We Made It!

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I could’ve quit but I didn’t.

It’s not like it was such a big deal. I didn’t paddle a kayak across the Atlantic Ocean or ride my bike from Jersey to L.A. I didn’t climb Mt. Everest or swim from Cuba to Key West.

All I did was blog every day in November. Nothing extraordinary. Words on a page. That’s all. I put words on a page every day in November.

I won’t even say it was hard. It wasn’t hard. But I will say that there were times when it was a wee bit difficult.

I had a huge project to finish in November.

I had cochlear implant surgery in November.

I had Thanksgiving in November.

I had the Green Bay Packers in November.

And anchoring it all, I had blogging every day.

November was a month that took a little grit. It’s November 30th and I’m all in one piece. I got everything done that I was supposed to get done. I was a trouper.

I finished my big project after much frustration and angst. I had my cochlear implant surgery, had my head bandaged like a WWI veteran and slept sitting up. I weaved my way around my house, making everyone nervous about whether I could make it down the stairs on my own. And then I drove my car to the bank.

We made Thanksgiving dinner and it was pretty decent. There was a full table – in more ways than one.

I sat for four hours in the rain and watched the Green Bay Packers lose to the hated Chicago Bears and got tears in my eyes when the beloved Bart Starr and Brett Favre, Green Bay’s legendary quarterbacks were honored at halftime. Never mind that I sat on the floor of the ladies room under the towel dispenser during the 2nd quarter wringing out my drenched gloves and bemoaning my fate.

It was a month of a lot of little nadirs. And a lot of trusting that everything would be okay. And it was. A lot of family members watching out for me, putting a strong arm under mine, spotting me when I started to waiver, being normal but not. So many good hands I was in. They helped me get well fast.

A couple of times this month, I heard my dad talking. “There’s no quit in that old gal,” he’d say. Usually, it would be about a car or maybe about his 80-year old mother rowing her boat out to the middle of the lake to fish for sunfish with a cane pole.

“There’s no quit in that old gal.” I’d like that to be said about me. Not about blogging. About me.

 

 

Waiting for the Brass Band

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There’s a brass band way down the street. Part of me is excited for its arrival on my doorstep and part of me wants to lock the door and draw the shades.

It’s been very quiet in my head for the past ten days. The ear that got the cochlear implant is essentially dead at the moment, not working, out of commission, not even the tiniest sneak of hearing while I wait for the implant to be activated later this week. The other ear with the hearing aid has stepped up, doing the hearing of two ears, a workhorse of an ear for sure. But without that hearing aid, there is almost no hearing happening.

The sensation of having gone over the wall to the land of the deaf is pretty overwhelming. But I have to tell you this. There is a serenity here that is hard to find in the world of noise and talk. But the serenity holds hands with boredom. I can do plenty to amuse myself. I can think great big thoughts. I can read important books. I can write this blog.

What I can’t do is have much of a conversation, casual or otherwise. Today, while we were walking, I asked my husband if he thought that we would start chit-chatting more after my implant is activated. “No,” he said, “we never did chit-chat all that much.”

We did. He just doesn’t remember.

So Thursday, the brass band is showing up. That’s when I see the audiologist and the implant is activated. I’ve been warned that it will seem like an onslaught of noise, a cacophony, and that seems extraordinary and awful at the same time.

I wonder if I will even know how to act when I can actually hear what people say. This will sound strange to you hearing folks out there but hearing people will require me to acknowledge and engage with them. If you aren’t deaf, you really just can’t ignore people. If you are deaf, folks get used to it. They even start to count on it.

I admit that I’ve become a bit of a Boo Radley, more comfortable putting soap dolls in the crook of a tree for people to find than actually having conversations with them. But I decided I wanted out of this life and now I have to do what comes next.

I have to open the door to the brass band and be happy about it.

Smile Everlasting

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Today is my father’s birthday. He was born November 25, 1913.

Incredibly, I didn’t know that until he died and I read the date on the card the funeral director handed me when I walked in to my father’s service in 2003. He died about three months before he would have turned 90.

I knew his birthday was in late November. And I knew he was born in 1913. But his birthday was a vague event, something that happened around the time of Thanksgiving. It didn’t have its own space. If it did, my father kept it to himself.

No fuss for Roy. It wasn’t his thing.

This is my favorite picture of my father. He is just a person in the world. Like he’s given no thought to time passing. Had no worry about it and no reason to measure his days.

Immigrants Welcomed Here

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My granddaughter’s mother was a refugee from Laos. Once, on Thanksgiving, I started a conversation asking everyone’s earliest memories. She spoke last.

She remembered eating at a table at a refugee camp in Thailand when a stray dog ran up to her and stole the food off her plate.

She said this in the most deadpan way. The conversation was over. She had no interest in entertaining us with her family’s refugee story. Only the one image of being in a camp and having a dog steal her food.

My granddaughter’s father is a Nicaraguan who became a naturalized U.S. citizen when he was in his teens. He is our adopted son, brought to the U.S. when he was 21 months old.

My husband’s family immigrated from Ukraine in the early 20th century to escape the pogroms. His grandfather and his great uncle walked to Palestine where his uncle stayed and raised a family. His grandfather immigrated to Philadelphia and, after many years, opened a deli, the kind you see in the old time movies with the pickle barrel in the corner and the kind shopkeeper giving all the poor people credit. That’s what he did. My husband’s mother grew up in the apartment above the deli.

My husband’s grandmother came to the U.S. on a boat in 1905. Alone. She was 12 years old, also from Ukraine. Her mission was to find a job and send money back to her family. That’s what she did. She lived a long, good life, worked hard, had two children. My husband remembers her making gefilte fish from fish he and his dad would catch on vacation in the Florida Keys. She’d brought the recipe with her, I guess. She was small and sturdy. Undaunted.

My family has been in the U.S. for a very long time but they, too, started as immigrants. A few years ago, my daughter spent a weekend absorbed in Ancestry.com and discovered that our ancestors on my father’s side go back to the Revolutionary War. It surprised me. I never knew. My father never talked about his lineage, never bragged that his family had been here a very long time.

He talked about growing up, his father’s work as a carpenter, and how rough it was during the Depression. That was his history. So I don’t think he would have felt that his ancestors having been in the Revolutionary War had any real import. But he likely never knew; maybe his family had been here so long they had forgotten they had come from somewhere else.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because of the detentions of Central American immigrants on the Texas border. Watching the news reports, I am struck by the determination and strength of women and families who have walked their way through deserts and rivers to get to a place of safety. I admire my husband’s relatives, picture them walking from Kiev to Palestine and figure they had many terrible, frightful reasons to make such a journey. I admire his grandmother, walking off a ship in 1905, not speaking the language, not knowing what’s next and making a life, creating a line of very tough, ingenious descendants of her own.

I also admire my father and his disinterest in the past and his belief in his ability to make his way even while I acknowledge that his beliefs and opportunities were rooted in his being a white man in a land that put those people first on every list.

Our country is a jumble of people and a tangle of history, some of it grand and much of it horrible. The immigrants who came first presumed the land theirs for the taking. The decimation of the native population of America is often overlooked, an historical inconvenience in the discussion of immigration. But immigration started as organized theft and I acknowledge that. We also need to remember the forced ‘immigration’ of enslaved people, the millions of captive, chained men, women, and children whose coming to America involuntarily started generations of enslavement. This massive piece of history often seems to get lost in the immigration discussion.

All of this history is our history – the people who were here, the people who came from other places, the struggle of figuring out how we can all live well on this enormous and beautiful piece of the earth. We may never achieve the perfect union but we have to keep trying and we have to keep welcoming people who want to join us. The girl from Ukraine, the man from Palestine, the baby from Central America, the child from Thailand, the man who had been here so long he forgot where he came from, they all sit at the table.

And there are seats at the table because we kept making the table bigger. That’s America’s best and finest thing – making the table bigger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Things I’m Sick Of

The list took some culling but these are the items that floated to the top of the detritus of my miserable, self-pitying existence today.

  1. I am sick of eating soda crackers. Related to this and not deserving of its own place on the list, I am sick of feeling nauseous. I think the soda cracker cure is bogus, dreamt up by cheapskates who didn’t want to give pregnant women with morning sickness chocolate or cavier. Who invented soda crackers and for what true purpose? Mortar.
  2. I am sick of closed captioning always spelling Aaron Rodgers’ name Erin Rogers, morphing him somehow from the NFL’s MVP to the girl singing the solo at the Christmas pageant.
  3. Related to football, I am sick of professional athletes with ridiculously long hair. It’s annoying and sometimes you can’t see their names on the back of their jerseys. And then there’s the tossing, which I really can’t stand.
  4. I am sick of reading and re-reading the surgeon’s aftercare instructions like it’s the Rosetta Stone and I will miss doing or not doing the one thing that will kill me for sure unless I study every word in every line.
  5. I am sick of sleeping sitting up. Or not sleeping sitting up, as it were.
  6. I am sick of looking out the window from my bed like I’m the dying girl in the O.Henry story where the husband paints a leaf on the building outside so she doesn’t die. There’s more to it than that but not really.
  7. I am sick of complaining and I may be sick of this list.
  8. I am sick of NaBloPoMo and Yeah Write’s No Mo. When you get to the back of the closet where you keep your crummy lists in order to not miss a day, you know you’re on borrowed time. I’m not quitting though and you can’t make me. I want one of those cups.
  9. I am sick of wearing pajamas and wish I had a proper muumuu.
  10. I am sick to death of my sick, decrepit, self-absorbed self and hope the Body Snatchers come tonight and take me to the dump just outside of town and tomorrow I can start over as an actual functioning human being.

That’s it. That’s my list of ten things I’m sick of. It’s better than one of those sickening gratitude lists, isn’t it?  Seriously. I’m really sick of those.