Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Tribute to My Late Father, or Insanity Helps?

I just wrote to a friend that I had spent Memorial Day Weekend accompanying the Pope on his trip to the Middle East and joined in his mission to bring peace to that part of the world.  I was so touched by his efforts to heal the great schism between the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches, and I hope he goes on to meet with the leaders of all the protestant churches as well? His peace making tour included embracing Jewish and Muslim, Israel and Palestine leaders, asking them and the world to quit fighting in God's name!

Taking two of his good friends with him that were Muslim and Jewish was beautiful too!  Nothing like demonstrating that we are all family under one God.  This Pope has become "a kindred spirit" and "personal friend", though to him, I am merely one of his huge flock, a Catholic convert who lives in Vermont. Nor does he know that I traveled with him as I sewed my fleece socks while sitting in my arm chair in my living room in my pajamas.
Pope Francis and Jane in the Holy Lands (note that I stay forever young!)

A block from my Comfort-Her.
I have many such dear friends, contemporary as well as those departed. Many are writers, like myself, and their books line my shelves along with my own unpublished journals. I am proud to say that they span all walks of life as well as beliefs and even historical times! Few know that there were really five Little Women in the Alcott family and I was one of them, but instead of competing for affection from Laurie, I dated Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and competed with Lizzy instead! I have many famous and not-so-famous TV actors and actresses that are my friends as well.
Lizzy with "my" Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

Only last week I watched alligator wrestling and River Monsters that showed fish that had swallowed people whole, though they didn't seem to make out as well as Jonah in his whale! I love wild adventures and am now glad to know how to wrestle alligators and crocs--in my dreams! I am also part gypsy and well aware of how the gypsies of England differ slightly from their counterparts in America. I love their bling and fancy dresses that take at least four to five people to lift the young girls who are wearing them into backs of trucks or carriages to be hauled to their glorious events. And every week I Say Yes to the Dress, and picture myself marching down the isle once again!

My favorite poem with circus train cars that hauled circus animals.
When I was a child I dreamt of running away and joining the circus. In fact The Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus came to Denver each year and set up their tent in an industrial area of town only a city block from my father's business. My brother and I would go with neighbor friends from down the street to take in this glorious annual affair! We would buy little pet chameleons that we pinned to our shirts and would watch them turn colors to match what we were wearing. Our neighbor friend, Tommy told us that his had died as he pinned it to his plaid shirt and it didn't know which color to turn! Ours didn't last a lot longer despite wearing monochromatic shirts. Perhaps turning white wasn't a good color for them? They didn't have animal protection programs then, and you could buy tiny painted turtles as well, that lived in our special turtle bowls under a plastic palm tree, though sadly they didn't live long either!

A circus block from my Comfort-her.
My dad worked very hard to raise me to adulthood, as my dreams never seemed to get more realistic! Joining the circus was only the beginning. From there I decided to become a missionary and go to Africa and feed the poor starving babies, though I wasn't raised connected to any church where such things really did happen. I watched Tarzan movies on TV and practiced hanging by my knees in my back yard, trying to get in shape to swing on vines or better yet prepare to take that swan dive into Tarzan's arms.
"Tarzan and me, Jane"

I even went with my best friend and our brothers out to a ravine in the country where the boys strung up a tree swing that required climbing into the tree and then sliding out of the tree and onto the tire to sail high in the air over what seemed to be a huge gorge. It took them hours to get me to slide out of the tree, as my adventurous side comes with a strong "chicken side" as well!

John Wayne, my hero with the baby elephant in Hatari film.
And I can't talk about my childhood without mentioning that my cousin, Susan and I got to see John Wayne when he visited Monkey Island at the Denver Zoo. He was there to promote his newly released movie, Hatari and came to have his picture taken with the baby elephant that co-starred with him. Reality ever blurring with my fantasies in my head, I thought he had come just to see me and it was a hallmark event in my life, though I didn't see him again until we were reunited in a wax museum in San Francisco many years later! Sadly, he seemed a little stiff and rather waxy!

First nursing, then teaching, and at last, writing and art.

My dad seemed to know this imaginative side of me and worked hard to help me grow into an independent adult.  He programmed me to be a nurse by telling me that no doubt nurses were needed in circuses as well as in Africa helping the poor. He struggled when I would become discouraged in my nursing program and would try to encourage me by telling me that there are many different kinds of nurses and perhaps I just hadn't gotten to the sort that I would like to be.  I remember there being a public health rotation, but never a circus one and my senior year of nursing school, I began to sicken at the site of blood!

I continued to try to please my ever practical dad,  and went on for a Master's Degree in special education after a school psychiatrist had pointed out to me that nurses didn't need to be artistic when bandaging a wound, though I loved to create wonderful caste-like bandages for minor cuts! I turned my thoughts from nursing to special education,where my nursing knowledge wouldn't go to waste, only pausing between these careers long enough to take a Shakespeare, art and quilting class! I always excelled in home-ec sewing classes as well as art, but my dad thought I needed to be a secretary, nurse or teacher to insure that I could always make a living on the side of being "a homemaker"?  He seemed to have a rather limited view of careers for women! Art was considered only fun and he used to tease us kids, that crayons should be outlawed, though my mother loved to color with us, and he spent much of his hard-earned salary supporting our love of crayons as well as paying for the art that my mother both created and bought to make his home his castle! He didn't seem to know that I wasn't really required to have the biggest box of crayons, nor a crayon sharpener every year!

Teaching was the most creative thing that I could imagine to do with my repressed artistic desires. It was a career that would keep me grounded in my dad's world of "the practical", ever postponing what I really wanted to do all my life--to sew and create and later write the stories that I lived in all my life! He thought he had tamed the creative monster within me, but little did he know it was only to be tamed for a few more years!

My Dad, the executive of house and business, right up close to God!
My father was right up there next to God himself and he even had God-like abilities and I thought he knew what was best for me.  In fact, I was certain about that! When I was in grade school, I had to take my glasses to him to fix. I was very embarrassed but I had managed to pop out both lenses from my glass frames without breaking either the lenses or their frame.  I had been in my room practicing my circus acrobatic act and was going to perfect standing on my head. Mind you, I was not the slightest bit athletic or coordinated. I had a tall trundle bed and I figured if I formed a triangle with my hands and head in front of my bed, I could balance my body against my bed to master this feat! I did manage to stand on my head but it didn't last long and my knees came right down on my glasses which had slid off and laid in-wait for their inevitable destruction! I was blind without glasses and couldn't get by so much as a day without them and had no choice but to take them straight-way to my dad, and the first thing out of his mouth, besides his expletives (I was after all, supposed to be in bed already), was to say, "I suppose you were standing on your head!" I was convinced right then and there that not only could he could see through walls but he even had eyes in the back of his head??!!

My dad knew everyone on a first name basis, including the optometrist and called him on the phone that night and I didn't miss so much as a day of school!  I never admitted to standing on my head, but I was very careful after that to hide in my closet when I was doing something he might think silly--perhaps he couldn't see through multiple walls, I'd hoped? It wasn't until much later that I realized that he really couldn't see through any walls, nor could he tame my dreams, though he did get my glasses fixed!

Jane, the young and aspiring ballerina!
Try as I might to get serious about being a professional acrobat, actress, artist, baker, beauty queen, ballerina, librarian, musician, nurse, opera singer, quilter, student, secretary, spy, teacher or writer (in alphabetical order, no less!), I have been hopelessly imaginative and insane. Only recently have I come to realize that these are my greatest qualities, not faults and that they have really helped me to survive a life that might have otherwise been quite boring, besides which, entertainment comes cheap. All I need to do is go inside my head, ever full of fantasies!! Did I mention that Walter Middy and I are blood relatives?

My dad proudly "dressed up" for a Halloween party.
(About my father, George L. Campen: he was, I think, the only dad who solved little girl emotional problems on his slide rule. Ever logical and unimaginative, except how to stretch the limited allowance he paid out, he was, nonetheless, responsible for some of my "insanity genes". Respected by our local community for his civic works as well as his executive position with Ceco Corporation, he was loved by his family, no matter how much he embarrassed his children.  That, too, is what dads are for, aren't they?  He was a unique and one-of-a-kind Dad and I will love him forever!)

Credit be given to websites regarding Pope Francis's visit to the Holy Lands, the movie production of Pride and Prejudice, Hatari, and Tarzan films.  My daughter, who would prefer to remain nameless, is responsible for the picture of the Pope blessing me. All other pictures are personal photos. I have only a few pictures of my dad, and this is the one I most treasure! He did his serious thinking with a slide rule, but this proves he had another less serious side as well!  I can still hear him laugh.  He enjoyed his life and didn't take himself too seriously, except in getting me raised and educated with both feet firmly planted on the ground, and my mind ever practical, focused and rational, or so he thought!

Happy Father's Day!!