The LadyClick thumbnail to view full-size
I remember the first time I laid eyes on her. That's an interesting expression, but that is exactly what happens. Not laying on of hands, but laying on of eyes!
I was a young man. I had just agreed to play the organ for church services on Saturday and Sunday in exchange for room and board at St. Agnes rectory on the corner of Vermont and Adams in Los Angeles. The year was 1968. The pastor told me that Sister Jane Robert, the fourth grade teacher at the parish school, was in charge of the choir. When I went to the convent to introduce myself, the nun, who answered the door, told me that Sister Jane Robert was still in her classroom, so over to the classroom I went. I wasn't sure what to expect, perhaps an old nun with a scowl, someone who might throw an hymnal at you if you sang off pitch! But whoever it might be, I was just looking forward to playing the large pipe organ and improving my skill at accompanying. I had no idea there was a surprise waiting to burst forth!
I was speechless when the fourth grade door opened in response to my knock. She seemed tall in her contemporary "habit," a blue professional suit. Her blond hair flowed around her glowing face. I fell in love instantly. I became tongue tied. I thought for a moment that perhaps she was feeling the same about me, but later, I realized that I was in La La land! I thought I could smell her hair. She had a presence that captured me and my soul. I was only 23 at the time, and I immediately thought this is the woman I want to marry. But I respected the fantasy! It was a fantasy. And that was Okay. It was a nice fantasy, but I knew there was no way. She was a nun to begin with, and although not terribly old, she was certainly much older than me, and how could anyone of her maturity be attracted to a young "kid" like me. I guess, in some ways, I still felt like a kid.
And wouldn't you know it, I got invited out with a group of folks later that evening, including Sister Jane Robert, to go to a movie and to dinner afterwards. And wouldn't you know it, it worked out that we sat next to each other in the car and in the theater! Whoa! I was a terrorist waiting to die! Well, back in 1968, I didn't know anything about terrorists and their reward of virgins when they show up at the pearly gates. But, I was STRUCK, and my fantasy just got fed a huge dose of "well, maybe it's not so far-fetched after all!"
As often as I did get to ride next to her in the car and sit next to her in the movies, I still pretty much observed Sister Jane Robert from afar. I got over my tongue-tiedness and just enjoyed watching and being with her whenever the opportunity arose, and there were lots of opportunities on Saturdays and Sundays. During the week, I returned to my live-in job at a residential treatment center in Yucaipa, about 86 miles to the East.
Over the next two years, I met and dated several different women. A few seemed potentially serious, but Sister Jane Robert, little by little, emerged as the "other woman" in my life.
One day, Sister Jane Robert was no longer Sister Jane Robert and was living in an apartment and working at an adoption agency. We continued to stay connected. She continued to get together with the group who went out for dinner and a movie on the weekends. In those days, the really good films were often rated X, if you can believe that, for example, Midnight Cowboy. So we called ourselves the "dirty movie club." Even though, I was dating other women, I always made time and looked forward to an evening with the dirty movie club, and it always worked out that I sat next to--no longer Sister Jane Robert, but now Roberta. Roberta O'Neill in fact.
And then one day, I invited her to go along on a business trip to San Francisco, which I knew was her favorite city. I was stunned that she accepted my invitation. I'm even stunned now as I write this almost forty years later. And it was there, in the City by the Bay, that our romance began. We eventually married and gave birth to a wonderful little boy, named David.
In addition to being the woman of my dreams, she was also a woman of integrity and value. She literally took on the slum lords when she got wind that the families of her students were paying high rent for an apartment or house that was substandard, and she got action. I was always surprised that she didn't get mugged or shot because she took on some powerful folks. As blond and as white-skinned as she was, she was also a universal woman, admired and loved by everyone. When she walked into a room, everyone stopped and looked, like the old EF Hutton commercial. And when it finally sank in that she loved me, I felt so lucky, so special. It was unbelievable to me and remained unbelievable probably for our entire life together. And perhaps at some point, my disbelief was not very helpful to our relationship and maybe created an ironic kind of rift that didn't have to be there had I been a tad more emotionally mature.
Well, unfortunately, she lives elsewhere now. Sometimes not far away and it is not unusual that I sense her presence, but I miss her so. She passed away in June, 1998, but TODAY is her birthday, and I always celebrate it in some way or another. Her favorite food was Beef Stroganof. So if you have a chance to have Beef Stroganof today, have it in Roberta's honor.
The last time we stayed at one of our favorite hang outs, and we both knew that she was dying, she said that it would be okay if in the future I brought someone else here--the Kon Tiki in Pismo Beach. But I don't think she was really serious because as many times as I have tried to reserve a room there, I have never been successful. I always imagine her smiling and saying something like, "I was just kidding. This is our favorite spot, period. You and any new woman find your own favorite spot."
A friend asked me last Mother's Day if I was going to visit Roberta's grave that day. I was caught totally off guard because I rarely visit her grave, mainly because I just don't think of her being there. So as I "did" my walk that day, I talked to Roberta...talked about how much time I didn't spend with her when she was alive. So I committed to spending time with her each morning during my prayer and meditation time. She reminds me often that I am forgetting and it makes me laugh.
Of course there is so much more to the story, almost twenty seven years more to the story, but I like the part I just shared, so I'll stop here for now.
Do you have a loved one who has passed on and whose birthday you still celebrate?
Thanks for reading
I wrote this blog two plus years ago on her birthday, and I was wanting to post the link on facebook because today is our fortieth wedding anniversary. I did just a tad bit of reediting, including correcting a spelling error! if you are this far in the read, then I hope you enjoyed reading about A LADY today. Well, yes, THE Lady.
AND ANOTHER UPDATE, June 17, 2015. Tomorrow is the anniversary of her passing. I added the Irish Blessing song a la Lori True, and I posted the lyrics because they are a tad difficult to understand on the recording and beautiful and tender.
Irish Blessing by Lori True
LYRICS FOR THE IRISH BLESSING
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be at your back
May the sunshine warm upon your face
May the rain fall softly on your fields
And until we meet again
May you keep safe in the gentle, loving arms of God.
For everything there is a season
A time for meeting, a time to say goodbye
In all things, God is near
Always guiding your way.
For everything there is a season
A time for loving, a time for letting go
In all things, God is near
Always guiding your way.
Check out JUNE 14: THE FIRST FEATHER, another blog about THE LADY
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