My fate was heavily shaped by a small card that came in the mail in late September 1965.
That card, and fate, are back on my mind now, 57 years later.
I was in Selma, Alabama when the card arrived, still working with the civil rights movement. A few weeks earlier the endurance, courage and determination of the Black people of Selma and many other places in the South had been vindicated by passage of the Voting Rights Act.
Eighteen years ago yesterday (or maybe it was today; dates get fuzzy), we had a fire in the attic at Quaker House: very old wiring got overloaded.
We were lucky, though. Our friend Sean Crane was visiting, and he raced up the attic stairs with a fire extinguisher. By the time the engines got there, it was pretty much just smoke.
But it was a scare. I was relieved to fall asleep late that night, still in the house, seemingly safe.
There was another visitor in the guest room: Wendy Michener, who had joined the Quaker House board a few months earlier. She had been doing anti-Iraq war activism for a year and more, and had visited several times.
There had been some intriguing vibes gathering around that, and maybe the fire was a kind of signal. When I came into the room, her eyes popped open and she reached out her hand.
I took it, slid under the covers, and we’ve been an item since. Eighteen years today, give or take some calendar/memory slippage.
For another year, she was in a small apartment in Raleigh, and I went up & down Highway 401 frequently.
I don’t understand much about women, but followed one hint I’d picked up somewhere, from an astute if politically incorrect dude, namely: “Chicks dig flowers.”
So I started bringing her the small sprays a nearby market offered for $2.50 a pop. (I’m still bringing them, tho inflation and aspiration has raised the price.)
Then in early 2005 she got a message that she should move to Fayetteville, to pursue her career as an architect.
I was way glad to have her there, but dubious about her job prospects. Yet her intuition turned out to be right: she soon found work, and still had many occasions for peace actions as well.
Come late 2012, I stumbled on my 70th birthday, and it was time to “retire.” The Durham housing market was still at the bottom, I found this little place and got a deal.
(Now the gentrifiers are sending me letters offering three times what I paid; to which I say, not just “No,” but “Hell, no!” God willing, when they take me outta here, it will be straight to the great beyond.)
But in the meantime, I keep busy, churning out books, stirring the occasional pot, taking pills and doting on my nearby progeny. The pandemic has been an international disaster, but hasn’t crimped my routine that much.
Meanwhile, Wendy is building a busy architecture practice.
And now it’s been eighteen years. I have many blessings. Wendy’s companionship has been at the top.