Posted in !Family, !Hope, !Lessons, !Memories

Every Little Thing Helps

I’ve spoken with mom three times since the hurricane hit the island. This third time, though, made me feel a small sense of relief I didn’t even know I needed until the very end. It was like a shot of happy, one that doesn’t kill your liver. (What d’you know? My horrible humor is slowly coming back.)

There’s finally signal in areas of my hometown, so she doesn’t have to wait to drive out and make a call. Such a silly thing, some might think, but in the age of technology (or, as Hardison would say, Age of the Geek) when you have the ability to talk to someone in a matter of seconds…not being able to talk to your family, of not knowing how they are, well, it gives a whole new name to the word stress.

I realize there were times you’d have to wait weeks to get a letter, and I’m sure in those times they were masters of patience, but I wasn’t born in those times. For that reason (and many more), I wear my stress and anxiety like a warm blanket of banshees. Don’t ask me how that works.

Today was also the first day we were able to talk for longer than usual. She told me about the experience and, I have to say it, I hated the idea of not being there. I wouldn’t have been of much help (…well, maybe some. I’m good at fetching things), but I would’ve been there, you know?

The house wasn’t damaged, but mom told me how it woke her up because of the sounds the wind was making. I’ve lived in PR during a hurricane (George), so I remember the sound of hurricane wind, but based on mom’s description, this was a lot worse. They usually put up wood panels over the windows because the ones on one side of the living room is made of glass. The windows still shook. You could still hear it. And as soon as it passed, mom wanted to check on my grandma who lives two towns over (or one, I can’t remember, it’s been so long).

Mom told me about the trees that got ripped out of the ground, how they drove past land that looked like something had shaved it, and there were power lines hanging low, but they were able to make it to my grandma’s. While she told me she felt cold at the sight of everything, I was already cold. While she put those images in my head, I put them next to images of the places I remember.

Those images of the past looked a lot better than what was being described as the present. I didn’t want to believe it, but I couldn’t not believe it. I had seen it, pictures and videos of it, but I hadn’t seen anything from the routes I remember, of the houses I knew and saw. Hearing it this way, made me see it two ways: as the kid that walked those streets and now, the adult who hasn’t seen them in years.

My grandma was okay, she was cleaning when they got there, since water had gone in through the windows. As each family member reunited, there were material losses, but they were all okay. And then I went from feeling guilty for not being there, to being thankful they were all safe, to feeling horrible because there are people who are still not safe.

Hi! Welcome to my Brain! There is no entrance fee; however, disclaimer alert, I am not the most logical being on the planet.

My mom asked me if I remember the house near my grandma’s, where I used the bathroom once, (to which I should’ve responded, “Of course, my butt always remembers where it has claimed a throne,” but, y’know, not feeling particularly humorous at the time, I just settled for, “Yup, I do!”). Thank goodness they evacuated the nice lady (whose face I remember, but not the name) before the storm, because as it was made of wood, the entire thing collapsed.

Mom also said the central parts of the island are suffering. There’s a town that no one can drive to, the roads completely collapsed. They’re getting aid by helicopter, but that’s about the extent of it, I believe. Mom has an AM radio, but since it is solar powered, it can only go for so long before it has to be charged. Though that might be partly because she used it after charging it for a short while the first time, instead of letting it fully charge. Can’t say I blame her. I would’ve waited half a minute, maybe.

Empathy is a gift, it really is, but it comes with a buttload of fine print (simply put: you feel a lot.)

I think that’s why I’ve avoided articles as much as I have, and have avoided talking about it at length, because the more I do, the more I feel like I’m not doing enough. Which is crazy, I know. I am doing things, I know I am, and the family is helping each other to get through this, but I want to be able to just snap my fingers and make it all okay. I just want fix everything, because I’m unrealistic that way. And the fact that I know I can’t drives me nuts. But, as someone once said, every little bit counts.

I also owe it to Patton Oswalt’s Netflix special (Annihilation) for the words that have helped keep me sane recently (and by “sane”, I mean I’ve been less cranky, and this close to calm.)

It’s chaos, be kind.

Words said by his late wife. And while the words are few, those are words that zap you straight on the forehead. Because that’s it, that’s life, that’s humanity. It’s all chaos (Murphy’s Law, I’m looking at you, twerp), but it would be a whole lot bearable if we were all kind, not just to each other, but to ourselves. And that’s how I’m trying to apply it to myself. That is, I’ve gotten better at not blaming myself for things I can’t mend or control.

It’s chaos, be kind.

Unfortunately, thinking of those words also reminds me of something else I heard that left an impression. There are some taking advantage of the chaos, packages in the mail have been broken into, stores have been robbed, people have been taken advantage of…and while part of me would like to have those people in a room and, well, the rest doesn’t need to be said (I am an enabler of imaginations), to them I also say, “It’s chaos, be kind.” (You turds.)

Posted in !Family Shindigs, !General Musings, !Lessons, !Memories

 The Things We Don’t Talk About

As I grew up, I learned of a concept that’s probably not at all foreign, or new. In life, there’s a lot of things we see, live through and experience that while, yeah, that happened, we just don’t talk about it. Sometimes we have a good reason, other times we make up a reason and label it “good” but is it really? Who can say? Who should say? The thing is, most times, not talking about it only reinforces the design of the cage. Staying silent doesn’t break it, it doesn’t open it, and one day, someone else will have to live it long after we’re gone.

I think the best example I can use for this would be my father.

I don’t really have a relationship with him anymore. I drew the line, set that cage on fire and buried it the day he decided to shove me against the kitchen counter, but before that day? Oh, I would try to cover his behavior with a multitude of reasons and excuses, some of which had validity, or I thought they did at that point in time until a very good friend told me the following: 

Blood is thicker than water, so is motor oil, and if you wouldn’t let a truck run you over, why would you let your bloodkin?

The sad thing is, what made my father the way he was, and maybe still is, is the fact that he never talked about how toxic his father was. No one did. It was the thing very few talked about (and I would only find out way later in life).

You see, my grandfather was a misogynistic asshat. The one story that will always stay with me is the story of my grandfather’s day at the beach with his mistress, and how my grandmother had decided to take her kids to the beach (without knowing that’s where my grandfather was – with his mistress). The moment all of it clicked into place (well, kind of hard to deny what’s right in front of you), my grandmother ran home because she knew my grandfather was about to unleash both emotional and physical abuse on her due to her having interrupted his day at the beach – with his fucking mistress.

That’s the kind of thing my father would have to witness and, in his opinion, that’s what should happen.

I realize some people may be able to see the behavior of their parents and go, “Nope, nooope, I’ll be the one to travel a different path, thank you,” but, raised in the small town that he was raised in, in an overall patriarchal society, well, I wonder if he ever realized a different path was possible. Maybe he didn’t want to. Maybe he didn’t talk about it or deemed it a regular occurrence because no one told him differently.

That’s often what can happen with things you don’t talk about.

I was extremely lucky to not be raised under his roof (and my mother was extremely lucky that he decided to let her go before I was even born), but I would visit every other weekend. My mom tried to do the right thing by never saying a single bad thing about him – she wanted me to form my own opinion – and in a way, I’m grateful, because as a kid, if you told me something was bad, I would see it as a reason to try and find out if it was bad, why it was bad, and why you think it’s bad (…kind of one of those “don’t jump” followed by me going, “WEEEEEEE” scenarios).

And I did form my own opinions. The more I saw, heard and experienced his small-minded mentality, the more I could see (and recognize) the path I didn’t want to walk on.

When he’d ask, “Am I right or am I right?” I’d have the balls to do what no one in his family had the balls to do, “Neither, ’cause you’re not giving me the option I want.” I paved my own path. To which he’d often respond, “You’re just like your mother.” (Which, duh, I took as a compliment.)

And I did talk about it, to close friends and my mom, mostly.  Mom would help me think for myself or guide me as best she could. Whenever I encountered a situation, she’d tell me a story, as a way to explain why that was done and let me shape my own opinion. My mom is often good at not telling you what to do but instead telling you what things look like (she’s also the champion of doing things that people tell her not to do – who do you think I get it from?) 

Fun fact: mom hated one of my then boyfriends because he reminded her of my father. She didn’t tell me this until I made the assessment on my own and closed that door. She didn’t tell me because she knew I would only see it as the opposite.

And yes, I was a typical teenager. I commend my mother for not throwing me out of a moving vehicle when she had the chance. You only think I’m kidding. That actually happened.

The car we had was pretty beat up. It was not fancy, nor did it have auto lock, and I would sometimes forget to lock it. I lean on the car door a lot when I’m in the passenger seat. I leaned strongly and the door opened and the seatbelt held me somewhat in but not all the way. Mom’s arm reached out for my shirt and grabbed me. And there’s more than one incident like that because I am, no joke, accident prone. And I’m invisible so even someone backing out of a parking spot has the tendency to hit (nudge? At that speed, it’s kind of like a nudge) me.

But back on topic, talking about the unpleasantness, not just about my father, but life overall, it helped me realize when enough was enough, that it wasn’t right, that emotional abuse was just as bad as physical abuse. I bore the emotional abuse from my father for as long as I could in the hope that, one day, he would change.

Sadly, that never happened, and as I said, the day the abuse got physical, I made a choice. It’s a choice that brought me a lot of pain, probably brought him pain, too, because I don’t think he realized he could lose someone so completely, someone who had overlooked so much and borne previous pains and always came back.

That day, I didn’t come back, and still haven’t, and if I had…I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it would’ve gotten worse.

Talking about things, however painful or personal, helps you realize one of two things: is this something I can survive and overcome, or is this something that needs to be dealt with, in whatever manner is appropriate at the time? It’s a choice only you can make, but the best part about it…you don’t have to do it alone.

I know I didn’t. My mom was there every step of the way and the times I would tell her that certain things happened, you bet your ass she turned that car around and gave him what for. Amusingly enough, the only women I think my father is scared of is my grandmother and my mother. My mother almost hit him with a baseball bat after he threatened to attack her and my grandmother actually slapped him after she witnessed him mistreating my mom (fun fact: grandma is not tall. Grandma went to go get something to stand on JUST so she could slap him). I come from a long line of “wait, you think you’re going to do WHAT to me? HA” women.

You don’t fuck with my mum (or my grandma). And I like to think I’m better for it. I sure as heck don’t get pushed around or treated like I’m an idiot because of my gender so, yeah, good riddance for that. (I’m pretty sure I have dumb blonde moments but this has nooothing to do with my gender, or my hair for that matter.)

And let it be known, my father? He believed I’d grow up to become a prostitute because my mom opted to raise me on her own because, in his mind, a woman that isn’t dependent on a man can be only that.

That’s the man I made excuses for, empathized with, tried to see the good in – all because of how much I ignored the things I saw and heard, how I tried to cover it all up, but talking about it…sometimes just writing it down instead of saying it out loud…every little bit helps.