A Little More On Roy Moore (Godly By What Standards)

Written by Cookie Stoner

I find it extraordinary of all the information that has been reported about Roy Moore and his relationships only one woman in his age group has come forward to say she dated Moore – Jennie Klingenbeck. By Moore’s own account he met Kayla Kisor in December 1984 at a church Christmas party. She had recently separated from her husband and had a 1-year-old daughter. According to his autobiography, “So Help Me God” he was 37 and she was 23. He described himself as distracted by Kayla as he read aloud a Christmas poem he had written because he recognized her and wondered if she was the same woman he had watched “years earlier” at a recital at Gadsden State Junior College. Years earlier? How many years? She was 23 at the time Moore met her. three years previous would mean she was about 20 and he was about 34. five years previous means she was about 18, and he was about 32.

Roy Moore graduated from West Point, served in Viet Nam, and then returned home to attend the University of Alabama Law School. Other than Klingenbeck are there any women in his age group who will come forward to report they dated? I have only heard that Moore sought out much younger women (socially and culturally unacceptably younger even by 1970s standards regardless of Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler’s recent bizarre references to Old Testament cultural/marital customs as an excuse for Moore’s behavior) perhaps for a life partner. One he could groom and train perhaps? If Moore had never left a small community where he had limited options to meet women his age I could maybe understand some of his dating choices. It is not a crime to be with someone younger if both are at the age of consent. You fall in love with the person not the age. However, Roy Moore was known for always being interested in women significantly younger than he was.

West Point was an all-male institution when Moore attended. Perhaps he concentrated on his studies and did not date anyone – a southern boy in a new environment. But, when he was in law school at southern university campus did he date any of his peers? Or, even those undergrads who were a few years younger? Where are the women he dated from the time he was 20 to the time he was 37 years old? Seventeen years with the exception of the time he was in Viet Nam and Klingenbeck. There are many accounts of his predatory behavior, but not one that I have seen that says, “Hey Roy and I dated for a while, and it just didn’t work out. We grew apart.” Not one. Even Klingenbeck said they only briefly dated. Moore finally found his younger woman in Kayla. The “Godly” man met the married woman in December 1984. Her divorce was final in April 1985, and they married in December 1985.

He was “Godly.” She was married. Separated, but still married. Yes, when a marriage is over it is over and sometimes a person is just waiting on a piece of paper, but Moore has always veiled his politics in religion. The Ten Commandments have always been especially important to him. His religion seems to be very black and white. The Bible. The infallible word of God. By his own admission, he was breaking the 10th Commandment. “Thou Shalt Not Covet.” Even when I read Moore’s words about how he could not stop thinking of Kayla, he was not only coveting his neighbor’s wife; he seems to be lusting after her. I have no judgment about relationships in or out of marriage. But, I do find it very offensive when a politician, a judge, or a person who can use his power to affect so many lives gets a pass because he is a “Godly” man. Well, God can have him. He is not “Godly” by my God’s standards.

Happy Birthday, Mother

I wonder what I would have gotten my mother for her 74th birthday. Would it have been something with a beach theme? One of her favorites. Would it have been a picture frame to place photos of her beloved family? Would it have been something to support her new hobby? Mother always had a new hobby.  Mother was always growing and evolving.  November 4th.  My mother’s birthday. This is the 15th birthday we have celebrated without her.  She left us when she was 59 years old. 

15 birthdays.  Today I will continue to grow. Evolve. I will look at the world with wonder. I will love big.  I will live large. I will continue to write. I will keep moving forward. This would have been all my mother would have wanted on her 74th birthday.  

Happy Birthday, Mother.  

Ben-Is-The-Menace

 

(This is an essay I wrote when my son was 10 years old. Now that he is 21 I realize that all things do pass.  This is for all the parents who are dealing with everyday problems like young ones getting stuck up on the roof.)

Yesterday I ran to look in the mirror to see if I looked weird because weird things always happen to me.  What set out to be a normal day-my son playing in the yard with friends-my daughter hanging out with a friend-my husband working at the office and me typing away at the computer-turned into a Saturday afternoon of-“do other people’s children do this stuff?”I looked outside to check on the children playing in my yard-only to see my son up on the roof of our shed. I looked out and yelled to him-“what on earth are you doing up there?” “We’re playing hide-and-go-seek!”
“Well-you need to get down now, because you may fall and get hurt! Get down-NOW! I want to go back inside and continue writing!”

“I can’t,” he says. “I’m afraid!” “Ben, you had better get down now! I want to go back inside!” “Mom, I can’t! Remember, I’M AFRAID OF HEIGHTS!” “AFRAID OF HEIGHTS?” I yelled. “THEN WHY THE HELL DID YOU CLIMB UP THERE?”
“Because I wanted a good hiding place,” he answered sheepishly.
So, the children and I proceeded to coach him on sliding down on his bottom off the shed. He still thought it was too high. He then thought he would jump off the side-onto the berm topped with pine straw. I didn’t think this was a good idea because the berm looked to be too far from the side of the shed. I then decided to go up the ladder-hold it steady-and extend my arm for him to come down. “No, mom, we might see both fall!”
By this time I was frustrated. I went into what I affectionately call-Redneck Mother Mode. I yelled unabashedly-“Ben-dammit-you come down now, or I am sending everyone home!” “Mom, please don’t yell! You are making me nervous!” So, I calmed down and told him with my sweetest voice that I was only trying to help him-that I wanted him to get down without getting hurt-and that I could not leave him out there because I was afraid if the children encouraged him he may just fall and break his neck. “So, Sweetie, come on down. Just take my hand. Mommy wants to help you.” He wasn’t coming down.
That was it. I had all I could take. He had to get off of the roof. If he could get up there, he had to grow up and figure out how to get down. I told him that I was sending Leslie home and that I was leaving to take Luke home. I thought the desire to play with friends would trump fear; I thought that he would come to his senses and jump or slide. He just sat there and cried. I still thought he’d come down. It really wasn’t that high. It was only about eight feet high. And, he had always climbed trees, and he had never been afraid of heights when it came to tree-climbing so surely he’d come down.
I dramatically got in the car with Luke and slowly backed out of the driveway. I carefully cut my eyes to see if he would come down. He just sat there-defeated looking as if he might celebrate the coming holidays up on that roof top.
When I realized he wasn’t coming down-I was then committed to take his friend home. I couldn’t go back on my word. I then called my next door neighbor to look outside to check on him. I didn’t want him to get hurt while I was gone. She told me, “He’s just sitting up there.” He did seem to be yelling for someone to come get him down. But, he seemed to realize-he was stuck up there for the time being.
I had so many thoughts run through my head like-I tried to help him get down-what do I do now? Do I make my husband come home from the office, do I call my neighbor to help, do I call the fire department? On the one hand he needed to learn a lesson, but on the other hand, I didn’t want him to get hurt. I just decided he would need to sit up there and think about it for a while. When I got home, he was still there. Just sitting calmly-not upset-just sitting relaxing up on the roof. My neighbor even came over to take photos so we could have a laugh when he grows up. He asked me if he could get him down, but I said-no-he needed to think about it. Ben posed for the photos; my neighbor encouraged him, but he still wasn’t coming down.
An hour and fifteen minutes had passed since I first looked out to see him up on the rooftop. The next thing I knew I heard him running in the door. “Mom! I’m down!” When I asked him how he got down, he said, “Tony said he would call 911 and they would get me down-I thought that would be pretty embarrassing; plus I was really hungry!” I then realized that the old saying-“You’ve never seen a skeleton of a cat up a tree-” also holds true with little boys. I realized that embarrassment and appetite always trump fear.

Cedar Robes and Southern Food

My daddy’s parents, Granny and Granddaddy Davis, lived in Chickasaw, Alabama.  Their neighbors, the Coopers lived next door.  Granny called them Cooper and Mr. Cooper.  I can still hear Granny say their names in her southern accent, Coopah and Mr. Coopah. Granny and Cooper had coffee each day.  There wasn’t much talk. They would just sit and drink coffee.  My Granny and Granddaddy had moved from Uriah in Monroe County, Alabama in 1957 where my granddaddy had been a sharecropper.  He got a job out of Mobile as a cook on a tug boat.  Granny was born in 1911 and Granddaddy in 1905. Neither of them ever learned how to drive.  They were well-mannered and stoic country people. 

Their backyard backed up to Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.  They were members at  Mt. Calvary.   They were Christians, but I don’t remember them going to church often. Granny didn’t enjoy being around large groups of people.  She preferred to stay at home where she did beautiful embroidery and was a talented cook. 

I loved to visit my Granny.  In the late 1960’s we lived in Mobile not too far from them.  My granddaddy was a cook on the Albert S. He was away for weeks at a time. Most of the time when I spent the night at their house it was just the two of us.  Granny was quiet and reserved, and her house was a refuge.  We watched Perry Mason, and she cooked for me my favorite dish, macaroni and tomatoes.  I was always relaxed at Granny’s.  I never got into trouble.  I didn’t have to eat food I didn’t like. Granny didn’t spoil me in the sense that I got anything I wanted. She just didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do.  

The den was at the back of the house.  Outside that door is where family legend has it as a 3-year old I showed my precocity and theatrics.  My daddy and Granny were working in her yard and dispersing weed killer.  My daddy looked at me and said, “Cookie, don’t you touch that.  It will kill you!” referring to the poison.  In a bit, they went around to the front yard while I stayed in the back.  When they returned a few minutes later, I was sprawled out playing dead.  

I heard about death at Granny’s.  She would look out her window and peek out to where her good friend used to live.  Her friend, a neighbor, disappeared one day.  Her husband told everyone his wife had run off and left him and their children.  Granny said her friend would never have left her children.  “He killed her.  He killed her and put her in a vat at the power plant.”  That was the talk among the neighbors.  We never walked on that side of the street.  At Granny’s we stayed in her yard where we were safe, and we only played dead.

I loved going to Granddaddy’s room when he was away and smelling the cedar in the cedar robe chest where his Sunday suits hung and his dress hats perched.  We would go to the Banana Dock to pick him up and bring him home. It was always a treat to drive up to the dock and see the activity of the men returning from their travels. During his time at home, he would sit in his chair and patiently let me play beauty shop with him. I would brush the little bit of hair he had, and I would put barrettes and small bows in it.  He slicked his hair back with Vitalis which helped the hold the barrettes in place. Granddaddy was a gentle and tolerant man.  Granny and Grandaddy’s house was a quiet and safe place to visit.

In September of 1969, I was in the kitchen with Granny when my Uncle Leslie Laverne and my daddy came in and told her that Granddaddy had suffered a heart attack on the tugboat, The Green River Gal.  This is the only time I heard my granny yell. Chaos and death were in Granny’s house.  Granddaddy didn’t come back to that quiet sanctuary.  

After Granddaddy had died Granny’s house was still a refuge. Her neighbor friend never returned home, and her death is only speculation and lore. When I was a teenager, she moved from the Chickasaw house. I remember going to visit her with my husband when she was well into her 80‘s; she insisted on cooking dinner for us.  As always, on the menu, that day was my favorite, macaroni and tomatoes.  Granny was 90 years old when she died in April 2001. I inherited Granddaddy’s cedar robe.  The smell of cedar and the taste of good southern food endures. 

Eat One More Pickle You’re Gonna Get Sick

 

The Summer of 1968 was miserably hot and humid just like it was every summer growing up in Alabama.  But, Summer of ’68, I remember that one well.  Mother didn’t make me wait til June to go barefoot.  Since the temperature was warm on Easter of that year, she let me kick off my shoes after family pictures.  Dr. Martin Luther King had been killed on April the 4th.  I was sad because Loey, Lois Mae, my grandmother’s maid told me a man had shot him outside of his motel room. The day after Dr. King died I knew something was different.  That day we took Loey home just like we did every day.  We always drove right up to her house.  Loey told my Nana, “Stop right here, Mrs. Brewer.  You don’t need to go all the way over to my part of town.  It ain’t safe for you.  Just let me get out here and walk the rest of the way.”  Her large dark eyes were fixed and determined; they were sad and concerned.  I don’t remember Loey getting out of the car that day, and I don’t remember driving to her house.  Time just stopped. How could a man stand there in front of the big window to his motel room holding onto the railing just get killed?  How many times had my daddy driven our car up to the spot in front our room and gotten out and walked up the stairs?  Would they kill my daddy?  Loey told me not to worry that Dr. King was trying to help her people and my people didn’t like it.  I didn’t know we had different people.

Before school ended we played in my grandparent’s yard playing freeze tag and feeling the cool grass under our feet.  Mr. Rogers, a man who worked for my paw paw, lived with his mother, Grannie Rogers, near my grandparents home. They weren’t related to us, but she was always Grannie Rogers to us.  Paw Paw took care of Mr. Rogers.  Let him work when he was able.  When he wasn’t drunk.  I didn’t know what drunk meant, but I did know it wasn’t good.  I knew he stunk like overripe food and sweat.  I didn’t know that was the alcoholic smell of beer seeping out of his pores.  Grannie Rogers would spit into a metal vase.  It looked like something that should hold flowers.  I didn’t know any women who spit, so I would visit Grannie Rogers because she looked like a gnarled up witch spitting her special powers into her magic vessel.  My family did not look down upon Mr. Rogers or Grannie Rogers.  My grandparents were benevolent people who were always helping others.  I just thought they needed us.  I didn’t get too close for fear that she would cast some spell on me.  I had a morbid fascination with both of them.  I was taught that ladies sat up straight and didn’t spit unless it was the bathroom sink when you were brushing your teeth.  

The Rogers lived next door to a family I don’t remember who they were, but they had a son a few years older than me.  I was over there one day the beginning of the summer, and he took my hand and put it on top of his jeans where I knew I didn’t want to be touching.  I jumped up and took my hand away.  I wasn’t even afraid.  I remember thinking what an idiot to think I would want to do that.  I never told anyone, and I never went back.

June came, and my family and I went across the bay to my grandparent’s beach house in Bear Point, Alabama.  Bear Point was the setting for the idyllic childhood unless you are a precocious 6-year-old aware of the unrest around you. I played with my cousins and aunts who were close to my age.  We sang songs. This was the summer at Bear Point that my first brush with addiction surfaced.  We always had snacks in the summer.  We didn’t snack a lot during the school year, but in the summer we were allowed to snack.  I loved dill pickles.  I remember walking down to the beach and sharing a jar of pickles with my aunts.  I ate one and then another.  I picked up another one, and my aunt said, “if you eat another one, you’re gonna get sick”  I ate it anyway.  I got sick. 

We all went down to the pier to jump and swim.  One of our friends did a back dive off the pier and came back up.  Her face was bleeding, and we had to call an ambulance.  Her face had brushed the post of the pier, and the barnacles lacerated her face.  There was lots of chaos and screaming.  I never got near the barnacles after that. 

The Vietnam war was in full swing, and every night we said our prayers.  We always prayed for the boys overseas and asked God to bring them back home safely. We had family and friends who were fighting in the war.  Parents all around me were worried about their sons. 

The Easter season was supposed to be about hope and the summer about bare feet and the beach. Fathers were not supposed to be dying. People shouldn’t have been killing people who were different.  Old ladies were not supposed to be frightening children.  Young men should not have been preying on little girls. Soldiers needed to come home safely.  Bear Point was not about blood and ambulances.  I should have learned that one more is too many.    

“This One Is Very Good”

I LOVE Flannery O’Connor.  When my husband and I recently traveled to Savannah, I was thrilled to tour the childhood home of one of my favorite writers.  I loved listening to the docent who is part of the Flannery O’Connor Foundation. She gave a passionate and animated presentation of this prolific southern writer.  As usual, I got chills thinking that the formative years of Mary Flannery O’Connor were spent in the very home I was touring.  Her childhood fantasies and role play began at 207 E. Charlton Street, Savannah.  I could feel her presence.  I hung onto every word of the guide, and I was even asked to participate by reading aloud Miss O’s own words she had written in a childhood book.  “This one is not very good.” She was referring to one of her childhood books. She made notes to herself or to the next reader of this particular publication.  Flannery was quite the critic even as a six-year-old.  She knew what was good and what was not.   

As I searched my memory, I tried to remember what was my favorite Flannery O’Connor writing.  Last year I read, “Conversations with Flannery O’Connor,” though I had not read any of her short stories in years.  She only wrote two books, novels, and I have not read either of them. Most of her work is essays and short stories.  I remember reading some of these in a Southern Literature class in college.  However, as is my pattern with most writers, I became enamored with Flannery and researched everything I could on her.  What struck me as a college student about the descriptions of her was that she wrote with such confidence and was a straightforward and fiercely independent Southern woman who conveyed this through her stories.  This intrigued me.  As a young writer, I didn’t have the courage to write all the thoughts I had.  It is said that she disliked unoriginal or writing that was used to impress. 

This is why I love Flannery.  She didn’t write to please others.  She used her writing style to shock her audience because she wasn’t sure they held the same beliefs she did.  “When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock-to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.”  In other words, her style was to get your attention even if you don’t agree with her.  Over the years I have written many human interest stories, written interviews.  I have written many short non-fiction humorist essays.  My quirky look at life.  I usually write for an audience who agrees with me and is touched or humored by my writing.  As a college student, I remember thinking of her a headstrong formidable presence.

According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, her friends spoke of her “merciless attacks on affectation and triviality.”  She didn’t put up with much.  This surfaces in her work.  I remember reading “Geranium” and feeling anxious at the tone of the story.  The story about a flower.  There was shouting and arguments.  I felt like a voyeur to a confrontation that I just wanted to leave, but I couldn’t.  I wanted to see the outcome.  That’s what Flannery O’Connor does.  She touches the mercenary part of your soul that wants to see the bizarre patina of her narrative.  She doesn’t give you a charming story tied up with a pretty bow and obligatory ending. 

Yes, I love Flannery O’Connor.  She is everything I am not.  She makes me want to grow.  Once again, I am picking up her completed works and reading each story.  I continue to read about her strong-willed shit-stirring approach to writing.  That’s my shocking explanation of how I perceive her.  I am no Flannery O’Connor expert, nor can I say I have read everything she has written.  I haven’t even read half of it.  But, I love Flannery because she inspires me to reach a new level in my writing.  She gives me the courage to write.  Period. 

My, How You’ve Grown

“Memories should be sharp when one has nothing else to live for.” Zelda Fitzgerald from Save Me the Waltz

In June of 1998, I was 35 years old.  That month we moved our little family from a larger city where we had become part of a community of friends and supporters, to a small town 3 hours north of us.  In this larger city, I had a place. I was content. I was happy. When we moved, towing our almost 2-year-old and almost 7-year old, I felt like the world had toppled off of its axis.  I had moved many times as a child and as a youth, but leaving this place began a descent into my first adult memory of unhappiness.  I was leaving a place where I felt grounded. With the move, I could envision my body and my spirit coming apart like a tree uprooting. We lived in this small town for five years.  In the past 19 years, I have had many mileposts and experiences, good and bad, which have become the sum of my life so far.  The sum of this life is memories.  

Last evening my husband and I drove to that small town and ate at an iconic little restaurant which had been a staple for our family during those five years. We drove around afterward, and I felt a tinge of sadness and longing for our time there. We talked fondly of our young children being in awe of the train which traveled through town on a regular schedule. We laughed at the mischief they got into with new friends in this town. We drove past our old house which we restored and looked at the trees we planted.  We surveyed the fence we had built.  My husband wasn’t happy that the fence needed some care. The Hosta we planted was thriving.  Our oak leaf hydrangeas have grown.  They are my favorite. We remembered our neighbor, an old woman who wasn’t fond of us.  When we had our fence built, we had a neighbor’s gate put in between our yards.  That’s what good neighbors do.  She planted a thorny rose bush on her side of the neighbor’s gate.  At the time, it was so strange and hurtful. Last night the memory made us laugh.   Time.  Memories. She has since passed away. I would love to have said hello to her again.  To see if time has softened her. 

I like getting older and experiencing life.  Having memories.  Memories allow me to grow.  Memories make me mad.  Memories make me cry.  Memories make me laugh. I am learning not to allow them to occupy my mind negatively.  Age and maturity allow me to understand that in a few years I will be looking back on last night and I will have a memory with emotions based on where I am then. 

I miss those times.  The train.  The grumpy neighbor.  Our house.  Our trees.  Our children being young.  I miss the person I was when I arrived. 

Do I want to go back?  No. 

Memories are an indulgence.  For a moment, you can pretend you are still in that place.  You are with a certain person.  You are experiencing happiness.  You are wallowing in sadness. Who am I now?  Who was I then? I have hopes of being better than I was then.

How can I look back and smile at something that was an unpleasant situation?  The neighbor with the thorny rosebush, how can I smile at that now?  How can I remember that I was so unhappy during this period in my life and felt so uprooted, yet have such fond memories?  Your thoughts can create conflict in the space of your mind.  One memory can be in concert with both pain and joy, orchestrating conflicting emotions. The sum of my life becomes memories.  My memories are sharp.  The Hosta and Oak Leaf Hydrangeas continue to flourish.  The thorny rosebush is no longer there.