Sorting It Out

Today I drug a big box of my mother’s keepsakes out of the closet and sat down with that to finally sort through it all and decide what to do with it.  After a few hours of making piles to pass on to either my son or the grandchildren and reading old newspapers, funeral notices and letters and both laughing and crying over photos most of it went back in the box to try again tomorrow.  It’s possible that the kids will find some of this stuff interesting and want to keep it for a while, but it is more likely that my memories will leave this world when I do with only the rare exception.

I just can’t toss it all out yet. My mom kept her grandmother’s hair, carefully labeled and wrapped in tissue paper for more than seventy years.  It feels like a betrayal not to keep that, but what exactly do I do with it?  I don’t really want to display it or even pull it out to look at now and then, but I stuck it back in the box for later anyway.  My younger sister’s ponytail is there in a box that once held a necklace.  My sister does not want it and neither does anyone else.  The kids think all this dead hair is creepy.  Maybe it is creepy.  Okay, I can toss that.

There are newspapers with engagement and wedding announcements, my dad’s successes, including a record high bowling score as well as his letters to the editor defending labor unions and all the grandparents and great grandparents obituaries and even local birthday celebrations and high school sports events.  Maybe I will keep those around to browse over when I am even older than I am now.

I found letters and telegrams my parents wrote each other when dad was away in the army and lots of birthday, anniversary and Valentines cards that my siblings and I gave our parents.  There are even letters exchanged by my grandparents.  Sitting on the floor reading these felt a little like sitting with them again and hearing family stories.  There is a package of report cards from my when my mother attended a Catholic school for girls in 1935 along with letters from her friends and teachers there.  Mom’s report cards from the academy and back at our hometown public school were average.  But my father and grandparents were mostly A students and my great aunts seemed to be top of their class, one even acquiring a Masters Degree in music.  It’s nice to think there are some good genes in the background.

I am getting a bit of a kick out of all this junk.  Maybe I will indulge this nostalgia for a while until I tire of it.  And then, maybe, just stuff that box in a closed or under a bed for someone else to decide what to do with when I am either dead or too demented to bother.  It seems I have a plan.

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Sorting It Out

Trying

It has been months since I could put together a thought and hold it long enough to write it down.  Sometimes I think everything is getting better and I can be myself again, but when I get still the grief and fear jump up and smack me down, back to holding back tears and faking strength while I wait for it to be real.  It will be a year next month since my daughter died.  Every day that passes I dread and hope for that anniversary.  I am afraid that I might crash and burn and I hope that once that day passes I can believe in strength enough to get through one more, maybe more than that.

There is a support group on-line that I turn to for understanding that only other grieving parents belong to.  It helps some, but it seems we are all so lost that guiding each other is difficult at best.  There is empathy in this group that I find no where else.  For that I am grateful.  My problem here is that I am not a person of faith and most of the others are. The better place and someday we’ll be together again comments do not comfort me.  At the same time I have no desire to object to whatever gets these others through their days so I keep my heathenness to myself with them.

I find  my comfort in the living.  I am fortunate to have a loving husband who, even though his heart is also shattered, stays strong enough for me to lean on.  He still makes me laugh and we laugh together at our sometimes pitiful selves. My daughter gave us the gift of her grown son and daughter who have been a joy from the day of their birth and still warm my heart with every moment I have with them.  Our granddaughter gave birth to our special, extra gift, a beautiful and perfect great granddaughter, a few months after her mother died.  Her children and grandchild are the little pieces of Teri that I can touch and feel and care for; that is my comfort.

My son, my so special son, and his wife and two boys have been the light of so many days. He loved his baby sister and misses her in that unique sibling way.  He is never out of touch more than a few days even though he is far from us in distance. So often when I am struggling the phone will ring and his voice brings back the sun for me.

This is how I survive the unthinkable loss of my child.  I do not offer advise to anyone else in this boat except to keep breathing and hope.  Hope for whatever you need.

Long ago when my grandparents all died and then my dad far too soon I told those who expressed sympathy that I wanted to just surround myself with people who love me and soak up that love.  I am doing that now the best that I can.  On days like this one when my best isn’t working I curl up in my ball of hurt and just wait for something better.

Trying

WTF

My hip hurts, a lot, whenever I stand up and move around.  For that reason I mostly sit down these days.  I have an appointment for a treatment that should have me up and moving in a week or so.  I bore you with my physical condition as a way to explain why I spent my day moving from one chair to another and watching too much television.

This morning I watched the local news, read the paper, watched some of the Sunday morning news shows and a couple of documentaries on Netflex.  I also spent a little time on Facebook and Twitter and sat outside for a little while watching the comings and goings in the neighborhood.  In the last few days there have been some interaction with other people out shopping or running errands.  I have come to the conclusion that humans are flawed creatures destined to become extinct.  We will mess the earth up pretty bad before we go, but the planet will be better off without us.

Why!  Because every where you look the human race is engaged in destructive behavior.  It’s a shame really because we have  enough intelligence to have made gains in technology unimaginable a few years ago.  What do we do with it?  We play games and insult each other online where we can’t get punched in the face.  We have discovered medicines that can save countless lives and what do we do?  We price them so high for the sake of profit that those lives are lost anyway.  Plastic happened.  We stopped using every other kind of packing and began throwing “away” our plastic containers until we have ruined the oceans and filled up landfills to overflowing.  Turns out “away” is not that far.

We are killing each other all over the world for the most ridiculous reasons.  Wars are fought to salve the egos of power hungry dictators or to maintain one religion as superior over another.  We kill each other in the streets because of ethnic differences or just because someone felt insulted or because we are from different gangs.

So many humans are so greedy they are willing for others to die to keep from giving up their goodies. We have too many parents who neglect or abuse their own children. We have too many monsters who massacre children in their schools, apparently just because they can.

I seems to me we are about to get what we deserve — to cease to be.  It’s our own damn fault and there are not enough humans willing to learn what we need to know to survive. Humans will continue live with magical thinking that says it’ll all work out or some power will fix it.  I wish the other animals well and hope they prosper after we are gone.

WTF

People Change

I was raised by two loving, gentle and generous parents who were also bigots.  Yes, both can be true.  My mom and dad took in extra children, gave time to the community, helped friends and family find jobs and homes, even had a whole family live in our house when theirs burned until they could rebuild.  They also told and laughed at nigger jokes and made fun of queers.  Humans are complicated like that.  Fortunately my parents became more tolerant with time.  They changed, evolved.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a post on Facebook that I liked and shared. “A man who sees the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years”.  Attributed to Mohammed Ali.  My immediate thought was right on.  So true.  People change.  People grow.

When I was in my twenties there were two instances where a man treated me with disrespect.  One was my supervisor at a job that I needed to keep.  He considered himself a flirt.  I considered him an ass.  He was known for offering a neck rub and for standing too close in the elevator.  So, when he had made me uncomfortable once too often I went to talk to him.  I told him I was offended and explained that I had no interest in him and his behavior was not appreciated and I would not tolerate it, job or no job.  He apologized and treated me with respect both at the office and elsewhere.  I consider him and his wife friends now.  I even have used him as a reference.  The other was a man who dared to put his hands on me uninvited.  I punched him in the face.  He tried to get me fired and made noise about being assaulted.  Nothing came of his accusations and I never spoke to or saw him again.  I hope he also changed.

The point is a person is both good and bad and a person is probably not the same today as years ago.  Two cases in the news this week make the point.  Tom Brokaw is accused of trying to kiss a woman twenty years ago.  He may have, but he says not so we do not know for sure what really happened.  Maybe he behaved badly at that time.  He was also an accomplished journalist at that time, as he is now.  Even if he did a bad thing he may also be a decent person who screwed up.  Bill Cosby, however, has been found guilty by a jury, will be and should be punished.  He was a creep, may very well still be a creep.  He was also a talented actor and comedian.  A human can be, in fact usually is, both good and bad.

Growing up in a very small town smack in the middle of the bible belt was severely limiting.  I never knew a Catholic or a Jewish person until I was grown.  It turns out that a close family friend was gay, but that was not acknowledged.  He did not come out until his parents died.  Our school was integrated, but we were taught to be nice to the “colored” children but don’t bring them home.  Our main social activities were basketball and church, where we sang about Jesus loving all the children, red and yellow, black and white.  But there were no black children at church.   I never met an Asian person or a native American until I left home as an adult.  The person I was then was okay, but I would hate to still be her.

The person I am now wants to know all kinds of people and understand those things I don’t yet.  I don’t understand how a transgender person comes to be, but I want to know.  I grew up believing gay guys must have had domineering mothers.  Now I know that some are born gay and some are not, just like some have brown eyes and others blue.  Back when I was a church goer I was told that if it isn’t in the bible it is not worth knowing.  How dumb is that?  There is so much to learn and so little time left.  I will not get it all, but I want to be still learning when I stop living.  And, I want to be better tomorrow that I am today.  I want people who are behaving badly today to behave better tomorrow and I want them to be allowed to grow and change and leave the past behind them where it belongs.  It seems to me crimes should be punished but mistakes should be used for education and then left alone.

 

People Change

The Protest

Today I attended the March for Our Lives in the park just a few blocks from my house.  Just a few hundred people listening to high school students.  As each of them took the mike and told their story and voiced their demands I watched the audience around me.  I saw a variety of reactions.  Some shouting out support, most applauding appropriately to show support and appreciation for these children, some fighting tears and shaking their heads when the speaker told of the fear these kids now have everyday going to school.  It seemed that all of the people there want the same thing — fewer guns and stricter gun laws — and they say they will stand and fight until that happens.  I hope they can.  I hope they will.  There amid the cheers and applause it feels as if change can come.  It feels as if these young people will stand strong where the rest of us have lost interest and faded away.

The opposition was of course absent.  When there were shouts of “we’re coming after you NRA” there were no shouts of “no”.  The people who will hold on to their guns no matter what do not attend these events.  They are at the NRA conventions.  Or they are just at home on the couch comfortable in the knowledge that the gun lobby has their back and the lawmakers are bought and paid for and won’t take any action for a change in gun laws.  If sensible gun laws are to happen these children will have to be as motivated and passionate this time next year and probably the year after that as they are now.

It also seems to me that the adults who care about these kids have to stand up, speak out and CHANGE.  We need to stop tippy toeing around trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings or have to openly disagree.  I know that if I am adamant about insisting that no civilian has a need or a right to weapons of war some people won’t like that.  Some will try to shout me down or argue the point from their perspective.  Some won’t want to be a friend to me.  I have to be okay with that.  Standing in the rain listening to speeches for a couple of hours means nothing if I sit silently while another states that the second amendment guarantees them any weapon they want; guarantees them their war “toys” regardless of the fact that people use guns to kill 96 Americans every day.  If I am serious about gun law reform then I have to speak up and call bullshit.  Respectfully, but really bullshit has to be recognized as such.

Before today I was okay with a live and let live attitude.  You have your reality and I have mine and just leave it at that.  Well, that is just stupid.  How about you see things one way and I see them another and we talk together about why that is and where our ideas come from and what may be erroneous in our point of view and what each of us might see differently if we learn more, and just maybe find a compromise or even a whole new idea.

There are however some things that cannot be open to compromise.  Every child must be safe in her school.  Every parent must drop their child off at school in the morning   confident in the knowledge that they will pick him up safely at the end of the day.  All teachers must be free to teach and not distracted with defense against gun violence.  For this to be accomplished some will have to sacrifice their unlimited privilege to have any and all guns they want.  If you are one of those people who refuse to give up a gun so that a child can live; get over yourself you big baby!  #neveragain.

The Protest

Like a Lady

Act like a lady.  Watch yourself young lady.  A lady always wears gloves.  Be a lady at your aunt’s house.  Lady, lady, lady.  I heard this as a child until I felt like some very unladylike behavior.  To begin with I am not and was not ever a lady.  Lady is a term belonging to aristocracy.  It’s a class thing indicating having been high born and part of the upper class.  In England I would not have been addressed as Lady Nita.  I probably would not even have been called maam.  Probably more likely just Nita or “hey, you”.

So all this early training to be a lady was a waste of time to begin with since I was born to awesome, brilliant, kind and generous working people.  Not a lady in the bunch, but some fantastic women, and men, from whom I learned how to be a real person, not some fake lady creature who always wore gloves and spoke softly.

I learned to be a woman.  A lady needs to be waited on, coddled. A woman can do it herself but doesn’t have to do it to prove a point.  She just does what is needed.  A real, strong, confident woman makes a great friend, wife, mother, co-worker and citizen. She can be a CEO, president, truck driver, teacher, janitor, homemaker, and be okay with her choice.  She can make her own living, mother her children, participate in her community and care for her friends all by herself, or she can share all that with a real, confident partner.

I don’t even want to be a lady.  Probably couldn’t really try.  I do a lot of things that would not be considered ladylike by those well intended souls trying to mold me as a child.  I swear, a lot.  I pull on a cap and my coat over my pajamas to run to the grocery.  I drink hard liquor and sometimes put my elbows on the table.  I have been known to ask a man to dance and I don’t hesitate to point out asinine behavior if need be.  But don’t be mislead, I am not a slug, just independent.  I neither belch or fart in company.  I wait my turn and open doors for old people.

Soon I will have a great granddaughter.  You won’t hear me telling her to be a lady.  In the first place it is for her mother and father to be first in line to instruct her.  My hope is that she will see me as a force, a presence worth knowing, maybe even an example.  I will do my best to present to her a person who is strong and gentle, smart and caring, fun and loving.  And, a woman.  A real, whole woman.

Like a Lady

Still Toddling Along

I think I may sleep well tonight.  That is not ordinarily the case for me these last few months, but I am feeling sleepy.  Probably a long walk in the sunshine today and dinner with friends that included an adult beverage followed by just a bit more alcohol when I got back home all have something to do with this drowsiness.

I have been told that I am a goal oriented person more than once.  That is probably true.  I know that I function better with something to reach for; with a particular result in mind.  For a few weeks I have been working toward socializing with old friends and going to functions where I might meet new, interesting people.  Tonight was a step toward that goal and I enjoyed myself.  Saturday was a little harder when I attended an event where no one knew me and I had to make casual conversation with strangers.  But, I managed to meet women that I may want to get to know better.  One more step down the road.

A few weeks after my daughter died I got involved in a grief support group.  There were a lot of caring people there, all trying to help each other and all much more able to understand how I felt than well meaning friends who have not been there themselves.  Even though I felt welcomed and other experiences were much like my own I had to step away after a few sessions.  There two problems for me.  One is almost every person who lost a child kept saying it never gets better; that the pain is just as bad years later as the first day.  That is not my experience, at least not most of the time.  The other is that every other person there firmly believes that the person they lost is waiting for them in heaven.  No doubt, no exceptions.  I cannot wrap my head around believing that those who are gone are just waiting in a paradise somewhere and debilitating emotional pain and grief both residing in the same mind.  IF you believe your loved one is happily waiting for you in another world why are you always sad and in pain?  That makes no sense.

So. apparently I have to do this grief thing the same as I do most things, my way.  My way is to stay busy.  Not just killing time busy but getting involved, finding something to do that helps somebody, that makes a difference in some small way.  After all, I still have people to not just care for but to take care of.

Last Sunday I helped with a baby shower for my granddaughter who expects her first baby in May.  Helping Brittany get ready for her baby both gives me great joy and brings me to tears at the same time.  Curtis is a man now and values his independence, but He still calls on Granny now and then.  Like when our favorite big black dog needs to get to the vet when Curtis has to work.  And Jerry.  My husband needs support from me as much as I need it from him.  While neither of us resents it at all, looking after his mother is a job, so I help as much as I can.  Wow, no wonder I stay so busy.

Distance means I don’t get to do much hands on with my son’s family but have to settle for phone calls and social media visits.  Even so we plan awesome vacations together and that makes life better for all of us.

Still Toddling Along