CHRONOLOGY FOR OCEAN SPRINGS continued
• The beginning of The End. I have had several just plain terrible years in my life and this was one of them. Bud had purchased a plane and his pilot was running cocaine (without Bud’s knowledge, of course) so we had the FBI on our backs all of the time. Our phones were tapped and I often saw agents at various places where we were. It was absolutely dreadful
• Bud had started an affair with Bonnie, probably several years ago, but I only discovered it now. He had moved out of our Lovers Lane home for some “space” and I believed him; in fact I was so stupid that I actually found him an apartment at Gulf Towers, and furnished it for him, so he could be comfortable.
• Our life was in shambles. Fortunately, this did not seem to affect Greg because he was now a junior in high school and was so very busy with his own life that he didn’t have time to look at ours. Michael was doing quite well at Rollins College where he had pledged KA and loved it.
• I took some much needed time off, in solitude, to analyze my life. What I saw did not give me a lot of hope for the future. By now I knew that Bud was heavily in debt because of his oil ventures. I had never been paid back, with interest, for my inheritance, which he had borrowed from me a decade ago, and I realized that if I did not take quick action I would never get it. I had him take out a large life insurance policy with me as both the owner and beneficiary. He agreed and I shopped around until I found the one I wanted with Northwestern Mutual. This turned out to be a really smart move on my part as now, at 70 in 2010, it has greatly increased in value and I have never touched it. It will either be for my old age or my family’s inheritance.
• I spent a lot of time at Navarre and in our French Quarter cottage during this time. I call this my spiritual phase although I have always been spiritual. I visited psychics, had past life therapy under hypnosis and joined several spiritual groups – the best of which was a weekly one in Ocean Springs. New Orleans had a great spiritual side so I became familiar with the Tarot and Astrology. I bought on of the first Apple computers and an astrology program along with every well-known book on horoscopes I could find. I really went a little daffy over the subject but it helped me greatly in knowing myself.
Lovers Lane – 1984
JANUARY & FEBRUARY
• Went to the yacht club with Judy and Tom Jackson for my birthday. They had a surprise party for me and all of my friends were there. As Bud was in Texas, Greg was at a friend’s for the weekend and we all wanted to keep on partying, we piled in many cars and went to our Navarre Beach house. What a weekend – loads and loads of fun. After a Bloody Mary breakfast at Redbeards we headed home on Sunday afternoon. A memorable feast.
• Dickie taught me how to fish and I decided to buy a proper fishing boat. We spent many afternoons out on the bayous Bass fishing. I got really good and bought myself a Hot Shot rod at WalMart.
• Bud was beginning to have many business problems in both his oil wells and some other businesses he has invested in
• I went to all of the Mardi Gras Balls this year and to our place in the French Quarter for Mardi Gras. While there I had my Tarot cards read and also had a past life reading under hypnosis. It was amazing. I recalled nine separate lives which I have on tape.
• Toby became was really ill with HIV but we enjoyed Mardi Gras just the same. He is so afraid that he has AIDS
• Greg finishes high school under much trauma. He was caught with a joint in his locker and was not allowed to graduate. We made him take the GED which he easily passed and was admitted to Gulf Coast Junior College
• Greg worked at the Medical Center with Helen all summer. He also enjoyed his new blue car and spent whatever free time he had windsurfing or fishing with me.
SEPTEMBER AND OCTOBER
• Greg started to college but hated it. He didn’t do well at all and dropped out.
• Michael is still in Sydney at the University of Australia for his junior year. Since Greg was not in school I decided that it was the perfect time to take the boys through the South Pacific. Greg and I went to Santa Cruz to look at the University of California. He surfed and I enjoyed the city – I loved it – very bohemian.
• We flew to Sydney and visited Mike. As his term had finished we toured the entire east coast of Australia and they surfed. We then went to New Zeeland and rented an Air-stream trailer in Christ Church. We toured the entire south island. I visited sheep farms while the boys surfed. We also camped on Mt. Cook. The broom were in bloom. Dave Zarue, Mike’s friend from Rollins, was with us part of the time. It was quite an experience
• We then flew to Fiji and stayed there for 10 days. I stayed in the Hilton and the boys surfed most of the time. There was great art and culture there. We then flew to Kaui, Hawaii, and met Bud for 10 perfect days at a rented villa. Quite lovely.
• We spent Thanksgiving with Sara and John in Sun City, Arizona and made it back to Navarre Beach for Christmas.
• January –
• I spent several weeks at our Navarre Beach home as I love the winters there best. Actually I stayed through the Christmas break and went home right before my birthday
• Sara and John announce, on my birthday, that they are moving to Ocean Springs
• Big Bud and Ethel announce, on my birthday, that they are moving to the coast.
• Greg goes to USM & rooms with David Byrd
• February –
• Bud spends all of his time in Texas trying to rescue his wells. I continue with my new hobby of bayou fishing and enjoy days out in my Monarch aluminum fishing boat with Dickie, who loves to fish, and the Stebley boys, who taught me much. I even take Bud out once but he hated it and chain smoked the entire time which wasn’t very pleasant. I love to go out into the Pascagoula swamps and bayous though. The vegetation is gorgeous and the winter sun brings out such beautiful colours in the different grasses. Believe it or not, it is not really buggy so I have a great time. I normally pack a lunch and go for the day, trailering the boat from our driveway.
• I also am enjoying weaving and completed a gorgeous lilac and purple afghan for our bed.
• I attend Mardi Gras with Carol, Ted and Dickie – We have a wonderful time and I greatly enjoy some time away as Bud is totally obsessed with his businesses. He has greatly overspent and has involved all of his physician friends in his ventures to the tune of $500,000 each. I certainly hope this flies as I would hate to see each of our friends lose half a million dollars. What I can’t understand is why he has a need to do this. Why isn’t having the best orthopedic practice on the coast enough?
• Sara and John move to Ocean Springs and buy a cute home in Fort Bayou Estates out on highway 90. With this purchase began the suffering habit of spending all day on Sundays having a big lunch and watching football games. I absolutely hate it as I want to be at the yacht club sailing with all of my friends who work during the week. Bud insists I go.
• March and April
• Greg calls from USM and confesses that David has been dealing cocaine and that he is hooked. He is suffering so – Of course I immediately leave for USM and pick him up. We meet Bud at the drug counselor’s office. He recommends sending Greg to a Detox Center. Bud and I won’t hear of it so we come up with a plan to take Greg on a trip to purify his system.
• I leave that afternoon with Greg and we drive to Atlanta, and then on to the Smokies for a week. Greg is totally paranoid and thinks that Narcs are following us the entire way but each day he is a little better. Of course, I don’t have a thing to drink so this is good for me also as I usually have cocktails every day. Greg and I have a wonderful time together. He is so sweet and this trip was so very special. We had long, long talks and he told me all of secrets he had kept and filled me in on a lot of what has been happening in his life. It was just a matter of getting in with the wrong crowd. Drugs are so very dangerous.
• When I returned home, a week later, Bud took off for a week. He and Mel took Greg to the Ozarks and they had a special time also. All in all, this closeness with both of us was the perfect remedy for a not so perfect problem.
• May and June
• After being home and on restriction Greg decides to join the Coast Guard, which in retrospect is one of the most sensible decisions he has ever made. I took him to New Orleans to sign up and we stayed at our cottage in the French Quarter. They wanted for him to leave right away, which was fine with us. He left for Cape May and went through Basic Training. He did well physically but was talking about going AWOL. Bud called Trent Lott who settled everything for the Coast Guard authorities. He straightens up and graduates with flying colors.
• July and August
• With Greg gone and Michael in Sydney for his junior year at the University of Australia, I have the time to finally devote to writing and art. I greatly enjoy this plus I have the use of Michael’s Hobie cat while he is away.
• On my 25th anniversary I take a vigorous walk down Lovers Lane and trip in one of the many potholes. I break my leg. Because I was so down Bud took me, with Sara and John, to the Broadwater Beach to hear Leon Kelner’s Orchestra. Of course I was miserable as my leg hurt and I couldn’t dance.
September and October
• Greg graduates from Cape May. Bud, Helen and I fly up to New Jersey for his graduation. Brother Jim meets us there. We have a wonderful time together although I am on crutches and in a wheel chair. Jim hires a limo and we all go to his home in the Hamptons for a week’s holiday. Helen seems to really enjoy the trip with us and she was lots of fun.
• Bud’s business deals are not going well and the oil wells that he was counting on coming in came up dry. All of his money, as well as our friends, is down the drain. How can I go back to Ocean Springs and face these people. After only one night in the Hamptons he leaves and flies to Texas. We are all very hurt that he will not spend this time with the family. He is always rushing here and there and has not had a nice visit with Jim in years.
• The last few days in the Hamptons Hurricane Eleana hits the Gulf Coast. A huge magnolia tree falls directly on our house and goes through the roof greatly damaging the second and third floors as well as the new outside decks that Jason had just finished building. As Helen’s family also had damage as well as Sara and John, we leave immediately and fly home. I spend the next two months contracting out the repair work.
• Our insurance company immediately gave us a check for $35,000 to do the rebuilding. Bud said that if I would take care of everything I could keep whatever I had left over. Jason and I started on a plan along with his electrician and roofer friends. It took us two months but when we finished the house looked great and I had saved $15,000. Little did I know how very much I would need this money later.
• November and December
• During the rebuilding time I rented out our French Quarter cottage and made some money there. Sara and John were also rebuilding their house so we missed our Sundays together for several weeks – what a relief, they are driving me crazy as they are so non-curious and just want to talk about the past. The same conversations are hashed through every week with loud football on the TV in the background. It drives me crazy.
• The coast is really ruined during this hurricane so no one is doing anything but re-building. During this time I realize how very much I have loved living in the Lovers Lane house. One of the highlights of my life has been to wake up each morning in a bed that is in the tree tops. The rainforest, in which our home is built, is so gorgeous as it catches the early morning sun, coming through the trees and into our bedroom. I have never closed the drapes that would normally cover the entire wall of glass, from floor to ceiling, so I have the opportunity to view the changes in the many variations of trees, along with hundreds of ferns each day. While we lost several trees, etc. Eleana really culled our property giving the lower down vegetation room for great growth. Once all of the debris was removed our wild yard was more beautiful than ever. It was hard for me to keep my eyes on my work the beauty was such.
• Fortunately my loom was not damaged in any way. Because I spent so many months, with a recovering leg, doing physical work this was a great time to weave in my leisure hours. I moved into Michael’s bedroom as Bud insisted on having the TV in our bedroom on throughout the night. He is a nervous wreck because of his losses and really has trouble sleeping. There is no reason for us both to lose sleep so I changed sleeping arrangements. I usually went up and got into bed in early morning however, just so I could see the sun come up over the treetops.
• We spent what was to be my last family Christmas at our Navarre Beach home with Mike Greg Sara and John. It was a wonderful Christmas as we were all together. We decorated our beautiful white flocked tree, that we have used for the past decade here, with all of our family ornaments, sea shells and popcorn. Bud gave me a fishing outfit and a pair of wading boots for sea fishing. Even with all of the ballgames, it was a very special time.
• This year I have proved, once again, how well I face adversity. It is my nature.
1985 was a year of adjustment with new, endings and beginnings. I was beginning to realize that having adult children was far more stressful than when they were young. It was also the year that I truly learned about AIDS. Toby, my next door neighbor on Charters Street, had finally been diagnosed, after going through KS carcinoma and other illnesses. Throughout the year I would spend whatever time I was not spending in Ocean Springs or at Navarre with him. It was terrible seeing this once handsome energetic man turn into a small old crone. He lost his spirit but not his personality
• On top of this, he needed constant care. The AIDS Runners that would stay with him stripped his house of all of his lovely silver, linens and antiques. As he was confined to bed most of the year and had dementia he didn't realize the extent of the thefts. However, each time I would visit I noticed that more and more was missing. This was terribly demoralizing.
• Toby finally died in November while I was at Navarre. I knew the exact time as I was walking west on the beach and actively felt his spirit ascend. I called his apartment and was informed that he had died thirty minutes before. I really loved this man and shall always miss his presence in my life.
• In January, Greg moved to the Univ. of Southern Miss to share an apartment with David Byrd, who is dealing in weed and cocaine without our knowing it. I felt really betrayed by David, who was a good friend of Mike's being two years older than Greg. I had a long talk with him before the semester began and he promised that he would look after Greg. This shows the insidious side of drugs. David totally lied to Bud and me.
• Just as I was about to celebrate my 45th birthday two things happened that would have terrible ramifications. Both of Bud's parents announced that they were moving to the coast with their respective partners. I felt totally penned in. Sara and John chose to move to Ocean Springs and live in a house that Bobby Bell built in the 60's. This was about five miles from us and was entirely too close as Sara always wanted to orchestrate everything and I had my enough problems in my life without her.
• Bud's father and Ethel moved to Gulfport, which was just as bad as he always needed money and a job. I still hadn't forgotten how he took Bud for $250,000 in the 70's with his Florida Hotel Scheme. I spent as much time as I could at the beach house at Navarre during this period. I always loved it most in the winter when the waves were high and the surf was wild. Bud spent all of his weekends in Texas on his precious oil wells, which were taking every extra dime we had. Without my knowing it, he was soliciting our friends for heavy investments of $500,000 each.
• I don’t remember exactly when I started thinking of leaving Bud. It could have been a decade before the actual event took place. I always loved him dearly, but I realized, in my thirties, that our paths were different and, most probably, separate. He always had a propensity for investing money very foolishly, in my opinion. His goal was to be wealthy and not pay taxes. We all know that this is impossible unless you are really willing to pay for the minds that can buy you this knowledge, which he wasn’t. Therefore, he was constantly investing his money in new business ventures and losing it. It would have been so much simpler had he thought the way I do. Make money, pay the taxes, save a portion and spend the rest. This is easy to do on seven hundred thousand dollars a year.
• Even in those times, there would have been almost four hundred thousand left, after taxes. I could easily live on one tenth of that, lavishly but he couldn’t. So during our marriage of twenty-six years, we accumulated three houses, an eighty-foot boat and a plane at the same time. It is easy for to see how he fell into bankruptcy for sixteen million dollars. That was a lot of money in those days. Naturally, all of the wives of his investors were as pissed as I was when I found out, so I was not exactly the most popular girl in town being Bud's mate.
• Sara began moving into her new house in late March. Naturally, I helped her as best I could. Dusti became very jealous during this time, as she knew that I would have to spend more time away from her and with my mother-in-law. I loved Dusti dearly but felt a duty towards Sara and John. Their first weekend in the house was the beginning of a terrible habit that would greatly help in driving me from Ocean Springs, along with Bud's financial dealings. Sara expected us for Sunday dinner and TV Sports each week. This I absolutely hated, as I loved to sail on Sundays. Bud hated it also as it restricted any free time that he had in town. But we went even if begrudgingly.
• April was one of the most difficult times in our lives as Greg called from USM and said that he desperately needed help as he was hooked on cocaine. I drove to Hattiesburg the morning he called and took him out of school. I was furious with both David and Greg. He was totally paranoid. I drove him to the Medical Center where Bud had made an appointment with the resident psychiatrist. After a thorough examination he stated that Greg was clinically paranoid and would have to be institutionalized for a year. Bud went through the ceiling.
• It was decided that I would take Greg in the car on a trip of several weeks leaving that afternoon. As Greg thought we were being followed by Narcs, it was most important that we have no plans. All of this happened in one day. I had a heavy schedule that week and the next but dropped everything for Greg. The trip that followed took us into Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Bud gave me one of his credit cards and said to go wherever I wanted. We took the silver Cadillac Seville so at least we were comfortable
• Each day Greg improved a little. I can truthfully say that these two+ weeks were great. Greg and I really got to know each other as people. We had long, deep conversations that brought us much closer together. We also stayed in a lot of really neat places. We spent almost a week in a lodge at the top of the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, hiking and just hanging out. As to Bud's and my agreement, I never left him alone and we had nothing alcoholic to drink. Not drinking was very good for me. I decided to give it up completely and attended AA for the next several years. Unfortunately, Bud resented this, as he no longer had anyone to drink with.
• At the end of three weeks, Greg was totally drug-free. Bud and Mel then took him for a two-week trip through Arkansas and Texas. I realize that this is a rather unconventional treatment for drugs but it worked and the Greg that emerged was sweeter than ever. Bud and I both agreed that it did us a world of good also.
• In May, Greg stayed at home on restriction, which was very hard on him, as his friends were still in Ocean Springs doing drugs. It was decided that he would join the Coast Guard as we all felt that he needed to get out of town. I drove him to New Orleans with Helen for his interview. Fortunately, he passed his entrance exams and was admitted. He was very nervous about this but also excited about a new life. Greg left for Camp May in New Jersey at the end of the month. He was most apprehensive about this new development in his life as he realized, by that time that he had always had Bud and me to fall back on.
• Basic Training was extremely difficult for him. He wrote a suicide note to me and I really panicked. I called Trent Lott, who was our Mississippi Representative in the US Senate (later to be the Majority Leader) and a good friend of Bud's. Trent called Cape May and the boys went a little lighter on him. Backgrounds like Greg, which are totally free and unstructured, are not the types that are needed for Boot Camp. Fortunately through, he made it.
• I got through the spring and summer fishing, with Jason and/or Chris Stebley or Dickie Moore. I had purchased a 14' Monarch aluminum fishing boat with a 6 hp motor which I kept on a trailer in front of the Lovers Lane house. I could hitch it to my Seville and be on the water in the Pascagoula bayous in about 35 minutes. I absolutely loved it. I bought a little Sure Shot pole at K-Mart with a real zippy touch. Jason gave me several lessons on casting and I really began to catch fish. I took Bud out with me once, thinking that he would enjoy it and it would help in getting away from his problems, mentally, but it didn't. All he did was smoke and drink beer. He was drinking more than normal anyway, and that was way too much for me. At any rate, Dickie and I would fish on Thursday and Friday afternoons. The Stebley's shared me the rest of the time, calling me whenever they went out on their boats. We made several trips to the seashore islands during this time and I really learned to love them.
• That summer was hot and muggy. Bud spent all of his time in Texas with his wells and I was left at home alone. Michael was attending the University of Sydney in Australia. Sara was calling every day. I was frustrated with my life and with myself. Life was definitely not turning out as I had wanted it to.
• August 27th was my 25th wedding anniversary. It was one of the most miserable days I have ever spent. I awoke early and took a long walk. Just as I approached Millie's house I twisted my ankle, and I mean badly. Bud had not yet gone to work so he took me in and put a cast on my entire leg. It would take six weeks to heal. Oh this was just great. My 25th anniversary and I have a cast on. Bud took me, along with Sara and John, to the Broadwater Hotel for a lovely dinner and dancing. Obviously, I couldn't dance and I didn't enjoy anything about the evening. It certainly occurred to me, more than once during the evening, that this was not exactly what I had envisioned 25 years ago when Bud and I were married. My spirit was injured even more than my ankle.
• The next day Bud and I left to visit with Jimmy at his summerhouse in the Hamptons. Helen joined us. The four of us took a limo to Cape May to watch Greg graduate from the Coast Guard. Greg actually made it through and we were delighted that we could attend his first graduation at something. It was a beautiful day but a long drive from New York. Greg returned to Jimmy's summer home in the Hamptons with us and we spent a nice weekend relaxing. Bud had to leave on some emergency business, which was always the case, but as he was so stiff it was much more pleasant without him. I was finding this true most of the time, unfortunately.
• On our fourth day with Jimmy, Hurricane Elana hit the Gulf Coast with terrifically high winds. I talked to Pat Joachim who related that several large magnolia trees had fallen on our house. Sara and John's house was also hit. As they were old and needed help, Greg and Helen left and flew back in order to help them and to assess the damage to our house on Lovers Lane. There was really nothing I could do because of my foot so I stayed with Jim until the end of the week.
• Upon returning home, the second week in September, I was appalled at the damage to our living and dining rooms. The trees had broken through the rafters and were actually settled into the floor. We needed to have major repairs. I had an appraisal man assess the damage. With his reports I visited the bank holding our mortgage (which was a third by now due to all of Bud's refinancing schemes) and worked out a plan for rebuilding. I subcontracted the work during the following three months and was able to save some $15,000.00. As the bank had written me a check for $35,000 with no questions asked, I deposited the money into my personal account with the rationale that I had indeed earned it for the time, labor, energy etc. that I had put into the project.
• By now our marriage was really falling apart at the seams and I could see the handwriting on the wall concerning our finances -- with all of the money that Bud owed the only recourse would be bankruptcy. I tried to tell him that was where he was headed but he was still trying "to rob Peter to pay Paul". He was in a complete state of denial concerning all areas of his life.
• Helen and Greg were in Mobile, living in an apartment while he attended school at the Coast Guard. They had a cute place and I enjoyed visiting them. Bud never accompanied me. In fact, now that I am looking back I realize that he never visited them, or Michael, in any of their homes. He just wouldn't take the time, which is very sad, really.
• Because of the storm, Thanksgiving was really ignored that year. I remember that we ate at Sara's but without any of the trimmings that we normally had. Both houses were still in a state of disrepair.
• It was to be the last Christmas that we would ever spend as a family. Michael came from Rollin College to join us at the Navarre house. Sara and John came for a week with Helen and Greg joining us for three days -- the day before and the day after Christmas. I knew in my heart that this was an ending. I had no idea what was next but I knew something was happening. Bud gave me a fly fishing pole with large boots and a pair of wet trousers for surf fishing. I really enjoyed that and spent the entire afternoon of Christmas day, which was beautiful, fishing in front of our house.
• The day after Christmas we were informed that our Lovers Lane house had been broken into. I left Navarre and headed back for the coast. All of my fur coats and most of my jewelry was stolen. Fortunately, most of it was insured by Louis Langlanaise. I never recovered anything although the police did catch the responsible people who were sent to Parchman's Federal Prison for five years. They were some rough kids from Holy Cross-that thought we were rich. I got a check for $12,000 from the insurance company and combined it with my hurricane money. It was the only real cash I was ever to have in twenty-six years of marriage. It was also the only money that I would take with me when I left Bud one year later.
• It was a quiet New Years. None of us had any idea of the changes that were to take place the following year. Had we known, I wonder how our course would have changed?
I remember university as a very content time in my life. In reality it most probably wasn’t. No doubt, I had more than my share of bad days, unwanted grades and heart breaking love affairs during those years, but on the whole I elect to remember it as a particularly positive time in my life, a very blithe and well recalled experience. Despite these feelings, I have only chosen to attend one reunion since graduation, that of my twenty-fifth. Pangs of doubt plauge me now, ten years later, upon the possibility of returning, once again, to that scene of so many wonderful illusions.
The campus itself is not what I yearn to return to. Like all other small, academic, conservative campuses of the fifties it was quite beautiful, with century old ivy covered walls, buildings occupied by sedate seats of learning, pathways to and from knowledge. In most probability, it will always appear the same. New buildings will be constructed while some of the older ones are spruced up. Graduates will come and go, adding status and new ideas to America’s infrastructure. But basically the institution I remember so well will still serve as a proper and academic undergraduate education for some two to three thousand young men and women a year, teaching the humanities and sciences.
I recall those rooms and hallways as they used to be. Years ago I dreamily gazed out of grey windows while trying to pay attention to the lectures at hand . Our professors were often experts in their fields, but the giant maples outside of Asbury Hall offered greater distractions and at times daydreaming became my number one major.
In the fifties, many smaller universities were organized around Greek living. There were so few dormitories on campus that most of the students chose to live in fraternities or sororities. This was before Vietnam when brothers and sisters carried a slightly different connotation.
Upon arriving at the university for orientation week, we were also subjected to “Rush”. At the time I thought it perfectly horrid to expose such, then innocent minds, to this discriminating hypocrisy. I still do, but I then kept my opinions to myself and went through the process with seemingly satisfying results.
At that time there were ten sororities and thirteen fraternities on campus. Since all entering freshman had to be in the top tenth of their high school graduating classes (before SAT tests) and were required to have four years of English, history, mathematics, science, etc., it really didn’t seem to matter much, to my way of thinking, who pledged what sorority or fraternity. We were all pretty neat kids. Oh, I remember scenes from Jeanne Crain’s “Take Care of my Little Girl” showing all of the sanctimony and bigotry of Greek living, but that didn’t seem to be relevant on our campus.
After the big to-do of Rush, everyone rather settled in nicely to their own pledge classes and the rest of the year was divided between learning about communal living, studies, the opposite sex, and how to forge a way off campus for an overnight. These were the days of “all girls” housing having very strict hours while the boy’s had none--I use girl and boy because we were so very young, no matter how worldly we felt at the time. The opinion of the faculty was that if the girls were safely confined to quarters, the boys would be too. Basically, it worked.
I spent the next years at university supposedly in preparation the life I am now leading. Anyone knowing me would agree that the only preparation for the life I now live would have been to enter the Naval or Coast Guard Academies, as I now own a sailing vessel with a “mad computer expert/sailor” and spend my time living on the sea and writing in obscure Caribbean waters.
At any rate, during my freshman year I resided in the compulsory dorm housing, with its many varied activities, of which I was Social Chairman, and its just as many “panty raids” and other sources of raunchy delight. Happiness filled me when the beginning of my sophomore year finally arrived and I could move into the huge, imposing white columned sorority house. I had worked as a Girl Scout Camp Counselor during the intervening summer and was eagerly awaiting the sophistication of Greek living, with it’s secret initiations, the wearing of the pin, evening song fests, fraternity serenades and “bum” room necking. At the time, those activities seemed as important as a career, which I then regarded as “way down the road.”
In the basement of our sorority house there was a huge red bricked fireplace. It covered an entire wall. Upon initiation each initiate was awarded her own individual brick on which she painted her name, in personal artistic style, thus rendering her a mortal place in the history of Greek living. The university allowed only twenty students a year for membership into each fraternal system. This being a small number, there was always room on the extensive brick wall for yet another pledge class. As I had largely forgotten this ritual, I was totally astonished upon returning, twenty five years later, at the number of names on the fireplace wall. Most of my pledge sisters also attended that reunion and I remember that finding our individiual bricks was the most fun of all.
This year, however, as I discover the 35th reunion rapidly approaching I find myself with confused, mixed feelings. Our pledge class is very close. During the three and one half decades that have passed since graduation, we have never missed a summer newsletter where most contribute. Those that are unable to write one year will remember the next. In this way we are able to keep up with all of our families -- births, deaths, illnessess, careers, marriages, divorces, lovers, travels, drugs, hobbies, homes, children, grandchildren, their achievements, their lovers, their spouses, their drugs, their travels, their careers, their mid-life crisis, our mid-life crisis, our bankruptcies, our alcoholism, and every sort of petty crime but murder.
Because of this totally and honestly revealed annual manual of written information, I feel that I now know my pledge class fairly well. This is what I want to reunite with Being in charge of the 25th newsletter (a different sister takes responsibility each year) I made the suggestion that we meet somewhere, before the reunion itself, for a couple of days. This worked out beautifully as one of our class mates had a large lovely summer home on a nearby lake and graciously invited us all to spend four days before the actual university reunion began.
This worked out really well. We were as we are. Talented, stylish, intellectual, caring, women reuniting to spend some time remembering the fun of when we were not all of these many and varied individuals. Since most of us had been roommates, at one time or another during those years, there were many funny antidotes to recall. We laughed, cried, hugged and inwardly cringed the entire time at the lake house. We took hikes, waterskied, went out for dinner, drank, gossipped, cried some more, rated and berated the happenings of our lives, all without the presence of husbands, lovers, children, parents, relatives or friends (other than ourselves)
Not surprisingly, the university reunion several days later, wasn’t nearly as much fun. In fact, it was a great let-down. I want to remember the campus as it was. I want to know my pledge sisters as they are.
This year my sorority pledge class and I will not be reuniting together beforehand. Therefore, I will not be attending. It is not worth the extra expense, travel, time and uncertainty of assertaining what I already know. Memories are illusions --illusions fall into retrospection. I choose to keep my life as it is, without further time warp, and consider myself lucky, indeed, to have twenty such loving women adding to the fiction of my life.
I was highly involved in metaphysics by the time '86 rolled around. I had joined a group that met every Wednesday night at someone's house in Ocean Springs or Biloxi. I was doing astrology charts on my Apple computer and reading Tarot Cards with Tonette (who was also having relationship problems in her life). Bud's finances worsened with each day. He kept fishing for straws - getting into one bad deal to save him from another.
Before Michael had left Navarre at the end of the Christmas holidays, Bud had humiliated me at dinner. Just the three of us were there and I had prepared a special treat. Bud had obviously talked to Michael, to get him on his side, about the ownership of Lovers Lane. We were on the mortgage together. Bud wanted me to do a Quik-Claim over to him, which I had resisted for years.
Michael turned to me and said, "Mom, if you really loved Dad you would do this for him." Inferring, of course, that if I didn't do something that I knew was wrong, and that I didn't want to do, I didn't love Bud. They both kept at me until I was crying. That house was the only thing I owned. The final resolution was that I would Quik-Claim the Lovers Lane house to Bud if he would do the same to me regarding the Navarre Beach property. He agreed. Years later I was to see that this was a very good move but at the time I was devastated.
It was the signing over of my home, and the eventual losing of it, which was to sever all ties of respect and honor that I had for Bud. Michael's lack of understanding as to my feelings didn't help. I was the one who had always backed Michael in everything and I resented that he always took his father's side over mine.
My birthday that year was uneventful. With Michael and Greg both away and Bud always either at the office, the hospital or in the Texas oil fields, I had time on my hands.
Redoing the house, losing Toby, dealing with Sara, etc. had sapped all of my energy and I needed to play a little. I decided to go to Mardi Gras, which would be my last, with a group of friends from the coast and Carol and Ted, who moved into Toby's apartment after he died. We really had a good time, partying continuously for three days. I went back to drinking during this time but gave it up shortly after as so much liquor was totally toxic to my body. But for three days I lived to the max - laughing, drinking, dancing, dressing up and laughing some more. Of all of the Mardi Gras that I attended, I remember it as the best.
Shortly after Mardi Gras Bud wanted for me to go to Texas with him. He had some deal with buying a plane and wanted to show off for me. I went for four days not much enjoying the heat, the dirt or his cowboy friends. I could never figure out his passion for surrounding himself with those of a lesser statue.
I spent two days in the field and the other two at the Joseph Albers Museum that is connected with the University of Houston. Dusti knew Joseph and thought he was a great painter. His images are dark filled with mystery and imagination. I really enjoyed this chapel. I also visited the university bookstore and picked up an out of print copy of "The Beauty of Imperfection" about the Sung Dynasty and their pots.
I totally enjoy being by myself in large cities although it is nice when Budley takes me out for a great dinning experience. Houston has some very nice restaurants. We ate several good meals in our hotel the Warwick.
Bud really enjoyed his new plane (just what people facing bankruptcy need to buy) but his new pilot gave us nothing but grief for the remainder of the year. Evidentially, he was using the plane to smuggle cocaine. Even though Bud was totally in the dark about this, the FBI tapped our phone lines and had us followed. This was not a pleasant experience as I never knew what was going to happen. Tonette was very sympathetic as the FBI and CIA were on her case when they supported the Contras in Nicaragua. Her phone was tapped for three years. Of course, the fact that one of the Contra organizers was her lover didn't help the matter.
In April I attended the Jazz Festival with Carol and Richard. What a great time we had. We ate everything in sight and stayed out late every night listening to jazz in the Quarter Clubs. Such fun. It took my mind off of Bud's pressing financial crisis. I also made some new gay friends who read my Tarot Cards. They predicted a split between Bud and me. At the time I thought they were out of their minds.
My 25th DePauw University Reunion was held the first week in June. Anita Hursh Cast had all of our pledge class for four days at her lake house before going on down to the Kappa House. It was so good to see everyone again. We spent mornings having coffee and gossiping and afternoons water-skiing and swimming. Of course, they all look great. We had a really good time catching up on everyone's life and meeting all of the new husbands and lovers. Quite a lot of changes.
I danced with my old flame, Bob Wessling, at the reunion dance. He is a big attorney in Brentwood, L.A. but we genially had a nice chat together. He didn't seem exactly ecstatic about his life either. This is something I really noticed during this time. Everyone was genuinely glad to see old friends but there was a lot of hidden despair "lives of quiet desperation."
Before I left I stopped in to see Bud's dad. He had a job as manager at one of the big strip hotels. I hadn't seen him in awhile so the jolt of seeing him looking so old really terrified me. He looked exactly the way Bud is going to look. It was like looking into the future and this thought chilled me to the blood. It wasn't so much the age, I can easily stand that, it was the despair and lack of hope that he wears on his face. A sadness that is to the depths. It really scared me. It was to be the last time I would ever see him.
That summer was among the worst periods of my life. Realizing that Bud could not escape bankruptcy, I moved my mother's antiques out of our French Quarter house and into a storage room in Ocean Springs. This was a very sad move for me as I really enjoyed the ten years that we had in the Quarter. Lots and lots of good memories. Bryan, Craig and Greg helped me move.
It was a funny trip with Bryan going down the wrong way with the moving van. I knew that my love affair with New Orleans and the life I led there was over. It was sad. As a parting gift to myself I bought a rare edition of the Upanishads. Later in life I would befriend the woman whose father had translated them from Sanskrit while living in Tibet during World War II.
Mike graduated from Rollins College in June and we all went down for his graduation -- Sara, John, Helen, Greg, Jimmy, Bud and I. It was a lovely weekend and we were very proud of him. Michael brought a tall willowy girl named Linda to the lovely dinner that Bud gave for him at one of the nice Orlando hotels. Jimmy gave Mike a trip around the world for graduation but they never got to go because Jim started getting sick.. Of course, at that time, none of us knew why.
In August Bud filed bankruptcy in Texas. He was also having huge financial problems with the IRS as well as continued surveillance by the FBI. He was constantly depressed. I thought that an inexpensive trip to the islands might do him some good with some of his friends. Bud was also interested in looking at an Orthopedic positions at the Veteran's hospital in San Juan.
In the beginning of September we left with Biddy Mohler and Wayne, Biddy's father-in-law for St. Croix. We stayed in a hovel of a hote in Fredricksted on the western side. The sunsets were fabulous but Bud and Wayne drank the island dry in rum. They were drunk the entire time. Bud took a plane to San Juan one day to look at their VA. He didn't like it all. He would have to reenter the hierarchy; nothing could have repulsed him more. He was running and he knew he was running.
As I was back on the wagon and Biddy didn't think getting drunk during the day with two depressed old men was much fun, we toured the island. We discovered more nick and crannies and I fell in love with the slow West Indian ways and customs. We were having dinner one night in Christiansted. Bud and Wayne were both terribly drunk. I made the remark that I could easily live in a place like this. Bud challenged me and said that he thought I should just do that, "I'm making your life miserable Nancy, so just get out--just go."
Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. The rage and bitterness contained in that remark caused me to awaken early and rethink my entire life. What was I doing with a man that had no empathy for the negativity that he was putting into my life. Bitterness began to rise in my throat.
But I realized an opportunity when it presented itself. I had actively prayed for a change in my relationship with Bud for years and I realized, upon looking at a warm island sun climbing over the mountains of St. Croix that God was presenting me with an answer. Before I knew what was happening I began to roam Christiansted looking for apartments.
On the front wharf, overlooking the harbor, I met a young woman about Mike's age. I told her I was looking for a place to live. She took me to her old Danish Plantation House, located on North Street just up the hill from Annapolis Sailing School. I loved it and rented a small one bedroom on the spot. I was to move down October 21st.
Bud was in a fowl mood when I returned and already drinking Bloody Mary's to get rid of his hangover. I asked him if he remembered the conversation of the previous evening. He repeated that he had meant every word of it. I then informed him of my decision to take his advice. It was one of the scariest moments of my life because I had to carry my decision through if I wanted change in my life.
I knew that this was my opportunity for escape. I wanted out and obviously, he knew it. However, we both thought that this would be a temporary situation, until his financial and personal troubles were over. Neither of us had any idea that this drunken talk would change our lives completely.
The following month was filled with activity. The first thing I did was to contact Al Hopkins. He informed me that I was in a very precarious position regarding my furniture and the contents of the house. If Bud was in as deep as we all thought the contents of the house, including all artwork and jewelry could be attached. He therefore recommended that I move everything of value into my storage locker and replace all of these items with plants. The house looked like a jungle by the time I left.
Poor Sara and John. They didn't know what to think. Bud had never dealt truthfully with them about any of his financial dealings, leading them to think that he was the most successful entrepreneur around. They had no idea that he was, by this time, sixteen million dollars in debt. For that matter, neither did I. When I learned this from the Federal Bankruptcy Court several years later I was in shock.
Sara could not understand why I would leave Bud. She was angry, as was I. The only analogy I could use was to remind her of her second husband, Nat Mendenhall. Nat was convicted of fraud for using monies from the estates of deceased clients. He was sent to prison where he died. Sara, who had married Nat when he was loaded and loved being married to an "attorney", divorced him while he was in prison. She got cancer in the process. Did she want for this to happen to me? She never saw the parallel.
Gregory and Michael were involved in their own worlds by this time. Greg and Helen had secretly married one weekend and were living in Virginia where he was attending a Coast Guard Diesel Mechanics school. They were happy and, quite frankly, I was delighted that they had eloped. I could not have faced a big wedding at this point, a fact that they both must have known. Michael and Linda had moved to Jupiter, Florida, where they were opening a new Chiropractic Office for Linda. They were "doing their thing" and loving it.
The weekend before I was to leave it was agreed that my weekly metaphysical group would go to Navarre Beach with me. We would all then leave on Monday morning, early. They would return to the coast and I drove, with Miss Lucy in the Bronco that Bud had given me, to Palm Beach. I stayed with Mike and Linda while shipping the car, which was packed to the seams with oriental rugs, pictures, clothes and miscellaneous items, that I would need in St. Croix.
We had a marvelous weekend -- filled with love and music, dancing and caring. All fifteen of them surrounded the car, holding hands and praying for me before I left. It was really quite something and I felt as if I was truly leaving those who cared for me. T
he trip to southern Florida was uneventful although I really had an interesting time in a cabin on the Swannee River. The son of the motel owner took me riding on his motorcycle out into the swamps. Quite an adventure. Lucy and I arrived safe and sound the following night at Michael's house. By this time I really wondered what in the world I was doing.
After loading the Bronco onto Tropical Shipping's Freighter, which took most of the day, Linda and Mike showed me the sights. We went to the Breakers for drinks as I decided that I definitely needed a cocktail. What followed was a wonderful evening, all three of us a little tipsy, in which I realized that I was truly embarking on a new life. Despite this prospect I was still quite bitter and full of rage at Bud for doing this to my life through his careless spending. Here I was 46 with only 30K to my name and not a clue as to how I would spend the rest of my life. I basically was a mental wreck. Still, I must acknowledge that it took courage, and a bit of madness, to take that kind of action.
Now, many years later, I look out over the blue Caribbean Sea and acknowledge that leaving was the best decision I ever made in my life, other than to give birth to Michael and Gregory.