my story…

I’m never without a book when I crawl under the covers at night. And it’s usually a biography of someone famous. There’ve been a few infamous folks as well. Mrs. Wallace Simpson comes to mind.

Folks living in the glare of the spotlight captivate me. I wonder if what we see or hear or read about them is real. Or is much of it fabricated for public consumption? I grew up under the spell of Ingrid Bergman and Bette Davis, Errol Flynn and Cary Grant. Theirs was a Hollywood where movie stars were celluloid creations. What we saw wasn’t always who they were off-screen.

Historical figures also interest me. I’ve read the life stories of several presidents, including FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon and Obama. What propels these men to choose the extraordinary instead of the ordinary path is a lesson in advanced psychology.

The common denominator in all of these biographies is parental influence. Most often it’s the lack of, or overabundance of…parental involvement. As a young boy, Cary Grant suffered the loss of his mother when his father had her committed to an institution. Grant didn’t learn of her existence until he was well on his way to becoming a Hollywood icon. Forever after, he sought her approval which he felt he never got.

Rose Kennedy left much of the parenting duties to nannies and staff. John was a sickly child who never received the doting care and concern of his mother. As an adult, he was not overly affectionate toward her. In fact, it was his father whose approval the son desperately wanted, and whose loyalty and love meant the most to the president.

Nixon’s Quaker mother instilled in him the ambition to always do well…no matter the odds. And Sarah Roosevelt made it impossible for Eleanor to follow in her mother-in-law’s footsteps. She whose very life revolved solely around her beloved Franklin.

So what’s different between these lives…and mine? Mostly the trappings. Articles about their comings and goings are devoured by millions of adoring fans; I have a few loyal readers following hugmamma.com. They dine at 21 in NYC; I’ve been there a handful of times as the guest of one of my husband’s clients. They fly hither and yon in first class accommodations; I’ve been fortunate to ride up front a time or two. The world is their oyster; I’ve traveled enough to know contentment…sitting on my deck, watching the world go by.

More importantly the death of my father, which left my siblings and me in the care of an uneducated, impoverished 30-year-old mother, left invisible scars that no amount of time will ever erase.

When we delve beneath the surface of our lives, what we find is a commonality to our human story. No matter what we go on to make of ourselves, we are the product of how we were raised…by whom…and how they were affected by their own life stories.

The only difference between one story and another is what we each bring to it. Do we improve upon what came before? Or do we let the story play out according to script. I prefer to think we can tweak a line here and there, maybe even rewriting a chapter or two. The ending can resemble a happily-ever-after, even if it’s not the one in An Affair to Remember, or Sleepless in Seattle.

Life is not a done deal…until it’s done. There’s time…minutes, hours, days, months, years…to do some rewriting. All it takes is a bit of imagination…

…and a whole lot of guts.

………hugmamma.

 

 

errol flynn…an enigma

Remember him?  Errol Flynn…that swashbuckling, acting hunk who portrayed…Robin Hood…among many other memorable characters? 

I was absolutely delighted when I came across Flynn’s autobiography in a small, mom-and-pop type bookshop. It was sandwiched between a couple of other shops along the main road in a rural town where I often peruse for antiques, collectibles, and other vintage treasures.

Talk about unearthing a treasure!  

Errol Flynn – My Wicked, Wicked Ways – The Million Copy Bestseller – His Side of The Story in His Own Words has been more than I expected. Although the racy title was enticing, I was far more interested in learning about the man behind the gorgeous facade. What was he all about? What did he think of the actors with whom he worked? Did he and Olivia de Havilland, a leading lady with whom he’d starred in several films, have a yen for one another off-camera? Was he an alcoholic and a pedophile, as had been alleged and widely publicized while at the peak of his career?

In reading celebrity biographies I’m always curious to learn if, in fact, they lead such totally different lives from those of us whose lives hover below, if not completely off, the radar. Are they really all that special when not appearing as hot commodities on the big screen?

While a quick read on the surface, Flynn’s story was substantive enough to slow me down. He is definitely NOT the same man he portrays in all those super-macho roles. If what he writes is true, Errol Flynn was a man given to satisfying any and all curiosities regardless of the risk or devastating results. Sex and alcohol were his undoing, physically and financially. In the end, they were probably the cause of his departure from this world. Along the way, bouts of depression nearly did him in prematurely. It seemed he had a pact with death which he tried to cash in a couple of times, unsuccessfully. He got his wish at age 50, when he died of a heart attack.

In his journal entry dated 10/14/55, Flynn wrote of life as a contradiction.

I know I am contradiction inside contradiction. … I can love women and hate them and this may seem a contradiction. … You can love every instant of living and still want to be dead. I know this feeling often. …I might be quite famous, but not feel famous, only feel sometimes like a heel. I can be worth a million or two million and feel like a bum and be a bum and live like a bum. … I know that there are two men inside me. One wants to ramble and has rambled around the globe more than once, in the sky and below water. The other man is a settled fellow, who thinks sometimes he is or should be a husband-man, and that he should sit settled in a house by the side of the road or by the side of the sea. Both are inside of me. Each is true. … No, contradiction has a place in human nature, in social values, just as it has in mathematics. Contradiction is neither true nor false. It is.

As if he were a tragic figure soliloquizing in a Shakespearean play, Flynn lists his many contradictions.

If they say I am inconsistent let them say it, for it is true, because inconsistency is a part of living nature.
I am the epitome of the twentieth-century cosmopolitanism, but I should have been born an explorer in the time of Magellan.
I am sour on women but cannot do without them and I need them incessantly so as to feed my sourness.
I could have killed Bruce Cabot but I can forgive him.
I am bitter about what Lili Damita did to me, but I also laugh about it.
I crave the indulgence of my senses but this is countered by an interior desire that is even keener than my senses to know the meaning of things.
I want to be taken seriously. I feel that I am inwardly serious, thoughtful, even tormented, but in practice I yield to the fatuous, the nonsensical. I allow myself to be understood abroad as a colourful fragment in a drab world.
I have a zest for living, yet twice an urge to die.
I have a genius for living, but I turn many things into crap.
I am dangerous to be with because, since I live dangerously, others are subject to the danger that I expose myself to. They, more likely than I, will get hurt.
I will do a great deal for a buck; then when I get it I will throw it away, or let it be taken from me.
I am very tough, but also I am a patsy.
The pursuit of gold, pleasure and danger motivate most of my springs.
I am alternately very kind, very cruel.
I love art, but finance may be my forte.
I want faith, and I am faithless.
I look for causes, and they wind up with me a romp.
I love and hate myself.
I want to be loved but I may myself be incapable of really loving.
I hate the legend of myself as phallic representation, yet I work at it to keep it alive.
I despise mediocrity above all things. I fear it, yet I know some of my performances have been mediocre.
I generally deny that I was ever a good actor, but I know I have turned in a half-dozen good performances.
I call myself a bum, but I have been working hard most of the days of my adult life.
I portray myself as wicked, hoping I will not be regarded as wicked. But I may really be wicked in the Biblical sense.
Women do not let me stay single. I do not let myself stay married.
Cheers for Mama. Damn her too.
Give me the artistic life, except when I’m producing, directing, organising, banking, playing the stock market and in other ways being a businessman.
I hate the law and spend too much time with lawyers.
I have been called the eternal Sophomore, the perennial youth. I can do nothing to alter this. I am hung with it. The stamp is upon me. It is too late for me to become a scientist, saint or messiah. If I symbolise anything it is that I am the eternal sempervive.
I laugh a lot, and I weep secretly more often than most men.

I have requested all my life for truths and I wallow in bromides. The bromides themselves wallow in truth.
I live polygamously, but but I am fascinated by people who appear to live happily monogamously.
I am on the side of the underdog, except when I am on the side of the rich.
In me, contradiction itself, as a principle, finds its own raison d’ etre. I am convinced of the validity of contradiction. There are many worlds. Each is true, at its time, in its own fashion.

Parental relationships always interest me when I read about others’ lives. Oftentimes these relationships drive individuals to do what they do, for better or worse. In Flynn’s case, the physical absence of both parents since his teen years left the would-be actor to create a life for himself. And so he did.

All my life I have tried to find my mother, and I have never found her. My father has not been Theodore Flynn, exactly, but a will-o’-the-wisp just beyond, whom I have chased and hunted to see him smile upon me, and I shall never find my true father, for the father I wanted to find was what I might become, but this shall never be, because inside of me there is a young man of New Guinea, who had other things in mind for himself besides achieving phallic symbolism in human form.

I am living with this brand–even relatively happily–but I wish it hadn’t happened. I do not know whether I have conveyed it–or tried not to convey it–but I have been cut by my own sword, so deeply that I am ready for whatever befalls. Flynn is not always In. Sometimes he is far, far out–at the bottom of the chasm, at the bottom of the cleft.

It saddens me to think that Errol Flynn might have been so much more than…

…just another pretty face.  

………hugmamma.

NOTE: Photo courtesy of wikipedia.

 

 

 

nurturing thursdays: we are the result…

…of our upbringing. “That’s the unvarnished truth,” as some literary folk might say. Plain…yet not so simple.

Biographies, for me, are a treasure trove of personal information. It’s like mining for gold that I’m never prepared to find. I always know I’ll glean greater understanding of the human spirit, but I’m like a child opening that unexpected gift on Christmas morning when I find buried among the pages of someone else’s life a particular truth that resonates within myself.

One weekend morning as I sat at my mom’s feet clipping her toenails, a ritual begun at her behest, she casually informed me that I had been unwanted…a mistake. I was probably 9 or 10 at the time. I’m pretty sure my reaction was mild, more one of curiosity than anything else. She told me she didn’t want a ninth child so she did what she could to abort me naturally. Naively, she thought spending hours in the ocean would somehow rid her of my fetus. And perhaps more on the mark, she’d down lots of soy sauce in the hopes I wouldn’t survive.

As you can see, I’m still alive. However, the seed of self doubt was probably planted within my psyche that sunny day, long ago.

Parenting is like a magic trick. If done right, we are applauded for our skill at making something so difficult look…so easy. If we go awry, eyebrows are raised, tongues click and refrains of “she’s a bad parent” are doled out mercilessly.

Because of my own childhood experience, I’m particularly sensitive to the influence of parents upon those whose biographies I read. And as you might guess, not one of them leaves home without taking some of their parents’ baggage along with them.

Gary Cooper, whose biography I’m currently reading, was forever devoted to his mother. Trying to please her and keep her happy meant juggling her high opinion of him, while being romantically involved with scores of women his entire life. Of the dozens who met mama, only one or two scored a home run. Unfortunately, they didn’t last long with a man who was enamored of all women, and felt sexually empowered to bed the lot of them.

Mary Astor, never one of my favorites, was a particularly interesting read. Her immigrant, German father, a stage parent if there ever was one, railroaded her acting career from its inception. Her beauty and fledgling talent inspired him to quit his job and move with his wife and daughter, first to Chicago and then to New York, in search of his dream to be rich. Eventually he struck gold in Hollywood where he set up house entirely at his daughter’s expense, both economically and emotionally. She became an alcoholic, fell in and out of abusive relationships, weathered financial ruin, and hit “rock bottom” many times. Discovering God later in life helped Astor out of the hell that had been her life until then.

John Kennedy could have been so much more, in my estimation, had his parents been less self-absorbed. Joseph Kennedy, Sr. was a man driven to overcome his humble beginnings. His natural savvy for besting the next man would bring him wealth, and with that, power in high places. He bought the presidency for his son, and the perfect wife to be First Lady. What the senior Kennedy could never fully render however, was the approval his presidential son had sought ever since he was born into the shadow of older brother, Joseph Kennedy, Jr. What was meant for him only fell to JFK upon his brother’s death.

And what of Kennedy’s mother, Rose? Not allowed to divorce her husband, notorious for his philandering, she complied with the mandates of her mayoral father and her Catholic faith by devoting herself to God, while neglecting the emotional needs of her many offspring. She had a small cottage built towards the back of the main house on the family’s Hyannisport compound. There, the mother would often retreat to find comfort in God. It was also a common practice of both parents to be away from their children, each one going his and her separate way to find pleasure. Rose shopped abroad; Joe Sr. caroused with Hollywood starlets, most famously with Gloria Swanson. She was even amazed at his wife’s tolerance when he invited Swanson along on a European vacation cruise.

It was Richard Nixon’s Quaker mother who instilled in her son the ambition to excel…always. And as history can attest, he never, ever lost that desire to drive the political conversation…much to the chagrin of his wife, Pat. Resigning the presidency before his second term even got underway was a hard lesson learned. Nixon’s resiliency, however, brought him a modicum of success in his comeback as an elder statesman on the world stage.

 I could go on, but you get my drift.

What I continue to learn through these biographies is that parents were children once who thrived, and suffered, at the hands of their parents. We’re really no different from any other species in that we’re all just trying to survive in an alien world. We use whatever resources are available to eke out a life for ourselves as best we can. For humans, those resources include psychogenic ones instilled through the generations. Parents beget children who become…parents who beget children…and so on…and so on. 

So where does the blame lie when children lead miserable lives? Nowhere really. It’s so easy to point a finger, but it’s just as fitting to turn that finger toward oneself.

We don’t have to continue on within the confines of the lives in which we were swaddled since birth. We can change out our “soiled linens” for fresh ones that have been aired out in the sunshine and smells of the scent of a new day. It’s up to us to make up a new bed…

…in which we can rest peacefully…and happily.

………hugmamma.

calling out the posse…iraq

Having already made my way through several presidential biographies, I’ve decided to keep on the path of learning who the real man is behind the facade. So I picked up a book I’d purchased a while ago at Half-Price Books…The Family, The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty…by Kitty Kelley. 

I was never a fan of the president, or the author, for that matter. That’s why the delay in reading the book. I’d bought it thinking “Why not? I’ll get around to it one of these days, when I’ve nothing else to read.”

Since I was on a presidential roll, it was Bush’s turn. Knowing Kelley’s tendency for sensational reporting, having read Oprah: A Biography, I should’ve been prepared for her book. Well shame on me, I wasn’t.

It’s not to say Kitty Kelley doesn’t report facts. She does. It’s her explosive style of telling a story that has me on the edge of my seat. The lady is not averse to confrontation. Far from it. She welcomes the challenge.

According to USA Today

The Bush Administration and the Republican Party launched a vigorous campaign to discredit Kelley as a Democratic partisan and discourage coverage of her 733-page book….Kelley pointed out that she has never lost a lawsuit and ‘never, ever had to retract a story.’ “

…and the Houston Chronicle adds…

Doing what {Kelley} does is like poking a stick into a hornet’s nest. The holder of the stick gets a nasty reaction from the disturbed occupants….The resulting book, however, is a good read.

Describing Kelley as a woman “with balls,” is putting it mildly. She’s more like a bulldog on a mission. Point in case? Her tell-all on the Bush family was written while George W. was the sitting president.

 With every book I’ve written, I’ve encountered a certain amount of hesitancy on the part of potential sources, because they are understandably reluctant to talk about powerful people, either for fear of retribution or for fear of being socially ostracized. The amount of trepidation I encountered in writing this book was unprecednted, but perhaps that’s what comes from writing about a sitting President whose family has a long reach. Many sources were reluctant to tell their stories on the record, and much as I dislike using unnamed sources, in some cases I had no choice. Many people who know the Bushes–friends, former employees, classmates, business associates, and even a few family members–were skittish about speaking for {fear of retribution.} I heard an endless stream of excuses and apologies, some comical, others disconcerting: “You don’t know that family…If they think I’ve talked to you, they’ll never speak to me again.” “This town is too small to rile the Bushes.” “I want to live to see my grandchildren.” One man said, “You can’t use my name. They’ll come after me. The Bushes are thugs.”

“Thugs? Surely, you’re kidding,” I said.

“Look what they did in Florida during the 2000 recount,”  he answered, and then detailed the “Brooks Brothers Riot” of Republican activists who helped stop the voting in Miami by storming the canvassing board. To prove his point, the man sent records showing that many of the rioters in pin-striped suits had been paid by the Bush recount committee.

With stability in Iraq hanging in the balance, George W.’s war against Iraq is once again called into question. 

Call me politically naive, but I’ve always thought the presidential son had a personal vendetta against Saddam Hossein for the assassination attempt against the presidential father. An article from the History News Network dated 3/6/07, “How Do We Know That Iraq Tried To Assassinate President George H. W. Bush?” lends credence to my claim.

On June 2, 1993, representatives of the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and others in the Department of Justice (DOJ) discussed the results of their investigations with representatives of the Clinton Administration. Three weeks later, the DOJ and CIA reported their conclusions. The DOJ and CIA reported that it was highly likely that the Iraqi Government originated the plot and more than likely that Bush was the target. Additionally, based on past Iraqi methods and other sources of intelligence, the CIA independently reported that there was a strong case that Saddam Hussein directed the plot against Bush. – See more at: http://hnn.us/article/1000#sthash.1KMHbZkx.dpuf

So in true Wild West style, George W. gathered up his posse and went after the bad guys. “Shoot ’em up, cowboys! Bang! Bang!” Too bad a lot of innocent people, Iraquis and Americans alike, got caught up in the bloodshed. Not to mention the trillions spent in the process…hard-earned taxpayer dollars. 

Minutes ago I visited another blogger’s site since she’d been by to view mine. From what I can surmise, she resides in the Middle East. It may even be that she’s an Iraqui. Reading her post, “Who Destroyed the Cradle of Civilization,”  it’s obvious she’s not speaking tripe. 

Saddam Hussein might have been the craziest of leaders but the man knew the geopolitics of Iraq. He was the impetus behind turning Iraq from a mere Arab nation to the most advanced Arab country in history. Iraq was always better than its neighbours. Healthcare facilities were excellent. Education was imparted right from the primary level up to the university, completely free of charge. Iraq was a nation where more human rights were granted to its citizens than any other Arab nation, especially in the areas of religion and liberation of women. The New York Times had thus, once called Baghdad “The Paris of the Middle East. Toppling Saddam Hussein was the biggest misstep US committed and now Iraq has to face people, I call pre-historic barbarians . I’d never thought a day would come when I’d have to support a man like Saddam Hussein over President Bush. Sometimes, I feel that the biggest Weapon of Mass Destruction in Iraq was Mr. President himself.

The day Saddam was caught President Bush had said, ” the world will be better off without you, Mr. Hussein.” Today Iraq has gone worse, and so has the world.

( http://akritimattu.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/who-destroyed-the-cradle-of-civilization/ )

I’ve always wondered why it is that some Americans insist other countries adopt our ways…lock, stock, and barrel?

Democracy, as we know it, works for us because it is founded upon Christian principles…because our ancestors were determined to free themselves from oppressive rulers…and because we’ve had centuries to make democracy our own.

How do Middle Eastern countries founded upon Islam adapt their values and cultures to Western ways? Not easily, that’s for sure. Should it be our battle? Or should it be that the people of the region figure it out with as little outside interference as possible?

A complex question with an impossible answer it seems. But it surely didn’t help…

to have a cowboy mentality in the White House. 

………hugmamma.

could i do better?…could you?

Every now and then something on CNN prompts me to reflect upon President Obama’s handling of national and world affairs. I must confess I’m no expert in government matters.  Who is?

Yes, there are those with years, even decades of experience. Naturally, that counts for something. But so does an opinion. 

In the last month or so I’ve read a couple of presidential biographies, one on Dwight D. Eisenhower, the other on Richard M. Nixon. I’m now burrowing through one on John F. Kennedy.

Biographies are my favorite reads. They’re part history, part gossip…some factual, some speculative. I especially like getting to know the private person, the one the public rarely, if ever, sees.

My takeaway from Eisenhower’s biography was that he was a disciplined man given to sacrificing his personal life for his life as a public servant. His wife, Mamie, followed in her husband’s wake keeping herself intact, physically and mentally, as best she could. Eisenhower governed like the military man that he was, gathering his group of trusted, male cohorts about him to advise his next moves. Oddly enough, or maybe not, Vice President Nixon was not among them.

Political ambition had the starring role in Nixon’s life. It took him to the summit only attained by a few mortals, and it plunged him into the darkest depths where few souls ever tread. Pat, his “partner in crime,” believed her husband honorable in all he undertook. She saw the glory and the sorrow of a man driven to create the America of his vision. As we all know, Nixon fell far short of his ill-conceived plan.

There were moments of greatness in Kennedy’s life. His inaugural speech challenged us to “Ask not what your country can do for you…ask what you can do for your country.” Thousands answered the challenge by joining the president’s newly instituted Peace Corps. The Cuban Missile Crisis probably aged Kennedy faster than all other obstacles combined…chronic back pain…a spendthrift-fashionista-first lady…an insatiable appetite for women…and Governor Wallace’s hard-core opposition to black-equality.

And where was Jackie in all of this? She loved Jack is all…and his money. Evidently the Kennedys were a good match. He had his faults; she had hers. Great thing is…they both understood each other’s imperfections and still managed to love one another “until death do us part.” Which it did, unfortunately.

The Obamas seem a different breed from what we’ve encountered before. At least I think so. 

President Obama, as a former law professor, governs as though he is still in the classroom. He welcomes, even encourages, creative thinking. In the end, however, it’s his lone voice that decides the course of events. Yes, he has campaigned hard for tenure, and won. How he has managed to do so in the face of the Koch brothers and the billions they spend advancing the cause of the Tea Party is unfathomable.

I like to think it’s because Obama’s cause is morally right. I’m a sucker for those showing compassion for the less fortunate. And although the president has an ego the size of the universe…what leader doesn’t?

Funny how I can relate to Obama’s thought processes in making decisions, and the mistakes he’s bound to make given that he’s human. And maybe that’s just it…he’s human. It might also be that he lived a life more similar to mine, especially since he grew up in my native Hawaii. Beyond that, however, he wasn’t a product of a military background like Eisenhower. Nor from what I can surmise, Obama wasn’t driven by a burning desire to star in the White House. That came later, after he failed to move mountains as a human rights activist in the Chicago projects, and a stint in the senate.

While I’m an unlikely prospect to be one of Michelle Obama’s best buds, I get what she’s about. First and foremost, she’s a mom like me. Moreover, she will preach her husband’s goodness to all and any. Woe to those who dare challenge us on that front. 

No, I don’t consider myself in the same league as these notables. Nor would I ever care to be. With their power and celebrity comes a whole host of problems I wouldn’t want. Given their unique circumstances, I think the presidents and their first ladies do the best they can. It may be difficult for them to remember that they’re made of clay like us, given how the media keeps the spotlight on them 24/7.

Maybe we can remember for them…

…they wear bvd’s and girdles too!

………hugmamma.

(I know. I know. I’m dating myself…) 

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billy crystal…a gem!

I’m in the midst of reading Still Foolin’ ‘Em…Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell are My Keys? by stand-up comic and actor, Billy Crystal.

Cover of "City Slickers"

I was never really a fan of Crystal’s until I saw him in the film City Slickers. Suddenly, he was on my radar.

That’s not to say my eyes light up as they do when Cary Grant or Sean Connery appears on the TV screen. But these two men have nothing over Billy Crystal when it comes to zinging those one-liners, with nary a flinch in his face muscles. The man is a born natural. I don’t think he’d mind if I likened him to one of his idols, Johnny Carson.

Crystal’s autobiography made me laugh from page one.

March 14, 2013, my sixty-fifth birthday. I got up that morning, padded over to the bathroom, threw some water on my face, looked in the mirror, and my uncle Al was staring back at me. My scream brought Janice, my wife of forty-two years, running in. I kept yelling, “HOLY SHIT! What the fuck happened to me?” Somehow, overnight it seemed I had turned from a hip, cool baby boomer into a Diane Arbus photograph. I looked at Janice for an encouraging word, for a hug, for an “It’s okay, Billy, you look great. It’s an old mirror.” All she did was glance down at my robe, which had opened up, and ask: “When did your pubic hair turn gray?”

I had settled into my side of the bed and had barely begun reading, when I burst out laughing. Of course hubby asked what had set me off. Never in need of a nudge, I proceeded to read him the first paragraph. I continued to read excerpts I found particularly funny, forcing him to interrupt his own reading. My husband got a reprieve when I decided I’d better go to bed, or I’d be up all night with…Billy Crystal.

Did you know that Crystal was lifelong friends with Mickey Mantle, Muhammad Ali, and Howard Cosell? “What” you might ask “does he have in common with those iconic sports figures?” Well, I’ll tell you.

Impersonating…Cosell interviewing Ali and Ali responding to the sportscaster’s questions…catapulted Billy Crystal onto the world-wide stage. And it made him , in Ali’s words “…my little brother.” In fact, when Crystal informed Ali that a certain country club didn’t allow Jews, Ali never patronized the club again. 

Wheaties/Muhammad Ali 2.15.12

Billy Crystal made his “…network television debut on Cosell’s short-lived variety show on ABC.” Their friendship grew over the years as a result of their attachment to Muhammad Ali. Seated next to one another at Cosell’s funeral, Ali asked Crystal 

“Do you think he’s wearing his hairpiece?

I had to hold in my laugh. “I don’t think so,” I replied.

“Then how will God recognize him?”

“Once he starts complaining, he’ll know,” I said.

We both shared a muffled laugh. “He was a good man,” said Ali…

The comedienne’s relationship with Yankee great, Mickey Mantle, traversed a long and sometimes bumpy road. You see, Mantle was a life-long alcoholic. Suffering under the weight of feeling he’d never measured up to his father’s standards, Mantle found comfort in the bottle. Only when his sons, Danny and David, themselves recovering alcoholics, convinced their father to get help at the Betty Ford Center in 1994 did Mantle finally beat the “devil” in the bottle. He couldn’t, however, beat liver cancer which took him before he had a chance to really enjoy his newfound peace.

Español: foto de Mantle NY Yankees

The Anti-Defamation League honored Billy Crystal as “entertainer of the year” in 1995. They awarded him an original seat from Yankee Stadium, which had been renovated. A rarity, the wooden seat was the same as those Crystal had sat in back in 1956. The seat number, 7, had been Mickey Mantle’s. Later, the ballplayer inscribed the relic…” ‘Billy, wish you was still sittin here and I was still playing. –Mickey Mantle 6/7/91.’ ” Years later one of Mantle’s baseball gloves from the sixties was up for auction. Crystal bought it and since then has cherished both mementos in his own private Hall of Fame. Of Mantle, he said

When the ’61 Yankees approached the casket as pallbearers to lead their teammate away, I lost it. That was my team, now all in their sixties carrying the casket of their fallen prince.

Maybe it’s the baseball magic. When Dad rolls a ball to you for the first time and you roll it back, it starts; but then there comes a time when you don’t want Dad to throw it to you–you want Mickey to. I got that chance.

While Billy Crystal shmoozed with some of the all-time greats, including the object of his boyhood fantasies…Sophia Loren…he doesn’t seem so far-removed from common folk, like you and me. In fact, we could be him if we were able to be funny…

…in front of millions…as a stand up comic…

…i’ll pass………hugmamma.

Billy Crystal

Billy Crystal (Photo credit: Bob Bekian)

 

abc…awesome blog content award

I’m impressed with bloggers who create awards. It takes imagination and technical skill. I’m not certain I could get my act together well enough to pull off such a thing. So I’ll have to content myself with being a humble recipient.

I’ve Marcia Clarke of Marcia Writes at http://mecwrites25.wordpress.com to thank for the Awesome Blog Content Award. In accepting it I’m obliged to present a bio of sorts in the form of the alphabet. So here goes.

I dislike apples.
My body needs reshaping.
Cats rule my life.
My dog wants…out!
If I could only cut out eating.
Fear of heights keeps me grounded.
Ghosts hover…I fear.
Hawaiian…through and through.
I’m forever chasing rainbows…
James, my first crush; Jake, my first
beau, BJV, my everlasting one.
Kehaulani…my morning dew.
I’m in love…with life.
Me, myself and I…practicing self esteem.
I’ve finally learned to say “N-O!” 
Open arms…close arms…and hug!
People watcher… par excellence!
We can all be queens…in our hearts.
Rain, rain go away…and don’t come back!
You are my sunshine…my only sunshine…you make me happy…
I’ve always had a hankering for tall guys.
Ups and downs…that’s life.
V as in Sierra…(sorry…inside joke)
My favorite group of humans…women.
One day I might be signing an “X,” instead of my name. Hope not.
You keep reading…I’ll keep writing.
Zero tolerance for bullying!

Another stipulation to accepting the Awesome Blog Content Award is that I hand it off to another deserving blogger or bloggers. While there are many deserving of the honor, at the moment I’d like to name one… The Laughing Mom at http://thelaughingmom.wordpress.com 

Terry writes with tongue-in-cheek humor about life. I’m always smiling when I read her posts…laughing out loud…at times. Moms need to laugh…a lot. If we didn’t, there’d be a torrential downpour of tears…

...the likes of which you’ve never seen before…

………hugmamma.  😉

365 photo challenge: swiping

lucy & ricky

Image by elena-lu via Flickr

Biographies provide insight into little known facts about their subjects. According to Desilu – The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Lucille Ball of I Love Lucy fame was found swiping pencils from work.

     “Lucy’s concept of money and spending had been severely affected by the early days of her childhood,” Leeds explains, noting that about eighteen months after joining the company he was approached by an assistant who told him. ” ‘I don’t know what she does with them, but every week we buy a gross of pencils for the program, and after the last rehearsal, even though they have only used about ten or twleve of them, Lucy takes the balance home.'” A week later, at the Arnazes’s house for dinner, Leeds confronted Lucille about the pencils. “She took me by the hand and led me over to a closet, opening the door and showing me about ninety gross of pencils. ‘Why are you taking them?’ I asked. ‘You are only stealing from yourself. You own them.’ She replied, ‘Martin, when I was a little girl, we were poor and couldn’t afford pencils. We used pieces of charcoal. Pencils are a symbol of having enough to eat.’ She later told me I had unintentionally ruined a symbol.”

swiping from lucy…for lucy…different.

Lucy’s other eccentricities? Birds

Bird Park KL

Image by phalinn via Flickr

     ” ‘I can’t stand pictures of birds on wallpaper or plates or in paintings–anywhere. Whenever I check into a hotel room with bird lamps and pictures in it, I have them all taken away at once. Why? I haven’t the faintest idea–particularly since I love real birds.’ ”

…and Indians.

Indians at dedication (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

      “She also was said to have a ‘compulsive rejection of Indians in native costumes, though not of Indians dressed in regular clothes.’ According to her friend, writer Katherine Albert, ‘She told me she could never see Annie Get Your Gun because she couldn’t stand the idea of all those Indians in it. It’s some sort of fear that dates back to her childhood.’ “

The star’s greatest phobia?

Ball as Lucy, Vivian Vance as Ethel on the

Image via Wikipedia

     ” …her inordinate fear of being too close to people, of being touched. ‘I get numb. The first day I went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1942, I wasn’t really aware of this phobia. But a new hairdresser spent forty-five minutes working on the bangs on my forehead, leaning against me, breathing on me. At the end of that time, I had tears streaming down my face. My makeup was ruined, and I was paralyzed.’ (Vivian Vance, aware of this peculiarity, quickly learned to work with Lucy a bit of a distance from her.) ‘I have the same feeling away from work, at parties. I can’t bear the idea of dancing with some man I don’t know and like well. Desi knows this, so he’s always ready to help me explain that I’m too tired to dance. Or else he cuts in after a minute or two.’ “

Pencils

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…you never know…what makes people tick………hugmamma. 

 

 

the past…not a crutch…more like a slingshot

Many years ago I tried to apologize to an older sibling for some unkind words I’d said in a phone call. I wrote a letter explaining my unusual behavior. Her return letter still singes the far corners of my memory. I was told to get over the past and grow up. She threw in a stinging retort, for good measure, claiming she thought I’d always envied her. Why exactly? I don’t recall if she said. I tore up the letter…and took her advice. I buried the past deep within, only speaking of it with those who don’t judge me so harshly.

Jermaine Jackson‘s biography You Are Not Alone, Michael…Through A Brother’s Eyes, is a well written commentary about growing up as one of the Jackson 5. The 446-page, paperback tome caught my eye as my husband and I killed time while awaiting our homebound flight departing Heathrow Airport on the outskirts of London.

You Are Not Alone

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I’d not known of Jermaine’s foray into authoring a book about his famous brother. I’d seen one for sale by sister La Toya. Never a fan of hers, I passed on it. I took a chance that Jermaine’s was not going to be as self-serving as hers seemed. I’m glad I did. The biography reminded me of things I’d known, but surprised me with other, lesser known facts. Such as…

Why anyone thought my brother was incapable of fathering his own children was beyond me, as was the idea he’d use a donor when it was his personal legacy that mattered to him. I think it’s fair to say that Debbie had a dominant gene (Prince had white-blond hair when he was born) but when I look into that kid’s eyes or catch his profile side-on, his similarity to Michael as a boy is obvious. But, to nail the myth once and for all, Michael has passed on his vitiligo to Prince. My brother’s paternity is irrefutable when Prince removes his shirt. What really matters, though, is that my niece and nephews know without a shadow of a doubt that Michael was their biological father and they were born out of love.

From day one Jermaine was protective of Michael. “Maybe it was because all I heard being shouted was ‘Where’s Michael?’…’Is Michael okay?’…’Is Michael changed?’ ‘Yes, Mother…We got it…he’s here,’ one of us shouted. ‘Don’t worry. Michael’s okay. Michael’s okay.’ ”

Jackson 5 - Michael Jackson

Reading Jermaine’s words I understood that he was his brother’s keeper. I don’t doubt that all the siblings felt similarly, but he demonstrates the same sensitivitiy toward life’s ups and downs as did Michael. High one minute, low the next. Giddy at having it all, complaining when dealt some unfair blows. No different from most of us really. Their lives just played out on a bigger stage.

What resonated with me throughout this biography, as with others, is that a child’s upbringing weighs heavily in the eventual outcome of his or her life. It’s not to say its course is inevitable. Obama‘s an example of turning one’s life around. To a lesser degree, so is mine. But Obama’s past will forever be a part of his present and future, as will mine. However they can be put into proper perspective, and to good use, as building blocks for a more hopeful life ahead. We are not stuck with the hands life has dealt us.

The Jacksons, children, parents and grandchildren seem to have finally made peace with their rocky road to fame and fortune. Their strength in family ties has served them well in spite of their oft-times perceived stranglehold on certain members. Sadly all the money and adoration in the world doesn’t ensure happiness. In fact the means to have it all is like an eight-legged octopus or a Medusa’s head. The sky’s the limit becomes the modus operandi. How does one stop oneself…short of chopping off a tentacle or a head?

Joseph Jackson provided his family the escape route from the steel mills in Gary, Indiana to the moneyed Beverly Hills of California. But on the fast train out of the ghetto, Michael Jackson never learned the necessary survival skills for life’s long haul.

…too much…too soon…no time to learn…very sad…very sad, indeed

………hugmamma.  

365 photo challenge: before

''I Love Lucy

Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a while since I’ve read The Life Story of Vivian Vance.  I remember very little except that during the initial filming of the I Love Lucy show, Vivian Vance was remade according to Lucille Ball‘s liking. As the star of the sitcom, she didn’t want to be upstaged. She made certain that Vance always played second fiddle. She had to gain weight for the role, wear frumpier dresses, and agree to having William Frawley, years older, as her TV husband. Vance would’ve preferred someone younger than him. So it was no secret that they hated one another off-screen.

Actress Lucille Ball and husband, Desi Arnaz s...
Image via Wikipedia

As the years passed, Ball and Vance became life-long friends and confidantes. Especially since their marriages were sources of grief for both. Ball had a great business partner in Desi Arnaz, but a less than ideal husband because of his womanizing and alcoholism. He was not the polished, elegant sort of partner she wanted beside her in later years. Instead Arnaz was falling down drunk most of the time.

Vance’s husband, Philip Ober, was a fellow actor who belittled his wife because he was envious of her success. As a result, she spent many years in therapy because of ongoing self-doubts. The photo of her during the “Lucy” years belies the miserable life she led. The before picture, however, is Vance before fame took hold, changing her look…and her life.    

…the price of fame…worth it???………hugmamma.

like flies buzzing around…inside my brain

A proud mother watches from afar as Prince Wil...

Image by mharrsch via Flickr

One more thought before I finally end all discussion about Sarah Bradford’s Diana – Finally, The Complete Story. It centers upon her devotion to her sons, William and Harry. Not that there ever were any doubts. But first-hand testimony of a heretofore, unheard from source, only strengthens the universally held belief that the Princess of Wales excelled at mothering. 

According to Meredith Etherington-Smith, then marketing director of Christie’s Worldwide, who from September 1996 to July 1997 helped Diana prepare for the sale of her gowns to aid her favorite charities:

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother

Image via Wikipedia

The British Royal Family in 1880.

Image via Wikipedia

One thing she did take seriously was her role first as mother to the boys and second, as Meredith put it, as the Queen Mother of the twenty-first century. ‘Her relationship with the boys was patently a wonderful one…She was a very good mother. I expected them to be more protective of her than they were, and they weren’t, they weren’t mewling and puking and clustering round her. They didn’t have a neurotic relationship. It seemed to me to be perfectly healthy and normal and nice and a great tribute of all to Diana and secondly to Charles.’ ‘Constitutional plans–well, she felt her long-distance role was to be the Queen Mother of the twenty-first century, that the influence the Queen Mother had had on her grandchildren in a way, she felt that was the kind of role which in a curious way she had been chosen for and one did feel that there was a bit of divine right entering into this, a little bit of fate. And she felt that William should be a democratic King, that the boys needed to have friends, that they needed to know their generation, they needed to know politicians, not just Tory ones, that they needed to know the Blair children. They needed to be part of contemporary English life, not an English life that was really out of date by the end of the war–and I’m paraphrasing some quite long conversations about this. And her job was to make sure they were released from the glass cage, and that when he did come to the throne, a lot of people would know him, and he wouldn’t be a mystery, wouldn’t be a royal freak, that he would be a person. I think that she very much thought she would be a power behind the throne…Diana emphasized her desire that William should be a ‘very English King‘: she felt that her Spencer blood had a lot to contribute. ‘She felt that because of the spider’s web of marital alliances and blood they (the Royal Family) weren’t English. “I come from an English family,” she had said proudly, and “we (the Spencers) are a lot older than they are.” She was very proud of the Duke of Marlborough, for instance.

The Prince Willam Cup. The trophy that is cont...

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Who is hotter? Prince Harry or Prince William?

Image by feastoffun.com via Flickr

Diana was very anxious that her boys should not become isolated as the previous royal generation had been, as indeed their father had been. That was why she had wanted the boys, and William in particular, to go to Eton because they would have proper friends there and not sycophants, ‘Diana said, “There’s no messing around at Eton about someone being the heir to the throne. If you’re not popular, charming, intelligent, or good at games, you’re not going to rate, are you?” And so William knows a lot of people. And the interesting thing about that she said, “I think they’ll be protection, those friends too. They’ve grown up together and they’ll be protective.” And they are. You don’t see grab shots of William that often, and why? Because his friends don’t utter. She’d thought all this through. That’s what I mean by being smart.’ ‘They had money which they carried and spent and they went shopping. In other words she was trying to provide as normal a life as possible–they could come out from behind the glass window, and that was her great legacy.’

Princess Diana dancing with John Travolta in t...

Image via Wikipedia

Princess Diana

 Why would Princess Diana be so forthcoming with Etherington-Smith, you ask? Probably because she was older, very much like her other confidantes, Lady Annabel Goldsmith and Margueritte Littman. “Meredith surmised that Diana was very comfortable in the company of older women. ‘I think possibly, without being too psychotherapeutic about it, because of the lack of a mother…most of her confidantes apart from Rosa Monckton, were actually older women…and I think she felt very comfortable, they weren’t competition, they were fun and she could become slightly girly with them without the baggage of “I’m the most beautiful person in the world”…’ “

Another random, final, or maybe not so final, thought occurred as I lay awake last night, reading I Love You, Ronnie. President Reagan had a very human, extremely sentimental side. Apart from his family and a few close friends of the couple, I’m sure no one suspected what a great romantic he was, and how he could wax so poetic. At the same time, however, his vulnerability as a human being comes through. To know that the man who could dial up a third world war lay bare his soul in love letters to his wife, is hugely touching. I find myself remembering Ronald Reagan as President, but trying to imagine this newly revealed man behind the strong facade. What I picture is someone like my husband, my father-in-law, friends in high corporate positions. Not only them, but husbands and fathers the world over who, to the best of their abilities, care for their families.

Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan aboard an Ameri...

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The following letter was from a man to his wife, his best friend. It’s a letter any man could’ve written, in fact. This one just happened to be from a President to his First Lady, although at the time he was a working stiff, and she was a housewife.

Ronald Reagan
Pacific Palisades
Thurs. (May 24, 1963)

My darling
     Last night we had our double telephone call and all day (I didn’t work) I’ve been re-writing the story of my life as done by Richard Hubler. Tomorrow I’ll do my last day of location and then I’ll call you and I’ll tell you I love you and I’ll mean it but somehow because of the inhibitions we all have I won’t feel that I’ve expressed all that you really mean to me.
     Whether Mike helps buy his first car or spends the money on sports coats isn’t really important. We both want to get him started on a road that will lead to his being able to provide for himself. In x number of years we’ll face the same problem with The Skipper and somehow we’ll probably find right answers. (Patti is another kind of problem and we’ll do all we can to make that one right, too.) But what is really important is that having fulfilled our responsibilities to our offspring we haven’t been careless with the treasure that is ours–namely what we are to each other.
     Do you know that when you sleep you curl your fists up under your chin and many mornings when it is barely dawn I lie facing you and looking at you until finally I have to touch you ever so lightly so you won’t wake up–but touch you I must or I’ll burst?

Cropped screenshot of Ann Blyth from the trail...

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     Just think: I’ve discovered I can be fond of Ann Blyth because she and her Dr. seem to have something of what we have. Of course it can’t really be as wonderful for them because she isn’t you but still it helps to know there are others who might just possibly know a little about what it’s like to love someone so much that it seems as if I have my hand stretched clear across the mountains and desert until it’s holding your hand there in our room in front of the fireplace.
     Probably this letter will reach you only a few hours before I arrive myself, but not really because right now as I try to say what is in my heart I think my thoughts must be reaching you without waiting for paper and ink and stamps and such. If I ache, it’s because we are apart and yet that can’t be because you are inside and a part of me, so we aren’t really apart at all. Yet I ache but wouldn’t be without the ache, because that would mean being without you and that I can’t be because I love you.

Your Husband

Queen Mother Rose

Image by OctogenEm via Flickr

…would that all men could, and would, …..bare their souls
…..without flinching ….. at the thought ….. hugmamma.

something in common…an uncommon love affair

Official White House photograph of Nancy Reaga...

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I’m in the process of reading I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan, and I must admit to loving it. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be interested in their relationship. Mostly because I have never, ever been a fan of hers. Silly reason being I always thought her head was too large for her body. Seeing the couple side-by-side only confirmed my opinion. I was always gaga about Reagan’s Greek god, good looks. As an actress, Nancy Davis had a pretty face in a plain sort of way, but it was larger than his, larger than anyone’s. But my opinion softened the more I glimpsed of her as First Lady. I’m certain her hairstyle did much to downplay the size of her head. In fact I thought she was very attractive while living in the White House. And now I know why. Nancy was radiant because of her all-consuming love for her husband.

Looking back now, I still can’t define what it was about Ronnie that made him seem so very perfect to me. I think we were just right for each other. And as the evening went on, I was more and more convinced. Ronnie had a great sense of humor, and he wasn’t like any other actor I knew–or anybody else in the movie business. He didn’t talk about himself. He didn’t talk about his movies. He talked about lots of things, but not about “my next picture, my last picture…” He was a Civil War buff, loved horses, and knew a lot about wine. In fact, he had a broad knowledge of a lot of different things. I loved to listen to him talk. I loved his sense of humor. I saw it clearly that very first night: He was everything that I wanted.

 Oddly enough I can relate to how Nancy Reagan felt. I met my husband when I was 17, and he was 18. I think it was “love at first sight” for both of us. Or maybe it was passion. Whatever the case, it seemed we were both hit by lightning when our eyes met.

I was a second semester freshman at the University of Hawaii, while my future husband was attending a small Catholic college nearby. Having returned from San Francisco a week earlier where he had been in a seminary, studying to be a priest, he was now one of many available “fish” in the sea. We met at the birthday party of a mutual friend. She and I shared a class at the University; he’d known her in elementary school. The party was in full swing when he rang the doorbell. When the hostess opened the door, all eyes were riveted upon the tall, dark, handsome guy standing there. If I’d have been a fly on the wall, I’m sure I would’ve witnessed all the girls eyes pop out of their sockets, and their mouths drop down to their chests, including mine! A huge Elvis fan, to me the guy in the doorway could’ve passed as a double.

I was introduced, as were all the other girls. But unlike most of them I was certain I didn’t stand a chance. Why? I’ve always had this perception that part-White, part-Asian girls are some of the most beautiful in the world. Still do. My husband is Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese. So of course he represented my viewpoint as it pertains to men. Naturally I assumed he and the girls with similar pedigree would go off and make beautiful music together. You can imagine my shock, and delight, when it was me he pursued! My best friend at the time watched with me, as he made his way from bar stool to bar stool to bar stool, until he was sitting right alongside me. The sizzles went right through me! I’m certain I couldn’t keep my thoughts straight, and I know I must’ve been grinning from ear to ear. I had only thought to make him comfortable when we first met, with my unflinching gift for blah, blah, blah. Well it seems I charmed the pants off my future husband from the get-go. And the rest is history, as they say.

Who would’ve thought that Nancy Reagan and I were sisters beneath the skin? Or in matters of the heart? Even as it applied to outsiders who seemed intent upon coming between her and her man. While we dated, and throughout our marriage, women seemed attracted to my husband. I could only wonder when a realtor asked me how it was he married me, or when a friend let me know that she was next in line for him, or when a sister-in-law teased that if she’d met him first, my husband would’ve married her. Then there were the sales women who lined up to kiss him on his birthday when he was in his early 20s, and a woman who offered her phone number should he ever visit her hometown, Chicago.

While in the White House, Nancy Reagan was unattractively depicted as being overly protective of the President. At the time I was probably swayed by the media to agree. But in light of what I’ve read, I give her credit for having the confidence and obvious self-esteem to stand up to the criticism, or ignore it altogether. I had neither, and so I felt like a doormat as women left their off-putting remarks and actions imprinted upon my fragile psyche. But like the Reagans, my husband and I have weathered the years like 2 buoys bobbing up and down in rough seas, or like 2 seagulls sitting atop the glassy surface of calm waters.

Of course none of us are saints, even though I called my husband one during one of our first arguments as a married couple.  With tears still glistening in his eyes he told me how hurt he felt when I had yelled “Do you know how hard it is living with a saint?” I promised never to say such a thing again. But I’m sure I failed to honor my word, at least once or twice thereafter. Any woman who’s lived with an ex-seminarian knows what I mean. When we’d argue, I’d be on both sides of the fence. I’d be just as vociferous about his inability to comprehend my woman’s needs, as I was about fighting for my rights as an equal partner. The nuns did a great job instilling guilt into my moral fiber. I’m still picking off the leftover lint to this day.

It came as no surprise that the Reagans were like other married folk. They didn’t always sail the ocean blue without so much as a white cap.

Like any other couple, we didn’t agree on everything, of course. But we never really argued. We worked on things. And I think that’s why, beyond our love for each other, our marriage has always been so happy. What we felt was right out there, just as it is the letters.

In response to a letter from a bride asking for tips towards succeeding in her marriage, Nancy wrote:

I’ve been very lucky. However, I don’t ever remember once sitting down and mapping out a blueprint. It just became “we” instead of “I” very naturally and easily. And you live as you never have before, despite problems, separations and conflicts. I suppose mainly you have to be willing to want to give.

It’s not always 50-50. Sometimes one partner gives 90 percent but then sometimes the other one does, so it all evens out. It’s not always easy, it’s something you have to work at, and I don’t think many young people realize that today. But the rewards are great. I can’t remember what my life was like before, and I can’t imagine not being married to Ronnie. When two people really love each other they help each other stay alive and grow. There’s nothing more fulfilling than to become a complete person for the first time. I suppose it boils down to being willing to try to understand, to give of yourself, to be supportive and not to let the sun go down on an argument.

I hope that yours will be a happy road ahead. I’m afraid I’ve rambled a bit, and of course, I can only speak for myself. However, when I married, my life took on an added meaning and depth and truly began. I’m sure yours will too.

I couldn’t have said it more eloquently myself. And like Nancy to this day I dread my husband’s business trips. In my 20s I would cry the entire week before he left. I no longer succumb to youthful self-pity, but I miss my husband’s presence. He likewise confesses to being unable to sleep when he’s not nestled comfortably in his own bed, with me by his side.

When Ronnie traveled now, I missed the little things most of all–the ways he loved and cared for me, how he would cover my shoulder with the blanket every night before we went to sleep, how we always slept on the same sides of the bed–him on the left, and me on the right–how we had breakfast on trays in bed together on weekends, which we started doing in our new house in the Palisades. I hated it even more then, when he went away. No matter how necessary it was for his work and the family, I never got used to it.

And then there’s Alzheimer’s. Those of you who’ve been reading hugmamma’s mind, body, and soul since the beginning of time, know that I’m proactive in my efforts to battle the disease which had my mom in its iron grips for nearly a decade before she died. Knowing of the Reagan’s devotion to one another over the course of 50 some years, I have great empathy for the loss she suffered when Alzheimer’s made off with her husband. All who have become one in body and spirit with their partner, would feel similarly. But thanks to Ronald Reagan’s propensity for writing, his presence lingered on in his love letters to Nancy.

President Ronald Reagan cutting in on Nancy Re...

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When Ronnie and I were married, on March 4, 1952, I had of course no idea what the future would hold for us. I only knew that I loved Ronald Reagan, and being his wife was then, as it is today, the most important thing in the world for me. “My life really began when I met Ronald Reagan,” I said some years ago, and I also said, “I can’t imagine life without Ronnie.” Those statements, for which I was criticized back then are just as true for me today as they were five decades ago–despite Alzheimer’s, aging, and all the things that have happened to us. As the years have gone by and Alzheimer’s has taken away Ronnie’s ability to share our happy memories with me, his letters have come to mean even more. In fact, they are a kind of lifeline–preserving the past, Ronnie’s wonderful voice and humor, his character, and his special way of seeing things and expressing himself. As they bring back Ronnie in his own words they help me go on into the future. Many people have said to me after reading I Love You, Ronnie , “I had no idea Ronald Reagan was like that.” But I of course always knew, and I treasure these letters especially because they bring back the Ronnie I have always loved.

The inevitable, final parting awaits all of us. Perhaps it need not be without its own happy ending, “a la” Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

…as I reflect some more on the life Ronnie and I have shared, I would add that saying how much you love each other–to each other and also in letters that can be saved, read, and reread over the years–is a wonderful way to stay close. It is especially important in our busy lives to keep alive what really matters most: love, caring for each other, finding concrete ways to say it and show it, every day and in every way you can. It’s what endures, after all, and what we retain and hold on to, especially in our hearts.

…Ronnie’s letters move me to this day. They are his gift to me across the years, and throughout the decades of love.

Former President Ronald Reagan and First Lady ...

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…an uncommon love affair that continues to endure…

…like mine…hugmamma.

 

 

 

getting my mojo back…with love letters

It doesn’t take long to settle into the rut that is my life. I say that with my usual tongue-in-cheek humor. But after the last few weeks of unexpected twists and turns, I’m glad to be doing the same old, same old. There’s comfort and bountiful pleasure in just being able to muddle along…contentedly. Small things mean a lot at this stage of my life.

Cover of

Cover of Elvis in the Twilight of Memory

Half-Price Books at Crossroads Mall is where my eyeballs become the size of saucers. You know, cups and saucers. The biography section being my favorite. It’s always inevitable that a title or two or three will beckon me to buy, and I usually do. Books about celebs from the Golden Age of Hollywood, or singers whose songs got my foot tapping or my heart beating, or historical figures who let their guard down, always get my attention. Skimming the jacket covers I decide if, in fact, they’re worth my time and money. The titles I brought home tonight? Herbert G. Goldman’s Fanny Brice – The Original Funny Girl, Paul Alexander’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams – The Life, Times, and legend of James Dean, Elvis – in the twilight of memory by teenage girlfriend June Juanico, The Bluebird Cafe Scrapbook – Music & Memories from Nashville’s Legendary Singer-Songwriter Showcase edited by Amy Kurland, Mark Benner & Neil Fagan, and I Love You, Ronnie – The Letters of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

If you’re a regular to hugmamma’s mind, body and soul, you already know you’ll probably be reading a review of one or more of the above-mentioned books. But the one that most impressed me tonight was the slim paperback containing Reagan’s love letters to his wife, Nancy.

Unlike most of America it seems, I was more enthralled with Ronald Reagan the actor than Ronald Reagan the president. Not that I didn’t think he was fine, but after all he was a Republican, not necessarily my brand of politician, although I might’ve voted for him. Neither was I a huge fan of Nancy Davis, preferring Jane Wyman, the first Mrs. Reagan. But all this is ancient history, as they say. What was obvious then, and now, is how devoted the Reagans were to one another. That’s why I was intrigued by the book of letters. Following are 3 of the many contained therein.

July 13 (1954)…a.m.

My Darling
     The first day of shooting and like all first days I can’t tell you good bad or indifferent. Everything is hectic and upset what with the truck caravan arriving from L.A. in the dark last night. Most of the morning was spent getting the trucks unloaded and the equipment straightened out. Ben. B. is on hand so things can really get buggered up. I think Alan D. is trying to get some of the story holes plugged and this morning changed one scene “a la” a suggestion from “guess who.” However, our opposition is B.B. himself so I only whisper in an off-ear and let them fight it out. So far “Lady S.” is no help–taking the attitude of “who cares in these kinds of pictures.”
     However there is one golden glow warming my soul in this first sunset–I’m twenty-four hours closer to you. Last night was another one of those nights–just too beautiful to stand. So tonight I’ll probably be looking at the Moon which means I’ll be looking at you–literally and figuratively because it lays far to the South of this mountain top and that’s where you are. That takes care of the “literal” part–the “figurative” part requires no direction, I just see you in all the beauty there is because in you I’ve found all the beauty in my life.
     Please be careful and don’t get too good at covering your own shoulder at night–I’d miss doing it. Be careful in every other way too–nothing would have meaning without you.
     Now if two “Muffins” I know will exchange a kiss for me–my good night will have been said.

I love you
Ronnie

Newlyweds Ronald and Nancy Reagan, March 4, 1952

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Feb. 14 (1960)

Darling Mommie Poo
     Feb. 14 may be the date they observe and call Valentine’s Day but that is for people of only ordinary luck.
     I happen to have a “Valentine Life” which started on March 4 1952 and will continue as long as I have you.
     Therefore realizing the importance of this to me, will you be my Valentine from now on and for ever and ever? You see my choice is limited, a Valentine Life or no life because I love you very much.

Poppa

According to Nancy Reagan “The assassination attempt made us realize how very precious our lives were. It made us all the more devoted to each other. I think this comes through very strongly in Ronnie’s Christmas letter of 1981, written nine months after the shooting.”

The White House
Washington

Dec. 25 1981

Nancy Reagan says her last goodbyes to the pre...

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Mrs. Reagan 2

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Dear Mrs. R.
     I still don’t feel right about your opening an envelope instead of a gift package.
     There are several much beloved women in my life and on Christmas I should be giving them gold, precious stones, perfume, furs and lace. I know that even the best of these would still fall far short of expressing how much these several women mean to me and how empty my life would be without them.
     There is of course my “First Lady.” She brings so much grace and charm to whatever she does that even stuffy, formal functions sparkle and turn into fun times. Everything is done with class. All I have to do is wash up and show up.
     There is another woman in my life who does things I don’t always get to see but I hear about them and sometimes see photos of her doing them. She takes an abandoned child in her arms on a hospital visit. The look on her face only the Madonna could match. The look on the child’s face is one of adoration. I know because I adore her too.
     She bends over a wheelchair or bed to touch an elderly invalid with tenderness and compassion just as she fills my life with warmth and love.
     There is another gal I love who is a nest builder. If she were stuck three days in a hotel room she’d manage to make it home sweet home. She moves things around–looks at it–straightens this and that and you wonder why it wasn’t that way in the first place.
     I’m also crazy about the girl who goes to the ranch with me. If we’re tidying up the woods she’s a peewee power house at pushing over dead trees. She’s a wonderful person to sit by the fire with, or to ride with or just to be with when the sun goes down or the stars come out. If she ever stopped going to the ranch I’d stop too because I’d see her in every beauty spot there is and I couldn’t stand that.
     Then there is a sentimental lady I love whose eyes fill up so easily. On the other hand she loves to laugh and her laugh is like tinkling bells. I hear those bells and feel good all over even if I tell a joke she’s heard before.
     Fortunately all these women in my life are you–fortunately for me that is, for there could be no life for me without you. Browning asked; “How do I love thee–let me count the ways?” For me there is no way to count. I love the whole gang of you–Mommie, first lady, the sentimental you, the fun you and the peewee power house you.
     And oh yes, one other very special you–the little girl who takes a “nana” to bed in case she gets hungry in the night. I couldn’t & don’t sleep well if she isn’t there–so please always be there.

     Merry Christmas you all–with all my love.

Lucky me.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

 I Love You, Ronnie should be required reading for men and boys everywhere. Maybe then both sexes would be from the same planet…Venus. Now I “get” the passion between Nancy and her Ronnie. Perhaps if this book had been published at the time he was president, onlookers wouldn’t have been so disparaging of her. But then again the naysayers would have probably faulted her for self-promotion had she made the letters known back then. Or worse, the couple might’ve been ridiculed for being more absorbed with one another than they were already viewed as being. Whatever the case may be, I’m glad Nancy Reagan gave us a peek inside her love affair with Ronald Reagan.

…always room for one more pair of star-crossed lovers…another Romeo and his Juliet…hugmamma.

“it’s a job,” oprah

Just finished reading Oprah: A Biography by Kitty Kelley, an oversized tome, befitting a mega-watt personality. I wasn’t inclined to read it when it first appeared in bookstores. It was too pricey at $30, and what more could I learn about the woman whose presence is literally everywhere. I know her better than the Pope, and I’ve been a Catholic for 61 years. But browsing the biography section of my favorite “Half-Price Books,” I spied Kelley’s book for less than half its original price. That sold me. And I’m very glad I bought it. I think I can now “close the book” on what I think about the reigning queen of day time talk shows.

Throughout Kelley’s book I vacillated between throwing myself solidly in Oprah’s camp or remaining at arm’s length, a stance I’ve maintained for years. I can safely say that after reading her biography, Oprah is just living up to the job description she’s written for herself, and continues to rewrite every day. Suffice it to say, there’s no other like it, in the whole wide world. And with her lofty career comes a lot of stuff that lesser humans like me, couldn’t begin to fathom, not in a billion lifetimes. 

Kelley has unearthed 495 pages worth of facts, good and bad, about Oprah. At first these seemed to offset one another, leaving me in limbo as to how I felt about her. Oprah is better than the Great Oz, for she has been adept at keeping her true identity secure, despite having openly lived in front of the cameras these last 25 years. How does she do it? With Herculean strength I would offer. 

“Will the real Oprah Winfrey please stand up!” Remember the TV show What’s My Line? Even for a kid like me back in the days of black and white television, I was always fascinated by the give and take between the mystery person and the celebrity panel doing the questioning. As good as they were, their questioning did not always render successful endings. That’s how I felt about Kelley’s trying to discern the “real” woman behind the woman, Oprah.

Reading between the lines, I think Kitty Kelley feels Oprah presents herself as magnanimous, when in fact, she is not.

Oprah became so accustomed to rapturous audiences that she reacted negatively if she saw someone not standing to applaud her. “One time she spotted a young black man who just sat there,” said the publishing executive. “She began heckling him. ‘I see someone here who is very brave.’ She began shuckin’ and jivin’: ‘Oh no. I don’t have to stand up and cheer for Oprah. No, sir. Not me. I’m the man. I won’t bow to Oprah.’ She did her whole ghetto shtick. It was ugly, very ugly for about four or five minutes while the poor guy just sat there as she mocked him. She wouldn’t let up….She was pissed that he was not giving her the adoring routine that the rest of the audience was….Turned out the young man was mentally challenged and severely disabled.”

On September 13, 2004, Oprah proclaimed the year her best, except for the year she started her talk show. The reason for her elation was that “she opened the season by giving away 276 brand-new Pontiac G6s, worth more than $28,000 apiece, for a collective total of $7.8 million.” Unfortunately the recipients, “Teachers and ministers and nurses and caregivers who had been walking to work for years or taking buses and having to transfer three times…,” were ill-prepared to pay $7,000 in taxes for the prizes, as the cars were deemed. In answer to their request for assistance from Oprah, her publicist “said they had three options: They could keep the car and pay the tax, sell the car and pay the tax with the profit, or forfeit the car. There was no other option from Oprah, and Pontiac already had donated the cars and paid the sales tax and licensing fees.”

Author Kelley highlights a particular show where Oprah “was barely civil to Hazel Bryan Massery, who as a young white student had yelled at Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Little Rock Nine, who integrated Central high School in 1957 after President Eisenhower sent federal troops into Arkansas. ” Probably unbeknownst to the public, including me, Massery had apologized to Eckford “for her hateful rants,” the two becoming very close friends. When they were invited to appear on Oprah’s show, the talk show host was “highly skeptical of their friendship and would not accept that Hazel’s remorse had led to reconciliation.”

“They are friends,” Oprah told her audience in disbelief. “They…are…friends,” she repeated with obvious distaste. She then showed a massive blowup of the photograph taken that historic day, showing Elizabeth, silent and dignified, carrying her books into school as a crowd of screaming white students taunted her, the most menacing being Hazel. Oprah was icy as she asked Eckford why that photo still upset her so many years later.

“She (Oprah) was as cold as she could be, ” Eckford told David Margolick of  Vanity Fair.  “She went out of her way to be hateful.”

Margolick, who spent time with Eckford and Massery to write their story, added, “Characteristically, though, Elizabeth felt sorrier for Hazel. She was treated even more brusquely (by Oprah).

Oprah has openly spoken about being sexually abused as a youngster, beginning with her experience at 9 years old with a 19-year-old cousin by marriage. According to Kelley,

Oprah appeared to be so open with revelations about her intimacies on television that no one suspected she might be hiding secrets. Like comedians who cover their darkness with humor, she had learned to joke away her pain, and keep what hurt the most stuffed deep inside. She knew how to give just enough information to be amusing and to deflect further inquiry, which is one reason she insisted on taking control of her own public relations when her show went national. While she looked like she was telling the world everything about herself, she was actually keeping locked within more than she would share on television. She felt she needed to present herself as open, warm, and cozy on the air, and conceal the part of her that was cold, closed, and calculating. She was afraid she wouldn’t be liked if people saw a more complex dimension to the winning persona she chose to present. “Pleasing people is what I do,” she said. “I need to be liked…even by people I dislike.”

While Oprah has bestowed a good life upon her mom, Vernita Lee, buying her “a fur coat, a new car, a new house, no bills,” doubling her salary in retirement, and even gifting her with $100,000 one Mother’s Day, ” Oprah “really didn’t like her mother at all.”

…she was still bitter toward Vernita for “giving me away,” and she ricocheted from resentment to gratitude over those motherless years. She understood that the lack of her mother’s unconditional love drove her to develop skills to get praise from others, but she also saw that she tried to fill her motherless hole with food as a substitute for love and comfort and security. It would be many years before she reckoned with the depth of her psychological damage. …

Oprah goes on to say:

I don’t feel I owe anybody anything but my mother feels I do….She says, ‘There are dues to pay.’ I barely knew her (when I was little)….That’s why it’s so hard now. My mother wants this whole wonderful relationship. She has another daughter and a son. And everyone now wants this close family relationship….They want to pretend as though our past did not happen.”

Because she feels far removed from her birth family, several close friends are Oprah’s family of choice. Among them are poet and author Maya Angelou, of whom Oprah has said she ” ‘…was my mother in another life…I love her deeply. Something is there between us. So fallopian tubes and ovaries do not a mother make.’…Oprah carried Maya’s monthly itinerary in her purse at all times so she could reach her morning, noon, and night.”

“Once Oprah met Sidney Poitier, she bound him to her like a kind and loving father. ‘I call Sidney every Sunday and…we talk about life, we talk about reincarnation, we talk about the cosmos, we talk about the stars, we talk about the planets, we talk about energy. We talk about everything.’ “

Quincy Jones is a beloved uncle, in Oprah’s mind. ” ‘I truly learned how to love as a result of this man…I unconditionally love him and…I would slap the living shit out of somebody who said anything bad about Quincy.’ ” And Gayle King was the adoring sister, and John Travolta the brother, whom Oprah didn’t realize in her own kin, her siblings by birth.

” ‘…My friends are my family.’ Oprah frequently mentioned on her show how disgusted she was with all the beggars in her life. ‘I’m hearing from so many people now who want me to give them money, or lend them money. I say, “I’ll give you the shirt off my back, as long as you don’t ask for it.” ‘ “

We’ve all got “baggage” that we cart around throughout our lives. When and how we acquired it, with how much we’re saddled, and how we deal with our lives because of it, are questions only we can answer for ourselves. I’ve set my course in life based upon my own personal deprivations and disappointments, as well as my accomplishments and joys. I think laying expectations upon one another has the potential of backfiring. If people don’t measure up, our perceptions of them are muddied. But worse, I think we are hurt because of our emotional investment.

I’ve not felt inclined to invest in Oprah, because I was too busy investing in myself. I tend not to follow other’s advice, unless I can own it for myself. It amazes me that someone, like Oprah, can convince legions of people to hang upon her every word. But she has a gift, she’s even said so. What more telling event than her influence to get Obama crowned President.

With tears streaming down her face she rejoiced, standing on the right side of history and knowing that she just may have had a role in shaping it.

“My job was to make people, or allow people, to be introduced to Obama who might not have been at the time,” she said. “I wanted him elected, and I think I did that.”

I’ve decided that Oprah is doing a job for which she is well suited. She has positioned herself as Chairman of the Board/CEO and President of all she surveys. She’s paid her dues, and continues to do so. I say let her do with her life what she will. I had nothing to do with its creation; I have nothing to say about its evolution. She will answer to her Maker, as we all must. It’s between the 2 of them, and perhaps all those who have placed Oprah upon a pedestal. After all, they have a great deal to do with the billionaire she has become.

until you walk in someone’s shoes…hugmamma.

crazy horse, a “sioux christ?”

What would convince me to read Crazy Horse – A Life by Larry McMurtry, author of Lonesome Dove? A thin paperback, only 148 pages, I was intrigued. I knew the Indian leader was famous, but why? I had no clue. Might he have been the “Sioux Christ” as indicated by Oglala and Brule Sioux historian, George E. Hyde,

…a man not easily swept off his feet by even the most potent myth, confessed his puzzlement with the Crazy Horse legend in words that are neither unfair nor inaccurate: “They depict Crazy Horse as a kind of being never seen on earth: a genius at war yet a lover of peace; a statesman who apparently never thought of the interest of any human being outside his own camp; a dreamer, a mystic, and a kind of Sioux Christ, who was betrayed in the end by his own disciples–Little Big Man, Touch-the Clouds and the rest.   

Reading the first few pages, I was reminded of a TV documentary I’d seen. Rising majestically over Pa Sapa, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Crazy Horse again takes his rightful place as one of the Sioux’s most famous and heroic warrior. Fifty years ago sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski began to carve the Indian leader’s likeness out of what once was Thunderhead Mountain. Within the last half-century the artist, his wife, and children have moved “millions of tons of rock…as they attempt to create what will be the world’s largest sculpture; but the man who is emerging from stone and dirt is as yet only a suggestion, a shape, which those who journey to Custer, South Dakota, … must complete in their own imaginations.”

Crazy Horse remained isolated from the encroachment of white civilization for as long as he was able. He seemed an enigma among Indians. Even his own people didn’t understand him.

Crazy Horse, from the first, was indifferent to tribal norms. He had no interest, early or late, in the annual sundance rite, and didn’t bother with any of the ordeals of purification that many young Sioux men underwent, rituals that have been well recorded by George Catlin and others. Crazy Horse took his manhood as a given, and proved it in battle from an early age. His people may have thought him strange, but nonetheless he was let alone, allowed to walk in his own way.

 His prominence today, as a symbol of Sioux resistance, owes much to his character, of course, but it also is in part a matter of historical timing. He fought his best in the last great battles–the Rosebud and the Little Bighorn–and then died young, in the last moments when the Sioux could think of themselves as free. By an accident of fate, the man and the way of life died together: little wonder that he came to be a symbol of Sioux freedom, Sioux courage, and Sioux dignity.

Several reasons loomed large in my desire to learn more about Crazy Horse.  Biographies intrigue me, historical ones only if there’s a personal story behind the facts. People interest me, not the retelling of history. That’s my husband’s passion. That the Sioux leader was a native American, and I am a native Hawaiian, piqued my curiosity. My desire to eventually see the mammoth memorial in his honor clinched my decision to purchase, and read the slim volume.

An avid fan of old movies, one of my favorites is “They Died With Their Boots On,” starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, filmed in 1941. Of course Crazy Horse was not listed among the credits in the film, although he was there, during the real battle, that is. Watching Errol Flynn portray General George Armstrong Custer, I subscribed to everyone’s belief that he was the hero who sacrified his life at Little Bighorn, the day his regiment was massacred. It would be un-American to think that the Indians were fighting for the survival of their nation, and were, in fact, the real heroes. In the author’s words, 

Though Crazy Horse was able to live many months and sometimes even years in the traditional Sioux way, raiding and hunting in turn, the way of life to which he had been born was dying even while he was a boy. By the time of his birth the whites were already moving in considerable numbers along the Holy Road (what we call the Oregon Trail); at first the pressure of white intrusion may have been subtle and slight, but it was present, and would be present throughout his entire life. The buffalo were there in their millions when he was born but were mostly gone by the time he died. Crazy Horse would have been a boy of five or six when Francis Parkman camped in a Sioux village whose leader was Old Smoke;…Parkman was well aware that the way of life he was witnessing that summer–vividly described in “The Oregon Trail”–was a way of life that would soon be changing; indeed, would soon end…With such an abundance of game both north and south of the Platte River, it may be thought that tribal life could have gone on with little change. But the lives of hunting people are never that secure. There was, to be sure, a lot of game; but it didn’t meekly present itself …(it) still had to be found and killed…animals were quick to shift away from places where they were heavily hunted. From the standpoint of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Pawnee hunters who lived by what they killed, the white invasion was almost immediately destructive.

General Custer, “the most aggressive general in the American army,” was an “erratic egoist.” Not prone toward patience nor heeding the advice of others, Custer determined that the Indians were fleeing from him, rather than standing firm in opposition.

On the morning of the battle, when most of the Sioux and Cheyennes were happily and securely going about their domestic business, never supposing that any soldiers would be foolish enough to attack them, Crazy Horse, it is said, marked, in red pigment, a Bloody Hand on both of his horse’s hips, and drew an arrow and a bloody red hand on both sides of his horse’s neck. Oglala scouts had been keeping watch on Custer, following his movements closely. Crazy Horse either knew or sensed that the fatal day had come.

Although prepared to do battle, Crazy Horse, unlike Custer, preferred the peace of his life in isolation.

He would have preferred, I imagine, simply to avoid them and go on living a traditional Sioux life, raiding, hunting, dreaming; but the option of avoidance was not available to him for very long. The whites were too many, and they weren’t satisfied with the Holy Road. They weren’t satisfied with any one place or one road; they wanted everything. So he fought: on the Bozeman, on the Powder River, on the Yellowstone, in the Black Hills, on the Tongue and the Rosebud, at the Little Bighorn…He didn’t win the war. What is hard to judge is how long he really expected to, if he ever expected to …he went his own way, traveled his own road, until it dead-ended at Fort Robinson in September of 1877. Looked back on from the perspective of one hundred and twenty years, his doom seems Sophoclean, inevitable; but perhaps all dooms do, once the roads taken and not taken deliver the character to his fate. 

His fateful death seemed preordained, both because of the unending encroachment of the white empire, and Crazy Horse own destiny to lead his people. In a dream, interpreted by his father, Worm, “a healer, a shaman, a holy man, and an accomplished interpreter of dreams” the Sioux warrior learned that he “was to dress simply, put a small stone behind his ear, and, most important, he was not to keep anything for himself. Instead, he was to be a man of charity, doing his best to feed the poor and helpless members of his tribe. His duty to the poor was a duty that Crazy Horse took seriously all his life–it may have been because he doubted his ability to feed the many hungry people who were following him that he decided to bring the band into Fort Robinson in 1877.”

Crazy Horse resisted the dominance of the whites, while other Indian leaders were acclimating, bringing their people to live within close proximity to military forts. Those whose lives were toppled, resented the resistance of those who held fast to their diminishing lifestyles. Because of the unusually hard winter of 1876-77, Crazy Horse decided to succumb to the demands of his pursuers, knowing that the 900 he led would otherwise not survive.

By the end of what was in some ways a year of glory, 1876, Crazy Horse had come to a desperate pass. It was a terrible winter, with subzero temperatures day after day. The Indians were ragged and hungry; the soldiers who opposed them were warmly clothed and well equipped. The victories of the previous summer were, to the Sioux and the Cheyennes, now just memories. They had little ammunition and were hard pressed to find game enough to feed themselves. …

It was a surrender, of a sort, but only of a sort…it was not a full or normal surrender, and neither the agency Indians…nor the generals nor, probably, Crazy Horse himself ever quite believed that a true surrender had taken place. They may all have intuited an essential truth, which was that Crazy Horse was not tamable, not a man of politics. He could only assist his people as warrior and hunter–a bureaucrat he was not. Had there not been those nine hundred people looking to him for help, he might have elected to do what Geronimo did for so long: take a few warriors and a few women and stay out. He might have gone deep into the hills with a few men and fought as guerilla until someone betrayed him or at least outshot him. But it was true that these nine hundred people depended on him, so he brought them in and sat down, for the first time, in council with the white men.

 From the time that Crazy Horse handed over his rifle and his horses to the white officers at Fort Robinson until his death just four months later, he was a confused, stressed, off-balance, and, finally, desperate man. For almost the first time in his life he had done something he really didn’t believe in, something that went directly against his nature. Even though he knew he had done it for the right reason–the welfare of the people–it did not feel right. The adjustments required of him if he was to live as an agency Indian were not adjustments he was able to make. From his personal point of view probably the best thing that came out of this move was that Dr. (later Agent) Valentine McGillycuddy offered to treat Black Shawl, his wife, for her tuberculosis, and did treat her with some success.

The following death bed statement was supposedly spoken by Crazy Horse to agent Jesse Lee who had brought the Indian chief to Fort Robinson, according to Peter Nabokov’s “Native American Testimony.” Evidently Lee was tortured over his unwitting involvement in the dastardly deed. Even General George Crook seems to have had regrets about not meeting with the Sioux leader as promised, saying ” ‘I ought to have gone to that council…I never start any place but that I get there.’ ”

My friend, I do not blame you for this. Had I listened to you this trouble would not have happened to me. I was not hostile to the white man. Sometimes my young men would attack the Indians who were their enemies and took their ponies. They did it in return.

We had buffalo for food, and their hides for clothing, and our tipis. We preferred hunting to a life of idleness on the reservations, where we were driven against our will. At times we did not get enough to eat, and we were not allowed to leave the reservation to hunt.

We preferred our own way of living. We were no expense to the government then. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers were sent out in the winter, who destroyed our villages. Then “Long Hair” came in the same way. They say we massacred him but he would have done the same to us had we not defended ourselves and fought to the last. Our first impulse was to escape with our squaws and papooses, but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.

After that I went up on Tongue River with a few of my people and lived in peace. But the government would not let me alone. Finally, I came back to the Red Cloud agency…I came here with the agent to talk to the Big White Chief, but was not given a chance. They tried to confine me, I tried to escape, and a soldier ran his bayonet into me.

I have spoken.

 Another element of the dream in which Crazy Horse shouldered leadership of his people, foretold that he “could be injured only if one of his own people held his arms.” “Before Crazy Horse was even in the ground, Little Big Man and a delegation of the Sioux leaders were in Washington to discuss the relocation issue. There exists a curious artifact, a medal presumably given Little Big Man for his bravery in subduing Crazy Horse.”

This post has been in the draft stage since September. Elizabeth Edward’s death reminded me why I’d decided to write about Crazy Horse. Both were individuals who lived their lives out of the spotlight, until circumstances beyond their control placed them, front and center. While they would have preferred to return to their private lives, without fanfare, concern for their loved ones made it impossible. So a mom and an Indian chief did what was required, remaining true to themselves until the end of their lives.

Sometimes you don’t realize who your role models are, until they are. It’s for sure neither Elizabeth Edwards nor Crazy Horse thought their lives would make a difference to those who never knew them, like me. Rather than seeking to know acclaimed celebrities, I would’ve preferred being a “fly on the wall” in the lives of these two reluctant heroes. What made them laugh? Who did they trust with their deepest thoughts? If they could reset their lives, would they do anything differently?

So when I visit Crazy Horse’s sculpted likeness, and if I visit Edward’s grave, I’m sure to be moved by 2 simple people, whose legacies are gargantuan.

in awe…hugmamma.