived in is that scandalous facts - and divorce was certainly a scandal - were simply not spoken about.  One might be forgiven for thinking that a little more reticence about such things would not go amiss today; nevertheless, the greater openness of human relationships since, perhaps, the latter part of the Twentieth Century, might have been a good thing.

The fact is that Lolo appears simply not to have known that her son never met his father.  Sometime after Lolo's death (in 1983) Parker told Sue - perhaps by letter? - that Lolo had told him she had always assumed he had been in contact with his father - and simply chose not to talk with her about it.  Perhaps it might be upsetting to do so.

Parker's business through most of his life was in advertising.  He had an advertising business that took him, at times, all over the United States, and specifically, quite regularly, to various parts of California.

And Reese had, apparently, moved to California.  He had at least one brother and one sister - and Parker had, in fact, been in the habit of visiting them from time to time.  In 1962, Sue - about 16 years old - travelled (on the coach) to California, to visit her mother's relations.  And on this trip she visited a man who must have been Reese's brother: George Peery.  Sue's father told her that he himself had, more than once, visited George, and a woman, who might have been a sister, or perhaps a daughter or niece.

The matter is one of some poignancy.  One wonders what Parker's life would have been like had he had his father at home.  Better?  Worse?  Different, and perhaps different in important ways, one may be sure.

But, though Sue never knew her paternal grandfather, her paternal grandmother was of very great importance in her life.  Lolo may have been, in some ways, one of the very most important influences on her.

18 November 2012


One wonders what our lives would have been like had we decided to put our children into a local school in Yap.  Might they have become effectively native speakers of Yapese - at least natural second-language users of the language?  Would we, as a consequence, have left Yap sooner than we did?  Would we, perhaps, never have left Yap at all?

The natural place for the children of expatriates in Yap would have been the Catholic Mission School - and that, for me, at least, would not have been thinkable.

By now - 1980 or so - the idea of home-schooling was being discussed in at least some of the literature we read - by now including National Review, which our dear friend Charles DeWolf had subscribed to for us, as well as the Tyler theonomic crowd's newsletters, and the John Birch Society magazines that we subscribed to ourselves.

Although I am confident that home-schooling was the right choice for us to make, given our - or at least my - deep-set anti-Catholicism.  Nevertheless, it was a very great challenge to undertake this - a challenge, specifically, for Susan.  She had never taught before.  We knew no one who home-schooled.  There was no support network.

I remain a keen advocate of home schooling for elementary-aged children in many cases.  The advantages of it are clear: you are in charge of what your child is exposed to - no small benefit in today's world!; your children may remain in a nurturing home environment when they are very young; your children may proceed at the pace that is right for them.

The in many cases mentioned above is important.  There are things that, I believe, make home-schooling a workable thing.  A very important consideration, to deal with a problem raised by many opponents of home-schooling, is the need for socialisation.  When we moved back to New Zealand, this need was met almost immediately by the formation, by Susan and a few others, of a home-schooling group here in Pukekohe.  Mothers with their children got together fortnightly for the sorts of things that growing children need.  That sort of socialisation - together with another that applied in our family's case (the music schooling, to be described later) - meant that they were able to learn to be part of a group without the faults of modern early schooling: bullying, competitiveness at too young an age, and a rigid approach to education.

In Yap we had some difficulties providing these advantages, yet, on the whole, the children of other expatriates provided something of the requisite environment.

But Susan bore the burden of this.  We purchased a home-schooling course - one that was very consciously Protestant, Americanist, and - how to put this? - one that seemed to believe that the height of perfection in Christian culture had been reached amongst Evangelicals, in the United States, and in about the year 1955.  Even for the two of us, who, after all, had grown up in that country and at that time, if not in that religious context, some of it was a little difficult to take with a straight face.

Nevertheless, we did become home-schoolers - and continued home-schooling when, in 1984, we returned to New Zealand.  One of our children - who may choose to comment on this post! - believes this to have been, I think, a mistake.  The other three?  Well, I have heard nothing negative from them, at least!

By this time - mid-1980 - I was becoming restless.  I had been hired to work on Yapese linguistic matters.  I did so - but increasingly it was the computing side of this that occupied my time and energies.  In addition, as the administration came to realise what could be done using the computer setup we had - as things were going at the time, quite advanced, and particularly in that location - I was being asked to do things on the computer - statistical calculations, for example - that had nothing to do with the Yapese language.

The government was moving away from the use of expatriate workers, as well.  In 1979, a plebiscite was held throughout the Trust Territory, to decide the political future of each portion of it.  Yap, in particular, had chosen to be part of the Federated States of Micronesia.  It began to seem likely that my days as an expatriate employee in Yap were limited.

Sometime in early 1980 - about the time Eddie was born, I suppose - I wrote a letter to Gary North, in Tyler - he and I had corresponded for quite some time by now - in which I bemoaned the facts that I was doing less linguistics and more computing now, and that my job might not last in any case.  Gary replied by suggesting I move to Tyler and help him to computerise his publishing business.

Reese Howe Peery

In 1828, in Tazewell County, Virginia, George Catlett Peery - two of whose great-grandfathers had moved from Northern Ireland to Virginia in the 1740s - was born.  George's great-grandfathers had settled first in Augusta County; both Augusta and Tazewell County are in the western part of the state, and, in the 1740s, must have been pioneering territory.

By 1828, however, the area may have seemed to tame - or too limiting.  George's father Archibald moved his family to Grundy County, Missouri, where George was born.

Perhaps George was afflicted with the wanderlust.  For his son Leslie Thomas appears to have been born in Minnesota - but his son Reese Howe Peery was born in Grundy County.

Leslie died in Multnomah Village, in Portland, and thus one infers that he took Susan's young grandfather there.  And about 1900 - when Reese was about 18 - Lois Parker, 14 years old, moved to Portland.

What is striking is that her grandmother Lolo and her grandfather Reese had lived some 10 or 12 miles apart in Missouri - and now lived 2 or 3 miles apart in Portland.  It seems likely to me that  this connexion is not purely coincidental.

Moving to a place like Oregon at the end of the 19th Century may have smacked somewhat still of pioneering to the intended emigrants.  I recall, in 1964, when I was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, talking with a co-worker in the language laboratory.  Roy was from Alabama.  He had experienced something of the relative ignorance of persons from that time of 'The West' when his great-aunt - who had never been out of her small town in Alabama before - came to visit him in Berkeley.  The lady - who had probably been born about the same time as Susan's grandmother - arrived in the evening on the train, and was taken by Roy to the apartment building where he lived.

The next morning he was awakened by a very worried great-aunt.  Had there been, she wanted to know, trouble with Indians recently?  She was very serious about it.  She took him downstairs to the tiny backyard of the apartment building.  Someone's child had apparently shot an arrow into a tree.

We laugh, but the changes from that time even to mid-century have been very great.  Jesse James was killed, at age 35, in 1882, the year Susan's grandfather was born.

Susan knows little of her paternal grandfather.  Somehow he married Lois Parker.  Perhaps they had known one another before moving to Oregon, perhaps not.  On 16 October, 1914, Sue's father, Edwin Parker Peery, was born.  Reese's and Lolo's marriage did not last long after that.

11 November 2012

The Parkers

We have no evidence that Susan's great-great-uncle is "Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker - but it is not impossible.

Charles Cracraft Parker was born the 28th of March, 1852 in Trenton, Missouri - at least, if he was not born there, he certainly lived there at the time that Susan's grandmother Lois (Lolo) was born.  I suppose, in fact, that any relation between CC Parker and Isaac Parker was distant.  Judge Isaac was born in 1838, apparently in Ohio, although his first work as a lawyer was in St Joseph, Missouri - some 70 miles away, and not on the river.  Interesting to speculate :-)

CC married Hattie Brockett (or Brackett?  The family name Brockett appears in Sue's Parker relations, but such skimpy information as the web yields spells her name Brackett), and, in 1880, their first child, a son, Elbridge Tracy Parker (always known as Tracy and as "Uncle Doc").  Tracy is one of the many essential links in the chain that leads to Susan, for Tracy, perhaps in 1899 or 1900, moved to Philomath, Oregon.

Tracy was an osteopath.

Osteopathy is called, in that Wikipedia article, an 'alternative medical practice,' and is, therefore, and perhaps for good reason, suspect.  It is, nevertheless widely practised today - but seems to have had its origins precisely in the time and in the area where Tracy Parker grew up.  Tracy was born in 1880; the article says the term 'osteopathy' was first used in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, who founded the first osteopathic training institute, A. T. Still University, in Kirksville, Missouri.  That Tracy was trained there is not, then, surprising.

How much training is required to be an osteopath?  Modern osteopaths, at least in the United States, require as much as an ordinary medical doctor - four years of medical school and three years of residency.  They are, in fact, fully-trained doctors, with a specialisation added.  In New Zealand they are more limited.

Tracy, by contrast, must have required considerably less, for, if Susan's memories are correct, he can have been at most twenty when, a fully-qualified osteopathic physician, he moved to Oregon.

CC Parker had seven children: Lucy (1882), Haddie (1883), Lois (1886), Vara (1887), Marcia (1893), and Helen (1900) - and Helen was born (14 July) in Albany, Oregon, whereas all the others were born in Trenton.

Susan's belief is that Tracy - "Uncle Doc" as he was by then - had qualified in osteopathy, in Missouri, and was then sponsored by someone in Oregon to come there to practise his medicine, in Philomath, and that as a result the whole Parker clan moved to Oregon.

Since Tracy was born in March, 1880, and his youngest sister was born in July, 1900, in Albany, I infer that he had qualified very young.

Susan says that the whole family, then, moved immediately to Laurelhurst, in Portland.  I think there must have been some intermediate residency elsewhere first, since the article in that link says that Laurelhurst was a housing development started in 1909 from the purchase of a large farm.  In any case, Laurelhurst was their home thereafter - and Tracy is said to have built the first house in Laurelhurst.

Having got this far - with Susan's grandmother Lolo, now about fourteen years old, living in Oregon, can we tell how her young grandfather Reese Peery got there?


Although I speak from the privileged position of the male head of a married couple, it does seem to me that when child number 3 comes along, mother and father are beginning to take things in their stride.

This is, in part, at least, simply a matter of arithmetic.  From zero to one is a devastating increase - infinite, if you are thinking of the ratio.  From one to two is still one hundred per cent. increase.  But the third child is only fifty per cent. more than you had before.  By this strict numerical reasoning, each subsequent birth should pass as less and less an event - and I suppose, up to a point, anyway, this is true.

The fact is, however, that there are a number of other reasons why at a certain point it becomes significantly easier to deal with the new child when you have several:
  • You are not so frightened.  You have been through this before - in our case, when Eddie arrived, twice before.  The scope of the unknown is drastically limited.  You have survived two; a third should be, in some ways, much like the others.
  • You are more experienced.  Baby will not die if left to cry for a while.  He will probably go to sleep.  You have begun to reflect on the fact that, if the human race has continued by this strange means for these many thousand years, your own situation is not unmanageable.
  • You are more realistic.  The perfect child is no longer a goal that you genuinely believe you will achieve by your efforts - and, on the other hand, this or that problem will often take care of itself.
And, perhaps most important:
  • You have more help.  Those first two - particularly the older one - actually has an interest in the newcomer.  Your five-year-old is not, alas, going to change nappies, feed, or bathe number three - but he will play with him, warn you when there appear to be problems, and generally give you a little more time to tend to the house (though, not until the older one is much older, sleep).
When we first arrived in Yap - and, still, when Helen was born, I think - the hospital was a World War II poured-concrete structure, which seems to have been built by the Japanese administration, as much to withstand American bombing as to take care of the sick.  In particular, the room where childbirth took place was long and narrow - wide enough for the table that the mother lay on, with bare space on either side for a doctor and a nurse - and room at the end for a stand-up fan that blew outwards through the door.  Since there were no windows in the room or other openings to the outside, the fan was arguably only of psychological benefit.

Eddie was born 14 March, 1980 - some six or so months after that home furlough - in the new hospital.

The new hospital was, in fact, extremely well thought-out for Yap.  Because air-conditioning was not feasible, its buildings were built in what in Yap they called 'Samoan-house' style - very high, unceiled, roof, to allow the warm air to rise (and vented); very broad eves, to keep the sun off.  It was provided with its own stand-by generator system (to deal with the frequent power outages), and its own very large water storage tank.  Eddie was born here.

All of Susan's labours have been pretty long, and this one was.  Dr Paul, the Palauan doctor who attended her, was patient with his patient.  I was there most of the time.  Dr Paul and I shared betel nut breaks from time to time.  Eventually, in his own time, Eddie was born.  Helen, it will be remembered, had been born in Palau, in case a Caesarean was needed.  It was not, and so neither was it with Eddie.

We now had three children - and our oldest, Johnny, was now nearly five.  What were we to do about educating him?

04 November 2012

Virginia, 1740

In 1606, King James I of England and James VI of Scotland (the same man :-)) began an enterprise - the Plantation of Ulster - one of whose consequences was the bringing into being of my wife, Susan Parker Peery.

I have tried for a year or more to get Susan to begin writing a series of memoirs - believing that if my children have wanted me to do this, they will much more want their mother's history.  As Sue seems unlikely ever to take this in hand, I have decided to try to tell her story myself.

I had thought, actually, of ghost-writing it - of telling it in the first person - but something in me finds that abhorrent.  Let you listen to the actual person!  Nevertheless, I will have to nag her for the facts.

But one fact I need not nag her about: the origins of the Peery side.

What appears to be the case is that a Peery was one of the very early Mormons.  And the Mormon interest in genealogy - based on St Paul's obscure (well, obscure to me; the Mormons think it is clear enough) reference in I Corinthians 15:29 to the 'baptism for the dead,' the Mormons teach that we can be baptised in retro for those who were not baptised in life - and thus have an industry established to search for dead ancestors for whom to be baptised.

This page is one of many on the web of Peery family history.  The very briefest outline appears to be:

  • 1740 - 4 Scots-Irish (hence the reference to the Plantation of Ulster above - James's attempt to Protestantise Ireland) brothers came to Virginia (Augusta and Tazewell Counties)
  • 1817 or thereabouts - Peerys began to migrate to Missouri (Grundy County)
  • sometime before 1907 - George Catlett Peery migrates to Portland, Oregon - or anyway, to Multnomah County
And George Catlett begat Leslie Thomas, who, around the 16th of August, 1882, begat Reese Howe.  And, on 16 October, 1914, Edwin Parker Peery, father of Susan Parker Peery, was born!

Ah - but what is that 'Parker' in there about?

Home leave

Perhaps it is because I never lived as a part of my family in Hawai'i that, to me, our 'home leave' in 1978 did not at all feel like going home. It was returning to Yap that was that.  Perhaps it was different for Susan.  Susan's mother and father had been separated for some years by this time, so our trip was to be a three-cornered affair - me to the Big Island to see my parents, Susan first to Los Angeles, to visit her mother, then to Seattle, where her father lived - and Seattle, at least, had definitely been 'home' for her during the years of her life from high school until she moved to Honolulu.

Sometime in August of 1978, we - the four of us - me, Susan, Johnny, and Helen - flew to Guam, and, from there, to Honolulu.  Thence I went to Hilo, and, so far as I remember, I spent the whole time of our vacation - perhaps three weeks - in the Big Island, either in the house in Hilo, or up at the farm above Pa'auilo.  There is little to relate about my own side of the trip.  I principally remember being struck - with deep admiration, in fact - by my sister Robin.

I had not seen Robin since, I think, about 1970 when, for a short time, she stayed in my flat in Honolulu.  She was playing music professionally then, but I never heard her play.  I recall, with awe, waking one morning early in Pa'auilo.  Robin was outside the house, on a little verandah, practising - perhaps her saxophone, although she plays an impressive array of instruments, of all sorts.  Her playing was - is, I am sure! - breathtakingly beautiful..

And she sang.  She had, by then, smoked pretty heavily for years.  Her speaking voice was a little rough, not very attractive.  But she was singing - I think it was The Girl from Ipanema.  I was astonished.  Her voice was like honey dripping out of a jug.

Seeing Robin's first child, Ka'ai, is my other memory from that time.  Ka'ai was just 8 months old and was Robin's other focus.  I cannot be said to have 'met' an 8-month old baby, I think :-) - but when, a few years ago, Ka'ai came and stayed with me and Susan here, during part of her studies at the University of Auckland, I was reminded of that first encounter.

Susan, Johnny, and Helen flew on from Honolulu to Los Angeles.  Virginia - Sue's mother - was working at UCLA and shared a house with a friend.  Candace, Sue's sister, had flown in from New York, and, for part of the week they stayed there, her mother's brother Bob and his wife Lois came down from Bakersfield.  My impression, from talking with Susan about this trip, is that she really remembers as little in detail about it as I do about mine.  She does remember their visiting her mother's friend Lenore Rix.  Lenore herself is unremarkable, but her son - a University lecturer at UCLA - was a man with definite opinions about the ways the world works.  He was a serious conspiracy theorist - an author, apparently, of numerous books on ... well, on numerous conspiracies.  I wish Sue could remember more about him.  One is tempted to find some of the books of this sort.  I confess to finding conspiracy theories, for the most part, more amusing than seriously interesting.

It must, I am sure, have been sad for Sue to leave her mother and fly to Seattle.  Her parents' separation (they were not divorced at this time) is certainly a sad thing and painful to her.  She must now leave her mother, her sister, and her aunt and uncle, to fly to see her father and other relations.

She did this, in any case.  She was raised in the Portland, Oregon area until about the age of 12, when her family moved to Seattle.  A visit to Seattle was, of necessity, a visit to Portland.  Sue's father drove her with the children down there to see her grandmother Lois ('Lolo') - Sue thinks this may have been the last time they met one another, as Lolo died in 1983 - but what about the home trips in 1980 and 1982?  Anyway, most of her uncles and aunts lived in Portland.  In Seattle, our friend from Yap, Tom Bratt (now Seann Bardell as he has changed his name) came to see her.

Finally the trip was over.  Flight to Honolulu; meet me; home to Yap, where life, with its difficulties, goes on - it was sometime in the next six months that she visited the lawyer to talk about divorce, and - thank God! - decided against it.  And it was a few months after that that she discovered she was pregnant.

29 October 2012


It sometimes seems to me a miracle that the human race has survived as long as it has.  We who were born in the mid- to late-20th Century in a country like the United States, in a prosperous family, have perhaps been nurtured in one of the safest environments in history - and yet in my own childhood I nearly put one eye out (at the age of 2 or 3); severed my right Achilles tendon (at the age of 12); and survived untold potentially-fatal automobile accidents.  I have spoken of Johnny's fall off the roof.  Helen's turn came next.

One lovely day in, probably, March, of 1978 - when Johnny was close to three years old and Helen was about nine months - Susan was startled to find that Johnny had run outside.  Neither of us is certain what happened.  I have a memory of Sue's opening the door to go hang out laundry, or possibly to bring it in.  She doesn't remember precisely the circumstances - but Johnny had dashed outside.

We had already had the afore-mentioned incident with Johnny.  Another time - possibly before this - he had managed to clamber his way down the 10 or 20-metre cliff that separated our house from the road and had been picked up by a passing friend and brought home to us - and his return to the house was the first we had any intimation of his disappearance.  So Sue was, understandably, sensitive to the dangers threatening our children.  She dashed out of the house after Johnny.

Leaving the back door open.

Helen could not walk yet - but she could crawl, and she could pull herself to a standing position using vertical objects.

Hearing the door slam, Susan's first thought was that this was good - it would keep Helen safely inside.  Then she heard her scream.

The next few minutes are a little unclear.  Sue must have 'phoned me at the office - if we had a telephone by then.  Neither us us is sure that we did.  In any case, I appear to have taken one of the Education Department trucks, come home, and we rushed Helen to the hospital.

Yap had, at that time, acquired its first surgeon.  Dr Zantua was a young Filipino surgeon - ambitious and, we think, using his time in Yap as a springboard to get a job in the US.  There was also a young America interne when we arrived at the hospital.  Dr Zantua was there and Helen was taken immediately into his surgery, with the interne accompanying him.

Not long after, the interne came out, with a grave expression on his face.  The accident must have been, he said, more serious than he had thought.  Dr Zantua had found it necessary to remove the last joint of the ring finger on Helen's left hand.  He - the interne - hadn't realised that would be necessary.

In reality, it may not have been.  The interne told us, privately, on another occasion that he was quite sure that a smashed finger, at that age, would have regenerated with little permanent effect.  Whether or no, it was now too late.  Indeed, over the next month or two, as the injury itself healed, the bone of the last joint had begun to be exposed, with consequent danger of osteomylitis.  It had to be excised.  Over the first several years after that there were occasional problems with the nail bed regenerating.  I think we had to have that excised as well.

My impression is that Helen only became aware sometime that her finger was different from other persons' when, at about age 8, she, with our other children, began taking music classes - initially, playing the recorder.  Was she disturbed by this?  I do not know, but it seems to me she was not too deeply concerned.  I remember saying, once, years later, when she was a very accomplished flute player, that that particular finger being short was an advantage, for the particular notes she plays with the left hand.

A few months after this occurrence, when we had lived in Yap for over two years, we experienced something that is regular in the life of oversears contact workers: our first furlough.

20 October 2012


God's blessings come in unexpected ways.  The divorces with which my and Susan's two families have been surrounded must seem like a curse. Perhaps a curse is a blessing in disguise, depending on how you receive it.  Susan told me the following story only many years - perhaps twenty - after it happened.

By the time we moved to Yap in 1976, we had made two international moves and faced many situations that were often complicated and demanding.  Sometimes John and I had problems that could be very distressing.
I thought that these things didn’t bother me too much, but the stress of them was building up inside and there wasn’t much help.  My family was a long way away and they were having their own problems.  When I meet new immigrants in New Zealand, I understand their problems.
By 1979 I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in Yap much longer.  I visited a friend who was a lawyer and he said he would help me to leave the island if I wanted to  - it was a turning point for me in many ways.  Until then I had not talked to anyone about my feelings.  I can remember walking back from his office thinking that I had to make up my mind.  I prayed and asked God for help in doing this.  I really felt at the time that I knew something about marriage and what I had wanted and what it was supposed to be and the fact that I seemed to be surrounded by divorce in my family.  When I looked at the numbers (as I had not done before) there were few relationships that had not ended that way.  My parents were divorced.  John’s parents were separated.  My father’s parents were divorced.  John’s father’s parents were divorced.  John himself was divorced.
I can’t really say that I know what all of my reasons at the time were for what I decided.  I had two children.  If I left John, where would I go?  How would I take care of me and my children?  What if, somehow, I couldn’t take them with me.
But somehow I am certain that there was something else.  I knew, in my heart, that God did not want me to do this – that this was not something I could do.  I simply could not walk away.  I made a determination at that time – one which, I know, others have made before me, and sometimes you can stick with it and perhaps sometimes you cannot.  But I determined that, if it was up to me, my marriage would not end in divorce.
Susan only told me this many years later - perhaps around 1999 or later - at a time when I think we could both say that our marriage had changed.  She would, I believe, have been unwise to have said anything about it before.  Would I have used the story for manipulative purposes?  I fear I might have done.

It may be no coincidence that when she went to see the lawyer in Yap, she had come back, some six months previously, from our first home furlough.  I had better talk a bit about that next time.

14 October 2012

Troubled waters

Well before we were married, Susan had begun to discern what would become serious problems in our relationship.  Indeed, from the beginning, my own behaviour was erratic.  This, perhaps, she and I were willing to impute to my drug-taking, my lack of moral formation, the breakup of my first marriage.  At the end of December, 1969, I had turned to Christ; by the end of March, 1970, I had stopped taking drugs.

Yet in 1971 we still had a pattern of serious fights - principally of the sort in which I would become angry about something; Susan would apologise; I would believe I detected in her apology insincerity - with resultant very troubling hours-long fights - with her final submission.  Susan attempted to break our engagement about this time.  It is, I think, an indicator of the very personality issues I had that her decision, after all, to marry me was as much an outcome of the same over-bearing approach to problems which characterised our disputes.

By the time we had been married for four and a half years, and had lived in Yap for a year and a half, a very distressing habit had been formed: reasonably normal life punctuated by frequent such events.  One night - the 23rd of November, 1977 - one such resulted in what could have issued in disaster.

Susan will tell the story:

I remember this clearly as it was unforgettable.  It was one of those events that one hopes never happens twice.

It was the night before Thanksgiving, 1977 and there would be four days of vacation from work for John.

Johnny was just two years old and Helen was a baby at the time.

Our house was in town, on a cliff overlooking the bay and then out to the ocean.  There were a lot of trees around the house and a set of stairs leading to the house from the main road.  Depending on the time of year, the house was not very visible from the main road because of the trees.

The house was large and rectangular. The room we slept in was in the middle of the house and it had no windows.  There was one door into it.  As I recall, we later had this room air conditioned.

John and I had a disagreement about something and I decided to go to bed as it was about 9:00pm.  He stayed up and worked on his ham radios that were in the front room of the house.  I remember hearing glass breaking at one point - it was one of the radio valves that he had dropped on the floor.  I remember thinking that I would let him clean it up - I was half asleep.  He could do it himself.

The next thing I heard was something, again, that sounded like breaking glass.  I was irritated by this thinking of the mess that was to be cleaned up but again decided to do nothing about it.  Later, I found out that it wasn't glass but someone trying to enter the back kitchen door of the house.

I then realised that someone was opening the bedroom door and I assumed it was John.  I opened my eyes, and although it was very dark, I could see someone with shorts on.  I assumed again that it was John.  The person left the room and the next thing I knew was that someone was on top of me.  This was really bad because the futon map we slept on was placed directly on the floor.  It was cooler that way.  I had little hope of throwing this person off and I was in real terror because of that.  I also couldn't understand where John was - why this was happening.....where was he?

It turned out later that John had left the house without telling me.  His office was about a ten minute walk up the road and he had decided to walk up there and get some papers that he would need over the holiday period.

Just a bit of backstory for the moment.  My father, as my sister also knows, spent a lot of time with us trying to prepare us for the unknown - he was constantly asking us what we would do in certain situations - It used to be rather boring - what was going to happen to us?  He had a business that took him away from the family a lot and he was very careful - when this person was on top of me and placing his hands around my throat and beginning to squeeze it, all I could think of was where was John and I heard my father's voice - "Get Out - you can't do anything without help."  So I somehow pushed myself up and the person stopped - I screamed and I screamed - another thing my Dad had told us - if you can, draw attention to yourself - go nuts....depending on the situation.  I knew that I might have very little time to do anything.  I turned on the lights in the house, and ran out the back door.  the person had left the house - but out the front door and left it wide open.

I ran next door - through a lot of bush - and banged on the neighbour's door - that turned out to be of little help.  The woman there threw me a towel - I had practically nothing on - and told me she thought everything was going to be fine - what? - right, they were all drinking and smoking pot as it was a holiday - who knows what fine meant to them?  I left them without saying anymore - I had already screamed that I had been attacked, John was missing and there were two kids in the house.

I then ran up to the hotel that was on a little rise above the house - again, screaming and yelling for help.  I ran into the bar - I figured there were people there who might help me.  Fortunately, there were a couple of policemen at the bar and they came back to the house with me.  This all happened very quickly.  I was extremely worried and didn't want to be away from the house for long.

The policemen came into the house and found the kids - they were fine - and John returned.
We, now, can laugh about what happened.  Susan was not seriously harmed - although she had bruises on her neck and was hoarse for several days after.  Neither Johnny nor Helen appear even to have awakened.  Yet not so long after this, the wife of another expatriate couple - whose husband was away on the field trip ship - was attacked in her kitchen by a man with a knife.  She escaped because she seized the knife blade, cutting her fingers seriously.  The man slipped in her blood on the floor and she ran from the house to a neighbour.

It is possible that Susan's assailant was less a violent than a mentally disturbed one.  I have spoken before of Russ and Verna Curtis, the elderly American Quaker couple who ran YCA - the Yap Cooperative Association.  Some weeks, or perhaps months, before this, a man had crept into their bedroom, where they were both sleeping in their double bed, and began fondling Verna.  Apparently Russ awoke and shouted or something and the man fled.

Some weeks later a man - the same man? - entered their bedroom again, and began the same behaviour, to the person on the same side of the bed.  Russ and Verna had, in the interim, changed which side of the bed they slept on.  The Yap expatriate community had some innocent pleasure in imagining gentle Quaker Russ's reaction to this affection :-)

That man may have been Susan's visitor.  He was, in fact, a relation of Kloulubak, the Palauan neighbour of ours to whom Susan had gone in the first place.  Kloulubak's family saw to it that he returned to Palau, so we will never know for sure - but it seems likely.

It is not pleasant to talk about some of these things that are, in fact, a result of my own bad behaviour.  There is one more occurrence that must have its place in this narrative.  It will be, you may be relieved to know, the last.  Next week's post will have Susan talking again about something whose long-term implications were wonderful, indeed, but this was not apparent at the time.  She seriously considered divorcing me.

06 October 2012

Flying babies

I did not know until writing this post that the frangipani (also know by the genus name of Plumeria), although iconic of Pacific Island leis and other decorative uses, is native to the tropical New World, and is introduced to the tropical zone in the rest of the world.

Our house in Yap had a flat roof, tar-sealed, with a drain in the middle to catch water for the water tank.  It was tar-sealed - but sometime around the end of June, 1977 or early July, the seal began to leak.  As it was a government house, Public Works - the government department responsible for maintaining the government buildings - sent two men out to renew the seal.

The front of the house had a feature that made it unnecessary for them to use ladders.  A frangipani tree grew there, with branches that provided a very easy climb to the roof.  It was quite safe.  You could carry things up with you easily.  Even a two-year-old child could negotiate the climb.

One evening - Sunday evening, we think - Sue and I with Father Horgan and Sister Rose (a Maryknoll sister, principal, I think, of the Catholic school) were sitting in our living room.  Pleasant weather, not raining, though - fortunately, as it proved in the event, it had rained quite a lot that day - the rainy season is from around May until December.

We sat, chatting, perhaps having a glass of wine.  Susan was looking out the window through the fly screen - to see two-year-old Johnny plummet past, riding a coconut.

The workmen had, of course, taken drinking-stage coconuts onto the roof - and left the empties there.  Character appears very early in children.  Johnny, in particular, is of the see-it-do-it sort of personality.  He was that in 1977.  He had seen the men go up and down the tree to the roof all day.  As I recall, they had enjoyed calling down to him off and on during their work.  The attraction for him was irresistible.

The men had gone home for the day.  The hard part of the whole climb was getting into the tree itself.  There was a steel railing around the trunk of it that you had to climb up onto in order to get into the branches that led to the roof.  Johnny managed this, and climbed to the roof.

I think we actually had some advance warning of what was going on, but didn't interpret it correctly.  Just before the accident, I recall hearing a thump on the roof - wondering what that could be.  It would have been Johnny dropping his coconut.

He landed with his forehead on a concrete footpath.  That ought, one supposes, to have put paid to any hope of his survival - at least of his escaping without serious injury.

But ... the coconut itself landed in soft earth, next to the footpath.  It had been raining that day, and the footpath was covered with fairly thick, and soggy, leaves.

There was not a mark on him.

Nevertheless, we ran up the hill to Dr Haight's house.  Dr Haight examined him.  No sign of problems.  Whew!  It would be a good idea, he said, to wake him up once or twice during the night, to see if any sign of concussion might be developing.  We woke him once.  It was perfectly clear that there was nothing the matter with him.

A little later in this year - 23 November, 1977, in fact - something happened which, though without any lasting physical effects, was worrying in a different way, and to this day, has left at least emotional scars.  Susan was attacked.

30 September 2012


I had been introduced to the followers of R. J. Rushdoony and the "Tyler Theology" as a very new Christian, still living in Honolulu.  During the three years we lived in Auckland I read as much as I could get my hands on of the writings of Rushdoony himself, of Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, and David Chilton.  All these writers had in common the theonomic idea - the idea that the Law of God as contained in the Bible ought to be our guide and rule, not only for our personal lives, but for society.  The great project of these men and their followers was that of Christian Reconstruction - the idea that the work of Christians ought to be to reform society in line with Biblical law - including, for many of them, the direct application of Old Testament laws - even, in some cases, of the dietary laws.

Such an idea is almost a natural outcome of a high view of the Bible - of the Bible, not only as containing the Word of God, but as being something like a wholly adequate guide to life.  If there is no God-appointed human authority to apply the Bible to our lives - if, in the Protestant conception, we are obliged to place everything in direct relation to the Bible - then the less one requires human judgement to guide life, the better.

I was attracted to the idea at first, but gradually came to see difficulties in it.  I recall letters that I exchanged with Bahnsen, in particular, on the matter.  Greg was sensible enough to see that an extreme theonomic view would see us stoning adulterers to death, and condemning those who ate shellfish.  He wrote, in one of his books, that, of course, one must apply only the moral laws of the Old Testament; the ceremonial laws had been for the Jews only.  I wrote to him that I did not see how one could make such a distinction.  What was there in the Bible that differentiated moral from ceremonial?

Greg responded rather impatiently that it was obvious what the difference between moral and ceremonial laws was, and thought there was no point of discussion involved.  He was, of course, quite correct - but not on a Biblicist foundation.  We do, indeed, know what are moral laws.  We know this by reason.  That, however, is a decidely un-Protestant view.  It is the bringing in of the natural law idea - not merely of natural laws of physics, but of right and wrong.  Such a view is anathema to much of Protestantism.

I became somewhat sceptical of the theonomic idea.  But there was another side to "Tyler Theology" - liturgy.

James B. Jordan moved to Tyler (where Gary North lived) only in 1982.  I think I had begun reading Jim's writings before that, though - but I may be wrong.  I do know that I began reading him whilst we were still living in Yap - and became very excited.

What Jim was doing, I thought, was to bring back the baby, that had been tossed out with the bathwater, sometime between the Reformation and modern times.  He was willing to read both Orthodox and Catholic writers, to see that the 'hymn sandwich' approach to Christian worship was neither Biblical nor good, and to present the best both of Catholicism and Orthodoxy without fear of being thought un-Protestant.  David Chilton, writing about the same time, wrote about the Book of the Apocalypse as a model Christian worship service - and one very different from most Protestant experiences.

I write about the above to say that during the whole of our eight years in Yap I was becoming more and more drawn, through the writings, particularly, of Jim Jordan, to a vision of the Church as a fulfilled Israel - complete with high liturgy as the completion of Old Testament worship, with facets that were the fulfilment of Old Testament types (another of Jim's themes), and with a real, earthly government that ought, in principle, to encompass all Christians.  I was beginning to believe in a visible and catholic Church.  These ideas were a significant part of why we eventually returned to New Zealand.  The same ideas, unknown to me, were to lead some others - Scott Hahn, in particular - to the Catholic Church.  When I spoke of the writings of Jim to some in New Zealand, after our return, warned they would do the same to me.

22 September 2012


In something like May, 1978, we had an IMSAI VDP-80 computer.  It had an operating system.  Did it have any programmes?  I think it had a CBASIC interpreter, in which programming could be done.  It had a text editor called ED that could be used for writing programmes.  It had the ASM Assembler (to write programmes in close-to machine language).  It had little else.

Self-rolling snowballs are an image of the way things, once started, may acquire a life of their own.  By the time we left Yap, the computer setup (all acquired by Jensen Hope & Advancement Company) amounted to:
  • the IMSAI VDP-80, with:
    • the STOIC programming language
    • a purpose-built text editing programming language (a Bible translator friend of mine had written it and gave it to me)
  • an IMSAI 8080 with attached Data General - dual-disc hard drive - 13MB built-in and 13MB insertable cartridge.  The 8080 had no ROM or operating system.  It booted via RS-232 serial cable from the VDP-80 - and used the VDP-80's terminal to talk to
  • two Heathkit H89 computers - these had no floppy drives, only an audio tape cassette for storage, and their operating systems were in ROM.  They connected to the 8080 by an RS-232 serial cable and were used by our people for data entry
  • A Diablo daisy-wheel printer (for which I wrote a driver that was pretty huge for our 56KB memory - the driver was 12KB)
  • Tektronix oscilloscope and a lot of other test gear
  • a largish library of technical material about computer hardware
and many other items.

The computer setup became the centre not only of our linguistic operation, but of much else that was done in the office.  Besides programming for word processing purposes - our people wrote many texts (which I, now, on the 'bus, am translating and preparing for Internet publication) to be used in schools; the programmes that I wrote on the computer then converted these into laid-out formats to be mimeographed for school use - I did statistics programming for test evaluation purposes, and word-processing for funding grant proposals.  By the time I left Yap, most of the linguistic work - dictionary entries including definitions in Yapese as well as English (this dictionary is now available on the Internet) and text-production was being done by the Yapese workers.  I was programmer and editor.  My work had gradually changed from linguist to computist.

Computist and, as well, electronics technician.

It is probable that all this computing would not have been possible, in a remote location like Yap, in very early microcomputing days, had I not been a moderately skilled electronics tinkerer.  I had been an amateur radio operator since the late 1960s; had built my own transmitter (from old television parts) in Yap and operated from there (as KC6JJ); had generalised my metalwork skills a bit (by becoming a trained locksmith - Yap had none).  The maintenance, and even operation, of our computer systems required a certain amount of electronics and other technical ability.

Within weeks of the arrival of the VDP-80, a chip in its keyboard circuitry failed.  I had used the above-mentioned library to see what was in the chip, had breadboarded a replacement and soldered it in - with the breadboard hanging outside the case - whilst ordering the replacement (which took a couple of months to come).  By the time we left, half the guts of the VDP-80 were hanging out on the desk, connected much of the time to the oscilloscope, as frequent adjustments were necessary to keep things like the floppy drives running.

All in all, it was a very educational experience - and resulted, in 1984, in my changing my main line of work from linguistics to computing.

16 September 2012


We seldom recognise the decisions that are major turning points in our lives.

We did not have budget that allowed us to buy a computer.  We would have to write a grant proposal for such a thing - with no certainty of success.

We did, however, have money that would have been used to fund the tedious business of contracting with someone in Honolulu to take my edited dictionary printouts, enter the information thereon into the database there, send new printouts back, receive the corrections, enter them in ...

And that money could be used to hire computer services.  Investigation turned up a Wang minicomputer from some company in Guam.  The cost was unmanageable.

John McGinnis's conversation with me, one day in 1977, turns out, in retrospect, to have been one of those major turning points.

I had actually got information on a second-hand DEC PDP-8 (with 32KB of real magnetic core memory!) - with the idea of buying it for my personal use - but, in addition to the cost of the machine, I would have had to buy a screen, keyboard, many other things - it was not possible.

John told me about a marvellous development that I had not known about: personal computers!  These, he said, had been around since the beginning of 1975 - and were real computers, not just glorified calculators.  I lusted after one of these.

But they would cost even more than my PDP-8.

I am no business man, and would never, I suppose, have thought of what John suggested: start my own company, buy one of these, and provide computer services to the Yap Department of Education, for that budget they had.  I was very keen on Gary North and entrepreneurship (unsuited as I was and am to such activities).  I was converted to John's idea.

To provide services to the Education Department, I had, I thought, to be a company (though I had only the vaguest idea of what that might mean).  An enthusiastic Christian, I thought of a name: Jensen Hope and Advancement Company.  This provided much humour for John - his favourite was Faith, Hope, and Charity Company.

I had, still, of course, not enough money.  I don't recall precisely all the places my finance came from.  I took a business loan from the Bank of Hawai'i, Yap Branch - on the basis of a letter of intent from the Department.  I borrowed (at 6%, I think) $1,000 from my father.  Sometime early in 1978 we took delivery of an IMSAI VDP-80.  We debated whether to spend the extra $350 - 1977 $350! - to upgrade the RAM from 32KB to 64KB.  In the event, we did so, although this only gave us 56KB of usable memory, since the top 8KB was covered up the the video display ROM.  The computer had a 3MHz 8085 CPU and dual 8" double-density floppy drives - 512KB storage per drive!  To put that memory into perspective, the PC on which I am writing this post has 8GB of RAM - 131,072 times as much RAM.  I think you could buy 8GB for around $200.

In preparation for the computer, we had taken what had been a storeroom in our office - itself an old classroom - and had Public Works install air-conditioning in it.  We had painted the concrete surfaces (to reduce air-borne dust) - nearly asphyxiating ourselves in the process.  Pugram, Defeg, Yow (Athanasius), and I did all that work.

The computer arrived - in May, 1978, I believe.  We set it up on a worktable in that back room.  It could boot into CP/M from floppy, but initially I simply turned it on.  The boot ROM had miniminal programming built-in that allowed you to push bytes into memory and to jump to a location.  What would be interesting to do?  I wrote a tiny programme in Assembly language, hand-assembled it into bytes, and poked it in - a programme that did nothing but display one of the characters in the video ROM, waited one second, then displayed the next character in the set, and so on.

Exciting!  So I invited my friends from the office in to watch it display.  Giloochen, seeing the graphics characters waving, as it were, arms in air, exclaimed: "Bea churuq!!" ("It's dancing!!").  Defeg was more practical.  He asked, "All right, how much is ..." - naming some simple arithmetic problem.  "Oh," I replied, somewhat embarrassed, "it hasn't any programme in it; it can't do anything like that yet."  "How much did this thing cost??"  I named the figure.  Leaving with a snort of contempt, he exclaimed that even his $20 pocket calculator was better than that.