Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dorris van Doren

I had an experience yesterday afternoon that was so special and spiritual that I actually got a little choked up. I didn’t quite start sniffling, but my voice sure did crack, and I had to stop talking before it became obvious that this macho old solitary lion with the mangy beard was about to break down and start crying like a little girl.

Back in the early 1970’s I was thin and I was living in Frankfurt, Germany. I didn’t have a car but I had a nice 10 speed bicycle that I rode thousands of miles. I was in great shape. One time I even officially entered a sponsored, sanctioned bicycle race and came out third. Ok, the two guys directly in front of me got in an accident and fell just before the finish line (or I would have placed fifth). But even fifth wouldn’t have been all that shabby.

I was in Frankfurt as a soldier in the U.S. Army sitting behind a desk at 3rd Armoured Division Headquarters. Basically I was the top secretary to a Colonel, who basically was one of the senior secretaries reporting to the General. The beauty of Frankfurt, Germany at the time was that it was many thousands of miles away from Vietnam. I had so many wonderful and crazy experiences in Frankfurt that I could write a book about it. Maybe I will. I’ll put that on my to-do-list. If I don’t get around to it in this lifetime I will for sure in the next.

But just one little story as it relates to my spiritual experience yesterday. I was in my early 20’s. And a friend of my Mother’s came over to Europe to visit. She was this short, tubby little old lady in her fifties with bad knees who always laughed. Kind of like Mr. Toad from Wind In The Willows except much nicer and compassionate (and female of course). She never had anything negative to say about anything or anyone. Period. Full stop.

She also was a bicycle fanatic. Years later she talked my Mother into riding her bicycle complete with tent, etc. all the way across the state of Kansas, camping along the way. Look at it on a map. That is much further than riding clear across France. And these were just a couple of gutsy old fat broads.

Well back to the 1970’s.

I took Dorris over to my favourite bicycle shop and she bought a nice bike. And we rode together many miles in Europe. We took our bikes on the train then rode the bikes down that stretch of the Rhine river that has more castles per mile than anywhere else in the world.

I really grew very close to Dorris. Not in a romantic way, she was a fat old lady for heavens sake, but we developed a very deep friendship which had a lot of mutual respect.

So now it is 35 years later. Dorris and my Mother finally got really old and both died. I am now old and fat. And about a year ago while I was still living in Europe I got a new satellite navigation GPS. While browsing through its database of waypoints I happened to see the Dorris Van Doren regional branch of the El Paso Public Library on the Westside of El Paso. Without even asking anyone I knew instantly that this had to have been named after my friend.

At the time I was hopeful, but I wasn’t certain that I would ever get back to El Paso. But I promised myself that if I ever did get back to El Paso I would go visit the library that was named after my sweet, energetic, and crazy friend Dorris.

Wow it is incredible. It was built two years ago and it looks like a piece of modern art sculpture. It is absolutely beautiful!

I took some pictures on the outside of the building, then I went inside and took a few inside. I struck up a conversation with the librarian and it was then that I got a little choked up. But she saved the day by saying, “Sir, there is a painting of Mrs. Van Doren right over there.” That way I could gracefully escape before I began balling. This lady in the painting is clearly my friend, but an older version about 15 or 20 years after she and I were friends.

Dorris Van Doren was really a wonderful, fine person. I can think of no finer tribute to her than to name a really elegant and artistic library after her. I’m not a big Christian anymore, but if there is a heaven you can be sure that this sweet old fat broad with the bad knees is up there laughing, getting in just a little bit of trouble, and generally making life much more wonderful for everyone around her.