In loving memory of Walter Wakelin, M.D., D.O.

Walter was in many ways my spiritual father. My own father worked his ass off making money to support us and was not home much. Walter took on the whole neighborhood. A lot of boys in the neighborhood were getting into gangs or thinking of it. Walter told them that if they stayed out of gangs and stayed clean, he would teach them to box. I don't remember how I first met him...but he taught me chess, not boxing. He taught me a lot more. He was already 65, in poor health and overweight when I met him. He was working days at the State (mental) Hospital near my home as an MD. He was one of those who, when Governor Reagan outlawed Osteopaths as a profession, converted his degree to M.D. and kept working.

Walter had a lovely wife, Kathy. I idolized her, but don't remember having many conversations with her. She was a classic beauty in the Russian sense -- small, slender, sharp but delicate bones. I remember one time I was in the living room talking with Walter, who was sitting in his usual chair wearing nothing but shorts (modesty was not one of Walter's vices). Kathy walked in the room, made up and dressed to go out with some friends. Walter looked at her and said, "How did you get so damned beautiful?" Kathy replied, "It's not me. It's Max Factor." Walter slid out of his chair to the floor, got on his knees, and, bowing to her repeatedly with his hands over his head (looking quite comical), soberly and rhythmically chanted, "Max Factor. Max Factor. Max Factor."

Walter also had a snake, Rosie. She was a Columbian redtail boa constrictor, the first snake I had ever been close to (in many ways). I got brave enough to hold her, and did so rather often. She would curl around my neck and stick her head over the top of my head, as if I were wearing a snake for a headdress. We tried to get a picture of that and failed, but I do have a picture of me wearing her. Walter wanted to take the shot with my shirt off, but Rosie got upset with us passing her around to get ready for the photo. She swung around and clipped me in the back of my head, open-mouthed. We got the picture quickly, put her back in the cage, and treated my minor wound as well as my rising anxiety. (I did say he was an MD working at a mental hospital.)

pic of me and Rosie

Walter made art of various types. One hung directly over his front door, a dark-red teardrop (he said it was made of coat hangars and plaster of Paris). He said it was "the last bloody tear I will shed for anyone." Obviously I did not take this view, but it was part of who Walter was.

Walter had written a book titled The Thirteenth Virgin, about the unknown thirteenth Valkyrie. This was a novel of reincarnation, with the woman being given the gift of rebirth into the modern world with full memory of all her life from conception. It contains some of the most beautiful writing ever, especially the moment of birth from the baby's perspective. He never submitted it for publication, saying he needed to rewrite large parts of it and might never get around to it. I would give anything just to have part of the manuscript in my possession.

Walter also owned a little electric 3-wheeled golf cart he called Blossom, which he drove to and from work in. I really wanted to drive that. One day, when I knew Walter wasn't home and Blossom was, I opened Walter's garage and took Blossom for a spin. I did tip her over -- it was easy to tip those 3-wheelers over -- but she was so light I just picked her up and went back. I doubt if I spent more than 5 minutes driving her. This joyride almost, but not quite, cost me Walter's trust, and I learned the hard way how to earn it back, how to make good on doing bad.

I left home for college in 1970 and have seldom gone back for visits. I don't remember if I ever saw Walter again. When I would return, I would try to visit him, but never found him home. Then, on one visit, a woman I didn't know answered the door. I asked if Walter or Kathy were there; she asked who I was. I apparently convinced her I was one of the boys Walter mentored. She told me Kathy would be back later. When I went back, Kathy told me Walter had passed. I do not know, or care, what relationship Kathy had with this other woman, and pretty much assumed they were lovers. That was the last time I saw Kathy.

Maybe some day I will remember more about Walter. I remember his service to these boys who would otherwise have gone bad, and all the time he spent with me, when I had few friends and no other good ones.

I just found the medical record. Walter E. Wakelin, M.D., graduated UC-Irvine 1962, MD license A27159 issued March 21, 1975. "License has been voluntarily canceled, or the license has been expired for at least five years..."

I'm remembering this now, I don't know why. Perhaps it is the fact that my own "real" father is dangerously ill and I might lose him. Walter was as much my father as my dad was, but they were really just extensions of each other, whether my dad knew it or not. Walter had time for me, but my dad provided for me, my mom and my brother (who passed in 1967).

Copyright 2011 by Gerald L. "Moss" Bliss, D.D., written March 23, 2011.