Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I’ve mentioned Matt many times throughout this story, but I’ve never revealed just what he meant to me. Around the age of twelve, I began to notice him and he began to notice me as an individual separate from his sisters. Up till then we were always referred to as “the girls”. Now he started to appreciate my love of music, my literary bent, my desire for his attention. Together we watched Jeopardy on TV and he was impressed with how many answers I got right. We would stay up late and watch the Dick Cavett show and laugh at Dick’s sardonic wit. (Also, Dick had the coolest guests.) Matt enjoyed my adoration, I’m sure, but his family was similar to mine in this, that he just didn’t know how to converse with me, nor I with him.

The years passed and I felt more and more attraction to him. I would dress with him in mind, and when he went away to medical school I had my first big “letdown” realizing that there was no guy who cared how I dressed. He had brought me a ring carved from tortoise shell when he visited Palau, and I wore it non-stop until college. The night he was packing to leave for Houston, where he would study with Dr. DeBakey, I sat up with him and watched him pack, but still we didn’t know how to break through the silence and really speak to each other.

When my dad died on July 10, 1969, it was less than a month before my sixteenth birthday. I was still an unrepentant sneak, in my hunger to know more about people and their lives, and a few days later I saw Matt’s journal open to that date, lying on his desk. I read, “Life is short, uncertain and every thing is temporary except people and God. The clichés are true but sometimes they seem more real. I love Gwen, and know that the Lord will give her an extra piece of his comfort. Because of Jesus we share our lives with each other and I am glad that part of my life is shared with Gwen. When people go to God, He gives them glory and he also gives peace to those who are waiting to make that trip.” My heart nearly stopped, to read those words, “I love Gwen.” It was such a strange role for me, being sort of like a sister to him and yet not.

How on earth was I able to reproduce that quote in its entirety? Yesterday, I found that page — I had ripped it from Matt’s journal. I can’t believe I did that! It was bad enough that I was sneaking around in his room and reading what he wrote. Okay, people, I am just as appalled as you are.

The books I would find in Matt’s room often had a transforming effect on my life. That’s where I discovered John and Elizabeth Sherrill’s They Speak with Other Tongues, which weakened my denominational ties His bookshelf was the source of My People is the Enemy by William Stringfellow, which politicized my spiritual thinking and opened my eyes to the complex tragedy of life in the ghettoes. Matt’s room is where I happened upon Salinger’s Franny and Zooey, which challenged my view of God.

Another book of Matt’s opened my eyes to the poetry in the world of nature. I already loved the mountains and had spent a lot of time at the beach over the years, but somehow having this book in my hands enriched and deepened my appreciation. Published by the Sierra Club, On the Loose by Terry and Renny Russell stimulated my wanderlust and epitomized the discoveries many in my generation were making about the world around us. I don’t think the book used the word “environment” even once, but it was a wellspring of environmental fervor.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I came upon a copy of this book in Elder’s Used Bookstore not long ago. It took me instantly back to my fourteen-year-old self. I had drunk in that book so deeply that I recognized nearly every page. The whole book was written in his own calligraphy, and Terry Russell accompanied their wonderful photographs taken all over the country with selected quotes from many authors. He didn’t attribute this piece to anyone, so perhaps he wrote it.

So Man is not what he appears.
I had been blind a thousand years.

Wisdom older than the seers
Beauty much too deep for tears,
And holy silence bursts the ears.

Ssh. The music of the spheres.

At one point, Matt was dating a college girl named Margaret Rose, and I was so jealous of her greater age and great looks. But standing in the kitchen, with her right there beside him, he asked me, “You’ll be here when I get back?” and found me after he had walked her home to her dorm. Another time, he had returned from Houston, saw me on the campus and came running, jumping over a bench, to give me a hello hug. These were confusing times. I wrote many poems to and about Matt, but I’ll just add one here that tells a lot of my heart.

You’ve given me so much.
Not always because you chose to
(in fact, direct and conscious
sharing was rare)
but in random phrases, shared music,
the mutual though separate strivings
with others’ words and our own
your self has made me rich

With you as my point of reference
I’ve reached out to discover
So much that’s part of me.
I’m grateful for this special and
Unusual relationship
And, though I pray for change,
I feel very strongly the comforting,
Confusing reality
Of now.

Matt loved God. He was a spiritual leader on campus and in the Campus Evangelism movement. His best friend Danny Jackson went into the Army following college, and Matt went to Europe to visit him where he was stationed with the Army Band. (Danny played some instrument in the band through his military service – a cushy job.) When Matt returned from that trip to Europe, something inside him had shifted. He had gone deeper into his pursuit of the hip world his music research had always represented. He had probably lost his virginity, if he hadn’t before, and started to play with drugs and drinking. At any rate, I don’t know if he ever returned to the innocence of his faith, and years later I had reason to thank God that I didn’t end up with him, as I’d dreamed of doing for so many years.

To my best friend in high school, Barbara Rueckert, I wrote the following confession. “Before, I admired him immensely but I was proud of myself enough to believe that something was possible. Now I have a better perspective of the situation and yet I idealize him more than ever. He is terribly involved, committed, sensitive – but adjectives don’t work, he’s more than any adjective. He appreciates so many things I do (unbelievable); I’m very jealous of him because he is associated with so many people (closely) and not with me. My selfishness just made me lose another chance to be with him. I need the security of his whole love before I can keep from being jealous when he loves and is loved by other people. I cannot be my real self with him. I am anxious to impress. I do not love him. (Hard to say.) I do not know how to love him and get myself out of the way. Oh boy, am I infatuated. Why do I have to know so much about him (the journals – pain, blech). What do I do? I do not understand what it is to be loved.”

Matt didn’t get into medical school the first time he applied, so he went to USC for a Masters in Public Health while he waited for the next year’s application process. For one of his classes at USC he undertook a photography project. He wandered around the streets and alleys of downtown L.A., capturing images of garbage and vagrants and those we now refer to as “the homeless.” Drunks and prostitutes and people who slept in parks became his companions that year.

I wrote something to Matt that sounded a lot bolder than I was actually prepared to be, with him or anybody. Of course, I never gave it to him. Maybe he was actually present, at Mary Lou Knight’s house, where I wrote this “one spacey night” (as I noted on the page, below the poem).

I can’t be honest with you, can I baby?
Can’t say what I’m feeling tonight
Can’t say how I want you
Can’t say how when your eyes get bright
with that holy tender look of light
for somebody else, how it hurts me bad
oh baby.

To you, I’m so good and so precious
I can’t be me and want you too
Now can I? But that special music
I’ve been saving has your name
written deep inside it and I want
to give it to only you
Won’t you take it, now please,

oh baby?

When Matt went on to Houston the following year, the pressures of medical school had him by day, and the lush life of the music clubs had him by night. He turned me on to Townes van Zandt and John Hiatt from his Houston clubs. The last thing I ever saw that Matt wrote sounded like it could have been written for our relationship.

This time the dust has settled
The people we’ve been
see it’s time to leave
we just got too old
to say hello
and nothing more.

This picture was taken a few years later, on a canoe trip in the Malibu lagoon. Matt is on the left, then Norvel (his dad), then Amy and David Lemley (his niece and nephew), Marilyn in the green shirt, and Caren Hauser (you'll meet her later) helping David into the canoe.
o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o

Stephen Bennett’s name has come up several times now. How did he enter our lives? And why would a college guy choose to hang out with three teenage girls? Well, our attention and worship could have played a role in that. I had a major crush on Stephen, and unlike Matt, Stephen actually spoke to me. He and Marilyn really had more of a flirting thing going on, but he spent time with all three of us together. He had come to Pepperdine as a freshman that year, and his older brother Kenny was already there. His mother had been involved with Helen Young in one of the Northern California branches of Associated Women for Pepperdine, so he knew who the Youngs were by reputation before he arrived.

The same summer he took us to see the Supremes, he discovered I had never learned to ride a bike. I had tried. I had a bike with training wheels, but when they came off I couldn’t seem to dare falling. Stephen made me want to learn how to ride, to please him. He was appalled that I was thirteen years old and couldn’t ride a bike and he worked with me until I could. It was pretty funny and pretty bloody, with me crashing into the black iron fences that enclosed the Youngs’ yard because he’d forgotten to teach me how to brake.

At the first Campus Evangelism Seminar we went to, when Sara and I were thirteen and Marilyn was fourteen, Stephen hooked up with us and we went street witnessing together. (That was my first and last experience.) He and I talked to a bum for quite a long time, and Stephen finally determined that the guy was too wasted to serve as a significant evangelistic opportunity.

When the seminar was over, Stephen and Sam Jackson and Sara and Marilyn and I began meeting together as a “prayer group”, and Stephen ran it. It was the first time I had been in a small group where we shared personal moments from our lives. One communication exercise we did was to answer three questions of increasing intimacy.
1. What was the source of heat in your home?
2. What was the warmest place in your home, where people gathered?
3. What was one of the warmest moments you shared in your family?

We also started going together to Bible studies at peoples’ homes. This was a novel thing in my life, people sitting around a living room talking about God and Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Bible in normal conversation, praying spontaneously, singing spontaneously, nothing planned ahead of time, no agenda, no one in particular leading. I grew so safe in that atmosphere that one night I fell asleep on the floor. When I woke up and it was all still going on around me, I felt so good. It was like being a little kid, secure in a happy family for the first time. Of course, I was hooked.

Though it was understood that Sara and Marilyn were his primary focus, Stephen paid attention to me. Once he made me laugh so hard that I cried. I had never experienced that before, and it felt amazing to get such a release. We were sitting in the family room at the Youngs’ house, and he said, “One day, someone is going to fall head over heels in love with you, and that will be that.”

Stephen’s long blond hair always hung in his eyes. When I heard the Judy Collins song, “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”, I thought of him. “I loved you in the morning, our kisses deep and warm, your hair upon the pillow like a sleepy golden storm…” I longed for intimate moments like that. But they didn’t come, not with him, not with anyone for what seemed a long, long time.

Stephen once took me on a little adventure, to his apartment near USC for lunch. I loved the white wood and glass of the kitchen cupboards and the funky decrepit building his apartment was in. I don’t recall the lunch but I do recall that it was my first glass of wine. Mateus rosé was popular at the time, and even though it’s a cheap wine I still have romantic associations for it because it was “my first.”

There were other Pepperdine guys besides Matt that I knew, was interested in, wanted to like me, but it was always Sara, first, and then Marilyn, who were attractive to guys as dates. I was always “just” a friend. Sara, Marilyn and Janie all went out with Paul Humphries, for example, but I did not. I still have a chart I constructed, just for the amazement of it, listing several girls in the middle and connecting them with lines to all the guys who had gone out with them. I entitled it “Peppytech’s Peyton Place”. It’s still amazing to see how much cross-pollination (more figuratively than literally, I think) was going on within such a small circle of acquaintances.

My dad had just died (July, 1969) and now, a couple of weeks later, it was going to be August 5th, my birthday. Sara must have told Sam that I was “sweet sixteen and never been kissed,” and he decided to remedy that. I’ve always thought it was a kind gesture, but I have to say it was far too brief a kiss to really count. After church one evening, he pulled me into a side hall and, behind a door, he gave me a loving smack.

I graduated high school without having had a date or going to a dance or even going out with a group of friends from school. I had always hoped that by the time I got to college, I would be able to find at least a few guys who were more attracted to personality and brains and didn’t let the physical lack of standard “cuteness” get in their way. So I had a little bit of hope as I approached those long-awaited college years. I thought that if it didn’t happen by my senior year, then I could begin to worry in earnest. This was my prayer that summer.

how much more can I grow
without someone
to teach me
and to know
of me?
Maybe I need at least
one chance
to blow it.

I made a list of “Likes and Dislikes” sometime in high school. It was probably for some class because at the bottom I wrote “Cannot explain likes and dislikes” which sounds to me like something a teacher said, with which I would tend to differ. I always think you can explain everything – even if only to a degree. These haven’t changed over the years, except that I haven’t found any good sweet and sour pork since I left L.A. I opt for chicken now instead.


1. Stephen – sensitive & beautiful
2. brown wool – warm & strong
3. velveteen – luxury
4. fur – soft & cuddly
5. sweet & sour pork
6. badminton – power
7. long blonde hair – silky
8. Sam – unassuming
9. Dwight – strong
10. Paul – intelligent & funny
11. cold water – refreshing
12. milk & graham crackers – soft & squishy
13. fog & rain – comforting
14. beach at night – peaceful yet powerful


1. spinach – slimy*
2. hot sand – burns
3. squeaks & scrapings – irritating
4. lumpy gravy – lumpy!
5. Lawrence Welk – obsequious
6. Mr. Olechno – cold
7. dust – gritty
8. humidity – uncomfortable
9. gnats & mosquitoes – itchy
10. knockwurst & sausage – too strong

11. sarcasm with no love – inhuman

* I didn’t know yet that this was my mother’s fault because she added cornstarch. I like spinach and mustard greens and collard greens now that I’ve tasted them cooked the Southern way, omitting the added slime.

Sometime in that senior year of high school, Mom and I were still living in the Gray House together. We were in Daddy’s study next to the living room having a conversation about children and how they can disappoint you. Chip, who had been voted Outstanding Senior Man at Pepperdine, had married a Church of Christ girl like he was supposed to, had volunteered to join the Peace Corps to do good for other people, and seemed to me a paragon of virtue. I pointed to him as an example. “You can be proud of Chip, can’t you? You know he won't disappoint you, don't you?”
“I still don’t know how he’s going to turn out,” she answered.

I should have made a decision right then to cease ever seeking her approval . . . but, sadly, I didn’t.

College Arrives…Finally

Now the day came that I had been anticipating since Kindergarten. I was legitimately on the Pepperdine campus as a student, rather than as a precocious child. I had moved away from Mom and the Gray House into Marilyn Hall, the Pepperdine girls’ dorm, and what a fun move that was. I had the opportunity to do so much more socially. Out on the campus in front of the girls’ dorm, guys like Dan Garrett and Jeff Lombardo would be messing around, and they were willing to pitch baseball to me. Dan was actually on the college team, and since I felt he believed I could hit that ball…I did.

When Jeff, who was not a pro ball player, would pitch to me, he would yell and harass me and I felt as if he were daring me to hit – and I couldn’t. I figured he must have coached his little brothers like that, and it may have worked for boys, but his style just didn’t work with me. The difference in my performance between Dan’s belief and Jeff’s daring me taught me something powerful about my motivation, which has helped me understand myself a whole lot better in other challenging situations.

Since I found out that I loved baseball so much, I acquired an old baseball from somebody (it had “George Jump” written on it), and an old worn glove, and I bought a bat. One day, a group of Asian students I didn’t know asked me to borrow my equipment. Then later they wouldn’t give it back! I couldn’t believe it. I gave up without trying to do anything about them. I simply had no idea how to get back what belonged to me.

One morning near dawn, I suddenly found myself standing in the middle of my dorm room and didn’t even remember getting out of bed. There was a giant earthquake going on, and this particular dorm room made it extra dramatic because the whole front side of the room facing the Promenade was windows from ceiling to floor. Every pane was rattling, loudly. The corners of the room literally did not look square, everything was shifting so violently.

As soon as the rumbling subsided, I opened the windows to look out over the front door of the dorm and see if anything had happened to the campus. Just a moment or two later I saw Helen Young, in her bathrobe and carrying her purse over one arm, scurrying down their driveway toward the girls’ dorm to check on us and make sure we were all right. Helen has always demonstrated that kind of selfless concern for people. There may have been little she could actually do, but her gesture of love toward us has always stuck with me.

I got to know a special girl that year named Elaine Thomas. I discovered that her older brother Ted was a friend of Matt and Danny and Sam. I learned that her father, J. Harold, had been the preacher in the congregation at Bangor, Maine when my parents spent six weeks there in 1947. (They were intensively studying German before taking the boat over to Europe.) Sam and some of us went occasionally to the home of J. Harold Thomas and his wife Roxie for Bible studies. He was preaching at the Westchester Church of Christ. Their youngest, Elaine, was living in the same dorm I was, and I enjoyed spending a little time with her. She made a remark one day that became a useful tool in God’s hands as He worked with my heart.

I had told Elaine about a conversation I had with another girl in the dorm. This lovely dark beauty was a hippie who enjoyed hearing me talk about God and Jesus, but listened as if I were presenting just another alternative philosophy. Finally, I felt I had made no headway in helping her see the reality of God’s love. I showed Elaine a poem she had written, and Elaine commented simply, “She needs to feel the prints of the nails.” (You can find the quote she referred to in the Bible, John 20:25-28.)

I was stunned into silence. I realized at that moment that I too needed to “feel the prints of the nails.” I couldn’t fathom having such a real, normal, practical, every-day personal relationship with the living Jesus that such a statement could come out of my mouth. I was still living in my head. Though I had made a commitment in 1968 to Jesus as the Lord of my life, and I had been attending countless hours of prayer meetings and Bible studies in my search for a deeper relationship with Him, He still wasn’t as real to me as He apparently was to Elaine. I wanted Him to be, but I didn’t know what was wrong with me or what to do about it.

o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o

Now allow me to introduce you to another significant character in the story. It was the fall of my freshman year in college, and I went to another Campus Evangelism seminar, for the first time as a college student! Finally! I had attended them for so long as a too-young “honorary” participant, and now at last I was officially the right age. This seminar was held on the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Rich and Sandy Dawson were there, already married and a few years older than me. Sam Jackson was there, and others I knew. I was getting settled in the dorm room where I would be staying, and it connected to the next bedroom by a shared bathroom. There was a girl in there, and she came into my room, and said, “You’re Gwen Moore, aren’t you?”

That was a shock. “Yes, I am, how did you know?”

“Well, I’ve been getting to know Matt Young and Danny Jackson and I’ve noticed that you’re friends with them, and I thought you and I should get to know each other too. Matt told me he thinks you’re terrific.”

And so we meet Naomi Frances Harper. She was a very slight, dishwater blond who tended to wear braids, with a childlike face and a soft, high voice. I guess I knew almost from the start that she was a poet. It didn’t take her long to write a poem about me. She lived in the same dorm I did at Pepperdine, in the more modern part in back. (My room was directly over the front door of Marilyn Hall, which proved to be interesting when people wanted to throw water balloons at kissing couples below.) At any rate, here we were at this seminar and we were suitemates, so nothing could have been easier than to hang around together that weekend.

This picture contains a lot of history. Behind us is the Youngs' house, which is no more. There's my first car, the yellow Camaro which Daddy bought just before he died. Naomi's wearing a long "granny" dress which we did a lot in those days, and I'm in my first pair of jeans. Wow.

It turned out that a small community had formed without my knowledge, which included Danny Jackson, Matt Young, Sam Jackson, Naomi and a girl named Suzi Townsley. It was Suzi’s apartment where they often landed. They were several years older than me, sexually experienced (though largely upright, compared to the culture of the day), and had more years under their belt of making their own choices than I did. I was fresh out of the can, so I found their relative adulthood intimidating.

They once spent the night at Suzi’s apartment and were waking up to a Saturday morning together when Danny Jackson introduced Naomi to a record by Fred Neil (“The Dolphins”, “The Water is Wide”). I later read that Fred Neil taught some guitar licks to David Crosby when they were both in Greenwich Village. Later on, Danny Jackson also introduced me to some of Mahler’s symphonies, to Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings”, and to a wonderfully subversive black and white movie with Jason Robards, A Thousand Clowns. Danny Blair and Naomi and I accompanied him one night to the $1 Movie down near MacArthur Park where it was playing. Naomi wrote a poem about it the next day, and when he read it, Danny Jackson said, “Geez, Naomi, it’s just a movie.” Danny Jackson was definitely an instigator, and I sensed he had gained some wisdom as well as some cynicism on his journey.

Naomi and I became best friends. Her roommate was Marcia Smiley, an older girl who later played a big role in my life as well. One night in their dorm room, Marcia introduced me to contemporary Christian music, by way of Andraé Crouch. It was the first black music I had ever heard that praised God, and I was in love with it! Needy me met needy Naomi, and for a long while, we traded getting our emotional needs met, and we tried to encourage, appreciate and uphold one another in our faith, in our art, and in our relationships.

There was a message box for each girl who lived in the dorm, and it was so exciting to know someone was thinking about me because they put a note in my box. I got notes from Naomi, from Matt, from Sam, and others. For the first time in my Pepperdine life, I felt like an individual person with actual relationships, no longer a tangential “friend” who was semi-invisible compared to the more attractive girls around me. No longer third or fourth choice at best, but someone people were seeing in her own right.

One very special part of freshman year was having a new relationship with Sam Jackson. We had known each other now for about four years, and he had always been very clearly Sara’s man. But now Sara had been shipped off to Nashville, to attend Lipscomb University for two years, and Marilyn and Janice had driven together to Texas, to be roommates at Abilene Christian University. It was the first time in my California life that I wasn’t the third member in a sister act.

Sam was amazingly good to me. He and I started having study dates on Tuesday mornings at 10:00. We would meet in the library and sit together and read. I enjoyed glancing at his blue eyes a lot, and I enjoyed having a friend who was a guy, and I enjoyed having someone I knew to hang with in this sort of scary freshman year thing. Sam gave me a gift that year. He said, “You’re a good woman. I can tell a good woman, and you’re a good woman.” What a heartwarming word to hear.

As Naomi and I both got to know Sam as an individual, and not just as “Sara’s boyfriend,” I came to appreciate just what an unusual character he was. I’ll spare you the poem Naomi wrote listing several of his endearing quirks (though I do have it, in case you’re interested, in the Appendix). One of those, at the time, was that Sam would wash but rarely comb his silky blond hair. I was truly amazed when I discovered a line from a favorite poet, Kenneth Patchen, which I copied into my journal: “Blessed is he whose hair is matted.”

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Celebrity City

For the sake of those who, like my cousin Bonnie Kay, have never gotten over the excitement of celebrity sightings, I’ll list a few more. When I was still little, I found out how truly glamorous living in California could be, because you could run into famous people almost anyplace. My first sighting occurred on the way to the Hollywood Bowl, when our car happened to come alongside another on the freeway and I spotted the actor who played the bumbling fat Mexican officer on the TV show Zorro. How exciting!

Someone decided to throw the Pepperdine faculty and staff children a big Christmas show, and for the emcee they got the actor who played Robbie from My Three Sons. That was almost more thrill than my little heart could bear. I was still new to the California culture and not jaded about star spotting.

There was the night we were at the airport and we saw John Wayne picking up his son there. I was touched by the warmth of the hug they gave each other, and it helped me bring balance to my image of Mr. Wayne as a WWII hero and a tough-guy Green Beret.

When we started living in Malibu in 1972, of course the sightings dramatically increased. The Malibu Beach Colony was across the lagoon from the beach house that the Youngs were living in, and “stars of stage and screen” along with music people and other artists had been living in the Malibu for decades. Their nearest neighbor across the lagoon was Tab Hunter, a movie star heartthrob for millions of screaming girls in the early ‘Sixties.

One morning we were eating breakfast in the Malibu Inn (which is no longer there) and Rod Steiger sat with a small entourage in the next booth. (He starred with Sidney Poitier in In the Heat of the Night.) Another morning I went with Marilyn to the Malibu Coffee Shop, which she loved to patronize, to have one of her favorite cheese omelets. Around the curve of the counter sat Art Garfunkle, appearing very depressed and eating alone. Marilyn said he was in there a lot. Bonnie Kay
told me that Mr. Garfunkle had an unhappy marriage with the daughter of our Nashville grandmother’s oncologist, Dr. Grossman.

Another night we were having dinner in my favorite Malibu restaurant, Moonshadows, when Andy Williams and his then wife, Claudine Longet, walked in and sat a couple of tables down from us. It must have been a special occasion, because he presented her with a gift during dinner. Sara was fascinated, since this was a glamorous couple, and she reported (I couldn’t turn around and look discretely) that the gift was a gorgeous silver and turquoise belt. “Oh, Andeeee!” Claudine cried in her adorable, breathy French-accented voice, and got up to go to him across the table and give him a thank you hug. (This was prior to the over-publicized occasion on which Claudine supposedly murdered her ski instructor lover in a bathtub.)

At Pepperdine Malibu, we were often introduced to famous people. Momma had a book signing for Will and Ariel Durant, whose series on Western Civilization had finally been completed. Adela Rodgers St. John was a speaker at a luncheon, and I served her coffee. Helen explained that I should be very impressed to meet her, because she had been the first woman reporter to work for William Randolph Hearst on his newspapers. Later when her wrinkled brown face showed up as a “witness” in Reds (one of my favorite movies, produced, directed and starred in by Warren Beatty), I was duly impressed.

Bob Hope was the speaker for the first Malibu graduation, and Loretta Young attended that one. I met her in a back room. Mr. Hope said something in his speech that I recall for its irony. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate, and he remarked, “I appreciate your sincerity, but I question your judgment.” In actual fact, I knew that most institutions bestow an Honorary Doctorate upon guest speakers so they’ll give them a large donation, so the truth was the opposite, as Mr. Hope well knew. Art Linkletter and Ronald Reagan both spoke at Pepperdine a lot, because they were on the conservative Republican speakers circuit.

In 1976, Marty McCall and I drove forty hours straight from Nashville for a three-day Christmas visit. His only star sighting on that trip happened in the shops down by the Malibu movie theater. “Radar” O’Reilly from M.A.S.H. (Gary Burghoff in real life) was buying a pair of tennis shorts. Once I was on a visit home and ran to the grocery store to get some things for my mother. I nearly crashed into someone else’s grocery cart, not paying attention, and looked up to see that it was a severely tanned George Hamilton (the actor, not the country singer). And there was the time I was driving down Pacific Coast Highway toward Santa Monica and to my right, driving an SUV, was Robbie Robertson of The Band. I tried to keep up with him as long as I could, but he never looked over so I could tell him, in sign language, what a giant fan of his I was.

Years later in 1993, when Marilyn got married, I wondered why on earth Ralph Edwards (This Is Your Life’s emcee) would attend the ceremony, but he did. There was just no telling who Norvel was going to make friends with next. Everyone loved him and Helen for their comparative innocence, their generous natures and their endless affability and kindness.

And the Music Just Keeps On Coming

My senior year in high school, our choir was invited to participate in the “Myron Floren Extravaganza” at the Forum. (I think they may call the Forum the Staples Center these days.) (Note to reader: Myron Floren died this week, at the age of 85. It was announced on Sunday Morning, July 24, 2005.) It was a shame that Daddy had died the summer before we performed with Mr. Floren, because Daddy always loved Lawrence Welk’s TV show, on which Myron Floren played the accordion. He would have been thrilled by this concert.

Nothing could have been much further from the kind of music I now wanted to make. It was the late ‘Sixties, yet there we were, forced to sing background vocals for the music of the ‘Fifties, Lawrence Welk’s Champagne Music Makers. We had to rehearse more than thirty arrangements. My mom brought a friend to the performance, but I don’t recall their particularly loving it. I certainly felt I was being musically tortured as I endured it.

When I became a freshman and moved into the Pepperdine dorm, a wonderful opportunity availed itself. Here were people who played the guitar! With my love of music and the explosion of singer/songwriters, it was sort of unbelievable that I was seventeen and had never learned a chord on the guitar. So a young red-headed lady whose name I don’t recall showed me how to play “April, Come She Will,” a song I knew from the second Simon & Garfunkle album. I seemed to have a feel for finger-picking right away, and could feel the simpler chord changes. This was a whole different experience from trying to play the piano by reading music. I was able to move from my left brain to my right brain, and I loved it!

A terrible couple of classic embarrassing – no, nightmare quality – moments happened to me while at Pepperdine, in addition to all the good times. We did Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance the summer after my freshman year, and at the dress rehearsal, we were singing along and suddenly there was dead silence. Everything came to a complete stop, and we were all waiting. The conductor, Hansel Rayner, called MY name. I had one line in the whole production, and didn’t even recall it being assigned to me. Everyone was waiting on ME. That was a heart-stopping, nervous system-frying moment.

I also took voice lessons from a woman named Violet McMahon, who threatened to fail me if I didn’t sing out more. As part of the course requirement, we were supposed to sing two or three pieces in a vocal recital before the faculty. I did okay with the first one, but when the next piece came I completely, entirely went blank. I was forced to simply sit down in shame. Another flood of neuronic distress cascaded through my body.

In my sophomore year of college, I finally knew the joy of “making” a musical group that was excellent, special, better than average. I became a part of the Madrigal group, a few voices selected from the larger choir. The glory of that success was greatly diminished by the fact that Norman Hatch allowed everyone who tried out to be in the group that year, so we had sixteen members.

The following year, when our Madrigal group gave its concert, Mrs. McMahon came to me afterward and commented on the solo I had done, “I’m going to feed my father’s flock, his young and tender lambs that over hill and over dale lie waiting for their dams.” She cried, “What happened to you? I could really hear you! Why didn’t you ever sing for me like that?”

I had always pleased Mrs. McMahon with my pitch accuracy, but I couldn’t release my body to sing the way I wanted to. Mrs. McMahon gave me articles to read about Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne, the opera singers, and they described singing properly as feeling like throwing up. I thought, “That’s why I can’t do it, I hate to throw up!” but it was much more than that. I was afraid of all strong emotions, afraid of loudness, afraid to express myself…afraid to be seen, and judged, and rejected. Seated in the midst of the Madrigals doing my solo, I had felt much less exposed, so I could sing with more confidence.

The Madrigals not only gave concert performances, we were also called upon to add our musical sparkle to Republican fund raising events. This included one dinner where, as we processed down to our seats after singing our (icky) “Red, White & Blue” medley, Frank Sinatra winked directly at me and mouthed the words, “Good job, kid.” Unbelievable.

Nothing glamorous sweetened the worst night of all, when we sang the same hideous patriotic medley to a gathering half the size of our singing group, seated in the Youngs’ living room. It was unseemly; it was embarrassing. The dinner party included Mrs. Blanche Seaver, who later donated the majority of the money for the Malibu undergraduate campus, Seaver College. I felt morally compromised. I felt like a musical prostitute.

As a political statement of conscience, I had sat through the Pledge of Allegiance in my high school pep rallies. I saw myself as a citizen of the world, but most of all I identified as a citizen of heaven, and didn’t feel that I owed a special allegiance to the U.S. of A. Although I enjoyed my life of comforts and freedom, and appreciated how much easier life was here than almost anywhere else, I no more felt I owed “allegiance” to it (whatever allegiance was supposed to mean) than I felt that it was my birthright to have all those privileges. I didn’t hold to either of those American tenets.

I knew that God loved and blessed people in all kinds of cultures with all different measures of freedom, and I didn’t believe that He loved or blessed America in a unique way. This is how I interpreted Hebrews 11:13b,14,16: “And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own…Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

I was raised to be a pacifist. My dad and uncles were Conscientious Objectors during World War II, when it was incredibly unpopular to be so, and my brother was a C.O. while we were still in Viet Nam. I couldn’t conceive that I was standing there singing songs I didn’t believe in for people who were probably donors to the John Birch Society. My heart couldn’t have been less in it. So my long-awaited joy in performing in an elite musical group really ended up costing me too much.

Performers I Have Loved

I didn’t get to see the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, although Janice Hahn did. (For years, Chip thought I had been there for that historic moment. He has been telling that story wrong for years, and I finally found out about it and set him straight.) My first live concert was indeed at the Hollywood Bowl, though, with our neighbors the Kinney boys as escorts. Opening for Simon & Garfunkle was The Lovin’ Spoonful, with John Sebastian playing his autoharp. So it was an autoharp! I was thrilled to finally find out how they were making that wonderful fresh sound I’d been hearing on the radio. Hal Freshley (my last college-boy crush before I actually got to college myself) had turned me on to Simon & Garfunkle, and I had loved them from their first album on, so this concert was special for me.

The next live music event was when Stephen Bennett took Sara, Marilyn and me to see the Supremes at the Forum. We prepared for the evening by buying the Supremes’ Greatest Hits and I of course memorized almost the entire two albums of Motown hits. When we arrived at the Forum we realized we were practically the only white people in the audience, but we loved it. Everyone was dressed like I’d never witnessed before, in their finest finery. The stage went black, a spotlight shone and the most amazing harmonica rendition of “Danny Boy” came pouring out of “Little” Stevie Wonder. After his set, the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band did “Grazing in the Grass” (Hugh Masakela’s hit) and a bunch of other unfamiliar but exciting street music. But we were now chomping at the bit for the ladies we had come to see. When Mary, Flo and Diana finally crossed the stage in their electric blue spangled sheaths, the crowd went wild. We were on our feet singing for the rest of the concert.

Later on around 1974, my Nashville cousin Bonnie Kay was visiting us in Malibu, and she was thrilled (She’s still thrilled, to this day!) to spot Diana Ross in the checkout line ahead of us at the grocery store out in Point Dume. Of course we scoped out what she was buying, and were stunned at the massive number of pink foam hair rollers she had in her shopping cart. For her many wigs, of course.

I was a senior in high school when I attended a concert featuring Dionne Warwick, again at the Forum. I went that night with Evelyn Ono, a friend from school, and at one point we went to the restroom during part of the boring opening act. There, all alone loitering in the lobby, stood Burt Bacharach and his then wife, Angie Dickenson. What else could we do but walk up to them and ask for their autographs? It was the only time I’ve ever done that. It was that night that I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to become a Burt Bacharach background singer.

Oddly enough, that’s sort of what I did. Though I never did get to sing for Mr. Bacharach himself, I did spend ten years doing background vocals in the studios of Nashville. I would never in a million years have guessed that my dream could ever come true. And in actual fact, I was only one degree of separation away from Burt himself, since I sang backgrounds on two albums by B. J. Thomas, the artist who performed Burt’s hit, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” for the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And I got to meet Mac David, the brother of Burt’s collaborator Hal, and also a successful songwriter.

Matt Young was my musical guide through high school. He was, in the words of Bob Dylan, a “musical expeditionary.” Though not a musician himself, he was a researcher. He would take us record shopping, and we would troll the aisles together looking for new material to fall in love with. We would go driving and he would tune in the new FM stations that played whole albums, long cuts and the more obscure music that the AM station programmers weren’t allowed to play. The most memorable of the DJs was B. Mitchell Reid, who worked at KMET-FM. He would actually play a new release in its entirety, which was incredibly exciting.

Matt brought my attention to one writer in particular. There was a standout song on an album by Dave Van Ronk and the Hudson Dusters, entitled “Clouds”. We loved it, and Matt started watching the music scene for the appearance of its composer, Joni Mitchell. Her first album arrived just a little bit later, and soon we went to the Hollywood Bowl to see her. That happened to be a night when people around us got a little rowdy and uncooperative, and Matt got angry at them, and I thought, “Wait a minute. We’re all singing, ‘Come on people now, smile on your brother, Everybody get together, try and love one another right now’ and you guys are arguing and about to start a fight! Cognitive dissonance!”

The second time we saw Joni, she was at the Greek Theater, and there was an odd opening act. Three guys came out on stage with two guitars, stood around a mike and sang amazing three-part harmonies. After several songs, the curtains opened, and the crowd cheered and yelped because the rock ‘n roll background of these “new” artists was being revealed.

There were banks of electric guitars, amplifiers, two drum kits, etc., and Neil Young joined them on stage. It was the third live gig of Crosby, Stills and Nash. I later found out their second gig had been at Woodstock. I had lucked into an historic moment. I was familiar with David Crosby from the Byrds, and Graham Nash from the Hollies, and Stills and Young had been in the Buffalo Springfield (“For What It’s Worth”) which Matt had already turned me on to. Later we also loved Poco together, another offshoot of Buffalo Springfield. As the critics wrote, the Southern California music scene was downright incestuous. CSN’s first self-titled album was released in June, 1969.

The funny thing about that concert was the audience. We were sitting in a steep natural outdoor amphitheater, surrounded by trees. This was the late ‘Sixties, and there were a lot of young people who loved this music but couldn’t or wouldn’t pay to hear it. They hiked up the Hollywood hills and climbed the trees. The only problem was, some of them were too loaded to remain in those trees, and occasionally we would hear a crashing of bushes and ivy as someone fell out of a tree and rolled down the hill.

o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o

In the summer of 1970, between high school and college for me, Daddy had been dead for a year, and Momma felt ready to take a major vacation. She thought it would be a good idea to go on a tour of New England, and see her daughter-in-law Sharyn’s parents, the Harmons, in New York while we were at it. Well, my friend Sam was spending a year in New York working with Camp Shiloh. Shiloh had a summer camp in Mendham, New Jersey, where kids from inner city New York were able to come to the country, hear about Jesus, and get a different view of the world.

Sam Jackson had met Sara in 1966, when we were thirteen and he was eighteen. He and Stephen, Sara and Marilyn and I had formed that “prayer group” which was really an opportunity for Stephen and Marilyn to spend more time together and for Sara and Sam to get to know each other. Sam was a freshman in college when they met, and though Sara was five years younger, she was at least eighteen in her own mind. They dated, on and off, even though he was so much older. The Youngs trusted him – somewhat – because he was the younger brother of Matt’s best friend, Danny Jackson.

Now it was four years later, and I was going to be in New York, if ever so briefly. Why not try to hook up with Sam? He told me to meet him at the Port Authority bus station, and we would have an evening together. Then he would put me on the train to White Plains, and Mom and the Harmons could meet me there. How many parents would go for that when their daughter was just sixteen? But somehow, Mom was willing to accommodate me. Our family had always been loose on issues of child safety.

What a wonderful feeling of freedom, to be on the town in New York with Sam and his friend, a sweet, tall Texan named Joe B. Williams. My relationship with my mom had never been easy, and it was a relief to get a break from her and feel like myself again. And what an incredible night to show up in New York. Lazarus, that group I had first heard in Dallas with Campus Evangelism, was playing that very night in Greenwich Village at the Gaslight.

So we three walked along the hot city streets. At one point I was singing Joni Mitchell’s bluesy song, “Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire”. I didn’t know it wasn’t okay to look people in the eye on the streets of New York, and one black guy going the other way made eye contact with me. He heard what I was singing, and called out, “Lighten up!” I loved that.

So we arrived at the Gaslight, a music club I had read about as part of the folk scene. There were the same guys I had heard in Dallas, and later met at a Bible study in L.A., on the little stage of a famous, genuine Greenwich Village coffee house. They were terrific. And I was with Sam and Joe B. The romance of it made me almost breathless with happiness. After the show, it was later than it was supposed to be, but we hurried on the subway to the train station, and they put me on the train to White Plains, where the Harmons lived outside IBM headquarters in Armonk. And George Harmon was there to meet me at the station.

Lazarus never really hit it big, but they hoped to because of a connection with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. One night in Texas, they were able to get a demo tape to Peter after a concert, and instead of just taking it with him to listen to later, he got a wild notion to go with them to their apartment and listen to them play live. He was so impressed with their talent and their passion that he made a personal commitment to try and help them.

A couple of years after the Gaslight performance, Sam told me that Lazarus was coming to L.A. Peter was traveling with them, and they were all playing at the Troubadour. It was meant to be their “last try” tour, to promote their second album. If nothing happened this time, they would come off the road and quit trying as a band. Of course we had to be there at the Troubadour. It was April 19, 1972 – I wrote it in a journal. Of course they were great, playing some music from their second album, which Sam assured them afterwards was their best work yet.

As we waited in line to get in, Sam and Sara and I were standing around passing time when Sam turned to me and seriously asked, “So when are you going professional?” At first it struck me as a joke, but he was so earnest. The awareness washed over me that someone was actually acknowledging my talent, encouraging me to dream, and believing that it wasn’t a totally ridiculous notion. His comment didn’t have enough power to set me really dreaming, but it did make a solid impact on my heart.

One postscript about Lazarus. In later years I worked in music for advertising, and I learned that Bill Hughes, the lead singer and writer for Lazarus, was the composer of that lovely little ditty, “Lifesavers…a part of living” which was their campaign theme for several years. I was pleased to learn that he had made some income off the music business, but also sad that he probably felt like a commercial sell-out.

When the internet became widespread, and a kajillion people were on AOL, I decided to write to all the men named “Bill Hughes” with AOL email addresses (there were six or seven) and ask them if they were he. I had a desire to reconnect with him and tell him that I was still listening to their albums and still loving their work. I never did connect with him, though I did hear back from some nice men named Bill Hughes. Then one day I happened to thumb through an issue of ASCAP’s publication Playback, and there in small print in the back of that issue was his death notice. So strange that he had been on my heart. Maybe there was some manner of spiritual encouragement flowing between us because I carried him there for awhile.

o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o

We were always looking for God in the music, and James Taylor came through for us with “Fire and Rain”: “Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus, you’ve got to help me make a stand. You’ve just got to see me through another day.” (He claimed later that it was just a useful metaphor, that he didn’t mean it literally.) There was “Spirit in the Sky” by Norman Greenbaum on the radio, and Judy Collins’ rendition of “Amazing Grace”. A huge black church choir, the Edwin Hawkins Singers, had a hit with “O Happy Day.” Cat Stevens did not disappoint, with his “Morning Has Broken” and “Peace Train”.

So it didn’t surprise me much when Arlo Guthrie had a spiritual experience while writing a song for his album, Washington Country. He was performing at the Hollywood Bowl, and he told the story before he sang that song. He said, “I was writing a song in Woodstock, man, and it was snowing outside. Every time I came to this line, ‘Jesus gonna make you well,’ man, the snow would stop and the sun would come through the window and hit the paper where I was writing. It was weird, man.

“And then when I started performing it, one time it was raining and the rain stopped whenever I got to those words. So I’m just warning you, man. I never know what’s gonna happen when I sing this song.” Well, it’s a cynical crowd in Hollywood, and I was wondering what kind of supernatural touch the Lord would bring to his Jesus song for us. Whenever Arlo got to that line, a dog in the crowd starting yelping and howling. The crowd kind of chuckled when they realized it was becoming a pattern.

o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o

I now had established a personal tradition of going to every Joni Mitchell concert that came to town, so when it was 1972 and she was performing at the Music Center, I called for tickets. On the first day that they were available, they were all sold out in the first few hours. What was I to do? I wasn’t giving up. I found another intrepid fan, Barbara Henderson, and we decided to show up about 4:00 pm and stand in the cancellation line.

The hours passed, the line moved slowly, and it was almost curtain time. We were the very last ones to get tickets before the line closed, and we hurried to our seats as the opening act began to sing. It was a guy we had never heard of, but we loved him, and found out his name was Jackson Browne. He was a new discovery, an addition to my list of heart-broken singer/songwriter poets who provided the soundtrack for my life.

Just a few months later, that same summer, I was in Heidelberg, Germany as a student (in the same Year in Europe program my parents had initiated in 1963). I was now eighteen and a sophomore in college. Somebody in our small group of American students found out that Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne were coming to Frankfurt, and a bunch of us decided to go. We hopped a train, found something to eat, found the auditorium (“Wo ist Jahrhundertshalle, bitte?”) bought the tickets for 20 DM, and had a magical evening with Joni and Jackson.

Joni had just composed her homage to Beethoven after she arrived in Germany, and she performed it for the very first time for us, on an awesome black grand piano. She had a vase of roses and a Persian carpet on stage with her, and I thought, “This is who I want to be when I grow up.” Later on, I would choose to stop following her lead. Her path got too rocky and dangerous for me. (Historical note: Joni Mitchell turned 62 yesterday, November 7. She says she quit writing when she was reunited with the child she gave up so long ago for adoption. She wrote the song "Little Green" about her. She says she was trying to help make the world a better place for the child she had been separated from, and now they're finally a family, she doesn't feel that compulsion any more.)

I had a postcard with a picture of the Heidelberg castle, and I wrote on the back, “So much said in listening.” (a line from her first album) and laid it on the stage at her feet. I wrote Pepperdine’s address and invited her and Jackson to stop by Heidelberg and see us, if they had time. Apparently, Jackson was an Army brat and his family had actually been stationed in Mannheim, right next to Heidelberg, so Joni mentioned that they were coming there the next day. The idea wasn’t all that far-fetched, I thought, and I waited around the Moore Haus all that next day in hopes that they would show up.

On our way home on the train, everyone was talking about the performance, and it was my first experience getting to critique a show with other aesthetes. I was moved to hear Russ DiNapoli declare, “She’s so generous with her audience.” Being an actor, he thought in those terms, and I was grateful he could put words to what I had been feeling.

Another chapter in my personal Joni Mitchell saga happened in Malibu. Sara and I always watched for when a new album would come out, and this time it was Court and Spark. Joni had really branched out. No longer was she “Acoustic Hippie Girl,” the queen of Topanga Canyon. Now she was dressed up and made up, and backed up by an entire band, Tom Scott and the L.A. Express, with jazz influences and woodwinds. We sat in Marilyn’s bedroom where the stereo was, and listened hard, trying to absorb the new sound and seeing whether we could get our ears around it. We both succeeded and decided to embrace the change.

So when she played a hall near enough to drive to, Sara and Sam and Danny and I went to the concert. It was so strange, seeing her transformed from Topanga princess into sexy city woman. I wasn’t ready to make that emotional shift, and yet I loved the lyrics of the album and related to them all, especially “Didn’t it feel good? We were sittin’ there talkin’, or lying there not talkin’ – didn’t it feel good?” and “Trouble child, breaking like the waves at Malibu.”

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sometime in the year or two before Daddy died, he and Momma and I went to see a movie together, The Lion in Winter. It has remained one of my top ten ever since because of the incredible writing, the acting, and because it introduced me to Anthony Hopkins, who played Richard the Lionheart, the second son of Henry (Peter O’Toole) and Eleanor (Katherine Hepburn). Richard was Eleanor of Aquitaine’s favorite, in a not good way. The dialogue was the sharpest, most clever interchange I had ever heard. As I sat watching those people on the screen hurt each other so bitingly with words, I almost felt embarrassed to be with my parents. It’s as if the actors were displaying the rage that was in my heart, and the witty but harsh way I wished I could communicate it. I almost felt that my folks must know, and that my secret inner anger and grumblings were being exposed.

I never dared the drama thing myself, but I secretly wanted to. Mr. LaCerte was very inventive, and had such a great group of actors while I was in high school. They built a Circle Theater seating about 50 people, and put on a whole series of small plays and evenings of one-acts. They did Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and it was awesome to witness friends of mine in such dramatic and moving parts, acting practically in our laps. The intimacy and immediacy were stunning. They did The Fantasticks and it was absolutely magical to see people I knew transformed into romantic figures.

That happened again when the whole school put on West Side Story on the big stage. My friend and carpool buddy, Jackie Stalcup, played Maria and did a wonderful job. I was pulled into the story and forgot she was Jackie. And John Locke, a “bad boy” who loved music enough to tolerate being in Madrigals, played Tony as a passionate lover. The whole performance was fantastic, and I went as many times as they performed it. Of course I listened to the album endlessly and memorized every song. I can see myself standing in my yellow bedroom, looking out the window and singing “I Have a Love” at the top of my lungs, and my mom hollering up the stairs, “Honey, isn’t that song too high for you?” “No!” I hollered back, “Besides, I’m working on it!”

Chris Stivers and a friend of his named Rick Cordova arranged the Bernstein score for two pianos and their performance alone was a stunning feat. Rick later went on to conduct opera. Chris had another friend, Michael Jacobs, who was Jewish, funny, musical and wore Aramis cologne. One day in our senior year, Mike asked me what my dad did. I made a quick decision not to make Mike uncomfortable by telling him my dad had just died that summer, and I responded, “Not much,” cracking myself up. Mike Jacobs became my big high school crush, and one day he played privately, just for me, a delightful, sprightly little melody he had composed. Later on, it crushed me when he told a group gathered for a cast party that he dedicated that perky little ditty to another girl. Chris later told me Michael was gay, and that was another heartbreaker.

Chris and I also had heart to heart talks about his discomfort with his girlfriend and his relative comfort with his guy friends. Once again I felt compelled to try to persuade him that it made perfect sense, because he had such a history with his guy friends and barely knew the girl, that he understandably felt more comfortable, even more affectionate, being with these guys. I didn’t want anybody to feel they were fated with being a homosexual and had no choice in the matter, although that’s what most people believed.

I learned a lesson in high school about the quickly passing nature of physical beauty. In one of my classes I sat behind a guy with the most gorgeous hair. It was dark brown, almost black. It was shiny. It was slightly wavy, thick, and long. I fantasized playing with it, stroking it. I was in love with his hair. His name was Perry Laness, and we never had a single conversation, but if we had, the first thing I would have asked him for was permission to touch that hair. Well. One day he comes to class and it’s…gone. No, he didn’t shave his head, but that glossy, thick, long beautiful stuff was cut to a normal length and he looked…average. My love affair with Mr. Laness had ended without a word. In my heart I heard, “You had better love more than the exterior of a person, because it will change.”

The Christmas of my senior year, Mr. LaCerte and Mr. Fontana joined forces to produce Gian Carlo Menotti’s operetta, Amahl and the Night Visitors. It had been written for Charleston’s Spoleto Festival and it had been presented on TV, but I had not been exposed to it before, so to me it was a revelation. It was my first time to hear an opera in English, and the melodies were so beautiful and moving that I ended up learning the whole operetta note for note, with everybody’s part. I learned the overture on the piano, and wore my mother out with the constant repetitions, I’m sure.

I longed to be one of the shepherds in the chorus, but the decision was made to have the Madrigals play those parts and hold no tryouts, and once again I felt unfairly excluded. It hurt, because I loved the music so much and thought this was finally a way to get back onstage without the spotlight being on me. Since I had been rejected for Madrigals, I was automatically rejected for this role - a double injustice! And Dieva Perez told me she didn’t even really want to be in Madrigals! Why did people who didn’t care seem to get into groups like this, when people who really wanted to were left out? What a world.

Singing in the Morningside choir brought more “close encounters” with Hollywood. While I was in high school, our choir was among those chosen for some special events. We participated in the Living Christmas Tree at Disneyland, and as we processed down Main Street and into the “tree” formation, I passed by Jimmy Stewart, just a few feet away. He was narrating the Christmas story that year.

Daddy Tries to Step In

The last time Momma took me clothes shopping as a teenager, it was miserable for both of us. She always picked out clothes for me that I hated, and my rejection of her suggestions offended her. Someone mentioned to Daddy that when a girl gets to be a certain age, it’s time for the father to step in and handle things. He did take me to my contacts appointments, and he did take me clothes shopping – once. That was way too overwhelming for him.

Speaking of the contacts appointments triggered another memory for me. One morning I woke up and thought it was very strange that my closet door was open and the light was on in it. I went into my parents’ bedroom – they were still in bed – and asked if one of them had come in my room during the night. No – that was strange. Then I headed down the hall to my bathroom, and noticed something odd about the guestroom across the hall. A couple of small pieces of luggage were lying on the bed – they had been in my closet. Things were getting stranger.

I headed downstairs and found the sliding glass door to the den wide open and the curtains blowing. The couch cushions weren’t right, and under them I found my mom’s billfold. Apparently, someone had come in the house while we were all asleep, looking for money. Whoever they were, they had been in my parents’ room as well, because that’s where my mom’s purse was with her billfold inside.

Thank God none of us had woken up! How scary that would have been. Nothing else in the house seemed disturbed, but I felt a shock take hold of me. Later on I learned a name for the feeling – violated. Someone had been in my bedroom with me lying there asleep. They could have hurt me, or killed me. At the very least, they were trying to steal. Ever since I had read that TIME magazine article as a ten year old in Germany, I had been afraid of someone breaking in my house. Now that it had actually happened, I didn’t feel afraid anymore. I had lived through it. But I hated the feeling I did have, a feeling of helplessness.

That afternoon I had a contacts appointments downtown, so Daddy picked me up at school and took me. As we were about to pull into the driveway off Crenshaw, earlier in the afternoon than we would normally have arrived home, we were shocked to see a couple of policemen in our yard with rifles aimed at the upstairs windows. There were several police cars in the circular driveway around the old dead tree. The police had determined that the intruder had first gone to the Davis house, on the northeast corner of our property, stolen a gun out of the nightstand by their bed without waking them, then tried to get into the Kinneys’ house next to us but didn’t, and then came into ours. So now we knew they were armed when they were in our house, with us asleep.

In my closet ceiling there was a small opening to the attic, with a square piece of wood that set down in it. That wood was a bit ajar, and I didn’t know if the police had done that in searching the house, or if the intruder might actually have managed to go up into the attic. For a few days after all this, I was scared that the thief was hiding in the attic and would appear at any time. Though the police assured us that they had thoroughly searched the house, I still felt pretty creepy about the whole incident.

For my fifteenth birthday, Daddy took me out to dinner downtown and to Pickwick Bookstore. He had never done either of these things before. For my birthday gift he let me buy a certain number of books there, whatever titles I wanted. I remember sitting alone in the car while he went to check on whether a restaurant was open. I thought to myself, “Why are we alone? Why don’t I feel okay about it? What’s wrong with him, or what’s wrong with me? This is confusing.” One of the books I bought that night was The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. It appealed to my sense of mystery and poetry, and my interest in philosophy. Another of the books I chose that night was Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver. This volume proved to be a problem.

Daddy and I were gardening together one Saturday. We were pulling weeds out by the huge dead tree in the center of the circular driveway, where we had planted multi-colored sweet peas. (We didn’t have that huge dead tree removed because it was so picturesque.) Daddy informed me that he was considering sending me to Searcy, Arkansas to go to Harding Academy for my senior year in high school. He felt I needed some “straightening out.” He told me that they wouldn’t allow such books as Soul on Ice at Harding. They would teach me how to act like a lady.

From Soul on Ice we slid into a brief discussion of racism, and he declared that his grandfather had owned slaves and had been good to them. “Daddy, can you not see that it’s impossible to say you own a human being and at the same time say that you are good to them?” I practically shouted. We were definitely at an impasse. And he was thinking about sending me to what sounded like reform school!

That spring or summer, I was home sick in bed one day. I had a high fever, and I was foolishly reading Edward Albee’s play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This was a dangerous combination. Every time I would get tired and try to sleep, my brain would keep making up fresh dialogue for the characters. Needless to say, the strife in George and Martha’s marriage resonated with me because of my struggles with Momma. I had loved and hated Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie for the same reason. I had such an urge to strangle that Southern belle, because she went on and on with her hurtful, prideful, flamboyant comments while her daughter wilted in humiliation.

Anyhow, Daddy came home early from work that day because he had just attended a funeral. Jackie Pepperdine was a niece of the founder of the college, and she had been a student with us in Heidelberg, so we had known her for some years. The Sunday before, she had been driving to church when her car ran into a pole on the freeway and she was instantly killed. Daddy had never experienced a death before where people rejoiced because they knew the person was with the Lord. All he had ever seen was Nannie’s (his mother’s) country style, wailing and moaning and keening over a grave, in that scary old Southern way. The joy in the memorial service for Jackie had stunned him. But instead of offending him, it had made him want to understand.

He talked with me about it. I explained to him that Jackie’s friends knew she loved the Lord and wanted to spend eternity with Him, and that she was secure in her salvation. Some of them were probably jealous that she made it home first! It wasn’t irreverence or insanity that made them happy about her death, but a deep knowing that the love of Jesus would keep her wherever she was, and that they would be reunited with her in the final resurrection someday. So they had lots of reasons to rejoice. He had never heard the like of this before. I sensed that he felt grateful for the insights and encouragement, and he didn’t argue. I couldn’t have imagined that I was literally giving him a pep talk for his own soon passing.

That summer was our last family vacation together, but of course we didn’t know it at the time. We drove north to Paso Robles and spent the night at the same place we stayed every year. It was a Spanish hacienda-style series of buildings, with an open courtyard in the middle. Daddy asked me to come down and sit with him in the courtyard, and we talked. Well, we tried to talk. First I would say something. It would be a long paragraph of ideas, emotions, thoughts, an attempt at getting him to hear my heart. Then there would be silence. Then he would say something brief. Then another long paragraph from me. And then the silence. This continued for awhile, and then he sighed deeply and said, “Either you’re much smarter than I am, or you’re crazy.” My heart sank. I hated both options he was offering. They both made me feel alone. I felt my attempt at winning his approval, or at least his comprehension, had been a failure.

If you had a high school kid that wrote an essay like the following (Daddy never read this one, but it was typical of my thinking at the time), perhaps you would find conversing with her more than a little daunting as well.

“Perhaps one of the things that makes the Southern churches’ injunctions against dancing, drinking and so many other potentially but not innately evil things so maddening, is the apparent hypocrisy involved. Paul warns us not to ‘be conformed to this world’ but rather to be renewed within – to walk proudly to the beat of the other Drummer. And the church here does this – in some areas and to a certain extent – proudly. But the children must wonder, ‘Why should I make myself seem strange or different in these ways when my parents and I are so much like our friends in every other way?’ Certainly it is a good thing to keep one’s body pure for the Lord – but what about over-eating (self-condemnation here), pill-popping, sex without love? And most certainly we should not forget the inward man. We claim to be Christ-ones, and yet we so often disregard the fact that, since Christ, the sins of our inner selves are judged and condemned with almost greater severity than before – for ‘when the light had not yet come, the darkness was without condemnation; but when the light came, it showed the darkness to be what it was, and the darkness stood condemned.’
“We are unlike the world: we do not dance, we do not drink, we do not smoke.
“We are friends of the world: we love money, we hate a man because of his color, we are barbaric in the way we live and in the way we die.
“I wonder. Which would be better: a man who smokes and loves, or one who doesn’t smoke and hates?”

Yes, I had a serious problem with my Southern heritage. God has such a great sense of humor. I would never in a million years have guessed at that age where I would be living for the past thirty years. I would have been horrified!

Norvel had his fiftieth birthday while we lived at the Gray House, and one night on the patio we threw a big birthday party for him. It was the only truly large event we ever hosted, and I was up on the balcony off my parents’ bedroom surveying the crowd. Norvel, I was shocked to find out, hated getting older. In fact, his autobiography was later entitled Forever Young. He really despised having a fiftieth birthday, and all the faculty and staff at the party were sort of roasting him and harassing him about it. He hated the intimations of mortality that this represented, and could never have imagined that only a handful of years later his host would be gone. Daddy died of a heart attack at the age of fifty-four.

It was the summer of 1969. Daddy had been depressed for a couple of years because the administration had promoted him from Comptroller (where he was responsible for anything and everything financial, including plant management, student loans, work/study arrangements, purchasing, faculty salaries, all the money stuff) to Vice President in charge of Planning. He didn’t want a promotion. He really liked overseeing the whole operation financially, even though he was pretty severely stressed by it.

Now he was sent to fundraising school, which he despised, and given the job of helping to locate the next Pepperdine campus. We really needed to leave South Central Los Angeles. Mothers were not comfortable sending their children to Pepperdine because of its location. Many sites were proposed and many offers considered, but finally they settled on the property at Malibu. My dad presided along with Norvel at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Malibu campus, when it was still nothing but dirt and dreams. He's at the podium here, pointing to where some building will be constructed.

Much has been written on the history of the Malibu property, so I don’t need to repeat that here. Suffice it to say that the Rindge family had owned the twenty miles of coastline down to Santa Monica, and there was no traffic except on their little private railroad. They owned the Malibu Pottery, which made tiles based on designs they collected from around the world. There was a larger home up in the hills near the Serra Retreat that had been lost in a fire, but a second house, the smaller mansion down on the beach next to the Malibu Colony, was still intact.

It had been empty for some years. The house had been donated to the State of California, but the State couldn’t afford the upkeep at that time, so it was neglected and in some disrepair. Norvel worked a deal with the State officials. The Youngs would live in the house, and pay a certain amount – I think it was $30,000 – each year toward its upkeep and restoration, until the State could afford to take it over again. He was counting on several good years, and it did turn out that way. So later on, in 1972, before anything was built on the land that had been donated, the Youngs left the house on the L.A. campus behind and moved to the beach house.

o ~ o ~ o ~ o ~ o

But back in 1969, there came an offer that Daddy couldn’t refuse. A smaller Church of Christ school in Portland Oregon, Columbia Christian College, was in financial distress, something like the red-ink crisis Pepperdine had suffered a decade earlier. Would J.C. come up and rescue them, and serve as their President? This was the kind of challenge he loved, and he could move out from under Norvel’s shadow and the disappointments of their working relationship. (He never said this overtly, it was something I gathered by observation and guesswork.)

He took the job. He brought home a yearbook from the institution, and I looked at the senior class of nine high school students that I was now destined to join. I cried, I was angry, I’m sure I wanted to say “You can’t do this to me!” but I think I didn’t say it out loud. From Morningside High School to Columbia Christian would be like regressing decades in time. These nine kids looked like the Nerds Club to me. What a horrible fate I felt I was facing.

We started packing. There were boxes in the hall. Momma and Daddy decided it would be a good idea to take a quick weekend trip to Nashville to see all the relatives, since they knew it would be quite awhile before their responsibilities would allow that kind of break again. They were there for a long weekend, and reported that Momma had spent the night alone with Grandmommie, Daddy had spent the night alone with Nannie, all the aunts and uncles had been seen, and it had been a good visit.

While they were in Nashville there was another Campus Evangelism Seminar, this one held at UCLA. By this time, the leaders of Campus Evangelism had come to realize that the young adults they were trying to inspire to take their faith to the nations really didn’t have much of a personal experience with Jesus. They changed the emphasis of Campus Evangelism from outreach to inreach. Instead of talking evangelism, they began confronting the college kids with their need for a personal commitment to Jesus as their Lord. I had made that life-changing decision at the seminar in Dallas the Christmas before, so this seminar I knew there would be some kind of experience that would be personal, for me, rather than a challenge to perform in some scary, evangelistic way.

One afternoon, the speaker told us to all find a quiet place, alone, and spend some time with God before we returned to our small groups. I wasn’t really comfortable spending time alone with myself, much less God, so I took myself to the room where our small group would convene later. I sat and opened my Bible, and some verses jumped out at me. I knew God was speaking to me, and some of the words made that all the more obvious.

I had never read the book of Lamentations before, so these verses in chapter three were brand new to me. This is the King James Authorized Version; it’s probably the version I read that day:

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.
It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.
He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him.
He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope.
He giveth his cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach.
For the Lord will not cast off for ever:
But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

Especially because of the mention of youth in verse 27, I really felt this was God’s voice speaking to me. I didn’t know there was anything like that in the Bible, that said it was God’s love for me that had brought my suffering, and that it was good for me, not destructive. I don’t think I had been aware before that God could to speak personally to an individual through scripture.

When the small group started to gather in the room where I was sitting, the leader asked if anyone had something to share from their time alone, and one of the college girls read aloud the exact same passage I had just read. That freaked me out, because it felt like God knew I was a little shaky on whether this had actually, in fact, happened to me, and He wanted to confirm it, verse for verse.

This weekend was also the first time a strange guy had approached me, or “hit on me” as we say these days. An Indian man, a student at UCLA, engaged me in conversation and made me really nervous when he asked for my phone number and wanted to get together again. Although he was earnest and seemed really kind, I was not prepared to be asked out by a college guy, especially one that no one knew. But there was some personal attention there that I think God intended as a blessing. I was too scared to accept it.

The Monday after the seminar, we girls went to the beach, and I think the cleaning lady who was at the house that day felt I was being irresponsible, because my dad was sick in bed. He had come home from the Nashville trip feeling bad. But Daddy told me to go ahead and have fun at the beach. The next day he went to the doctor. Dr. Allen was out of town, and his junior partner told Daddy he had the flu and sent him home.

We discovered later that this same young doctor had sent about a hundred students home with a diagnosis of mono, when in fact only a handful of them actually had it. I could have become bitter about this lapse in medical expertise, and railed against circumstances as the cause of Daddy’s death. But the experience with scripture that weekend made me feel strongly that God knew this was coming, and that its timing was right, and no accident.

On Wednesday morning, Daddy called me into the bedroom and asked me to rub his back. I found out that he had spent part of the night on the kitchen floor, his back had hurt so bad. After I rubbed it for awhile, he sent me to my room to get dressed for work. (That summer I was starting to volunteer in the business office at Pepperdine, to get some secretarial experience.)

I was standing in my closet when I heard a strange sound from his bedroom, and ran in there to see what it was. He had fallen across the bed, on his back, and he wasn’t breathing. His face was already a little bit gray. I ran to the stairs and called to Mom to hurry upstairs, but she was eating breakfast and was not in the mood to hurry. Finally she came, and she told me to run and get our neighbors the Kinneys. We had never faced a health crisis before, and we were not being very logical. I should have, could have called 9-1-1 the first minute, but I’m not even sure 9-1-1 existed in 1969. On the other hand, Mom’s belief system said, “Most illness is in your imagination, you’re not really sick, get over it and get on with it,” so she was just acting like herself. (For instance, she didn’t believe there was any such thing as allergies. That was just people being silly.)

As I banged on their door, I cried a tear or two of panic, but then Jim and Dave came with me next door. They could see the reality of the situation, but Momma and I couldn’t. I had CPR in school that year, so I decided to try mouth to mouth resuscitation. (At least five minutes had passed by now, but I was ignorant about what that would mean, and also too panicked to think straight.) The mouth to mouth didn’t do any good, and then the paramedics arrived and carried Daddy off to Daniel Freeman Hospital.

As we sat in an examination room waiting for any news, a doctor came in and told us that he was gone. Mom cried out, “No, no, no, no…” and I sat there stunned and in shock. I stayed that way for a long time, and a deep part of me stayed there for years. It seemed to take no time for Pepperdine people to start arriving at the hospital. Bill Banowsky, then President (Norvel had become the Chancellor) came and he drove Sara and me back to the Gray House. He talked very kindly to me about my dad, and I have always appreciated the tender heart he revealed at that moment. When we got home, my mom sat on the couch in the living room, surrounded by Pepperdine ladies.

I was so grateful for her sake that she had that support, but she and I never did spend time alone or talk about any of it, so I felt very cut off from any grieving we could have helped each other do. Sara and Marilyn and Janice all were there, and we stood in the kitchen talking about it. Janice’s eyes filled with tears, and I thought how wonderful it must be to be so emotionally responsive. I envied her, because I was already shut down. And I was blessed that she allowed my situation to touch her heart.

Stephen Bennett came, and he drove us girls out to the beach for something to do. It was getting to be sunset on the way out, and I had quite a transcendent experience in the midst of the most glorious, flamboyant, sky-filling, orange and pink sunset amid mountains of luxuriant clouds I have ever seen, thinking about heaven, eternal life, and God’s love for Daddy and for me.

That night, we had planned to attend somebody’s wedding at Crenshaw Christian Church, and Momma said we should go on ahead. As I sat in the pew and watched the wedding proceed, I thought to myself, “My daddy won’t ever walk me down the aisle.” That became a verse in a song I wrote about fifteen years later.

“Just about to turn sixteen, lots of fears and dreams,
Momma said she was afraid I was running to free.
You left without saying goodbye, and that very night,
I watched a bride walk down that aisle where
I knew someday I’d be crying:
‘Daddy I miss you tonight, come and stand by my side;
Tell me it’s gonna be all right.’”

The morning after Daddy died, I woke up and instantly thought, “None of that yesterday really happened. It was all a bad dream.” But when I got up, I knew I had to face this terrible new reality. Daddy’s brothers, Paul and Winston, arrived from Nashville just to be with us and to help Momma make decisions. Chip and Sharyn, who were working with the Peace Corps in Lahad Datu, Malaysia, were somehow able to fly back to the States in time to attend the funeral in Nashville.

Daddy had talked about buying burial plots at Forest Lawn in West Hollywood, but he never had gone through with it. (One night in a dinner conversation with friends, I begged him to shut up about it, that it was a morbid subject. But he always said he knew he would die young. How I hated to hear that!) So Momma made the quick decision to use a vault in the mausoleum at Woodlawn in Nashville that Paul and Marian owned, and we flew there the next day.

The funeral was at the Hillsboro Church of Christ, and of course hundreds of people who had known both sides of my family attended. Most of the Nashville trip is a blur to me, but I still can see Momma and me sitting in the back seat being driven from the church to the Woodlawn cemetery, and thinking, “How can life possibly be going on as usual for everybody else? All these people are driving around as if nothing has changed. Don’t they know that the world has stopped? Can’t they tell they should stop too?”

I mentioned that we had been leasing family cars from the Buick dealership that rented its lot from Pepperdine. When we thought we were moving to Portland, Oregon, Daddy decided that we needed to buy a family car that would in some way make the move easier for me. He actually demonstrated that he understood about being a teenager when he brought home a bright yellow Camaro with a black roof. Wow! I was going to be allowed to drive this car! It was just weeks before he died. I found out that Daddy had bought life insurance that would pay off all debts on the insured’s demise, and that meant the Camaro was now paid for. The next year, when I started college, Momma got her own car and the Camaro became mine. What a gift that was from my dad.

Now that he was gone, there was no more moving to Columbia in Portland. There was no more threat of upheaval. Momma kept working at the library, I kept going to Morningside High School, Chip and Sharyn returned to their Peace Corps work in Lahad Datu, Malaysia. Pepperdine was still Pepperdine. We still lived in the Gray House on Crenshaw.

As I reflected on Daddy’s death, three things occurred to me. I was glad he was finally relieved of all the pain and distress and confusion that the ‘Sixties had caused him. (He despised and feared everything about that decade. That plus California had constantly offended his antebellum Southern gentleman heart.) I was glad he had finally finished his Master’s degree, after so many years of working on it. And, as I watched Hogan’s Heroes one night, as we had done together so many times, I wondered: If he had it to do over again, knowing what he knows now, would he watch TV or would he consider that a waste of time? I watched a lot of TV as a high school student, in addition to all my reading. I didn’t have too much social interaction in the after school hours, except for phone calls.

One conversation with Momma amazes me, because it indicates to me that I had more emotional wisdom at sixteen than I did in my thirties…or possibly more wisdom toward my mom than in regard to other people. She would come home from work and we would sit at the same supper table where just a few years before Daddy and Chip had also sat. Now it was just the two of us. We had shared a stormy, embattled relationship all my life, and now there was no buffer between us. Not that there ever really had been.

She began to confide in me the events of the day, just as she had with Daddy, except that their conversations had always been later in the evening after they had gone to bed. I wasn’t comfortable with these conversations, and I said to her one night, “You know, Momma, I can’t be your substitute spouse. I can’t be your advisor. You need to find somebody besides me to confide in.” How on earth did I know that? Thank God, I did.

Sometime pretty soon after Daddy’s death, the Dean of Women and the Dean of Students at Pepperdine took me out to lunch to counsel with me. Lucille Todd and Jennings Davis had watched me grow up and they wanted me to know that they would be there for me. I have no recollection of what they said to me. I certainly wasn’t bold enough to seek them out for help, so their objective ultimately failed. But I did appreciate that they took me to my favorite restaurant, Tai Ping, and I did understand that they were trying to reach out to me.

Something happened with Momma that was unsettling for me. Ann King, the widow lady who was dorm mother to Pepperdine’s girls, came over and took up the hems on all of Momma’s dresses, assuring her that she had a lot of years yet to live and should make the best of them. And Momma cut her hair. All the years of their marriage, she had worn her hair in a French roll, and now she went to the beauty parlor once a week and had it “done”. (Here she is with her new short hair-do, with the card catalogs in her library.) She did actually try going to a Christian singles’ event one night, but the next day told me about it as if she were a pre-pubescent girl who didn’t like boys yet and thought they were “creepy”. She didn’t try that again.

Another scary moment occurred in the Gray House, although not nearly so invasive as the break-in. In the middle of night, Momma and I both woke up because a woman was screaming and a man yelling out by the curb on Crenshaw. They had gotten out of their car which was parked alongside our property, and she was trying to get away from him. Both of us went downstairs to be closer to the action and listen and see if we should do anything.

I decided to call the police and by the time the patrol car did arrive, of course the man had managed to get the woman back into the car and all appeared to be quiet. I was so mad! I knew the trouble would start again as soon as the police drove away. What could I do for her? I hated that we had to witness her being terrified and couldn’t help. I was right. When the police car pulled off, she tried to get away from the guy again, but he threw her back into the car and drove away.

0 ~ o ~ 0 ~ o ~ 0

In the summer of 1970, Grandmother Mattox died. Her funeral was in Oklahoma City, and Momma let me fly there with the Youngs because Sara and I were going on to Nashville to take care of Dad Young (Norvel’s father). I expressed some hesitation about being the only non-family member in the entourage and Matt said, “You can be my wife.” My sixteen year old heart was thrilled.

I was also thrilled that I was able to hear people talk about Irene Mattox and her wonderful life. Bill Banowsky, the young man that Norvel was mentoring, spoke about how Irene had written often to him, and to many other young preachers around the country, with encouragement and lists of books they should be reading. He said, “Mrs. Mattox proved an eighty year old can be more alive than most kids.”

Another man who spoke had been a teacher of Irene’s, and later of Emily’s when she attended Lubbock Christian College. His name was K. C. Moser. This was a man who was well known for teaching from the book of Romans about the grace of God. He got up to speak and all he said was, “Irene was a sinner, and she knew it. And Irene was saved by grace, and she knew it. And that’s all you need to know.” And he sat down. It was the most effective eulogy I’ve ever heard.

Sara and I flew on to Nashville, because we had been elected to stay with Dad Young. Whoever was looking after him needed a week or two off, and we were supposed to fill in as his caregivers. He was ninety years old, and still lived in the same house at 1904 Blakemore that Helen and Norvel had shared with him and Ruby while they were in graduate school at Vanderbilt, in the 1940s. Here's a picture of Stephen, Josiah and Marilyn Young Stewart, me, and Norvel in front of the Blakemore house, many years later. Norvel loved to drive by it often when he was in Nashville and reminisce about the years he lived there.

The old, two story house smelled of Dad Young's cigars, and also faintly of urine that had soaked into the floorboards over the years in the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms. It was hot and musty. He must have had no air conditioning upstairs, because we slept in a guest bedroom with the windows open. That was a summer of June bug infestation, and for some reason they wanted to harass Sara and me through the night. One night we had to sleep with the sheet over our heads because the June bugs kept dive bombing us. I really hate June bugs.

We had fun, although it was a little scary, driving Dad Young’s car a couple of times, since both of us were just shy of sixteen, with only a learner’s permit. We had to go once to the airport, I can’t imagine why, and barely found our way home. Another time we drove Dad Young to B&W Cafeteria, which was in the Green Hills mall at the end where the Regal movie theater is now. Those were the days of Castner Knott and Cain-Sloan. Now in that same mall, it’s Princeton's Grill and Restoration Hardware instead. Dad Young loved liver and onions, so Sara and I went to the grocery store and bought some beef liver (gross!), pulled off the tough parts, floured it and dragged out the giant cast iron skillet to fry it in. We fried up some onions too, and it was actually not too bad.

We California girls were shocked at how early they rolled up the streets in Nashville. Because it was the Central time zone, the network TV shows came on there an hour earlier than we were used to. Johnny Carson was over too early to suit us, and there was nothing interesting on afterward. In fact, I believe the station played the national anthem and went to a test pattern. We were not good at entertaining ourselves.