Friday, October 15, 2010
My Second Testimony part 2:
Looking back on it things actually were better after we left the house. At the time, however, we couldn't see that. Then it seemed like the end. We were scared, we were homeless, we couldn't find an apartment because we had "financial leper" on our credit. Since 9/11 getting an apartment in Dallas was next to impossible. When I first moved away form my parents and went to New Mexico back in 80, no one cared who I was or what my credit was. I gave them money they gave me an apartment. By 2006, however, in Dallas, it was next to impossible even if your credit was good. It really seemed like the end. I began saying "I am dead, I died, they just haven't told the corpse to lay down yet." I also began to say "God has cursed me." "God loves to crush his own guys, this is what I get for caring about my parents." You know I was practicing for the glee club. I was a tower of faith. We did find an apartment, we had a couple of thousand dollars from the guy who bought the house (because he was a Christian he said) even though the mortgage company actually makes them promise not to help the victim, not to give more than the mortgage price in a short sale. It's set up so the the victim losing the house can't get anything for his/her hard earned ears of struggle to buy the house. He bought the furniture and car and then let us keep them.
One of the main things that was crushing was that our relatives wouldn't take us in . My sister would say "I love you, but I don't want you living with me." I would say "but the alternative is we will die in the gutter." She would say "trust God, God wont let that happen." I would mock that all the way back to Dallas (she lived near Dallas--Tarrant county). "I love you but don't bother my life with little things like dying in the gutter." I called every single person I know not one single one of them was willing to either save the house or give us a place to live. Even people who I knew had the bread would not part with it. No one will put their life off to help you save yours. That's what got me. Nevertheless I wouldn't do that either. We took in a homeless guy once, he was someone we knew, a friend of the family. It was as total disaster. There needs to be government help. Individuals just don't have the resources. Everyone is on the brink anyway.
We got an apartment, but the only one would get was in a little town wedged between Farmers Branch and Dallas, called "Addison." It was a roach infested dump filled with drug trafficking. I don't say that just because it looked like the kind of place that would have drug dealing. It was little subtle signs like a vile of crystal meth we found on the ground as we moved in. The time a guy stood outside our little semi-patio looking up to the balcony of the apartment above us, speaking in a false whisper but really shouting "Hey, there's a cop sitting in the parking lot! Hide the stuff!" The other guy shouting back "shut up! get out of here!" Other clues like the time I was sitting in the semi-patio so I was hidden by a wall that was about chest high if I stood, these four guys stood on just the other side, not knowing I was there, and saying things like "do you have the stuff?" "Yes, do you have the bread?" The real give away was the knife fight in front of the door. We thought they were knocking on our door, it was actually one guy banging the other's head into the door. When it was over the crowd dispersed (entertainment in the ghetto, big crowd, Saturday night at the fights). I was sitting behind that wall again and the cops were on the other side looking around and one said "where's the bat? He dropped it over here" the other one said "you have got to stop losing evidence."
We would drive all over town looking for jobs. We spent our days frantically looking, vision of death in the gutter not knowing what the future held. Everything went wrong. You know looking for work is the worst. Every step of the way thirty years of Christianity went down the drain and I was saying "God has cursed me. I am going to die in the gutter!" By night I was "super apologist!" Able to leap to tall conclusions in a single assumption. By day I was this quivering mass of whining, "why did you do this to me?" "why don't you like me anymore?" By night I counseled atheists about God's love, while calling them names of course, by day I was not buying a word of my own crap. I still believed in God but I was scared, humiliated, angry, resentful and really wasn't seeing God's work in my life in a positive way at all right then. My legs were getting worse. I couldn't afford to bandage them. The reaction of other Christians to my need for bandages was not conducive to feelings of God's love. They were stingy bastards who found infinite and sanctimonious excuses not to help. One guy, who had been a "real friend" on the net told me he would help then never sent any money. I asked him "I haven't banged in days" he said "you are talking food out of my children's mouths!" So why did you say you would help? Why didn't you just say "I can't afford it?" Then at least I wouldn't be let down?
My legs had gotten to the point that I big infections all over them. There spots that were totally dark purple. The specialist wouldn't see me anymore because I couldn't pay him. I was trying to care for them myself based upon what he had taught me. The skin was very thin and was always breaking. The blood would dry and stick the bandages to my skin, I would pull off more skin in bandaging, bleed profusely and my legs looked like raw meat. We have a friend, the brother of our best friend we know since first grade. We look him into the apartment for a time because he was homeless. He saw me bandaging my legs, this guy is tough, he's had fights as an adult a lot, he prides himself on being a tough he-man type, when he saw my legs he went "O my God!" turned his head, was visibly shaken and teared up. In those late hours when I was bandage, and it hurt like hell to pull the skin off, hold ice and paper towel on it for a long time, I would just wail. I would shout "why have you done this to me!" I would drive around town distributing job applications and so forth (which would never been answered) shouting "YOU ARE A LIAR!" I would shout mockingly "I've never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging for break, hey liar, I'm begging for bread! CAN"T YOU SEE that?? You are a Liar/! why did you curse me!??" I am not proud of that. We had God's help every step of the way. Ray would take Arie (the dog) for a walk at 2am because he couldn't stand being shut up in the little apartment after being raised in a great backyard. I would go along to make sure none of the druggies got them. Nothing ever happened. Even just having a place a live was a blessing. I would not focus on that. All I could see was what I'd lost, and what wasn't working, the fear the resentment. I would think about the wonderful education I had and how the person I spent a life time training to be was dead. I would never be what I tried to be. My life was really over and what I got for giving it up to help my parents was the gutter. I tried to use my knowledge on the net atheists would just say "you are a liar you never went to graduate school." I couldn't even have the compensation of knowing what I spent years studying. Or they would go "well IF YOU DID GO TO GRADATE SCHOOL" like as if to imply I know you are lying."
Still early on after moving into the apartment. I would put myself to sleep at night thinking of killing myself. It made me feel better for a time because I realized I really didn't want to go on with life. I felt good thinking it would all be over. Once day I just had enough. The money, the stress the problems and I just decided to do it then. I had planned to do it at 3am because no one would notice if I went to the old house, which was standing vacant, put the car in the garage and just sit there with the motor ruing, if I was lucky I could listen to the radio and get some classical music on the way out. Probably my mind worked to force me to stop the nonsense but I decided to do it then it was still day light. I drove over there telling myself this is it. I left our sister's number for my brother, let her deal with him for a while. I knew he would end up in a mental institution the rest of his life, he still had his court case that would probably put him there anyway. Got to the old house and I'll be damned if a cop wasn't sitting in front of it. Just sitting there. I don't know why. I drove around a bit and he's still there. So I drove back tot he apartment. I thought "an atheist would just brush that off, just a coincidence although for 36 years cops did not just sit there for no reason, but I whatever it doesn't matter. I'm going to see this as an act of God." It occurred to me I could see this either way, I could all my problems either way. I could think God cursed me or apply the spiritual knowledge I already had instead of acting like a jerk. So said what do I have? I'm alive. I said "thank you God that I am still alive." After that every morning I would thank God I'm still alive and add a couple of extra things as they became apparent, "thank you that I'm still alive and thank you for giving us a place to live." Then I began to focus upon what God gave us. What new things in our lives were better? What was the relief from the anguish we had been under?
My brother was still facing going to prison because he "assaulted" that cop! That was still hanging over us. I was signed up to do substitute teaching they never called. They had 700 people more than they needed. I don't even know how we got by money wise. I know it was struggle I know my sister helped us a lot but I don't know how we made it because we had no money, the 2000$ was gone by then. I am forgetting the exact order of things. I prayed like crazy for my brother to get off. it was the democrats. They new Dem DA who came in started an innocence project and he's gotten a huge number of people way over 20 who were in prison and innocent released by using DNA and re opening the cases. He told our lawyer that my brother's arrest was a sham and absurd. The Farmers Branch cops arrested and beat him up, but Dallas county was prosecuting it. Farmer's Branch, these are the geniuses who tired ot make English the official language, make it illegal to put Spanish on signs (so taco places would have to advertise "Mexican sandwich." They also tried to institute their own immigration policy. At that time they were in international news as a world wide symbol of stupidity, that's where I spent 36 years of my lie, I could tell you stories about stupid when men in Texas you would not believe. The new Dem DA reduced the charge to misdemeanor (dropped the assault charge) and the judge gave him time served. Meaning the three days he spent in jail in the first place served as his jail time so he was out, he was off, he was free. We had cleaned him up,the girls helped, got some new threads, he spoke ot the judge he was very polite. This was while I would shouting "you are liar" and all that.
Somehow I was just able to resist all the sugar, grease and pre packed crap. I don't know how. I never could before. I think I had learned about nutrition and whole calories and that knowledge game me the motivation I didn't have before. The concept of not dieting, not counting calories but just eating the right stuff and not eating any pre packaged crap helped. As my nutrition bot better my thinking got better. My mood improved. I began to enjoy certain aspects of the apartment, even though it was roach infested dump. At a certain before we left the old house I prayed that "God send a rich christian on the net to see Doxa and support that as a ministry so we can make ends meet." I really believed that at the time. My sister came over and she was going to pay for us. This was not long after the "attempted suicide." I realize it was not an attempt it was drama, it was me being a hysterical dramatic ninny and my mind forced me to do it in the day time so I would be clearly cognizant of what a stupid thing it was to do. I told my sister prayed "God please send a stranger to Joe to show him that you still love him and that you haven't' cursed him. Show him that you still have things for him to do and his knowledge and schooling is not useless." The next day my brother and I went to a fast food place which has an outside patio we can sit there for hours and drink coffee and smoke. Every morning we left Arnie at a friend's house and went to look for jobs and then went to that place to just drink coffee.
I was standing in the line waiting to get the food and coffee, this guy comes up and just stares at me like he wants something but was afraid to speak. I go "can I help you?" He says "God told me to tell you something." I go "O really? he loves me and has a plan for my life right?" He says "God has not cursed you. He does love you he did not curse you, he still has things for you to do, he will make use of your knowledge and the things you have learned, your life is not over, it is not a waste the things you have learned are not a waste." I said "really?" "your knowledge and schooling is not useless." He said the exact words of my sister's prayer. Everyone in the line was squirming around and pretending not to notice. The girl behind the counter was crying openly. The guy gave me 20 bucks and said "have a good meal." At first I thought he just thought I look homeless and he thinks he's witnessing. He said the exact words my sister prayed. Now don't' even bother saying I remember them right because I did. I said to God in myself "O you got my attention, I've been a jerk." In the days that followed I prayed out in my little semi-patio and left God's presence like in the early days and the deep pervasive love. I knew the ideas I had been having about God being impersonal were crap. I knew it was crap to think God cursed me and that I wasn't being faithful. I wasn't trusting God. Then God spoke to me in my mind and heart and said "learn to trust me." I was saying "you are trustworthy. I'm not but you are."
There was a guy I met on the net. He became known to me through the various apologetically connections I have on the net, and I first became aware of him right after I prayed "send a rich Christian to fund Doxa." Fund me is what that means. This guy at this point after the "turning point" began funding Doxa. He is rich enough. He wasn't sending us millions, he sent a small amount every week, just barely enough for groceries each week. It was a God send. We were barely getting by but we were getting buy. Then we got emergency food stamps that was the good times. We had enough food and I bout all nutrition, no crap. There as another guy who just up and sent us money it was exactly the amount we needed at that time. He had no way of knowing. I thanked him but I didn't ask for more. He sent more latter it was the exact amount we needed then. Three times that happened. Latter he began sending regular amounts. Eventually the regular funding stopped but for a time there that's what kept us alive. I began trying to get readers of this blog to contribute enough to pay for my bandages. That was a joke. If I had had to rely on that to live we would have been dead a long time ago. Some people did send stuff. That was amazing too, but rarely. Only a hand full of times did anyone send anything. One time the brakes began going out on the car. They made a grinding noise and the car would barely stop. A guy had just send $ 300 dollars on the blog that was the most I ever got on it. Took the car in , $300 brake job!
I did get a job eventually. It was market research. They didn't have stead work, it was part time but it put some food on the table. It was great going to work in the morning, earning my own money. I felt independent and alive, I praised God all the way to work every day and said "O am I sick of this stupid job" all the way home! I was still glad to have it. I loved every minute I worked there, in spite of a lot of aggravation.
We had a flood in the apartment and ruined a bunch of our books. Books mean a lot to people who lived in their minds as much as we died. They were trophies, symbols of our youthful aspirations, of the lives we lost, the dreams we had as young men. It hurt to lose those books. I would have lsot my comic books if I hadn't kept them in plastic bags. The carpet acted like a sponge and the water went from room to room through the carpet. I didn't think of that. I thought "those books are safe in the bedroom the food is in the kitchen." The carpet and the boxes just sucked it up and ruined probalby a quarter of our books. By this time I was praising God for everything and made trusting God a daily project. All my old virtual knowledge came back to me. How I had been through this poverty survival thing in New Mexico years before. I have some fond memories of that place because of Arnie.
Arnie, the little black and tan coon hound, was like our child. He had white where most black and tan's have tan; his beard which developed after he was three years old and a white blase on his chest and white tips on his paws. The rest was all jet black. He was a sweet little pup he loved everyone. He was super happy, a high energy dog. He was so intelligent. he milked his cuteness. He actually had a sense of performance. He gave little shows for my parents. They would put their chairs out and watch him. He would do back flips, no one taught him he just did it. He would play with stuff and when they would go in he would stop. When someone would come out he would go into his reunite again. The apartment was bursting with life. It was like the apartment complex on Hitchcock's Rear Window. Kids out playing and teaming with life. A guy always barbecued in front of his own apartment all the time. Big crowds would gather around him. The dog broke the ice. We would lead Arnie out to go, we took him everywhere. He had become a world traveler dog going all over the city with us. Or we would deposit him in our friend's backyard, it was a great backyard we called it "the wonder park." We would go back to pick him up at evening after looking for jobs. He would was a like a kid getting out o school. when he saw us coming he would start digging and eating dirt. Then he would do his little dance, then line up the gate waiting to be leashed and taken home. When we got back after dark he was super glad to see us as though he had been afraid we would not come back. Get home in the evening the kids are out of school the apart courtyard was packed with kids, so noise and they all flocked to Arnie. "El Pero!" They were all Little Spanish kids. Very few Gringos in the apartments. They would pet him. The barbaque guy thought he was lucky because of the white on him was not tan which is more common for his breed. We became "el hombres del pero" the guys with the dog.
At one point the apartments sold, they began evicting everyone who so they could tear them down. They didn't count on us. We had a lawyer who would work for free because he was a our friend. They made the mistake of putting up a notice saying "you have 24 hours to vacate." That is against the law in Texas. Our attorney didn't mind driving over and telling them this. He also didn't mind suing the paints off them. We didn't sue them. Instead they let us stay. For several months we were the only one's in the whole complex. It was wired. It was like living in a ghost town. Eventually they let some move back in and we had a few neighbors. They did say we had one year to live there then they would tear it down. So we planned to go and we looked for houses to rent and other apartments. We looked all over that part of Dallas. No one would rent to us because Ray had been arrested. They didn't read far enough to see how it turned out. The practice since 9/11 you just don't rent to anyone wh has any sort of trouble. We looked at every rent house in North Dallas. It was impossible. We were going to have to live with our sister. We didn't want that. She didn't want that. We shamed her into it but we still didn't want to do it. I decided this time I was going to trust God. I was going to have the faith I didn't have before. I did. I stuck to it. I was saying it every day "God came through before a thousand times in my life he will come through again."
One day as we were driving around looking, we were combing the worst places and even then couldn't find one, that little voice in my gut, my heart, whatever, said "go back to the house you looked at that needed foundation." I wasn't going to because of the foundation problem, Ray said "lets go back to that one." When he said that I knew in my gut we should. We drove over there even though it seemed impossible. Even we passed on it because we could never afford to pay for the foundation repair. To was for sale for $40,000 and the payments would be 400$ a month. We could afford that. That was less then the apart we were renting. We could pay for that with just Ray's SSI. But we didn't have $5000 down, we had foreclosure on our credit and we didn't have money for foundation. Got over to it and the moment we drove up a woman was coming out. The house clearly had been fixed up, it has been several months since we saw it. It had a "for rent" sign. I said "has the foundation been fixed?" She said yes. I asked how much, she told me. I said "you got renters." As it turns out the landlady was a lawyer, she knew our lawyer and she knew about how police treat people and she knew enough to read the entire arrest report and saw that the charged had been reduced. The rent was the cheapest in all of North Dallas. We could actually afford it. We got to move into this really wondefful house.
Its' small but it's laid out with a floor plan that is designed to make small seem big. High ceilings, circular flood plan so you go around and come back where you came in. it has a small back yard just big enough for Arnie. We still took him to his wonder park which he loved. He also loved his little back yard. Where I used to sit on the semi-patio where all I could see was another apartment and a small patch of sky, now I had a nice sized patio with a back yard and an expansive view of the sky One thing I love doing is sitting out there and watching the planes fly. I love to watch planes fly. I have always loved to watch planes fly. Now I have vast expansive view. The house has sky lights at the top of the high ceiling so the sunlight in the morning falls upon the other wall and it looks really beautiful. I began writing my book a couple of months after we moved in and Arnie would lay in the corner and watch every time I wrote. I thought of him as a little fury co-author. when we first moved in I found tenis ball and I though it for him to fetch. He brings it back. I though it again, he brings it back. I thew it again, he looks at me like "I jsut brought that to you." I did it again he takes it, digs a little hole and puts it in and shoves dirt with his nose and stomps on it. I never could find it either.
Every time we would drive he would be in the back seat. Ray would get out to put gas in or something and Arnie would start pushing my shoulder with his nose. We played this little game I would doge and he would wait and I would settle back and he would nose me. Then I would put my hand up as if to pat myself on the back he would rest his nose on my shoulder and I would rub it. Ray would get back in the would jump back as if ti say "don't let him see our little game" He never nosed me while I was driving. He knew! He lived in the "Arnie house" for ten months. In his time, he was 15, he shriveled up with cancer and eventually died. We tried to make his last days as happy for him as we could. His last time i the wonder park was hear braking. He couldn't run anymore but he walked all around in his old ritual of "saying hello the yard." Even when he was first 15 he was still full of energy and he would run all over the wonder park looking and inspecting every nook when he first got there as though he was saying hello to the yard. He is there now. We put him in the wonder park one last time and marked the place with bricks so he can always be i his wonder park. Our friend who owns it says she sometimes hears the sounds he used to make when saying hello to the yard. Sometimes at night she hears him barking. I think she said that because she knew we want to hear it.
We are still in the Arnie house. The firs few months here were beautiful. I was thinking God for everything all the time and praying all the time. The exuberance had dried up a bit and the problems are still part of our lives. I still trust God and am working all the time to learn to trust. it's a life long project. The major lesson is this: God was faithful to me even when I was not faithful to him. I was calling him a lair and shouting at him and I said worse than that. I called him a monster and told him he loved to hurt people. He didn't care, he's heard it all. I didn't shame God into helping me, he was working to help me anyway, I only held up the process and made it take longer by not trusting and not looking to seek the spiritual instead of freaking out because things didn't look good. Easy to forget, we walk by faith and not by sight. That means its' going to look grim. That doesn't mean anything you just have to trust God. Cultivate your spiritual relationship with God. Cultivate our inner life! It's a life long project, work on it every day.
PS: I should point out that others helped us here and there. There was a woman I knew but had not seen in a long time who gave us a lot of money on a couple of occasions. I swallowed by pride (what little I still had) and asked. She paid for me to go the doctor when I thought I had skin cancer. I'm very grateful to all who helped us I know they were sent by God. I know that my sister and her daughter didn't refuse to take us in because they don't care. They weren't being scared to death and they had faith God would help us, I didn't. It's not like they never helped us. They helped us a lot.