Just for Today

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A prayer for all of us, just for today.

Source: Pinterest

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A GPS Adventure in Boligee, Alabama

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Today, I visited Boligee, Alabama, population 328, in search of Mt. Hebron Cemetery, in a quest to locate Emmett’s grandparents, Cephas Love Wilson Sr. and Emily B. Wilson.

Using the information posted on Find-A-Grave, and typing the address into Waze, I set out with my husband on Interstate 20/59 West, to Alabama State Road 20.

Source: Google Maps

There’s cotton in huge bales wrapped, ready to be taken to a nearby gin.

There’s rutted roads with logging here and there.

There’s houses with dozens of junked cars in the yard; this is a poor part of Greene County. Little signage along the way; SR 20 winds a bit. According to the information on Find-A-Grade, the cemetery is only about 15 minutes north of I-20/59. My husband reassures me it isn’t too far off our scheduled trip to the in-laws — hell, we’ve been driving for hours anyway. It’s fine.

Fifteen minutes after taking the exit, the Waze voice chirps, “you’ve reached your destination.”

This is the church I was looking for near Boligee, Alabama. Source: Stephen McBride for Find-A-Grave

My husband pulls over to the side of the road. It’s a deeply rutted mud road. No signage anywhere, no primitive white church building on the property.

“I don’t think this is it,” I said.

“Let’s go on a bit further,” he said.

We crossed Highway 39 and continued another 10 minutes.

“What exactly is the address, again?” my husband asked.

“There isn’t one; only the location is given — Mt. Hebron Cemetery. According to Waze, this is where it is, but Find-a-Grave says it’s near the intersection of Highway 39 and State Road 128.”

“Aha,” he said. “Waze doesn’t have the right GPS coordinates for Mt. Hebron. So, let’s find 128.”

Alas, I could not. The dreaded “No Service” in my cell phone status bar.

“Wait. I have a map of Alabama from the last rest stop. Let’s check it.”

Unfortunately, State Road 128 wasn’t even listed. And unfortunately, we didn’t have a lot of time to explore the back roads of Greene County: The kids were starting to complain about wanting lunch. And, neither of us knew enough about Greene County to feel confident exploring without a map or a technology assist.

“Tell you what,” my husband said. “Let’s track it down when we get to the house. We can try to stop by on the way back out.”

We did find Mt Hebron Cemetery — and S.R. 128 — on a map when we got home. It is in the middle of nowhere — there may be a dirt road off of S.R. 128. I hope. Source: Google Maps

We have a better idea how to find it now. And, I’ll pay Emmett’s grandparents a visit when we do.


Meanwhile — I promised to post information about Emmett’s secretaries in the last post. I’ll do that this week. Good news: I found one of the clerk/secretaries who worked for Emmett’s brother, Cephas L. Wilson, in Marianna! Progress!

For the Living

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A little warped because the program was in my coat pocket. Next to my heart.

Funerals and memorial services are for the living. I understand that now.

The ritual gives survivors and loved ones comfort, and closure, if that’s ever possible. Sometimes it takes years to move on after the death of a loved one. And if there isn’t a sense of closure, then you can’t feel at peace; the sorrow will gnaw at you, make your feel guilty, perhaps, fill you with regret at words left unsaid, deeds undone.

The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed is a beautiful service at my parish that I started paying attention to — and attending — after I found Emmett Wilson four years ago. Back then, November 2013, I was caught up in picking apart Emmett’s last days on Earth, and his funeral. I’d only recently discovered not only did we share an alcoholic kinship, but also we were cousins.

Even though he lived and died almost 100 years ago, I felt (and still feel) connected, and a healthy need to honor and acknowledge his life and his struggles, and to give myself some kind of emotional closure, which is nice, considering I never attended Emmett’s funeral.

I included Emmett’s name in our parish’s program, which first lists the names of our parish’s deceased in the past year, then lists the names of our beloved whom we wish to remember during the service.

My dear friend Nancy didn’t have a funeral. She didn’t want one. But her family and loved ones will gather sometime over the next few months to honor her memory, in a way she’d appreciate — her cousin is establishing a garden in her honor.

Meanwhile, attending this service was comforting. It was beautiful; Gabriel Faure’s Requiem was sung in Latin.

In paradisum, which is where I like to think Nancy and Emmett are at this moment.

The entire Requiem is beautiful, but the best part is In paradisum, which is moving and poignant, and where I like to think Nancy and Emmett are at this moment. You can hear it at this link, if you haven’t experienced it before. It’s worth it.

May the choir of angels receive thee, and with Lazarus, once a beggar, mayest thou have eternal rest.

 

 

 

I bit off more than I can chew

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The hideous animated thing my kids love to put out every Halloween. I keep it in a bin until October 31. It gets packed up again on November 1.

Once again, it’s Halloween. This is my favorite time of year.

And once again, I’ve become burned out.

This time, it isn’t about Emmett and the research. It’s because I over-volunteered myself on several projects. And you know what? I saw this train wreck coming wayyy in advance. I could have stopped it.

But I’ve come to recognize in recovery that even with almost 11 years of sobriety, I’m not really 100 percent sober. I still have drinking thinking.

In other words, I’ve substituted being busy — workaholism — for alcoholism. The workaholism is a placeholder for my lack of honesty with myself, and my fellows. I’m throwing myself into a flurry of activity and busyness because I’m avoiding facing something that needs doing.

And that’s not good. The placeholder can easily segue into drinking, if I’m not careful. It happened once before.

Granted, here in D.C., being a workaholic is not a vice. In fact, you get plaudits for nearly driving yourself insane with productivity. But for this alcoholic, the need to avoid doing the hard work, to find the easy way out/around rethinking things or relearning things is to procrastinate by doing something else.

I’ve figured out that something else is a need to feel achievement.

I don’t always feel like I achieve much with Emmett’s book, either. I am making progress, yes, but I’m a long way from a publication date, and so after four-plus-years of shuffling papers and organizing myself, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much.

I turned to something that would give me a sense of gratification and accomplishment: I volunteered to teach catechism to 7th graders at my parish Sunday school once a week.

For the past three years, I’ve taught that one class. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a great bunch of kids to work with. Most participate in the lessons and activities without complaint, and I have a good rapport with both the parents and the school of religion staff. I’ve enjoyed it, and I’ve gotten a lot out of it — so much so that in 2016, I was named Catechist of the Year, an unexpected and wonderful honor.

Catechist of the Year, 2016. That cold breeze you just felt was Hell freezing over.

Obviously, this gave me a great sense of accomplishment. The downside of recognition, though, can be a loss of humility, if one isn’t careful.

The recognition was sweet, and psychologically intoxicating.

Of course, I wanted more.

So, this past summer, when the Director of Religious Education asked if any of the catechists would consider teaching a second class — a new high school program — I raised my hand.

Like the alcoholic that I am, I thought that perhaps more volunteering would mean more accomplishment, more plaudits. It would fill the hole in my soul where I felt I wasn’t making progress with Emmett’s book. It would be a useful placeholder.

Right?

Wrong.

The problem isn’t the second class; the problem is that the teacher is now overwhelmed trying to save a pilot class that was too small to run in the first place (less than four students enrolled; and now only one or two are showing up). The DRE knew it, and decided to run the class anyway, despite advice to the contrary. She said I’d be great, the students would love me. And because I enjoy a challenge, and bought into that flattery, I jumped right in.

Three months later, it is foundering. There’s only one student, and today, I’m putting too much time and energy into trying to save an unviable situation, which is not my situation to solve.  I’m only a volunteer, and it has taken over my days.

Rather, I’ve let it take over my days.

I have to have an honest conversation with the DRE that this class/situation isn’t working, and why. Something inside of me resists, because I may lose the chance to win that damn recognition this year. She may not think as highly of me anymore.

I’ve forgotten one of the main sayings in our program: What someone else thinks of me is none of my business.

And damn it, I don’t volunteer because of flattery. But somewhere in the past six months, I’ve forgotten that, and used the privilege of being of service into something else, that makes me feel sick, and I’m near burnout over it.

I’ve lost humility and gratitude.

And the end result is that I am getting sick about it.

Today, I’ll have an honest talk with my DRE, and I will offer several suggestions for success. The DRE will need to resolve this problem, because it is hers to manage.

Today, I’ll work back towards resolving the central issue behind all of this distracting, over-volunteering crap, which is to focus back on Emmett’s research in a meaningful way.

Today, I’ll call my sponsor and get to more meetings, because that’s how I stay grounded.

And, hopefully, I’ll remember this lesson going forward.

 

Filling in Blanks About Cephas Love Wilson Jr.

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In my last post, we found Cephas Jr. back home in Marianna post recovery from a throat injury he received while he was stationed in France in 1919.

According to the U.S. Census for 1920, Cephas Jr. had moved back in with his parents and had a job as a ‘presser’ in a shop, possibly a laundry business, upon his return to Marianna.

Last year, I wrote about Cephas Jr. and his first marriage to Mamie (or Mary) Gertrude Baker, and the fact that Cephas and Mamie had one daughter, Shirley. Although I haven’t heard from any family members or descendants about Cephas Jr. to date, I have been able to fill in some of the blanks.

After the 1920 Census, my next source of information is an article in The Washington Times, dated February 8, 1922, announcing a marriage license between Cephas Jr. and Mamie Baker.

From The Washington Times, February 8, 1922. Source: GenealogyBank.com

So — Cephas, as of sometime in 1921,  was back in Washington, D.C. How do I guess that?

The 1922 D.C. City Directory, in which data was collected in 1921 for this to be published in early 1922. Ceph Jr. is working at a pharmacy, and lives on K Street. Source: Ancesrty.com

I wonder how Cephas and Mamie met? Is it possible she was a nurse at Walter Reed, and the two of them met there, fell in love? (Yep, I’m trying to track that down — but it is a distinct possibility, because I’ve found information indicating she was a nurse. Still trying to confirm it, though!) Cephas was in the hospital for a long time. Mamie was from Silver Spring, Maryland (a suburb of D.C.). Walter Reed is not far from the D.C./Maryland state line… I don’t like to speculate. But, it looks like this may have been how they met.

Less than a year later:

Birth of daughter Shirley, January 23, 1923, in The Washington Evening Star. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The next item found about Cephas Jr. was in the 1925 D.C. City Directory:

Cephas Jr. is now a salesman, living in an apartment at 1725 17th St. NW. Source: Ancestry.com

I believe Mamie died sometime between 1925 and 1930 — and 1930 was a big year of change for Cephas Jr., because we find him in two different places. First, he’s listed in the 1930 D.C. City Directory, but he doesn’t live in D.C. anymore:

He’s a mechanic — makes sense, since he was with the 1st Engineers during World War I. But, it isn’t his true vocation. Source: ancestry.com

Notice that he’s in Alexandria? That’s because he — and baby Shirley — had likely moved in with Emmett and Cephas Sr.’s sister, Katie Wilson Meade, who lived in Alexandria.

This was only temporary, though, because Cephas and his daughter, Shirley, are also listed in the 1930 U.S. Census as living with his grandparents, the Wiselogels, in Marianna (Cephas Jr.’s mother had remarried, to John Grether, and was now living in Jacksonville).

Ceph Jr. and daughter, Shirley, living in Marianna as of the date of this census, April 2, 1930. Source: Ancestry.com

The rest of the story after 1930 is found here.

For now, this is everything I have about Cephas Love Wilson Jr. I’d love to have a more comprehensive story, especially about whatever happened to Shirley, and if Cephas Jr. had any of his photographs or artwork published anywhere else. If any family members stumble across this information, I’m happy to share what data I’ve gathered.

When Cephas Jr. Came Home

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On or about October 9, 1918, there was a knock at the door of the Cephas Love Wilson, Sr. house, on the corner of Jefferson and Clinton Streets, in Marianna, Florida.

It was a telegram for Cephas Love Wilson’s parents — something people dreaded receiving during wartime. And it wasn’t good news.

It said their son, Cephas Love Wilson, Jr., had been injured — gassed in action — in France.

The notation on Cephas Love Wilson Jr.’s WWI service card that his injury was ‘slight’ is somewhat incongruous with the fact that he was recovering at a French hospital, and at Walter Reed Hospital, for months. Image source: Floridamemory.com

Perhaps he had a long recovery time in a French hospital, because Cephas was not released to return home until August 21, 1919.

He sailed from Brest, France to Camp Mills, Hoboken, N.J., on the U.S.S. Pastores.

Photo of the U.S.S. Pastores in 1919, from Wikipedia.

After arriving at Camp Mills, Cephas Jr. was sent to Walter Reed Hospital.

Cephas L. Wilson Jr.’s listed as a patient at Walter Reed (lower right corner, highlighted in red). From The Washington Star, August, 1919. Source: ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The Pensacola Journal, September 27, 1919.

I’m not sure how long Cephas Jr. was at Walter Reed, but I have doubts that his injury was slight, given the amount of time he was hospitalized. Below is an article from September 18, 1919, where his father came to Washington, D.C. to visit him at Walter Reed.

Note the date on this article — September 18, 1919 — almost a year after Cephas Jr. was reported injured on October 9, 1918. Source: GenealogyBank.com and ChroniclingAmerica.gov

The lengthy recovery time makes me think that a) his throat injuries were more serious than the record indicates, and b) that he might have also suffered post-traumatic stress disorder. During World War I, it would have been called battle fatigue, or Combat Stress Reaction (CSR). I don’t have access to Cephas Love Wilson Jr.’s military or medical records yet to confirm, but it is possible this was also part of Cephas Jr’s recovery.

I also wonder if, given the publicized mental breakdown that Emmett had in 1914-1915 while he was U.S. Congressman, that Cephas Jr.’s father would have kept the CSR information out of the record or the press.

By January 10, 1920 (the date on the U.S. Census document for Marianna, Florida), Cephas Jr. was back in Marianna, living at home with his parents, his married sister and her family — pretty much the same scenario he left prior to the outbreak of World War I. It seemed like nothing changed.

The census reports that Cephas Jr. works as a presser in a shop. Probably not a satisfying vocation for a talented artist newly returned from war experiences in France. Source: 1920 U.S. Census

The 1920 U.S. Census indicates he worked as a presser — likely operating an iron in a professional laundry business — in a shop in Marianna.

And Cephas Jr. HAD changed. This was only a temporary stopping point.

Cephas Jr. was only biding his time until he felt well enough to leave — because he left Marianna for good before the year was out.

There’s more. Stay tuned.