A column dedicated to the folks in the pews.
Written by Dale Buchanan
Your “pew” reporter has just returned from a conversation with Frank. I called him this morning and inquired about an interview for our Grapevine series, “Getting to Know You.” He graciously agreed. I asked about a convenient time. He said, “Can you come this morning?” And just like that in less than an hour I was sitting in his office at The Center Bridging Body, Mind, and Spirit. Hand shaking and small talk were quickly dispensed with and we got right down to business. I suggested my format for these informal interviews and this remarkable gentleman was ahead of me every step for the next two hours.
Frank explained that Saxton means Saxons Town and that his genealogy has been traced back five generations in England. Then the history becomes murky and the trail goes cold.
I asked Frank where he was born and raised. He responded, “I was born in Santa Paula and raised everywhere. I consider the Owens Valley as my formative home. I attended twelve different elementary schools and finally graduated from Bishop High School.” He matriculated at UC Berkeley, Bakersfield State University, and finally at Fresno State University.
I asked about Faye. That was the magic question. I never had to ask another. “I married Faye in 1967. Music is the tie that binds us together. Married for 51 years we have been singing together for 52 wonderful years. No matter what comes or goes, regardless of the circumstances, we always have music.”
This onrush of precious memories carried Frank back in time on a sweet journey to their youth. With a serene and contented expression of love on his face, Frank shared his memories with me and by extension all of you. “Faye and I traveled to Europe for a prestigious music competition. On the last day after all the judging, our group had won. I walked my girl to her lodging place and on the back porch in that distant land, I kissed her for the first time. I have never been the same.”
This shared memory opened the floodgates. I listened spellbound as he recalled his mother and her strong sense of duty. “Mom was spiritual but not especially religious. She grounded in me a sense of ethics that has served me well all these years.”
Frank’s birth father was killed during the carnage of World War II, and his mother remarried. He explained emphatically that this man was not a step-father, he was his dad. The ensuing two children were his siblings and they were a family. “My dad was an outdoorsman and he taught me to love and respect nature. His woodsman friends advocated always leaving a clean camp. Dad said, ‘Don’t even leave your footprint’”
Seamlessly this eloquent storyteller returned to the reasons for his successful 51-year relationship with his partner and life-long companion. “As I said, music is the cement that sealed us together. The second vital ingredient is family. Raised in strong caring families it seemed only natural to build a strong family where someone always has your back. The third indispensable characteristic of this union is space.” I reluctantly interrupted, “What does that mean?” He smiled and pointed around the warm friendly office that we were sitting in. On the opposite wall were two desks. “One is hers and the other is mine. Faye is visiting a client and I am here. We have made it a rule to give each other space and to offer support rather than control.”
Again as if crafted, Frank, without my prompting, moved to his art. He collects and plays Native American flutes. When he played for me I was enchanted. The music composed and improvised from his heart is hauntingly beautiful. He showed me one of his collection of tongue drum, and in almost reverent words he described rain sticks which are made so they sound like rain when shaken.
Frank works with Kim on the photographs that grace our Sunday bulletins, and using these photographs they are preparing notecards for the boutique sale at Big Red.
I suppose it is evident that your reporter gave up any semblance of objectivity early on and sat mesmerized through the process. I did not interview. I soaked up wisdom and delighted in Frank’s sense of nature and spirit.
Frank is an artist. His chosen palette is Earth photography. Early on when Frank talked about this I did not understand. However as I took my leave, he took me on a guided tour of all the public spaces in the Center—including the bathrooms—and I was treated to a breathtaking exhibition of earth photography. I got it!
Dale Buchanan is a member of FCCF with a passion for stories and writing. In between penning his own memoirs, he is helping us get to know our members, one pew at a time.