Don’t be fooled by the relative distribution of text to subjects in this post. The big thing happening in my life is that I am turning fifty years old. That will happen on the fifteenth of June 2014. I am about to turn fifty. Overall, it is a depressing and miserable prospect. Of course I may not get there. However, I am determined to try and get there. But the world is full of more distressing and weighty matters than my birthday. I also wait this month to see if Mariam Ibrahim will really survive this ordeal. The outcome of the Bergdahl affair and the developments in Ukraine interest me. But mostly I am preoccupied with my own life in no great way. My life such as it is briefly summarized is readily accessible at this blog in the first, second, third , fourth , fifth and final pages of my blog autobiography. But of course the entire blog is about my life, thought and concerns and that is what my birthday is mostly about.
There are images and memories that will go with any account of that life I would post here. But little of that will make this post.
My life is a collection of experiences remembered, It includes dreams still hoped for and the current moment and the days around that moment. I do not feel great about my life but there have been many great things in this life.
I hope that anyone interested in my life can find enough information in this blog to make up for any deficit they may find in this post about my turning half a century old. Such is life, one lives it as best one can.
But it has been a life both like and unlike the other lives people around me have led. I can recall many good and bad times.
I will return briefly to my birthday in its place in this timeline. I hope you tay with the rest as it comes. The month is worth rounding up even in the crowded way it is done here.
Normally, I round up one week and do so after the entire period has passed when I do a round-up post. This summary of events post will be different from the norm. For me the biggest event is that on the fifteenth I turn fifty and that will be restated several times in this post. This round-up will be posted in the middle of the eleven day period it purports to cover and even that has an additional week tacked on loosely like a verbal outbuilding. That period goes from the fourth of June to the fifteenth. The extension is to my eldest niece’s birthday on the twenty-second. I did have four nieces and nephews before she was born and have completely lost touch with all of them since my divorce. So Alyse is my oldest niece with that caveat. She would also be older perhaps than others who would be my nieces and nephews had I remained married. I think of those nieces (all were nieces then) often and wish them well. They mattered to me a good bit for quite a while — but I am not really their uncle. Yet another exception is that my legally adopted away half-brother who died of AIDS and never admitted being homosexual to me was legally married to a woman and lived with her and I knew them all and she had children who did not call him Daddy in my presence nor me Uncle and whom he never adopted. I wish them no harm but have no remaining relationship with them and do not consider them my niece and nephew — so that makes Alyse my oldest niece.
The fourth of June set up a sequence in which I was able to post on Facebook that “the rest of this month will be an intense period of time in my mind”. The fourth itself was the day of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre which ended the student protests of 1989. I remember discussing this with my students in China and others, many of them were really unfamiliar with the story. I spent much of that day thinking about China. I am often aware most of all of students and friends in China when news or facts about China are discussed. I remember outside gatherings, discussions and choices including those few small ones in the great Heaven’s Gate Square itself. I value my own opinions of China above those of those who have never been there and I value my choices above those who never had to make them. But I was both supportive of what was an opposition and in honest communication with the government. China is on track to soon be clearly the largest economy in the world and it always good to be aware of its trends and developments.
Another very influential country also had an important occasion on the same day. The fourth was also the day of the State Opening of Parliament in the UK. This was a special one because of the Fixed Terms Parliament Law and the fact that the new post-Labor Coalition must go to elections in this specified time. The approach of the Queens address at the French State Banquet related to the remembrance of Operation Overlord in Normandy must serve as a comparison to her Queen’s Speech or Gracious Speech to Parliament. I take an interest in European politics and I know some folks who were at the State Opening enough to have a bit of an interest I might not otherwise have.
The sixth was the anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy Invasion starting the end of World War II on which actual date my godfather and uncle Preston was born it is also my niece Naomi’s 5th ( I believe) birthday although the 8th is the day of her party.
Remembering D-Day and the Normandy Invasion. Utah and Omaha Beaches were swarmed without enough armor. Duplex Drive Tanks not tested in rough water sank in large numbers on the way to the beach. A short artillery bombardment made the US beach one of the toughest spots not to end in defeat in military history. Fortunately, the Higgins boat from Louisiana allowed men and equipment to disembark three times faster than anything they had before Andrew Jackson Higgins produced his marvel. The behavior of the troops on the beach was also more innovative than could be expected and at great cost they improvised. The gliders, paratroopers and dropped machinery outperformed expectations in the first twelve hours. Soon a floating harbor was built on both beaches bringing in supplies and reinforcements and the US forces met their paratroopers beyond the beach and rolled forward after enormous casualties. The Brits, Free French and Canadians joined up and formed a single massive force. It was a great success. The next of many obstacles was that nobody had anticipated that the better German forces could make a stand at each hedgerow — fighting and retreating continuously for days while their rear forces regrouped.
D-Day is a complicated story but is among the greatest American achievements. But We are farther from that day than merely seventy passing years will show.
The eighth is Pentecost Sunday. The readings and liturgy in this Birthday of the Church can be very special but the readings alone are short and simple compared to the hours of reading through the line of the whole Biblical narrative on Easter Vigil Mass. It reminds us of the universality of the Christian message as regards race and ethnicity and language. This is not something I take lightly although I have concerns which are universal I bear the burden of other concerns which are not as universal and sometimes this is a real challenge. As I am typing this I hope to attend the Mass of the Vigil of Pentecost at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist which is an event for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as well as being a Diocesan Event. However, difficulties are arising and I almost never get to this Mass despite many years in the Charismatic Renewal in this Diocese,
My niece Naomi will be having a swimming party tomorrow. I have prepared cards, gifts and called on her real birthday but hope that this Sunday will be a happy one as I edit this on Saturday. I look forward to some relaxation then.
I will be having some sort of gathering are party for family hosted by them on the 13th for my fiftieth. My second cousin Charles William Massey will be ordained a Deacon on the fourteenth. The story of Billy’s vocation and our friendship would fill many a lengthy post but I will simply try to celebrate with him at the same Cathedral on that happy day. My birthday is the fifteenth which is also father’s Day. Sometime I get my brother’s cards and even my godfather but really my grandfathers are both gone this year and all I have left to remember is my Dad and try to honor him as best I can . It is my tendency to honor by preserving the truth from oblivion more than with overstated praise.
Frank Wynerth Summers II My father is the last of my male ancestor who despite many health challenges this year is still very much alive as I type this post. This year and before I have seen him work through through his bouts with cancer, gout and heart disease. Although he has had three cancers I hope he would live for many more years yet — I am Frank Wynerth Summers III his eldest and namesake and was born when he was still a young Tulane Law student.
Being Southerners, Anglo-Acadians and other things family and fatherhood have meant a lot in my family and y Dad’s family. My father married Gene Marie Gremillion who changed her name to Genie Gremillion Summers and I was their first child together although she had secretly given a child conceived out of wedlock up for adoption when she was in college. In my childhood and early years this was never mentioned. Family was much discussed and led to future discussions although there were secrets as well. It is hard to know how much each and every one of his family connections mean to my father even after a half century of being fairly close. His mother was born to Dr. Preston Miller and his wife the former Laura Broussard and she was a descendant of Joseph Broussard dit Beausoleil. His father was the son of Clay Ralph Summers and his wife the former Esther Leblanc who was descended from Severin Leblanc and a real cousin to Dudley Leblanc often known as Cuzin Dud’. But despite his connections to these local Acadian luminaries and his respect for them and fathers in general I think Dad’s views when I was young were more directly patrilineal than some around here. Dad often knew and spoke more about the Summers line here, in the seaboard states and in Virginia when he was younger although that interest may have faded some and he was pretty close to his father;s brothers when I was very young it seemed to me. He has kept up family ties and devoted a lot of time to studying and discussing fatherhood including reading almost all the English language scholarship he could find on St. Joseph at one time.but was less obsessed with genealogy than some around here — perhaps including me. When he studied in London he felt a deep ancestral connection to England.
My father and mother kept Paul’s existence from me always and his whole story somehow made Dad’s connection to me stand out in a different light but did not weaken it I think. My early memories are not of secret but of a young lawyer who appeared actively involved in what was an intense young marriage not I thought not much given to secrets although he did fight organized crime a few times as an assistant District Attorney and had to know and keep many of his clients secrets as a lawyer. My father never was a man who found his greatest joys in the celebration of a very successful traditional career although his last decades as a missionary have seen that go from obscurity to an almost corporate mainstream model. He was a very avid outdoorsman and many times included me in his outings although many times he did not. He hunted and fished a great deal with friends,sons and family but there were many years in the missions when he gave this up almost entirely and then it returned to him late in life.
My father attended Mount Carmel High School in Abbeville, Spring Hill College (a Jesuit school) in Alabama and Tulane University undergraduate and Law School in New Orleans. He performed a role of a martyred priest in high school speech tournaments and played center on the MCHS football team. It was a position without much glory but vital to be performed. He and my mother knew each other but mostly dated other people. I think his heart was more on the farm than at school but he graduated and went off for his first year of study to the Jesuit institution Springhill College a couple of states away here in the deep south before returning to Tulane when his parents had relocated to New Orleans for my grandfather’s new state office. He also spent a semester at what is now UL in Lafayette partly to be close to matters he was attending to in Abbeville and on the farm. He is still very attached in life to this land and we discuss it daily at this writing.
My father was pretty young when I was born and I carry his name although we seldom used it. I think he would have said most of his life — as he did on occasion say to me– that I, Frank Wynerth Summers III, was one of the most important characters in his life. Certainly from the time I was born on June 15, 1964 in Crowley, Louisiana there were things which made him even more important to me than the average father probably is to the average son . It is not so much that we were the same. Even in my birth in Crowley I was different as my father was borns born in Abbeville, Louisiana as were both of his parents. My mother was born in Midland, Texas when her father was in the U.S. Army Air Corps. My father’s dad and my grandfather Frank Wynerth Summers was already on the Louisiana Supreme Court when I was born and later became the Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, which position he held at the time of his retirement. It was to that standard to some degree that my father compared himself as a lawyer. After working a while he took me and my mother with him to continue his studies at King’s College at the University of London and then later at Columbia University in New York. There was a time when he hoped to be a judge and early on he clerked for his own father on the Supreme Court and later he did hold public office as an a Louisiana Assistant District Attorney before he became a missionary. However, St. Paul who was a trained theologian and a divinely appointed missionary and Last of the Apostles was also able to make tents when money got tight. My father worked for many years in odd schedules at the Robert Guillory Firm in Lafayette and the Charles Sonnier Firm in Abbeville. He did some work with legal services in Micronesia and helped a few people in every mission he was ever in to deal with local lawyers and legal aid who otherwise would not have known where to start. He and I (who went to Tulane Law twice but did not graduate), his brothers Pres and Jim and several cousins also brought lawyerly discussions into family gatherings. The missions and the outdoors were his loves in terms of activity but the law was always deeply a part of him. I would not say that it ever made him happy but he did some good and dozens of people have mentioned to me over the years how much his help meant to them as clients when he held a temporary or lowly post in a firm and was far out of the fast legal career track to the degree it exists in rural Acadiana, Abbeville and Lafayette. The law and a respect for medicine as a profession were attribute he brought with him from the family he was born to and reared in. Men who along with Frank W. Summers his Dad were fatherly influences in his life.
It will be with my Dad’s feast that I share my birthday. That is alright,
My niece Alyse’s birthday is the twenty-second. She is an extraordinary young woman turning 19 years old. I treasure the time I have spent with her.
There are many things I would like to write about her. She is an excellent student at Mount Saint Mary’s near Gettysburg Battlefield. Her boyfriend seems to be a fine young man and she has done great ministry in many places. But those are just a few facts out of a better context.
The plans for that birthday are not much as involves me but I will try to connect. This snapshot with the wrong date signature shows that sometimes I just squeeze in a quick visit. But that is how it goes and I am glad to see her mature and prosper.
So, I come to the end of the June happenings and may not post again this month or may have quite a few posts. I shall see but for those still following (about a fifth as many as at the peak of this blog perhaps) I lay out what is going on in may life and on my mind as a context for the rest of what I post.