Tag Archives: Frank W. Summers II

Counting Down to 62, and thinking back.

If I could collect the money I am vested in for Social Security because of having made the payments necessary to be permanently vested then I would be 62 years old. It would not be a lot and it would be much better if I had a good job and was earning more FICA credits, but there is no reason to hop that anything in my life will improve before 62. If I can survive till 62 then I can perhaps hope for some meager harvest of the crops sown in my still meager but much better days from 1979 to 1995 when I paid the most FICA and the years from 1995 to 2005 when I paid some.  But if I had to guess I think my death benefit will be all I ever collect. Nine years is a long time in a life where things almost always get worse. But this post at 53 is not about looking forward but rather about looking back about nostalgia.

Today I was helping a friend set up a Facebook page for the Table Tennis operation which he feels passionately about. He is quite a bit older than I am and table tennis keeps him in shape and engaged with other people and he finds a way to make a few bucks off the sport as well. Once upon a time I played a bit of the sport but that was a long time ago.  I have little nostalgia about those days but not very much because there are so many other things to be nostalgic about. There are many songs about nostalgia or expressing nostalgia in American popular culture but one of the ones that stands out for me is Glory Days, by Bruce Springsteen. Here are a few lyrics:

I had a friend was a big baseball player
Back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool boy
Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
But all he kept talking about was:
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

I suppose that my friend and I have discussed his path through life and his past quite a bit — although we have never shared a beer over it . His journey was accompanied by different music than the Boss’s most of the time. Although I fancy he knows Springsteen a bit. But He is still fortunate to be more involved in many of the pursuits of his  youth than some people — like me for instance  — generally are at an earlier age.

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Rocky Russo remembers the glory days of his life as an outdoorsman and hunter with these photographs.

I was never a Bruce Beast as a few of my friends self described themselves, but I was a the owner of a few albums that I enjoyed listening to. One of Bruce Springsteen’s songs that I liked was Glory Days. For those who want to see a video it should be available here.

Nostalgia takes many forms. Looking back in times takes a different tone because of why one is looking back, what one is looking back at and how one is  looking back at the past.  The

My first cousin once removed, Charles William Massie III died this July.  Among other things he and my Dad cut and suctioned my snake bite and tourniqueted my leg and helped rush me to the hospital. He also helped me wash an eye popping out of my head from an allergic reaction and helped rush me to the hospital again a few years later.  He had a longer obituary in the Abbeville Meridional but here is a link to his obituary at the funeral home where I attended his wake. Big Billy and I shared many experiences outdoors and indoors, hunting, religious and familial over my whole life. Yet we were not that close when he died.

I am entirely sure that life will hold a few surprises in each day that I continue to live and breathe. But this year I have run into a number of women with whom I spent some time many years ago and we have had fairly decent visits,. I am made aware of how much my life is about limits and impossibilities compared to the years in the past when there was more hope and I think some of them are reminded of times when they found social life a bit more exciting than they do today. But perhaps our exchanges are not all that close to the one described in the next part of Glory Days.

Well there’s a girl that lives up the block
Back in school she could turn all the boy’s heads
Sometimes on a Friday I’ll stop by
And have a few drinks after she put her kids to bed
Her and her husband Bobby well they split up
I guess it’s two years gone by now
We just sit around talking about the old times,
She says when she feels like crying
She starts laughing thinking about
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

In this year and many years ( twelve to be exact) I have not had any kind of regular girlfriend and the general trend in my life has been towards ever greater isolation of all kinds since I got back from China in 2005. Before China I had been increasingly isolated every year since 1995. So China was just an island of intense social and occupational engagement. But in the years from 1995 to 2004 I wrote for newspapers and taught in public schools as a substitute — recent years have not had those kinds of public engagement for pay. My  Dad has been in the mode of trying to retire more and more and discusses his declining ability to pursue some of his outdoor hobbies. I think of  the next lyrics in Glory Days when I think of talking with him.  Although few of the facts are similar still I empathize with the narrator’s connection of nostalgia across generations. It is something that as it grows in us connects us to older generations.

My old man worked twenty years on the line
And they let him go
Now everywhere he goes out looking for work
They just tell him that he’s too old
I was nine years old and he was working at the
Metuchen Ford plant assembly line
Now he just sits on a stool down at the Legion hall
But I can tell what’s on his mind
Glory days yeah goin back
Glory days aw he ain’t never had
Glory days, glory days

This year and part of the past one have formed a unit as I have been back in Abbeville and living in my grandparents old house and trying to get the grounds back in shape with limited time, energy and resources. Eve the resources to put photographs of the glory days of that house and its occupants seem to be in short supply.  But it is a place of nostalgia. This is the year not of the great parties or the family trip to Sea Island,  Georgia but the  trip to local sites during the greatest flood in memory with an open would wrapped in plastic, a ruined cell phone. The year when one of the highest sites in the parish which did not flood still held a lot of water because I had not yet removed the fallen ceiling and caused me to loose even more equipments and supplies than I would have lost just from the torrential rain damage itself . The glory days of the house were definitely in the past despite it being a high and dry place.  Flood damage came too in the form of cars parking to escape the flood and trying to leave when it was too wet. Flood damage came in opportunities lost when I had just started to find a few after moving in and in time and cost of donated labor treating flood related  injuries and buying cleaning supplies. There were other things too but compared to many others we had nothing worth noticing.

 

The truth is that this year, although I have spent time with family I have spent a good bit of time with two old friends named Philippe and Jude. I don’t give their last names and a great deal of what we talk about is better times in the past. Though we have known each other those were not mostly times spent together so the stories are new  — we are not exactly the same age — but all count Abbeville as our hometown. We rarely drink much together but on occasion Jude and I share a drink. We do smoke together, a much despised habit and one that never held me really in a habituated position until recently.  But we have a few places we occasionally go whether drinking or not. and we are nostalgic together there more often than not.
Now I think I’m going down to the well tonight
And I’m going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory of, well time slips away
And leaves you with nothing mister but
Boring stories of glory days
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days
Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days

 

 

One of the places we have been is Twin Peaks in Lafayette. There the waitresses (Katelyn and Leah in these pictures) have less nostalgia and lives more directed to the future. Of course they are cute too and since I cannot afford to do much or go anywhere very often I don’t worry much about the higher than normal prices (which are not that bad — and the food is good). The young girls smile and chat a little and make you feel the present is a kind of present and I have no qualms of conscience about that, in a society of vast sexual problems and maladjustments in terms of every aspect of identity, relationship and interactions between the sexes there is certainly still room for some to object that the food is served with a side of flirty display. I don’t mind saying I find real girls knowing their cute and making a little conversation as they serve you a hamburger refreshingly innocent. Whether this is up to the date, nostalgic in itself or a trend for the future I DON’T KNOW.  But I do know that   in a life in which the best  is mostly in the past it is fun to go to places like this and hope that the girls have life with a more fun present and future. I know that not all of their experiences are fun. But it is an interesting phenomenon in our society today. Links to the experience can be found here and here.  It is perhaps a bit like getting involved on some of the sets of the hit series Mad Men except in a bar that is a fake lodge. But whatever it is it serves a break from the dismal pervasive feeling I often have about much of everything. I have only been twice so far. The reasons I ended up there are too complicated to put here but if I can I will probably go back. I promised Katelyn and Leah I would post these pictures — so I did.

 

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American Snapshot: Five Movies and the ACM Awards Show

This will be a rambling post as many of mine are. However, it will seek a window into America and America’s place in the world through looking at the Academy of Country Music awards show held in Las Vegas and broadcast on CBS and through five films. The films are Twelve Years a Slave, Noah, Divergent, God is Not Dead, Son of God and Frozen. The films are admittedly different from one another. Nor will this offer five separate and fully satisfactory reviews of each and everyone of these films. I also will not explain why I picked these films and left out others that have caught my attention — such as Dallas Buyers Club, The Great Gatsby and The Hunger Games. in terms of award shows, the Oscars, the Grammys and American Music Awards could all make a case for having more to say about America than the one I chose. But this is the set of six media expressions I have chosen for this essay.

Let us knock out a few things that maybe unite these pieces of popular culture:

1, All got pretty good ratings compared to the vast majority of things made in the world of arts and media.

2. All were available to be viewed In Abbeville, Louisiana as soon as or shortly after being released (although that is not where I viewed all of them).

3. All spoke a visual and audio language which was creative and innovative in places and certainly very competent but not revolutionary  or entirely new in approach.

4. All made an attempt to cultivate and express a moral perspective in a t least part of their production.

5. All addressed some pressing issues for society directly or indirectly.

6. All were forms of commercial entertainment.

7. All were aired or exhibited primarily in English.

8. All were to a substantial degree American productions regardless of what other talent, money and leadership was involved.

9. All were geared in large part to an American first audience.

10. They all address educators and students more than many other products of entertainment. this does not apply as much to the ACM awards.

This blog is full of information about me but nonetheless I often choose to tie what I am writing about directly to the life experience from which I approached the subjects that have gained my attention.  I am going to do that again before we turn to the specifics of the films. That is in part because America is not some big generic homogeneity. America is made up of the experience of millions of individual Americans as well their families, communities and networks of associations.  Documenting my own community is in large part what this blog has always been about.

Let’s face it  — or let me face it — it is not easy to determine why exactly I blog. I have at times written for office memoranda, newsletters, newspapers and magazines where one could see some direct connection to income that does not exist with this blog. I have also written poetry, short stories and novels which were easy to understand in the context of all the things people have done for art or out of artistic expression and inclinations.  But this blog is not of either of those types of expression. I think it would be hard to argue that it is an entirely rational exercise for me to have written so much here. But I do write, am writing and have written.

One of the several areas of human activity which has engaged my interest here has been the work of some others who write, act, speak, sing and photograph. Some of that type of blogging has reported on the good work being done by relatives and friends. In addition, I have written more about those sorts of things on my Facebook timeline. A great deal of that has involved theater and video productions by family

One of those days with lots of medium sized tasks. This evening I am off to watch my nephew Eli perform in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at John Paul the great Academy. First I will hopefully be joining my sister (Eli’s mother) and the rest of her family for an early supper.

Here, in e-mail and on Facebook I try to keep track of and comment upon the lives and work of many talented associates. I do have many talented friends and acquaintances doing many things and I only manage to mention a few in my blog or on this Facebook timeline. However one example of someone I have known well for many years and had significant dealings with is John T. Landry. Our connections relate to roles we have both played in the University which is my undergraduate Alma Mater and is now the University of Louisiana. They relate to Jesuit retreats at Our Lady of the Oaks, to family friends, to buying cars, to political races  and to personal disagreements. They have not in the thirty busy years of his life I have seen related to arts directly. But this is one friend that comes to the fore because recently he has moved from someone I have known in many other contexts but only am just starting to know as an artist. John T. Landry is launched an art exhibit in April. I must admit that I was unaware of these expressions and impressions. I had looked forward to catching his exhibit in Kaplan but my grandfather’s death and funeral interfered. Although without such distractions I do not get everywhere I would like to arrive these days. It should be possible to find out more about the exhibit at this website and how much of it is open to the public.

I have family member’s who are engrossed in work that matters to them. I taught John Paul his first film class in a year of home school classes. My brother John Paul Summers has filmed this video. Dr, Kevin Roberts was the Headmaster (if that is the term) at John Paul the Great Academy where my nieces and nephews have been involved Alyse E. Spiehler graduated, Anika and Soren attended and where Eli and Elliot attend today. John Paul there this year and will be leaving but my sister Mary will be starting there next year and all her children will be there as well. John Paul also has a full service video business and taught video at JPG along with other subjects.

Among the better experiences of this Lent was  heading off to hear my sister Sarah give a Lenten oration and reflection in the Lenten Mission series at St. John’s Cathedral. Sarah has done wonderful work with drama in Home school and in various theaters. Her daughter Alyse founded the drama club at JPG with her influence and in her own day she was a wonder with two wonderful sisters in speech tournaments.  Alyse and Anika performed several times in her productions and elsewhere. Both have qualified to compete in National Speech tournaments. 

My niece Anika this qualified by  competing at the her mother’s old alma mater Saint Thomas More High School where her father was also a standout. Her wins and place awards in speech tournaments for my legal alma mater Abbeville High School have lightened several weekends. I am wishing her the best in this continuing journey.  My Christmas season this year was made worthwhile by seeing her twice perform  in a very nice piece at Abbeville High.

Frank Wynerth Summers III's photo.
Frank Wynerth Summers III's photo.

 

If you grade on the curve this play was very effective and did more to get me into the spirit than anything else has this year. I dressed up a little Friday, bought my niece some flowers and was delighted for a while by the performance. Flowers and dressing up are not required, just my tradition when Anika or some other relatives perform. I left the comical and heartwarming play feeling edified and merry although that single event cannot overcome all the reasons this is a rough time at best. I recommend the Abbeville High Christmas play to get into the Christmas spirit. I have never had a year when it was harder to get into the spirit of the holidays than this year and have had trouble even trying to wrap a few gifts. But her performance and the production as a whole were redeeming and precious to me.

I went to see my niece Anika perform and portray the role of Beth Bradley in the opening performance of the Abbeville High School production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. She did an exceptionally good job and it was a very good production. I did what I could to promote the play by posting on my sizable list on Facebook after attending the first time when there was one Sunday performance remaining and tickets could be bought at the door. I paid for the first performance and my mother had already offered to pay for that last one which will be the final matinee on the following Sunday at 2:00.
My mother has written and published a play in a university press Miracle at Loreauville as well as seeing many productions of her play Emmanuel: God is With Us   in different versions. Further she has supported family work in the lively arts and  is involved in many forms of media.
My father competed in high school speech tournaments. He has argued cases in courts, preached many times and written and played songs.  He and I have collaborated in some of those attempts and productions.
I myself have done quite a bit in the performing arts, video and photography in quite a few places. Together with all those I care about who work in those venues these personal endeavors inform and shape my vision. I also know a lot of people who have been pretty successful in commercial terms. In my fairly immediate family  there is Tasso Smith  whose full name is  Carl Tasso Smith IV. He  is a vocalist and  guitarist for Youngblood Hawke which is a band developed in San Antonio, Texas which  in its first few years with a record  deal has appeared on all of the top four broadcast television networks, sold it themes to numerous commercial and entertainment entities and has generated a lot of buzz and attention for it crafted and somewhat artsy rock sound.  Tasso is my first cousin the son of Carl Tasso Smith III  who has been many things and has many skills but has long earned his keep in the family agribusiness concern which is a major producer of peas. Tasso’s  mothermy father’s youngest sister Beverly Summers Smith, who goes by the name Missi Smith and under that name has produced, shown and sold many works of art.  Tasso and I are different and share a birthday in different years but also a very rich and complex American identity.  Just recently I heard Youngblood Hawke on  the CW’s new tv show The 100. The list keeps getting longer. But this was clearer, more featured and more woven into the plot than most TV drama songs and score are — so kudos on that.
With the exception of Tasso it may seem like a lot of my artistic milieu is tied to education and such but I think the films I have chosen all relate to educational crises as well. They all have something to say to educators.

I don’t review many films in this blog anymore. At least I have not lately.  I suppose  there is more reason to review one film well than to skim over a bunch of them in one post. Nonetheless, I want to take a look at what a few expressions in th media may have to say about America. So let’s get started on this little adventure. There have been a lot of movies that I have found the time to watch in recent days and nights. Over the past year there have been even more. In fact my online comments about The Great Gatsby, Noah and some other films this year as well as Louisiana Story, Belizaire the Cajun, Father of the Bride, Passion of the Christ and Gone With the Wind  have been a significant part of my commentary about America and the world.

Pitre,is not a very common name in the United States nor in the Anglophone world really. But here in this blog it has a film connotation which one should think a reference one might pronounce like Amanda Peet’s  last name really   means Glen Pitre. One of my favorite movie-makers, Glen Pitre was born on November 10, 1955 and is from Cutoff Louisiana. He worked his way through Harvard by shrimping in the summers and became a well-respected American screenwriter and film director. His debut film Belizaire the Cajun was exhibited in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival in 1986. Pitre films written and directed since 1986 include: Belizaire the Cajun (1986), Haunted Waters (1997), Good for What Ails You (1998), The Scoundrel’s Wife (2002), Top Speed (2003), Hurricane on the Bayou (2006), American Creole: New Orleans Reunion (2006), Journey Across India (2007),  The Man Who Came Back (2008),  Huit Piastres Et Demie!  (unk. date), La Fievre Jaune/Yellow Fever (unk. date) and Cigarettes and Nylons (2013?-2014?).

I have fallen out of some loops including some that watch the most Pitre films. But I am always a pitre viewer when I approach any film. I met Pitre at a writer’s conference in South Louisiana in the 2002-2004 time-frame and as of this writing he is my Facebook friend but we have never been close or anything approaching close. It is certainly not disrespect of any kind which has me commenting on other films than his in this list. Pitre, by reference to education worked his way through Harvard University by shrimping every summer while in school. That is a very physical occupation and Pitre has a localized but significant physical challenge.

So now let us turn again to my list of films.The films are Twelve Years a Slave, Noah, Divergent, God is Not Dead, Son of God and Frozen. We are also looking here at the ACM awards.

God is Not Dead! has some sequences shot in my graduate alma mater which is Louisiana State University. The addresses a fictional situation from a particular point of view rooted in American Evangelical Christianity. There clearly are professors and instructors who persecute Christians and others in any way they can conveniently do so. The fictional defense of theism in a philosophy class is a convenient way to lay out some of the debate about whether these issues are able to be addressed and to show one way of addressing both theism and Christianity.  The stories and characters are also pretty good and well crafted and the film is compelling enough.  It also comes from Pure Flix which has been a stable producing ever more competent films with the same perspective and some actors who have been involved in those productions or similar ones before. Nonetheless, one can legitimately wonder if the film will give comfort to neo-fascists and others I would not like to comfort who will disrupt education on the pretext of defending God.

It also has an appearance by Willie Robertson  and his wife Korie. This Robertson is the CEO of the Commander companies and the son of the more controversial Phil Robertson. I remembers the controversy over his comments about homosexuals and blacks. I have read the GQ article on the Robertsons and Duck Dynasty with my own eyes. It is perhaps true that it is severely edited in ways which must distort some of the context of the remarks attributed to Phil Robertson. In terms of reveling cultural fissures and reasons for conflict between various parts of America that does seem to be at the heart of the article. The writer seems eager to show that he also can shoot and is perhaps alluding to the possible desirability of another War between the States without stating it out right and up front. However, the overall tone on both sides is not entirely unattractive. In itself it would not make me despair for the future of our current United States.

The theological context for Robertson’s remarks is not really understood much less allowed for in the article but neither is it too viciously distorted. The nightmare of a society like ours trying to live under one set of “domestic regimes” is made a little clearer. In a federal union that should not even be considered an issue. I got my summary from WordPress on my blog which has come down a long way since last year. However, the most popular segment was the Model Constitution of the United States which may be because some people see real federalism is the only real hope for an American future worth living in at all. But this goes further than the film itself. Nonetheless, it is a marker in the discussion of the spiritual in America and does not exist in a vacuum.

 Noah is our next God-centered film. I saw the Darren Aronofsky film Noah and wrote about it on my Facebook timeline the same night on which I and my parents had viewed this evening. I enjoyed seeing Russel Crowe and Jennifer Connelly revisit a troubled marriage after doing it so well in A Beautiful Mind. I thought Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins both delivered memorable performances and Winstone, Lerman, Booth, Carroll and Davenport all made varied roles worth watching. The film was better than I had expected in lots of different ways. It was morally thoughtful, visually spectacular and had careful elaborations of many Biblical themes from early Genesis that are often overlooked. It had the right kind of tone for such a dark and heavy story. Nonetheless, it was an extremely challenging story and I can imagine many honest people of goodwill choosing not to endorse it in any way and finding it unpalatable as well. Beyond all of that, it was very original in its efforts to depict what was not spelled out but was arguably suggested in Holy Writ. I definitely would have to give it a thumbs-up in the old Siskel and Ebert tradition. I think this film falls somewhere between the two sides portrayed in  God is Not Dead! It cannot be simply recommended for all purposes to all but it does make me hope for other serious films of creative merit in the world on religious topics.

That brings us to the Jesus story spun off from the very popular cable series The Bible under the leadership of power couple Mark Burnett and Roma Downey  I went to see Son of God during carnival season. I should  probably have saved Son of God for Lent which started the next Wednesday but I decided to see it sooner. This is one of the shapeless days that are not unusual in my life.  It was a pretty good film at least and like all films depicting the gospel story and the life of Christ it had its own unique set of strengths and weaknesses. For those who have no exposure to the life of Christ it is a lot more than nothing. It does some things quite well and makes some questionable choices as well. It is really weak on a handful of choices and portrayals. What the perspective behind the project may be as a whole is always debatable. Jesus of Nazareth by Zeferelli with big portions of the Passion of the Christ edited in and all sorts of other films including King of Kings and The Greatest Story Ever Told probably come together in my mind to form the depiction in my own mind. No film really captures it as I might wish but I am sure if I had the resources to have a film made it would have many weaknesses as well. The truth is that most filmmakers have a much smaller conception of Jesus Christ than the New Testament offers. I am still not saying Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have not done some good. I think they have and the idea of man with a presence beyond explanation is better captured than in most films. But over all it confirms people in where they are and edifies and educates little about Christ or the Bible. I think for me the positive value is increased familiarity with themes in the Bible and Christianity.

Divergent is very much a film about education and young people finding their way into the world. It is set in a future world which after an apocalypse has made different choices. There seems to be no obvious religion except a generic one embedded in the educational system itself. I think one could argue that it represents an effort of postmodern and relativist secular humanism to  deal with religious and educational questions it has failed miserably to address so far. But any Christian, Jew, Pagan, Buddhist or Muslim could watch it and see some things of interest tot heir own views of education.

Twelve Years A Slave raises issues of race, education, religion and struggle. It is more realistic than many portrayals and allows a clever viewer places to bring forth his or her won doubts an critiques about the story, the film and the subject. As we remember the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act we can all stand to revisit the history this film portrays. it is not a sufficient source for all that history but it adds to the discussion.

Frozen is a beautiful film which portrays Scandinavian culture in a Disney Fairy Tale. It is a good film and has its moral voice. There is no Christianity in the Christian Era Scandinavia but no attack on it either. The pagan and secular trends of these societies are treated in reasonable House of Mouse fashion. The soundtrack is good.  It is solid children’s entertainment.

The ACM awards are a big show now with numerous venues in Vegas. I am not likely to be very happy or successful in my own estimation but  I am assertive and ambitious anyway. I think I have something to contribute to the national media discussion and the ACM awards show small town and rural southerners reaching an audience and forming a big part of a national audience.  I like the show and many of my friends do.

I think this blog is relevant to the big discussions and trends in our country. I hope it is relevant to the readers as well. But there are forces and choices we must deal with that are made manifest in our popular culture. That is better than there not being manifest at all.

 

 

After Grandparents a Footnote or a Note

Even those who are not Catholics can probably remember images of Pope John Paul II in his last infirmities. Here was the great man of youth camping trips, skiing and an underground Catholic Church in Nazi Poland and a resisting Church in the Soviet block. Here was the man whose physical vigor had been the bright framing highlight mixed with the verbal paint of his answer made when a member of the curia in the early days asked if he did not think it “unseemly for a Pope to ski ?”     The still relatively young Pope had said: “It is unseemly for a Pope to ski badly.” He did not ski badly and he was very much the Pope.

George Weigel who wrote Witness to Hope came to Lafayette to speak about another book.

George Weigel who wrote Witness to Hope came to Lafayette to speak about another book.

Pope John Paul II is due to be canonized soon and this weekend I watched the video Witness to Hope  which is based on the book by George Weigel and tacks the entire biographical arc of Karol Wotija known to many as John Paul the Great.  Many can remember the shouts by the Italian crowd of “Santo Subito” as this old man’ s death was announced. People wanted him quickly made an official saint.  It has been pretty quick by Church standards. This is different than the cultus that sometimes springs up for a young martyr who has died giving witness to Christ. Not the act of dying quickly and bravely but of enduring long gives rise to faith and veneration.

This is a note largely written during the last hours of the fourth of April, 2014. April Fourth is the birthday of one of my earliest girlfriends and and we are still enough in touch that I messaged her with a celebratory greeting. I can think back on that unbelievably young era of life every April fourth. l am not so much thinking about that period nor about those lost in youth as I am about the twilight years. My nephew Anthony Joseph Summers has his third birthday party tomorrow. That is another reason to think of youth and innocence. But again this note is about something else.

I spent much of the day today and yesterday with my cousin Ivan Berling who is in his eighties. We went to visit my father in the hospital today. My father is in his seventies and has had many health problems lately. He has cardiovascular problems, cancer and gout among other things.  I suppose that trend of thinking about the later years of life also relates to the coming canonization of the Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. These were two men who kept serving God, the Christian Church and humanity until the very end of their earthly lives. These were long lives. Pops whose funeral caused the visit left us many reminders of a long and eventful life. There was little about his 91 odd years that did not speak of experience and fullness more than innocence and absence. My cousin and I had our visit framed by his life this weekend.

My grandfather CBG Sr. Pops blesses a great grandchild on his 90th birthday!

My grandfather CBG Sr. Pops blesses a great grandchild on his 90th birthday!

 

So my cousin Ivan and I have just come from  another funeral of an elder in the relatively small world of one’s close  family and friends. But of course our circles only overlap they are not the same and he was not at Gammie’s funeral or Nannee’s funeral as I would name these two events. In September of 2013, my great aunt Lottie Lucia Miller Massey, the former Mrs. Charles William Massie II  died . She was the last of three siblings and represented a closing off of one set of connections to the past through Laura Marie Broussard and her husband Dr. Preston Joseph Miller. Then last Monday my last grandparent died — Cecil B Gremillion Sr.  My vigorous but somewhat elderly cousin Ivan Berling did not attend my great aunts funeral and talked to me of several people he had lost lately whom I did not even know who were in the same stage of life.

Gammie presided over family gathering with my grandfather and namesake and after him for a long time.

Gammie presided over family gathering with my grandfather and namesake and after him for a long time.

Nannee as I called her was the second of three children of the late Dr. Preston Joseph Miller and Laura Broussard Miller and the last surviving of the three. She did not get into this blog before this note although I wrote about her on Facebook. Two of those who sent me condolences on my maternal grandfather were her niece Dolly Brandt and her grandson Charles William Massie IV soon to be ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church. She is survived still by my correspondents and by one of their fathers her son Charles William Massie III and his brother Christian Chadwick Massey (Chad Massie) and sister Catherine Massie and her grandchildren born to Chad and his wife Tricia Dwyer Massie. The webs of family connections extend in all sorts of ways in my life.  In my post about Pops I listed many of his descendants and not all but in Nannee’s shorter list I got closer to a fully complete list. Nannee is still survived by her daughter Laura Lucia Massie Hayes Roberts and her grandchildren through Laura both Paul Hayes and his daughter Patricia with his former wife Elizabeth and two children with his wife Stacey Thorne Hayes as well as Laura-Lucia Hayes Carothers I am not sure in Laura Lucia has children.

Nannee was a fascinating woman in many ways and I remember her fondly enough. Pops was a man who made his way with some college credits from what is now the University of Louisiana and an officer’s commission. But he was a staunch LSU sports fan. Nanee was not so much compelled by sports but she was an alumna of Louisiana State University and a long term supporter of various educational causes along with other interests in her life. Nanee was also different from Pops in some other ways. Whereas he attended military officer’s training programs and earned some licenses that required courses she made her life mostly in education. My Gammie, Beverly Miller Summers was a teacher for a while but Nannee for much of a life.  She was a public school teacher and a devout Roman Catholic who lived that faith at a time when her divorce was unusual in small town environments of Catholic Acadiana and south Louisiana. She adjusted well to the tensions that exist between Church and State in our society.

Like Gammie who died two years and a bit ago she was descended from Joseph Broussard “dit Beausoleil” through her mother she never knew or remembered very well – who died in her childhood she was always deeply attached to her father until his death. He was also as a physician and part owner of a hospital the very essence of commitment to education around here. Today visiting my father in the hospital I was reminded as I always am his side of the family’s commitment to the legal and medical professions. There were plenty of doctors and lawyer’s in Pop’s life but I think of technical and business acumen when I think of his set. He and his brother-in-law Walter Hollier who died a while back were both bombardier instructors. That was education too I suppose but the feel and pace were different than law, medicine or public schools. Their stories were not all that common but they did leave an impression on my when they were told. My mother led the organization of her father’s funeral and wake which was held at a facility and chapel administered by Family Missions Company. She had also helped a lot with Gammie’s wake and funeral and none of the faults and much of the success of that venture was hers.  As this comes out she has said good bye to her guest Ivan Berling Sr. and has been in the hospital with my father.  You can see her understanding of the surgery and its immediate aftermath here. It is worth remembering her father died on Monday and she bore the largest part of the responsibility for all arrangements Tuesday and Wednesday. Dad was in the hospital on Friday morning. He also had a prep meeting on Thursday. Mom is no kid herself and has diabetes. But she keeps on ticking.

It was a bit trying to see my father wheeled into his room in the hospital in a bed where Cousin Ivan and I were waiting for him with a helium balloon and a humorous card. I certainly hope he is alright and we prayed with him. But he is not just  “my father” even in my mind. His life in my mind involves fifty yerars of history together. Seeing my father always is near enough to something to do with land. There is not much else that can be said about that in a short note. But now and at almost all other times if he were not sick he and I would have something to discuss regarding lands even if it is just this house lot. Pops or Cecil Gremillion Sr. Still has in his estate a few parcels of land to deal with and always had a lot of dealings with land. Lottie Lucia Massie who died in September held land, mineral interests, financial interests and family concerns which occupied much of her time before and after her retirement from teaching. Mrs. Massie or Nannee was known to some as devoted to a long process of caring for her home, garden and surrounds for many years in a large sun bonnet or hat along one of the principal streets in Abbeville. But that period of home care was long in the past and there are many things that need doing on the estates of all those I have lsot in recent years from my extended family and I am having problems preventing my work here on my father’s home lawns and such. These are more likely to be issues when people full in years are threatened by death or taken from us than when the very young decease and often have fewer possessions.

So, Pops had a really decent send-off and his death was marked in a suitable way.  I have no idea what will happen to those of us yet to go but I remember other recent funerals as well. Lottie Lucia Massie’s funeral was memorable enough.  Much of the family and the great majority of my great-aunt’s direct descendants were gathered for the parts of the marking of her passing which I attended. The Mass was very suitable in the church she loved.The readings were read by her grandson studying for the priesthood and all but one of of all not so numerous grandchildren brought up the offertory gifts.The sermon/eulogy and music were well suited to the occasion as well. I suppose more immediate family and some of their friends and other relations may have continued the memorial in other ways. I was with a group of nine mourners remembering her at a dinner and three more were dining near us. We drank her favorite drink in her memory and much was remembered that went unsaid. I did not do as much in relation to either the death of Nannee or Pops as I did with relation Gammie’s death.

I wondered then if my grandmother’s death and burial will be the event that moves me from one sense of personal relative hell to a new one. I care about many people, patterns and institutions located here in the United States. I also feel that most of the problems and evils of this country are present elsewhere as well. However, I am not a very happy person and never have been. I do remember as history, from story and from experience the faults and foibles of the older generations that are passing on.  While I have done much to help and honor some in those generations I have never been blindly adoring. When Gammie died two years ago I wondered if maybe her passing  would be the event that helped or harassed me move geographically to a place where I would not have to participate in destroying almost everything I think is worth a damn just to survive. This blog is full of words and other expressions showing my discontent that  is no secret. When the older ones pass on is forced to recognize that there were promises in one’s own life made to their generation that have not been fulfilled. These are not usually explicit but are implied in many ways.

The passing of these markers of earlier generations and the struggle of my father to extend his life make me more conscious of the shortcomings of our time. Because I do feel that self-destruction has become the establishment position in the USA. My grandfather who just died was a more comfortable and uncomplicated patriot in the things he chose to say about the American Union’s future and state of being. My own time in this life grows notably shorter and my strength has receded plenty already in many ways from visual acuity to optimism itself.

I have never felt free in the way some people do nor been the slave some people are but I do feel that as an American my life is so unfree and the bitterness of the false freedom ideology as it plays out in countless lies and misrepresentations does damage to our future that is so vast that it does trouble me often. Looking back on a life far from perfect here and abroad  maybe I hope for a situation which will inspire me to go and live out however many days I may have left in peace. These days of peace were not so peaceful nor would future ones be. But I feel the lost potential of this country more as I see our ancestors of the World War Two Generation leave us. Death makes it clear that their era is over.

 

Soon it will be Holy Week and while Gammie was buried nearer Easter and I am past her death anniversary and not at Palm Sunday this is an unusual year. I am not more prepared for Easter than usual but it falls later in the calendar year than usual. I can remember Gammies funeral vividly where I was a pall bearer with other men in the family. At my niece Anika’s  beautiful reading at Pop’s funeral and the readings of many other relatives I remember that I was similarly moved and touched by the Mass of Christian Burial for Gammie where my nephew Anika’s brother Soren who read a petition for Pop’s funeral read a reading for Gammie’s. I also remember how beautifully my first cousins once removed Dolly and Ainsley read the readings. The music and words and prayers were more than nice then.

I did not spend as much time with Pop’s wake and funeral as with Gammie’s similar events. In my life Gammie’s funeral was less than an ideal kind of closure.  The final walk made for her as pallbearer in which I felt that almost everything was done to make me drop the coffin except to trip me and physically knock it out of my hands it seemed like a suitable culmination of my life’s time with Gammie.  At the time I posted on Facebook about a  nearly engineered coffin spill-a-thon which somehow managed to be a decorous burial or the other egregious affronts to the little protocols that could make life more tolerable all I know is that there is not much to set against the bad feelings as I move on with my life. It seemed to contrast so much with the many times Gammie precisely organized events. but really she was not perfect there and her resources were limited.

For Pops I wore his favorite green to the wake and my only good suit to the funeral. For Gammie I did some shopping to prepare for the funeral — socks and a pair of black shoes that did not have badly worn soles.For recent funerals I have had those things.  My first cousin who is not related to Gammie was in jail when she died but was at Pop’s wake and funeral.   I remember that after Gammie’s funeral I also went by to visit that first cousin in the parish (county elsewhere) jail. He has ended up there  a few times and when out could not go to his original home at Kisinoaks as my grandfather with whom he had lived most of his life at Kisinaoks had come to  live with his black helper and her man in a house he rented for both them and himself while his family home where my cousin lived was supposedly being sold. After Gammie’s funeral my cousin was not available to be visited and so I simply put some money in the electronic kiosk and confirmed that he was being held there.  But at Pop’s wake and funeral we hardly spoke although he was available for conversation.

 

I van and I toured the Abbeville Library built in 2003, the Louisiana Military Hall of Fame and Museum and the Palmetto Island State Park. Each said something about what is good, worthy and honorable in this country and place. I do respect the efforts embodied in each of these institutions although I have a complicated view of each of them. And I also say that each is beautiful to me. My cousin Ivan was brought up to date on his hometown. I was happy to play tour guide as he lives out of state. He used to know the area but needs an occasional refresher to keep up now. Although I feel frustrated and oppressed in some ways I am not idle. I am also very aware that there is a lot going on in my own life and family. I cannot imagine that feeling worse about it than this rainy week in Lent seems to call for is appropriate. But it is real enough anyway.  I am putting down some words about what is going on in my life.

As I have written my father has had an angiogram and has had a stent placed as a result of the imaging and testing that was done. This angioplasty has caused him to be admitted and held over night for observation. I visited him in the hospital  in Lafayette and am waiting to find out when he will get home.  He should be out this  morning. I am not sure what his next few years will be like or what role I will play. But I do know that these days will matter not only to me but ot my nieces and nephews.

There will then be other work to be done in two weeks. I hope all of this goes well.

sometimes write on this Facebook Timeline (mostly when it was a profile) as though nobody is going to read and sort of warn anyone who does that this is the nature of a particular note. I have never done that more emphatically than here in this note. I loved my grandmother and it would take pages just to list the good things about her. Yet, much more than most deaths of those I cared about, her death has me filled with bad feelings and even bad memories. I think perhaps in part I feel that the tings I admired most about her may never be well known and are already mostly forgotten. Many of the other qwualites I liked about her color memories made overly simple by those who cherished or else may be seen as debunked by faults known t those who did not admire her. Her deth brings a finality to a lot a business which will forever be marked “unfinished” at least in my earthly human experience.

 

 

 

My grandmother Beverly Miller Summers and I spent a great deal of time together.  We knew each other extraordinarily well and we had quite a few enjoyable times together.  We were not really all that much alike in most of the terms by which most people would measure people being alike. We did not have mostly the same vices or virtues. We did not have an infinite trust in one another. Much of what bound us together was sharing in work which most people would find odd and esoteric and many would not recognize as legitimately being work.  So much time spent is now safely locked in the past sealed with deaths twenty years apart of Chief Justice and Mrs. Frank Wynerth Summers.  In her death his death is somehow completed for me. Although Christians recognize death as ending a marriage there is something of the “two become one” which that faith and others cannot help but feel as well. They survive in their descendants but they also end their tenure in my life as the couple is gathered beside one another in death’s rest.

 

On Friday, March 30, 2012, I buried my grandmother.  It marked many important turning points in my life at the same time. I have always realized that in the end, the middle and the start my life was going to be troubled.  There was a time when I hoped it might also seem worthwhile. However, that is a past chapter. Perhaps I will find a bleak and meager kind of peace somewhere for a few years. I may well be glad to leave behind the long struggle in this tortured version of American democracy which we both discussed in agreement and disagreement for so many years. Gammie has secured a resting place in death and her struggles had gotten smaller and more personal in recent years.

 

 

My grandmother’s death closed many chapters for me. She was a complex person and we had a complex relationship. In the wake and funeral I had a chance to put behind me some of the totality of a part of life which will not come again. I think my whole life I have been amazed at how horrible almost everything is and I still often feel that way. Nonetheless, there are millions of things to apprecite and value even in a world where one finds billions of places to attach the lable “horrible” and “mind-bogglingly horrible”. My grandmother had a complicated relationship with the church and with her Christian faith. She was more knowledgeable about faith than many who knew her would think.

 

A few, or perhaps more, who knew Gammie knew things about her that  they might find far from the higher and better view of her which I have propounded to some degree. In many cases this would be because they are almost completely mindless idiots. However, in other cases it is becuse of legtimate confusion or misunderstanding.  I know Gammie was affected by the range of moral forces in this world from most holy to most evil. I know she herself played many roles in the world’s moral drama. My life was often hellish in a completely different way from the hellishness of her life. Sometimes, one or both of us had a heavenly life. Was one thing real and the other not? I can’t give a total answer, but do believe both side of life were real.  In the mix of it all was the usual very earthly existence.

 

 

 

I have a great deal of misery and bitterness that I could wallow in when I think about the family life in which somehow Gammie and I were both involved. In many ways it is possible to see our relationship as an exhausting and soul-crushing burden and waste of time. Yet, I am proud of the years we shared. They were not perfect and I always knew they would come with a price. One of our weaknesses in relating to eachother was that we did not have sutained direct confrontations about anything. She was very far from approving of all I did and frankly that was mutual and yet we just never spoke angrily about things for more than a few minutes. Often we related as if we had no significant concerns besides just visiting. I could list many thing she did for me and many things I did for her btu we never had an established sort of framework of support. She and I both were aware of compromises the other had made which we ourselves would not have made. Oddly enough, despite being my grandmother and almost half a century older than I  she was  very close friend. I think I was less near the top of her list of friends and yet I think we both were surprised for decades that we were in fact mostlt often friends. I do not think it was a friendship anyone else could really understand. I was often polite and deferential but really it was one of the most peer-like relationships of my life.  As I look across the vast crap plain of life in my time I am not ashamed of what we tried at various times to do in the hellhole of circumstance. We both might have been better served in many to spend much less time together I can see objectively. I have so many reasons to regret the whole thing and she doubtless would as well if we ever would have chosen to look at things in that way.. Yet it would take books to merely list all the things we did together. Many of those things were objectively worthy things to do in life. Maybe, I will be free to move out of the web of previously shared misery in which I have become embedded. I am proud that I have the integrity of my rage and bitterness when nothing else would be proper.  But I do not think rage and bitterness are good states of being.

 

Gammie I like to think is resting in peace. PauPau’s body beside hers is also reposed in calm of death and they are near each other. I am not reposed in this moment.  I am tired and restless at the same time. If the grace of Lent is not entirely wasted on me then perhaps I will come to see the beauty of ending life well. I think it is very possible she found an increasing and holy peace in the end that she had not often found accessible. Perhaps, I will be so blessed as to know it when my own end comes.

 

Reviewing My Mother’s Memoirs

I am not an objective reviewer here. I also do not have the same exact value placed on objectivity which some critics avow. I read my mother’s second volume of her memoirs Our Family’s Book of Acts: To Love and Serve the Lord (Summerise Media Publication, ISBN 978-0-615-45595-2-5195) which is a sequel to Go! You are Sent. I read the book’s 386 or so page in a very brief time of between two and three hours. Of course I lived many of the events, knew many of the characters, edited one of the early exploratory drafts which has then been edited twice at least before the final putting together of the galleys. This is the Asian edition put together by Noah’s Ark Creations in Singapore. I am not sure when this will be available from an American publisher. There is no large distribution plan in Europe or the Western Hemisphere right now and it is really a small edition.

Nonetheless, it is a well-written and compelling story presented nicely in  an attractive volume. I think it deals with many issues, topics and persons of real interest and importance. I would not expect it to be such a fast read for most people — indeed I plan to read it again when I get the chance. However, it really has a nice flow. Discussing life as a Missionary, being a wife and mother, an intense productive and troubled marriage, the Catholic Church, social stresses around the world and the people who make up her family is a challenge for the book of this length. It does not disappoint the reader and does not waste the reader’s time in pointless  searches thought things the reader does not have the time to really grasp or understand.  It is in my opinion a good book and well worth the cost in money and time. 

I will try to  post a comment or an update on this blog post and elsewhere when plans for North American and European distribution are knwon to me. I am hoping that this post has enough detail to be of some value as it is. However, the book is definitely of some value.