April 03, 2006
I Will Be True To the Promise I Have Made...
Country Dawn near Cave Springs Arkansas
Tomorrow morning if you wake upHoku, this is Aunt Betty Grace and I have very bad news, Uncle Peter died and is being burried as I speak...As you can imagine this is the worst day of your Aunt Jean's life...
and the sun does not appear,
I will be here.
If in the dark we lose sight of love
hold my hand and have no fear
'Cause, I will be here.
I will be here
when you feel like being quiet
When you need to speak you mind
I will lisiten
And I will be here
when the laughter turned to crying
Through the winning losing and trying
We'll be together
'Cause I will be here.
...Yes I can imagine. These ladies are my father's cousins, my paternal grandfather had two sisters who each had a daughter, he had the one son, my Dad. My grandmother, for some reason, I believe due to my grandfather's vile temper and alcoholic rages, not to mention that she was a Spanish foreigner, child bride, who married my grandfather in a hurry (if you know what I mean) at 15 and very unwelcome by the family, abandoned the marriage and her 4 year old son, who was raised by Aunt Jean's parents. According to my father and to what I have observed, these people were horribly abusive to both their daughter and to their nephew. My father was able to secure his emancipation at 17 and enter the US Navy at the height of WWII, Jean, then around 25 ran off and married an Itallian accountant named Peter Lucivero. He was madly in love with her and she with him, and her parents disliked him for his dark complexion and his immigrant roots. She didnt care about any of that, she loved him and she just wanted to get away...
I am telling you a family legend, to family members that may read this, I am repeating the tale as I heard it from my father and observed it on my own. Should you think there are errors let me know...
My father told me that Jean and Peter witnessed his first marriage to a lady also named Jean in 1948. The Lucivero's had been married for a while by then but something was wrong, my dad couldnt put his finger on it at the time, but soon it bacame apperent that Aunt Jean was very mentally ill. There was no treatment like we have now, no drugs. The "hospitals" that these unfortunates were locked up in were nightmares that would drive a sane person mad, and did nothing to help the insane. She was never locked up in an institution. Uncle Peter due to the constant need to look after her, lost his job and then their modest home. They lived out of a car, never staying in one place for long. She was obsessive compulsive, and paranoid. He would leave her long enough to get some day labor, any thought of resuming his career was folly.
My earliest memory of them was a windy night in 1966. I was four and I remember vivdly this lady that stood in the middle of the front yard with a newspaper over her head. She wouldnt come into the house, for fear of "contamination" and was covering herself to protect herself from the tiny falling willow leaves. It was pathetic. My father, already in the midst of mental meltdown wept at the sight of her ravaged looks, and unkept condition, their life on the run from imaginary demons, and Peter not having any way to help except just being there.
A few years later, we were to experience our own dark night of severe mental illness when my father finally brokedown. He was institutionalized for our and his safety, and the primitive drug therapies of the early 70's did help him. He was able to have a somewhat normal domestic life and never lived in the streets or was uncared for. Hats off to my mother for putting up with that when most women would have locked him up and thrown away the key.
It was during this period sometime in the 1970's that Jean and Peter managed to settle in Southern California. We were told that they lived as caretakers on a large estate in south Orange County. She would periodically call us from a Kmart store and want to know about how we were doing. She never shared details of her life, and we didnt pry, for fear of scaring her off. This charade went on for 15 years.
Because as it turned out, they were living in a small moble home near by Disneyland. We got a call in the mid 1990's that Jean was in the hospital and my mother's phone number was the emergency contact number. The chaplain at the hospital told us what hospital she was in. My mother was all for barrelling down there to see her. I asked the chaplain to ask Jean and Peter if this was ok and miraculously it was.
It was a grand reunion. My father had been dead for several years by then and Jean had become better with the help of a sensitive doctor and todays wonderful drugs for mental illness. She was in the hospital for heart surgery and by this point was ready to see us. We did have a few bumps in the road. My Mom, went to check on them uninvited and was roundly scolded by Aunt Jean for "violating her privacy". She treatened to run again because we knew where she was. But Peter talked her out of it saying that it didnt matter that we "knew"...what I dont know. We never did get the straight story of where they had lived all of those years and as I sit here today, I know that doesnt matter. Aunt Jean was as healed of her affliction as she can be and now faces the greatest test of her life. She is alone without "her rock". But her new found faith in God (she became a born again Christian in 1997,at 77. Peter was always a Catholic)will sustain her, and at 86, she wont be without Peter for very long...
Through it all he was there for her. What an example to follow... I know that many people have said to me that Woody and I should split up, that I am wasting my life. But we sang this song at my wedding and I meant every word of it. Would to God that I would do as well indealing with a mate's frailties as my uncle Peter....
Tomorrow morning if you wake up
and the future is unclear
I will be here.
As sure as the seasons are made for change
Our lifetimes are made for years
So I will be here
I will be here
You can cry on my sholder
When the mirror tells us were older
I will hold you
And I will be here
to watch you grow in beauty
and tell you all the things you are to me
We'll be together...
I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to The One Who gave you to me...
For I will be here....
Steven Curtis Chapman
Please, if you remember, say a prayer for this fragile spirit for her grief and loss and for my Catholic readers, rememberance in your prayers and as you say the rosary today for the repose of Uncle Peter's soul, I would be in your debt.