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Posts Tagged ‘remembering’

Resilient: what we are

Reading an article on resilience recently, one particular paragraph struck me:

Academic research into resilience started about 40 years ago with pioneering studies by Norman Garmezy, now a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. After studying why many children of schizophrenic parents did not suffer psychological illness as a result of growing up with them, he concluded that a certain quality of resilience played a greater role in mental health than anyone had previously suspected.

My mother, who was beautiful, vibrant, and offbeat through her 2010 death to cancer, had schizophrenia. I thought my husband understood the complexity of this until we had a startling conversation in 2015. Afterward, I wrote: Read more…

The memory of typhoons

In 2004, I experienced my first typhoon in a small coastal town on Japan’s main island, Honshu. I filmed myself standing in the middle of a street while everything shook and swayed around me.

All was silent and still in the eye of the storm. I couldn’t believe the winds would soon whip around me again, but they did. I howled with them when they returned. The windy days I’d loved at home were nothing compared to this.

I enjoyed my later typhoons, too, but none invigorated me the same way my my first one did.

Today, an ocean and a dozen years removed from my first typhoon, I look out my SoCal windows and see the trees thrashing in the wind. The wind rattles my home’s windows, slamming sheets of rain against them.

I don’t know what it is about the wind, but I have always loved it. I will always love it. This wind-advisory afternoon, I’ll snuggle up with my husband and my little boys, content in now … but also remembering the thrill of being one small body standing strong against ferocious winds.

Thunder Thighs Forever

February 10, 2017 Comments off

For more than three decades, I shared a birthday with my mom.

In October 2010, I faced my first birthday without her. Cancer had claimed her body in March 2010.

mom me n d

(but not before she met my Li’l D, the first of her many beautiful grandchildren)

Writing about her sometimes challenged me, especially early in this blog’s days. How could I show all her love, humor, compassion, and ferocity, while still being true to the hardships I endured both growing up and saying goodbye to her?

I got as close as I’ve ever gotten in my 2014 birthday letter to her, my blog’s most popular post by far, “Dear Mom.” In a single paragraph, I was able to sum up my experience of being her daughter better than I had before or have since:

You always begged me not to write about you. You thought I’d write about how you beat my siblings and me, how you yelled at us, how you could barely feed us and only kept us in a home by selling other people’s trash. I do write about these things, because they’re part of you. But they’re a small part, so enormously insignificant compared to your laughter, your love, your lessons in forgiveness, our birthday trips to Farrell’s and Pietro’s. I wish I’d written more about you in your life, so you could have seen how greatly your loving acts overshadowed your lost and tired ones. I wish I could’ve started writing sooner, or that you could’ve lived longer to see your love through my eyes.

I was a little nervous when I wrote about my mom in “Bernie, Because I Was Poor: Poverty, Predation, and Understanding Love.” I posted it on Progressive Army, a site with readers knowing nothing about my mom but what I wrote there. Since they didn’t know my mom, I worried they’d take away from the piece a unidimensional understanding of a woman enormously complex and vivid.

My mom was and remains my foremost superhero. While the word “superhero” is thrown around a lot these days, I mean this fairly literally. One of my favorite things about my mom was her superhero alter-ego, the uniquely malodorous Thunder Thighs. Read more…

Love you well deserve

 

“You both
have so much energy,”
a mom told my husband
as she watched him and me
play with our boys
at the playground
a few weeks ago.

“Yeah, well,
we have fun,”
he replied.

I was saddened
by the exchange,
but not sure why.

I kept stepping.

“It really looks
like you’re having fun
with your kids!” a cashier
told me and my husband
a few days later.
“It’s sweet.”

(“It just comes naturally
to my husband,” I should’ve said,
but didn’t.)

“My mom really
had fun with me
and my siblings,”
I said, smiling.

I was saddened
by the exchange,
but not sure why.

I kept stepping.

Last week,
someone told
my husband that
our seven-year-old
is just the sweetest.

“He said, ‘You can tell which
kids are so, so very loved,’
my husband relayed. Read more…

A sitcom jersey & memory lane

On Wednesday evening, I caught the flu my two-year-old had just ditched. I stayed home Thursday, but was determined to make it to the office on Friday. Why was I so determined? First off, my cube is quiet and tidy, unlike my home. I cherish my time there.

Second, a beloved teammate was in from another office this week. I so seldom get to see him, I wasn’t about to let a little thing like “recuperating” keep me from the office.

Finally, it was a rare jersey day. With the Super Bowl just a couple of days away, I could wear a jersey and sneakers to the office! How could I sit that out?

My husband, Anthony, loves hockey and owns at least a dozen jerseys. At first, I put on one from his alma mater. It more or less matched my comfy toe shoes, which was this sports-ambivalent person’s main criteria for choosing a jersey.

Seeing myself in it, unfortunately, I could easily imagine a dozen conversations explaining that, no, I didn’t actually go there. (Been there, done that. It’s no fun for an introvert, even one in peak health!)

Anthony brought out one from a bin under our bed. Unlike the first, this one, a gift from his third season on a show for which he worked five years, had shared meaning. I’d worked on the show as an extra once, when my husband and I were newly dating. My heart fluttered when I caught a glimpse of him from the bleachers, and again when he swung by to say hello. Read more…

Star Trek & my irrepressible mom

My husband and I are trying to make our television a peripheral part of our family life.

While waiting for TV time to start this morning, I pulled out my handwritten journal. I’ve been using it since late 2008, before I was pregnant with my now seven-year-old, Li’l D.

Li’l D sat on my lap as I prepared to write my first 2017 entry. He read my first few sentences aloud before asking to see some old entries.

I found a 2009 movie ticket that made me smile. “This is from the first time I felt you move! There were lots of explosions in this movie, but for some reason, you jumped so much for one that I jumped out of my seat.”

“It’s true,” his dad called from another room. “She did.”

I told Li’l D that my mom loved Star Trek, which he immediately confused with Star Wars.

“They’re different,” I told him. “My mom liked both, but she really loved Star Trek, and its oh-so-super-hot William Shatner.”

Li’l D asked me to read the entry nearest his birth. I showed him the sticker from when I was admitted to the hospital to deliver him, but then got quiet when I saw the actual next entry.

It was from my last entry as a non-orphan. Understandably, Li’l D didn’t want to hear the whole thing.

By the time I concluded my entry, Li’l D and his brother were watching TV. And me? I was sitting with my journal, remembering what it felt like to sit and watch Star Trek with my irrepressible mom.

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:

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