Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: these are his stories, these are his songs


“The church is the oldest, the most continuous and most important institution ever created by the African American people.” — Henry Louis Gates, Jr. told Jeffrey Brown of PBS in an interview about his new four hour two-part documentary The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song that premiered on PBS in February as a salute to Black History Month. Gates should know since he is the writer, host and executive producer of the film aimed at telling the amazing stories of the people who shaped not only religion but also politics and culture through more than 400 years of black American life in this country.

Johnson & Johnson, one of the corporate sponsors of the documentary, introduced the PBS special with these words: “Not all black American stories are simple or easy to tell, but for many years Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has told them like no one else by rediscovering lost narratives, correcting historical misconceptions, resurrecting forgotten heroes. Johnson & Johnson has been with him through all these years and will still be along for this incredible journey.”

From the primitive Praise House on St. Helena Island, one of the sea islands in Beaufort County on the lower coast of South Carolina, to the historic Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston that was the site of the massacre of nine members including pastor Clementa Pinckney in June, 2015, the black church in the United States has helped to define the journey of African Americans from enslavement to emancipation, from Jim Crow to public lynchings, from segregation to Civil Rights.

Dr. Gates (PhD from Cambridge) is internationally recognized and respected as an author, literary critic, professor, public intellectual, documentary film producer, essayist and historian whose life-long passion for black history focuses on weaving the African American experience into the fabric of a multi-racial, multi-cultural community that delineates his hope for the country he calls home. He serves currently as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Sound stuffy? Not so much. One of my favorite scenes in the Black Church documentary (that I’ve now watched two times!) is the visit by Dr. Gates to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where Patrice Turner, a Director of Worship and Arts as well as an accomplished gospel pianist, sits at a piano in a large empty worship auditorium with only Dr. Gates standing next to the piano, clapping, singing, thoroughly enjoying two favorite spirituals “Ride On, King Jesus” no man can hinder thee and “Great Gettin’ Up Morning” fare ye well, fare ye well. Thank you, Jesus! he exclaimed when the music stopped.

Clearly the documentary celebrates not only the enduring faith of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. but also acknowledges the shortcomings of the black church in its dealings through the years with sexism, homophobia and domestic violence. For example, one of the unresolved questions today is where is the black church in Black Lives Matter?

We celebrate Black History Month in February every year, and this year I choose to honor a living historian whose stories inspire me and whose songs lift me up from the inharmonious existence of a Covid-19 universe. Thank you, Dr. Gates!

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Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

Posted in family life, Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, racism, Reflections, sexism, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is, The Way Life Should Be | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

troubles in texas


Our thoughts for the past few days have turned south and west toward my home state of Texas, and Pretty’s second home state with me when we were bi-stateual from 2010 – 2014. We are a thousand miles from our Worsham Street neighborhood in Montgomery, Texas which this week has been under seige by a deep winter freeze that blanketed the entire state with snow, ice, wintry mix, whatever term the weather people choose to give the vicious storm creating havoc with the safety and daily needs of all citizens of the Lone Star State.

We are deeply concerned for our family and friends who call Texas home – some without power, some without water, some with no phone service, some with very little food, most without heat for 4 – 5 days – and indeed, all the people of Texas and the surrounding area who have been affected by yet another disaster.

Thanks to my cousin Nita Jean in Austin who shared this photo:

her neighbor’s backup water stash

A pandemic called Covid continues to claim lives every day in Texas, South Carolina, the United States, worldwide even in the midst of earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, and other disasters. My cousin Diane in Texas said tonight, “What’s next, locusts?”

Wishing our family and friends in Texas (and all of you in cyberspace) safety and sanity in these troubling times. Please stay tuned.

The Lone Star State flag flies with the US flag in Montgomery, Texas

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if the answer is a bridge too far, the question is what is a welcome diversion?


The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming – down under to the 2021 Australian Open Tennis Tournament that began with high hopes for real live fans in the stands but now those stands have been emptied for a five day Covid lockdown that began Friday night and will hopefully end this week on Tuesday or Wednesday depending on where you (and/or Elmo) are in the complicated time zones that disturb my already disturbed sleep patterns for two weeks every year. Thank goodness for the World Time Clock Converter that promises me it’s really eight o’clock tomorrow night when I wake at 4 a.m. to watch a featured match I must see “live” in Melbourne, Australia. Thank you, ESPN, for your ongoing coverage which may be the death of me.

Unless, of course, the death of me comes from the unraveling of democracy that I watched during the days that were the actual days for me and the rest of the world as we observed in real time 100 United States Senators who served as jurors during the past week at the impeachment trial of former president Trump for inciting the January 06th. insurrection that was a final desperate attempt to overturn the 2020 election results through mob violence which interrupted a joint session of Congress charged with counting the individually certified state electoral votes that provided for the transition of power to the Biden/Harris administration. The violence resulted in the death of one Capitol police officer beaten to death at the scene, physical injuries to 140 other law enforcement officers, the desecration of the Capitol building, the attempted murder of former vice president Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

No World Time Clock Converter was available to transport me to a different day or a different outcome of the trial. Not Guilty by reason of insanity – oh yeah, the insanity was my judgment of the 43 Republican Senators who voted to acquit the man who didn’t care whether they lived or died during the attack on January 06th. Whoa. Lead me not into temptation to wallow in depression, but deliver me from the evil of self-righteous power hungry Republican Senators including Graham and Scott of South Carolina. You see, this is why I needed the welcome diversion of the Australian Open tennis, regardless of time zones.

I gratefully turned my attention to Russian names like Rublev, Medvedev and Karatsev who will be part of the men’s draw as the Australian Open moves into the second week. While #1 seed Novak Djokovich nursed an oblique abdominal issue requiring a large taping he displayed with great fanfare for the cameras as he changed shirts between sets the first week, and #2 seed Rafael Nadal reported the back problem he had at the beginning of the tournament felt better with each match, the younger guys were feeling fit as a fiddle, eager to take the court. The Russians are definitely there, and they’ve brought their best games with them.

Can one of the Russians spoil the dreams of Djokovich for a 9th Australian Open title, the hopes of Nadal for his second Australian Open title that would put him at the top of the all time men’s tennis Major winners with number 21 ahead of the tie he now shares with Roger Federer at 20? On the other hand, is this the year either Dimitrov, Tsitsipas, Zverev, Berrettini, Fognini – names that have floated as possible usurpers to the thrones of Federer, Nadal and Djokovich for several years – finally break through to win the men’s singles title along with the $2.75 million prize money?

The Americans are coming, the Americans are coming. In the women’s singles draw for the second week twenty-five year old Jennifer Brady from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania who played for UCLA in her college career; twenty-six year old Jessica Pegula from Buffalo, New York; twenty-eight year old Shelby Rogers who comes from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina down the road from where Pretty and I live; and thirty-nine year old Serena Williams who continues her quest for the elusive Major title #24 in her amazing career that has kept her at the top of women’s singles tennis for the past twenty-five years.

Serena and her sister Venus Williams have carried the weight of American tennis on their remarkable shoulders for more than two decades while the tennis careers of other American women- and men – have crashed and burned. Can one of these four, I repeat four, American women bring home the Australian Open title, the first Major of 2021? As Martina Navratilova said during her television coverage of the Open, women’s tennis is back in America.

Let’s hope democracy never leaves us.

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Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

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This is Dedicated to the One I Love


Return with me to those thrilling days of yesteryear, actually twenty years ago this week, to meet Pretty who magically changed from being a close friend and confidante before the spontaneous trip to Cancun pictured above in February, 2001 to a woman who was hotter than the salsa we had with dinner at La Destileria the first night we were there. And trust me, that salsa was hot.

Pretty owned a feminist bookstore called Bluestocking Books in Columbia when we first met in the early 1990s – a small independent bookstore devoted to providing alternative literature mixed with the classics. Bluestocking quickly became known as a safe place for people seeking information on the growing queer community in South Carolina with the extra bonus of an attractive young lesbian proprietor who greeted everyone with a beautiful smile.

Pretty was “out” in a conservative state in a tumultuous era. She was ahead of her time with Bluestocking which closed after three years, but her contribution to the LGBTQ community was recognized and appreciated. She served on the original board of directors for the SC Gay and Lesbian Business Guild formed in 1993 and was the second president of that organization. Her passion for equality was the catalyst for an activist’s life, a passion we shared professionally over the decade that was the 1990s.

At the turn of the century, change was in the air. It was like everyone suddenly realized time was passing faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and if Superman and Wonder Woman were unlikely to intervene in the chaos and/or uninspiring sameness of our lives, we needed to make radical changes ourselves.

Both Pretty and I were in long term lesbian relationships that experienced seismic shifts as the first year of the new century came to a close. Our partners began looking for love in other places. Pretty had the additional drama associated with sharing custody of a fifteen year old son who she adored, an athletically gifted teenager who was the quarterback of his high school football team and the starting pitcher for their baseball team. She mixed her real estate appointments in her new career as a realtor with her tennis league schedules. Tennis had priority status.

The trip to Cancun was the launching pad for the most adventurous ride of my life. I had no way of knowing then that the gorgeous intelligent intellectually inquisitive woman with the wonderful sense of humor who grew up in New Prospect, South Carolina would marry the woman from deep in the heart of Richards, Texas and that we would be together for the next twenty years sharing a life unimaginable to me as a child. Yet, here we are – still laughing at each other’s jokes, still loving, still standing. And yes, still eating Mexican food as often as our older appetites allow; but now with the additional delight of sharing quesadillas with our sixteen months old granddaughter who is perfection personified. Life is good.

How do I love thee, Pretty? Let me count the ways, and let me begin with the spicy salsa you have always brought to our family life together for two decades. Unbelievable. Inconceivable. Somewhere in a distant childhood we must have done something good.

Happy 20th Anniversary, Pretty.

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Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

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Down a Rabbit Hole Through the Looking Glass


Found your pilot. Died in 1956. Earl Matthew Quigg of Hokenbaqua, Pennsylvania. Born in 1930. Air force. Married. Died on Sept. 17 at 3:15 pm of crushing injuries and conflagration, .7 miles south of Richards, Texas in open pasture.

Thanks to my first cousin Melissa on my daddy’s side who sent me this text message after our conversation earlier in the week, a conversation that went down a rabbit hole and somehow circled to a memory of school children playing softball one afternoon behind the little red brick public school building in Richards – play interrupted by the roar of a jet plane engine as the airplane careened crazily out of the sky.

Melissa is the real journalist in our family; she wore many hats working for Texas newspapers during her career and that background makes her a wonderful sleuth/researcher on all subjects great and small. Naturally she was able to retrieve the information for me about a mysterious plane crash in Richards, Texas that remained a vivid memory for me 65 years later.

I was ten years old at the time, but I still remembered our small group of boys and girls standing frozen together on the playground in the few moments the jet screamed past us to hit the ground in a field just beyond where we played, bursting into flames with thick black smoke billowing from the explosion, causing us to look at each other with horrified disbelief.

For the tiny town of Richards, Texas (pop. 500+) this was the equivalent of the Hindenburg disaster. The theory of 2nd Lieutenant Earl M Quigg’s heroism discussed at great length by my grandparents at their kitchen table was that he refused to safely eject during his spiral in order to save the lives of the children he saw on the playground below. I never forgot the name of this pilot who I believed saved my ten year old life.

As a teenager when I began writing my version of “poetry,” one of my poems celebrated the bravery of Lieutenant Quigg. I mentioned this to Melissa when we chatted earlier, and she made the mistake of asking me if I’d saved the poem. That would be from 65 years ago, in case anyone is counting. She suggested I write a blog about the plane crash and include my poem. Great idea, I said.

While Pretty keeps everything she’s ever had in her entire life, I save almost nothing except words and pictures but that means decades upon decades of words and pictures which have made their journeys with me from the Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic Southeast, zigzagging back and forth to Texas in between. Surely I kept my first poetry attempts. Alas, as of this writing I have had no luck in my search.

However, my digging around through boxes in my office encouraged me to step through the looking glass of another rabbit hole which allowed me to avoid the pandemic and politics (both equally disturbing) of today, transporting me to a time long ago and far away.

 

my grandfather in his barber shop cutting 

 Melissa’s daughter Nikki’s hair: a Morris family tradition

Maybe this picture of my grandfather in his single chair barber shop was taken Father’s Day weekend in June, 1984, the year I got this letter from my granddaddy. I did have the good common sense to save these words from him. He was born in 1898 and died in October, 1987, three years after this picture was taken. My paternal grandmother wrote me faithfully every week from the time I moved away from Richards at the age of 13 in 1959 to the year she died in 1983, but my grandfather was embarrassed about his lack of schooling and never wrote me until after my grandmother passed. In June, 1984 I was living in South Carolina, a thousand miles from Texas  and my grandpa.

My Dear Sheila, I just came in from church out at Pool’s or Dark Corner as Tom Grissom called it. Bro. W.A. Curtis is doing the preaching not a Bad Preacher Tells a few Tales kinder mixas them up keeps you awake. Sheila, I have something to pass the time with now 15 quail 10 little ones & 5 grown I liked to make a miss count. Had a real good Father’s Day will give you a run down on that later.

Tomatoes have just started to get ripe and the vines are loaded lots of string beans & baby lima looks like they are going to do good I have two rows about as long as a hoe handle. Now for the Father’s day. Your mother came first brought lunch & watermillon & a pretty shirt we had a real good visit enjoyed her so much. We discussed the Sheads at length not too bad. Ray came Fri. Lucille Sat. Sun. Mike, Melissa, Nikki. Ray a radio & Lucille a hat from London she had given me pr.pants Mike & Melissa shirt

Gaylen card & face lotion Gene & Patti card and last but not least was a very pretty sweet card from my Dear Grand Daughter I can’t tell you how much I love you and always have. You ment so much to Ma & me, ole bald headed Pa

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Pa, I can’t tell you how much I loved you and Ma and always will. I hope Pretty and I can give our granddaughter the same unwavering love you always gave me.

Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned, my friends.

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MLK Day in 2021


“As I began doing the research for this email and was reading the speeches of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I had no idea that the events – the breach of our national Capitol building on January 6th  would occur.  As the news broke on January 6th I was shaken and I was horrified.  There are multiple reasons that we. as a nation, got to this terrible moment. My question to myself and to you is “what do we do next”?  As I turned back to Dr. King, I read about his vision of building a Beloved Community and found some hope.”

These words were written by a friend of mine and found their way to me via another friend. I identified with these feelings of being shaken and horrified, and I was sure I needed a good dose of hope. What better way to honor Dr. King on MLK Day in 2021 than returning to his own words. For example, he wrote the following in his Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom essay on May 4, 1966.

“I must continue by faith or it is too great a burden to bear and violence, even in self-defense, creates more problems than it solves. Only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men can live together without fear. Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives…The American racial revolution has been a revolution to “get in” rather than to overthrow. We want to share in the American economy, the housing market, the educational system and the social opportunities. The goal itself indicates that a social change in America must be nonviolent.

If one is in search of a better job, it does not help to burn down the factory. If one needs more adequate education, shooting the principal will not help, or if housing is the goal, only building and construction will produce that end. To destroy anything, person or property, can’t bring us closer to the goal that we seek. The nonviolent strategy has been to dramatize the evils of our society in such a way that pressure is brought to bear against those evils by the forces of good will in the community and change is produced…”

To me, as my mother used to say when she was about to make a proclamation on a controversial topic, the people involved in the attack on our nation’s Capitol weren’t interested in a beloved community. I’m not sure if the insurrectionists who participated in this violent revolution had a vision of any community.

How long had it been since I read Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous letter penned from a Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963, five days before my seventeenth birthday – finishing my junior year in a totally white high school in a still very much segregated Texas Gulf Coast town, vaguely aware of the Civil Rights Movement and one of its principal leaders – probably consumed by my hormones that created crushes on girls unaware of my attention as I was unaware of a black minister imprisoned in Birmingham, Alabama who would change the course of American history, a minister now recognized with a National Holiday every third Monday in January since 1983.

“But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the
outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.”

My thanks to my friend whose words encouraged me to take a fresh look at the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Prize for Peace winner at the age of 35 in October, 1964 – four years before he was assassinated while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 04, 1968 by a man described as a white supporter of segregationist Alabama governor George Wallace.

Reading Dr. King’s essays bring me comfort and hope, too. I encourage each of my cyberspace friends to google his essays and read them in their entirety.

In May, 2018 Pretty and I met our Texas sisters Leora and Carmen in Louisiana to spend a few days on Pretty’s guided tour of the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. In addition to great barbecue and fun times playing cards at night, we went to the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery.

We squeezed in under the wire for the last tour of the day for the church following our visit to The Legacy Museum that morning. The church was rich in history but was usually identified by its connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who was its pastor from 1954 – 1960. The meeting to launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott was held in the basement of the church on December 2, 1956.

What an incredible experience we all had with our tour guide Wanda – her joy in sharing the history of the church was infectious…her storytelling made the history come alive. She provided opportunities for our personal interactions within the sacred surroundings. One moment from the church basement tour stood out to me as I settled into my thoughts on a riverboat ride later in the afternoon.

The original lectern Dr. King used in his meetings was still standing in the basement of the church. Wanda allowed each of our small group of six (another married couple from Kansas had joined us) to stand behind that lectern and repeat his words: “How long? Not long.” I put both my hands on the lectern as I repeated the short phrases, how long? not long. I felt a crack in the veil of shame for an entire race that I had worn since The Legacy Museum visit earlier that day. If Dr. King could say “not long,” then surely time was meaningless; redemption was still possible for all who repented. How long? Not long.

I wanted to add “too long.”

This week on January 20, 2021 we will inaugurate a new President Joe Biden and a new Vice President Kamala Harris. I was in the camp advocating a small private ceremony in a basement bunker somewhere – maybe I was the only one in that camp. Pretty being Pretty said ah, ah, no way. We can’t let domestic terrorists steal our celebration, our joy. My Texas sister Leora agreed with Pretty and also reminded me of Dr. King’s Mountaintop speech.

“Well, I don’t know what will happen now.  We’ve got some difficult days ahead.  But it doesn’t matter with me now.  Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.  And I don’t mind.  Like any man I would like to live a long life.  Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now…God’s allowed me to go up to the mountain.  And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land.  I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know today that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.  And I’m happy, today,  I’m not worried about anything.  I’m not fearing any man.”

The Covid pandemic has changed all of our lives in the past year. The political unrest is unnerving, but our struggles are small in comparison to those of a young African American minister who refused to surrender to fear.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King! I will be thinking of you and your legacy of hope for a beloved community in the days to come.

Stay safe, stay sane, and please stay tuned.

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yep – this is who we are


The images flashing across the television screen this week were appalling but compelling. I couldn’t look away, even when I didn’t want to see, much less believe, what was happening in my nation’s capitol. An estimated 10,000 of mostly white people who looked like me stormed the Capitol building in Washington, DC where the Senate and House of Representatives were in session to count the votes the 50 states’ electors had sent to the two bodies for a ceremony that was usually a pro forma final recognition of the results of the previous November election.

Not so much this year. Donald Trump, not unlike Humpty Dumpty, had sat on the largest wall of power in the world as president of the United States and had suffered a great fall when he lost his position in a free and fair election on November 03, 2020. Since that loss, apparently all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Donald Trump together again.

The king’s men ran around the country challenging election results in scores of courts ranging from state and federal courts to the Supreme Court of the United States with the same decisions. Humpty Dumpty lost fair and square; please stop bothering us with baseless complaints. But Mr. Trump, who had spent most of his adult life in court battles long ago learned to believe the courts were fallible – even unreliable. He thought his appointment of not one, not two, but three Supreme Court justices during his term of office would finally give him the wins he so desperately craved through the legal system. Shockingly, to him and me, the courts held fast and repeatedly ruled against him.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch or the White House if you prefer, the Covid pandemic raged on with more ferocity than a Category 5 hurricane. Ignoring the warnings of our medicine men, millions of Americans traveled throughout the country by plane, train, bus and automobile during the holiday season to visit friends and family who either unknowingly carried the coronavirus to the travelers or caught it from them. Rates of infections in the past two weeks have skyrocketed while hospitals and their staffs have been stressed to breaking points. Deaths stand at nearly 370,000 individuals today. Mr. Trumpty hasn’t noticed, or if he has noticed, he hasn’t commented on the losses.

He did, however, promise that the king’s horses would deliver a hundred million doses of new vaccines by the end of 2020 when in fact Newsweek reported on December 28th. that the actual number of vaccines administered on that date was closer to 2.1 million. Another loss to absorb and ignore.

Was it really just one week ago today that Mr. Trump called the Georgia Secretary of State to ask him to find 11,780 votes to reverse the results of the November election in Georgia? Gosh, that bullying phone call, which accomplished nothing more than another revelation of his delusion, seems tame now compared to the events I witnessed four days later on January 6th.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. Mr. Trump’s big lie that he won re-election in November, a lie that he tweeted incessantly over social media, a lie that he used to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from his more than 74 million faithful followers who voted to re-elect him was the lie that led to the images of destruction and deaths in our nation’s Capitol this week.

Many of the king’s men and women reported for duty at a large rally in which the king and his surrogates urged them to storm the Capitol to bring an end once and for all to the transition of power to anyone other than himself on January 20th. Mr. Trump promised to march with them to accomplish the coup that would guarantee Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would not replace him. It was Humpty Dumpty and Custer’s last stand. By the way, he retreated to the safety of the White House to revel in the dangerous mission instead of keeping his word to join the march.

The painful images keep coming – new ones every day – the wonder of cell phone cameras recording the faces and horrific actions of mob violence in my country. I feel overwhelmed, depressed, shamed, sickened at the sights of the attack on our democracy displayed for the world to see.

President-Elect Biden and I grew up in the same generation, and from his words of hope and his insistence that what happened this week was not what America really was, I knew he and I were on the same page. The man carrying the Confederate flag in the rotunda of the Capitol, the man sitting with his legs propped up on a desk in Speaker Pelosi’s office, the men and women shattering glass, breaking historic relics, vandalizing individual offices, in general disrespecting the building that represented the legislative branch of our government – those people whose actions resulted in the deaths of five others – they weren’t the Americans Joe Biden and I remembered.

Nonetheless, we are the Americans who immigrated from faraway places, spread disease and killed the population living on this land in order to take the land from them. We are the Americans who used slavery to build on this land, to work the crops on the land, to be the backbone of our agrarian economy. White equaled might for us and when the colors of our nation became more colorful, we are the Americans who feared for our destiny.

When Joe Biden and I celebrated putting a man on the moon, we are the Americans who refused to guarantee health care for everyone. While he and I celebrated rugged individualism, bringing ourselves up by our bootstraps, we forgot some people didn’t have boots. More recently, we looked past the atrocities of Guantanamo Bay, brown children separated from their families living in cages at our borders, black children denied access to quality education which placed them at higher risk for quality jobs, poor people of all races who live today in food insecurity also known as hunger. Gun violence, police brutality toward people of color, denial of climate change, homelessness – the list goes on. We are all of these Americans.

But Mr. Trump and his white nationalist friends are losers. He lost the presidency, he lost the Senate, and he lost the House of Representatives for his Trumpty Party. His attempt at overthrowing our democracy failed. His white nationalist friends are scattering to the winds as quickly as the planes can fly them home. The reality show is over for now.

I believe Joe Biden and I can listen and learn to be better Americans. I think Kamala Harris will help raise the consciousness of what the next generation of Americans can be. That thought gives me hope for my granddaughter’s future.

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Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

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comments closed…including my own


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the final new year


 

She sat in her large recliner covered with worn blankets for extra warmth.  She was shrunken with age and her spine was so curved by scoliosis she slumped down into the bowels of the chair. It seemed to swallow her tiny body.

She lost weight since she went to this place three months ago.   She didn’t eat. Her meals were pureed in a blender and fed through a large syringe. Open, please. Thank you.

She wore bright blue flowered pajamas which I knew didn’t belong to her. She was covered by a Christmas blanket and looked like an incongruous mixture of Hawaii with the North Pole.

Her beautiful white hair was uncombed, and she periodically raised her right hand to carefully brush a few strands from her forehead. There, that’s better.

Two other women sat in similar recliners in the dark den lit only by the reflected light of a massive television screen which was the focal point of the room.

The sitcom How I Met Your Mother was playing that afternoon.  No one watched this episode about misadventures on New Year’s Eve. I found the irony in the sitcom’s name since the woman in chair number one was my mother.

She needed care for the past four years, and I regularly sat with her as her dementia progressed in medical jargon from mild to moderate to severe. Severe was where we were on that first day of 2012.

I tried to talk to her about visiting my aunt, her sister-in-law, over the weekend.  No response. Mom had adored my Aunt Lucille so I thought she might be able to find her somewhere. Instead, she gazed at her black leather shoes on the floor in front of her. Slowly, very deliberately, she bent over and painstakingly reached for her left shoe. I moved to help her because I was afraid she’d fall out of the chair.

Do you want to put on your shoes, Mom? She stared vacantly at me and shook her head. Ok, I said and returned to my seat on the large overstuffed sofa next to her chair.

I made conversation with one of two sisters who cared for my mother and the two other mothers who sat in the recliners.   Mothers and daughters and sisters. We were all connected in the little den with the big tv.

My mother ignored me as she continued her ritual of laboriously picking up her black shoes one by one, tugging on the tongue to ready it for her foot, fiddling with the shoelaces as if to adjust them and then lowering the shoe to the floor in front of her to the same place it was before. She did that over and over again. Ad infinitum.

During one of her attempts, she dropped a shoe beyond her reach, and I put it in front of her chair with the other one. Do you need help to put on your shoes?  I asked again. No. I have to keep on this road, she answered.  She was on a mission.

The mother in chair number two told me she tried to help my mother with her shoes earlier. She told me to get away from them so I did, the woman said with a note of exasperation.

I’m sorry, I said.  That wasn’t really who she was. But I was wrong. That was who she was now.

I talked and tried to avoid watching my mother and her little black shoes for an eternity that was only an hour. Mom, I have to go, I said.  She looked at me with some level of recognition and said Don’t leave me.

I’ll be back in a day or two, I said, hugged her and kissed her on the cheek and told her I loved her.

I love you too, she said.  I really do.

*********************

I didn’t know on New Year’s Day in 2012 that my mother would be gone in April after years of waging war against an unknown enemy who robbed her not only of her body but also her mind, her memories. It was a losing battle, but I expected the loss.

Estimates place 1.6 million homes around the world in 2020 hadn’t known its mothers, sisters, wives, daughters as well as its fathers, brothers, husbands and sons wouldn’t live to see the first day of 2021. Shocked, dazed, saddened by the unexpected deaths of family members and friends, the fight against another unknown enemy called Covid-19 was briefer than my mother’s war but just as deadly.

Vaccines discovered at “warp speed” offered hope of victory over the Covid-19 devil in 2020 although the roll out at the end of the year has been poorly managed in the US in keeping with the tradition of pandemic mismanagement established at the federal level in previous months. Agent Orange is so busy trying to keep the presidency through wacky shenanigans since the November election that he has no time to participate in governing. The president is AWOL, and time has stood still during the political transition while members of the current administration remain persistently unconcerned about preserving either our national security, our democracy or our sense of compassion for the people whose lives will be forever changed by the events of 2020.

Blessed are those that mourn, for they shall be comforted, according to the gospel of Matthew. Garth Brooks sang of “taking any comfort that I can.” I’m hoping 2021 will be known as the year of comfort for mourners everywhere.

Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Posted in family life, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is, The Way Life Should Be | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

from the prom to white christmas to 2021


Pretty and I began Christmas Day with a musical comedy called The Prom that started streaming on Netflix in December with a cast that featured three of our film favorites, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington and Nicole Kidman. The movie got mixed reviews from the critics (whoever they might be) but came highly recommended to us by several friends as a must see. Even though I knew nothing about it, my feeling was any movie with Meryl is a must see.

Spoiler alert: The movie was about a high school girl in a small town in Indiana who wasn’t allowed to come to her prom because she wanted to bring another girl as her date. The plot sang and danced its way from one twist to another turn, from the longing of young lesbian love to the more political issues of inclusion and discrimination. Lavish musical production numbers, intimate dialogue among the key characters, Kerry Washington as a mother with a penchant for control that rivaled Olivia Pope in Scandal, Nicole Kidman with legs that went on forever, a musical Meryl having fun in the spirit of her Mama Mia movie in 2008. Director Ryan Murphy combined a variety of love stories set to music sung and danced to by a cast of talented performers that also featured James Corden, Keegan-Michael Key and Jo Ellen Pellman as the teenage lesbian heroine. Pretty and I were thoroughly entertained.

What struck me as I watched from the comfort of my recliner, however, was the message of the movie. In 2020 teenage lesbians coming of age in outgoing VP Pence’s home state of Indiana weren’t intrinsically bad kids. They were legitimate heroines; their love could be celebrated, not condemned. What a difference sixty years make. I shed more than a few tears mixed with laughter as I relived the emotions of my teenage yearnings for the “love that dared not speak its name.” Going to a prom with another girl in West Columbia, Texas in 1964 was as unimaginable for me as becoming Vice President of the United States.

Christmas night Pretty and I settled in for another musical comedy on Netflix: White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney (George Clooney’s aunt on his daddy’s side), Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen, another dancer whose legs went on forever. This classic was made in 1954 when I was 8 years old and while I have no memory of seeing it that Christmas, I do remember watching several times when it was replayed on television over the next six decades. I had, of course, forgotten almost everything about White Christmas except the song “Sisters,” a dance routine Clooney and a dubbed Vera-Ellen sang in costumes Beyonce and Tina Turner must have worn at some point in their careers. Did I mention Vera-Ellen’s legs went on forever? Well, Pretty was more impressed with her tiny waist which was practically nonexistent.

The amazing costumes for White Christmas were created by Edith Head, one of Hollywood’s most prestigious costume designers who won eight Oscars during her career but not one for this technicolor film. No, the only Oscar for the movie went to Irving Berlin for the title song which is purportedly the largest selling single record of all time if you can trust Guinness World Records that places sales at more than 50 million copies. Pretty came up with the interesting research that Bing Crosby had recorded the song years before the 1954 movie was made – that’s Pretty for you, and she’s always right. Crosby introduced “White Christmas” for the first time on Christmas Day on his radio show in 1941, days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Pretty and I spent Christmas day with our dogs, our gas logs and Netflix movies. This year we had no travel plans, no holiday get together with friends; but we had enough memories of our past twenty years together to make the day as special as our first Christmas. We had Mexican food leftovers purchased the day before at our favorite go-to small restaurant near our home. Life is better with salsa.

The pandemic of 2020 changed not only our lives but also the lives of everyone on the planet forever. On Christmas Eve we opened gifts at the home of our son and daughter-in-law to share the joy of our granddaughter Ella James who at age 1 was more interested in opening the packages than what was inside. It was a memory maker, as my mother used to say.

Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned as we face 2021 together. Pretty and I wish better days for all our friends in cyberspace in the New Year.

 

Posted in family life, Humor, Lesbian Literary, Life, Personal, politics, Reflections, Slice of Life, The Way Life Is, The Way Life Should Be | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments