Untotaled: Stepping 65 (February 10th, 1971) Jon Russell…May 2nd, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

Dollie woke me from a nap and told me that her water broke.

Still sleepy and also very ignorant, I patted her on the shoulder and said, “Don’t worry. We’ll get you some more.”

She hurriedly explained what she meant.

In no time at all, we found ourselves at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and she was wheeled in on a gurney to a back room. I was told to wait in a small enclosure with two other fellows who were quickly informed of the arrival of their children and departed, leaving me all alone.

Hours passed.

I was completely unacquainted with hospitals and was afraid to ask many questions, so I just watched television.

At about 11:15 that night, a doctor came in and told me that I had a new son and asked me if I would like to see him.

Of course I did.

So I walked around the corner and there was a nurse with a mask, holding a bruised, bloody and misshapen mass of tissue which I could only guess was supposed to be my human son.

The doctor noted my shock, and explained that because my wife was under anesthetic, that they had to use forceps to get the baby out, and there had been some bruising–which would quickly heal.

As soon as he made this explanation he left the room, saying that in an hour or so I could see my wife. So I went back and sat down, trying to get my nineteen-year-old mind to understand that I was a father of some gelatin mass.

Johnny Carson was on TV with The Tonight Show. His guests were the Edwin Hawkins Singers, performing O Happy Day. As I listened to the music and the inspiration of the thought, I realized that I was very happy, in a deep, forlorn, frightened and devastated sort of way.

Sitting there that night I had no idea where the rest of my journey would take me:

Three more children of my own and three additional children I brought into my home and adopted as my sons.

I could never have envisioned the struggles, the thousands of miles, the victories and the defeats.

I was glad I was alone, because I cried.

I wept over the little boy who was dying–and also for the man who was trying to emerge and make his place.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 64 (December 25th, 1970) You’ll … April 25, 2015

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

A worthless, no-count, lazy, trifling, silly, mooching dead-beat.

That was the image of me in my community at Christmas-time in 1970.

I had no job.

Worse, I didn’t want a job.

I was just turning 19 years of age, and even though I’d been forced by my own actions into adult life, I was not a grown-up.

I wasn’t lazy in the sense of being unwilling to perform physical tasks. Dollie and I walked all over town looking for loose change in the dirt and offering to perform odd jobs to earn a few quarters and dollars. Most of the time, this was the way we bought our bologna and bread.

We were living in my mother’s house and she was certainly growing weary of our presence, which was also aggravated by people continuously telling her that we were taking advantage of the charity.

So when our first Christmas rolled around, I had been able to squirrel away $2, which Dollie was unaware we possessed. I did not know what to buy her for Christmas.

Then a lightbulb went off in my head. She loved Dr. Pepper. We didn’t purchase it very often–too expensive for our budget.

So I took my $2 and went out and bought a 6-bottle carton of the delicious fluid, wrapped one bottle up in Christmas paper and placed the other 5 under the tree on Christmas Eve. I was hoping it would be a delightful surprise.

But on Christmas morning when she opened up the bottle, I could tell she was greatly disappointed. Even the offering of the 5 additional Dr. Peppers did not seem to increase her joy.

Matter of fact, we spent most of that Christmas talking, discussing and finally arguing about our situation.

It was the Yuletide Season, but for me it was a memory of hearing:

  • You’ll never amount to anything.
  • You’ll end up in jail
  • You’ll be heading for the streets
  • You’ll be a thief
  • You’ll be a disgrace to your family

And worst of all:

  • You’ll be a husband who couldn’t even give his young wife anything but a bottle of pop for Christmas.

 

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Published in: on April 25, 2015 at 1:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Untotaled: Stepping 63 (October 18th, 1970) Three… April 18, 2015

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

Jane, Mike and Diane.

Three people.

Please remember their names. I will get back to them shortly.

Leaving Buffalo, Dollie and I had much to talk about on our way to Ohio. We had decided not to abort our child, but that particular determination did not take away the problem we were facing upon our return.

How do you tell people who are already disapproving of your relationship that you’ve lied to them about a pregnancy, and that the baby is due in about 3 months?

We tried to be mature.

It was very difficult.

We wanted to pretend a little longer, hoping we could gain some acceptance, and then spring it on people at the last moment.

But we decided that the parents needed to know, and that we would let it flow from there.

We tried to get hold of Dollie’s parents but they refused to take the call. So we wrote them a letter, explaining that Dollie was pregnant.

When we sat down with my mother, she shook her head, whimpered a little bit, and then told us that “she figured there must be something like that going on.”

We then told the pastor and his wife, and once those floodgates were open, we tried to inform everybody we knew as quickly as possible–before it became the grist for the gossip mill.

It didn’t take long.

Within 4 days everyone in the community was aware that we were in the process of having a baby out-of-wedlock. (It didn’t seem to matter that we were now married and were trying to make the best of the situation.)

The general consensus was that “they already knew,” they wished us well, and they were pretty well certain that our relationship was doomed.

There were three folks who stepped out of the pack, and to this day I remember their courage.

Jane was a friend from school who decided to come over and give her support to us. I don’t know why.

Mike, one of the guys who used to be in my singing group, continued to talk to me at church, sing with me from time to time, and never gave up on our closeness.

And Diane, my sister-in-law, stepped in the gap and let Dollie know about a doctor to visit, who would help her through the final 3 months of the pregnancy and the birth.

They were shining lights in the presence of dimness.

I would never want to portray that the people of our community were mean, nor that they were wrong in their assessment of our situation. It’s just that their form of evaluation left us out in the cold, without the warmth we needed to find our escape from the iceberg we had created.

It was a lonely week. I shall never forget it.

It often comes to my mind whenever I am encouraged by others to alienate individuals who may have fallen from grace. Reminding errant souls of their sin is similar to going to a dermatologist for treatment for your acne, and having him repulsed by your complexion.

We needed more than mercy–we needed some human tenderness.

Had it not been for those three souls who stepped in the gap to be grace to us, we might have turned completely sour, never to return to faith again.

From that point on, I wanted to make sure that I always found myself as part of the “chosen three.”

 

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Untotaled: Sitting 62 (October 19th, 1970) Abort the Mission… April 11, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

Ohio was just the way we left it less than a month before.

We were married. Yet folks seemed more concerned about the “whys” than the “wherefores.” They believed we were too young to be Mr. and Mrs. Some of my friends were jokingly betting on how long it would last.

One thing was for sure, we were too chicken to tell anyone about the baby. If they were upset about us being together, what would they think if they knew we had “conceived in sin?”

My wife, Dollie, was beginning to show, but some fashionable, hippie, loose-fitting hemp blouses–popular at the time–helped disguise the bump, so nobody could be sure.

But we were facing a deadline.

There was only one state in the Union that allowed for abortion. It was New York. And that was contingent on the abortion being performed before the conception had gone to six months. We were right on the cusp.

So one day–for all the day–we talked to each other privately and incessantly about how it might be better going forward if there were no baby.

In many ways we had come together because of a pregnancy which we now were trying to terminate so as to be respectable again. I don’t know who was in favor of what–I think both of us just wanted to stop being considered the weirdos, and become the favored son and daughter again.

Before we left Kentucky, a lady gave us a little bit of money, so we hopped into our beat-up Chevy and drove to Buffalo, New York, to get rid of our kid.

It was a long drive. I don’t remember what we talked about, but I’m sure it wasn’t all grim and ugly. We were convinced of the beauty and intelligence of our mission.

We got an appointment at a clinic, and in no time at all, found ourselves sitting in front of a female doctor in her early 40’s, with a heavy German accent.

She was kind. She knew we were scared.

She listened to our story, which was chock-full of some lies, and after we got done pouring out our hearts, she said, in broken English, “I will abort your baby. If that is what you want, that is what I will do. But your wife must be tired from the journey, so why don’t you take today, go off and be together, and come in tomorrow, and we will do the procedure?”

Then she said something strange. She said, “May I suggest that you go see Niagara Falls? It’s only about 25 miles away.”

We agreed. It sounded like fun. Fun was something we did well.

So we drove up to the Falls and found ourselves standing and staring at one of the most magnificent natural phenomenon on this planet.

It was so big. It was so powerful.

We both started to cry.

I don’t know why we cried, but I know that without saying a word to each other or confirming our decision, we got back into our car, and instead of driving to Buffalo, to the clinic, we drove back to Ohio.

I guess we thought that if God can take mere water and turn it into Niagara Falls, He certainly is able to take our mess and change it into a blessing.

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Untotaled: Stepping 61 (October 3rd, 1970) Kentucky Reign… April 4, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

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(Transcript)

The generosity did not stop.

The dime’s worth of grace extended to us by the toll-keeper as we crossed the bridge into the little town was further enhanced when a lovely woman from the local church bought us four nights in a motel, so we could have privacy and a honeymoon.

My friend and his wife, who had just come to the local church, were ecstatic that we were joining them to reach this community with a message of hope and the heart of Jesus.

We no longer had any excuse for being alienated or persecuted. Even though a phone call had been made to our new friends, warning that we might be “trouble,” they chose to ignore the foretelling, and accept us as we were.

We both flourished under this new covenant of mercy.

I immediately went to the local school and told the students that we were going to start a coffee-house in town. There was some pretty good buzz.

I was even invited to come to the City Council to explain the venture to the grown-up types. I wouldn’t say they were excited, but they didn’t lodge any formal complaints.

But the most amazing thing that happened was that we located a deserted, small night club right outside the town. We went to the aged owner of the property, and he was so impressed with our proposal of starting a positive hangout for the teenagers that he said he would rent us the facility for a mere fifty dollars a month.

Everyone was thrilled.

We were so pumped that we went out immediately with three cans of paint that we found stuck in a garage, and commenced painting the walls of the night club.

We were in the midst of this activity when the door to the night club opened, and in walked a Kentucky Highway Patrolman. He asked us what we were doing, and I joyfully recited our mission, goals and hopes about having a coffee-house where the kids from the community could come and interact in a positive environment.

I thought he was receptive, but as he turned to leave, he paused and then pivoted on his shoes. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You are not welcome here. We don’t want this. And you need to leave town.”

I thought he was kidding, so I started joking with him. He leaned in closer to emphasize his point.

“The people of our community don’t want your sort coming here and sharing any new ideas.”

He scared me.

I think he realized he did–because he just finished his words, walked out the door, started his car and pulled away with the full confidence that his mission had been achieved.

I was so shaken by the experience that I started to cry.

I went back to the house where our friends had graciously allowed us to stay while beginning the work and told them about the incident. They were incensed–but also thrilled with an opportunity to make a stand and do something that would be truly significant.

I pretended to agree with them.

But in the middle of the night, my wife and I gathered our things, climbed into our car and drove away.

I ran.

We ran.

We didn’t have any place to go … except back to Ohio.

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Untotaled: Sitting 60 (September 24th, 1970) A Spartan Start … March 28, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2545)

(Transcript)

We figured $25.00 was going to be enough.

Actually, it had to be. That’s all the money we had left. My  girlfriend’s dad had closed the bank account in Arizona, poaching our nest egg.

We climbed into our old Chevy, which the guy at a local gas station told us had no chance of making it on a long trip, and set off for North Carolina, where people of our age were allowed to get married without a parent’s approval.

Along the way, we had a blow-out of one of our tires, which is what the old bald culprits do when they reach the end of their lives. So that took $5.00 we didn’t expect.

We crossed the border of North Carolina and the first town we came to was Sparta. We found a motel, which cost an additional $7.00, and accounting for the gasoline, brought our entire kitty down to a disconcerting $8.34.

We went to the United Methodist Church in town, where the pastor agreed to marry us and even brought his wife over to witness the event. So in a large sanctuary which echoed when we talked, the lady and myself became the traditional “husband and wife.”

I didn’t have any money to give to the preacher. I was embarrassed, but young enough to quickly get over it.

We had to eat, so we went to a local diner as newlyweds and ordered exactly $3.34 worth of food, including tax.

We shared with the waitress and the cook about our nuptials, and out of the kindness of their heart, they donated the meal to us.

We both cried. It seemed like a long time since we had felt a tickle of love from human fingers.

We went back to the motel, and for the first time as legal before God and Caesar, we made love.

We had decided on the drive down to North Carolina not to return to Ohio. We realized that sooner or later we were going to have to tell people that my new wife was pregnant–and we would just rather do that with a new batch of folks, who just might maintain some original politeness.

I had a friend in Kentucky who was starting a church after his Bible College experience. He invited us to come there and spend a week or so, and have…well, have our honeymoon.

So we drove up to Kentucky, spending our last 75 cents on gasoline about thirty miles from our destination, only to discover that there was a bridge which went across the river to the little town…that had a toll.

One dime.

We didn’t have it.

So I rolled up to the toll-keeper and explained our situation. The old man reached into his pocket, pulled out a dime and dropped it into the container and said, “Consider it a wedding gift. Good luck to you both.”

We crossed the bridge to our new life…on the grace and generosity of a stranger.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 59 (September 9th, 1970) Welcome Home–NOT… March 21, 2015

Jonathots Daily Blog

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p>

(Transcript)

Troubled souls require a soft pillow on which to fall when their great plans bring them crashing to the earth.

There was no such cushion awaiting my girlfriend and myself when we landed in Columbus, Ohio, having hatched a plan to be together–to the chagrin or disapproval of all outsiders.

  • Her parents disowned her.
  • Our high school friends stopped calling.
  • And our church stood at an adequate, Biblical distance, careful not to pass along any semblance of support, while also insisting they were not “negative.”

We had obviously failed. We had broken the protocol.

For some, it was an issue of right and wrong. For others, it fell into the realm of proper or improper. But really, in the long run, the greatest fear of any small town is that actions are not “normal,” forcing them to be declared “weird.”

Once we received such a cool reception from our community, we found it impossible to share that a baby was on the way, especially since such a revelation, in 1970, was just short of abomination and well within the realm of unforgivable sin.

We were scared. We were two people desperately in need of counsel. We found no consolation, only affixed stares.

So we decided to drive down to Nashville, Tennessee, using some of my girlfriend’s college money, to see what life was like outside our burg. Because we were gone for the entire weekend, people assumed we got married, and when we returned unhitched, the persecution increased.

I was informed that I was no longer welcome to be in charge of the coffee house, which had been my great affection all through my high school years.

I don’t want you to misunderstand me–I am not saying that the path we chose was conventional or even worthy of any type of praise.

We were just young.

We needed consideration instead of condemnation–and it was just easier for them to set us to the side than to take us aside and set us straight.

So because of all of this scrutiny, we decided that we needed to go somewhere in the deep South and find a state where we could get married as quickly as possible.

We were thrilled.

Everyone else pretended they didn’t notice.

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