MY FATHER, FRED

My father was a spit polished, sharp as a tack man. Always! He was Victorian era polite and honorable, but also willing to be silly and fun. He believed that Logic and Science could save us, but was also a truly great romantic. He taught me to play poker and waltz and Marquis of Queensbury Rules. He was a great man, imo. I never felt unloved by him, even in my seriously alienated teen period when it was just annoying rather than comforting.
He was an original purveyor of Dad Jokes, the guy who taught himself to play Stride piano, and who would do Cossack dances to the Radetsky March. He was the outgoing opposite of my introverted mother, and she was often amused by his antics, especially with us. I would catch her smiling, just slightly, her nearly black eyes shining with love as he frolicked with us: playing board or made up games, teaching us about dinosaurs, or watching monster movies together on the sofa. They quarreled often and as a child, that was more understandable to me than that glint in her eyes. It took becoming an adult to begin to understand the fierce love that they shared for more than fifty years, until her death. His devotion to her throughout the horrors of cancer completely altered my understanding of love in action and what devotion means and even now, brings moisture to my abnormally dry eyes, both emotionally and physically.

My father was the epitome of devotion when it came to his family. Working the night shift at Standard Oil in Bayonne meant years of busing and walking for miles when the buses didn’t run. He learned to drive and bought a car when I was small, and he drove me everywhere I needed to go, whenever possible, picking me up in Brooklyn every week after I married, so I could shop in Jersey where there were no taxes on food and clothing, and spend time with the family. This was not his dream for me, but he never expressed his disappointment in any way and did everything he could to lend support and encouragement to me, patiently teaching my first husband about basic household repairs and indirectly advising patience and kindness as the basis of enduring love.

My parents had five kids as well as the care of his mother and an elderly cousin, but Pop always made room for kin who needed him, he and my mom working on budgets late into the night, finding ways to send funds to family who might be in crisis, taking in neighborhood kids whose families were temporarily unable to care for them. I found out after his death that the beloved elder who lived with us had come north after Emancipation but had been re-enslaved by an evil employer. My father and his brothers organized and literally broke her out of the locked room where she was kept when not working. The only relative who owned his house at the time, there was no question as to where she would go. She lived with us comfortably, for the rest of her life, a sweet and kindly foil to her younger contemporary, my cantankerous grandmother.

His lifelong dream was to have land and create a family compound- each with their own home, elders cared for by all, kids, animals, gardens all cared for, all healthy and thriving.

Daddy promoted personal discipline and was almost military in his adherence to physical and moral discipline. A boxer in his youth, he’d aspired to the Golden Gloves, but family responsibilities intervened. He continued to skip rope and exercise every day until his late eighties. He was a good Christian who rarely attended church, but lived New Testament values and The Golden Rule.

I could go on for pages about his life and work, but this is not the place for that. I just wanted to pay homage on what would have been his lucky 108th birthday- one that he fully expected to see, as dying was not in his meticulous plans. How many times did he tell me that he’d never die, and in some sense he was right: he lives in my mirror and my son’s family devotion. Corny jokes and music evoke his spirit on a regular basis, as does every neat and dapper old guy I see. Every time my little granddaughter writes a play, belts out a song, or expresses her love of math- my father is there and I know the truth of his saying that the good that we create is matter and never ends, it only changes form. ❤️

The Real

Sun will still rise, winds blow, children laugh, but it will never be quite the same.

People really need to learn how to talk about death.
On many different levels. It’s inevitable: sit with it.

It’s a painful, but 100% accurate teacher that will show you yourself and the truth of every relationship you have. What’s particularly cruel is that the test will come before the lessons.

Best come at least somewhat prepared because denial and lies will not help you.

I’ve never had a problem talking about death and am not bottled up now, but SO many people can’t even approach the subject or they block it’s reality with trite sayings learned by rote.
My Goddaughter, Kibra, said it well: “It’s a profound experience and people feel that they should say something profound but they’re really not up to the task.”

Nearly half the people I know have no will or insurance. They most certainly have no ability to hold a conversation, much less comfort or advise someone in grief. Part of the problem is that in the US, few people live with multiple generations and people don’t often die at home. The outsourcing of the elder care and “the medicalization of death put those realities at a remove from life” (Rebecca Karl) and the entire progression of life and it’s inevitable realities are problematized in ways that are ultimately antisocial and dehumanizing.

This is another area where our healthcare systems fail miserably and because people are so afraid of the subject, they don’t recognize the importance of fighting for a national healthcare system that would support at-home care as long as is feasible, as well as the handling of death and its after effects in a respectful, cost effective manner that would reacquaint families with a basic understanding of the process, which in turn might help grow genuine compassion, empathy, and grace in us all.

Death doulas are one immediate source of knowledge, but not accessible to all. Our fear of death and our inability to have these conversations is where it must begin. We must mature as a society and find kinder ways to deal with our problems, because I can assure you, Death, as a reality and metaphysics, is not going away.

Thus endeth the lesson.

From 4/28/2015: prove me wrong! Aka a letter regarding a white critique

I have problems with the idea that Black folks “own” the neighborhoods in which they were ghettoized. There’s an a priori/middle class idea that presumes that people feel a sense of ownership in the same way that those who choose and buy into their neighborhoods do. Years ago I was struck by the consistency with which the children from “those” neighborhoods talked about “staying” rather than “living” in a place. There was not the sense of solidity or security that we expect to hear. When offered a chance to purchase houses/apartments in a similar, Harlem neighborhood some years back, my social worker daughter in law was surprised at how often the response was that the residents didn’t wish to invest in “their”neighborhoods even though they had no real chances of leaving or being able to afford to purchase housing without those subsidies.
So while we might think that’s a foolish & shortsighted response, take a minute to reflect on what it’s saying about generations of disenfranchisement & alienation, of not being able to feel ownership and pride of place.
“They” didn’t create this system and have no “real”stake in it, so why would you expect “them” to value what you value? How long would you be patient if your children were murdered on a regular basis, underscoring your lack of value in even “your own” neighborhoods? Aspects of the Civil Rights Movement (fire hoses, dogs, dead little girls at Church) and Kent State woke white folks up for a hot minute, but those were seen as exceptions, so back to sleep in the illusion of safety you went for decades.
I AM sorry for the small local business owners who have to watch the police stand by as their buildings burn, but I’m angry at the police who would run to protect wealthy neighborhoods. I’m angry with the reality that if this fight was taken to the neighborhoods of the real owners, there would be a thousand deaths at the hands of the police. I’m angry that in my entire lifetime, and the lifetimes of every ancestor since 1492, there has never been peace or a time or place of safety and security for us. I’m angry that despite providing him with the education and basic trappings of middle-classness, I am still afraid for the life of my son, each and every day & that I’ve grown old listening to the same bullshyte from people who in no way really see me or my kin as free and equal human beings, as deserving of ALL of life’s opportunities as they expect for themselves and their loved ones.
Treat us with dignity and respect and give us ALL of the opportunities for a few hundred years, and then we can talk. Until then, get over yourselves and LISTEN to what you’re being told. Accept it as truth because 500 years of the story you tell yourselves is destroying us all.
And in case anyone isn’t getting this, I’m not saying that ghettoized people can’t or don’t share some of your values. My comments address YOUR expectations, lack of inquiry, or empathy.

One Week To The Day: Life After Raymond

This morning as I started taking my shower, I reached for the washcloth and realized it wasn’t anywhere in the tub. I was completely confused until I realized that that was the cloth I had used to clean Raymi’s blood-brown stained face, one week ago today. That it had been a week since I’d fully bathed. That a day or two ago I’d washed my hair in the kitchen sink because he’d come to me two days after his death, and after a long night of memories and healing and love, he’d told me to wash my hair, and I did, but downstairs, in fear of being unable to stand in the tub long enough to wash my substantial mop of locs without the chronic pain I’ve been in since falling from a ladder.

That one week ago at this time of day, things were normal and I hadn’t yet awakened to find that we had not both overslept, but instead I’d find a cold, dead husband.

It will get better. That’s what they tell me and that’s what I know after nearly seven decades of cycles, phases, and changes. Ebbs and flows, round and round. Earlier this morning I laughed at something funny a friend had posted. It came naturally, but felt and sounded odd. Why do I even question the need for joy and guiltily shy away from a thing he loved to hear me do? I hate this culture that denies everything real, but pain will not be denied. Physical or mental, pain is non-negotiable.

It’s spring and everything except my Rayo-Mateo is springing into life (is that why it’s called spring? Never got that till now, or if I did, it was forgotten in the vast array of trivia and minutiae that make up a life. Surely Miss Mason would have taught her first grade pupils such things, way back in the days of a fairly classical education in public schools.) You can see that I drift a lot now. I also sit on the side of the bed we shared, trying to focus on things that needed doing but I don’t care about now. That includes the subtle errors in grammar my Sarah Lawrence trained ears note as I write this.

It is spring and the blue jay is calling, robins are chirping, and the bird that sounds like a whippoorwill but probably isn’t is sounding its sad song. It’s not the mourning dove- I hear her too, but later, when the others are more quiet. There’s a bird whose chirp sounds taunting, but it’s not a mockingbird. I don’t know what orioles sound like but I’ve seen them in the trees at times.

The hens need tending, I’ve meds to take, and sun’s up now, waiting for me to get dressed. Innocent Black people are still being murdered as regular American life just goes right on.

It all goes on. I’m not sure how or even why, but it does go on.

4/15/21

It Must Be February!

Cool list of Black films (see below) including several that I love (Set it off is centered on the friendship between a group of Black women who wouldn’t seem to be compatible, and that was strikingly wonderful when it was made) but a few of these movies (Set It Off- hello!) have trauma!
Are we so used to Black lives being shown as only trauma centered and motivated, that films that have any relief within it blinds us to the still visible, ongoing pain being presented?
Somebody needs to read, starting with Nikki Giovanni’s “Nikki Rosa” poem. Then move on to the literary disagreements between Richard Wright and Zora Neal Hurston! And don’t stop there- we have Sci Fi, Romance, Coming of Age, Tales of Heroism, and every other story genre known. Check it out 😉

Believe me, we are fully developed humans of depth. We are not only the pain inflicted upon us.

Grow up, America.

https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/movies-about-black-joy-48137615

Re: meme addiction

Sisters and Brothers in Bernie:
Please contact me if you now need the number for the Bernie Anonymous 12 Step Program 🙏🏾
Be aware that you my have to wait to be assigned a sponsor as they are dealing with unprecedented numbers of Bernie meme addicts.
Please note that if attending a socially distanced face to face meeting, you will be required to bring your own metal folding chair.
You can break free and go on to understand the deeper meaning of Bernie and democratic socialism.
Thank you.

🎉 New Holiday Proposal

I hereby propose that every January 20 is declared a National Day of Bernie. We shall post memes, eat celebratory foods, wrap up in our warmest clothing, including ritual mittens (preferably hand knit by sweet grammar school teachers.)

An addressed manila envelope shall be one of the ritual tools and held throughout the ceremony. A symbolic sparrow/Sankofa may be placed in front of the participant.

Celebrants will sit on metal folding chairs with arms folded until the Parade of 1 Percenters begins, at which point a chorus of “Pay your taxes”; Medicare for All; and “Get off my lawn”

Following the parade and shouting, celebrants should put away their chairs and rush to the Post Office (USPS only- we support the postal workers, a large percentage of whom are military veterans. However, we can consider bringing signs and standing in front of mail companies owned by the 2% and that aren’t unionized/pay a livable wage.)

Following the public rituals, people will return to their homes tp eat the traditional foods that can include deli foods, lox, maybe a nice brisket for sandwiches, etc. (Various other “soul foods” of the world are absolutely to be enjoyed as this is a non-xenophobic holiday celebrating our indigenous and international roots)

Grievances may be aired throughout the day and should include the ritual hands gestures. The holiday is ended with a glass of water and bicarbonate of soda or a cup of hot ginger-honey tea.

MY FATHER, FRED

My father was a spit polished, sharp as a tack man. Always! He was Victorian era polite and honorable, but also willing to be silly and fun. He believed that Logic and Science could save us, but was also a truly great romantic. He taught me to play poker and waltz and Marquis of Queensbury Rules. He was a great man, imo. I never felt unloved by him, even in my seriously alienated teen period when it was just annoying rather than comforting.
He was an original purveyor of Dad Jokes, the guy who taught himself to play Stride piano, and who would do Cossack dances to the Radetsky March. He was the outgoing opposite of my introverted mother, and she was often amused by his antics, especially with us. I would catch her smiling, just slightly, her nearly black eyes shining with love as he frolicked with us: playing board or made up games, teaching us about dinosaurs, or watching monster movies together on the sofa. They quarreled often and as a child, that was more understandable to me than that glint in her eyes. It took becoming an adult to begin to understand the fierce love that they shared for more than fifty years, until her death. His devotion to her throughout the horrors of cancer completely altered my understanding of love in action and what devotion means and even now, brings moisture to my abnormally dry eyes, both emotionally and physically.

My father was the epitome of devotion when it came to his family. Working the night shift at Standard Oil in Bayonne meant years of busing and walking for miles when the buses didn’t run. He learned to drive and bought a car when I was small, and he drove me everywhere I needed to go, whenever possible, picking me up in Brooklyn every week after I married, so I could shop in Jersey where there were no taxes on food and clothing, and spend time with the family. This was not his dream for me, but he never expressed his disappointment in any way and did everything he could to lend support and encouragement to me, patiently teaching my first husband about basic household repairs and indirectly advising patience and kindness as the basis of enduring love.

My parents had five kids as well as the care of his mother and an elderly cousin, but Pop always made room for kin who needed him, he and my mom working on budgets late into the night, finding ways to send funds to family who might be in crisis, taking in neighborhood kids whose families were temporarily unable to care for them. I found out after his death that the beloved elder who lived with us had come north after Emancipation but had been re-enslaved by an evil employer. My father and his brothers organized and literally broke her out of the locked room where she was kept when not working. The only relative who owned his house at the time, there was no question as to where she would go. She lived with us comfortably, for the rest of her life, a sweet and kindly foil to her younger contemporary, my cantankerous grandmother.

His lifelong dream was to have land and create a family compound- each with their own home, elders cared for by all, kids, animals, gardens all cared for, all healthy and thriving.

Daddy promoted personal discipline and was almost military in his adherence to physical and moral discipline. A boxer in his youth, he’d aspired to the Golden Gloves, but family responsibilities intervened. He continued to skip rope and exercise every day until his late eighties. He was a good Christian who rarely attended church, but lived New Testament values and The Golden Rule.

I could go on for pages about his life and work, but this is not the place for that. I just wanted to pay homage on what would have been his lucky 108th birthday- one that he fully expected to see, as dying was not in his meticulous plans. How many times did he tell me that he’d never die, and in some sense he was right: he lives in my mirror and my son’s family devotion. Corny jokes and music evoke his spirit on a regular basis, as does every neat and dapper old guy I see. Every time my little granddaughter writes a play, belts out a song, or expresses her love of math- my father is there and I know the truth of his saying that the good that we create is matter and never ends, it only changes form. ❤️

The Day After

I’m not a fan of Biden or Harris (of course I voted for them- I’m neither stupid nor unresponsive to my Ancestors) but the emotional responses to the historical moment have been deeply touching to me. Coming off of the barren chaos and cruelty of the Trump years, we are bonded by relief and a lessening of fear and near despair. Akin to veterans of a nebulous, yet danger filled, murderous war fought on multiple fronts, we share this exhalation with an entire world that is celebrating: dancing in the streets- masked and distancing even as they jump and twirl; bells ringing in Paris; fireworks in London, pujas in India. There is a universal sigh of relief that is unknown since Hitler was defeated in WW2. If we weren’t also in a pandemic, I have no doubt that people would be kissing strangers and embracing one another in sheer joy.

How not to be moved as an entire world breathes a sigh of relief, knowing that the struggle continues while praying that Trump’s unsurpassed cruelty and indifference will not result in yet more innocent deaths before he is dragged from the White House for his walk of shame- a universally despised grifter who exposed the racist, misogynist, frightened underbelly of the nation, corrupted its morals, and destroyed the prestige and trust much of the world held for this nation. Xenophobia, homophobia, anti-intellectualism, and flat out backwardness- hell of a legacy for the “land of the free, home of the brave.” The deaths of a quarter million souls and the indescribably cruel separation from their families and horrific mistreatment of children should haunt him and this country for a lifetime.

But that presumes a conscience or empathy and he has none. Do we? Now’s the time to prove it.

So we celebrate, not only his ouster, but the possibility that at least some amends and rectifications can be made to all the victims of this modern reign of Caligula, and that Justice, generosity, honesty, and human kindness are again valued and aspirational goals.

May Biden and Harris both rise to the occasion and aim to be every good thing projected onto them, and may the negative trance be lifted from the people.

Pre Holiday PSA

Before our contentious elections and in anticipation of our pivot towards holiday sentimentality, I want to take a moment to implore people to show some basic consideration for those who may differ from you. We’re living through a period of social, ethical, and climate upheavals and it’s imperative that even when deposing our enemies, we are fueled by love for others, not hatred for some.

I’m not always sure of how our biases develop, but I want you to take a moment to ask yourselves why you feel the need to persecute people whose tastes differ from yours. Even if you feel differently, people have the right to eat and enjoy, even prefer Candy Corn to other treats. We don’t have to understand or join them, we have only to live and let live.

So during this season of Halloween fun, and especially this year as we shelter at home, perhaps separated from those we love during holidays associated with family and feasts, I ask you to look onto your hearts and make peace with your Candy Corn eating friends and relatives. In the name of peace and sugary sweets around the world, let there be Peace on Earth, and let it begin with the Candy Corn haters ✌🏽