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feeling life

It’s been a while since I visited my mom’s grave, so I wanted to visit it while in town last weekend.

As my hours left in town shrank into minutes on Saturday, I found I didn’t really want to visit Mom’s grave. I’d already felt my mom in a dozen sweet moments of life outside the cemetery in my family’s three days in town. Trying to find her in the cemetery, which she only ever visited in death, felt like holding on to the wrong thing.

My husband, sons, and I left town without visiting her grave.

I feared I’d get back to SoCal and kick myself, but no: I’d felt her life wherever I went in town, and that sweetness didn’t leave me just because I left town.

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Categories: Death, Family, Love Tags: , , ,

at the same time

Someone said something
that catapulted me back
to February 2009

I had to try working
and try raising a
five-month-old
and try saying
goodbye
to my
dying
mom,
all at
the
same
time

One morning,
I sat in a corner
of my mom’s
empty, cold
house, twenty
feet from where
she lay dying, and
burst into
tears on
a conference
call:

Not only
could I not
answer a question,
I could not do right
by my son,
and I could
not ease my
mom’s pain,
and I could
just not
be
enough

To feel then
and now, together,
from within a community
of people who understand
is a blessing

I did what I could
with what I had,

And,
of course, I know
from my mom
“enough”
does
not
mean
“perfect”

I answered
the questions,
provided the care,
and said the farewells
that I could

From here,
I see that it was
enough, for me,
for my son, and
for my mom,
who was mighty
proud at how I
could work
and parent
and say goodbye,
all at
the
same
time

Grandma Christine’s warmth

My seven-year-old asked me to see pictures of “Grandma Christine,” my mom. “I can’t remember what she looks like.”

It’s not surprising he doesn’t remember. He was only five months old when she died.

I told him I didn’t have many pictures of her. I explained that this was because she destroyed all our pictures while suffering from a kind of mental illness. I added that the loss of all those photos makes every picture I have of her all the more precious.

I promised to show him those pictures I still have, but a day passed. Another day passed. Yet anther day was apt to pass when he exclaimed an hour or so ago, “Your mom! I still want to see pictures!”

I sat down on the stool in front of my computer. Li’l D joined me there, snuggling up next to me as I loaded my tiny folder of photos labeled “Mom.”

The warmth of Mom flowed from those photos until I got to one longtime readers will recognize: the moment my mom met her first grandchild, and smiled a genuine smile for the first time I’d seen in years.

Li’l D scampered off to play with his new toys as I stared at the photo.

Mom and Li'l D

In my blog’s most popular post, “Dear Mom,” I expressed some of the abundant joys and sorrows of being my mom’s daughter. In the two years since I wrote that post, I understand the joys so much more clearly.

I also understand what a privilege it was to be raised by her. I know this might sound strange to someone who’s read about pieces of the poverty, abuse, predation, mental illness, and cancer that entailed, but those were mere fractions of an overall experience bound together by her love, compassion, forgiveness, and hope.

Had I experienced all that hardship without her insistence–and demonstration–there could be better, I would not be where I am today.

I like where I am today. I like how I am facing enormously complicated, harrowing truths while finding ways to effect change and retaining my optimism.

How do I know to do these things?

I learned them from my mom.

So today, as I remember the warmth of my son pressed against my side, asking questions about Grandma Christine, I also remember the warmth of being nestled against my mother.

The warmth itself fades, but the memory of that warmth is unquenchable.

Note: If you’d like to read more on the joys and hardships of being my mom’s daughter, please read the series I compiled–largely for my husband–last year:

No way we could let it happen

This is a picture of Yemeni children sleeping with their hands over their ears.

hands over ears.png

They’re trying to drown out the sounds of airstrikes, while simultaneously hoping they live through the night.

To many of my “I’m-no-foreign-policy-expert” friends in the U.S., it’s kinda sad and regrettable these kids must sleep with their hands over their ears.

For me, it’s a little different.

I grew up dirt poor.

I would have been one of those kids, covering my ears because I had no other choice.

Last week, I wrote:

‘Cause, let me be clear: If I’d been born in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Libya, my mom, my siblings, and I would have been among those bombed or starved to death thanks to Clinton. We’d have had no resources to escape, and no hope … save the tiniest sliver of hope that Americans might, before me and mine died, learn to see and join together to speak up in a way that reflected their acknowledgment that

our
lives
mattered.

The U.S.A. is currently bombing seven predominantly Muslim countries in Africa and the Middle East. (I called it genocide before I read about United Nations representatives already using the word more than fifteen years ago.)

Affable, eloquent President Obama has expanded the campaign of terror built by George W. Bush. He’s done it with the consent of the people he leads, who–so far–have not bothered calling on him for change.

Like the predators who once preyed upon me and my siblings, those around me go, “He can’t be a bad guy! He’s so nice!

Nice is tactical, y’all. Nice is meant to win you.

It’s the magician making you look into his eyes while his hands do crafty things.

It’s thanks to President Obama and relatively affluent U.S. citizens that hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children are starving to death right now.

‘Cause, see, there’s lots of oil in the region. And Saudi Arabia is a key U.S. ally, which means we must help them at all costs–yes, even when that cost is in hundreds of thousands of human lives, and even when they routinely target civilians.

The Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, took lots and lots of Saudi money into her family foundation while she was U.S. Secretary of State. She approved record arms sales to them, enabling them to obliterate the poorest of the poor in their quest for dominance. (“Oh, you stop that!” scolds the Obama administration without any real efforts to change anything. “That’s not very nice!”)

The elder Clintons needed lots of money to pay for their daughter’s wedding with Foundation funds, see.

Hillary Clinton was the most prominent “Democratic” advocate of the Iraq War. She advocated for it without having read the 90-page document that might have swayed her against it.

90 pages. Hundreds of thousands of lives destroyed, all so she could show her American stripes.

Then, a few years ago, she said it was time to start thinking of Iraq as a “business opportunity.”

Kill more people, get more oil.

Neat.

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 6.56.37 PM.pngSo I’m trying to find the bright side. I’m trying to prepare myself to find people who’ll go, “Oh, shit, we’ve been endorsing that in Yemen?!” after election day.

But, holy shit. In the meantime, I’m stuck with people celebrating their votes for Hillary. Their votes for identity politics: “I’m voting for a woman, which means I must be doing the right thing, yeah!!!!!”

They celebrate their alleged vote for human rights with no concept whatsoever how the Clintons have devastated people at home and abroad for decades.

They’d just have to do two hours of research. Maybe three hours.

I look at that all and I feel hopeless.

Because I would be dead, if I were born in Yemen and my survival were left to such people.

I would be dead because they said, “Lady president! Yeah!” and didn’t bother digging one centimeter deeper.

And so comfortable 38-year-old me faces the uncomfortable dissonance of being relatively okay now, surrounded by people who are relatively okay now, and yet remembering what it was like to not be remotely okay before.

Knowing that hundreds of thousands of people are not-okay right now …

… because we Americans don’t, in the end, really see them as people.

If we did, there’s no way we could let it happen.

No way.

silence is a war crime.png

Policemen, let names be names

Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

These two men
are now memories,
members of a terrible club of those
deceased by having the misfortune
of crossing paths with policemen
while brown-skinned.

I wrote
in December 2014
that “No parent anywhere
should reasonably fear
the sanctioned killing
of their children.”

I also wrote
about social media’s
power to transform policing
specifically, to enhance
accountability, instead
of enabling officers
who have ended
a life to narrate
its conclusion;
to enable all
citizens to see
police officers
as protective force,
not protected fatality
factory.

In August 2015,
I wrote that if my husband
ever dies at police hands,
he will have died
with his hands
in the air.

This morning,
I pray for police cameras
actually turned on, for police
accountability such that lethal action results,
always, in independent review and indictment,
rather than habitual non-indictment
that virtually assures tomorrow
policemen will again kill
without consequence,
and then again the next day
and the next day,
and the next,
ad nauseum.

Let names be
names, not hashtags.
Let hashtags be hashtags.
Let police protect all, and be
held accountable when
they do not.

Let my husband
make it home to me safely
today, and every day … and let
everyone’s husband, and father,
and son, and brother and cousin,
do the same, instead of
reasonably fearing
at every traffic stop.

Let me look at
policemen and think,
“I am so glad you are out there
protecting me and mine,”
instead of cringing and
thinking, “Please do not
kill without recourse
today, tomorrow,
or ever again.”

Accountability
is not a negative
thing, but the basis
of trust, and oh, how
I want to trust
(reasonably).

This is the picture I will plaster everywhere. You will not find a mugshot.

This is the picture I will plaster everywhere.
You will not find a mugshot.

the duration of love

today
i drove
alongside
the ocean
with my sister
madeline

i told her
how i learned
our mom had cancer
right before i boarded
the train to
my first
comic con

and how
when i drive
one stretch of
this freeway,
i remember
talking to my mom
while looking out
at the ocean
so vast and
thinking
how enormous
(wider than the ocean)
it felt to know
we would not
have many
more
phone
calls

but, today,
talking with madeline,
i reached that stretch
of freeway
and felt

endless

like my mom
and my godfather,
and my grandpa g
wrapped parts of
their love into me

and i feel them
(not the loss of their bodies)
in these moments:
the warmth of love
wrapped around me,
a cocoon of forever,
the duration of love

image

Running toward them

Today I wore
a silly pair of sneakers
to work, having donated
a dollar to charity
for the privilege

image

I didn’t think
much of the shoes
when I laced them up
this morning

Nor did I wonder
why I have been
itching to run
after not
wanting
to run
for
months

Then
an office friend
and I got to talking
about them, and I
discovered
my recent
urge to run
isn’t really
arbitrary

My mom
died of cancer
six years ago
tomorrow

Six months
after she died,
my siblings and I
ran a half marathon
for a cancer charity
in her memory

I wore
toe sneakers then,
at least until I got
so fed up with their
sogginess in the
Portland rain
that I
took them off
and ran the last
seven miles or so
barefoot

image

(So.
Much.
Better.)

I ran

We ran

We transformed
our love and
our grief
into movement;
into hope;
into a chance
for change

Our mom
was still gone
when we finished
running, but we
were still there:
in the struggle,
in the sogginess,
in the victory of
finishing
inspired
by love

And so,
this afternoon,
as I look at these
silly sneakers,
I see
I want
to run
because
running is,
for me,
a celebration
of life,
of hope,
of love,
of Mom

And I see
that I want
you to run
not only peek
in the direction
of your dreams,
thinking not
of how far
away they
appear
right
now
but
of
how
much
closer
they will be
if only you
will start
running
toward
them

Categories: Death, Grief, Love Tags: , , , , ,
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