What is a Mother

Traditionally, Mothers are women who inhabit or perform the role of bearing some relation to their children. Mothers can be biological, adoptive, step or even punitive. We all know that motherhood is not restricted to whom you have parented; it’s a woman’s universal symbol for unconditional love.

You may not be a mother, but you’ve certainly been a daughter and within the confines of womanhood lies the incomparable ability to nurture, rear, cultivate and encourage others. We are essentially not only the backbone of society, but the true giver of all life. With that immense responsibility comes boundless highs and unspeakable lows.

I watched my friend bury her 18-year old son today.

I watched as she mustered every bit of strength in her body to give him the proper tribute and eulogy he so deserved. This is what moms do. This is what women do.

I watched her carry the weight of a thousand sorrows, finding a way to put one foot in front of the other, passing his sweet face as she made her way from the pew to the pulpit. I wondered how she could communicate to her body that her legs needed to comply. I watched this mom, this woman, find the courage and conviction to rise and move.

What she did next was a truly astounding. Her words were meant to soothe others. Her voice purposed to calm those who were grieving. Her smile while recollecting the beauty of her child was aimed to lessen the hurt of those around her. This is what moms do. This is what women do.

It didn’t matter what color he was or the circumstances surrounding his passing; the grief of a mother is collective. I imagine that if you felt an inexplicable twinge of pain in your body yesterday, it was perhaps her anguish traveling through all of us, as I believe we are all connected.

We make the choice to put someone’s happiness and well-being ahead of our own. All love begins and ends here with us; women.

Today, I watched my friend bury her child with grace, compassion and the courage of a thousand men. All love begins and ends here with us; women.

 

You Knew

If you know me, you know that I am your realist friend; the honest one who will have those difficult conversations with you. I have matured and grown from some very painful truths and feel better having faced them. Today, I want to address many of you on your willingness to learn what you can about systemic racism and how you may support African-Americans moving forward. Like so many others, I shall do my best to help you on this journey by having conversations, directing you to reading materials, organizations and businesses that can assist answering questions and providing collaborative suggestions. There is just one thing I must make clear:

YOU KNEW

The first time you laid eyes on the internal contents of a slave ship

slave ship

 

YOU KNEW

 

The first time you read about plantation life

plantationfamily

YOU KNEW

When you learned about the Civil War

confederate flag

YOU KNEW

 

The first time you saw lynching pictures in your history books

Lynching

YOU KNEW

 

When you were introduced to Ruby Bridges, The Freedom Riders, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Medgar Evers, Angela Davis, Fred Hampton, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Ralph Abernathy, John Lewis, President Barack Obama

YOU KNEW

 

The first time you recognized segregation, whether it be at school lunch tables, University campuses, residential neighborhoods, workplaces, public spaces or places of worship

YOU KNEW

 

Your parents knew, their parents knew and your great-grandparents knew too. The only detail that has changed is now acts of racism can take center stage on your phone in a matter of moments. You are instantly reminded of it in real time by your President on Twitter; you can join FB pages dedicated to white supremacy.

You will not have to wait to read about Mr. George Floyd because you watched him die. This time, it was a knee instead of a rope.

African Americans know you knew. Maybe the sensory overload of witnessing a man call for his mother while the life disappears from his eyes was your tipping point. Maybe it wasn’t, but we see you. We know you. We see many of you struggling with the terror of watching what you knew all along, manifest itself in broad daylight for the world to see. This wasn’t supposed to be possible in 2020, but yet you say nothing to the neighbor who flies the confederate flag, the uncle who tells the racist joke at dinner, the co-worker who promotes negative stereotypes, your school board that doesn’t place priority on hiring minority teachers. All of these examples contributed to a bird-watcher being harassed, a jogger gunned down in cold blood, the weight pressed upon the neck of George Floyd and too many more to mention.

Listen, don’t get me wrong; better late than never. I’m going to help you as best I can to become a better ally, but just know that I know YOU KNEW.

What? Huh?

Giving it to you straight today…

Don’t act like you didn’t know your actions were wrong. Don’t pretend you didn’t realize putting brown shoe polish on your face might be a poor choice. Don’t feign ignorance of cultural misappropriation when you select to paint yourself in your patronizing, disrespectful, lame interpretation of a person of color. You know EXACTLY what you’re doing.

YOU DON’T CARE.

You were so bold to show these behaviors amongst approving peers, why not be bold now and tell the truth? We might see a shred of integrity.

I’ve witnessed you seek out like minded people, slipping your racist and bigoted opinions into regular conversation to test the waters. You’ve tried it on me. I look like I might be a willing participant. You must try it and see who can be trusted.

Actual conversation I had with a subordinate my first week in a new workplace:

Them: I have weebees in my neighborhood

Me: What’s a weebee?

Them: You know. Black people. We be goin to the liquor store. We be stealing your tv.

Me: That’s some of the most fucking ignorant shit I’ve ever heard. Do not ever communicate with me again except to provide me with the information I request from you.

Them: I’m sorry. I didn’t know.

Me: Apology not accepted.

 

You know what you’re doing. You’re constantly looking for allies so your behavior is somehow justified and sadly, you find them.

The excuses you give are sometimes more insulting than the act itself.

Virginia Governor: I put shoe polish on my face because I wanted to pay homage to Michael Jackson. I love him.

Prada: We didn’t know an accessory we created depicting a black monkey with giant red lips would be considered offensive.

Dolce & Gabbana: We had no idea that sending Blackamoor earrings down the runway or making videos depicting Chinese models trying to eat cannoli with chop sticks was unacceptable.

Princess of Kent: I never thought wearing a Blackamoor brooch to meet Meghan Markle might be in poor taste.

Newsanchor and Weatherman: I didn’t mean to say Martin Luther Coon King, Jr.  It was a slip of the tongue. I’m not racist.

Rosanne: I know I said if the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a baby, it would be Valerie Jarrett, but I was high on Ambien.

Hulk Hogan: I said I’m a racist when it comes to my daughter fucking niggers, but I didn’t mean it. That’s just protective dad talk.

At the Oscars: It was an accident to say Zendaya probably smelled like patchouli oil and weed because she was wearing dreadlocks. We meant we like that smell. It was taken out of context.

Mel Gibson: I know I said Jews were responsible for all the wars in the world, but in my defense, I was really drunk. 

 I have some advice to anyone who would like to impersonate Michael Jackson. The glove and hat are a dead giveaway. Blackface isn’t homage, it’s mockery.

Prada and Gucci, show me a species of monkey that has giant red lips. I’ve seen monkeys with big red asses. Why don’t you make an accessory or sweater of that?

Also, I’ve never accidentally called someone nigger or coon and I’ve never posed in a photo with a klansman or nazi (real or fake). Truth be told, neither has anyone else (accidentally, that is).

The feigning ignorance jig is up, folks. You did it. You knew it was unacceptable behavior, but you did it anyway. You got caught and that’s why you’re apologizing. As I said to that trailer trash secretary (yes, she worked in a trailer and was a garbage individual), apology not accepted.

 

Ah, Matrimony

Relationships are tough. We are hard wired to seek companionship. We want to love and be loved. Most of lifes detours, from the pole in a strip club to the prisoner on death row, can be traced to our lack of or inability to quench this thirst. Why are some people successful in relationships and other are not? Judging by the self-help section at the bookstore, no one knows but everyone has an opinion.

I’ve been married for 20 years. I know a tiny part of the reason is because we both fear conviction for murder, so staying together is a better alternative. I would also agree that because we acknowledge and appreciate this theory, we both sleep better at night.

Anyone who tells you marriage is entirely blissful is a liar or has a rogue pharmacist. Sure, it’s great when you are experiencing newlywed sex, sleeping naked, vacations for two and quiet dinners. However, life happens and you can work to steer the runaway train together or get off at the next stop. I was lucky enough to find someone not only willing to steer this train, but ride it across wobbly bridges, through dark tunnels and even help get it back on track when it occasionally and inevitably derails.

With 20 years under my belt, I think it is only fitting that I throw my literary hat in the ring and provide you with a few tips you may not get in a traditional relationship guide. Strong successful marriages are not sugar coated, so neither will my advice.  

·       As you can probably imagine, humor plays a big role in our household. If you can’t laugh, it won’t last

·       Go to bed angry. Not every situation can be solved in a timely matter and you’ve got shit to do in the morning

·       Sex won’t always be great but if you don’t speak up, it won’t get any better either

·       Don’t argue naked. For older couples, that’s ammunition (long titties, no ass havin, wrinkly mother fu*ker)

·       Don’t make excuses for bad behavior. It happens. Own it and move on

·       A courtesy flush goes a long way

·       Your spouse does not complete you, they should complement you

·       Be the Ride or Die, but understand that sometimes the ride or die needs to know when we’re stopping for food and if you got directions before we left because last time…

·       Cut your toenails

·       Keep up your appearance for yourself. Everyone benefits when you feel good and look good

·       Your kids are not an excuse, they just change the game. Be flexible

·       Listen, even when it’s the silliest nonsense you’ve ever heard

·       Spending time apart is good for the soul (and your blood pressure)

·       When telling a story, get to the point

·       Don’t talk shit about each other to people. It’s disrespectful

The person you attract is defined by the person you present. Don’t expect someone to treat you any differently than you are willing to treat them, okay?

There is also more than one person out there for you. If it doesn’t work, try again. When it does, it’s pretty amazing. Don’t be discouraged. Sometimes, we have to kiss a lot of frogs before we find the frog we can be comfortable enough with to make children and carve out a life together. Then, you can look at that frog after 20 years and still know it’s a frog, but it’s your wrinkly old frog, and that still makes you smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Lives Matter

I never realized Black History Month was so contentious until this year. Never have I witnessed so many up in arms about a dedicated month to celebrate the contributions made by African Americans. I was asked why can’t there be an Irish History Month or a Confederate Flag Day. In the spirit of satisfying as many American citizens as possible, I’ve decided to create a list of contributions as well as atrocities suffered by our Irish American citizens and see if it warrants a month of celebration.

 Here goes:

·       The Irish were stolen from their native homelands, subjected to torturous passage to the colonies where they were enslaved for more than 200 years

·       The Irish were bought and sold, families torn apart, considered livestock and routinely murdered for entertainment during their slavery

·       When Irish slavery was finally abolished, the Irish were still not considered fully human and they continued to be treated unfairly, their homesteads often pillaged and burned, Irish women raped and beaten, Irish men hanged

·       When the Irish went looking for work, they were routinely turned away by signs saying “Irish Not Need Apply”

·       Irish children were not allowed to go to school with non-Irish children and Irish families were not allowed to eat in many restaurants, stay in certain hotels or ride on mass transportation

·       The Irish were held back by laws created to keep them in a position of helplessness and poverty. Many of these laws prohibited The Irish from voting, applying for bank loans, going to college or starting a business

·       The Irish are fighters and they demanded justice and equality from the United States Government

·       However, the discrimination continued as loan or job applications were turned down when banks and employers glanced at the name McDonald or O’Rourke

·       Many Irish, determined to become great American citizens, did so by enlisting in our military, serving in every major American war and rising through the ranks to Generals and Admirals

·       The Irish have given America great leaders, many whom, unfortunately were assassinated by a bigot’s bullet. This did not deter the Irish. They formed organizations to strengthen their quest for equality by creating schools and universities when they were denied entrance into others, political action committees to petition for Irish representation where it had been absent for hundreds of years, watch groups to protect Irish citizens when police refused assistance and Irish churches where The Irish could worship and pray in peace

·       Despite advances in Irish American life, Irish Americans still have the highest percentage of unemployment in America, highest percentage of infant mortality under the age of 3, Irish American women are more likely than non-Irish American women to die in childbirth and Irish Americans are least likely to prosper in a thriving economy

·       Irish American men have a greater percentage of mental health issues as many suffer from a form of PTSD brought on by the constant struggle to be treated fairly and equally in America.  Depression often leads Irish American men to drug addiction and crime at a higher rate due to lack of mental health treatment and the historical fear and distrust Irish Americans have for the medical profession

 

·       The Irish have been instrumental in the forming of America and the world in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics; not to mention the countless inventions by Irish Americans for which we rely on without the least bit of knowledge that an Irish American is responsible

·       Irish American culture IS American culture as it has impacted every aspect of American society from dance, dress, language, religion, music, literature, cuisine, yet strangely remains untold 

 

This is only the tip of the proverbial Irish American iceberg.

By recognizing Irish Americans, their contributions, their history of tribulations and triumphs, their continued struggle for equality some 400 years after the first Irish slave was brought to the colonies, perhaps we can all gain a better understanding of Irish Americans and appreciate them as a people. By learning about Irish American history, we can all, as Americans, work to ensure we don’t repeat the brutalities of the past and pave a road to a better future for Irish American people.

See what I did here?

 

 

 

Freedom Light

This is the last thing I will say about this. Alright, it probably isn’t, but humor me for a moment.

I like the flag. I think it’s a lovely design and my hat is off to Mrs. Ross. I don’t mind standing for it and I don’t mind singing the National Anthem. It’s more of a tradition than a rule like it is in, let’s say, N. Korea. In other words, my life is no worse or better for rising any more than the flag is less respected when that enormous one is rolled up and stored on the ground, waiting to be unfurled during that opening NFL ceremony (paid for by the US Government to bolster enlistment).

 I can like and appreciate the flag because I understand that a piece of fabric does not truly and accurately represent the fabric of this country. I’m not “flag hypocritical”. I enjoy that our flag is a symbol of power and pride and it is admittedly exciting to await its arrival during the Olympic opening ceremonies. It can be a heart-swelling experience to see fellow citizens walking proudly, displaying The Stars and Stripes. To me, it can be a comfort when traveling abroad and you catch a quick glimpse of one. For all intents and purposes, it is the universal sign of democracy and I am proud to be an American even when America doesn’t always love me back.

Like I said, I am not “flag hypocritical”. I fly one at my home, but I don’t bring it in each evening, nor is it up lit. At some point or another, I have probably purchased a t-shirt at Old Navy around July 4th and worn it. I do somewhat follow protocol when disposing of a tattered flag, but I do not perform the ceremony in its entirety (or even close). I just burn it. I’m not even really mad when I see girls wrapping their vaginas in bikini thong stripes with star covered areolas. Hey, it’s a free country.

I am the daughter of a WWII veteran who was also a POW in Germany during 1944-1945. Dad flies several flags including The Red White and Blue, POW MIA, 457th Bomb Group and 8th Air Force, to name a few. If you ask him, he will tell you that he enlisted, yes left college and enlisted, to protect our Freedoms. However, Freedom means different things to different people. Several men he knew, enlisted to avoid incarceration.  When he left on that ship crossing the ocean into uncertainty, Dad was certain of his mission to secure America’s  Freedom and defeat the Axis of Evil. When he returned, he learned Freedom was merely an interpretation of an individual or group agenda.

You see, I’ve seen my father cheered and revered for his bravery and heroism. I’ve also seen him called a nigger lover and a disgrace to his race, each by people waving an American flag. I’ve heard him called an All-American Boy and I’ve heard him called an Un-American race mixer, each by people waving an American flag. I’ve watched my parents carefully plot travel routes resembling a covert spy operation when driving to Disneyworld because there are places they dared not venture through; places where “patriots” fly the confederate flag as high as Old Glory. I’ve been in situations where I am considered less than deserving of rights and civil liberties by officers wearing an American flag patch on their uniform shoulder.

Freedom is subjective.

I would like you to marinate on this for a while. When you see someone taking a knee during the National Anthem simultaneously with another guy to your left wearing a baseball hat, or kids talking and laughing under Friday night lights, remember “flag hypocrisy” and that your American experience does not define the experiences of others.

Will I take a knee? Probably not (mainly because I’m not sure I could get back up) but I won’t berate those who choose to exercise their Freedoms in such a manner any more than I would slap the hat off that man’s head. Do you have to agree? Of course not. Can you be offended? Of course, you can. In the grand scheme of things, does it really alter your life’s plan? I’m going to guess no.

The ultimate act of Patriotism and American strength would be if we would stop and listen to WHY instead of concentrating on how.

 

 

 

What are you Hiding?

I was in Nordstrom last night trying to find an under- eye concealer that would disguise what I’m told is a genetic problem and not due to my crazy life. As the sales lady applied and applied layer after layer of color corrector, secret camouflage, ultra HD concealer and miracle eye wand, it became very apparent that this was no secret and there was no miracle. I’m a mess.

Up until now, I have been able to “put on a good face”. I have maneuvered through the past 10 years with the uncanny ability to be witty, give good advice, care for my family, volunteer for everything, please my man and be the friend that sticks with you when everyone else has gone home.

Well, the jig is up.

As I walked through the mall with my “old lady makeup” purchase (fondly named by my eldest), I began to wonder what the women surrounding me, mindlessly sifting through sale racks, were experiencing. How many would attend the high school graduation of their first born this week and seize up with the fear of letting go in the fall. How many were overwhelmed with the day in and day out challenges of having a special needs child. How many were struggling to make end of life care arrangements for a parent in their final stages of dementia. How many were questioning their worth.

Life has handed me its share of crap and I completely understand that it’s all relative. My bullshit may be another person’s day off. I get that; however, it certainly doesn’t diminish what we each experience. I try to give each tough situation its dignity and perhaps sprinkle it with a little humor to keep us all grounded.

Each month, I make the trip to see dad. I’m really the only one he recognizes anymore and my time with him is a priority. It’s Friday before Mother’s Day weekend. This is going to be a quick trip and I plan to return Sunday afternoon in time to spend the day with my kids. Since it’s a quick trip and it IS my special weekend, I decide to treat myself to Airport Valet Parking at $25/day. I have never used this service, but what the hell. Live a little, right? Right.

I find my father in terrible condition and call for an ambulance. He is hospitalized. I spend the next 5 days at his bedside, advocating on his behalf with specialists from all medical fields. I keep his medical records meticulous and I’m so prepared, many physicians remark that they assumed I was employed in the medical field. Meanwhile, there are people at home who expected my return and need direction. I’m making calls, arranging transportation and solving problems from the hospital for my people who rely on me to make it all work out. Only one chaotic instance of the elementary school principal calling me to ask what to do with my youngest child left standing after school seems to be a small victory for me. I can do this.

Day 5

I’m running on about 3 hours sleep a night and a diet of Redbull, Subway and chardonnay. Dad is not responding to treatment, so antibiotics are changed. He’s not being discharged any time soon. The weather has seesawed from a cold and rainy 55 degrees to 94 and sunny. Here come the storms. Now, it is important to note for story continuity, that home there is a 500-acre family farm. I am alone in a 150-year-old farm house that my contractor swears is haunted. My grandmother fell off the porch in a rocker and died there, my uncle nearly chopped off his head in a terrible chainsaw accident behind the house. Dead. Lastly, my grandfather cut off 3 fingers while building a chair in his workshop and he also fell off the roof and landed on an axe, but he didn’t die from any of that.

Back to the storm. While speaking with my husband, I can see the sky brewing up my next form of bullshit. I half-jokingly inform my him that if I lose power, I will jump out of an upstairs window. As the words are coming out of my mouth, I lose power. If you’ve never experienced pitch blackness and total silence, let me tell you, it is terrifying. I gathered candles and barricaded myself in my bedroom which now resembled some sort of ghoulish tomb, dancing with creepy shadows I was sure were going to kill me. It is also important to note that I had a .38 and a box of ammunition on the bed with me for mortal intruders, because that’s how I roll. My cell phone battery is draining, so throughout the night, I keep going out to the car to charge it. I am now sitting under the car port, head on a swivel, headlights on, loaded .38 in my lap, charging my phone and mumbling something about fuck my life. Earlier, my husband had suggested I just go to sleep. I hung up on him.

Day 6

The sun appears, the power is restored 14 hours later and I’m already headed back to the hospital. I stop at Target to pick up a few t-shirts and some sweat pants because I had only packed for 48 hours, so around day 3, I started digging into my farm attire (which isn’t pretty). Dad is improving.

Day 7

Dad can be discharged and taken back to his nursing home. I decided it’s best for me to transport him so that we don’t further upset and confuse him in an ambulance. I can chat with him on the ride and remind him of familiar places and stories. We’ve traveled these roads together thousands of times so it will be good for the two of us.

With help, I get him into the car and slide into the driver’s seat. He turns to me and says, “Where are you taking me, Lady?”

Me: Dad, it’s me, Jessica. Don’t you know who I am? Look at me. I’m your daughter, Jessica.

Dad: I find that very hard to believe.

Me: Why? Why, Dad?

Dad: Because my daughter is better looking and has nicer clothes.

So, there you have it. Out of the mouths of elders. Now you know why I was at Nordstrom last night. I hope my purchase will help my father to recognize me when I see him next week.

Oh, and by the way, I will be returning to Airport Economy Parking. The $225 treat myself, valet bill could have paid for my under-eye concealers.

 

 

Hardest thing? That’s what she said.

Last week, a friend posted a question on her Facebook page to begin a discussion. The question was: What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

My first thought that came to mind was that time I had to uncork a bottle of wine without a proper opener. That can’t be it. I then began to reminisce about other things that were perhaps, just perhaps a little more meaningful. I had three.

Burying my mother was definitely one of the absolute worst things I’ve ever had to do. One day, when I have the courage and stamina to relive her final months, I will write about the experience. Until then, unless you’ve found yourself in the same situation, you’ll have to take my word that it is excruciating.

The diagnosis of my son’s autism and the journey with him to date has been hard. We all hope and pray that our children are happy and healthy. When we are thrown a curve ball, or rather a wrecking ball into that plan, life gets harder. I cannot tell you if I’ve ever had a complete night of sleep in the bed with my husband without the little fellow showing up around 3am and squeezing in. I’m not sure how the Bucket Grandparents did it. That said, the rewards far outweigh the tough times. My son is extraordinary in so many ways, and though the journey may be hard, it’s also the most amazing thing I’ve ever beheld. I’m excited for his future.

That leaves my list topper: Dad.

Dad is 95 ½. Dad has dementia. Dad has me.

Each month, I throw my household into chaos (this according to my teenaged daughters) when I depart for a few days to lay eyes on dad, take him to his VA appointments and deal with any other issues regarding his care. He resides in a nursing home some 850 miles away in the home town where he was raised from a child. He is there because it is most familiar to him. He responds much better to visual stimulation and isn’t nearly as anxious as when he is placed in unfamiliar surroundings. Therefore, I am slowing the process by keeping him around people, places and things he can easily recognize. Downside, I’m doing planes, trains and automobiles to get there every 5 weeks.

Listen, I’m not complaining. This man afforded me a wonderful childhood, great teenaged memories and unprecedented support in my adult years. This is what I am supposed to do. It does not, however, make it easy.

Today, we went to the VA to have his ears cleaned. He couldn’t hear me on the way, but he talked up a storm the whole way home. The conversation went something like this:

Dad: How long have I known you?

Me: Dad, I’m your daughter.

(2 minutes pass)

Dad: How long did we date?

Me: Dad, I’m your kid. That’s gross.

(5 minutes later)

Dad: Why did I break up with you? You’re so nice to me.

Me: DAD! I’m your daughter. DAUGHTER. Not your girlfriend.

Dad: I knew that. My brain isn’t working, but let me ask you one other thing. Why did I break up with you?

Me: First of all, you didn’t break up with me. No one breaks up with me. I break up with them. Let’s get that straight. Also, I’m your daughter.

Dad: I knew that. My brain just isn’t working today.

(5 minutes pass)

Dad: Why did we break up then?

Me: That is gross, Dad. I’m your kid. Do I look old enough to be dating a 95 year old? Don’t answer that.

Dad: I’m sorry.

Me: I love you, Dad.

Dad: How did we meet?

Me: DAAAAAADDY

This is just a 20 minute excerpt of the 2 hour trip home. All the while, he is attempting to pull the cotton balls from his ears as I’m instructing him to stop touching them.

Dad: Why?

Me: Because, Dad. You just had a serious procedure at the VA and the cotton balls are soaked in medicine.

Dad: When did we do that?

Me: Dad, we just left the VA.

Dad: I knew that (touching the cotton balls).

Now, the cotton ball from his right ear is in his hand and he is busy examining it.

We stop at TGI Friday’s for a late lunch. I have to cut his food. He enjoys it while he tells me he used to come to that same restaurant when he was a kid. I smile and rub his arm.

There, in a wheelchair, sits the man I ran to when I was scared. There sits the man I put on a pedestal higher than the moon. There sits the man who could do anything and had done everything. There sits the man who flew B-17’s into Germany 17 times. There sits the man who was shot down and taken Prisoner of War for a grueling 6 months in the coldest winter on record. There sits a man who endured death marches, starvation and the constant fear of death; who watched three members of his crew be blown to bits as he bailed from that burning ship at 30,000 feet. There sits the man who safely flew millions of passengers to their destinations for 30 years, always with a smile and kind word. There sits my daddy.

As I delivered him back to the nursing home, gave instructions to the nurses and spoke to the facility director, he settled back in to a big, blue easy chair given to him by his younger brother.

Dad: You know, my dad brought me this chair as a gift.

Me: I think it was Uncle Emerson

Dad: Right

Dad: I hope you enjoyed your date with me today. I had a really good time.

Me: I’ll see you tomorrow, Dad. I love you.

 

 

 

Womb Chat

My uterus is more popular than me. She is a trending topic on Facebook and Twitter. I never imagined the type of notoriety a female body part, other than her sister, the vagina, and maybe her twin cousins, the boobs, could garnish. However, it has happened. She has graced the offices of many a local government and even made it to the international stage during a United States Presidential Debate.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is it not the 21st Century? Didn’t our mothers already fight for this shit so we wouldn’t be bothered with such issues?  I would have imagined by now, my girl would be kicking back (which is funny because she is tipped) and taking it easy. No such luck. Even in her twilight years, my uterus has been thrust back into the spotlight and is causing quite a clamor. If you have been living under a rock, or only have two testes and a penis, let me bring you up to date. The uterus is the new black. She’s the talk of the town. She’s the cat’s meow; literally.

Since everyone is so interested in the goings on in my uterus, I’ll tell you a little bit about her.
My uterus is 50 years old and lives in Indiana where she is Enemy #1 to our governor. I call his office to speak to him about my uterus at least once a week, inviting him to my GYN appointments, asking him for advice about my uterus and giving him general updates. He hasn’t once returned my call. I assume he must be performing a pap smear on a constituent. But I digress.

Back in July of 1978, my uterus got the call from my fallopian tubes stating that an egg was coming down the chute. She was excited to finally be elevated into active duty. The rest of my twelve-year-old self, however, was on a parachute ride at Knott’s Berry Farm, and was the least bit thrilled. I believe the experience could have been described as terror, denial and embarrassment as I watched my mother share the joyous news with everyone in that amusement park bathroom. Since then, my uterus, like clockwork, has cradled those eggs and done her thing.

In the past 17 years, my uterus has produced 3 live births. From the moment they took their first breath and became independent from my uterus and the rest of my body, we (my uterus and I) have watched them grow into wonderful human beings. Unfortunately, my uterus has also delivered some duds. There have been several monthly occasions where the flow was so heavy and the cramps so bad, it looked like a case for CSI. Incidentally, that is exactly what would have happened if our governor had his way last summer. I would have had to cordon off my toilet with crime scene tape, gone fishing for a few clots and taken it to my physician or nearest medical facility where I would then be held responsible for a burial. I’m not sure, but I don’t think insurance covers bodily function interment in my MetLife plan. Again, I digress.

On a typical day, my uterus and I grocery shop, run errands and occasionally will see the uterus and vagina doctor since this whole menopause thing has us by the proverbial egg sac. I have been considering just having coffee with the governor so he can guide me through this. After all, he seems to know what’s best for us.
My uterus also accompanies me to a program I volunteer with that mentors at-risk teens. Together, we give young women and men the opportunity to talk openly about relationships, boundaries, respect, responsibility, sex and the importance of education. I must admit, the old uterus is pretty wise when it comes to lecturing about self-care, self-respect and responsibility. She’s not an armchair uterus that just spouts off orders to other uteri. She’s in there, front and center, helping other uteri understand and make informed decisions.

My uterus and I like to help but we also understand that just as my uterus is part of my body, like my heart, kidneys, liver and other internal organs, she only functions because I function. Her health and welfare depend on me, the vessel. Together, we understand that each vessel is unique. Each vessel is responsible for her own course. It is also important to note that a vessel does not lose her command even when she must lose her uterus. Contrary to the belief of some,we are not defined by our uterus. We can survive without a uterus, thrive and even run for President. However, it cannot survive without us.

Old girl is getting tired and headed into retirement soon. She will no longer be part of a trending topic or heated discussion regarding purpose. Although, in the future, the only thing she may be capable of producing are tumbleweeds, she still deserves the privacy and respect she did in her heyday. My uterus is not independent of me, nor is she up for debate among strangers. I protect her and she has served me well

The purpose of allowing you, the reader, to get to know my uterus, is to advise you that the business of regulating personal reproductive rights is degrading and discourteous. To allow you to dictate rules and laws, to listen as you gush a series of opinions as to what each and every individual woman and her uterus must comply with, you must first know each and every uterus intimately. You now know mine, only 125.9 million to go.

Stand Up, Sit Down, Fight Fight Fight

In December 1941, my father left college at Iowa State, hitchhiked back to Upstate NY and declared to his parents that he would not be returning to college, instead enlisting in the service. In June of 1942, he was accepted into the Army Air Corp Cadet program. He was on a boat headed overseas in Spring 1944. There, as a member of the 8th Air Force 457th Bomb Group, he flew 17 missions as 1st Lieutenant,  Aircraft Commander on the B-17 Flying Fortress. On his 17th mission, November 2, 1944, he was shot down over Merseberg Germany and taken prisoner of war. He was placed on a forced march in January 1945 with thousands of American POW’s. Suffering from frost bite and malnutrition, he nearly died, but managed to survive and see his POW camp liberated by General Patton in May 1945.

Meanwhile, my mother is stateside, fighting a war of her own. In 1945, she was 20 years old. It would be another 17 years before they meet.

1962 Chicago

My father is based in Washington DC but flying out of O’Hare.  He spends most of his time at the YMCA near the airport when he’s not flying. He knows no one. He is befriended by a baggage porter, Donald, who sees him headed to the YMCA many a night. Donald invites my father to his home one evening. He offers his friendship to a young pilot who seems quite lonely. My father accepts.

He arrives at the party, a house party in Hyde Park, Illinois. He is introduced to a sea of color. Although spending time overseas, this is the first time he has been immersed in a culture that is not white. Then, he sees her.

January 1963

They marry.  His family is disgusted. His sister tells him not to have children. They move to Robbins, Illinois, a predominantly black neighborhood where they are accepted. He is beginning to realize that this will be a challenge bigger than his war experience, for now, he’s fighting a war on his home soil. Their marriage is illegal in 21 states. They are not free to travel the country for which he fought to keep free. He realizes this “freedom” does not apply to everyone. They suffer indignities, prejudice and physical threats but continuing fighting for civil rights.

November 1965

I am born. My parents continue to fight for civil rights. 5 states have overturned their interracial marriage bans. 16 dig their heels in. This decorated war hero cannot bring his wife and child with him when he travels because they could be arrested and his child taken by the state. While other airline families enjoy the perks of travel, my mother and I stay home.

1967

The Supreme Court rules that all bans on interracial marriage are unconstitutional. It takes two states several years to amend their state constitutions and remove the offending language.

South Carolina 1998   Alabama 2000

You read that right; 1998 and 2000.

 

My father and mother have endured and persevered over some of the most heinous behaviors perpetrated by their own country. For nearly 50 years, they were stared at, ostracized and mistreated by ignorant American citizens. Even in my mother’s illness and death, many hospital workers treated her with less than dignified care. My father, tired and distraught, turned to me to fight for proper care for his loving wife. Today, he proudly displays his family photos in his room at the nursing home and he is still met with prejudice and bigotry. He is 95 years old. He has fought for civil rights for more than 50 years, even taking a stand against the Chicago Police Department for mistreatment of black citizens, including the arrest of his wife and child for driving a Cadillac while black.

Is he less of a patriot; less of a war hero?

So, when hundreds of African American citizens take to the streets or a few black athletes take a seat in quiet protest over an anthem and a pledge that professes Liberty and Justice for ALL, perhaps you might think about and remind yourself that everyone has a different reality. Change does not occur without a loud protest or a gentle nudge. From throwing tea into the Boston Harbor to taking a knee during the National Anthem, we all have the right to love our country AND be a catalyst for positive change.