Plenty to eat

There she was, one of three dolls: one dressed in pink, one bedecked in baby blue, and the third, in a pale yellow dress. My heart was a goner. Oh, please mama, if Santa could bring her, the one in the blue, that would be just the greatest thing ever. It was not normal for me to ask for things. It was sort of automatically known in my household that one did not ask for extras and special presents. To even be given a quarter at the county fair to ride the ponies that walked around in a circle was an act my father generated, not through my asking. It was not the material things I craved for however, but it was mental stimulation and the knowledge that my parents loved me unconditionally. But those things were missing.

It was after I graduated from nursing school that daddy asked me one day, “You always had enough to eat, didn’t you.” This was important to daddy, I could tell from the tone of his voice. And the answer simply was yes. I had always had enough food to eat, always had clothes to wear, and always had toys to play with. The only times I went hungry were by my own choice when I refused to eat something. Mama cooked southern comfort recipes, something I did not figure out until I was working on my masters degree. But it was comforting and mama was a good cook. All of my clothes were made either by my mother or my Grandmother. Many of my toys were made by my mother, who was very clever and gifted artistically. But I never felt deprived as everyone in our small home town was “the same as I was”.

The realization that where I am today was made possible because of where I started has been slow coming. But the forgiveness of my parents for their lack of ability to provide all of my needs, not store bought dresses or dolls but the lack of mental stimulation and unconditional love, was ever slower in coming to fruition. My parents were good people. As an adult, I have come to believe my mother was probably an angel God put on this earth. She gave unquestionably to others, tried never to hurt anyone’s feelings, and thought nothing of helping people put away left overs or clean the church, or helping to provide meals for bereaved families after a funeral. But I know now that they did the very best they could under the circumstances and perhaps I had needs they did not recognize or were unable to fulfill.

But I can say to them now, I know you tied to be the best parents you could. And without your strength and guidance, I would never have made it to this point in my life. Thank you for your love and support.




Dinner with Joe

Joe Rader Roberts was a western artist who could paint the wind blowing so real, you could feel the sand blowing in your face. He was one of Rick’s patients. Like the old country doc who would barter for taking care of someone, Rick accepted a picture Joe painted of a lone Indian sitting on his horse, the wind a driving force against his body and his mount. Rick also bartered in farm fresh eggs and a lamp one time in exchange for his bill. That lamp still sits in our living room. At the time I was a fledgling artist and because Rick liked Joe as a person and to give me the opportunity to question him about art, he invited Joe and his wife, a portrait artist, to dinner. This was an important meal to me so I spent the entire week preparing the menu and making preparation ahead of time. I had been taught how to cook French cuisine by a little French lady named Marie Odell, years earlier when Rich had done his internal medicine residency in Tucson.

Joe was somewhat of a cantankerous old coot and did not follow the conventional drive to make all the money he could. He only did originals and refused to let his paintings be made into wholesale prints. A lot of money could be made having prints made off of his paintings, but Joe always felt that was selling out. I think maybe he had been burned by this experience once upon a time. Although it hurt him financially, he lived true to his beliefs and for that I admired his crusty self-reliance.

The night for the party came and I had prepared poulet gratiné savinyon, wild rice, green beans almandine, and chocolate soufflé for dessert. I had figured out long ago that everyone knew what fried chicken tastes like and will compare yours to their wife’s recipe, their aunt Gertrude’s’ best chicken ever, or even the Kentucky Fried Chicken joint on the corner. But, very few people knew what poulet gratiné savinyon tastes like, so they have no idea if you got it right or not. My mama didn’t raise a complete dummy. To be honest, this is just chicken with a yummy cheese sauce poured over it all. But with a fancy French name, it sounds incredible.

During the enjoyment of the meal, Joe gracious commented that this was the best meal he had ever had. As I drank in his compliment, he withdrew it and said,  “No, this is the second best meal I have ever had.” I had knocked myself out trying to cook an incredible meal for him to impress him and oh course, I had to know what meal could possibly have topped my offering.

Joe then recalled a story of when he was much younger and he had gone into the Sierra Madre Mountains to explore and had become lost. He had wondered around for three days with no food, only water he found in the streams. During the third day, he happened upon an old adobe hut, lived in by an elderly couple speaking only Spanish. But as is usually the case between humans, they found a way to communicate that Joe was starving and the couple indicated they would feed him. The kind matriarch sat a bowl of tortillas and frijoles in front of Joe. “That was the best meal I ever had!”

My Own Person

As an adult I have come to the realization that my childhood perceived lack of control over events in my life was one of the things that adversely affected my life. I would not find my voice until perhaps in my late forties. But the first time I used my voice was in my early thirties. Up until this time, I had been under the impression basically that whatever a man wanted, he was entitled to, although there were definite limits on this. From my earliest memories I had been told by my mother that I had to do whatever my dad said and that included whatever my grandparents and great grandparents said as well as all of my aunts and uncles. Period. No argument from a small child was expected or allowed.

After moving to Houston, my husband and I took our cars in to be serviced at a local self-owned service shop. One of the men who worked there used to slide up next to me. He had on overalls and was usually in a state of more or less griminess because of all of the oil and grease they worked with all day. Surprised by his boldness the first time, disgusted by his actions on the occasions afterwards, I knew what was coming next and felt powerless to stop it from happening. He slide his arm around my back and pulled me close to him. This was usually accompanied next by a kiss on my check. My muscles  crawled underneath my skin to repel his touch, his scent, his very presence.  It made me very uncomfortable, but until I saw another young girl reject his behavior, I did not realize I had the right to say no. An incredible revelation to me that I immediately used when he approached me that day of liberation. I sidestepped his advance and avoided the unwanted hugging. I did not have to suffer the humiliation of being touched by a man I did not want touching me.

Many years later, I finally gave myself full permission to say no. I had gone to a new hair salon. When my appointment time came, the man assigned was nowhere to be seen and I waited for him longer than I would have waited for a full professor in college. Just as I was about to leave, he appeared with the excuse he did not know he had a client. After sitting me in his chair, he quizzed me what I wanted and then proceeded to tell me what he wanted to do. My words had fallen on deaf ears. He had no intension of incorporating my wishes into his transformation. When he asked if I was ready for a new change, I told him no, thanked him for his advice (although I was not taking it), got out of the chair, and walked out, but only after I had cancelled my appointment to have my hair and nails done in a couple of weeks for New Years. I was now my own person, many years in the making but finally, my own person.



When the product margarine first came out, mom bought it to try it out because it was less expensive than real butter. It looked nothing like the margarine we buy at the store today. When we got home after grocery shopping, Mom handed me a bag, about the size of a one-pound bag of popcorn or dried navy beans. The contents were white with the consistency of soft whipped cream and perched on top of this white canvas was a drop of orange yellow dye in the center, about the size of a dime. The yellow coloring was of no nutritional value, but was added by cleaver marketing so our brains could accept this new product as “butter” and not a white substitute. To make the margarine yellow, it was necessary to follow the theory of chaos and to massage the bag to evenly disperser the yellow coloring throughout the white until this new product of margarine resembled “real butter from cows”. I loved transforming this white substance to a light sunny yellow, to manipulate the yellow tentacles into the virgin areas of white. A simple pleasure, but one that generated a sense of control.