My dad, whom I rarely thought of as creative or multitalented, surprised me when I really got to know him in the last three years of his life, as just that: creative and multitalented. He was my father after all. And he stood between me and my own desires for so long that I couldn’t see him as he truly was. I saw his faults instead.
But when I wrote an application for seminary at Seattle University, it was he I cited as an example: he retired at 65 and opened a small picture-frame shop which he maintained for twenty years. Living at home with Mom independently until February 2002, he was virtually himself until his 101st birthday. I knew when I retired from Seattle Public Schools as Head Counselor (Roosevelt High School), that like him, and since I was only 55, I could easily take on an encore career. What I chose was theology: “faith seeking understanding.”
My faithfulness from an early baptism at age 8 and years of twice weekly church attendance, did not lead to a progressively more and more accomplished life–at least not one I was proud of. Academically and professionally it was accomplished: pianist and organist at 16, B.A. in English five years later, teaching literature and journalism at an Everett high school in 1965. I earned an M.A. in English 5 years later, and in the seventies, an M.Ed. in Educational Counseling. My experience with adolescents drew me to explore more and more deeply why we humans do what we do.
But it was the contradictions in my life I wrestled with and sought to resolve. I was married more than once before I realized I was a lesbian. Slow to name my feelings, I couldn’t explain why I didn’t seem to fit in the roles I had assumed successfully from a young age. I made jokes about them. But worship and music held me together.
In 1996 I was admitted to graduate school in theology at Seattle University where I finally began to put the two worlds of academia and religion together honestly enough to understand and accept my sexuality. Ironically, I felt less safe at the church I attended than I had felt–and been–in the public schools.
The fourth component that came into play was my relationship with my parents, who fell ill just before my ordination as pastor. My father collapsed from exhaustion caring for my mother who we discovered only then had congestive heart failure and vascular dementia. As I served as Durable Power of Attorney, the unseen world between them and me was slowly revealed.
I recorded most of my life transitions in journals from the time I was 11. Although I tossed a number of them out when I was afraid they would be misunderstood or misinterpreted in one relationship or another, I have recovered enough to gain insight into myself, my faith, my fears and my inner strengths. I write to discern what I feel, what I question, and what I am sure of.
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is./I do know how to pay attention….” Mary Oliver
Rev. Cathy Fransson keeps regular hours for spiritual direction appointments.