Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Representation Matters February 16, 2018

I remember sharing some of my stories with a friend several years ago – After she had poured out her heart to me about her father and his failings.

 

I haven’t spoken with my father in over 10 years.  At 10 and 11 years old, my children don’t know him.

The last time I saw my father I walked past him as he was standing in a line at the airport.  I said hi.  He said hi.  The end.  Later that same day, still at the airport, he went to the bathroom at the same time as my son – (I waited at the entrance since it was a male restroom) – They both exited at about the same time.  He went one way and my son and I went the other.  My son had no idea his grandfather had just been standing next to him at the urinal.

One year, back when we did have a relationship, he forgot my birthday and then called me to let me know that he had forgotten my birthday.  Thanks.

Years ago, I had stopped by his job one day to visit.  He introduced me to a coworker who was shocked to meet me.  The coworker had no idea that I existed.  At the time there was a picture of my 2 younger sisters sitting on my fathers desk.

The coworker: How many kids DO you have?

The father: Two.

The coworker: You mean three.

The father: Oh, you mean including this one?  Then yes, three.

 

I shared a few more with her, but you guys don’t need to hear them.  I’m not trying to put my father on blast here by sharing these things.  I am getting to a point.

My friend, upon hearing my stories responded with … “You wanna know something?  I never thought things like that happened in white families.  I always thought they lived perfect lives and didn’t have the same issues as black families.  The whole time I was growing up, I told myself that I either would never have children or I would only have children with a white man.”

Sorry to burst your bubble friend.

 

In her book, radio personality Danni Starr shares a story that includes the following passage:

 

I remember as a kid I would pretend I was invisible when black men were around me.  I would hold my breath, squeeze my eyes shut, and will myself invisible.  They scared me.  I wasn’t afraid of white men, and why would I be?  I saw them rescue people on Rescue 911, save lives on ER, report on the news …  The only times I ever saw black men were if they were wanted for committing a crime.  Representation matters!

 

There’s a reason that Davina Bennett became an international sensation when she was crowned Miss Jamaica Universe last year and then made it to the top 3 in the Miss Universe pageant.

Little black girls with tight curls had never seen someone like her being called the most beautiful woman in the world.  The goal for many of us has always been longer, straighter hair with fairer skin.  I was asked recently to send pictures of myself with my curls in full effect so that someone I know could show them to her daughter who was struggling with accepting her curly hair as being beautiful.  She’s 9 years old and already questioning her own gorgeousness.

 

I hear a lot of people saying things like … “Why do gay people have to be so open about their orientation; so public about their relationships?  No-one cares who you are sleeping with.

I know you’ve heard them.  “Just play your sport, perform in your show, manufacture our cell phones and be quiet.”

There are many reasons why those are flawed questions or statements.  But one of the main ones is that people DO care.  It’s still being argued whether or not gay people should be humans worthy of having all the same rights as straight people.  In many families, gay kids are still being kicked out onto the street.  Gay people face hurdles trying to get employment, adopt children, heck even trying to get a wedding cake that straight people do not have to face.  To young people, that matters.  If you spend your entire life hearing your family say how evil gayness is, or how hard of a life it is, that affects you and you begin to hate your very self.  This is not acceptable.  Self hate is a particularly cruel kind of hate because there is no escape from it.  It follows you everywhere in your mind, even in your dreams.

Just today, I read the blog post of a mom whose heart is breaking for her child – because his heart is broken.  As she says, “He’s not yet a sexual or romantic being”, yet she wrote a post titled “My 11 year old was just dumped by his best friend because he’s gay.”  It’s every bit as sad as you can imagine.  She’s not wrong to worry about him – And he is fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive family.

 

At times, C.J. was inconsolable. I watched him shivering on the couch and struggling to catch his breath between sobs. This is one of the reasons why some LGBTQ and gender expansive kids kill themselves. This is why some of them sink into depression, turn to drugs, drop out of school and participate in unsafe sexual situations. This is why some mothers with children like mine find their arms empty one day.

I worry that C.J. can’t take this kind of pain and rejection for years on end. He can’t have nights like this multiplied by seven more years of school and an infinite number of classmates who will hate him for who he loves and what he wears.

 

Seeing gay people just go about their normal lives is important.  It takes away the “scariness”.  Seeing happily married and monogamous same sex couples matters.  Seeing the Olympic figure skater, Adam Rippon be unapologetic about who he is, matters.  Seeing CEO’s be out and proud and still successful in their careers makes a difference and portraying gay TV characters in a way that is positive helps to shape young minds.  It  gives them permission to believe in themselves.  To believe that they too can one day can be something of value to their community.  They are not doomed to a life of drugs and prostitution and abuse.

 

I saw an interview recently in which Chadwick Boseman of the Black Panther movie was talking about the affect the movie was having on black children and how surprised he was by the reaction.  He choked up when he spoke about 2 little boys he met who had terminal cancer and who both said they just wanted to live long enough to watch the movie.

But it’s just a movie, he thought at first.  How could it possibly be that important to these kids and their families?  But then they told him it’s not just a movie.  It’s a movie, made by people who look like them, starring people who look like them, telling a story about people who look like them in a strong and powerful way.  The same was true of the importance of the movie Hidden Figures.  Seeing black girls overcome all the hatred that was thrown at them to still shine bright in their science and math fields changes the narrative in the minds of other young black girls about what’s possible for their own futures.

 

This weekend Black Panther opens up in the theaters and there’s been a lot of hype about it.  I have no reason to believe it does anything other than depict black people as being magnificent – No cussing, no naked women, no drug dealers or baby mommas.  You can bet I’ll be taking my boys to see it.  Because while you can find examples to support why a lot of the negative ideas about our community are true – It sure as hell is also true that we are smart and brave and good at science and articulate and those things need to be highlighted.

I don’t want my sons to ever have any self hate.  There will be enough of it coming from outside.  If one or both of them are gay, I don’t want them to ever feel badly about it or wonder if they are in fact evil or broken or worth less.  I don’t want them to have any doubts about their value as a friend or their ability to be valedictorian or a boss or an artist or an astronaut because of their brown skin.  I will expose them to as many different kinds of people as I can who are doing amazing things, so they can see that it’s what’s on the inside that counts the most.

 

 

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On perfection and mistakes and luck February 13, 2018

I don’t actually hear from many people who I know in real life about anything having to do with my blog.  When I do though, it’s always them telling me how great of a mother I am and how proud they are of me.  It makes me feel good and I do think I am a good mother.  But I am not a perfect mother.  I think it’s important to say that.  And I don’t mean it in the “my laundry room is a mess” or “I fed my kids chocolate for dinner” kind of way.

I have written many times before about moments when I felt defeated or sad or angry or resentful.  Particularly in the early years of Jays autism diagnosis and then dealing with Ace’s ADHD right on the heels of Jays autism diagnosis.

 

There’s more though.

One time I took the kids to the park and Ace climbed a tree.  He got up easily but then was struggling to get back down.  I held my arms up and encouraged him to jump.  I promised him that I’d catch him.  My boy jumped from a branch that was about 7 feet off the ground and I missed him.  He fell right between my hands and hit the ground with a thud.  Thank God he was not seriously hurt.

 

There was the day that I got in my car and before driving off I looked in the back seat and my son was not there.  I was panicked.  I got out and ran around to the passenger side of the car only to see my baby, in his car seat, sitting on the curb where I had left him.  Can you imagine if I had actually driven off?

 

I have left my 3 month old with a sitter and then had too much to drink to comfortably drive him home.  Baby and I slept at the babysitters house that night.

 

One night, I got home only to find there were no parking spots close to our front door.  At the time we lived in an urban area with street parking only.  My sons are only one year apart and both were sleeping in their car seats.  It had been a long day, I was burnt out and my tank was just empty.  By the time I parked, I was running on fumes.  I did NOT want the kids to wake up, but I couldn’t carry them both, in their car seats, all the way inside at the same time.  In my desperation, I took Baby A, (leaving Baby B in the car by himself), walked down the street, left Baby A in the hallway of my building and then went back for Baby B.  I was moving as quickly as I could.  When Baby B and I got inside there was a young man standing there beside Baby A.  I was scared out of my mind.  Then he started yelling at me about how bad it was that I had left the baby there and that he had a mind to call the police and was asking me what kind of parent does that.  I didn’t have it in me to be reasonable with him.  I know he meant well.  I was glad that it was him, and not a kidnapper, who had come by, but, I just couldn’t deal.  I told him an expletive and brought both boys into our apartment and broke the hell down crying.

 

Being a parent is hard.  Being a parent by yourself is harder than you can imagine.  I have never and would never purposely put them in any danger, but I know that I’ve been just plain lucky that neither of my kids have been harmed.

None of us are guaranteed to always be right where we should be and no matter how hard we try, none of us will always get it exactly right.

 

Now that my boys are 10 and 11, we can have these kinds of talks.  I tell them all the time that mistakes are going to happen.  It’s not their job to be perfect.  It IS their job to always try their best and to do everything they can to not put themselves or anyone else in an unsafe position.  I tell them that it’s never bad or wrong to ask for help if you need it.  Whether that has to do with school work or something medical or whatever.  I tell them that no matter how much it may seem that other people have it all together, no-one has it all together all the time.  Not even the tall, charming, straight A’s, sporty, confident middle schooler with the stay at home mom who is always available for pick ups no matter what activity the kid wants to do and the sibling who is just as charming, smart and confident.

I tell them that we need to learn from our mistakes.  Also that some mistakes are easier to move past than others.  Some last a lifetime.  Anything you put online will last FOREVER.  AIDS is FOREVER.  And much like I did when I slept at the sitters house instead of driving my infant home, when possible, you have to recognize a mistake before it happens.  It is not weak to stop something before it’s too late, no matter how down to the wire you are.  I teach them to listen to their gut.  I teach them to apologize when they are wrong.  Most of all, I tell them that no matter what, they can always call on me.

When I think about it, it’s terrifying to even consider what mistakes my kids will make – and there will be some.  But I just hope that they are smart enough and just lucky enough to not make any mistakes that are beyond repair.

 

Passing The Baton February 12, 2018

The first Olympics I remember having any interest in was held in Calgary Canada.  It was 1988 and I was 11 years old.  It was a winter Olympics and of all countries, my little Jamaica was competing in Bobsled.  It was big news and very exciting stuff.

Still on the bobsled high, I spent that same summer watching the Olympics in Seoul South Korea.  For the 2 weeks (or so), every evening, my Grandad and I would sit and watch elite athletes compete in track and field events, in swimming, in cycling, in gymnastics.  You know.

4 years later, in 1992 we would watch both those Olympics together also.  Him in his big brown chair.  Ashtray on the side table to his right.  Whiskey glass on the side table to his left.  I would sit in the little yellow chair.  Feet up on the ottoman.  Strawberry milk in my Wee Willy Winky cup.

 

*Quick Note* Did you know that the winter and summer Olympics used to be held in the same years?  Yup.  The last time that happened was in 1992.  2 years later, they would have another winter Olympics and from then on, they would have the games on separate four-year cycles; alternating even-numbered years.

 

By the time the winter Olympics made its way to Lillehammer Norway in 1994 I was living in the US and I was on my own to watch it.  I missed my Grandad and his commentary.  I missed us getting excited for Jamaicas races and I missed us arguing over who to cheer for in all the disciplines that Jamaica was NOT participating in.  He was a sucker for a pretty girl.  I was a sucker for an under- dog.

I tucked into myself and watched though.  It was one experience from “home” that I could still have.  That was the year of Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.  When we spoke about it, Grandad and I agreed that while Nancy had been thrown a wicked curve ball, Oksana Baiul was amazing and deserved her win.

 

Fast forward to 2018.  The winter Olympics are happening right now.  There’s tension between North and South Korea.  Our VP is twitter fighting with an American figure skater.  Jamaica again has a bobsled team – Women this time.  Not only that but we also have a guy in skeleton.  There are young people winning gold medals who are plenty young enough to be my kids.

My boys have been watching with me.  Ace at 11, watched most of the opening ceremony.  I sent him to bed after USA made their entrance.  The next day we spent a lot of time watching Luge and biathlon and speed skating and snow boarding.  These are all new sports to them.  I gave tid bits of information about rules or customized equipment or scoring.  For their part, my boys are Team USA all the way – Except for bobsled.  Kind of.  They are still Team USA but they would be happy if Jamaica did well also.

Last night, Jay and I were snuggling on the couch.  Olympics were on.  Then he said “Mom, I love watching the Olympics with you.”  Oh sweetheart, I love watching with you too.

 

Who knows, maybe in the summer of 2048, I’ll be 71 and I’ll be watching the games with my son and my 11 year old Grandchild.  Maybe my son will be the one saying “Oh that’s the flag of Norway” or explaining why Greece always parades out first or passing on the knowledge that Australia wears green and yellow in honour of their national flower instead of the red, white and blue of their flag.  Who knows?  It may never happen; But it’s a nice thought.

 

Never Again Starts With You – And Me February 5, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — The B Side @ 4:32 pm
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(Quote by Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and funding chairman, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.)

 

We spent a couple of hours touring the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.  Before going there, I thought it would be a depressing way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  It wasn’t.

It was sombre, yes.  Depressing, no; I wouldn’t use that word.  I left feeling somewhat angry and confused but mostly enlightened and inspired to make a difference.  To be better.  Kinder.

 

I was confused because I will never understand why there is so much violence, so much evil and cruelty; so little support, so little compassion and mercy in this world.  I will never understand the hatred one must have in their heart to do the evil things that have been done to fellow humans.  It’s beyond my comprehension.  How did people engage in acts like what is memorialized there and feel proud?  Or maybe even worse; how did people observe or hear about these acts and feel nothing?

 

I expect that many people who go to the museum get emotional about it.  I’m sure there have been many tears shed inside.  I would assume that’s particularly true if you are Jewish.  As I watched a video at the museum that showed how Adolf Hitler came to be the man we all hear about and read about today, and I heard the things he said and the way he went about consolidating his power, it was painfully similar to the things we heard here in the US during the last general election cycle as well as the things we continue to hear now.  It made me feel connected to a past that – in a way – never felt like it was mine.  This is not an old Jewish problem.  We are not beyond the kind of fascist ideology that lead to the Holocaust.

fascism [fash-iz-uhm] – a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

I had heard people say that Trumps rhetoric was reminiscent of the Nazi’s and we know (because they told us) that the KKK felt an affinity with him but I hadn’t realized until I watched the video just how true that was.  From the talk of how one group is largely responsible for all the problems of another group – to the disdain for the press – to the opposition to protests – to the dismantling of Government agencies and the filling up of the courts with only those whose allegiance is to you.  Even the actual wording or style of communicating and the target audience was/is similar.  (Simple words, repetition repetition repetition, sound strong and sure of yourself even if what you are saying is a lie, make yourself appear to be the only one who can solve the problem, appeal to those who are struggling.)

There were the people who thought he would get more moderate once in power.  There were the people who thought “Well, he’s only targeting them, not me, so I’m not going to worry about it.”  There were those who thought he had checks and balances in place to prevent the worst behaviour.  There were those who acknowledged that he had some ideas they disagreed with but who chose to overlook them because he promised to fix a broken economy.

Incremental things happened while the “good, middle ground” masses looked the other way.  Each thing, which taken on it’s own didn’t seem like a big deal, but collectively they were a game changer.

 

At the museum, I learned about the slow response by the international community to what Hitler was doing.  I learned about the way the refugees had been denied entry to most countries and how that is what really triggered the gas chambers.  Hitler wanted them gone and if other countries wouldn’t take them, then something else had to be done to get rid of them.  They needed an “Ultimate Solution.”

I learned that they not only targeted Jews and Blacks and Homosexuals, but also anyone who they thought was a threat to their power in any way or who would weaken their gene pool.  No-one with a disability was allowed (whether mental or physical) and no authors or artists who they disagreed with.  No-one they thought was unproductive such as gypsies.  They persecuted millions of non-Jewish Polish people including Catholics and intellectuals.

 

In the museum gift shop there was a lot of merchandise that reflected one basic theme … It takes each of us, being aware and being brave enough to speak out, to prevent things like this from happening again.

Mugs telling you that – What You Do Matters

Bracelets letting you know that – Never Again Starts With You 

T Shirts reminding you to – Never Stop Asking Why 

 

I used to think that these kinds of atrocities could never happen again.  But then we heard about the slavery auctions happening in Libya last year and of course there were Nazi’s protesting and even killing someone in my backyard, Charlottesville, and the person in charge of our country didn’t condemn them.  And then there’s Syria.

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This is still happening.

 

It’s heartbreaking and should disgust every single one of us.  It should make every person who has an ounce of decency in them, want to stop this barbarism.  As we worry about what design Starbucks chose for their Christmas cups or if Broadway stars were nice to the VP, or argue over the rights of the cake shop owner, there are young people being kidnapped and mutilated and raped as they try to make their way North.  There are people being cut up and their organs harvested because they are trying to make a better life for their children.

The only reason it’s them and not us, isn’t because we are somehow more deserving or because we worked harder or did something to earn it.  It’s not us, only because we weren’t born into it.  We were born into a life, not devoid of hardships, but riddled with privilege.

 

I obviously cannot stop all the evil in the world, but as a group, as the entire human race, we can.  It is not enough to be silently or passively against evil and oppression.  Each of us can make a difference but only if each of us decides that they will make themselves be counted among the good.  Only if each of us makes ourselves be involved.  Only if each of us stops waiting for someone else to do something.  Only if each of us remembers and then prevents.

History will judge us all by how we respond to the crises happening in our world today.

 

 

In The Bedroom Down The Hall February 1, 2018

We had a talk.  You and I.  There were tears and hugs and realizations and assurances.  It was hard on my heart because there is so much more I wanted to say but it wouldn’t have been right.  I will take all the blows I need to take for now in order to shield you.  One day, maybe when you are a parent, you will see all the things you cannot see now.

 

Sometimes there is no easy answer.  Sometimes being the bigger person means you are not seen as the better person and that’s a tough pill to swallow.  It’s tricky water to navigate.

 

It’s hard loving and listening to and trusting two people who have different ideas about what you should do.  I know.  It’s especially hard when one says what you want to hear but in your heart you know it’s not what you need to hear.

I fear it will get harder before it gets easier.  I know it will get harder before it gets easier.  For everybody.

 

But here I sit  thinking back on your cherubic face from years ago.  Back then you didn’t know any heart ache.  Your world was full of toy trains and Nick Jr.  Back then it was easy to keep you happy, even in the midst of a {figurative} storm.  We’d play hide and seek or go to a park.  Oh how you loved the park.  You preferred the slides and the climbing apparatus to swings but your favourite was making new friends and playing tag.  No matter how long we stayed, it was never long enough.

 

As you grew, there were big life changes and there were diagnoses.  You had a lot to balance.  You had to sort through a lot of emotions.

I thought I knew some way that I’d get through to you.  Remember?

In the bedroom down the hall, we fought a war where no-one walked away a winner.

Cause everyday you pulled a little more away.  Remember?

Saw the counselors and the clinics and the cures a mother tries.  Cause maybe they could take away that anger in your eyes.

Except, in your case it wasn’t anger.  It was mostly confusion and sometimes, sadness.  

 

We need to have another talk.  I don’t know yet how it will go, but I know it will include what I said the other day – I’m not going anywhere and everything I ever did, everything I do, is all for you.  Anything to make you be your best.  Anything at all.  Anything for my boy in the bedroom down the hall.

 

 

 

 

*Post inspired by and the quoted block are some of the lyrics to the song “In The Bedroom Down The Hall” which was cut from the show Dear Evan Hansen.*

 

MY Jamaica January 25, 2018

Filed under: Family — The B Side @ 9:54 am
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From the first post, you know we went to Jamaica for 3 days.  It wasn’t a long time at all, and yet, it will yield 2 very different blog posts.

Here goes # 2.  This post is kind of like a love letter to Jamaica.  I’m not going to talk about the Jamaica that tourists get though.

(Beach photos taken from Google)

 

Although, the beautiful beaches are one part of my home, this love letter won’t hide the flaws that we have.

 

I already told you that we arrived exhausted.  We hadn’t showered in 40 hours or slept in 32 when we landed at the airport in Kingston.  Nonetheless, we took a pic at the airport so we could send it to our friends who were stuck in the cold.

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On our way to the house I noticed a restaurant that was not there before.  It immediately caught our attention and we decided that we had to check it out before we left.  We did and it was pretty neat.

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Now listen, Mexican food is not one of my favourites really, but … Ackee and plantain nachos?  Jerk chicken burritos?  Cool!  I’m in.  (Don’t let the $900 price tag for the burritos turn you off.  That’s about US$7.)

We washed them down with – what else?  Jamaica’s “cerveza” of course – Red Stripe.

 

Walking down the street we stopped to purchase some fruit.  I would never in a million years purchase food from any of these establishments in America but in Jamaica, it’s all good.  Plus, the customer service from the proprietor was good.

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Take a look at these yellow pages billboards that tried to fat shame me, this guy selling shoes on the curb and the “Fun Fast Food” stand.

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On Saturday, we stole away for an hour to get massages.  They are just as good as any you’d get in the States but for half the price.  Also, in a  first for me, the full body massage included getting my tummy rubbed.  Interesting.

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(At the spa)

 

Considering that it was such a short trip, we squeezed a lot in.  I got to see some frineds from high school and tried a drink called a Henny Colada.  Let me tell you … It was GOOD.

In classic Jamaican fashion, there are lots things that could get you in a twist if you let it, but you just cannot.  Hot water in private homes is a luxury.  My Aunt has a water heater which is great but it needs to be turned on when you need it and then off to conserve electricity.  We had forgotten to turn it on before heading out one night so we took COLD showers.   Wooooo!    I am not ashamed to say that I did not wash my back or my hair that time.  I laughed about it, sent Shaunie in and wished her well.  I’m pretty sure she didn’t wash her back either.  While we were out, (and I was sipping on my Henny Colada), one of my friends ordered food.  The waitress brought it out to him and then informed him that he had made the wrong choice and should have gotten something else.  He asked her why she hadn’t said that BEFORE he ordered.  Turns out she was right and it wasn’t very good.  Oh well.  He’ll know for next time.

At yet another food spot, I was to get a cup of tea.  After waiting for a few minutes, I was told that the hot water machine wasn’t working.  After waiting for a while longer, I asked if I could get something else instead.  I was told that I would have to pay for it separately since tea is what came with my combo meal.  (huh?).  I didn’t let it bother me.  It’s island life.  I asked for my tea bag and a cup and took it to go.  I could make my own tea at the house.  Shaunie was incredulous.  Her comment was … “THAT could never happen in America. They’d get horrible Yelp reviews and they’d be out of business.”  LMAO!!!!!

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My Aunt lives with her best friend.  They’ve been best friends forever.  That best friend has a friend who she’s known since she was 4 years old.  He and his daughter picked us up from the airport.  The daughter is also the person who stays with my Aunt if the friend needs to go out so she’s not home alone.  That’s just the way things go in MY Jamaica.  Friends are family and they help each other any way they can.  It’s super common for folks to have that kind of community and you cannot buy that for all the money in the world.

One day we had to go see my Aunts cardiologist – who by the way – is a past student of hers and not only doesn’t charge her for services, she also got the other doctors who treated my Aunt when she was admitted to the hospital not to charge her either.

 

Driving around in Kingston, you don’t see beaches or tourists in bikinis, but you do see lots of interesting things.  You see local guys trying to wash your windows at stop lights to earn a buck and you see beggars asking for money and/or food.

I tend to fan off the window washers, because they can be a bit annoying, but this time around I was feeling generous so we gave one a few dollars.  I also gave a beggar some food.

We didn’t take any pictures of them.

Life for many locals isn’t easy … But I love that no matter how hard life is, Jamaican people find joy.  They love music and dancing and on any night of the week, there is some party to attend.  I love that it’s generally understood that when it rains people don’t go to work.  I love that we are proud of our little country.  I love that they play the national anthem at the start of every movie in the cinema and I love that Jamaican people love a reason to dress up.  They tend to keep their places neat and tidy no matter what they are working with.  I love that strangers say good morning when they walk by you and that children address adults as “Miss This” or “Mister That”.  You may even be called Auntie or Grandma by a complete stranger.  It’s a sign of respect.  I love that friends just stop by without calling first and that they may come bearing the gift of some mangoes since it’s early in mango season and they are hard to come by right now or they may come looking to see if you have a sweet snack to offer them.  I love that Jamaica has awesome ice-cream; Although, as a general rule, menu’s are kind of useless because chances are good that at any given time, they won’t have all the listed items.  On this trip, I had to settle for grapenut since Devon House was out of rum and raisin.  No problem.

 

In Jamaica, there is a lot to be desired.  Crime and unemployment rates are too high and the education system doesn’t cater to the poor.  In some areas, there are more potholes than there is road, but people are willing to share the little they have, on January 21st they are still wishing you Happy New Year, there is always something to celebrate, men get very creative when dishing out compliments and you can always find a reason to smile.  Also, as my Aunts friend joked when we woke to the news on the 19th, “At least OUR government is not shut down.”

This is not the all-inclusive resort Jamaica but it’s the Jamaica that has my heart.

 

(In the garden and driving on the left while eating my ice-cream)

 

(More back yard garden and the mountains just outside the front gate)

 

How Was it? January 23, 2018

Filed under: Family — The B Side @ 3:15 pm
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We went to Jamaica for 3 days.  When I got back, everyone asked me the same question and it’s one I have a hard time answering.  How was it?  I can’t answer that with a few quick words.

 

It wasn’t an easy trip travel wise and it wasn’t a cheap trip, financially, and even emotionally it was complicated, but it was worth everything to make my Auntie happy.

The travel included a 4 hour drive then a one hour drive then a 7 hour wait in the freezing cold, then a 2 hour wait on the tarmac, then a 3 hour flight then a 2 hour flight then a 20 minute drive.  That was just to get there.  No, that’s not typical – it’s just the way this trip went.

 

On one hand, it was great because it’s always great to go back home.  The air smells and feels different.  There’s a different energy to the spirit of the place and I feel it the minute I step off the airplane.  The food is delicious and I love the sounds of animals and music that permanently fill the air and I love being surrounded by the language(?) I grew up hearing and speaking.

On the other hand, it wasn’t a vacation.  We went at this time specifically because my Auntie is having some health issues and we wanted to celebrate her 90th birthday with her.  Because she’s 90 and has health issues, every time I see her feels like it’s going to be the last time.  That makes me sad.

On the other hand again, she’s doing as well as you can expect.  She’s not bed ridden or anything and we had good conversation and she still makes jokes and she is at peace with how her life has been and whatever is to come.  She’s loved and appreciated and she knows it.  She’s being well taken care of, medically and personally.  I couldn’t want anything else for her.

Yet, it’s hard to see someone who has always been fiercely independent become less so.   Mostly it’s hard because I know that she doesn’t feel comfortable relying on others or needing to be taken care of.

For her birthday she got what she asked for.  It was a lovely evening.  We got Chinese food take out and her best friend made a chocolate cake; from scratch.  There was chocolate icing too, also from scratch.  We put the fancy table cloth on the table as well as fancy napkins.  She opened the presents we had brought for her and she read a letter that Ace had written to her.   She had a whiskey and we sat with our feet up, talking.

I was surprised that hearing her read the letter from Ace was what made me get emotional.  Something about my oldest living loved one reading a letter from my son just got to me.  As she nears the end of her life, his letter was so full of youthful energy.  He told her about the Play Mation that he got for Christmas and talked about how much he wished he was there with her since Virginia is cold.

How near is the end though?  It’s hard to say.  Honestly it wouldn’t surprise me if she made it to 91.  To 92.

As happy as she was to have us there, she wanted no part of us sitting around “babysitting” her.  She wanted us to go out and have fun.  We didn’t make it to any beaches (because that would have meant being gone for hours) but we did do little outings around the city and we were able to go out at night with friends and cousins after Auntie went to sleep.  We got home at the same time that she was waking up in the morning – And this made her feel good.  It was just like old times.  It’s been a long running joke between the 2 of us that we could easily share a 1 bedroom apartment with 1 bed because we wouldn’t need to use it at the same time.

 

I don’t have a good way to end this.  I just love her so much and every time I leave it’s hard.

I don’t want to make this post feel sad though because she’s not sad and she doesn’t make anyone around her feel sad.  She just takes care of her dog and listens to her music and reads her books and enjoys her flowers and does her sudoku and drinks her coffee or beer or whiskey depending on the time of day.  Oh, apparently she also started drinking Smirnoff Ice after our visit last year because Shaunie had left one there and my Auntie discovered that she liked it.  She can’t lift heavy things and she doesn’t cook anymore and her doctor doesn’t think it’s safe for her to be left alone, even for a little bit, much to her annoyance, but she takes it very well when I tease her and she hasn’t lost her spunk or her interest in what’s happening with the family or in the news.  She’s the sweetest, kindest, most delicate person ever.  But she’s no sycophant or door mat.  She’s the sweetest, kindest, most delicate boss of a brilliant lady you could ever know.