In His Own Right (The Boston Interview)

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I pride myself in always doing my homework, so I spent some time looking at old news clips and file photos before coming here to do the interview with Amy Templeton. First describe her and her husband as they once were in their prime: Ross Burnham Fowler, a Boston Brahmin do-gooder with looks that were an initial sucker punch: tall, dark, handsome—and troubled. Amy Louise Templeton, proud first mate from Middle America with her own soft Celtic beauty: long, wavy, dark auburn hair and wide-set green eyes. That’s good, good. Then tell the readers how the passage of time has tumbled them downhill. Give’m the dirt in their mouths. Ten minutes with these two, however, and I knew the conventional spin wouldn’t work.

Templeton introduced me to her husband and their daughter, Sarah. After a few minutes of polite if reserved small talk, Fowler—left leg mangled in a car crash outside Fremont, California almost ten years ago to this day—got out of his chair to take Sarah and leave the room so his wife and I could conduct our interview in relative peace. It wasn’t helping that the kid was hanging onto his arm, clearly a daddy’s girl, her father’s pride and joy.

Fowler, hair now flecked with gray, was still a compelling figure, certainly, but there was something disquieting about him, the real-time good looks replaced by a weathered handsomeness, the blue eyes focused inward as if part of him were somewhere else, conducting a conversation with someone not present; the sea captain feeling the waves beneath his feet even though he’s on dry land. Up on his feet, he balanced himself with one hand on an old baseball bat fashioned into a walking stick and shook mine with the other. “Listen to her,” he joked, motioning his head toward his wife. “She knows what she’s talking about.” Then the pair, Sarah darting ahead of him, left us alone. Templeton’s face as she turned to watch them go reflected the struggle with multiple health issues she had waged for many years as well, that luxurious mane now chopped short, the thin frame and face making those green eyes bigger.

The Boston Interview Amy Louise Templeton gave up the globe-trotting life early on for a less glamorous but more satisfying life of good works. College sweetheart of tennis great, Mike Raynes, Templeton stepped away from the sport circuit whirlwind, working for almost a decade and a half with Human Rights International, and co-founding Health vs. Wealth (HvW), a patient advocacy group and thorn-in-the-side to the region’s health care providers. Now in her mid-thirties and a survivor of a six-year-long battle with a rare form of lymphoma, her latest cause is an optimistic one: helping girls cope with the myriad of pressures facing them as the first teenagers of the 21st century. Templeton lives with her husband, the unrepentantly liberal lawyer Ross Fowler, their four-year-old adopted daughter Sarah, and three ‘spoiled’ Siamese cats in a modest home in the western suburbs, the yard overflowing with flowering plants and shrubs, the house itself in somewhat of a state of disrepair. [The reporter got her facts wrong: Lacie and Tillie are Birmans; Elsie’s a stray.]

What do consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
The people we get released—through the work of many, many unnamed people—from prisons and detention. Most definitely. And personally for us, the admission by the Public Ministry in Guatemala last year that the Chief of Police of Quezaltenango and his agents murdered Danilo Morente and Jorge de Leon, human rights workers and friends of ours. They were killed in ‘88. It happened and it was wrong. ‘There can be no justice without an end to impunity . . .’ Ross put every ounce of his energy into doing what he could about their case; it was really his, uh, mission. That and the HRIA bill. [Ed.—The Human Rights Information Act] And just generally so with HRI, the preventative good we do simply by being here and speaking out. Also, I think, also with HvW, helping people stand up and fight the medical industrial complex for control of their bodies, dignity . . . reality. And, you know, with all these organizations, the sense of connection this work gives the people who volunteer, the knowledge that there’s true meaning and feeling in this world, and that there’s something worth fighting for. So, yeah . . .

Do you see yourself as fully recovered? Do you consider yourself healthy now?
Yeah, I’m relatively well. I guess everyone’s stuck with me for a while.

Any special regimen you follow?
Not really. We don’t eat much meat anymore. I see my doctor every six months. And take a lot of vitamins; that’s about it.

And exercise?
And exercise, sure.

Playing tennis, perhaps? What’s your current relationship with Mike Raynes, if I may ask? Are you still close?
Oh, I love the game. There’s a brilliant simplicity to it, like chess, isn’t there? A million permutations on a few simple lines. An elegance, you know, that’s very satisfying, but those rackets! God, don’t get me started . . . Anyway, I follow it on TV when I have time. No, no, wait, actually we were in San Francisco, what, two years ago and saw Michael play. It was good to see him again, but we have pretty much gone our own ways. He has two boys now, you know—great kids, unfortunately I can’t remember their names right now.

Your husband, Ross Fowler, was a well-known activist in his own right, wasn’t he, a few years back, back in the 80’s?
(With considerable annoyance) Yes, of course, he still is. He’s always been himself in his own right, hasn’t he? He’s very involved in Safe Haven now. It’s, uh, it’s a group concerned with immigrants and tenants’ rights. And of course he’s still active in HRI. He’s doing pretty well. It’s been hard these past few years because he’s always been such an extremely independent person, always went wherever and did whatever he wanted no matter what, and he’s had a very hard struggle to maintain a fraction of that. But he’s very stubborn. He has great strength of will. I have great respect for that. I have great respect for him. He keeps me searching in the right direction; he keeps me staring at the moon, not the bridges already built. [The reporter doesn’t get this and waits. Perhaps there’s more?] (Amy, softly, almost to herself) . . . my guardian priest.

So, you obviously believe—even in this age of casual sex—in the power of love? Is that what you tout to your girls?
(Pausing for several seconds, searching for the words) You know, society teaches everyone to, uh, disregard the dream inside, but sometimes you need to listen to your own voice, no matter how much outside pressure is pounding down around you. And the world is full of people who are just dying to tell you everything that’s wrong with you, to make you feel that every transformational impulse you have is silly. If one starts down the road to self-discovery, which in itself takes a lot of courage, then it’s wonderful to find someone who can help you stay on that road, someone who makes you brave enough to walk down that road, to take chances; someone who would love what you could do, not tell you what you can’t do; and when you find someone like that, then I think that a transcendent type of love can occur. And I wouldn’t say that it has to necessarily be between a man and a women, though that’s where the heat occurs, for me, anyway. Love is for everyone . . . and, you know, it could be love of your child, or a true friendship over the years as well. Or music . . . or art . . . or even your pet . . . but, well, uh, don’t quote me on the last bit, people will think I’m back on, back on . . .

continued on page 40

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6 thoughts on “In His Own Right (The Boston Interview)

  1. Fascinating interview. And I’m glad to know you just a bit better, indirectly. =) Let me know if you plan to submit for the RACE. I can wait, but am planning the lineup.

    Keep up the passionate blogging.

    Xxx
    Diana

    • Thanks. I’m glad we made this connection. I would like to submit some thoughts on the RACE. We are a mixed-race family as our daughter was adopted from China. It is really her story to tell, but I would like to speak a little about identity. An Asian-American whose family is white. Her real cohort is the diaspora of adopted Chinese girls growing up here in the States. I would like to speak about fitting in, finding your tribe, not so much based on race as on where your passion lies. Can you put me at the end of the queue?

      • It’s really funny you say all that. “Tribe” is the word I’ve been running my tongue over the last week, thinking of this project. It’s just what kept coming to mind. And the series is really about how we seek (and fumble) for our roots and anchor when we don’t feel we belong. It’s really a question that is broader than race, though I needed a peg for everyone to hang their stories on. Your story is just right up my alley in many ways. I’ve been listening to some fascinating stories on adoptive families on news radio – some or one of which I’ll be writing on.

        I would put you at the end except now I’m not sure when the end’s in view. =) The quality and depth of the response has been extraordinary and (spilling secret) I’m now entertaining a suggestions from two readers on a way to enlarge this project. Sigh. Exhausted.

        Can you send it to me in two wks or so? You will go on a bit after that but it’s helpful for me to have a draft first.

      • I’ll get it to you by next weekend (4/12-4/13). It’s a great project. I’m sure you’re exhausted. When you need extra motivation, let me know; I’ll try to spur you on! 🙂 Thanks for including me in this.

      • LOL I am in no shortage of cheerleaders – bless all your hearts – but thank you so much. We can never have enough, now can we? Grateful I can count on you….

        D.

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