The Boxer + The Surgeon and Parkinson’s

It’s the 4th of July, I’m laid up in bed but I’m thinking about two men I never knew who had Parkinson’s Disease. I love them both.
The first was my grandfather Dr. Jack Sidney Stell. He was a surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas from 1918 until the mid 40’s.

The family called him Daddy Jack and he was deeply loved in his hospital and in his community. Daddy Jack was a staunch and faithful Baptist but his nurses at St. Joseph’s were all Catholic nuns.

I remember being told a story about my grandfather by very old nuns when I was a little girl. He’d been dead for years but his legend and the tales of his faith continued. 

Daddy Jack was diagnosed with Parkensen’s disease in the early forties, just as WWII engulfed the world. At first the symptoms were mild but they grew worse, as did the war.  Lots of the younger doctors enlisted and there was a shortage of surgeons in the area. Daddy Jack’s skills as a surgeon were desperately needed but his hands were starting to tremble.

So, before every surgery Daddy Jack and his nuns would kneel down on the cold tile floor of the operating room and pray for his shaking to stop, long enough for him to operate.  And it did.

Over and over again the nuns and my grandfather asked God to intervene and still Daddy Jack’s shaking hands. And He did.Dr. Jack Sidney Stell was able, with the help of the St. Joe’s nuns and God, to successfully perform hundreds of operations despite the Parkinson’s.  And when the war ended and the doctors all came home, Daddy Jack retired.

My number two man ins Muhammad Ali. I love him so because of his extraordinary ability to rise above the desiese. He was famous  for his witt, his grace, his footwork and his mouth. Parkensisn took all those things away from him.  And he somehow became more of a man, more of an iconic figure we could all learn from and admire. His silence taught us more, his unsteady steps taught us how to be strong and his frozen face is still filled with love and humor. He is Ali and I love him more now then when he was the heavyweight champ. He is more beautiful, more powerful and important now.

I love these two men so much because they have shown us there will always be grace and  power in faith.

Jack Stell…No Longer A Meth Head Bitch or Shape Shifter

Big news…children are actually SHAPE SHIFTERS! You think you know who and what they are. Then they turn into something else completely.

My son, Jack Stell, has been a musician for years but he’s changed so radically, from a hippo into a dragon fly, from a spider monkey into a wolverine.

He now writes songs andI cry because they are so good. He’ s learned to craft  songs, funny sweet songs. I can’t get them out of my head. He moved to Nashville recently and has sent me some remarkable work.  I swear.

Yeah, yeah, I’m his mom, but I promise, five or six years ago, when he was jack2thefuture, I would say things like, “that was a hell of a stage show,” after a concert.The way he crawled across the stage on his belly, while howling lyrics, was pretty wild. The first time I went to one of his shows he appeard in a tux and looked insanely handsome then he managed to strip down to his boxers during the first song, on stage! he was nearly naked. Hey, that was entertaining and throngs of tatted up, pierced 21 year old went nuts.

But I never, ever said, “I love those songs.” I loved him and the theatrics, but not the songs.

Things have changed. When I listen to Jack Stell or Jack Stell and the Natural Outlaws I am stunned. He’s so good.

It’s Jack Stell’s heart-breakingly tender songs that take my breath away. There’s a song, “Dance with me Katie Marie.” It’s their last dance, the guy has done something horrible and it will be their last night together. The lyrics and tone are so poignant. I’ve had devastatingly beautiful nights like that, and last dances. I guess we all have and that’s what makes the song so powerful.

Christine” is a lovely and crazy catchy song he wrote to make me happy. It worked. The song follows a forty year love affair to the final days. “Now we’ve been married about 15 years, got us a house and got us some kids, but i love you just the same, as I did that very first day. Christine, my little queen…”

 Fireworks and Tattoos is a witty ballad, about a guy who wakes up from a big drunk and realizes he’s blown up his girlfriend’s double wide. “”And I would apologize,  if you’d just pick up your phone. Sorry I blew up you mobile home.”  It’s funny.

Jack is 24, how the hell does he know about this stuff?

Life Size Pizza was his last rock band, no that’s an understatement. LSP was a face crushing rock and roll band with some country licks thrown in.  The Jesus Song and Meth Head Bitch are Little Rock legends. LSP two cds and the second, No Love is really magnificent boy rock and roll. Too much howling guitar for a middle age white woman but I get it. It’s hedonistic, slippery and dangerous. The guitar work is amazing and I am a big fan of Life Size Pizza. If you need some new, fun and insane rock and roll find them on spotify.

But now my son he has shape shifted again. He is Jack Stell. And I am amazed and proud.

You can find Jack Stell on facebook. Keep up with him now, pretty soon you won’t be able to.

Leave or comment or write to me.

A Sweet Boy Turns Into A Bad Ass

Kids change.  They start out one way and ten years latter are entirely different creatures.

When Jack was a little boy he was beautiful, soft spoken, kind and gentle. He wasn’t shy or weak but he was so sweet and loving. Jack was so sweet in fact, Alex started wondering if he was gay.

Sometimes he cried when his dad beat him in basket ball.  Jack was the little boy who tried to take care of everybody, especially his sister Mary and a hopeless mamas boy. We couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful son but seemed to lack in natural aggression.

We constantly wondered if the world would eat him up. We worried that he would get picked on, girls wouldn’t like him, and the universe would just steam roll our son because he was too nice and gentel. 

Alex had a tough childhood, and  was literally afraid for Jack.  We tried to figure out how to make him tougher, for his own good. But it was hopeless. Jack was a sweet heart.

When he tried to play sports he just couldn’t find that part of himself that wanted to beat other people down. Jack wanted everybody to win and be happy. When a pee-wee foot ball coach yelled at him on the field and said, “Don’t you every want to hit somebody Jack, just put them down?”

 Jack shook his head, “No, not really.”

The coach nodded, “Go sit on the bench.”

When I look at Jack now, I can still see and feel that gentle and soft little boy. But he’s not the same person. He’s a different creature. He’s a big swarthy, tatted up musician. I listen to his CD, yikes, he’s a bad ass. He sings about whiskey, and guns and he takes his shirt off while he plays drums. Sometimes he gets so worked up while he’s on stage he ends up performing in his boxers.  When he performs, beautiful hot girls crawl all over him…even though he’s standing with his mother! Seriously.

 Jack is a bouncer in a big city rock and roll bar. He called yesterday to tell me he had to break up a fight, “Well,” he said, “I just yanked one dude off the other then threw them both out.”  Yes, he’s got a degree in French and film, but he really loves a good fight. 

Kids change. The brat turns into a wonderful teen aged girl. The ugly boy grows into a handsome man. The laziest kid finds something he wants to work for. So you can’t ever give up on them.

 Jack is still a smiling, sweet mamas boy, he’s still a family man.  But the little boy who cried playing basket ball with his dad hasn’t been seen in a long, long time.

I love you, Jack!

WRITE TO ME!…I get lonesome.