Category Archives: misery

Beverly Miller Summers, Paul Jordan and Twenty-Five Years

This is a very busy kind of blog. It includes in quotation format an entire Facebook note which would have been its own blog post if it had happened later but it came out in March of 2009 and the blog you are reading began in August of 2009. So I never transferred most earlier posts. I do not reproduce here the generous comments made by friends on Facebook. That not alone makes this a fairly long blog post and it is really long if one goes to all the links.   It will be full of links which bring up words and some images to remember the past. Though the truth is that I cannot remember everything in my past I do remember some things clearly enough. My grandmother Beverly Miller Summers died two years ago today. I still miss her although I had been excluded ever more from her life in the few years leading up to her demise. We were very close over my lifetime at various times of relatively long duration. I remember many things about her which are better captured in the video indirectly linked and the  blog obituary directly linked above in this paragraph. I am also adding an UPDATE in the form of this link to my mother’s blog’s tribute to my grandmother which she wrote the day after this post originally came out in my blog. You can see that story here.

It is also the birthday of my late half-brother Paul Nicholas Jordan. My mother has chosen in her blog post today to remember this man who was such a huge part of defining her life. She does not mention me much if at all but I laid him in the ground at his funeral and I was the last in the family to see him.  I also have marked his passing here in this blog. Part of that memory has been related to the other fact which is remembered here in today’s post. I mentioned Paul when I was mentioning things, people and events in my post marking twenty years since my college graduation. This is a very challenging time of the year for my personal memories.  These notes and blog posts about the past are always crowded and complex and not so many people have been drawn to read them as those bout more recent events. Next is the text of what I put in Facebook when Paul died. Below that I have a few more thoughts about my approaching 25th anniversary of graduation form the University where I did my undergraduate degree.

Death, Lies, Truth, Loneliness and Time

March 6, 2009 at 3:10pm

My half-brother Paul Nicolas Jordan’s ashes are on a table on a stage in the great room in the big house at Big Woods. That is the house where I live and where I am writing this Facebook note. Last night we had a memorial service for him and I said the opening prayer. My mother asked me to do this with no warning or preliminary announcement and that is almost how Paul came into my life 17 years ago. I never knew she had given up a child for adoption until shortly before he became part of our lives. We ended the memorial service with a great meal and we all thought of how Paul loved to shop for food, loved to eat, loved to cook, loved to remember the restaurants where he worked and the ones he ran and owned with his ex-wife Patricia. Paul told lies, exagerated and colored stories a great deal. But because he was so well read, had so many experiences, knew so many people an honest person could seldom be sure what was an enhancement and what was the sober truth. Sometimes there seemed to be no rime or reason for when he stretched the truth and when he was painfully honest.

I told several people that I would never have predicted that I would be the last relative to see Paul alive and the first relative to know he was dead. I have more closure than I ever would have believed I would have. I long thought he would die without me having seen him for years. Many of our conversations over the years were strained and some were hostile. Almost all were telephonic.

Paul was baptized Catholic but many have told me that he was insistent that he not be buried Catholic. He left the church and much of his religion when his mother died of cancer and never came back. I have also been told by others that he claimed to have been molested by a priest as a child. I have heard these rumors for years and gave him the opportunity to talk about them but did not pry. Paul never discussed these things. Because Paul could be loose with the truth and often was there is a patina of doubt on all things related to him. But despite all this I have the feeling that his anguish over his mother’s death and the fact of his molestation were both real event s which caused him lasting pain. The both contributed in some way to his dying as an un-churched man who described himself to his last (non-relative) caregivers as a gay man who lucky to die in the home of a family who reminded him of the family he had had with his ex-wife. Both were made up of a divorced woman, a teenage older girl and younger boy. It was at there home that I saw Paul the last two time I saw him alive.PNj about the way he was when I met him.

PNj about the way he was when I met him.

During the memorial service I gave one of the longer eulogies. I talked about the way we had gotten along badly most of the years since our meeting but how in the nine months he had lived with us and in the months since then we had talked of faith, movies, books, movies, food, movies and the research in nonfiction writing. His ex-wife was not there, his former stepchildren were not there. The openly gay writers and artists he told stories of having been good friends were not there either. My relatively flamboyantly homosexual cousin who had once been his closest friend in our area was not there and neither were any of his gay friends who draw a line between being openly gay and being discreet which is different in small town Cajun country than any where else in the world. It was a mix of people who knew him in these last 18 months and relatives and friends of family. None of the three people who were with me at the Shandong Institutute of Business and Technology and in Yantai, China were my students in the two classes where I did some AIDS education as part of an American Civilization background for my English classes. But in those classes I mentioned Paul as having AIDS. I said I did consider him family although we were not close. Nonetheless, Lu Ting ting has been a comfort to me because I always find her conversation comforting even if it is electronic and she knew of Paul through conversation and through my mother’s book “Go! You are Sent…” which features Paul prominently. I think that life is always full of mystery. It usually includes a fair amount of pain if you are are one of the unfortunate 98% of the human race for whom that is true. It is more obvious that there is such pain and it features more directly in one’s consciousness if one is honest with one’s self, of course there is not such a high percentage of honest people as of suffering people. Paul Nicolas Jordan has just died.Paul and I were not very close and we were not connected in the ways which leave a wrenching emotional wound when someone passes beyond this life. In addition I am not prone to great emotional expression in death. But Paul’s death was still a very significant thing in my life. Paul died of AIDS and AIDS is one of the great realities of my generation and time.When I first met Paul he came from California, San Francisco in fact and my mother had predicted that he had AIDS when she told me that she was trying to find the son she had given up for adoption. Perhaps she had already found out by the time she told me that she was looking for him. Our relationship has not always been typified by full disclosure. Paul was married at the time to a divorced woman with two children but there were always suggestions around me that he had been living an openly homosexual lifestyle at some point. He never told me “I’m gay” or “I’m homosexual” till the day he died. However, an openly homosexual cousin of mine implied that he was gay. I gave Paul a copy of the book “And the Band Played On” which describes the early days of the AIDS epidemic. He described meeting the author at a party and we often discussed issues life Christian sexual morality, homosexuality, polygamy, marriage, AIDS, fertility and related topics during the months when we both lived in my parents’ house about a year ago. He talked about writers he had known in California as homosexual among other qualities but he did not tell me in any of those conversations that he was gay and I never asked. After his death someone told me that he had told his last caregiver that he felt lucky that as a gay man he was able to die in a home with a single mother, a daughter and a son just as he had lived with his ex wife at one of the best times of his life. That along with all the other evidence causes me to write about him as a homosexual from San Francisco who died of AIDS in his middle age. In a world full of misinformation it is still true that I did not know him all that well but I knew him as someone labeled differently than that grouping of characteristics which is so common in the minds of many writers and readers of various contemporary media.I barely know James Duggan but we have many mutual friends and went to the one of the same schools. He is on my Facebook friends list and is also an editor of a magazine that caters to a primarily homosexual clientele. I have never seen the magazine but I can guess that I would find some of it offensive and not in the stereotypical ways liberal assume of someone like me. But my experience with Paul has caused me to redefine the lines of what I see as reasonable efforts of homosexuals to organize around that specific mutual interest. Which is odd in a way because at some levels I do not have enough evidence to know that he was “gay”. One of the first old friends that I reconnected with when I joined Facebook as a college friend who became a priest after I last saw him and is now living an openly gay lifestyle. He also claims to be very active in AIDS awareness and prevention. I assume that is true. Paul was looking for something it always seemed to me. Looking for roots, an Acadian identity, a chance to shine in social situations. For most of the seventeen years or so that I knew him he was fairly hostile and held back almost all personal information. For years we had very bad phone conversations and then we had nothing for many years. We disliked eachother most of the time. The last few years have been different. I am glad to have known him although it seems horrible in a way to want to know someone while they were as sick as he was every day that I knew him. Paul was a very well read person and was very knowledgeable about popular culture. For a few months we had great conversations about that sort of thing.But we both knew that we were dealing with something in which the years for actually becoming close friends had already passed. One thing that cam very late in our relationship was an awareness by Paul that I really like the show Big Love on HBO, know a lot about the Creole mistresses of Louisiana planters and their families, stay abreast of details about Mormons prosecuted for polygamy, read books and other sources that discuss the relationships of Christian kings and upper aristocracy with multiple regular titled families throughout Christian history and know a lot about Old Testament polygamy. I was in a very monogamous marriage when we met and he came across as very judgmental about me not understanding loves not recognized by law he was judgmental without being open. However, at the end he began to suddenly sense that I had my own group of persecuted friends around the world for whom I was always feeling some empathy. He also noticed that I had quite a few overlapping relationships that seemed kind of honest even though I frequently live like a bitter and resentful monk of the most celibate kind.I have not found much to like in the modern Gay rights movement of which Paul knew a great deal. I do not think legalizing gay marriage while polygamy is illegal is anything other than obscene. However, I do hope for better justice than has ever existed before. I do hope not for a world with no rules but for a world with a variety of regimes and in which many of them offer good domestic possibilities for a variety of people with their own salvation to work out. Paul is dead now and I have been let off the hook.A long struggle to communicate with a sensitive soul who was hungry a better life than he found has ended. He offended me and caused me pain. But he also helped me to know and learn more. We shared some spiritual awareness. He has passed beyond my reach and I hope that he is at peace. I hope that my friends will work hard on their families, relationships, sense of justice and understanding of social order. I do no think we will see a golden age of social harmony with the right mix of privacy and honesty. I am pretty sure that we will not find that. But we could try.Paul’s life and death have left me with no pat answers but I am lucky to have reached a place where I can say with all honesty that I am glad I did not miss the chance to know him. I tried but for most of the time I knew him I could not have said I was really glad overall to have him in my life. I call him my half-brother but I mean it as a kind of brother. He was my brother and I will bear his memory with me wherever I go. PNj about the way he was when I met him.

PNj about the way he was when I met him.

Well, my life goes on for now and in many ways it is a full life. But shrinking and filled with bitter memories more than sweet with ever diminishing hope more than optimism. I do not think it was ever likely to be different but I did try and now in a certain very limited sense I still do try. I graduated as Outstanding Graduate 25 years ago this May. I have not wasted the last half century and there is some fruit. But there is much loss and frustration as well.    I am not sure how to feel about my own life which is going on since Gammie, Paul and many others including my cousin Severin W. Summers III have died. But I am inclined to think about these things since my graduation anniversary is so very near.

I was not an athlete who played for USL. I took two physical education classes and  besides some love-play with a few female students I did little in terms of physical recreation on campus. Swimming and soccer for PE were the heights of a pretty low structure I built there for myself. But I did go to some games and have gone to some others since then. I should save this to post another day but my days are highly unpredictable. The Ragin’ Cajuns Athletics of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are reigning Sun Belt Conference Football Champions with three consecutive victories in the New Orleans Bowl, reigning Sunbelt Conference Basketball Champions and have number of other athletes to watch this year, have had alumni Charles Tillman win the Walter Payton Award for NFL Man of the Year and now this: Baseball Powerhouse Play!

So things have changed at UL Lafayette since I graduated from USL which was its name twenty-five years ago. Of course Brandon Mitchell, Hollis Conway, Jake Delhomme, Brandon Stokely and many other formed part of our past glories. Some of them I have been fortunate enough to know. I think my own life has not turned out all that well. I am more drowning in self respect than in regret but it is an ugly, hardened and frustrated form of self-respect. The twenty-fifth will be bad and bleak and depressing like most of the anniversaries before. I could never complain enough to capture how badly I could feel if I let myself.

So I come to the end of this long note and another exercise in Nostalgia. I am busy and idle depending on how I choose to answer the questions about my life. Both sets of answers are based on facts. I remember a great deal with fond sadness. I also pray this Lent for hope, forgiveness and peace for me and for others. But I barely scratch the surface of things to remember and yet wish I felt more hopeful for the future.

Some Personal News and Thoughts

I am more devoted than not to my own Facebook timeline over other outlets these days. But this is going to be discontinued as of April 15 (or 15th of April) if nothing large changes in my life for the better. I will perhaps keep this blog as it is for a while. On June 15 I will probably radically simplify my life and not in any ideal way. But I have simply no reason to maintain such a substantial web presence when my personal life is so weak and poor. Without a job, fortune, regular church parish or anything else this nexus of work and a kind of fame is a consolation I cannot really afford. I will let my connections there and in some other places go and admit my life has been a long struggle in more or less defeated causes. I am eager to live each day meanwhile with as much meaning as possible. One thing going on is that my sister Sarah is moving into a new home with her family.

My sister Sarah Summers Granger and Kevin Joseph Granger are moving their furniture today into their new house. all the rain and a now repaired pipe leak have made the ground near their new home soft and deep where the turf was scraped away. I pray nothing gets stuck or buried in that soft ground during all of this. I will try to help them move a little bit.

I have not been able to resolve my own problems and difficulties with any number of people throughout my life. I have become more or less isolated and it has perhaps been God’s will that all would come to such isolation. But I pray for Sarah and her children to have a long and happy life and much of it to be here in the new house at Big Woods. Better than I could hope and without the things I might fear.

For any who still read this blog regularly I wish you all the best. I am not yet sure how much time and energy I will devote here. It may actually increase in the short term,

A Sense of Perspective: The Bottom Keeps on Falling Out

One of the most constant experiences of my life is that I have always lived in a sense of wonder and amazement that it is possible for the human world and mostly my own life situation in the larger sense to be as horrible as it is.  Recently , I had a number of experiences that have once again confirmed for me that in many ways I live in an extreme horror movie and nightmare from my point of view.  It does seem that when I was younger there were little slivers, cloud linings and whispers of hope for something better. But as I get older it seems that an acceptance of the profundity and totality of the horror of human life and of the world’s destiny and of my own prospects gradually sets in upon me.  In a way it is of course relaxing because in a world of almost total horror there is no great need to worry about every little twist and turn in one’s own plans and efforts. One does not worry as much about one’s diction or dress if one is going to burned alive in the staterooms of a sinking ship and cannot fit through the pothole or open the door. Some things matter less and less. For me perhaps this life is just sort of essentially and phenomenologically hell. 

Perhaps that realization sometimes helps me to look beyond my own life. Perhaps it does not. Nonetheless, it simply abides as a fact and a factor in my mind.

Misery: The Reasons to Continue Living a Miserable Life

Sunday September 26, 2010 the New Orleans Saints lost a home game in overtime to their toughest competitors in the NFC South this year  – the Atlanta Falcons. At halftime both teams were tied as well as at the end of regulation play. It was a well-played game with nuns as guest of honor, a huge and emotional  crowd and some really impressive play by so many from Vilma and the defensive squad to Thomas, Henderson, Shockey and Colston — but especially it featured a superb performance by Lance Moore. There was a good performance with Drew Brees but also some interceptions. The notable failure of Hartley on two field goal attempts and having Bush off the field with an injury were the most notable factors contributing to the loss. It was a glorious game hard played between two teams. There was nothing bad about it except the final result but the loss did remind me of the so very many very bad days in the past.  It reminded me just a tiny glimmer of how it felt to root for the local team when things looked so very bad. I expect the Saints to end up being pretty good this season but even if they are not I will be a Saints Fan. That fact reminded me that in many ways I have been very unhappy and displeased  most of my life by so very many things.  I remembered that in some ways the Saints of the worst season match my life more than the Saints of the good seasons or the Saints of last year’s spectacular season.

 I have decided to focus on all that is good about living a horrible  life in this post. Maybe this can be used to discourage a trend of suicide somewhere. Maybe it can be used to make those who do not feel miserable feel better about themselves. I am writing an autobiographical note. Many of my autobiographical writings have  touched on this theme but this is a note focused on one of the themes entirely and directly. This is an effort to look at my life primarily as a prolonged and intense misery.

I think that in all of this story of misery and unhappiness I  will start with my right foot. There is a rather large birthmark on top of it and it tends to varying degrees of swollen, painful and deformed dysfunction. I am more aware of that than usual this week. Sometimes I can participate in many  strenuous activities and it does not bother me much for many months and other times it keeps me in cheap sel applied braces and home therapies for months at a time with seldom any break from these routines — but I am still mobile, ambulatory and active most of every day. I do not remember my birth and so I wonder if I was crushed or injured, if it happened in utero or it was genetic.   I have vague memories related to this injury as a child including the fact that I never had a good foot doctor and also that some adults discussed amputating the foot and how I never recovered respect for most adult opinion after that. Since those days my life has led me to feel that Hell is somehow a very subjective thing and that I was really born into hell in many ways. The world is at least out of sync with what I would call the idea of what is good. Why that may be is a very complicated question if one really tries to answer it adequately.

Now at 46 years of age I  am experiencing some of the signs of aging. Those things do not improve my quality of life.  However, the main thing I remember is how many and varied the bad times have been. How very bad the very bad times have been. It is interesting that I do not feel I have suffered far more than everybody else. In fact I  have known people who were suffering much more than I was when I met them. But things are just so amazingly awful that I have often been caught up in complete amazement at how often multiple very great evils oppose one another and squeeze out almost anything that I could call good. I look back a t times when I helped a child  or an adolescent  pass a difficult course and I feel pretty good about that. I look back at times I dropped off a box of food, a bag of candy or medicines with people who really needed it and I feel good. I look back on bringing people  in jails with limited resources  small bars of soap and  pieces of fruit with satisfaction. I look back on writing about special overlooked stories about interesting people  for newspapers and other publications  and I feel good. But overall I think of how much was always getting so much worse and still is getting so much worse and  how horrible it was to be able to do so little good.

I just feel discouraged, well not just discouraged but I do feel discouraged. I feel so sad for all the bad things that happened to people I knew and cared about but could not really help.I also remember countless good deeds done to me and to others but I  am truly amazed at how many truly horrible things I have witnessed in my life. Literally I do feel that “things have worked out” amazingly badly on this planet. That the human condition is surprisingly horrific. My own life is simply in harmony with this larger trend.  I have sometimes described this to close friends as a sense that one is playing a game for which the winning score is 21 or over but one has a handicapped starting position which make it impossible to get past zero in the number of plays one has available. Thus the most heroic efforts would result in what the fair observer would regard as normal nothing.

I am not coming to this realization from the point of view of someone who is innocent and totally free of any of the evil he sees in the world. It is more probable that I regard myself as an unrealistically tough and resilient player in the dark and seedy games of life. Yet there are a number of things I really do regard as evil even if I have done them and consider them to be things I understand well. Likewise there are people I have cared about and who have mattered to me whom I could not really call “good people”, “true friends”, loyal or anything else along those lines  despite the connection between us. Overall they were in my honest opinion at the very least bad guys or baddies depending on your dialect. But I am not willing either to write off all that was good about them.  Overall, the context was just rotten to the core and they were part of that rotten milieu. However, there was good in them, in us and in the environs.

I have looked hard and listened intently in life. Hope has not been something I have been inspired to see or feel a great deal in the searching I have done. There have been moments of hope but they have been islands in a sea of other things.

All of this makes me conscious of the fact that when good things happened in sports, work, creative or other projects involving me or near me I was happy and enjoyed them, I did live in those movements. Part of that means that I am still living in the moment  of many happy things — one of them is that the New Orleans Saints are a great football team.  I don’t believe there is anything bad about good per se. In other words it is just plain good to see good things happen.  But compared to a lot of Saints fans these days I will be able to handle to lows a bit more easily.

I am afraid there is no limit to how low the lows will go however, this post has not become a list of horrors and evils. Just to list diseases, forms of violence and terrors that have claimed my friends is not enough to make this into that kind of post. I have worked very hard to accomplish very little in the big picture and I will keep trying. “Maybe”, one hopes, “life as a whole will be like being a Saints Fan. That would mean that despite many sad and troubled times of defeat there will come some times of happiness and victory that are so great nobody can question them.” That is a long hypothetical mental quote isn’t it?  If the day of clear joy and goodness does not come there will still be  those things I listed in the beginning that really happened. Those are similar to the better seasons the Saints had in the past before they had these last few great years. It would be nice to be happy but being sane is nice too. To keep on and know things are bad is to recognize that life has value and that if things really ever went well one could appreciate the good times  better than if one had called the bad times good. I really have been and still am enjoying the success of the Saints. I wish I could afford a little more hope but I do enjoy the good moments with family and friends. I do value the good memories even if I think they are atypical.