“I was born after World War One. I had bronchial asthma for a long time when I was young. The doctors thought I would die. I was confined to my room and books were my only companion. I read a William Wordsworth poem about daffodils. We had daffodils in our yard, so I wrote a poem about daffodils. I read and wrote poetry the rest of my life because I loved the rhythm and music of language.
Our family moved from Atlanta to Mobile in 1932 for daddy’s job at the paper mill. Our house was on Bienville Avenue. Even though it was the Depression, everyone was welcoming and festive. My parents later returned to Atlanta. Margaret Mitchell lived across the street. Mother helped Margaret with her roses, and they became friends. A couple of times when I came home, Margaret was there visiting. I was so embarrassed when my mother told her, ‘This is my daughter. She writes too.’ I didn’t think the author of ‘Gone With the Wind’ needed to know that.
I married my first husband, James Moon, in Texas. We moved to Oklahoma just before World War II. We tried to enlist after Pearl Harbor: James went to the Navy and I went to WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). They rejected both of us because of our allergies. I was sent to the hospital, where they recruited women to replace the nurses sent to war. I volunteered as a Red Cross nurse during World War II and the Korean War. I didn’t like dealing with blood, but I found out I had a way with people who are mentally ill. That would come out in the second half of my career.
I was fascinated by anthropology, archeology, and folklore. I had a master’s degree in geology and taught paleontology at the University of Texas because some of the instructors had not returned from their military assignments. The students were all male and mostly World War II veterans going to school on the GI Bill. They had frequent, angry outbursts from their pent-up emotions from wartime experiences. I saw the need for mental health support to help returning military personnel adjust from war to civilian life. Four years later, I volunteered at the Wichita Falls State Hospital to help establish a community mental health center.
My marriage with James was difficult. I also suffered a miscarriage. We divorced, remarried, then divorced again. I was tired of paleontology and started my life over in my early 40’s. I left my home and profession to go back to school in social work. Family psychotherapy, a relatively new field, was my calling.
I went to work with the Texas state hospital system. I worked in a hospital with 600 men whose average age was 63. I wanted to work with the most difficult cases. If I could help them, I could help anybody. Depression is a symptom of a deeper problem from the past, sometimes as far back as childhood.
Working with chronic patients that many considered hopeless helped me discover the capability for growth and change in anyone. I learned to focus on my patients’ strengths and build rehabilitation plans around them. The problem today is they want to handle everything with medicine instead of person-to-person. Medicine can’t solve the problem, but it can keep a person quiet.
I built my life with two talented and tormented men. I was married to James for 17 years. I lived with Bill for almost 20 years. Bill was blind in one eye with a detached retina that doctors couldn’t fix. He tried to find employment, but no one wanted to hire a 70-year-old, half-blind man. That was hard on him. He worked too hard around the house and then had a stroke. He didn’t want any therapy or help. He committed suicide, and I found him. That was the hardest thing I’ve been through.
I gave up trying to save the world because I was outnumbered. But I made my mark where I was. After Bill died, I moved back to Fairhope. I got involved with the Unitarians. After hurricane Ivan, I wrote a story from my dog’s point of view about evacuating. I found a new community with the writers in Fairhope. I wrote my memoir and called it ‘Sherds.” It’s an archaeological term that means preserved fragments from which the story of the life of a people can be derived.”