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Interview with Ann - An "Infernal, Eternal Optimist"

(Only nicknames or middle names will be used in my interviews, to help protect each person’s privacy.)

 

Let’s talk about your growing-up story, Ann.

From ages 5-7, I lived in Texarkana, Texas. My dad worked for the Defense Plant during the war. We lived in a condo in Robinson Courts (for all military and defense plant workers), so I was very aware of the war and patriotism and the flag.

As a child I wanted to be an entertainer, dressing up in old curtains and performing on make-believe stages—always singing, always. After the war we moved to Warren, Arkansas, where my dad worked for the State Forestry.

My brother and sister were lots older. My brother, 13 years older; my sister, 6 years older. I was the baby.

 

Tender years. With them being that much older, Ann, sounds like you might have had a lot in common with “only” children.

Yes. My best friend Demaris was an only child. She lived across the sidewalk behind our condo. She and I practically lived together. We played make-believe, even buried our dolls when they got sick and "died"! We played jacks and other games outside until suppertime. We rode into Texarkana on the city bus to take dancing lessons. (We would never be able to do that these days.) She took ballet; I took tap. She had curly blond hair, which I envied. I had straight brown hair worn in long braids.

 

Hooray that you had a best friend so close! Then your family moved to Warren, Arkansas. You finished high school there, right?

Right. I started third grade in Warren and loved school. My favorite book while in elementary school was Nancy Drew. I even attempted to write my own mystery novel, but never completed it. It seems as if I’ve always worn "rose colored glasses" and believed that there’d be no big problems, that God would take care of me. We joined the Presbyterian Church. I was baptized and sang first in the youth choir, then in the senior choir, having to stand on a stool because of my height, to see over the railing.

 

Sounds like the ideal childhood, Ann. Any struggles you can mention?

Yes, our town was half-destroyed by a tornado when I was in the sixth grade. After recovery efforts began, I remember sitting in the backyard, looking for four leaf clovers and singing "God Will Take Care of Me." Of course, that is child-like faith, but it shows a large part of my beliefs while growing up. Also, I always felt a little bit "less than," so I worked really hard at whatever task I was given—maybe to prove to myself that I was "as good as."

 

How did your family function?

Dad was very strict, expecting obedience—and protective if some boy pulled my braid. Mom was the go-between, the peace maker. My brother was away working, after graduating from college. My sister was in college when I was in high school.

 

How was high school? What stands out?

I dated, but never the "hunks," the sports figures, the big guys. But I had natural talents for leadership roles and was actually well-liked. I remember writing and presenting a speech, "I Speak for Democracy." It won First for my county but not in the state. I appeared on TV in Little Rock to receive my award, a big thing at that time.

 

Public recognition for a youth is a beautiful thing. What about after-graduation, Ann?

After high school, I attended Arkansas College in Batesville, Arkansas. I didn't want a career—just wanted to find a nice man, get married, and have a perfect family. But, I broke up with the "Perfect Man" and began dating Kenneth Bost. Ken was good-looking (broad shoulders and narrow hips), loved to dance, and seemed to need me. Even though he was a bit wild and drank a little too much, I thought I could make life good for him. I lacked nine hours to graduate, but we married, in 1958. And then we had three children.

 

And that sounds like you followed your heart.

I absolutely followed my heart, with no concern or worry about the future. Remember, I am an "infernal, eternal optimist." I had been successful in high school, also in college. I recall being well-liked, a cheerleader, a singer in the chorus and sextet, majored in speech, minored in music. The imagination depicted in plays and the romanticism in the songs I sang just fed that romantic glow in me that would not be extinguished by realism.

 

How did that play out for you, Ann?

Well, from 1958 to 1974, I tried to make life good for Ken and our family, but nothing really worked. In desperation, I called a lady that I worked with. She took me to my first Al-Anon meeting. I grabbed hold of that program as a lifeline, holding on with both hands. It was the answer to my prayers.

 

Did Al-Anon and AA change your lives?

Yes, AA and Al-Anon became a vital part of our lives. Ken joined AA four months after I joined Al-Anon. Together, we learned that alcoholism is a spiritual, mental, and physical disease. I learned so much. Having a sponsor (another woman who’d successfully walked this walk) was helpful to my walking through the Twelve Steps of Al-Anon. 

 

Ann, how is the program set-up? Is it literally a step-by-step program?

Literally. I worked steps. The first three, for example, were admitting powerlessness, acknowledging a power greater than myself, and making a decision to turn to that power for help.

 

I understand. I was a trained mental health counselor, but it’s this program I credit for much of my learning about how to live a good life. What else can you say about the step program?

The steps make you look closely at your life. It doesn’t happen overnight. The last three steps focus on continual inventory, relationship with God, and having a spiritual awakening as a result of following these steps. And if we are working the program, we must be willing to carry the message to others and practice these principles in all our affairs. I will never graduate from the program. This program has become part of my inner being. It’s not just about dealing with alcoholism. It's about dealing with life on life's terms. 

 

Thank you, Ann. I have watched you for forty years. People can feel your joy and your love. I do not know anyone more hospitable than you. How did that come about for you?

Ken and I turned our home into a haven for friends in the AA / Al-Anon programs. We had an open door policy. The phone was always answered, day or night. The miracle is this: As you give it away, it returns a hundred fold. This is working that twelfth step.

 

This is part of your faith story, of course, but there’s more on seeking, isn’t there?

Yes. I had regularly attended the Presbyterian Church since becoming a member in Warren, Arkansas. I’d thought about going into the mission field at one time. Active involvement diminished somewhat during Ken’s drinking years. I attended sporadically. We moved so many times, looking for a place to be so that Ken would stop drinking. Children, all born in different states. Always moving, looking for a better life for the family. I didn’t look at preaching until after Ken’s death from natural causes in 1997, but I’ve always had a longing to be of service to God. By then, I was almost retirement age. Sure didn’t want to have to learn Greek and Hebrew! But then, I heard about the Memphis Theological Seminary—took some classes and got the taste of studying the Bible and being involved in worship.

 

What about your journey toward becoming a lay supply pastor?

I heard about classes and signed up. This led me to Kirk in the Pines Presbyterian Church in Hot Springs Village, which led to my becoming a Certified Lay Pastor. That meant I could lead worship when the Ordained Minister was away from the pulpit. I answered the call many times and drove to small churches, just for one Sunday only. Then I actually pastored the Presbyterian Church in Pocahontas, Arkansas, contracting to do that for a full year. And I participated in a Cursillo retreat.

 

I don’t know that word, Ann. What is Cursillo?

It’s a three-day retreat to refresh a Christian’s faith. I had a longing for something. This was where I found my most personal relationship with Jesus Christ. There, at the retreat, I was fed biblically, joyfully, emotionally, something I’d never had in my own church life. That’s when my childlike faith grew from “God Will Take Care of Me” to the “Blessed Assurance” that I have today: I am loved, and though I can’t see around the next bend, God can.

After that weekend at Cursillo as a participant, I staffed for several years. In fact, that’s where I met my second husband, Paul. We moved to Hot Springs Village. There, I had the opportunity to lead an already-formed Informal Worship Service at 5:30 every Saturday evening. My Cursillo experiences helped me lead that group of retired people for almost six years. They are my Kirk family.

 

As you look back, what do you want to say about your life?

I will be 87 years old in June of this year. Ken died in 1997. I married Paul in 2005. Paul died in 2016. I have now been widowed for eight years. It has been a good life, not perfect, but good. Based on my life experiences, God has my back, even when I’m not aware of it. I try to keep a balance between my heart and my head. If either one dominates, then I am out of balance. 

My hope is not in other people, places, or things. My hope is in remembering the promises of Jesus: Don’t be afraid…peace be with you…my peace I leave with you. Faith and trust are my watchwords: "God is good. Trust in Him. He can bring order out of chaos. All is well."


 

Readers, thank you for reading my interview series focusing on some remarkable women who admit being 75+ years of age. Please share with those you know who might relate or benefit. (Anyone can receive my blogs by scrolling down to the end of any of my web pages and signing up.)


God bless,

 

Pat Durmon


P.S. A list of my published books follows after Mary Chamber's drawing of this week's interviewee, "Ann."


Drawing of "Ann" by Mary Chambers, Jonesboro, Arkansas.


Poetry Books by Pat Durmon


Prose by Pat Durmon

The story of Lee R. Farrier from Norfork, Arkansas, is Pat's first book of prose and a tribute to Lee, the town of Norfork, and its people. All profits from sales go toward a scholarship at Norfork High School.

2 Comments


Lois McMahon
Lois McMahon
Mar 22

Hi Pat, tried writing a comment in the area below. After finishing I got a flashing screen and the message did not go through.

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Guest
Mar 23
Replying to

Try again? It's working for another reader. I got your comment above. Did you hit publish? Always interested in your thoughts, Lois.

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