Hierarchy vs. Conviviality Stories: Church /
Mid to late 1960s: I was visiting my mother. She told me that the pastor was coming, that she’d asked for his help about something, it was important, she didn’t want to lose the occasion: would I cool it there in the living room while she closed the doors to the rest of the apartment? The story is begun as a note to my Religious Indoctrination file: I duplicate it here before continuing.
Hell, it was a long time ago, the principals are dead, I may as well name names. The Pastor was the Reverend Harry Mathias. I never confronted Rev. Mathias. I just avoided him. When our paths crossed anyway I just glowered, he turned aside, seeming no more anxious to chat than I. The last time I saw him was a decade or two later and we were both trapped. My mother had a problem. She wanted to confide in her pastor. Why a person of normal to superior intelligence should want to consult with a numb illiterate I can’t imagine. Convention had him as literate and compassionate and wise so the hell with actual experience. She knew I held him in contempt, so she warned me he was coming. I promised to behave.
He arrived. Saw me. Blanched, but quickly recovered, filling the room with blustery bonhomie. He blustered for an hour. He blustered about himself (though some poor old shut-in woman he’d just visited also got mentioned), smacking my mother on the knee every other minute or reaching out and shaking her elbow. His subject was all about how he knew he wasn’t a very good preacher. (He shot me his only glance since entering as he said it.) But, boy oh boy, he kept telling his fidgeting audience, was he ever a really good pastor. “Well, Norma, well, Paul, I have the rest of my rounds to run. That’s what I am: a pastor.” And he left.
My mother sat. Helpless. Grieving. He’d never asked her why she’d called for him. Never inquired about the problem she’d specified existed. Never let her get a word in edgewise.
… And never let her guide him out of the room I occupied or give her a chance to “banish” me to solitude in the main room as I’d agreed. Matthias wanted to avoid me but he sat us by my side where he then avoided looking at me but for the one mentioned exception. (Why didn’t my mother ask me to be still in her room for an hour? or make myself a sandwich in the kitchen? or go for a drive? I’ll never know. Mattias had probably surprised her by the coincidence of his calling while I was there.)
So this picture would have been taken a few years before the above reported incident.
I’ve made a theme at Knatz.com of ”
Communication” and “understanding.” Indeed, those things are themes of my life and my life’s work. My Chronology will also serve as a guide. Macroinformation should become my definitive statement. (And don’t overlook the fact that my novel on the subject was never published!)
The reader is free, given the above tales, to speculate on why in the world pk would then again and again, attempt to communicate with preachers. My own take on the question rushes to admit that my attempts haven’t always been 100% failures. Once I’ve finished a body of such stories we could take a census: 50% failure? 90% failure? 99% failure? My Police folder tells one brief story that I’d call a success of communication: at least between pk and a pastor.
Stay tuned for a couple more files about 100% failures.
PS We can tell a story about Hitler behaving badly without being 100$ virtuous ourselves. The above story illustrates a pastor failing at his charter duty, without even being aware of the failure! But such stories might be told about any of us: the misjudged can themselves misjudge. I can tell stories where my mother didn’t listen either! when she should have. I don’t doubt that any of my loved ones could tell a story or two about me not hearing, not paying attention, interrupting, failing in some cardinal duty … But the story is about my mother and her pastor. I expose the pastor as an incompetent fraud; now I illustrate a foible of my mother’s that repeated often enough to a standard behavior: When she was aging, lived alone, I’d phone as seldom as I visited, but if I phoned, it was to tell her something important. I had to fight uphill to get the chance.
Proper phone etiquette to my mind should have been
Hello, How are you? What’s up?
In other words: get over the formalities quickly and get to the purpose of the call: I got mugged, The doctor cut off the wrong leg, I love you, You’ve invited to a party, I can’t pay the rent: could you loan me a hundred? …
I’d phone, with something to tell her. She’d answer: Hello. I’d say Hi, Mom, or whatever: and she’d go off into a marathon sprint of babble. No opportunity to deliver the message was allowed. And then she’d try to wriggle off the phone: “Well, it’s your nickel, I’ll let you go …” “It’s long distance, this must cost a bundle …” intruding her money worries as the bill built.
Lots of people learned to fear poverty in the Depression. My aunt, rolling in money by the 1950s, still dried tissues on the radiator for reuse: even as new Oldsmobiles sat in her garage. It’s nice to worry about the postman’s feet, but you should still let him deliver the mail before you ask about his corns: and before you burden him with your outgoing mail.
I’d finally get my message delivered but it was always an uphill battle, unnecessarily long.
@ K. 2002 01 07