Thursday, July 15, 2004


To all those people who have read my Blog regarding the hypocrites thing...


I know, I had offended you with such usage of words, and I was never that keen to realize that I had made a drastic action in favor for this someone who had stirred my emotions.


...People tend to generalize, and I guess I had made the wrong decision to generalize. I know it would not be easy for all of you to reconsider my apology, but as time goes by, I hope you would all forgive me.

The truth behind that post was that I had just used it in order for me to know who was the "one person" who tried to ruin my reputation behind my back, and who tries to sever my existing relationships to all of you. And for that reason - for just posting that blog, issues were raised and sent to me. People were of course, misconstrued by my generalizations, so I guess, I should now be specific, for I already knew who that person was. However, I don't want to mention that person's name here, so I guess I should end this post here.

Sorry!!! folks!!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Once a Teacher, Always . . .

By Kay Conner Pliszka

Mom was a teacher most of her life. When she wasn't in the classroom, she was educating her children or grandchildren: correcting our grammar; starting us on collections of butterflies, flowers or rocks; or inspiring a discussion on her most recent "Book of the Month Club" topic. Mom made learning fun.

It was sad for my three brothers and me to see her ailing in her later years. At eighty-five, she suffered a stroke that paralyzed the entire right side of her body, and she went steadily downhill after that.

Two days before she died, my brothers and I met at her nursing home and took her for a short ride in a wheelchair. While we waited for the staff to lift her limp body back into bed, Mom fell asleep. Not wanting to wake her, we moved to the far end of the room and spoke softly.

After several minutes our conversation was interrupted by a muffled sound coming from across the room. We stopped talking and looked at Mom. Her eyes were closed, but she was clearly trying to communicate with us. We went to her side.

"Whrrr," she said weakly.

"Where?" I asked. "Mom, is there something you want?"

"Whrrr," she repeated a bit stronger. My brothers and I looked at each other and shook our heads sadly.

Mom opened her eyes, sighed, and with all the energy she could muster said, "Not was. Say were!"

It suddenly occurred to us that Mom was correcting brother Jim's last sentence, "If it was up to me . . . "

Jim leaned down and kissed her cheek. "Thanks, Mom," he whispered.

We smiled at each other and once again shook our heads - this time in awe of a remarkable teacher.

The Hymnbook

By Arthur Bowler

I watched intently as my little brother was caught in the act. He sat in the corner of the living room, a pen in one hand and my father's hymnbook in the other. As my father walked into the room, my brother cowered slightly; he sensed that he had done something wrong. From a distance, I saw that he had opened my father's brand-new book and scribbled across the length and breadth of the entire first page with a pen. Now, staring at my father fearfully, he and I both waited for his punishment.

My father picked up his prized hymnal, looked at it carefully, and then sat down without saying a word. Books were precious to him; he was a clergyman and the holder of several degrees. For him, books were knowledge, and yet, he loved his children. What he did in the next few minutes was remarkable. Instead of punishing my brother, instead of scolding or yelling or reprimanding, he sat down, took the pen from my brother's hand and then wrote in the book himself, alongside the scribbles John had made: "John's word 1959, age two. How many times have I looked into your beautiful face and into your warm, alert eyes looking up at me and thanked God for the one who has now scribbled in my new hymnal? You have made the book sacred as have your brothers and sister to so much of my life." Wow, I thought. This is punishment?

From time to time I take a book down - not just a cheesy paperback but a real book that I know I will have for many years to come - and I give it to one of my children to scribble or write their names in. And as I look at their artwork, I think about my father, and how he taught me about what really matters in life: people, not objects; tolerance, not judgment; love which is at the very heart of a family. I think about these things, and I smile. And I whisper, "Thank you, Dad."

Laboring to Fulfill a Dream

By Dave Kindred

One morning in 1926, the small boy William Powell walked seven miles down a railroad track. He found his future. Not that he knew it. He knew only that he loved what he saw that morning. He saw a golf course. My, my. What a thing. He'd never seen so much green.

"Beautiful," he says now, seventy-five years later. Only he says it better than that. He says it sweet, soft, slow. "Beeyoootifulll," he says.

One morning in 2001, the great-grandson of Alabama slaves sits in a cart near the 1st tee of his very own course. He built it with his hands, with money from his factory job, with eighteen-hour days, with his wife and children working alongside.

People drove by on Ohio's U.S. Route 30 and saw William Powell on his wild land yanking out tree stumps as if they were bad teeth. They saw him hacking, tugging, burning, bulldozing, pulling up fence posts and picking up stones, planting, watering, mowing. He sweated rivers.

"We had seventy-eight acres, a dilapidated barn, a milk parlor in shambles, chickens in the weeds, no plumbing, no heat and a big ol' white tomcat chasing rats as big as it was," Powell says. "Whatever the 'pioneering spirit' is, we must've had it."

His body aches. Asked if he still plays golf, he laughs. "I fake it." He's five inches shorter than the five-foot-nine Wilberforce University fullback of his youth. "At 190, I looked 175."

He pats his windbreaker. "Got a stomach now for the first time."
He can talk. My, my. He sits three hours, talking. He drives a visitor on a tour of Clearview Golf Course, talking great good sense: "I'd rather fail trying than be successful doing nothing."

The way he tells his story, it's a lesson in American history. He worked on his golf course not for months or years. He worked for decades.

When he started, late in 1946, the pro golf tour enforced a Caucasians-only clause. Jackie Robinson hadn't joined the Dodgers. As Powell worked, Rosa Parks was arrested, Emmett Till beaten to death, Martin Luther King Jr. shot. Watts burned. Four young girls died in a Birmingham, Alabama, church. Bull Connor loosed the dogs of racial war.

William Powell kept working. His daughter, Renee, a former LPGA Tour player and now Clearview's club pro, asks, "How do you stick to something for fifty years when you have obstacles thrown in your path because your skin is the wrong color? My father's story is, 'Never give up.' I got death threats on tour, and I'd call home crying, and y'know what? My parents never said, 'Come on home.'"

Bankers wouldn't lend him money, not even a GI loan. An insurance man told him to keep quiet about his plans or white folks would build a course next door. Vandals plundered his meager place. He kept working. "Even black people thought I was a kook," Powell says. "Who wants to fight a racist, apartheid society all the time? But I had golf in me. And I had to bring it out."

Golf got into him that morning in 1926. Willie Powell and his friend George set out from their little town of Minerva, Ohio. They followed the railroad tracks to see a golf course, though they had no idea what a golf course was.

They hurried through a quarter-mile tunnel before a train could squeeze them against the side walls, those walls crumbling with stone jiggled loose by locomotives rumbling through.

The boys saw railroad construction done with giant steam shovels. They heard dynamite blasts. "So exciting," Powell says. "Like they were digging the Panama Canal."

Then they saw the golf course – beautiful - Edgewater Golf Course. All day they hung around. Powell inspected a Model-T Ford made into a tractor/mower with twelve-inch-wide steel rear wheels and a chain drive with three-fourths-inch flat metal studs. He saw golfers hit balls into the sky and he was amazed how far those balls went and he wanted to try it himself - if his mother ever would let him out of the house again.

Night fell before the boy retraced those seven railroad miles. He tried to sneak into bed, only to hear his mother say, "Willie! Go get me a switch!"

She wanted a whippy switch off a willow tree in the front yard. She used it to great effect. The boy, now a man eighty-four-years old, William Powell yet squirms on the seat of his golf cart and says, "That's a switchin' I'll never forget."

But golf had him. He caddied, thirty-five cents a loop. He became a player who in a different time might have been a professional: "I had the game. But like John Shippen and Teddy Rhodes and many others, not the opportunity. We had to pay the colored tax."

During World War II, U.S. Army Tech Sergeant Powell organized truck convoys in preparation for the D-Day invasion. He used downtime to play golf throughout Great Britain. But at war's end, back home, no golf.

"I had put my life on the line for this country," he says. "I'd just left a country where I was treated like a human being. Now I was supposed to be satisfied to be treated like dirt? I couldn't play any local events. I knew I ought to be allowed to. But there was nothing I could do about it."

Nothing? Powell had been captain of his college golf and football teams. He led men in the army. He often quoted grade-school principal R. R. Vaughn: "Billy, you know you are a little colored boy, and you have to realize you can't do things just as good as a white boy - you have to do them better!"

He would do something. "I couldn't stand being controlled by a certain part of society - you know who I mean - when they didn't come up to my standards."

What he'd do is build his own golf course. "It was necessary," he says. "I had to do it for my own pride. Necessary. I had the right to exist."

All these years later, William Powell knows why he wanted to build Clearview. But he doesn't know why he thought he could. He had no money, no land and no idea how he'd get either. "Then, miracles," he says.

He and his wife, Marcella, had admired land they saw while driving from East Canton to Minerva. They soon saw that land for sale. He made two doctors his partners; his stake came in a loan from his brother.

Clearview is now eighteen holes on 130 acres of rolling, verdant hills decorated with dogwoods and sassafras, oaks and maple. A cool breeze crosses the land transformed from wilderness into parkland. At the 1st tee, a sign calls it "America's Course." On February 16, 2001, Clearview was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Jeff Brown, an Ohio historian who finished the writing of Clearview's register nomination, says, "It's an amazing story, the only course in the history of America designed, built and owned by an African American."

"The lesson of Mr. Powell's life," says Dr. Obie Bender, assistant to the president of Baldwin-Wallace College and a Clearview player for thirty-five years, "is 'Never let other people define you.'"

Powell's wife, Marcella, died in 1996. His son, Larry, is course superintendent. Daughter Renee runs the shop, teaches and, like the rest of the family, is involved in the Clearview Legacy Foundation, preserving the course's history.

The Powells need a museum just for awards: An honorary doctorate from Baldwin-Wallace. The National Golf Foundation's Jack Nicklaus Golf Family of the Year Award in 1992. A Tiger Woods Foundation scholarship in the name of William and Marcella Powell. A lifetime PGA of America membership.

All nice, if late. "Those honors are beautiful," Powell says, there by the 1st tee fifty-five years after he drove off U.S. Route 30 and down a dirt lane to his life's work, "but they're empty, because Marcella's not here. She'd never say, 'This is not going to work.'"

He takes a visitor around the property, the afternoon light golden, and he talks about this tree stump, that creek, those flowers.

He drives to a new tee on the 5th hole, where the PGA of America is lending a hand in renovation, and he points out three maple trees now in the fairway rather than beside it.

"We'll take those down," he says.

"Might be interesting," the visitor says, "if you left one to get in the way."

Suddenly, William Powell raises his chin. His eyes brighten. "Maybe we could," he says, his old man's voice alive with a boy's excitement.

Flower Princess

By Nicole Owens

I patted the tulle clouds of my white dress as Mama brushed my dark hair. She clipped tiny ivory flowers to the top of my head, and I was complete - a real princess. Flower girl, they called me, but in my four-year-old mind, I was Cinderella.

We arrived at the church early to practice, and Bonnie, the bride, handed me the basket of all importance. Tucked inside lay dozens of crisp purple orchids. The outside was white wicker, adorned with bows and satin ribbons. It whispered to me, "Princess, princess, princess."

My turn in the rehearsal came, and Bonnie leaned over. "Now, don't put any of the flowers down yet," she said. I nodded, thinking Mama must have been wrong when she said my job was to drop flowers on the carpet. Poor Mama. She must have never been a flower princess.

I marched to the front of the church, clasping my basket, holding my head even and stiff. The prettiest bridesmaid, Josephine, winked and said how grown-up I was. My fingers longed to touch her long satiny skirt, but I stood tall and still, like a real lady.

Then the people came. Tall people, squatty people, people in hats and vests and polka-dot dresses. Men in collars and aloha shirts. Women in heels as tall as pencils. I watched the other kids in their suspenders and pigtails and long flowered muumuus. Well, I thought, feeling sad for them, I suppose we can't all be princesses.

They filled the church with their hushed laughter and rustling dresses and warmth. Up front, Mrs. Ayabe plunked beautiful music out of the old piano. Mama kissed my forehead. "You'll do just fine, sweetie." She put my hand in Bonnie's and left.

Bonnie and I waited at the very back in our matching Cinderella dresses. We waited through the music and the praying and the turning pages. We waited as the bridesmaids in their satin skirts went before us - one, two, three, four. And then it was my turn.

Hundreds of eyes rested on me, but I stared straight ahead to the front of the church. Watching only the old man with the Bible, I slowly traveled the skinny aisle, just like Mama told me - first foot, together; second foot, together.

My fingers gripped the handle of the wicker basket as I guarded my treasure. I wished right down to my toes that I could sprinkle a few flowers, just to show everyone how purple they were. But Bonnie's words whispered in my head. Don't put the flowers down yet.

As I reached the man up front, I saw Mama smiling. It was a funny smile. The kind she gives when I mix the buttons on my shirt, or forget which shoe goes where. I thought maybe her strange look was from being so proud, but a little part of my stomach tied worried knots.

After lots of talking and praying and singing, when I almost had to yawn, I saw one of the men kiss Bonnie smack on the lips. I didn't think God allowed kissing in church, but the man with the Bible was nodding, so I let it pass. Then everything was music and clapping and people swarming around Bonnie and the kissing man.

Mama found me after the wedding, and knelt down to my size. She held both of my hands, even the one still clamped to the basket. "Sweetie," she said with that smile, "Sweetie, why didn't you put down the flowers?"

I opened my mouth to explain when Bonnie glided by, all lace and white and tulle.

"You were adorable, Nicki, absolutely adorable!" she gushed. "And it's okay that you forgot about the flowers." Then the sea of fancy people swallowed her back into their handshakes and hugs. I couldn't believe it.

I stood very, very still. I didn't look at Mama. The tears spilled down before I could stop them, splashing my cheeks, my dress, the rounded toes of my glossy white shoes. I wanted to use my screeching voice.

I had listened! I really had. I listened all perfect but I still did it wrong, and now I can't be a princess!

Mama hugged me close, saying, "It's okay. It's okay to forget. Everybody forgets sometimes, even Mama."

I made my body stiff in her arms. "But I didn't!" I protested between gulping sobs. "Bonnie said not to do the flowers! I didn't forget!" Mama patted and shushed and peppered me with kisses, but I knew she still thought I'd forgotten.

Then I felt a new hand on my back. I blinked up into the sunlight, and saw Josephine's soft smile. She whispered something to Mama, who nodded. Josephine took my hand and led me back to the sanctuary, her satin skirt swishing.

The church was empty and quiet and big as we stood at the wooden doors. I looked at Josephine. "Go ahead and put your flowers down," she said. "It's time now." She waited at the very back, and I walked slowly, carefully down the aisle of the empty church. I fingered the smooth flowers and dropped one here, then here, then here. The last orchid fell just as I reached the front of the sanctuary. Perfect. Just like a princess.

Turning toward the back of the church, I stretched my skirt wide and curtseyed deep to my imaginary audience. Josephine's laugh was like silver. When I looked up, Mama was standing beside her. She beamed my favorite smile, all shining and rounded cheeks - the kind that means she's so glad I'm hers.

I raced back over the trail of scattered flowers. Then we left the wedding, Mama with her smile, and me with my empty basket and a glow that rivaled Cinderella's.

Yesterday, when I was going home and about to take my ride, I saw this child, mistreated by the injustice of the world. He was shirt less and walks in bare foot. I observed him clearly at what he was doing - asking alms. He stretched out his hands to every person in the line after me, but no one responded to his plea. Then he turned to me and asked for something, a single penny perhaps, yet I was just the same as the rest - I turned him down and did not responded to his plea. Then after awhile the thought that our professor had given me another chance struck me, "Why couldn't I be compassionate enough, as what our professor had shown to me? Why did I became too selfish, and not considered the fact that it's just a single penny his asking for?" After awhile I started fixing myself and came up to a solution of considering him, yet I presumed it was too late. The child was advised to move out of sight by someone, and from then on I carried this guilt inside my heart, for its a child's cry that i hadn't responded to. And maybe perhaps it would take long before this guilt would subside - maybe months or perhaps years until i learned how to give something and ask nothing in return.

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

A Turning Point

By Susan Carver Williams

As everything unraveled on a 25-year marriage and my husband moved out of the only home our daughter had ever known, I felt huge relief our only child was 20 at that time - it made everything simpler. Or so I thought. Because she wasn't a minor, I didn't have to negotiate about custody and child support, didn't have to put up with his coming around to see her, didn't have to try to explain the inexplicable to a young child. Mostly, though, I was relieved because I thought it would be less complicated emotionally for her at that age. She was away at college, a young adult, not subject to the day-to-day difficulties or emotional turmoil of her parents being in two households.

In an attempt to ensure that my crushing hurt did not affect their relationship, I had said to my daughter and her dad that the nature and quality of their relationship from that point on would be up to them. I would not interfere, but neither would I facilitate. I tried to be glad when I saw his phone number on the phone bill from her college dorm; but I'll confess that on more than one occasion in those early days I slipped into revenge fantasies, wishing with more than a little shame that I could be one of 'those' divorced parents who use their children to 'get at' an ex-spouse. My anger waned in intensity over the following months, but on occasion glowed white hot, briefly and unexpectedly, for reasons that still elude me. At those times, I exercised that remarkable ability so many women have to feign: pleasantness and serenity while simultaneously holding down an ugly knot of hurt and anger that clamored for attention the way curdled milk waits to erupt from a soured stomach.

I observed my daughter's next few years mostly from afar as she concentrated on her studies, became active in a sorority, made new friends, played on her university's tennis team, enjoyed snow-skiing, camping, boating and beach trips with friends, and fell in and out of love. I naturally wondered at times what impact the end of her parents' 25-year marriage might have on her. From what I could see, my daughter's strong spirit, sense of independence, self-confidence, good humor and zest for life were serving her well. After a while, I even congratulated myself on our having handled things in a way that had left her relatively unscathed.

Reality hit hard one evening during her Christmas vacation six months before she was to graduate from college. That's when my daughter taught me an important lesson - children whose parents divorce are forever changed, regardless of their age or life situation when the split happens. Sitting at the dinner table that night in my new house, which still didn't feel like home to either of us, she hesitantly told me she was dreading her college graduation.

"All my friends' families will be coming, and there are dinners and receptions all weekend," she said, putting her elbows on the table her father had sanded and stained when she was a little girl. "And every time you see or talk about Dad, you cry and feel sad. I can't tell one of you not to come. You're my parents. It makes me not want to go through graduation."

I felt as though I'd been hit with something big and hard.

I couldn't breathe. And then tears - those damn tears – began to course down my cheeks and drip onto my chest. I felt hot, and the light over the table seemed to spin and flash as I struggled for composure. I was stunned and stung - stunned to discover that my involuntary tears had cut so deeply into her life and soul; stung that my hanging on to sadness and a sense of loss were responsible for her wanting to skip an important milestone in her life. I didn't believe for a second she really would miss the festivities, but to know she saw my continued grieving as an inevitable dark cloud over her graduation weekend was devastating.

I've always believed that actions follow thoughts. Now would come a test of that belief. "I know it wasn't easy to say that," I managed to mutter. After a pause and a big sigh I continued, with a note of determination in my voice that I didn't feel. "It's six months until graduation. You know both your dad and I love you and want your graduation and all your special moments in life to be unmarred by what's gone on between us. I promise you that on your graduation weekend, you don't have to worry about my crying. We'll be fine."

And we were. Tears did fall that day, but they were shared with my ex-husband as we stood arm in arm watching the daughter we'd raised walk across the stage to accept her diploma. He even carried an extra handkerchief for me, as he had all those years we were married. That's when I knew my choice to spend time with him during the months after her sad dinner table confrontation had been worthwhile. By "practicing" being cordial and friendly, by sharing everyday conversation and meals, by saying why I was doing this, I had moved beyond the automatic response of tears. I think we actually ended up enjoying ourselves; and it wasn't long before I realized that forgiveness had crept into my heart, softening that hard knot of anger and hurt.

It was a turning point - not only for the three of us but for our extended family and friends as well. Now my sister and mother and friends could once again be friendly without feeling disloyal to me. The cordiality and friendliness we felt that spring has continued in the years since, making subsequent visits with our daughter more enjoyable for everyone. And now we're all immersed in planning another milestone - our daughter's wedding. In the fall, my ex-husband and I will sit side by side once again, on the front pew in the church this time, perhaps sharing a handkerchief once more.

A beloved teacher once said to me, "Forgiving may help the forgiver more than the forgiven." She was right.