01 April 2012

Paying debts

In the (northern) summer of 1972, Susan's grandmother Lois ("Lolo"), together with her great-aunts and -uncles, were quite old.  I do not remember which of the two of us decided that we should make a trip to the US mainland to visit the various members of Susan's family.  It was an expensive trip, certainly - we needed to visit Los Angeles, Bakersfield, and Chico in California, and Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington.  Perhaps I was beginning at last to have some sort of social conscience that led me to feel it was necessary to make these contacts before the oldest of them died - paying social debts.

Susan's mother had separated from her husband in, I think, April, 1969.  The reasons were - as must usually be the case - complex.  They had been married for nearly 27 years.  They had two children.  Nevertheless, separated they were, and Sue's mother moved first to stay with her brother Robert Stretcher in Bakersfield, for some brief period, but had settled in Los Angeles - indeed, when she came to Honolulu to meet me in December, 1969, it had been from Los Angeles that she had come.  My brother lived - and still lives - in Chico; and the remaining members of Sue's family, including her father, some in Portland, some in Seattle.  Sue's sister Candace was, by this time, at Nyack Bible College in Nyack, New York so we would not be seeing her.

And I had decided, in any case, that, having finished my PhD in linguistics, I would study for a theology degree at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Sue's notional home town.  So our itinerary was set: Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Chico, Portland, Seattle.

Sometime in August we flew to Los Angeles.  I think we spent about a week with Virginia Peery.  It was not an easy time for her.  I was by now a puritanically- and dogmatically-minded Baptist Evangelical - and Susan's mother was an Episcopalian.

Not - as I only discovered from talking to Susan recently - a lifelong Episcopalian.  She had perhaps been reared vaguely Methodist; in and shortly after high school she attended an Episcopalian school and had been deeply and seriously converted.

Nevertheless, I spent some considerable amount of the short time we had together trying to persuade her of the complete wrongness of her position.  May God forgive me for my self-will and arrogance.

We did, nevertheless, have some nice times, including driving to the San Diego Zoo - one of the best in the world.

And then we took the Greyhound coach to Bakersfield, to spend a few days with Sue's uncle Bob and Aunt Lois - and her cousin Virginia Anne.  We also visited the location of my family's house and my father's office in South Chester Avenue - the location, because the only remaining building within hundreds of metres was the office itself, with a 'Condemned' sign on it.  A new freeway was being cut through to bypass Bakersfield.  I was shocked at how small the office looked - compared with my 11-year-old memory.

Another Greyhound to Sacramento where my brother Peter met us.  I recall little of this meeting, but I suspect it was somewhat tense.  Peter's brother - me! - had now changed wives (Susan for Edna, whom Peter had known - still knows, for the matter of that), drugs (Christianity for marijuana and LSD), and, in prospect, careers (I told him I was going to study to be a Christian minister instead of being a linguist).  I think we had one somewhat nervous discussion about the Christian faith - little else.

He drove us back to Sacramento whence we flew to Portland - Susan's wonderful and truly saintly grandmother Lois, her great-aunt Helen and her husband John Alexander, and her widowed Aunt Haddie.  I remember this time with nothing but pleasure.  Susan's grandmother, in particular, is one of the very most wonderful persons I have ever met.  I am confident we owe much of the happiness in our lives to her prayers.

In Portland I was interviewed by someone from the seminary.  I was very much impressed by the man himself, and by the academic as well as religious atmosphere.  I looked forward with eagerness to studying for a theology degree there.

Susan's father drove down from Seattle and brought us there, where we also met Great-Aunt Marcia and her husband Bill Crittenden.  Flight back to Honolulu, via San Francisco (I think) - to find waiting for us a telegramme (perhaps one of the last of its breed) from New Zealand.

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