debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Sometimes I find myself walking down the street and thinking, "My Uncle Bobby won't get to see the neighborhood kids walking to and from school this year," or "Eileen's new students won't ever learn checkers from my uncle."

I miss him. The acute stage of grief has passed. I no longer cry for hours on end. Still, almost every day has lonesome moments. I cry through some. Other times, I just feel... less, somehow, than I was before.

What is most interesting to me is how every grief is different. It carries the signature of the person missed, I guess. For example, when Frank (my godfather) died, I slept for weeks. When Anne Cote died, I wept like a baby. Later, a baby I cared for died while I was away for a few days. What I felt then was sadness and regret that I could not do more.

This is a new kind of grief. Life keeps moving, but Uncle Bobby is in his way my companion through it. That's how I feel right now.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Late summer is a strange time. The weather is more like Los Angeles than the Mid-Atlantic. Days are warm. Nights are cool, breezy, and relatively dry. Some of the trees are just starting to change - including the very top of one maple. I'm worried about my life and the months ahead.

I just received a wonderful email full of great advice from a friend. We've worked together in the past. We have similar backgrounds. I'm amazed that people can see me in such a positive light. I'm grateful to be liked so much as well.

Last night, for reasons that I don't understand, I was overcome with terror when I got off the Metro. I could hardly stand to walk home, and walked as quickly as possible. When I told her about it, [livejournal.com profile] papertigers offered to meet me at White Flint when I get off work tonight. That wouldn't have even occurred to me.

I am lucky to be surrounded by thoughtful people.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Mr. Miles)
Dear Miles,

You are extremely cute and somewhat insane. Do you realize that I spent three and a half hours on Saturday looking for you, calling your name, and begging you to come home? I walked into underbrush so thick, I doubt you could have even penetrated it. I had a stick. I lifted tree limbs. I talked to every person I saw. I spoke Spanish, and I don't know Spanish. I made a flier with the bold headline "LOST CAT" and a picture of you. I told everyone how handsome you are. I cried in the tub. I raged. I couldn't eat. [livejournal.com profile] papertigers couldn't eat. Neither of us could enjoy anything.

And then you just sauntered up to the sliding glass door and demanded your dinner.

Why didn't you come home when called? Because you didn't feel like it, pure and simple.

You are lying here on the sofa, curled up into a little ball, with one paw on your nose. Yet you regularly claw the carpet as though it were a scratching post. These things are difficult to reconcile. On the one hand: adorable! On the other: bad! I feed you twice a day, yet you often claim to be starving, and when the food comes out, you jump onto the chest of drawers and try to eat Sandy's share. And by the way, we buy this expensive food just for you. But do you appreciate it? No. Instead, you try to drink the milk from my cereal.

Also, please note that the cupboard where I keep my computer was not meant to be your bed.

Love,

Your Favorite Mommy
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
I have been thinking a lot about the concept of growing old gracefully. I had a conversation with my grandmother recently that precipitated this. We were talking about how hard things have been for my dad and his siblings since my uncle died. Grandma Snazzy (yes, we call her that) mentioned that she doesn't have any friends. All her siblings and most of her friends have died. I mentioned that one can always make new friends, and she said that at her age (she's in her late 80s), they die, too. In a way, I get this. But isn't that life? Everyone does die, sooner or later.

Grandma Snazzy has generally been a great example of the idea of growing old gracefully. When I was a child, she and my grandfather took trips around the world. They visited China, Yugoslavia, and Peru, among many others, on inexpensive package tours. Grandma, who was a shoe saleswoman at The Broadway, retired when I was in my early teens. She then devoted herself to volunteer work and gardening. She was always busy - busier than my high school senior self, even though I was singing in three choirs and participating in Mock Trial. Now, however, she has been slowed down by her broken hips, and she's idle and unhappy.

My Granny (great-grandmother), on the other hand, bloomed almost to the very end of her life. She died just before her hundredth birthday. Grandpa Pumpkinhead (other side of the family, but yes, we call him that) died two years before I was born. The year that I was born, my Granny, who was already 80, traveled to Egypt. She later went to Ireland and the Holy Land, among other places. Back in the U.S., she signed up for Bible study classes at her parish church and History classes at her local community college. After she broke her hip a few times, Granny was forced to live in a residential care facility, but she was still the life of the party. She attended daily Mass. She won awards for her creative Halloween costumes. She also won money at bingo and taught herself to read Italian (I should mention that she was not on the Italian side of my family).

The interesting thing, to me, is that my Granny was a widow, while
Grandma Snazzy is not. According to my dad and uncles, Granny was quite subdued when Grandpa Pumpkinhead was alive, and became more active as a widow. I wonder if this is part of what is holding Grandma Snazzy back, and if so, I find it rather sad. I think, though, there are other factors. Grandma Snazzy enjoys being active, but she's not the most social person in the world. She's also in a private home in a gated community miles from real public transportation. Still, both of them give a person a lot to think about. What is growing old gracefully? Does it help or hurt to be a widow? What does one do when one finds one's friends and family dying, one by one?

Any and all ideas on this topic are welcome.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Today was my uncle's funeral. I attended noon Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, where John F. Kennedy's funeral Mass was held. In the meantime, in Los Angeles, my family was holding their funeral service.

This is the eulogy my father gave )
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
As it turns out, not going to Uncle Bobby's funeral isn't going to be the drama I was dreading. The funeral is on a Wednesday, so unless I wanted to miss a week's work (and therefore a quarter of my monthly income), there was no way to do it. I'll be saying a rosary on Tuesday while they have his rosary service at Holy Cross, and I'll try to take a half day on Wednesday so I can go to the noon Mass at St. Matthew's here in DC and do a funeral pray-along. (My family is mainly Catholic - French, Irish, and Italian - so this is an act of solidarity with them.)

I actually had a conversation with my dad today. He's pretty down about losing his only older sibling, and is expressing it in angry terms, as he often does. He says he's lost four pounds this week, and with the way I was eating and sleeping on Wednesday and Thursday, I believe it. He and my little cousin A., who is going into her Senior year of high school and was really, really close to Bobby, are going to do the eulogies. I am proud of my cousin for being strong enough to make herself so vulnerable.

I am still very upset. We will miss him very, very much.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Uncle Bobby fell asleep in the Lord tonight at about 5:35. Thank you all for your prayers and kind messages. May his memory be eternal.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
For all of you who have been praying for Uncle Bobby - we just got word from his doctor that he is in multiple organ failure and will most likely die in about a week. It does not help at all to know that he is cancer-free.

That's your update, folks. I'm just sorry it wasn't better news.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Uncle Bobby is doing better, and on his way to feeling a lot better, too. From my point of view, there is this: I now realize that the chances of my uncle surviving leukemia are very, very slim. That may sound like a bad thing - and it is, in its way - but it's also a good thing. I was really, really shocked by the suddenness and severity of the revival of this cancer. It threw me for a real loop. That is not going to happen again. When he goes home (and it really looks like he may go home), we are all going to realize that there will probably be a lot more medical intervention coming. The focus is soon going to be keeping Bobby as lucid and comfortable as possible, for as long as possible.

And that's OK. It's almost good news, really.

Thank you all for your hugs, good wishes, and prayers. Please keep them going.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Today, I talked to Farba Sow (my Mauritanian brother) via Skype. He found me about a week ago on facebook, and we've been writing back and forth a lot since. Apparently, Mali ("book name" Mutar) misses me, and I miss her, too. We used to sit together every evening and discuss things before dinner: cooking, TV shows, words in English and Pulaar, and we taught each other songs and folktales. Farba and Idrissa were mostly away at school (the town had no high school), but home on many weekends and for the summer. Ceerno and Bebe were younger; Bebe (book name Jeri) was one of my students. Ceerno was a little young - he was still in elementary school. Mamadou, who died two years ago, was in Nouakchott being a young rogue. Aissata, who is now an English teacher, was in Nouakchott until she got pregnant with Jellia. It's encouraging to know that she's finished her studies even though she had a husband and kid. Marieme, our aunt, was unhappy with Aissata's pregnancy because she believed it would be the end of her studies and career aspirations. Fatimata is still married to a soldier and living in heaven-knows-where.

Mali has two kids now, a remarkable feat for someone whose husband lives hundreds of miles away and gets back to visit only every couple of years. As [livejournal.com profile] papertigers pointed out, it only takes a few minutes.

Sadly, one of my favorite kids died. Little Zakaria had such personality. Fate has made a clean sweep of that family. While I was living there, his mother died, followed by his tiny, sickly baby sister (my particular pet, only about six weeks old) and his grandfather - all within a few weeks of each other. His dad was despondent, and sat around the compound like so many clothes. The dullness behind his eyes was terrible to see. Now father and son are both gone, too, giving a little more credibility to the idea (voiced by my friend Miranda) that it was AIDS that killed the mother. There's no way of knowing for sure; there was no HIV testing to be had in the village, or even in Kaedi, and in general, when people die and you ask the question "What did so-and-so die of?", people look at you blankly and respond, "They were sick." Malaria? Influenza? Dehydration? Heart disease? Who knows?

Some things have changed, but most stay the same. Jeynaba Moussa and Kadja Silley are still at their regular posts. Their kids are well. Little Aissata must be eight or nine by now, and little Jeynaba as well.

The number of names is limited - I was also Jeynaba in the village, better than my Boghe name, which was a nickname (Boobo) rather than a proper name (their daughter in Nouakchott who was called Boobo was also - surprise! - Jeynaba).

I'm rambling on, but it's been an interesting day. Tonight, I'm going to call Uncle Bobby and talk to Aunt E. a little.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
My Aunt K., whom I bless for so many reasons, has sent me a true update on my uncle's status. Some excerpts from her email:

A. and I were by to see Bobby yesterday. He was up in dialysis (it is a 4 - 5 hour process every day at this point) and we stayed about 2 hours.

Here is what I learned from E.
(Uncle Bobby's wife)

He is most likely finishing chemo today. They test him every day for his platelet count. It has been very low, which means his blood isn't clotting and Tuesday night he had some bleeding.

He has been spiking fevers at night (anywhere from just over 100 to 103+) and that has been a concern but manageable.

Hopefully after the chemo is done his dialysis can be cut back to 3 - 4 times a week again.

I was able to pull up the Care Pages from my phone and share with E. all the comments. Bobby has not been able to really read anything, nor get on the computer. His first post was dictated to C.T. The second was written by
[my baby uncle]* at E.'s request. I told her that people said "he" sounded better and her reply was not what I wanted to hear.

Her actual words were "Oh no. It has to be pessimistic, not optimistic." As A. said, Aunt E. was saying "We hope for the best but brace for the worst." It isn't looking good, but no one is giving up.

Bobby was listening from time to time, but not participating at all ... and when he tried it was hard to understand him. C.
(my dad) and [my baby uncle] will both be visiting this weekend, and E. is not really going home except to change, eat and turn around and come right back.

That is where it is.


If you are praying folk, please pray for my uncle and my family. He is really quite young (in his early 50s) and all of this has been a shock, especially after his seeming recovery. Uncle Bobby is not a glamorous or exciting uncle, but a solid one, always ready to be the pillar of strength, the first person to show my aunts that they were appreciated even though they weren't boys, and the main reason I was always one of my elementary school's top earners in the annual jogathon. He is quiet, maybe sad, and very stable - the calm point in a stormy family. He and Uncle G. (who is in fact a cousin who was raised by my grandparents) are the only ones of my fifteen aunts and uncles on that side that I've never seen angry.

*my pet name for my youngest uncle, who was 15 when I was born
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
I love Freecycle. I love, love, love, love Freecycle. You don't have to haul your things out to the thrift store. You get to meet the people who need and want your old things. You get, really, the double pleasure of giving things away and having fewer things. It's wonderful.

We have been using Freecycle a lot lately, as we are moving on Thursday to a much smaller place.

It's Mothers' Day. Today after church, I brought Myra an azalea (actually two azaleas, one pink and one white) for us to plant. That way, two of our earliest-blooming spring plants will be hers and we'll have a nice show on the patio. I also brought bacon and biscuits and blood orange Italian soda, so we had a nice little brunch at home. We spent a good part of Mothers' Day at the Old Country Buffet in Gaithersburg because S., C., & Z. were there, along with a moderate portion of the V. family in general. Several were out-of-towners. It was a good time. Z. learned my name; we drove them home since their hotel is near where we live, and at the end of the night, I said, "You're going to go to bed with Mummy and Daddy now," and Z. replied, "And [livejournal.com profile] papertigers!" She started to doze against my shoulder and was quite reluctant to let her mother take her. I tried to steal her, but they're going to the hospital for S.'s radiation tomorrow, and C. needs to have her baby with her, understandably enough.

I did not call my mother, but this is only unusual in the sense that I am with [livejournal.com profile] papertigers (who always made me call my mother in years past). Before that, I never called my mother. My mother vocally scorns Mothers' Day as a commercial holiday designed to force people to spend money.

Overall, a nice break from the endless round of packing stuff up. Back to the salt mines tomorrow.

BACK.

Mar. 23rd, 2010 08:11 pm
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
I am back online at home, and am finding that, as usual, the world has managed to roll along without my spending every spare minute on the internet. It's a relief!

If anything much has happened to you in the past 3 weeks that I need to know about, please post it to comments... or post the link to your LJ.

My grandmother has broken her second hip. (She broke the first one in October.) What a year for the Grandma and Grandpa Snazzy! Grandpa had a birthday this month. It's strange to think of their being in their 80s. I always had the young, vital grandparents - but I guess I'm getting older, myself. When my mother was my age, I was 13 years old.

Otherwise, things are OK. I'm enjoying the prospect of fantasy baseball and really savoring Lent as it winds to its close. I need to look out for some volunteer opportunities and things to do with friends - I need to feel productive and build some self-confidence. Any recommendations of places I could volunteer would be appreciated... especially if I could work Monday afternoons or Saturdays.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Fr. J's reply to my inquiry about the nature of forgiveness and the situation with my parents was, boiled down to basics:

1) Make sure you pray every morning and evening - it doesn't matter which prayer;

2) Reading the psalms can be helpful;

3) We should talk about this face-to-face on Sunday;

4) Your mind is a bad neighborhood which you should stay out of (OK, he actually said not to dwell on this too much and to do relaxing, distracting things - basically [livejournal.com profile] papertigers's advice).

I am confirmed in thinking that, quite apart from having a wife who is very smart and lots of fun, he is probably a very sound priest.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
We've been trapped in the house, more or less, since Friday afternoon. We went out to CVS (about a half block away) on Saturday; I've shoveled snow (and enjoyed it tremendously); there have been games and movies; we built a snowman; we even had an "I'm sick to death of being shut in"-type fight.

For the past week or so, I've been contemplating asking [livejournal.com profile] papertigers to marry me - asking sooner, rather than later. True, her engagement gift was not perfectly complete, but I've been working on it for two years now and it has been exceptionally hard to track down Nikki Giovanni for the purpose of autographing a book. Today, I decided to simply do it. I've been snowed in with [livejournal.com profile] papertigers (and the kittens) for five days, and neither of us has killed each other - in fact, we still love each other a whole lot. So after we briefly discussed DC marriage and what we would do if we got married, I simply went into the bedroom, got the book, hid it behind my back, ignored the trembling in my core, and asked her to marry me.

She laughed for a bit first. Then she said yes, and I immediately felt much better.

[livejournal.com profile] scooterbird, [livejournal.com profile] efbq, and their girls spent part of the afternoon squealing at us, as is their right. It was a happy thing. After all, if I have to get snowed in, there's really no one I'd rather be snowed in with than [livejournal.com profile] papertigers.

Long Day

Jan. 16th, 2010 11:49 pm
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Mr. Miles)
I went to Aunt Rochelle's* funeral today. I didn't know her well, but it was pretty heartbreaking to see my family so badly hurt. She died quite young (cancer), and she was the first of Grandma Webster's children to die. The funeral service was Cathotist (Catholic service with Baptist preacher doing the eulogy and a Baptist choir singing a couple of songs). The oddest part was when they did the sign of peace (the priest says, "Let us offer each other a sign of peace") and I heard people behind me saying, "What do we do now?" Partly in reply, I said to one, "Peace of Christ," and hugged her. She went on to say, "Peace and grace," and hug the person behind her, which works well enough. (After that, she caught that what I had initially said was "Christ," though I think grace is also an awfully nice thing to wish someone.)

[livejournal.com profile] papertigers's brother S. came quite a long way by public transportation to give her some love and a massage. She had put away most of the Christmas ornaments. We finished undressing the tree and the house; it is all put away now.

Later, [livejournal.com profile] efbq and [livejournal.com profile] scooterbird and their younger daughter came over with games and cake and other amusements for the injured party. They bought us a few groceries and amused us over dinner and dessert, and for the remainder of the evening. They have just left. I was sternly admonished to look after [livejournal.com profile] papertigers. I'm glad there are so many other people who love her.

Tired now; [livejournal.com profile] papertigers has already gone to bed. Good night, all.



*of my DC family, not my birth family
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
My original intention was to record this Christmas season in its entirety here, but that proved difficult this weekend. Yesterday, we rinsed the henna out of my hair. My hair looks amazing. It's got a rich reddish brown color instead of the dull brown that it had turned because it's been going grey for the past several years. It's also very soft. [livejournal.com profile] papertigers and A. were happy with their work.

We finished watching Swing Time, which contains a pretty horrifying blackface sequence. (A. and I fast-forwarded through the worst of it, but not all - F.A. retains the blackface after the performance sequence is over, since in the plot he rushes straight from the stage into a situation he's trying to avoid). After that, we picked S. up in Gaithersburg and went to the mall to get presents for A., her sister, [livejournal.com profile] scooterbird, and [livejournal.com profile] efbq. We waited to take A. with us because we wanted her to choose something for herself. Teenagers, after all...

I also had my first experience with Rita's, which was fantastic. A. chose my flavor - a mixture of black cherry ice and vanilla custard. Yum.

We then took S. to have linner with [livejournal.com profile] fafou and her newish girlfriend at The Cheesecake Factory. The newish girlfriend is cute and shy and has a sense of humor, and we all rather liked her. We had a relaxed and funny waitress who also made the evening fun. We took S. home after that, and [livejournal.com profile] scooterbird came to pick A. up and bring her home. We gave him his present at that point, which he liked, and we all opened Christmas crackers.

Today, after church, we set the house up for a small but lively group of children. Our guests were: [livejournal.com profile] papertigers's niece E., who is just 6; my nieces A., 12, and L., 8; my nephew D., 11; and J. (3) and H. (1), who are the daughters of some good friends of mine whom I have known for almost a decade. We gave the kids snacks - apples, carrots, spinach dip, cheese, crackers, and corn chips - and talked for a while. Then the kids got to cut out and decorate gingerbread cookies. As usual, we were left with a lot of leftover cookies; the kids always make more than they actually want to take home. They wreaked destruction in the guest room (Legos really do go everywhere) and cleaned it up very nicely. We gave them each a Christmas cracker (they swapped the toys until each kid was satisfied) and sent them home happy and tired. It was fun.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
It was really nice to see [livejournal.com profile] papertigers at the end of work today. We cleaned the house - I took the wrapping paper from Christmas morning out to recycling, [livejournal.com profile] papertigers cleaned up the dining room table, and we collaborated on the kitchen and the living room.

Last night, we watched Holiday Inn while we ate our pie.

I'm still having a lot of difficulty processing Thanksgiving weekend... and the 32 years that came before it. I want to thank you all for your kindness and support. Holidays are fraught with family associations, but I can honestly say that we are having a lovely Yuletide.
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
This morning, I was exhausted, but I managed to get myself out of bed and to Liturgy. I had been up late on facebook IM with my cousin L., who was wondering if I was speaking to my father. I explained the situation to her; her father is my dad's brother, and makes my dad look even-tempered, so I knew she'd understand. She both understood and approved, but in the course of the conversation, we went over some very difficult subject matter. I had another nightmare last night (they are slowing down, though!) and really needed some renewal in the morning.

When I got home, we had a nap. Then I finished making maaro e liddi, which I did a pretty good job on overall, except for forgetting the salt (it had an effect, but not a disastrous one). We ate it and went to meet [livejournal.com profile] silk1 and her husband and their daughter E. (yes, the same E. who turned six a few days ago) at the National Zoo for Zoo Lights, which was much better than it was two years ago (there were at least five times as many lights and an additional open animal exhibit). E. loved the displays and was particularly enthralled by the Reptile House.

We came home and had scrambled eggs with cheese, toast, and hot chocolate. We also opened our presents from [livejournal.com profile] silk1's family. I got two Auntie Mame books! What fun!
debboamerik: black-and-white cat (Default)
Christmas dinner. Lots of people, kids running around, far too much food, and conversation with the proverbial relatives you don't know. It reminded me a lot of the T. family (my maternal grandmother's family) Christmas Eve event - food like crazy, kids like crazy, relatives you don't know, and an off chance of getting an odd (by which I mean strange) gift or two. It was a taste of my family as it has not been since Uncle Nino and Aunt Mae were still alive... and this wasn't even my birth family (or Italian). I loved it.

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