Journey to Love
edited by Cole, Peter and Scott
Preface warnings apply.
REMINDER: I know little of the ways of the Navajo. Any suggestion that Chosen Ones, Keeper of Secrets or Way of the Elders are authentic should be dismissed at once. Journey to Love is fiction and should be read as such.
After an uneventful flight, our plane touched down in Denver on time. We had two hours before our flight to Page, time to walk around, stretch and eat. We climbed aboard the small commuter plane for the up and down flight to Page and arrived there in just less than an hour. We had to share the lone taxi at the airport, but nonetheless were checked into the hotel before 9:00.
After a long, hot shower—with love making—Jayden suggested we go to the hotel coffee shop for dessert and coffee. We lingered over our coffee, mostly just enjoying each other without assignments hanging over our heads. Finally Jayden looked at me, his black eyes sparkling and gave me a devilish grin. He didn't have to say a word. Hand-in-hand we headed for our room.
Maybe it was because we knew we would be separated in the weeks ahead but, for whatever reason, our lovemaking was slow, tender, passionate. Finally, sated for the moment, we took another shower, crawled into bed and wrapped each other in arms and legs shortly before midnight, which for us was much earlier than usual. Even though we had gotten some rest while at Grace House, we had not fully recovered from our semester's end fatigue. That and a wearing day of travel had us asleep in minutes.
Before turning in, Jayden had left a wake up call for 7:00. While we had gone to bed earlier than we had in months, the wake-up call at 7:00 was not welcome. Well, maybe it was because as soon as Jayden opened his beautiful eyes, he smiled and said, “We have almost two hours before we meet Kathryn and I don't want you to get bored!” My beautiful Diné definitely knew how to keep me from being bored!
Kathryn called from the lobby promptly at 9:00 and Jayden told her to come up and then ordered breakfast. After exchanging hugs, she asked us to bring her up-to-date with our lives. We were in the middle of doing that when breakfast arrived. She continued to question us as we ate. When she was more or less up-to-date with what had been going on with us, she turned to our summer assignments and some of the logistics involved.
We lingered over breakfast, talking, until Kathryn said, “Well, let's get the shopping done and head for the clinic.” Stocking up on supplies always took longer than planned, but we finished in time for a late lunch and after our last hamburger for awhile, left for the clinic. I felt as though I was going home.
At the clinic, we got busy unloading the Land Rover. We were almost through when the breeze shifted and the horses caught our scent. Both started nickering and pawing the ground. We quickly finished storing the supplies and the three of us went to the corral. Skywalker and Sundancer were as glad to see us as we were to see them. Kathryn said, “You have plenty of time for a ride and I think all four of you would enjoy it.” Jayden and I were soon mounted and, after getting reacquainted with the saddle, were racing down the canyon, horses and riders obviously delighted even though Jayden and I knew we would be sore the next day. We were.
We were up the next morning before sunrise. My heart was overjoyed as Jayden, dressed in a breech clout, walked out of the house and stood, arms stretched over his head and chanted, greeting the sun. I felt that we were truly where we belonged. When he had finished, I realized that I, too, wanted to be able to greet the sun and the new day as he did. When I asked, he was delighted and began teaching me the chant and other chants as well. “As a matter of fact, we'll be spending a lot of time driving and riding. You can work on your Diné.” I remembered I had thought before that the difference between Diné and English was about the same as I suspect the difference between English and Martian would be!
At breakfast, Kathryn said she thought we would enjoy making rounds, seeing some of the people we had known two years ago. She handed us a list of visits with notes about her concerns for the patients. “You'll need to take the horses. Not only will you need them for some visits, but you need to get adjusted to riding again.”
“My butt is reminding me that I am so not used to riding,” Jayden laughed and I agreed.
“Jerry and Sasha Claw are expecting you for the midday meal.” She laughed and said, “Hope you can hold your own with the twins.”
After loading the horses into the trailer, we headed out for the day. Our first call was among a group of houses where we expected to park the Land Rover and have the people come to us. However, after we had seen half a dozen people, a young girl asked if we could go see her grandmother. She explained it was about half a mile away, but we would have to ride as the Land Rover couldn't make it.
When we arrived, we found an elderly woman in a great deal of pain. The day before she had spilled kerosene on her long skirt and it had ignited, burning her leg badly. I carefully cleaned the wound and treated the burn as Kathryn and Janice had taught me. The clinic had received a gift of new radios and transmitters so we now had portable units and didn’t have to depend totally on the unit in the Land Rover. As soon as I had finished with the woman’s wound, I radioed Kathryn and told her what I had done and what I had told the woman about care for the burn. Kathryn reassured me that was exactly what she would have done, then instructed me to leave her an antibiotic and medicine for pain, which I did.
As we rode back to the Land Rover, I recalled what Dr. Kellogg said about my presuming to offer medical help without being a licensed medical professional. When I told Jayden what I was thinking, his response was, “Derek, if you were that grandmother you would have two options. You could have a person caring for you who, although he was not properly licensed, knew what he was doing and cared about you, or you could leave it untreated. What would you do? Seems to me you'd much rather have someone do something than lose a leg, if not your life.” He was right, of course.
We made two more calls, all routine, before arriving at the Claw home. As I drove up, two brown boys wearing moccasins and breech clouts burst out of the bushes, yelling. When they saw it was not someone they knew, they stopped dead and looked at Jayden and me with wide eyes. Sasha and Jerry ran from the house and embraced us in a tremendous hugs.
After she had greeted us, Sasha patted her swollen stomach and said, “Derek, glad you made it back in time. I wasn't sure the girls would wait!”
“Twin girls this time, I am sure,” she laughed.
Taking his sons' hands in his, Jerry said, “Derek is the man who brought you into the world.” Both boys' eyes got very large, then they ran and hugged me about the legs. “The story of your bringing them from their mother is a favorite bedtime story,” he said.
We had a meal with the Claw family and enjoyed time with them and especially with the two very active boys.
The next day we were scheduled to visit the hogan of the old couple I had been visiting when I had found Jayden. Kathryn told us the woman had died six months ago and she suspected the man would soon follow her into the Underworld.
We reached the place where we could go no further in the Land Rover, parked and unloaded the horses. We mounted and soon approached the spot where I'd found Jayden, beaten and near death. He had never been back, so as we approached it I stopped and said, softy, “Jayden, Beloved Diné, this is where I found you.”
“As horrible as it was, the events which brought me to this spot gave me you and your love. The price was high, but what I gained is priceless.”
We sat on our horses, holding hands, silent for several minutes. I finally raised Jayden's hand to my lips and kissed his palm. He kissed mine in return.
As we approached the hogan, I shouted to alert the old Diné man. There was no response. As we got closer, an overwhelming odor assaulted us. Jayden said, “Derek, look in the hogan. I suspect you'll find him dead.”
Holding my breath as much as possible and breathing through my mouth when necessary, I walked to the hogan and looked in. Lying on a blanket was the decomposing body of the old man. I hoped he had gone painlessly to join his ancestors in the Underworld. I walked back to where Jayden was standing, well away from the hogan. “His body is lying on a blanket in the hogan, obviously he has been dead for sometime. What should we do? I don't know Diné traditions concerning the dead. I guess I need to call Kathryn.”
“I am Diné,” Jayden said. “We will deal with his body in the Diné way. We will destroy the hogan and his body with it, making sure his spirit goes to the Underworld and to keep devils from entering the world through the hogan.” When he pointed out a tin of kerosene by the hogan, I understood what he meant. I wet a side of the log hogan and ignited it.
There was no danger of anything else catching fire as there was nothing near the hogan to burn, so after watching for a short time, Jayden said, “We must wash.” We walked to the small spring where the old couple got their water and washed. When we finished, Jayden said, “We need clean clothes. It is the Diné way. There are clean coveralls in the Land Rover.”
“Then I guess that means we ride back to the Land Rover nude,” I grinned. Jayden nodded. I do not recommend riding naked!
A few days after our visit, the Claw family appeared at the clinic. They started their journey at Sasha's first labor pain, but there was no time to spare when she arrived. Jayden went to get Kathryn from the garden where she was working and Jerry took the boys outside. I began prepping Sasha for the delivery. Half an hour after Kathryn had arrived, with her looking over my shoulder, I delivered Sasha’s second set of twins. As she had predicted, they were girls.
The following days were busy. When we were not making visits, we were working around the clinic, in the garden and doing odd jobs that needed doing but had not been pressing. Jayden and I continued to work on my Diné and Diné chants.
We had been with Kathryn two weeks when she got a message from the Pueblo. Lupe had given birth to a son and mother and baby were fine. Ernesto was now ready for Jayden which was the news we’d been waiting for. Kathryn said, “We'll leave tomorrow, spend the night in Chinle and go to the Pueblo the next morning.” A night in Chinle meant hot showers—long hot showers—swimming and sleeping late which the three of us welcomed. After breakfast the next morning, we left for the Pueblo.
We arrived in time for a late lunch and a delightful time with Lupe, Richard and their daughter Katie. Late afternoon, Ernesto arrived and asked Jayden and me to take a walk with him. He led us up a trail on the face of the cliff above the pueblo, one I did not know existed. When we arrived at the top of the mesa, we sat in the shade of a bent and twisted ancient pine. As soon as we were seated, Ernesto said, “Derek, you are blessed beyond measure. The elder who has been my mentor for many, many years has chosen to be yours as well. He is the last of his generation. His name is Jonathan Maryboy, but he is known simply as Elder.” I, of course, knew Ernesto Silver was not a young man. I did not know his age, but guessed he was at least sixty and suspected he was a decade or so older than that. If Elder was Ernesto's mentor, he must be one of the Old Ones! “You will meet Elder tomorrow and begin your time with him,” Ernesto said.
Arrangements had been made for Jayden and me to have a private room for the night and facing an indefinite period of separation, we took advantage of it. Between making love and talking, we slept very little, but arose in time to greet the sun. Dressed in breech clouts, Jayden and I climbed the trail I had taken with Ernesto the day before. When we reached the summit, we stood, facing the east, arms outstretched, and welcomed the sun and the new day.
I met Elder at breakfast and he did, indeed, look like an Old One. His face was a mass of wrinkles, weathered from years of desert sun and wind. When I was introduced to him, he looked at me for several minutes, then chuckled and said, “I thought Ernesto had been eating strange mushrooms when he told me you were a black white man and a Chosen One. I didn't believe it and I find it hard to believe my own eyes, but he spoke truth.”
After breakfast, Jayden kissed me goodbye and he and Ernesto left the Pueblo. Elder came to me while I was watching Ernesto and Jayden ride away. “He is a beautiful Diné in spirit as well as body and so are you ...” he said, using my Diné name. “We are leaving in a few minutes.”
I went inside and got my canteens, bedroll, etc. When I returned, Elder was waiting for me. He handed me two large cloth bags which I placed across Sundancer's back, saddled up and we left the Pueblo.
We rode side-by-side talking. I was doing most of the talking, answering Elder's questions. Occasionally he would respond to something I said with, “You know, that reminds me of ...” and tell me a story. It took me awhile, but I suddenly realized he was telling me the Diné myths.
I had long ago decided that all belief systems are based on myth, stories which hold far more important truths than mere fact. As time passed and I learned more of the Diné mythology, I realized I was not only gaining insights into Diné in general, but Jayden in particular. What really surprised me was that the myths of the Diné increased my understanding and appreciation of my own beliefs, my own myths.
The sun told me it was shortly after noon when we stopped by a tiny pool of water. We drank, then allowed the horses to drink. Then sitting in the shade of an overhanging rock, we ate the lunch packed for us at the Pueblo. When we had finished eating, Elder lay back in the shade and was asleep in seconds. I sat, eyes unfocused, and thought back over the morning. I was amazed at how much I had learned during what had seemed like a casual ride.
After a short nap, Elder sat up, wide awake, and said, “Well, I guess we might need to be moving.” We continued our leisurely ride and talk until late afternoon. By the sun, it was 6:00 when we stopped for supper. When we had finished eating, Elder leaned back against a rock and asked, “Why are you here, Derek? What's a black white man doing in the middle of the desert with an old, worn out Diné?”
“Part of it—most of it—is a puzzle to me but some things are clear. I came summer before last because two of my professors, two mentors, wanted me to see what being a doctor in an under-served area was like. I came here and worked with Kathryn. Last year, to get a different perspective on the problem, I worked in rural South Georgia. So that explains the reason I was here before, but not this summer. I met Jayden the summer I was here, we fell in love and eventually were married. I have been told that Jayden and I are Chosen Ones. Now I suspect that's important, but I have no idea what it means. When I have asked, I end up right where I am now—in the dark. I am told that Jayden is a Keeper of the Secrets and that I, as his husband, have some part to play in that but,” I chuckled, “it seems what that means is one of the secrets being kept.”
Elder was laughing like a mad man. When he stopped, he said, “I've never heard it expressed better, but it is really no big secret. There are some things the Diné keep among themselves and some things the elders alone know but, to be honest, a Keeper of the Secrets is one who is chosen and chooses to remember the stories, chants, rituals and ceremonies which tell us who we are. They are those things which inform our belief, which tell us what it means to be Diné. I would say they make us, shape us into who we are. Without them we are nobody. Why secrets? Because some of the stories are stories for those such as Jayden, you and myself. They are stories which give us strength and power to be elders to our people. Yes, strange as it may seem, you have been chosen to be an elder. You will not be an elder in the same manner as Jayden or I, but you will be a Diné elder. Of course, you can choose not to be. You can choose not to be a Chosen One, but you will not.”
As Elder continued to talk, I learned that as husband to a Keeper of the Secrets my first and primary role was to be friend and husband to my husband. Finally I said, “I know being husband and friend is not always an easy job, but from what you’ve said I hardly think being husband to a Keeper of the Secrets warrants the awe I sometimes think I see and hear when Jayden and I are called Chosen Ones.”
“Oh, Derek, Chosen One, being Keeper of the Secrets or husband to Keeper of the Secrets is certainly nothing trivial, but it is only a part of what being a Chosen One entails. Being Chosen One means much more than being a Keeper of the Secrets. There are many Keepers of the Secrets, but there are few Chosen Ones.” With those words, Elder got up, looked at the sun and said, “We need to be moving.”
Late afternoon of the following day I saw a very large mesa ahead of us. When Elder saw me looking at it, he said, “Much of our remaining time will be spent there, atop that mesa. We will spend tonight at its base. It is about ten miles away so we have a couple of hours more riding yet. We cannot linger as we don't want to be riding after dark. There will be little moonlight and it'll be dangerous to ride, as a horse could step in a hole, stumble and break a leg.”
Shortly after Elder spoke, the terrain began changing, becoming quite rough and making talk nearly impossible. We rode in silence and I thought over what I had been told. It was almost sundown when we reached the base of the mesa. There was a sheltered area with a trickle of water coming from a crevice in the mesa wall well above our heads. It collected in a bowl formed in a rock. While I gathered fuel for a small fire, Elder collected water in a pail, ready to boil. When he had the water he needed, he allowed the horses to drink. It took a while for the horses to drink their fill as the trickle and bowl were small.
The trickle was small but it did provide enough water for a patch of grass. “There is nothing to eat beyond the grass here and there is water, so we'll just take the saddles off the horses and let them roam as they will. They will not go far. When you have the fire started, give Sundance a good rub down and turn her loose.” He did the same with his horse, Rattlesnake.
Elder kept an eye on the pail of water and when it was boiling, he added some crushed, dried leaves to it and set it aside. When it had cooled enough, we drank the tea with some 'travel food'—a mixture of cornmeal and other things. When we finished, we rolled up in our bedrolls and slept.
We were awake before dawn and the two of us faced east and greeted the sun, chanting together. Our breakfast was boiled cornmeal with bits of dried meat and a different tea made by Elder. When we finished eating, we gathered our bedrolls and supplies and began climbing the steep, switchback trail up the side of the mesa. Well, I suppose it was a trail, but I could not see it and even when Elder point it out, I could hardly believe it existed.
From time to time, we stopped briefly to take a sip of water. It was midmorning when we took a longer break, resting on a ledge which gave us a view of where we were. We were surrounded by desert. Even though I could see we were less than half-way up the side of the mesa, it was a dizzying height when I looked down. After our break, we continued climbing and I was surprised that as close to exhaustion as I was, Elder seemed to be tireless. Finally, a short time before noon by the sun, we reached the top. Spread out before me was an unbelievable sight.
The top of the mesa was an oval bowl. The northern wall soared hundreds of feet into the air, sloping down on both ends to the low eastern and western walls. While not nearly as high as the northern wall, the southern wall was also higher than the eastern and western ones. The north-south axis of the bowl was probably fifteen or twenty miles while the east west one was much shorter--I guessed five.
After a drink of water and a brief rest, Elder took up his bedroll and pack and said, “We will camp at the base of the northern edge. There is a spring there.” As we walked toward the wall, he point to a line of green which began at the northern end and became smaller and smaller until it disappeared before it reached the center of the bowl.
When we reached the camp site, we set to work building a fire pit, clearing an area for our bedrolls and gathering dead wood for a fire from the scrub bushes along the stream. When we finished, Elder asked me to bring water from the spring while he started a fire.
I found the spring water cold and good. I drank my fill, then filled two pails to take back to the camp. Elder drank too, then placed a small pail on the fire and made tea. When he finished his tea, Elder leaned against a stunted pine and was immediately asleep. I laid my head down on my bedroll and watched a bird high in the sky sailing on a thermal until I also drifted off to sleep.
When I awoke, it was near sunset. “You know how to greet the sun,” Elder said, “now you learn how to tell it goodbye.” We walked the half mile or so from the stream head toward the western wall where there was a trail to the top. As we walked, I began learning a new chant. As the sun sank below the horizon, we—mostly Elder—bade it goodbye for the night, reminding it of its promise to be back in the morning.
After the sun had disappeared below the horizon, Elder and I walked down into the shadowy bowl of the mesa to our campsite. Elder asked me to get a small fire started while he fetched a pail of water for tea. Once the tea was made, we sat in the gathering night sipping it. When I commented that it was different from the tea we had had earlier, Elder nodded and said, “You will learn there are many teas with many uses. What we are drinking is for clearing the thoughts.”
e sipped in silence for several minutes, then Elder said to me, “Derek, there is something you seek, something you have not told me about.” I nodded and sat silently for a few minutes. Finally I spoke. “My overriding concern is the anger and guilt I have inside. I want to be free of the turmoil that things in my past have caused, and that continue to trouble me. I then poured out my story—beginning with being rejected by my father, of my betrayal by Wolf and finally of the attack which not only placed me in danger of death, but also nearly cost me Jayden. “Elder, I have spent hours in white man's therapy—and regret not a moment of it, it has been of great benefit. However, I am no longer making progress and I harbor such deep anger that it threatens to destroy me, my relationship with Jayden and my possibility of becoming a good doctor. So far I have—most of the time—been able to keep it under control, but I know it can erupt at anytime. If I cannot overcome it, no, be free from it, the time and trigger will come. When that happens, my anger will burst out like a tornado and destroy everything in its path, including me. Jayden, who has endured much more than I, has freed himself from his demons and I believe it is through his work with Ernesto. I want what Jayden has achieved. I believed that I can, with your help, find it here in the desert.”
Elder listened and when I finished, said nothing. We sat in silence for a long time, maybe half an hour. Finally he spoke. “You are you and Jayden is Jayden. What Jayden has overcome, and what he has yet to overcome belong to Jayden.” He fell silent again. Again, after a long silence, he spoke. “Derek, you hold great anger inside. You hold bitterness toward the god in whose name the attacks were made. You ache from the pain caused not only to you, but also to those you loved. You are quite right that it can become a raging devil destroying much. It is good that you realize the power anger and bitterness have and that, sooner or later, they will overcome you. In truth, it is dangerous for a healer to harbor anger and bitterness.
“There is more. You have guilt because, somehow or other, you feel you could have prevented the attacks.” I nodded in agreement with his words. “Guilt, too, can destroy. Tomorrow, we greet the sun, the birth of a new day, and we begin.” Elder then rolled himself in his bedroll and was asleep in seconds. It took me longer, much longer.
Anger, Guilt and An Eagle
I was awake before sunrise. Elder climbed out of his bedroll as I was spreading mine on a bush to air during the day. As soon as he completed the same task we climbed the east wall in silence. The fingers of dawn were painting the east in pinks, oranges and purples as we approached the crest. Elder and I lifted our arms above our heads and greeted the sun as the fiery ball rose above the horizon.
Elder had me rehearse a chant used with the sand painting ritual for healing as we walked back to the camp. Had anyone asked, I would have said I could never draw or paint anything, but since Elder had taken me under his wing, he was teaching me sand painting and the sand painting rituals and chants for healing. “If you are to be a white man healer, why not use ancient Diné medicine as well?”
After we had breakfast, he poured each of us another cup of tea, called me by my Diné name and started talking about what being a Chosen One meant. “Chosen Ones,” he said, “are Diné, and mean chosen to be a blessing to the Diné. You can imagine how strange it seemed to me when Ernesto told me he had met a black white man who was a Chosen One. I thought he had lost his senses but I puzzled over it and still do. We don't give up our beliefs easily, especially when they seem to diminish us in one way or another. If being a Chosen One is something that can happen to anyone, then the Diné are not special. Yes, Derek, I puzzled over that.
“Ernesto is younger than this old Diné, he has been educated in white man's schools and traveled much. I thought he might explain it to me. When I told him I could understand Jayden being a Chosen One, but not a black white man, he laughed. 'Elder, I was expecting answers from you,' he said.
“But the puzzle got more confusing. Lupe and Richard assured me they knew you were Chosen when they first saw you, I found it strange, very strange, since ordinary people don't recognize a Chosen One as Ernesto and I do. It was even stranger when Kathryn, who is only half Diné, recognized you and Jayden were both Chosen. She told me, 'They are not chosen just for the Diné.' I have talked with the Old Ones about this and they were silent.
“Later I was at the Pueblo and heard a group of thirteen and fourteen-year-olds reciting something. I stopped and listened. I learned later it was the Declaration of Independence but what I heard was, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.' What I really heard was 'all men are created equal.'” He laughed and said, “It sure puzzled me because I didn't want to hear it. It was like I was being told as a Keeper of the Secrets, there were no secrets.” Finally, he looked up and said, “Us old Diné don't like changes and especially changes which shake our world.”
“Not limited to old Diné,” I said.
He nodded, stood and motioned for me to follow him. We walked along the small stream. All along the banks, plants took advantage of the water and as we walked, Elder pointed to different ones, named them and told me their uses and how to prepare them for use. He also taught me a new chant, maybe an ancient one, maybe one he composed for me, I wasn't sure. It called upon the Twins to bring order to a chaotic spirit. When he was satisfied I knew the chant he said, “Derek, the chant is yours to use when you need it.”
As we continued our walk, he talked more of the basic beliefs, the foundational myths of the Diné, the stories which told them who they were. Finally he said, “We, as all native peoples, have had problems with the white man who has tried to destroy our culture and beliefs. The result is rootless people. Rootlessness, alcohol, drugs, paint sniffing, suicide, disease all destroy us. Unfortunately, white men don't seem to realize that what sustains us has power to sustain them as well. There is no need to exclude our stories for theirs to be powerful.” We talked about that as we continued our walk.
The spring by our campsite was not large and the stream from it became even smaller as it flowed toward the center of the bowl. It was much diminished when it finally flowed over a flat rock into a stone bowl perhaps three feet across and only a few inches deep. When it overflowed the bowl, it disappeared. Elder told me it provided the water for the trickle filling the depression at the base of the mesa.
An old, bent and twisted pine at one side of the pool perfumed the desert air with its scent. Elder motioned for us to sit down, our backs against the tree trunk. We sat in silence for a short time, then Elder said, “You will do a vision quest when the time is right. Until that time, we will explore so you can find the place for the quest.”
During the next week and a half, we explored the top of the mesa and as we did so, it became increasingly clear to me that being a Chosen One was the same as what my African-American mother meant when she said someone had been truly called. Maybe both were too mystical for most in our scientific world, but in very secular terms, it meant a rock-solid conviction that you had a purpose in life and a deep yearning to be at that task, whatever it was. I had been pretty clear that I wanted to be a doctor to people who had little access to good medical care. If Elder was right, I had been chosen to be a blessing to such , but I couldn’t be everywhere. I couldn’t be a Chosen One for South Georgia and the Arizona desert both. Not a complete answer, but I was on my way.
One afternoon as we were walking along at the base of the southern wall, I looked up and saw a rock protruding from the cliff some fifteen or twenty feet above my head. There was no doubt in my mind that this was the place I was to do my quest and told Elder.
He nodded and said, “Good, but you are not ready for the quest yet. You have demons to deal with first. Tomorrow you begin a fast.” When I tried to ask him about the fast, he just shook his head and said, “You will know.”
It was late when our ambling brought us back to the campsite. “Start a fire,” Elder said. There were still embers buried in the fire pit ashes, so I added small dry sticks and coached a flame from them. As I did, Elder rinsed some beans he had soaked overnight, added fresh water and put them on the fire when it was burning well. He added dried peppers and some crushed, dry leaves to the pot as well.
The day after we'd arrived atop the mesa, Elder had me carry a large, thin flat rock back to camp. Placed at one end of the fire pit, we used it to bake thin corn cakes, a welcome improvement over corn mush. When the beans and corn cakes were done, we ate a very filling meal, cleaned up, went to the west and chanted the sun to bed. Back at the camp site, Elder made more tea from some of the leaves, twigs and bark I had gathered on our walk. After it had steeped, he poured it into a canteen. That accomplished, he lay down and was asleep in seconds. It took me a bit longer to go to sleep—I was thinking about the morning—but soon I, too, was in dreamless sleep.
When we awoke, Elder said, “Your fast begins.” He handed me the canteen with the tea he had prepared the night before and another, much larger canteen of water. “Take these and your bedroll. Sip the tea and water as you need. Eat and drink nothing else until you have finished your fast.”
“When will that be? How long am I to fast?”
“Until it is time to end the fast.” With those words, he turned and started walking toward the trail leading down the side of the mesa. As I watched, he disappeared. He was there and suddenly he wasn't. I shrugged and said to myself, “I suspect that will be among the least of the strange things I see while I am here,” picked up my the bedroll walked away from the camp.
I had told Elder I knew where I was to do my quest but I hadn’t thought about my fast so I just wandered around, aimlessly. Well, maybe it was not aimlessly, but mindlessly because when I became aware, I found myself at the cliff with the rock. I saw no way to reach ledge at first but after searching, I found a handhold and then another and began climbing the face of the cliff. As I climbed I sang the chant Elder had given me, the chant asking the Twins to calm a chaotic spirit. An hour later I managed to pull myself onto the stone ledge. It was not large, maybe three feet wide and six long. I spotted a shallow cave where the ledge joined the cliff just large enough for my bedroll. I sat at the mouth of the cave and looked out across the mesa wondering what my time here would bring.
I dozed off and was awakened by a series of loud, yelps or screams. When I opened my eyes, I saw an enormous golden eagle sitting on a stunted pine growing from a crack in the wall. The eagle stared at me with golden eyes, its head leaning to one side as though in thought. While he was perfectly capable of doing serious damage to a human, I was not frightened and watched, fascinated by the splendor of the huge bird. Gradually I came to realize the eagle was a messenger between me and the Old Ones. After several minutes he again screamed, spread his wings and flew in a widening spiral higher and higher until he was a mere speck in the sky. Suddenly I realized he was plunging toward me. I had turned to crawl back into the cave when he hit me from behind, burying his talons into my shoulders. I think I passed out from the pain.
When I was conscious again, I was being carried high above the ground. I looked down and realized we were traveling at tremendous speed. I should have been terrified, but was not. As the eagle began to descend, I recognized Stanton. Then, as if I were on a movie set, scene after scene of my life with dad played out. “Derek,” the eagle said, “you, DeAngelo, your mom, none of you deserved the pain your father caused. Do you understand why he behaved as he did?”
I knew the answer. In fact I had known it for years. “The anger he felt toward his life found an outlet in causing us pain.”
“He is beyond any anger you have toward him but your anger will cause others pain.” There was no question in my mind as to the truth of the statement. “Can you forgive him?” he asked. I looked deep inside and nodded.
The next thing I knew, I was waking. I sat up, took a sip of water and tea and thought back over my recent experience. When I looked at the sun, I realized three or four hours had passed since I had greeted the sun. I had either been asleep or with the eagle for most of that time. I laughed to myself and thought, 'Yeah, in two or three hours you made a trip to Stanton to watch your life play out before you. Of course it was a dream!' Strangely, given I had that long morning nap, I was falling asleep.
Again, the scream of the eagle called me into consciousness. I expected him to repeat his plunge from the sky, but he did not. Instead, he attacked me and before I knew it, he had forced me to the very edge of the ledge where, with a sweep of his powerful wings, he forced me off the edge and I fell toward the mesa floor below. Just before I hit, he snatched me up and flew me to Jayden's father’s study where his father was beating him with his belt. I knew I was witnessing the beating Jayden's father had given him before he was taken to a distant city and dumped on the street. My anger and rage boiled up inside then poured over him, but he did not know it as he continued to beat Jayden.
“See how powerless you are over your anger and the past? Your anger cannot change what was,” the eagle said, “but it can destroy your happiness and goodness and harm others. Can you forgive?” My eyes were full of tears and I shook my head ‘no’. Suddenly I was facing a very ill Diné and knew if I did not do something quickly, he would die. I was paralyzed because when I looked at the ill Diné, I saw Jaden Fulton IV. My anger rendered me powerless. The eagle asked again, “Can you forgive?” I nodded 'yes'.
I didn’t realized I had returned to the cave until I awoke. I saw by the sun it was mid-afternoon. After sips of water and tea, I sat, looking across the mesa and drifted off into a daydream which took me to the place where I had found my beloved Jayden near death. My dream forced me to recall finding my beloved and what Big Walt had done to him before and after he was left to shimmering heat waves over the mesa. As my anger and rage surged and grew, I was sure there was no possibility I could forgive. Then I heard Jayden speaking to me, “My beloved husband, without your forgiveness, your anger toward Big Walt will drink your spirit energy, energy which could bring love and care to those harmed by the Big Walts of the world. For their sake, forgive.” I wept bitter tears for what seems hours for the hurt Jayden had suffered and those tears washed away my anger.
The shimmering heat waves again seemed ordinary as the eagle reappeared. This time I was transported to OCU and the events which resulted in my teammates, my friends and my beloved being hurt. I knew it would be very, very hard to find forgiveness for those who caused all that pain. In fact, the eagle came to me again and again and each time I refused to forgive. Finally, Jayden came to me and said, “Beloved, I will take your anger so you can be free of it. I would rather it eat away at me than destroy your life.”
Again I wept bitter tears, clinging to Jayden and saying “I cannot forgive. I cannot forgive.”
Elder appeared beside Jayden and said, “Derek, can you not forgive because you could not protect those you love? Can you not forgive because you feel responsible for their hurt and pain? Can you not forgive because you cannot forgive yourself?”
I knew the answer to that question and simply nodded ‘yes’.
Jayden smiled and opened a bag of blue corn meal and Elder opened one of red. Jayden removed my breech clout and I stood naked as Jayden and Elder began scrubbing my body with the cornmeal. As they scrubbed, the meal became black, black as night and I felt I was being purified. When they had scrubbed my body, missing nothing, Jayden smiled and touched my forehead and lips with corn pollen. Elder touched pollen to the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet. As they did so I became conscious of the fact that I no longer carried the guilt I had carried so long. After marking me with pollen, Jayden and Elder left me. I felt renewed, recreated, yet very drained. I sang a chant thanking the Twins for having granted my request, lay on my bedroll in the small cave and fell asleep.
When I awoke, I picked up the canteen of water to take a sip, but found it empty; the same was true of the tea canteen. Very strange as I had taken only a few small sips out of each. ‘I’ll worry about that later,’ I thought when I realized it was near sunrise. Facing east, I raised my arms and began a chant welcoming the sun as it appeared. As I finished, I realized Elder was standing below the ledge and had joined me in the chant. The chant ended, we stood in silence for several minutes, then Elder called to me, “Come, Derek.”
I climbed down and the two of us walked to the water-filled bowl at the end of the stream and drank. When I finished, Elder said, “I suppose you are hungry.”
“Not extremely, but I have been fasting twenty-four hours.”
Elder laughed. “Derek, this is the fourth sunrise I have greeted since you and I last welcomed a new day.”
“That’s hard to believe,” I responded, shrugged my shoulders and added, “but it does explain the empty canteens.”
Apparently Elder had made a trip while I was fasting because he prepared bacon, eggs and coarse cornmeal for breakfast. Coarse cornmeal? He had prepared blue grits!
After a huge, leisurely breakfast, I started to ask questions about my experience, but Elder stopped me and asked, “Was what needed to be done, done?” I nodded ‘yes’. Elder nodded and that was the end of that. He then began telling me more about Jayden’s being a Keeper of the Secrets.
For three days, we walked, talked and I, especially, ate and slept. After we had said goodbye to the sun at the end of the third day and had eaten, Elder told me I would begin my quest for a vision the next day. “Sleep well,” he added and I did.
Once again I greeted the sun, took the two canteens Elder gave me, walked to the ledge and climbed up.
I sat looking out over the mesa, my eyes and mind unfocused. As I sat, I saw a tiny movement near my foot. When I looked down, I saw a large bug of some kind crawling along. In a flash, a scorpion ran from inside the cave. “Strange, scorpions are nocturnal,” I thought. Soon the bug was engaged in a fatal dance for its life. The bug managed to avoid the scorpion's sting for what must have seemed to be an eternity to him, but the scorpion finally won. Just as he was ready to enjoy his meal, a bird swooped down, grabbed both making both diner and would-be-meal his meal. The battle seemed to hold a message for me, but I wasn't sure what.
I kept thinking about the bug, scorpion and bird with a sense that something was just below my consciousness and was not going to let me go. Finally, I took a sip of tea and water then lay back on my bedroll. As I lay in the cave, I thought, 'The bug, scorpion and bird were all following basic instincts, following age-old patterns. The bug was going about its day-to-day bug business, having bug thoughts, when suddenly it was battling for its life. The scorpion, following its scorpion instincts, caught a bug for dinner with no thought beyond eating to live to eat again. The bird simply spied dinner and took advantage of life's bounty.' As I thought about that, I realized that since life was always tossing us a surprise, it would be easy just to say, 'To hell with it!' and drift along as mindless as the bug, scorpion and bird, following some basic instinct.
But life, real life required effort and thought, not just drifting along. Sure, there were surprises. Sure, as Robert Burns so aptly put it, 'The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men, Gang aft agley,'** but I am more optimistic than Burns who followed that line with 'An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!'**** Life is uncertain. Even in my few short years, my plans 'Gang aft agley' when life threw me a surprise. Certainly some were mighty painful—being essentially thrown out of my home, failing to gain an adequate scholarship, being beaten by a mob. Indeed there had been grief and pain. But—and that's a big but—sometimes the surprise was not at all painful. Thrown out of my house, I gained two wonderful men as my dads. Not having gained an adequate scholarship for college, I met a benefactor who not only made college possible, but gave me a life richer in material things than I could have dreamed of. But all those paled when compared to the surprise of finding my beloved Diné. The truth of the matter is, life is full of surprises, but we are expected to prepare for the future even in the face of life's uncertainly. And for me, a major part of that preparation had been accomplished when I finally had to turn loose of my anger and guilt. I was very, very clear about that. Now it was time to make plans knowing that many would ‘Gang aft agley’, but to do so I needed Jayden. How could I plan alone? As though he were right beside me, I heard Elder’s voice say, “Seek a vision, Derek, seek a vision.
“Seek a vision, Derek, seek a vision.” Elder’s words echoed in my head and I longed to be able to grab the ancient Diné by the shoulders, shake him and yell, “And just how am I to go about that?” Of course I couldn’t and wouldn’t, but I was frustrated. I took a sip of the tea Elder had given me and was vaguely conscious that the taste was different from any I had had since we arrived at the mesa. I sat on the edge of the ledge, my feet hanging over and thought, “Well, it’ll happen or it won’t and nothing I can do about it.” I was gazing across the mesa, eyes unfocused, half asleep when the eagle again buried his talons in my shoulders. Pain shot through my body as though a fire was burning away every nerve and I passed out.
A sense of Jayden’s presence called me back to consciousness and as my eyes opened, I gazed into the smiling face of my beautiful and beloved Diné. I reached out to touch him and felt nothing. “Only our spirits are together, Beloved,” Jayden said, “our bodies are elsewhere. We are bonded for life, Chosen Ones; our path lies together, but before we speak of the future, what of the past?”
I knew Jayden was asking about the feelings I had harbored inside, feelings I came to the desert hoping to be freed from. I told Jayden what had happened while I was on the mesa. When I finished, I asked “And you?”
“Derek, I had spent hours and hours with Ernesto learning what I needed to know and do as Keeper of Secrets.” He laughed and said, “One of the things I have learned is that you were quite right when you suggested that one of the secrets kept by a Keeper of the Secrets is what a Keeper of the Secrets is. Of course, as a Chosen One and husband of a Keeper, you will learn the secrets and participate in the activities, but we’ll have years to deal with that.
“Of concern to us now is what our being Chosen Ones is all about.” He laughed again and said, “Ernesto has had a struggle with your being a Chosen One. Every time I reminded him you are, he'd shake his head and say, 'And he’s a black white man.'”
I responded, “Elder had a more difficult time. He told me that while he had always thought Chosen Ones had been chosen to be a blessing to their people, that meant the Diné. Now he realizes Chosen Ones are chosen to be a blessing to their people, but who those people are and how they were to be blessed takes new forms. Made sense to me. Now I am asking to whom and how you and I are to be a blessing.”
“Exactly my own conclusion and question,” Jayden said.
The two of us talked and talked and talked, stopping occasionally for a sip of tea or water. We greeted the sun and said goodbye to it twice and still we talked. Finally we were clear on our intended path, both realizing that vision or no, life no doubt had surprises for us. Having reached a conclusion, we stood facing west and said goodbye to the sun.
As soon asthe sun dipped below the horizon, I headed back to the campsite. On the way, I met Elder and the two of us walked in silence. He handed me a cup of tea and said, “Derek, our work here is done. After we greet the sun, we return to the Pueblo.”
I nodded. After a few moments of silence I laughed and said, “Elder, Jayden and my spirits spent two days talking only to conclude what I think we have known for months, maybe years.”
Elder laughed and said, “You really are a black white man, Derek. You keep thinking time with the spirits is like ordinary time. You were gone one day.”
Next morning, we greeted the sun, had a quick breakfast and cleaned up our campsite. We were taking back much less than we brought, so the trip down from the mesa top was much easier and quicker than the trip up. Even so, it was mid-morning when we reached the mesa’s base and the horses. We mounted for our ride to the Pueblo and rode at a bit faster pace than we had coming. Even so, I was surprised when we arrived a few minutes before noon.
Jayden was waiting for me at the bottom of the Pueblo’s cliff and I was in his arms as soon as my feet hit the ground. Our kiss was deep and passionate, but we cut it short out of respect for Elder who had looked away as soon as Jayden embraced me. As he did, I heard him say under his breath, “First a black white man Chosen One, now he is kissing a Diné Chosen One and Keeper of the Secrets and the Old Ones are whispering their approval in my ear.” When we broke our kiss, I opened my eyes, I saw neither Elder nor Rattlesnake and as I looked around, I did not see him riding away. He just wasn’t there. Jayden noticed it as well and said, “He’s got the disappearing act down better than Ernesto.”
“He’s gone as well?”
“Yes. We got back an hour before you and Elder. Ernesto left me standing here as Elder did you. Let’s get lunch. I think the Pueblo menu calls for spaghetti, garlic bread and a wonderful green salad with tomatoes and cucumbers.”
“Only on the bottom of the Italian garlic bread!”
Hand in hand, we climbed the trail to the Pueblo.
After lunch, we rode into the desert to a spot Jayden had discovered when he was at the Pueblo. Shaded from the afternoon sun, we talked of what we had experienced in our time apart and when we were together as spirits. “It was an amazing experience, Jayden,” I said, “especially the dreams. They were so real I can hardly believe they were dreams.”
As sure as any couple could be, we finally had our plan for the future and kissed in agreement and celebration. The kiss soon became one of love, lust and passion. We broke the kiss and Jayden removed my shirt. “Beloved, your shoulders and back look more real than a dream to me,” he said in awe. By twisting my head as far as possible over each shoulder, I could see some of the scars left by the eagle's talon's. A faint a kiss on my shoulder soon reminded me of the matter at hand.
Jayden and I made love the rest of the afternoon and actually chanted the sun to bed standing nude in the desert air.
After we returned, Jayden and I sat down with Kathryn, Richard and Lupe to talk about our time with our elders. We told them the highlights as we recalled them including, at Jayden's insistence, showing them my scars. When we finished with what we had experienced, Richard asked what our next steps were.
“Without going into detail, I will return to Old Commonwealth and complete my degree first semester. During that time, I will apply to med schools. I intend to become certified in Rural Medicine.”
“I still have a ways to go before I get my degree,” Jayden said, “at least three semesters, so I’ll have a year after Derek graduates. Where he gets into med school will determine where I compete my degree. I’ll have an additional two years, minimum, earning a master’s degree. By then I will have determined the shape of a Pueblo-like program geared to troubled and at-risk young men who do not have a real culture or who find their culture constricting. I hope that together Derek and I can create a place and way for those young men to have a healthy mind, body and spirit.”
A week later, two confident young men left the Pueblo, plans in place.
**Usually translated, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
****And leaves us nought but grief and pain for promised joy.”
Fifteen Years Later, More or Less
Sandra, my receptionist and general all-around assistant, called to me as I headed back to the lab. “Doctor Derek, I have been asked to set up a conference call for you and Dr. Jayden with a Mr. Kopler of the Department of Health and Human Services for 2:00 this afternoon. I have cleared both your calendars.”
“What’s that all about?”
“He didn’t say except to say it was very important.”
“Well, I hope it is. I want to get away a bit early today. Jayden and I are taking the kids camping this weekend.”
“All five and a friend of each. Richard and Lupe and their two are joining us. Fortunately, Kathryn is coming along to help with the girls. I’m not sure about this girl thing yet.”
“Doctor, you have had a daughter for, what, about five years?”
“Yeah and it gets more confusing all the time.”
After our summer with the elders, Jayden and I returned to Old Commonwealth and had a very good year. I graduated mid-year and had nothing to do while waiting to find out about med school. I decided I would soon be bored out of my skull and signed up for graduate level chemistry and biology classes. In selecting the classes, I happened to notice a photography class and just for the fun of it, signed up.
My life with Jayden got better and better and we both began to develop friends and activities of our own. I really got into photography and Jayden took up the guitar again. When we noticed we were spending time on our own, Jayden commented that it was because we knew our relationship was on absolute bedrock.
I had applied to several med schools—all pre-med students do—and was getting nervous as time passed and no letters of acceptance came. Jayden and all my friends kept assuring me I had nothing to worry about. Maybe I didn’t, but I was sure relieved when I got accepted into the Rural Medicine program at the University of New Mexico Medical School. Jayden let out a loud whoop when I told him and said they had an excellent Department of Psychology and promptly applied for admission to it. When he was accepted, he was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was still a legal resident of New Mexico and did not have to pay out-of-state tuition.
With school in the fall settled, Jayden and I talked about the summer and decided to take a real break and travel. We spent June in Europe and July in the American Northwest, Canada and Alaska. Between the two trips, we went to Albuquerque to locate housing. We found a duplex apartment which was very nice, but, of course, not as nice as our place in Norfolk. We made the move as soon as we got back from Alaska.
The demands of medical school placed a real strain on our relationship. Jayden handled it better than I, but it finally reached the point where he said, “Derek, you are my beloved, the heart of my heart, but I cannot go on the way we are. Our relationship has reached the point where I feel as if I am just the means to a quick release of your sexual tension.”
I don’t think I would have felt half as much pain had he hit me in the gut with a baseball bat. The fact that I knew he was right doubled my pain. The next day I had a long talk with my mentor and we looked over where I was, my schedule and the extra responsibilities I had accepted and worked out three days when I could be away. The minute I was free, we headed for the desert. After my nearly tearing us apart, we kept our eyes open for opportunities to get away for an afternoon, a day and even occasionally, a weekend.
The next threat to our relationship came when intern/residency match-ups took place. I did everything I could and had some good people pulling for me, I hoped I’d be offered a residency in NM, but none came through. When the closest one I was offered was the Emory hospitals in Atlanta, we discussed Jayden either dropping out or transferring to Emory. Emory soon proved not to be an option and we both knew dropping out wasn’t one either, so I went to Atlanta and Jayden stayed in Albuquerque. His program gave him a much more flexible schedule than mine, so he racked up lots of frequent flier miles. He did, however, finish his master’s ahead of schedule and began work on his doctorate.
During the year I was in Atlanta, Jayden became Jayden Marshall Wilson. An aunt had hounded Jayden about visiting her ever since she'd found he was alive. She had been a great comfort to him when his mother died, so he told her he would attend a dinner party after she told him who would be present and doubly assured him his father would not.
In the middle of dinner, Jaden Fulton, shoved past a the man serving the dinner. He was so drunk he could barely stand, but not so drunk he couldn’t shout. “What is that fucking faggot doing in your house, Sis?” he thundered.
“Jaden, he’s your son,” she had responded.
“He’s no son of mine. Jaden Marshall Fulton the Fourth does not have a faggot son,” he yelled as best he could and fell face down on the floor. Jayden got his name changed the next week, becoming Jayden Marshall Wilson.
After that year’s separation, we were together again in New Mexico. Since I had another year before I could work with Kathryn and/or the Pueblo, Jayden continued work on his doctorate. Since he planned to work as a psychologist in a Pueblo-like situation, part of his program was working with an established practice whose clients were limited to twelve-to twenty-year olds. He also volunteered with a youth program which worked with youth very similar to those the Pueblo served.
The day finally arrived when we were finished with school—at least so far as degrees were concerned. The month before we received our sheepskins, Jayden came home one evening and suggested we take off a month to visit our dads and friends from our Norfolk days and we did. We took our time driving from New Mexico stopping when we saw something interesting, taking back roads, never rushing. When I said something to that effect, Jayden said, “We are doing what we should have been doing and what we have been leaving undone. We are placing ourselves first.”
We had left the LeBaron in Norfolk and bought a used Land Rover in Albuquerque when I started med school and needless to say, it was well worn when we got back to Virginia. Nonetheless, it still had some good miles in it. Jayden asked our dads if they had a use for it and they immediately had a kid in mind who could and would appreciate it, so we gave it to him and flew back to Albuquerque.
On the plane back, I said, “Jayden, we need to rethink our situation. We have put our education ahead of us and I don’t regret it but I don’t want us to start doing that with work. I want very much to work with Kathryn and will do so, but . . . well, there’s a problem. If I work with Kathryn, you will be at the Pueblo and we will be separated. I am going to see if it is possible for me to work with Richard and live with you at the Pueblo.”
“Well, let’s see what’s what before we decide all is not well,” Jayden responded, but he didn’t look happy.
When we checked into the hotel in Page, there was a message from Kathryn saying she would meet us for dinner. We had reserved a suite and as soon as we entered the room, Jayden grinned at me and said, “We’re in Page and I bet the showers are still working and the water’s still hot and sex in the shower is still great.” Having said that he immediately began stripping off my clothes.
An hour and a half later we were lying on the bed, sated for the moment, as naked as Adam. Jayden would have said we were recovering from our shower lovemaking. I glanced at my Beloved Diné and from the look of things, the recovery was going very, very well. Noting that fact, I laughed and then attempted to announce in a serious tone, “You seem to be recovering very well, Dr. Wilson. But as your doctor, I can’t be sure until you resume your normal activities.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth, Jayden headed for my groin.
When Kathryn arrived, Jayden and I were dressed and ready to escort her to our favorite Page restaurant. During dinner, we told Kathryn about our trip, then I said, “But I—we have something more serious than the trip to talk about. You may remember the problem we had because our relationship had been placed on the back burner. We managed the year with me in Atlanta, but we don’t want to do that again unless we absolutely have no other choice.” Jayden then described our concern.
“Maybe I have a win-win situation, then,” Kathryn said. “Lupe has been talking with some Hopi elders who have seen what she has done with the Pueblo. They are interested in a similar program and they are in negotiations right now. We have been talking for the last two months and think we may have a plan which includes you. Lupe has expressed a willingness to go live with the Hopi and get a program set up for them.
“The clinic there is not thriving. The clinic Richard has been running lost old Doc Andrews three months ago and we are hardly legal at this point. What I propose is Richard go with Lupe and operate the clinic Dr. Ellis had. We have a brand new doctor coming on board who will be the supervising physician. Dr. Ellis will take my place and you and I will go to the clinic Richard has been running. Richard can turn around the Hopi clinic and—drum roll here—you two and I would live at the Pueblo. Jayden was planning on working there and he can begin doing hands-on work with the Pueblo program.”
Wow!” Jayden jumped up and danced around the room and I was ready to do so as well.
Less than a week later, Jayden and I got settled into two rooms at the Pueblo and began our study and work with Lupe and Kathryn. All the time we were there, we were talking, planning, revising and refining our dreams of a place where young men could become whole in mind, body and spirit.
Through our contacts as Chosen Ones and Jayden’s being a Keeper of Secrets—and those contacts were solid and extensive—we kept hearing talk of a Pueblo in New Mexico, maybe near the Navajo nation in the northwest corner of New Mexico. Finally, we were approached about the possibility of actually beginning work toward such a place. At the suggestion of a tribal leader, Lupe, Jayden and I went to check out possible locations. We found a hundred acres and the location wasn’t bad, but the entire hundred acres was flat, utterly flat. “I don’t think so,” Lupe said and we agreed. We drove seventy-five miles to check out another possibility and found about two hundred acres bordering the Navajo Nation. Jayden and I discussed it with Lupe and, while it wiped out our bank account, we put down earnest money to hold it for fear it might be sold.
On the way back to the Pueblo, we struggled to come up with a name for the complex—a Pueblo-like center for boys and young men and the clinic. When we reached a place where she could get a signal, Lupe called Richard to tell him what we had found. When she told him what we were discussing, he suggested Asilo, usually translated as the asylum, but it can be translated as the sanctuary. Asilo it was all agreed.
Kathryn worked with us on the application to incorporate Asilo as a non-profit and on the establishment of the Asilo Foundation. She was also extremely helpful in our making application to foundations for grants. Jayden made contact with some wealthy people he knew from his childhood, people who admired him, and some made very generous contributions to the Foundation. When there was almost enough money for the land, an anonymous donor bought it and gave it to the Foundation with the stipulation that our earnest money be returned and ten acres be deeded to Drs. Jayden and Derek Wilson for a home of their own. His gift freed the money in hand to begin serious planning and construction.
We had not considered building a house, but when we realized we would be at Asilo for a number of years, we decided we would. The real debate between the two of us came when we began considering selling our place in Norfolk. We had a steady income from it, which had been invested, but Penny and Jeremy had finished their time in Norfolk the year before and the couple managing the house just didn’t put the care into it that was needed.
We finally flew to Virginia and talked with our dads and decided to put the house on the market. We drove to Norfolk and while we were looking over the house, got a phone call from Louis. He heard we were in town and invited us to dinner. Over dinner, we told him why we were in town and he laughed. “Perfect! I have just been granted tenure and my father died last year and the will was settled last week. Caroline and I were going house shopping soon. What’s your asking price?”
“The assessor has come up with a suggested asking price of twenty percent above the appraised value, but give me and Jayden until in the morning to see what we can do.” Since there was no realtor fee or commission involved, we decided they could have the house for the assessed value. We closed the deal and flew back to New Mexico.
Planning our house was great fun and we spent hours on it. Before we really got into planning the house itself, Jayden had demanded a swimming pool with a seven and a half meter, if not ten, diving platform. “That, Dr. Wilson, is nonnegotiable!” Jayden said, “You are going to get back to swimming and diving.” I didn’t argue. Instead, I gave my beloved Diné a kiss which became more and more passionate and resulted in house planning taking a backseat for an hour.
When we got back to house planning, I said, “Okay, a pool with an arrangement which allows it to be enclosed so it can be used year around. I want another extra. I’m sure we’ll have visitors so I was thinking of two guest rooms, but how about a guest house?”
“Great idea,” Jayden said. “We have to have a library not unlike the one we had in Norfolk. That’s a must.”
“Agreed. Also, a large, well-equipped kitchen, living room, formal dining room and a breakfast room with a whole wall or two walls of glass looking toward the mountains,” I added.
“A large family room, also with a lot of glass, and a master suite with Jacuzzi . . . “ Jayden paused, looked at me strangely and got a very weird smile on his face, then asked, “Derek, think we’ll ever want kids?”
I looked at Jayden, grinned, kissed him and asked, “Kids? You want kids?”
“Yeah. They don’t have to be ours. I don’t care where the sperm comes from, but yeah, I’d like a kid or maybe two.”
“I love you, Derek Edward Wilson! Yeah, I’d like a kid or two and I don’t care whose sperm produces him. We do want hims don’t we?” During our continuing discussion, somehow we added two more potential kids to our growing family, then decided maybe we’d better add more bedrooms in case one of us got pregnant. “We have been and will be exposed enough,” I said, laughing.
When we had an idea of the space we wanted, we called Peter and Philip and they flew out to look over the possible sites and began sketching plans. They flew out four more times before we had the final plans. The four of us met with an architect in Albuquerque and contracted with him to be the supervising architect.
While our plans were being created, Lupe was working with an architect to draw up plans for Kiihu, a new facility she was establishing for Hopi youth. She suggested we contact him as a possible architect for Asilo. His suggested plan was unlike the Pueblo buildings. Asilo would be housed in a cluster of round stone buildings reflecting another building style of the Ancient Ones, ruins of which are still found in the area.
Asilo was isolated. There was no housing available for construction workers, so trailers were brought in to house them and the construction office. Jayden and I ordered one as well. Wisely, construction at Asilo began with the kitchen and refectory. As soon as they were completed, they were put to use to feed the workers.
Construction of our house started at the same time as construction at Asilo and was done with the same care for the environment. Geothermal heating and cooling, water recycling, use of sunlight where possible and such practices pervaded the construction.
Peter and Philip had kept in touch with us and the architect as the house plan was transformed into reality. Jayden was surprised how well they had adapted to themes of the southwest without making it look like a home builder’s display model. The house, furnishing and décor spoke very clearly of us. When the house and grounds were completed, we were very, very pleased.
Asilo was designed for one hundred boys, one hundred ten max, ideally ten of each age twelve through twenty. It and the clinic had been in full operation for six months and doing extremely well when we became fathers. We had been working with an agency trying to adopt a baby for several months and had all the inspections and paperwork done. The only holdup was the lack of a baby and it seemed one wasn't forthcoming.
One evening we were not anticipating any interference from outside and had spent time and energy in lovemaking, a wonderful meal, more lovemaking and a nightcap before bed. Once in bed, we found we weren’t quite ready for sleep and were making out again when the phone rang. It was Shelia, the social worker we had been assigned and she asked if she could come out. “I have a problem I think you might help me with.”
‘Coming out’ involved an hour long trip, but two hours later we were getting an eight-year-old African-American-Diné child settled in bed. As soon as he was down, we sat down with Shelia and learned Andrew’s mother had died and his alcoholic and abusive father had beaten him frequently. Now his father had killed a man in a drunken fight, was in jail and not likely to get out anytime soon. “Guys, Andrew has no place to go. So far as I could determine, he has no relatives on his father’s side and his mother’s relatives, including her own mother, say they are not taking her half-breed black bastard into their home. I filled out papers making you his foster parents. You can adopt Andrew in six months to a year.” We were daddies.
Andrew was awake and ready to go to school the next morning at 6:00. We new dads were definitely not awake. We got him in bed with us, expecting him to go back to sleep but instead, he worried about school. We finally got up at seven, fixed breakfast and realized we had a child care problem. Asilo was so isolated we would have had to drive Andrew miles to catch a bus which would travel many more miles to school. In four years he could join his age group at Asilo for classes, but that was four years in the future. This problem required more thought and more time than we had before we had to be in our offices. Jayden said many days Andrew could go with him, but this was not one of them. “Andrew, we’ll have to work on this school thing, but for today, you are going to work with me,” I said.
Sandra and Andrew took to each other like long lost relatives. I spent as much time with him as I could at the office, but that was very little. Sandra, however, never seemed to be so occupied she ignored Andrew, but her work got done anyway. Even if it was not all bad, Andrew going to the office with one of his dads was not a solution.
When Jayden called Shelia and literally yelled, “Help!” she immediately thought of Ms. Tillery, a retired elementary school teacher who was living alone and hating it. For the first couple of years of her retirement she enjoyed it thoroughly, traveling with her husband, working in magnificent kitchen, herb and flower gardens. When her husband died, she enjoyed her solitude for a few years, but now she was bored and depressed. She had volunteered for a tutoring program Shelia kept tabs on and when she quit, Shelia went by to see her and found her unkempt and uninterested.
Shelia phoned her and told her she had a real problem on her hands, and asked her to help. She called us while the family—that sure had a nice sound—was at dinner and we let it go to voice mail as we always did if we were eating. After we had finished dinner and cleaned up, I checked voice mail and found Shelia’s message which was to ask one of us call her.
When I called, she said when Jayden had called she had immediately thought of Ms. Tillery and had gone to talk with her. “I described the situation, told her about Andrew and what I saw as his potential. Ms. Tillery knew about Asilo from articles in the newspaper and a TV program on its opening and another a year later following up on the first which was very supportive of it. I then said, ‘And I know you’ll love Andrew’s daddies.’ That took her aback for a bit, but after I told her you were both doctors and were an old married couple, she decided it was unusual, but not necessarily bad. ‘What they need,’ I told her, ‘is someone who can home-school Andrew as well as keep an eye on him while the doctors work.’ She asked for time to think about it, but while she did not say so, I knew she had decided already.”
Ms. Tillery came out the next day to meet with us, arriving shortly after Jayden and I got home. She was spending the night and would spend the next day with Andrew.
After we had talked for half an hour, Jayden and I were convinced she was tailor-made for the job, so we made her an offer. When we told her the package, she said, “That’s fine. I won’t need the insurance, I have a good policy from my years of teaching. What about my living space?”
“We have talked about that. Ms. Tillery, we want you to be comfortable. We thought we’d offer you a month to try us out, see how you and Andrew get along and for you to decide if this is something you want to do. We called our friends who designed our house and asked about their drawing up plans for two mother-in-law suites. If all goes well, one should be finished by the end of the month or shortly after. If you decided you want to take us on, that would be yours. Until then, you can have two adjoining bedrooms or the guest house, whichever you prefer.”
When we got home the next day, we sat down with her and talked for an hour about her day. “Shelia was quite right in saying Andrew is a very bright young man. I do hope, however, he will be seeing someone about the emotional trauma he had suffered.”
“He will be,” Jayden said, “but I am surprised he spoke to you about it. He had said very little to either of us.”
“Oh, he didn’t say anything, Dr. Wilson, but I taught elementary school for thirty-two years. If you care about those children entrusted to your care, you learn to read the signs of their trouble.”
I glanced at Jayden and he said, “Ms. Tillery, the job is yours if you want it. If the salary, housing, whatever is holding you back, we’ll try to take care of it.”
“Dr. Wilson, I could play coy and all, but I won’t. I am happy to accept.”
“Welcome to the family, Ms. Tillery, and you should call us Jayden and Derek. We both answer to Dr. Wilson,” I said. She never got that informal but, as others did, she called us Dr. Jayden and Dr. Derek. I told Jayden a couple months later we had made only one decision as wise as the one to make Ms. Tillery part of the family and that was the decision to marry.
Nine months later we were beginning to get used to being parents. Well, it was easy. Ms. Tillery made our life much easier and fuller and Andrew blossomed under her academically and emotionally. Andrew also made being daddy easy. He was a good kid, seldom had to be corrected and was very loving. He kinda lulled us into believing being a daddy was a snap. Boy, was that illusion to be shattered.
Shelia called again and said she had a what she thought was a Hopi-Mexican boy probably about six. A woman had seen him entering an abandoned house and called the police who had finally managed to corral him. “The only names he has, he says, are Fuckup and Shithead. ‘That’s what the woman called me,’ he says. When found he was suffering from exposure and malnutrition, and had lice and gonorrhea. He has been in a couple of foster homes, but it hadn’t worked out. In fact, I’ll be honest, he was in the first for two days and in the last for three. He’s immature in many ways and way more knowledgeable than he should be in others. He demands attention and there is evidence he has had little or none in the past. I’ll not kid you, he is high maintenance.” She really put the pressure on by reminding us of how our lives had been enriched by Andrew and that we were about the only hope she held out for the kid.
She called at 10:00, later admitting the foster father had called and said she could either come get the kid or they were taking him to the sheriff. It was after midnight when she arrived with the boy, so I took him directly to bed. After he was settled, Shelia told us what she knew of him, which was little. “He has ‘boy dob’ and a double of symbols tattooed on the inside of his upper right thigh. It looks professionally done. Our agency faxed a copy of the tattoo to an expert at the university and he says it is a date by the Mayan calendar. Best he could figure out, he was born in September and was six his last birthday. We’re working on a birth certificate—man, talk about red tape. Maybe he can remember his name, but so far he just says he’s called Fuckup or Shithead. Probably just going to have to choose a name. In either case, let me know.
“From what has been pieced together, he belonged to a group, maybe cult, of nomads. Apparently he got overlooked when they moved on. He has good survival skills if what he says is true since he said he had been in the abandoned building two moons. He’s very bright, but apparently has been left to raise himself. I’ll be honest, I said ‘high maintenance.’ That translates into ‘a handful’.”
When Andrew arrived on the scene, we had hired a two-day a week housekeeper to do the added cleaning and with the new kid being added, we asked her if she would come full time to do the added work his presence required, take care of lunches and help Ms. Tillery with child care. When I asked, she said, “Dr. Derek, I have raised six of my own. If it was just the house work and cooking, I would be delighted, but no child care.”
It was soon, like the next morning, when it became obvious that we had to do something about child care. Ms. Tillery was willing to put in extra effort and Jayden and I did all we could to relieve the pressure, but what Shelia had meant by high maintenance soon became clear. Among other things, the kid could throw fits that put any three year old to shame.
When we asked Shelia if she had any ideas, she looked into some possibilities and located Mr. and Mrs. Chusi, a retired Hopi couple who had become bored plus needed the money. He had been an industrial arts teacher and Jayden immediately got him a job at Asilo. She was a retired middle school Life Skills teacher. “Before boys took it, it was called Home Economics,” she said.
Jayden or I frequently asked the kid if he remembered his name and he always responded, his irritation ever-increasing, “I told you I was always called Fuckup or Shithead.”
One evening I said to him, “Kid”—kid had become his working name—“you need a real name. In fact you need three. What would you like your name to be?”
“Jayden Derek Wilson,” he shouted throwing his arms in the air.
“Well, we have a Jayden Wilson and a Derek Wilson,” I replied. “Won’t that be confusing?”
“Not if you call me Jay,” he answered in a rather cocky manner. Jayden Derek Wilson he was to be.
When Andrew heard Jay was to be a Wilson, the usually quiet and even tempered boy pitched a fit which equaled any of Jay’s. “I am a Wilson too!” he yelled. Nothing would convince him he had a perfectly good last name. He was Andrew Wilson, period, full-stop, end of discussion. He did calm down long enough for Jayden to explain that since he had a name, it would take awhile, but he would be a Wilson. Shelia rushed the paper work and one of the birthday presents the nine-year old received was the official adoption certification naming him Andrew Jeremy Wilson.
Jay continued to be a real handful and Ms. Tillery, Mrs. Chusi, Jayden and I all questioned whether we could handle him. We were doing all we could to support each other, but Jay was determined not to obey anyone, to do as he pleased. He was often destructive. Smaller and younger, he nonetheless quite often cowed Andrew; Andrew of the Infinite Patience Jayden called him. It had finally reached the point that we had called a meeting for all of us with Shelia for Friday afternoon. Mr. and Mrs. Chusi had taken Jay to their suite Tuesday night since neither Jayden nor I had gotten any sleep the night before. Jayden and I planned to get home early Wednesday to relieve Mrs. Chusi and I got off even earlier than I anticipated. When I got home I found Mrs. Chusi trying to start dinner while Jay sat buckled in the time out chair screaming at the top of his lungs. Andrew sat in front of the TV holding headphones tightly against his ears. “Where is the black ogre when he is needed?” I yelled at Mrs. Chusi in order to be heard over Jay.
Recalling an earlier brat, I lifted the timeout chair and took it outside and placed it where I could keep an eye on Jay yet where we could be heard in the kitchen without yelling at each other. I tapped Andrew on the shoulder and asked if he’d like to get dressed for the pool and he headed off to his room. In the kitchen, I told Mrs. Chusi to go on home—her home being the second mother-in-law suite. “We’ll make do for dinner and I know you have to be exhausted. How long was Jay’s time out?”
“Ten minutes. I never give him more than ten minutes, but he has been in the chair for thirty, screaming most of the time.”
I brought the chair back and placed it in the family room. Jay stopped screaming for a minute to ask, “What’s Andrew doing?”
“He’s doing what I’m going to be doing. He’s getting dressed for the pool.”
“I’m going to get dressed too,” he said, as he tried to climb out of the chair, but the belt kept him in. “Get this motherfucking belt off me so I can get dressed.”
I looked at him and said, “I wouldn’t do it after you demanded it in the voice and words you used, but I’ll not do it anyway because you have ten minutes of quiet time in time out. After you finish time out, I’ll see about the pool.” Jay started screaming and I yelled so he could hear, “Time out starts over every time you scream or yell.” Knowing he was safe and leaving my door open so I could see him, I went to my room and to get dressed for the pool.
When Jayden walked in he said, “Hi, Jay. Where Derek?”
“Getting dressed for the pool. Unbuckle me so I can get dressed.”
“Can’t do that because I guess you have time out.” He came into the bedroom and grabbed my Speedo clad ass before giving me a passionate kiss. “Been bad?” I nodded. We sat, making out and keeping half an eye on Jay. Before things got too far out of hand, Jayden stripped and pulled on Speedos, having a ‘hard’ time of it!
When he was dressed, I stepped into the hall and called out, “Andrew, time to hit the pool.” When I got to the family room I said, “Good boy Jay, you did your time.” I lifted him out of the chair, hugged him and kissed him on the head before setting his feet on the floor. I smacked his cute little butt and said, “Get your Speedos on, Jay.”
Andrew had obviously had swimming lessons and a good coach sometime in his young life because he not only swam well, but had excellent form. As soon as he was old enough he was going to make a big difference in the Asilo swimming team. I had tried to teach him to dive, but after a short while he said, ‘Dad, I really don’t like diving, I just like to swim.’ As soon as he was in the water he started swimming laps, working on his speed and form.
Jay was a more than adequate swimmer. I was confident enough that his swimming in the deep end of the pool did not worry me. But form? He tackled swimming the same as he did most things from digging in the garden to pitching a fit, full steam ahead.
Both boys had pretty much used all their excess energy and were playing with a ball in the shallow end of the pool while Jayden and I were sunning themselves. Like two lovesick teenagers, we lay gazing at each other and exchanging kisses from time to time. I had leaned over to kiss Jayden again when Jay called out, “Hey, Daddies, watch me.” I was shocked as it was the first time Jay had called either of us Daddy, but my heart stopped when I saw him. The not-yet-seven-year-old was on the seven and a half meter platform ready to dive. Before either Jayden or I could yell for him to stop, he dove. As he broke the surface of the water, Jayden looked at me, grinned and said, “Sorry, Dad, I don’t think I can give the kid more than a five.” I simply nodded, mouth open, then added, “Maybe a 5.5.” That heart-stopping dive marked a turning point for the family as Jay lived to dive. We decided Jay had to earn points to be permitted to dive since it seemed to be the one thing that he valued.
Jay still had problems and even quiet Andrew had his share, but given their backgrounds, that was to be expected. Nevertheless, Jayden and I did not regret becoming daddies and life was definitely better with them in our lives.
A few weeks after we had celebrated Andrew’s ninth birthday, Jayden and I were having drinks by the pool with Michael Stuart, a psychology graduate student interning at Asilo. We were all watching Andrew swim and Jay dive—both putting on quite a show—when the phone rang. I excused myself and answered it. When I ended the call, I said to Jayden, “Shelia is on her way over.”
An hour later the Wilson family and Michael had just sat down to dinner when the doorbell rang and Shelia came in without waiting for me to open the door. I insisted Shelia join us for dinner and Jayden set another place. When she started to object, I said, “Well, you can cool your heels in the living room, Shelia, but I am having dinner. You don’t have a kid in the car, do you.”
“Well, not exactly a kid,” she said.
“Okay,” Jayden put his fork down and said, “Shelia, what gives?”
“Rose Marie is in the car with, well, with three kids.”
“Shelia, you brought three kids out here without asking?”
“Well, it was that or I don’t know what.”
“Okay, bring them in. Boys, would you take your plates to the breakfast room and set four more places? Miss Rose Marie and three kids will be having dinner with you.”
Before everyone got settled in bed, the family had been expanded by three: Sherry seven—a few months older than Jay; Kenneth, a boy, nine, four months younger than Andrew and six year-old Bryon. When Derek reminded Shelia we were out of bedrooms, she said it was okay because Kenneth would never allow anyone to separate him from Bryon. “Kenneth is Bryon and Sherry’s protector.” When they were all in bed, Shelia told us just how protective Kenneth was. “He shot his father in the knee to keep him from sexually abusing the two younger children.”
By the fifth anniversary of the opening of Asilo, it like the Pueblo and Kiihu, had gained national notice. Jayden had published articles in professional journals, a couple of which had been picked up and popularized on national news. Newspaper articles in Arizona and New Mexico newspapers and a segment of a TV news show resulted in a short segment on one of the national nightly news programs. As a result of the publicity, there was a constant stream of requests to all three youth centers for interviews, observations, etc. Finally, Lupe and Jayden met halfway between Asilo and Kiihu to discuss the situation and decided they would accept four carefully selected visitor/observers for no more than three days each month. They were even more restrictive of the media.
Few people understood how disruptive observers could be to those in the program and the staff, and after several visitors ignored instructions, Lupe and Jayden both had had enough and decided there would be no interviews or observations for at least six months.
It was actually nine months before they reluctantly agreed to discuss the possibility of a segment on ‘60 Minutes'. After several video conferences and one face-to-face with the producer, Lupe and Jayden laid down some very definite conditions and time was scheduled for Lesley Stahl, anchor, her cameraman and an assistant to spend time at the two centers.
The cameraman and his assistant were accommodated at Asilo, but Jayden offered Lesley Stahl the guest house and invited her for drinks and dinner the day she arrived. She was captivated by the Wilson home and family. In fact, she spent every free minute with the family. She proved to be a great storyteller, even holding the attention of two testosterone-laden teenagers. Halfway through her stay, she asked about including a bit about the family in her segment. I told her we would think about it.
Turned out, Lesley Stahl’s segment got expanded and included almost as much about the Wilson family as it did about Asilo and Kiihu. That report began a chain of events which led to the request for a video conference.
At 2:00, Derek and Jayden were seated in their library before a large screen. Given how scattered their friends and family were, they had found video conferencing was a wonderful way to stay in contact. At 1:55, the screen flickered and a face appeared. “Greeting, Drs. Wilson. I am Alexander Kopler of the Department of Health and Human Services. I hope you and your family are well.”
“We are,” Derek answered. “We’re planning on taking the kids and their friends camping this weekend so they are busy repacking the things they have packed and repacked a dozen times since we decided to go.”
“How old are they now?”
I just looked confused and Jayden laughed and said, “Bryon, our youngest, is almost ten, Jay and Sherry are eleven; and Andrew, our first, and Kenneth are our teenagers, Kenneth turned thirteen last week.”
The clock behind Mr Kopler indicated it was two on the dot and the doctor said, “Drs. Wilson, the President of the United States.”
“Doctors, thank you for agreeing to this video conference,” the President said. “I have been reading about your work and your family after seeing Lesley Stahl’s report. My staff indicates that both the clinic and Asilo have continued to do great work as have the clinics and centers established by Dr. Kathryn Joseph and Mrs. Lupe Singer. I will be talking with them later, but I am interested in both your family and your work and would like to invite you all to the White House for dinner after which I’d like to spend time with you. I expect the children for dinner and my wife would like to entertain them afterward while we talk.”
“We are honored, Mr. President,” Jayden replied. They chatted a few minutes and then a member of the staff and Jayden made arrangements for the visit.
A month later they were dressing for dinner. The Wilson men, all six of them, were getting dressed in tuxes while Sherry was in the next room being dressed in her formal gown by Ms. Tallery who, herself, was already dressed in an attractive peach colored gown.
When they were all dressed, they went downstairs for a family portrait before having individual photos taken. While the children were being photographed, Jayden and Derek stood arm in arm smiling at their children. Jayden looked up at Derek and kissed him and said, “Just think, Beloved, it all started because you cared enough to pick up a broken boy in the desert.”
“And look at the joy that has brought to me and many others, my Beloved Diné.”
Shortly afterward, a happy, beautiful Wilson family were in a receiving line being greeted by the President of the United States and his First Lady.
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