“Middle of the road” < I’ve taken pride in using that phrase to describe my political position through the years. I’ve put down extremists both right and left. I wanted to be more open minded than that. I wanted to be fair and balanced and see all sides of things. That’s a fucking cop out.
While I stand by the belief that things are rarely black and white, they are sometimes right or wrong.
Denying people basic human rights based on their sex, sexual preference, socioeconomic class, or the color of their skin = wrong.
The police repeatedly killing unarmed black people=wrong.
Presenting black on black crime as an argument in the fight against police brutality=gas lighting =wrong.
Saying “all lives matter” = so very fucking wrong! “All” lives DON’T matter UNTIL BLACK LIVES MATTER TOO!!!
What’s so hard to understand about that? Ask yourself why you need to find a loophole in a statement as simple as “black lives matter”. Why can’t we say “black lives matter” PERIOD. END OF STATEMENT.
Ok, let me back track…This touches on some of the things mentioned in my last post. I’ve always had strong beliefs. I always felt an internal pull toward what I believed at my core to be right.
Through some of my years, for reasons I won’t get into now, I became disconnected from spiritual beliefs and practices, and whatever loving force it was that had guided me, was silenced. Or at least somewhat muted.
A little over 15 years ago I had an experience (the specifics of that I also won’t get into right now) that created a clearly defined “before and after” in the story of my life. While it may not be the only before/after moment I have experienced, it is probably one of, if not the most significant.
The “after” part of said experience, led to that connection to a higher power being awakened. That in turn also led to turning the volume up on the inner voice that spoke to me of right and wrong.
>Enter social media< Now here I am coming back to life. My voice found. All my senses stimulated and opinions forming on everything. Oh good, and now I have a platform! Haha, I couldn’t wait to share my thoughts on all that I deemed important happening in the world. Especially politics. 😬
I was aghast to find out there were actually people in the world, in my community, no wait a second…in my own family…that didn’t see things the same as me.
Luckily they had me to educate them through articles, you tube videos, and the ever so clever memes. I was also sanctimonious enough to feel free to engage them in battle in the comment section of the things they themselves posted and was completely flabbergasted that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t make them see the light.
*Lessons in humility…As I began to realize that among these people who didn’t view the world the same as me, were people I downright loved AND respected, I had to ask myself if perhaps I was missing something. That maybe my way of seeing things, wasn’t the only way. Interesting. I have to think about this.
Hmmm. So perhaps it is not my appointment in life to be an armchair warrior and make it my mission to strong arm these people into changing their opinions. Maybe, I should just live my life doing the next right thing, and accept people for who they are and where they are at.
Utilizing this tactic was not a bad idea in regard to many a topic. It worked well for a while, but like every other aspect of life, it requires balance. At some point I drifted over to apathy. For my own personal comfort it became easier and easier to be non confrontational, regardless of how strongly I believed something.
When does respecting others opinions and remaining quiet become signing off on the very thing you feel called to fight against. Where is the balance in that?
What do you do when you realize you’ve been standing in the middle of the road by yourself. That the very people you were trying to remain neutral for, have never been neutral at all. They have clearly chosen a side and it is not the side, that in your heart, you are on.
How do you reevaluate some of the most important relationships in your life?
This post comes with no tidy wrap up. No simple solution. I leave it here, completely unfinished…
This post is days in the making. Words have been rattling around my head, unable to stay still long enough to fall into place. Just when I think I’ve pinned them down, the winds of change blow and they scatter like a pile of loose leaves.
While I find my place in this moment of time, this mind blowing, devastatingly horrific, but in many other ways long overdo moment in time, I pray to express myself as accurately as I possibly can.
I have lived a life. It’s been filled with many experiences. I have seen things both beautiful and ugly. I have felt joy and pain. Comfort and discomfort.
These are broad statements that I believe most anyone can identify with, but my ugly goes deep, my pain has gone deep, and the uncomfortable place I existed in for so long, felt like a prison I’d never escape.
Now if you read my last post it sounds as if I had a childhood of privilege, white or otherwise. In many ways I did, but like I said before, I’ve lived a life. Or maybe what I really meant to say was, I’ve lived many lives. That’s probably more accurate.
This isn’t really a post to talk about my pain though, I’m just attempting to create a window into some of what played a part in creating the perspective I view the world with.
Again such a broad stroke of the brush…I’ve thrown myself into a vast sea of memories, creating ripples in all directions. Let me narrow it down. Let me talk about what’s on all our minds these days. Racism.
When I was 5 years old, in kindergarten, I only had one friend. His name was Louis and we played together during recess every day. One day my great grandmother had to pick me up early from school and walked out to the playground to fetch me. She found me playing on the monkey bars with Louis. I excitedly introduced her to my friend and though I can’t recall anything that may have been said, I somehow sensed her disapproval. I felt like I’d done something wrong. Louis was black. The only black child in our school.
Louis wasn’t there anymore come first grade and I didn’t see another black person in my town until high school. And even then it was only one brother and sister from the only black family in town. I didn’t make another friend who wasn’t white until I was a teenager dating a boy from a neighboring town whose best friend was Puerto Rican. Jose and I became close friends. He was a kind, caring, protective friend. One day he came to my town and my grandmother met him. Again I sensed that unspoken disapproval.
The women who raised me weren’t hateful women, yet they supported systemic racism. I heard the conversations where it was mentioned that the town I lived in was built after World War II for the returning G.I.’s. For the white ones that is, they flat out wouldn’t sell to “blacks”. That was just the facts. I’d also heard it said that the early bridges on the parkways had purposely been built low to prevent the busses coming in from the city. The busses coming from the city would be carrying “blacks”.
These were accepted truths of the seventies, the civil rights movement only the decade before. People of color were still very much being kept separate and so very far from equal.
Even in memories of my young years, something inside me knew to push against that line of thinking. Somewhere other subconscious influences were at work. I’m sure some peace, love, and flower power seeds had been planted in my psyche as well. The sad truth was, I just simply didn’t have much exposure to diversity for many years.
Fortunately for me, I’ve always been a seeker. A seeker of experiences, and that need to experience the world, opened up a world where I met all different kinds of people. Not all the experiences I sought out were good, and not all brought me pleasure. The places I went and people I met have not always been safe or smart choices. I’ve learned from them all though. I never remained in the protective bubble of a hometown where everyone looked like me, and that shaped me in ways and gave me insights in ways nothing else could have.
Fast forward to twenty years ago when I arrived in my current hometown. A special little spot on the end of an island, different from the rest of it. A place I had childhood ties to and somewhere in my heart I always knew I’d return.
I say hometown, but in reality it is a handful of idyllic small towns that together create a unique community. It is largely white, with the exception of one of the small seaside towns being extremely diverse. While it has seen it’s share of strained race relations through the years, struggles with an all white police force, and some stand alone incidents that scream bias, there is also the connections that grow between people who share lifelong experiences together through the years. This town is special, and it’s always been ahead of itself in the learning to live side by side with our fellow humans department. I truly believe this.
Ahh, but as I said this is only one little town amongst the several that make up the area. The rest being as white and privileged as can be. Where all their neighbors look just like them and while they’d never dream of using the “N” word, they sometimes when speaking of racial issues let a “those people” slip out.
Twenty years ago when I moved here I moved smack into one of their lily white neighborhoods. Myself and my three small children were welcomed and embraced. I lived there peacefully for months, I don’t think my neighbors had even noticed I started dating a black man from the town next door. They noticed when I invited his family over for a 4th of July bbq though. They noticed the black children splashing in the waters edge at the dead end private beach we had access to living in that neighborhood. They noticed and they didn’t like it.
These same people that had welcomed me, now held angry secret conversations and pressed the women who had rented to me to get me out. What ensued would become a battle involving the town’s “Anti Bias Task Force” and eventually resulted in the homeowners selling the property they had inherited from their parents, to avoid any further issues.
The long and short of it, I was removed from a neighborhood for unnecessary blackness. My first time being personally, negatively impacted by racism.
Through these last twenty years I have continued to call this place home. I take pride in both the natural beauty of where I live and the strong community ties I have created. This is a good place. People do care about each other and I have witnessed many examples that highlight that good.
Clearly though, it’s not perfect. I also have had further experiences of not just racism, but sexism, and classism as well. Injustice sucks. Feeling oppressed sucks. However the truth of the matter is I don’t have to wear it for the whole world to see. The color of my skin allows me the ability to shake it off and blend in. I also don’t have 400 years of oppression weighing me down as I try to move through this world. So I am aware this is a small comparison.
The weight of what i did carry though was heavy enough to grow tired. Tired enough to take advantage of the privilege my fair skin offered me, especially after a nasty divorce from my black husband. I quietly blended in amongst my neighbors and let go of any fight I had left in me.
I’ve enjoyed the peace that has allowed me. I live a beautiful life today, free to touch and taste all that is good. I do not take this for granted. I moved quietly amongst my neighbors, doing nothing to disrupt the tranquility of this beautiful place.
The women of this community are my peers. They are the mother’s of my children’s friends and schoolmates. They came to know me from meetings, and field trips, and fundraisers, and gatherings out and about town. They have treated me nicely, and it feels good to be accepted and fit in. The majority of these women, like myself, are white.
One summer I was included in a group text of about 15 of these women, meant to be used to let us all know who was at what local beach. The group took on a life of its own. Beyond meeting up for beach days, we began to celebrate birthdays together, and do an annual Christmas party. We shared about things happening in our lives and celebrated the good and showed one another support through the bad.
I became closer to some and some I associated with strictly through the group. Some personalities I found a little jarring, and several had opposing political views, but overall these were good women. They saw the world from their own perspectives, because that’s what we all tend to do.
I don’t regret creating friendships with people who see things differently from me, what I regret is not feeling confident enough to speak my own truths when I vehemently disagreed with turns the conversation would occasionally take.
I began to tell myself that “quietly” stating my own beliefs and living my life “appropriately” was enough. I bought into “live and let live”, which I suppose could be fine if we were all living on an even playing field. We are not. Plain and simple, we are not.
In 8 minutes and 46 seconds I awakened to the realization that silence IS violence. That injustice for one is injustice for all. That I have a need and a desire to be a part of this moment. That this moment can slip away if we don’t fight for change with all we’ve got, and that means not remaining silent as I read the words “thugs” and “animals” being spoken amongst this group of women. Some who can’t help but counter “black lives matter” with “all or blue lives matter”.
These are not my people. And that is not the conversation I want to be a part of. So on Tuesday night, when one shared the information in regard to the local protest scheduled for the following day and some began to express frustration with “those people”, and a couple spoke disparagingly of the young man who organized this call to action, I could not remain a silent observer any longer.
“I will be there” is the last thing I typed before removing myself from the group text I had been a part of for years. “Deanna has left the conversation. Tuesday 10:02“ .
My silence, while remaining in that conversation spoke of who I didn’t want to be. My leaving it screamed loudly of who I hope to become.
I have since protested side by side with my biracial daughter, who struggles to find her place in this world, as people tell her “you’re lucky you look white”. I am watching my adult daughters living in different areas approach this with a fierceness that serves to fuel the fire in my own heart. While one is on top of providing information to change legislation, how to educate yourself on who to vote for if it’s change you want, and grassroot initiatives to begin disassembling systemic racism in America, the other is ready to burn shit down. She has deemed herself a medic, packing supplies and heading to the front lines of large scale protests, ready to help whoever is in need. She also has donated generously to causes that support the movement. Both angry. Both passionate. Both necessary.
No justice. No peace. Change is painful, and this country needs change. I will not speak on condemning protester’s violence or on how pointless looting and rioting is, when the police are responding to protests AGAINST police brutality, by engaging in police brutality. I will not speak on anything but the cause that has set these current events in motion. You don’t like this violence? Let’s stop the violence that is police brutality. Let’s stop seeing the color of someone’s skin as a weapon. When a large black man is seen as a threat before anything has even happened, what chance is there for peace?
When a man can be lynched on a street in broad daylight, by four uniformed officers, as onlookers film it and those who attempt to intervene are threatened with mace, I will not quietly stand by and listen to “well that’s awful but people rioting and looting has to stop”. How about “people rioting and looting is awful, but police killing unarmed black people has to stop”.
George Floyd is only one in a long list of names we should be saying, but it his name that is the straw that broke the camel’s back. It is his face, painted in murals around the world, that is sparking a revolution. This can not continue. We must rise together and fight against these killings. This is not black people’s fight. This is humanity’s fight. There is a knee on the neck of humanity and WE CAN’T BREATHE!!!
Yesterday I went to the local market, checking out at the same time as me, was a woman I knew from around town. We are not friends, but our paths have crossed through the years. I knew her daughter was one of the strong, incredibly inspiring speakers at the protest I attended the day before. As we both headed out the door I stopped her to say how proud she should be of the leader her daughter has emerged to be.
She thanked me, and we continued to walk in the same direction. She is a black woman the same age as me. In the span of those few blocks we spoke of our children, some of our hopes and fears for them, and how sick we are of what’s happening in the world. We parted ways with a “stay safe out there” to each other.
It was both a simple, yet profound short walk. I reflected on the “conversation” I had recently left and thought how I didn’t leave that conversation to stay silent. I left it to be a loud unapologetic voice against racism.
I implore you not to let this moment pass. Don’t just repost short clips or quotes, without knowing the whole context. Follow black influencers on social media. Follow accounts that are fighting for change. Read black literature. Learn the history. Black history in America is American history. We need to educate ourselves and we need to vote. Know what your legislators support. Get involved with local politics. Speak up when you witness racism. Walk and talk with people who don’t look like you, and stand beside them and fight for a better world.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.
I know when I shared my “No really, I’m Italian” post, I left off with a teaser for what would be part two of my dna tales. Then my ex-wedding anniversary rolled around (2nd marriage for those keeping count of marriages I mention in posts), which brought with it several years worth of fb “on this day” memories. My favorite being the eulogy I wrote on behalf of the family betta fish who perished on what was technically (we were still married that year, though estranged) anniversary number ten. I decided it was too fun not to share, so that interrupted my flow.
Now I could easily get on with it and deliver the sequel in this post, but with it being Memorial Day Weekend (the unofficial start of summer season) and having spent some recent quality off season time in Montauk, I have something else on my mind.
All these lovely new Montauk memories I’ve made lately, have me fondly recalling Montauk memories from long ago, as well as other memories by the sea. They are the best part of my childhood, and my grandmother is all wrapped up in them. That’s what I feel like writing about today.
In reality I was a little landlocked in the middle class suburban town I was being raised in, but that didn’t stop us from making some seaside memories. Luckily I had a grandmother and great grandmother who were quick to load up a car and head for the shore.
Trips to Montauk were a favorite, hence what kicked off this trip down memory lane. They consisted of day trips to the lighthouse with a stop for lunch, or weekend getaways to a small beachside motel, to the more luxurious pampering of Gurneys. In season or off season, this was where my problems ceased to exist. This is where it was easy to stay in the moment. The good, beautiful, safe moments.
Montauk was not the only seaside escape though, there was the more exotic travel to Aruba. I was a tall for my age, well developed 14 year old, so often uncomfortable in my own skin, but here I stood confidently. Ernesto the pool boy flirted with me. I hopped a private plane for a day trip to Bonaire, where I snorkeled and dined surrounded by flamingos. I sipped virgin pina coladas and danced under the stars to Lionel Richie’s All Night Long, my insecurities a million miles away.
Perhaps my favorite though, long before the tween Montauk escapes, or the teenage journey to the A-B-C islands in the Caribbean Sea, were the trips which required the least travel time. Jones Beach.
Now I may not have technically lived in a beach town, “technically” <haha, it just straight up wasn’t a beach town….but fortunately, Jones beach was a hop, skip, & a jump away!
Far enough to plan, pack, and spend the whole day there, but close enough to jump in the car on a whim and drive during a storm, just to watch (from a safe distance) the wild waves crashing on the shore.
I was merely a young child, yet the power the sea possessed was not lost on me. Even on the hottest of summer days, when everyone flocked to the beach and gathered in the water to seek relief from the unrelenting sun beating down, I knew what the ocean could do.
I waded out a little further and then just a little bit further. I bravely stood my ground as the waves rolled toward me. Sometimes I would jump at just the right moment and I’d gently ride the wave up and down. Sometimes I’d brace myself as it washed over me, and as much as I tried to dig my feet in, that wave would knock me right on my ass. There would be moments of panic…A blur of confusion, some salt water swallowed, seaweed and sand in uncomfortable places. Sometimes I’d barely get my head above water before the next wave knocked me down again.
After a while, when it became too much, I’d crawl exhausted to the safety of the shore. I’d make my way back to my grandmother, and our blanket. There I would rest and relax, until feeling up to venturing back to the shore’s edge. “Stay where the lifeguard can see you, and remember where I am” she would say, as I set off once again toward the unpredictable sea.
These earliest seaside memories are what I would later recall as life lessons when times got rough and I felt tossed about. Years after she was gone, it was the image of my beautiful, sun kissed grandmother on her beach blanket, arms extended toward me, that I would meditate on when I didn’t know what else to do.
Even physically gone, she serves as my refuge when life knocks me around to the point of making it difficult to catch my breath, and leaves me a little confused and uncomfortable. “Stay where the lifeguard can see you, and remember where I am”, I can hear her say.
And just as her memory serves as a port in a storm, she is as much in the delicate sea breeze that gently kissed my cheek during the recent joyful days making new memories in Montauk.
Wishing everyone a 2020 season of making some new happy seaside stories of your own.
No really, I’m Italian, is a phrase I’ve repeated more times than I could ever count. The reason this statement had to be repeatedly stated was due to the disbelief one would express upon hearing it from me the first time I would say, “I’m Italian”.
Blonde hair, green eyes, alabaster skin, with freckles…”I’m Italian”.
Ok, ok, I get where it might seem unlikely, but then I would explain that my mother’s mother was the product of a German mother and English father, and my father’s mother was English as well, therefore accounting for the light hair, skin, and eyes. I would go on to further explain that both my father’s father and mother’s father were as Italian as can be.
While I may have been born with features from the one side, I truly believed with the male line so strong, my personality favored the Italian side. I was certain my hair trigger temper, and animated way of speaking, proved this point.
So there you have it…No really, I’m Italian.
Fast forward to my approaching 50th birthday. In an attempt to avoid any well meaning surprise parties, decorated with “over the hill” banners and gag gifts, I thought let’s have an adventure worthy of marking such a significant milestone.
Now I already told you my half time theory in my other post, so what better place to celebrate the new beginning of my 2nd half of life, than getting in touch with my roots on a solo European journey.
Obviously Italy it is! Also I figured England. I chose these two since I have ancestors on both sides from these places and feel the most connected to these nationalities. Germany would have to wait. Brilliant! All that’s left to do is narrow down where exactly I should visit in these two countries. I’d like to get as close to my actual roots as possible. A real full circle kind of experience.
To assist me in pinpointing locations I may have an ancestral connection to, my oldest daughter thought it would be fun to send an early Christmas gift …ancestry dna…what a great idea!
I spit in the tube, filled out the label, and mailed it off promptly. A few weeks later I would really experience the full impact of my daughter’s gift.
It was 1am in a midtown Manhattan diner, and I was about to dig into some cheesy fries, as I got the ping ~ your results are in~ “my results are in” I loudly shared with anyone within earshot.
I pulled them up and began to read, my friend across from me waiting to hear, along with the waiter, and surrounding tables.. just like I thought, pretty much a three way split of nationalities….the smallest slice of the pie, German. Then a considerable sized piece of English. And my biggest slice…Irish. Wait. What?! Where’s my Italian?
“Where’s my Italian?“ became the $100 question. It turned into a lively debate amongst the staff and fellow patrons about the accuracy of these tests. As well as inspired dna result tales of what happened to friends of friends and so forth. I thought there must be an explanation. I mean, clearly I’m Italian…Right?
Not being able to grasp a quick reasonable explanation, but truly believing there must be one, I dramatically, and rather playfully, resorted to the most obviously scandalous, and declared “my whole life a lie”. I then proceeded to share that revelation with the Uber driver, the hotel doorman, and the folks in the elevator on the way up to my floor.
When I woke that morning, my first thought was (you guessed it), “where’s my Italian”. I grabbed my phone, pulled up the ancestry dna app, and gave things a more thorough review. It turns out that aside from the breakdown of your dna story, ancestry also provides you with dna matches. I had been vaguely aware of this, and knew to expect a ton of 4th and 5th cousin matches.
As I read about how relationships are measured and what categories they fell into, I realized that amongst this long list of unfamiliar names, were matches with so many centimorgans between myself and them they fell into the half sibling, first cousin, and aunt & uncle ranges.
Time for answers. Time to call my Aunt Holly…my teller of truths, the one person I could always count on to give me the straight story! From my earliest questions of trying to figure out the family dynamics, to where do babies come from, to any taboo topic that fell under the category of “things you want to know but are too embarrassed to ask”, she was my go to.
I was in Penn Station waiting for my train by the time I got in touch with her. She was, as always, very matter of fact. “What could this possibly mean?”, I asked her as I finished the dna results tale from the evening before. “Well, Deanna..it’s obvious what it means!”, was her response.
And just like that I realized my hot blooded (so called Italian) temper and fast talking ways, actually were attributed to my being the fighting Irish and having the gift of gab…hmmm…now a lot makes sense. Including these green eyes and freckles.
I reached out to my closest match, a female about ten years younger than me, and between her responses to my questions and the memories of the past my aunt shared, I began to piece together the story of my paternity. By the time I pulled into my train station, I didn’t just have an Italian dad, I had a bonus Irish dad…and the latter came along with an additional six siblings. Add them to the baby sis mom blessed me with, who I always knew about (wellll…almost always knew, she was about three, I was about 10…I can explain, another time though) and I’m now one of eight! Well this is unexpected.
Fun fact…four were younger, but two were (barely) older! While the younger four were products of my father’s marriage with his eventual life long wife (I should mention he passed away three years prior to my discovery) and presumably “settled down” years, myself and the older two were all born to teen moms, impregnated over the course of a year. Two of us he was never aware of, and one mom he married. However the young marriage dissolved fairly quickly.
Alrighty then, this isn’t too weird. Oh wait, it gets weirder. He spent his whole life a town away and raised those four half siblings, 3 sisters and a brother there. A town I frequented regularly. Some might say they were my old stomping grounds. Dammmn did I stomp them grounds!
Can’t get much weirder than that. Right? Oh but it can…My oldest sister was raised in another neighboring town. Well most of the time, you know, except when she was living in the SAME town!! Like come on now, seriously!
Basically the only sibling not running around the same hood, was my brand new big brother, whose teen mom was a hippy chick flitting through town. She was in a far away state by the time she realized her mother-to-be condition, and gave him up for adoption, which landed him smack in the middle of the mid west.
So why did my mom not name daddy dearest and instead provided me with just enough info to mange to track down Italian dad, as an angsty teen? I believe bio Irish dad was just a one time, hazy, backseat memory and my own hippy dippy mom thought she couldn’t possibly be wrong claiming I belonged to the 19 year old musician she’d actually been dating for months. In all fairness this was the end of the sixties…’nuff said.
Not wanting to throw Italian dad under the bus, I should explain the reason for him needing to be tracked down 14 years after my birth is not a reflection of his unwillingness to participate in my arrival on this earth. It is however a story for another day. Not only because I should resist the urge to veer off on a side story, but also because it is a story worthy of standing on its own and deserves to be told independent from this dna debacle tale.
Spoiler alert though..it has a happy ending. Kind of can’t help but give that part of that story up when I mention during this part of this story, that the hardest part of this whole experience was having to tell Italian dad about Irish dad.
What happened when I did, you ask…I received, hands down, some of the best parenting I ever received in my life. He said everything that the one time abandoned, repeatedly rejected, uncertain of her place in this world child, that sometimes still lives inside me, needed to hear. And for that I will be forever grateful.
The new sibs…A stand on its own story if ever there was one! More shall most certainly be revealed, but for now I will say that with some the relationships have progressed farther and faster than others, and some are completely resistant to anything at all. Regardless of how fast or slow the bond is forming, with each one I’ve met, I feel a connection. A connection to them, and to their children. These are my people and I’m so grateful to know them or at least know they’re out there.
Speaking of my people, there’s been some changes to my birthday itinerary…. Goodbye Italy and hello Ireland. Goodbye solo adventure, and hello a few new siblings trip!
Wow, that was a lot to come out of one little dna test. Ohhhh, but wait just a stinking minute!! Didn’t I say my grandfather on my mother’s side was all Italian? Shouldn’t that count for something? Hmmm….I guess there’s a part two coming in the next blog post and it obviously starts with the question, “where’s my Italian?”! 😉
It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I’m thinking about my mothers…I’ve had grands, and greats, and almost adopted, steps, and in-laws, and like a mom mothers, but I never had a Mommy, not even a Mama or a Ma.
Oh well, can’t waste my time longing for what never was, nor will ever be. Luckily I did have a Grammie and a Mimi to step up and in when my 17 year old “mom” dipped.
Mimi, who was 5’ nothing with big boobs and a tiny waist, was born in 1900 to German immigrants. She was one of a kind and she was Grammie’s mother. Grammie, who had her proper Englishman father’s height and clear blue eyes, but Mimi’s wild head of curls and stubborn streak, was my mother’s mother.
These are the two most influential women in my world. It’s because of them I know that even though sometimes mothers leave (and come back, and leave again, and so on), that sometimes people who say they love you, stay. It’s because of them I know that unconditional love is a real thing. They softened and smoothed the rough edges left by the carelessness of others.
It was the beginning of the summer of 1990, Mimi and I were having lunch in the backyard when I saw her hand begin to shake. I asked her what was wrong and she tried to say nothing. The shaking grew more violent and spread up her arm, her fingers uncontrollably twisted around the rosary beads she prayed on regularly, and almost always held.
She was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and remained in the hospital until summer’s end, passing away just weeks after I gave birth to my first child. So grateful for the just shy of twenty years I had her in my life.
Grammie remained my constant. She was there to celebrate every joy, and ease what burdens she could. She loved me at times, both in childhood and adulthood, when I was not very lovable. I thought she’d always be there. It seemed impossible there would come a time she wasn’t.
And then came the beginning of the end. The “end” spanned ten years. From diagnosis, down to the final days, I observed this woman of strength and dignity surrender the things she could no longer enjoy and accept the next phase with a graceful ease.
I was the lucky one. It was that last Friday evening I was alone with her that she experienced what hospice commonly refers to as the rally. For the last several weeks she had either been withdrawn, not speaking at all, or agitated and picking at the bed sheets nervously. Tonight was different as she sat up straight in her bed, pillows propped comfortably around her. Her pale blue eyes, that always so easily betrayed her emotion, whether it was with a flash of anger, or a deep sadness that could break your heart if you looked too long, now sparkled with life I hadn’t seen in months.
I had brought along a writing assignment to work on as I sat at her bedside, since typically her interaction was so minimal. This night she had surprised me when she turned to me and asked what I was doing. I explained the premise of the piece and then read it to her. It was personal and spoke of regrets and accountability and the gratitude to move forward and do better. She listened intently, and with a gentleness about her not frequently witnessed by many, she assured me of her love and pride in who I had become. Then much to my surprise she asked me to pray with her. As I held her hand in mine, I leaned over and laid my head on her chest. Together we said The Lord’s Prayer. With her free hand she smoothed the hair back off my forehead in a comforting gesture that took me back to childhood.
Afterwards we spoke of that childhood and many of the happy memories it held. From the exotic travels she took me on, to the simplicity of laying on our backs Christmas Eve watching the patterns dance across the ceiling from the twinkling tree lights. We laughed belly laughs about things that only we thought were funny, the inside jokes that stemmed from a life experienced together.
As it grew later and she was becoming tired, she occasionally glanced towards the corner, once asking me who the people over there were. I assured her it was only the light playing tricks with the shadows. I could see the energy draining from her and I was exhausted as well. I laid her bed back to the reclined position and readjusted her pillows. I tucked the blankets around her with care and pressed my lips to her forehead. I lingered there a second and appreciated the moment of connection, the sense of being grounded. As I pulled back I looked at her and realized she had always been what grounded me. I touched her face gently and I thanked her.
That was the last time she ever spoke. She slipped into a catatonic state and by Sunday I received the call telling me she had begun the active phase of dying. That’s how specifically hospice can break it down for you. They suggested the process could be anywhere from a few hours to a day or two.
I was in the garden with my youngest child when I took the call. “Do you have to go now?” She asked me as I hung up the phone. I gathered my thoughts as I looked around at the flats of pansies waiting to be planted, “no” I said “In a little bit, but not now”. Other family members were at my grandmother’s bedside now and I needed to be where I was, present in this moment out in the sun with Tia, our hands in the dirt. It was through participating in this springtime ritual of living I would gather the strength needed to be present for the dying.
The hospice nurse gave us instructions on how to proceed in caring for Grammie in these final hours. Once she had left, only myself, my Aunt Holly, cousin Haley, and my mother remained. Usual differences placed aside and each woman’s desire to be there for their own personal reasons respected by the others.
The hours stretched out and rolled into the next day. It seemed fitting that the sky was gray and subject to occasional downpours. I had put music on in her room from the big band era she loved, and my tears began to quietly fall as I sang along softly with ‘Till We Meet Again.
We had been taking turns sitting bedside, however as longer stretches elapsed between the breathes she struggled to take, we had all gathered around to say our final goodbyes. I sat to her right and held onto her hand. Eventually no more breathes came and within moments her skin grew cool to the touch. She was gone. Death had come quietly. She left this world with the same calm, dignified strength, by which she had lived. I glanced toward the corner and thought to myself that perhaps just as we had surrounded her to bid farewell, Mimi and the others were now welcoming her.
It is with so much love and gratitude that I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my Grammie & Mimi, who I’m sure are together again, and never really too far from me.
Ok, so I referred to my second post as my “introductory”, however the only thing I ever really introduced was the blog ideas I won’t be doing.
Next in an attempt to actually introduce myself, I somehow got the bright idea to start in the beginning ….as in the beginningest beginning possible …cue pregnant teen mom, her tale of woe, leading into my own twisted toddler years…Some really fun tales indeed, but upon giving it some actual consideration, this is not where I want to narrate some linear unfolding of my life story. So, three additional posts in, with a quick “delete, delete, delete”, here we are again.
I am banking on the fact that this is a brand new blog, which I haven’t even taken the time to complete my website for, and the chances of it getting more than a visit or two, are super slim. Those who are passing through, thanks so much for that and you are the witnesses to my early on, ever changing whims. The hope is that I will eventually hit a groove, and perhaps crank out something consistent, in the form of at least mildly entertaining. I find myself mildly entertaining on a regular basis, so here’s to translating that via an online blog. Haha, probably easier said than done. But we shall see…
Ok, so introducing myself for real…You can call me Dee Dee, or Dee, it’s short for Deanna. I spent years trying to shake the nickname Dee Dee, and now here I am, in middle age, embracing it. Ahhh, middle age…yup, that’s where I’m at. I’ve always said I believed I’d live to be at least 100, and I still believe it. Now that I’m fast approaching my 50th birthday (and I do mean fast, “time flies” is a factual statement), I truly consider it the midlife mark. All good though…so what if I’m in the senior years of my first half of life, I’m about to be in the infancy of my second half! And the awesome thing is, I DO KNOW NOW, what I’d wished I’d known then! Something tells me this is gonna be fun.
I get it, I know there’s all this society pressure on women that shames us into hating ourselves for getting older, that youth is the prize, but in regard to that I say…oh please, eff that!!
I’m plenty young. I’m young in all the ways that matter most. I’ve got tons more to learn, to see, to experience. I wasn’t always this young though. You know when I was old? When I was 25. I was so old then. I would look in the mirror and see the beginnings of fine lines around my eyes, and bags underneath them. The lines forming around my mouth, exaggerated with every drag of the cigarettes I chain smoked.
At 25 I had three children under the age of 5, the oldest with special needs, a crappy marriage < sorry to my ex for writing it like that, if you ever happen to read this. I mean really, I accept a lot of the responsibility for the “crappy” part.
When I wasn’t busy trying to embrace the role of wife and mother (key word “trying”), I waitressed and bartended. I was a slave to addictive behaviors that popped up in a multitude of ways and I was basically bluffing my way through life. Damn, that exhausted me to the point of numb. Yeah, I was old.
Now just about double that age, add in a shit ton of life experience, self discovery through both bad choices and good, and today you have me…A happy, fairly well adjusted, life loving, youthful woman. Today I show up and actually am the things I present myself to be. I am a mother. I am a marina manager. I am a friend who has incredible friends. I am a partner in a relationship. I am a lover of things that feed my soul, and excite my senses, from the music I listen to, to the places I travel, to the coffee I drink. I am so mutha f*ckin’ alive today, and I feel the good and the bad, with an intensity far superior to the anesthetic numbness I embraced during those early years when I was old.
And that my (hopefully there’s a couple of you) readers, is a brief synopsis of my story thus far. There’s so much more to tell though…because you know, the devil is in the details…😈
So this will technically appear as my second post, but in reality it is my third. It should really have been my first. My introductory if you will. I’ve never been one for doing things in order.
I have contemplated a blog for quite a while now. I did one a few years back. It was fun and successful, but that is because it was on a specific event and to a targeted audience. I was a lay person on a medical mission team. We traveled to Ecuador and stayed in a remote Amazonian village, Guadalupe. While there we used the local clinic, along with a box truck converted to a mobile operating room, to perform many relatively simple procedures. Gallbladders, Goiters, etc. I was allowed to scrub in, I held the hands of nervous patients, I was taught to pass without contaminating, I helped in any way I could. I was given the opportunity to be the proverbial fly on the wall listening to some of the most brilliant medical minds of our time, discuss future planned advancements in their mission work. Truly an incredible experience. Definitely one worth writing about.
Enough about that though. That was then, this is now. I’ve done some local mission work since, but none that has taken me out of the country. I had always planned on eventually traveling to Africa to continue that particular journey, but for now life has stalled that plan. Perhaps someday, never say never. When and if I do, I will no doubt write about it, however past trips and possible future trips, does not provide me something current to write about today. So, back to blog ideas for the present time.
One, positively brilliant-if I do say so myself, idea I had for a blog, was what I would have called… “Jade’s jaded adventures in Wonderland”…it would have been a chronicle of my tinder date experiences. Fun, fun!
Several years ago I went through what was a pretty horrific divorce. There I was in my early forties thrown back into the single girl world. Suffice it to say things had changed a lot since I had dated last and I was not only terribly out of practice, but a little knocked around emotionally from the level of betrayal I had experienced. Well, might as well jump into the dating pool with both feet. I quickly learned that nobody seemed to meet organically anymore. I downloaded the trending app, chose some pictures I thought were not only flattering, but represented my well rounded lifestyle and wrote a brief bio introducing myself to the online dating world.
I would soon come to find that the tinder men fell in two camps…1-looking for a “hook-up” or 2-looking for “the one”. Falling somewhere in between that myself, I erased my bio and changed to the tag line “I have no plan beyond coffee”. And that was the truth!
Oh the stories I have. Every blog post would be the details of a date in all its sitcom worthy awkwardness. Sometimes I could hear the laugh track in my mind. A select few made it to a second date, but a third was elusive. I occasionally accepted one, but would later bail. Good times!
Well, look at that, I’m back in the past again talking about what I could’ve done! Obviously I never did get around to putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, on that idea. And eventually a planned third date was kept. That gave way to a fourth and fifth and then the weeks rolled into months. Before I knew it, I had found myself in a relationship. There goes that blog idea.
So, my first post divorce relationship…almost three years of on and off again drama. Teenage angst in midlife never looked so good. He’s a story that might be worth telling, but I haven’t found my words yet. It was a complex connection, one that would take more space than I have here to explain. For now he shall stay privately tucked away and placed in a safe spot, maybe to be looked at later on another platform. We’ll see.
Back to the Mermaid inspiration for this blog…I live in a small seaside community. I have always felt drawn to the water for as far back as I can remember, and not only am I a stones throw from it at all times here in my hometown, but my current career consists of my being surrounded by boats, beach, and the sea. What a place to call your office. Resisting the urge to say “hashtag blessed” right now. < corny, I know! I am though…blessed that is. While individual details of my life, standing on their own as a singular experience, may look particularly challenging, I have been gifted with the Grace to see the good side of most things. The beauty in moments. I live a life I like, and I’m as happy alone as I am with a partner. As a matter of fact, I was beginning to think maybe even more so being alone.
Ahhh, but then it happened. This local boy sailed into my life, and everything changed. He was a fine sailor, who had been right under my nose. I didn’t find him on an app. I didn’t resist a second or third date with him. This sailor is far from perfect, but perfect enough for me. He is the sailor who I wrote of in my second, now deleted, post on this blog.
Why did I delete it? It was too out of order, even for me. And it was a sweet, personal memory. Not one to be shared from a place of hostile retaliation directed toward a past lover of his. It is real, and true, and mine to be held near to my heart always. When and if I share the tale, as it is my story to tell, it will be from a place purely of fond recall.
Now, about this past lover of his, enter “the mermaid”…yes, she fancies herself a mermaid, hence my previous mermaid hating post. Now I’m not usually the sort to display, or even have, such animosity toward an ex lover of my current lover. This one however, warrants an exception. Aside from mentioning that I landed here in WordPress due to her creative tagging of my boyfriend in some outlandish blog posts, I shall not use this time and space to shout out her list of atrocities, I’m just going to ask you to take my word for it.
As previously mentioned, being a lover of the sea, I am also a lover of the creatures that dwell in it. Seahorses hold a particular fascination. While their appearance seems almost magical enough to be as mythical as a mermaid, they are in fact real. Aside from being fascinating in all the very factual ways they are, the mythology behind them is equally delightful. As highlighted in that previous post the folklore between Seahorses and mermaids stands in sharp contrast to each other. It doesn’t take any deep pondering to see the points I am making there.
There you have it. I was upset with a meddling mermaid and took to a safe outlet to express my frustrations. I wrote a silly story, as opposed to acting out in any other way. In doing so, I was reminded how right it feels to express myself through the written word. I don’t lay claim to being any great writer, the next Hemingway I am not, but I can string together some words in a cohesive thought pattern to tell a story. Oh, and I’ve got stories…
If anybody stops by to read this, and hasn’t been bored to tears already, please stop by to read my next post. I have new ideas brewing for the direction of this blog. Not a one having to do with mermaids. I do owe her a debt of gratitude though for the inspiration. I guess it’s true, inspiration can be found in the damnedest of places…
When we think of mermaids we tend to think of Disney’s sweet Ariel. She is as kind and good as she is beautiful. She saves a drowning sailor and falls in love with him as she does so. She loves him so deeply that she is willing to sacrifice anything for them to be together…ahhh true love…but, yeah…no. That is not an accurate depiction of long standing folklore. In fact, it is the total opposite.
Mermaids are bad luck to sailors. To glimpse one is an omen of danger. To actually interact with one can mean doom. They summon the storms that cause ship wrecks, they drown sailors and trap them in an underworld where they are treated as slaves. The mermaid may initially appear as beautiful. They hide behind long flowing hair and a siren song, but upon closer observation they reveal their true form. They are hideous monsters. Their ugliness matching their horrific intentions.
Luckily there are Seahorses. The Seahorse is a magical, unique creature. They are powerful. Sacred to Poseidon. Greek mythology tells us that it is the Seahorse that keeps the sailors safe, and who stays by the side of a drowned sailor to accompany him from one world to the next, assuring he meets no further harm along the way. Now that sounds like true love.
With all that in mind, it’s no wonder that as much as mermaids are bad luck to sailors, the Seahorse is the ultimate symbol of good luck for a sailor.