Mourning the Living

[This is something I wrote for www.theprofessionalhomegirl.com]

My dad is ill. He suffers from diabetes and hypertension among other things. He has to attend dialysis three times a week for the rest of his life. He almost died last year (2017) while on vacation, visiting family in Guadeloupe. He went for a week and ended up being there for a month in the hospital. While in Guadeloupe, he underwent two surgeries to have blood clots removed from his head. The blood clots developed as a result of him falling and hitting his head in the tub a few months prior, unbeknownst to his children. Luckily, my brother and aunt traveled with him so he wasn’t alone.

I ended up in Guadeloupe after receiving a text from my brother. I was hesitant on making the trip because I had just started a new job. You know how these things can go. I didn’t want to screw up this new opportunity if I didn’t have to. I had just made probation and didn’t want to start immediately taking emergency days and sick days. As the new employee, this practice is always noticed and frowned upon. However, it was in my brother’s response that I knew he was beginning to feel like something could go left. All of the time prior, my brother assured us that our father would pull through and that he continued to make progress.

Except for this particular time, after the second surgery when I checked in for an update, he wasn’t sure. He said he didn’t feel right. In that moment, I purchased my ticket to fly down. Not that there was anything I could do to change my father’s condition. I really just wanted to make sure I was there if he didn’t make it through. I needed to see him one last time. I needed him to know that I was there for him.

My brother was relieved to see me. I could see it in his face when he picked me up from the airport. I supported him and assured him that I had his back. He had been there with my father when he started to seize and urged the family members that were there that my father didn’t need tea or rest but needed to go to the hospital. My father was eventually airlifted by helicopter to the main hospital on the island. Had it not been for my brother’s aggressive demand, my father would probably not be with us today.
I had planned to stay for a week and return if I needed to. We visited dad every day. There were days when he would sleep all the way through. Then he woke up and slowly came to. It was difficult to watch. He recalled childhood memories. Spoke of people who were no longer here. But once he realized he was still in Guadeloupe, he knew he wanted to go home. You see, the night he had the seizure, they were supposed to fly back to New York the following morning.

As we prepared to fly back to New York, my father was transported through the terminal by wheelchair. He was fresh out of the hospital. He was only released because the hospital staff insisted that we get him back home where he can be stabilized. My father could not stand much less walk, so my brother and cousin carried him to and from the car.  When we arrived at the airport, my father was placed in a wheelchair. We processed the baggage and proceeded through security. We boarded the flight. It would be 3-4 hours to Miami. I was scared but glad he made it this far to travel back home.
When we reached Miami, my father was the last passenger off because he needed wheelchair assistance. A muscular man brought the wheelchair on board, lifted my father into the chair, and pushed him off. We had to go through customs but there were only 30-minutes in between for my father, aunt, and brother to catch the connecting flight to LaGuardia Airport. In order to catch the flight we had to hurry. We encountered an elevator that was out of service. How were we going to get my father up two flights of stairs? The gentleman pushing my father said he couldn’t lift the chair up the stairs. We grew desperate. My father couldn’t miss this flight. His life actually depended on it.
Without a second thought, I dropped my bags. I instructed my brother to grab dad’s feet. I’ll hold him from the back. I told my father he needed to stand up so we could position ourselves. I instructed the wheelchair guy to fold the chair up and meet us at the top of the stairs. In that moment, the adrenaline rushed through me, and within a matter of minutes, my brother and I carried our father up two flights of stairs. We placed him back in the wheelchair and proceeded to customs. The wheelchair guy said, “Girl you are strong!” I replied, “That’s my father and he needs to get home.”

Watching my father struggle back to his normalcy has got to be one of the most difficult things to witness. As far back as my mind will allow me to remember, my father has always been an intense disciplinarian and a hard worker mechanic. I’ve never known my father to stay home from work because he was ill. Even in sickness, this man would get up and go to work. Now, he incorporates his dialysis and doctor appointments into his work schedule. I imagine not because he enjoys working so much but because the auto shop is part of what allows him to maintain normalcy which at times can be a struggle. He still engages with his customers, the annoying ones and the nice ones alike.  Although he is blind in one eye, he’s weak most times and can’t stand for long periods of time, he still drives himself to dialysis and to the mechanic shop.
I try not to ask him how he’s feeling because these are opportunities for him to express his frustration.  He’ll say all the time how he can’t do this (dialysis) anymore. He’s tired. I tell him he can’t give up and he curses me.

“You can’t tell me I can’t give up. You don’t know what this feels like. This is no way to live!”

He’s right. I don’t know what it feels like and this probably isn’t the way to live. Perhaps he’s suffering more now trying to live as he only knows how. My father and I haven’t always had the best relationship. There were times I struggled with deciding if I even wanted a relationship with him because I thought he was such a horrible person. I went about ten years without speaking to him while living in the same house. I’m older and I’ve learned to let things go because it was just too heavy to carry. In saying that, there are things I would do differently. My father was a Caribbean man raising seven American children. I understand that now as an adult and having raised my own child, I encounter the same frustration my parents experienced with me.

Sometimes it’s hard to be the bigger person. My father has never told me that he loves me or that he is proud of me. He has never attended any of my graduations. (I’ve graduated 5 times). I have to consider that maybe these are the things he deals with in his illness. Maybe he is proud of me but doesn’t feel he needs to tell me because I should just know. Perhaps he doesn’t tell me he loves me because he is my father and that I should already know that he does. It used to be a struggle for me, not knowing what my father really thinks of me and what I’ve accomplished, but it isn’t anymore. I have concluded that my parents came to this country to make a better life for themselves and their children. They did the best they could and I am extremely honored they are my parents. I speak highly of them to anyone and because of this, I honor my duty to care for them in illness.

I’m hesitant sometimes to share my living situation with the people I meet because I live with my parents. Not because I’m an irresponsible adult but because it’s best that I’m there to help. Having to explain that repeatedly grows weary so I try to avoid talking about it most of the time. Being there is part of what I owe my parents and in this way, I honor them now so that I won’t be remorseful that I hadn’t later. On occasion, I’ll cook for my father or carry him to watch a cricket match in the park. He’ll share funny stories from his younger days and we’ll go back and forth with family gossip. These times now, I cherish the most. We should’ve done many things before when we were both younger, but we didn’t. Instead of living in the past and trying to make sense of an expired time, we move forward. We make our good memories now.

I’m honest with myself. I know my father’s time is limited and knowing this has enabled me to act sooner than later. I’ve taken a mature position to make sure that we are in a good place at all times. This has been important to me for some time now. And I’m happy to know that if I never did anything to please him during his life, at the very least I was there in the end.

Untitled 1

I laughed so hard, I cried and eventually peed myself! The walk home from school was always the best. Rhondah was my best friend and I was hers. I can’t remember what we were discussing, maybe something that happened in one of her classes. I kept begging her to stop. “Rhonda, for real! Stop!” My plea egged her on. She got a thrill out of seeing me folded over  in laughter. I loved to laugh, still do, but not to the point of wet embarrassment. I ran the three blocks home but made it only to reach the front patch of grass where I warmly sprinkled the yellow dandelions. There’s something about getting closer to the bathroom when having to pee that allows the house keys to strangely “disappear” into the endless hole that is your book-bag.

Middle School was tough. It wasn’t like elementary school. It required more independence. It wasn’t the smoothest transition for me but I did know most of my fellow students. We came from the same elementary school. Rhonda wasn’t from my elementary school though. I don’t know what school she went to before then. I don’t even remember how we met, but I can’t remember those school days without her.

There were a lot of  things I learned about myself during those adolescent years. What stands out the most are the relationships I had with my friends. And also what you learn to require and  provide as a friend. We go through stages and some do better than others with maintaining their friendships. I know during the school-days stages of my  life, I noticed my friends changed. When I left middle school, I cultivated a new set of friends. The same as when I left high school and started college.

Some friends have managed to whither the storms of these numerous changes. Others accept that we have played the necessary roles needed at the time and have mutually agreed to move on without the other. I think often of the friends I’ve had and currently have and I realize that each one has served some purpose in my development as a person.

I only hope that I’ve done the same for them.

 

Sandyversary

It’s a little over a year since Hurricane Sandy hit. I knew the storm was coming but didn’t anticipate it would devastate my life routine the way it did. In fact, I’m still recovering from it. It isn’t something I really want to discuss but the recovery is one of the events that has kept me from the responsibilities of my blog. So I need to address this before it’s a year till my next post.

I stayed with a friend for a few weeks. I lived in a hotel for a few months. Then I rented a room in Brooklyn for a few more months. I eventually moved back to Far Rockaway. It wasn’t easy….and it still isn’t. The storm did many things though. It humbled the shit out of me for one. It provoked that “get up and go” that was necessary to get things done. My apartment wasn’t going to clean itself. But most importantly, it showed me who people really are.

In short, my apartment was flooded out. The night of the storm, I was home and watched the Jamaica Bay enter from my living room and into the rest of the apartment. Because I don’t know how to swim, I was afraid to leave my apartment. It was a long night and an even longer year afterwards. There was water damage and I was not prepared. My biggest loss was my kitchen and my treasured library.

I realized that there are people I take for granted and there are people who take me for granted. I think the way people responded to me was a reflection of how they see me. There were offers from people I hadn’t spoken to in months, even years. Some people I hadn’t even known that well were offering their homes to me. The friend that I ended up staying with had a key for me to come and go as I needed. When I sat with my friend and her sister to discuss my financial obligation for staying there, they both got up and walked away from me. The idea of accepting money from me was considered an insult. There were also people who reached out and extended themselves to me by way of offering items to keep us going – clothes, food, a ride, etc.

I’m saying all of this to say that you never know where and when things might happen and when devastation might hit you and those that are close to you. And with all of that, it helps to know there are people in this world who remain genuine and true to the purpose of humanity.

A Typical Day

During the summer of 2012, my son was arrested and spent a night in jail. This was a complaint letter I composed for the CCRB (Civilian Complaint Review Board). It displays the anguish my family endured as a result of the NYPD’s processing of another black boy in the community. I basically just cut and pasted this here because it turns my stomach to recall this experience and to see my own mother’s anguish as she felt guilty because her grandson had been working on her lawn that entire day and ended up in jail after. Not sure of the typos as I wrote this while I was beyond anger…

On Wednesday, July 4th at approximately 9:45 PM, my son was arrested for having a “double-edged” knife in his possession. I am puzzled at what my son’s rights are, what my rights are as a parent, and the rights of the citizens of the community where I reside.

I live at XXXXX in Far Rockaway, Queens. My block is under the jurisdiction of the 101st Precinct on Mott Avenue. On Wednesday, July 4th like most communities, my family celebrated Wednesday, July 4th/Independence Day in some fashion. We were in front of our premises joking, working on vehicles and enjoying food prepared by our neighbors.

At around 9:45 PM, an argument was taking place across the street (XXXXX) between 2 men and a woman. The woman and man are occupants of the house and the 2nd man is from another area. As we watched the argument, an unmarked police vehicle pulls up in front of my residence and 3 officers exit the vehicle and approach us – Officer Mussaw, Sergeant Torres and a third officer whose name I was unable to obtain.

I am not certain why they came to our block, but immediately as they exited their vehicle, they approached my son and began to question him. I assumed that they didn’t realize there were adults standing right across from them arguing because we were all  – about 8 adults and 2 children – were witnessing an argument which was getting slightly physical.  I interrupted the questioning and asked if they were called to the block for my son. Sergeant Mussaw replied that they were not called for my son and were on patrol. Not sure what patrol meant but they way the came on the block was if they were targeting someone and not patrolling as cruising through and observing. They drove onto the block and stopped right in front of my house.

My son, Solomon XXXXX, had been cutting grass at his grandparents house on XXXXX. He had been there since 10:00 AM that morning cutting the lawn. He had been under the instruction of his grandfather who he works alongside during the week at his auto mechanic shop in Brooklyn, NY. On my son’s belt was a knife case that enclosed a “double-edged” knife. I had seen the knife before and was aware that he had it in his possession. He had been using it to open packages and specifically to open a weed whacker that he had been using to cut the grass at his grandparents house.

The knife was not concealed because Abram was outside without a shirt. It was in plain view. When the officers approached him, he was sitting on the hood of a car that was parked directly in front of the house. The officers asked him for identification and instinctively, I told him to go in the house to get it. The officers immediately responded that he could not go in the house and had to remain with them. My brother ran in the house but we could not find his identification at that moment.

While my brother searched around for Abram’s identification, I explained to Officer Mussaw that my son does not live in Far Rockaway and was only visiting me for the summer. He lives within the confines of Orange County, New York which about 4 hours from Far Rockaway with his father and that he hadn’t been on the block all day because he was on XXXXX at his grandparents house. When my brother concluded that he couldn’t find Abram’s wallet with his identification, I ran into the house to look for it. I was unsuccessful. I found a school picture that had my son’s name height and weight printed on the back but by the time I reached back in front of the house, the officers already had my son in handcuffs and holding him next to the police vehicle.

I approached the officers and asked what they were doing and what was the charge. Officer Mussaw indicated that my son was in possession of a weapon and that he needed to be taken to the precinct so that he can be run through the system to confirm he didn’t have any warrants. Sergeant Torres stepped in and started to address me with “Listen Mam, this is how it’s going go to go…” and then one of the officers asked if I could get a shirt for him because he didn’t have one on. I went inside and grabbed my son’s work uniform shirt and handed it to him so he can put it on. He was un-cuffed, given the shirt to put on, handcuffed and placed in the police vehicle. Officer Mussaw said that I would be able to receive my son from the precinct and at most, he would be given a summons for having the knife.

He was taken away in the police vehicle in front of me and other family members. At the same time there was still an argument taking place directly across the street at XXXXX.

My brother immediately drove me to the precinct. Once I arrived there the officer’s story had changed. My son was being sent to Central Bookings. So instead of the summons they said he would receive if his name came up clear, he was being sent through the system and there was no recourse according to Officer Mussaw. My son had not committed a crime, he was standing in front of his mother’s house and he was being sent through the system.

My mother was notified and arrived at the precinct trying to explain that her grandson had been using the knife to open a weed whacker he’d been using earlier that day to cut the lawn. My mother brought the box the weed whacker was in to show that the box had to be cut open and this is why Abram had the knife in his possession. My mother was laughed at and told to shut up by the captain because she was asking questions regarding the reason why her grandson had been arrested. Two of the female officers, while laughing, asked her where the weed whacker was. Another officer sitting to the right of the Captain shouted to my mother that she needed Jesus. My mother is Jewish. If it isn’t clear, this was an inappropriate statement and showed that perhaps there exists religious discrimination.

I sat with my mother in solidarity because we were concerned for our loved one and all the while we were told we had to leave because the police precinct would be closing down for the night. That was their way to get rid of us. My mother was told that if she had continued to stay in the precinct, she too would be arrested. Throughout that ordeal, there was one female officer who tried to help us by seeking out the arresting officer (Officer Mussaw) to explain to my mother what happen. To the other visible officers there, we were the laughing stock for the night. I was utterly humiliated.

We left the precinct and stood out front and we waited until we saw Abram entering the van to head to central booking. I didn’t sleep. I was ashamed, embarrassed and as a parent, I felt helpless. We hadn’t done anything wrong yet we were being treated like criminals. I took the day off from work (July 5th) to make sure that I was in court for my son’s hearing. When I arrived at Queens County Criminal Court (about 2:30 PM), my son was exiting the building. He was released and charged with a misdemeanor and summoned to serve 3 days of community service. He had 3 court papers on him and a Metrocard that was issued to him. He indicated to me that he was not read his rights and that while he was in custody, he was questioned about a series of shootings. When he told the detective he didn’t know anything because he doesn’t live in Far Rockaway, he was cursed at and told he was lying. This is harassment and I am filing this complaint as a result thereof.

I called this event typical because although I’m still mentally scarred by what happened in that precinct, this will continue to happen to black parents everywhere and sadly, my one complaint letter will not make a difference.

Newsstand vs Library

The title is meant to be cynical but this is one of my biggest pet peeves and I’ve often thought about writing to the New York Times Complaint Box column about it. Every morning, I go to Barnes & Noble to get my venti vanilla latte (with no foam) from the Starbucks cafe. Bordering the cafe seating area are the magazine stands. It completely irks me to see people randomly reading the magazines and books and then putting them back when they’re done.

I don’t know what type of disorder I have but I don’t like when a magazine or book I’ve purchased is read by someone else before I read it. I know that it sounds dumb, insane, stupid, whatever. That’s just me. So to see these people in the cafe, with their grubby fingers, touching up and bending the pages just drives me crazy.

Because of this, when I’m ready to purchase my magazine, I always grab for one in the middle or towards the back of the stack.

I totally urge folks who need to run their fingers through the pages as they drink their coffee, to visit their local library and take out a book. Keep it and use it at your leisure for the 3 week period you’re allotted for its use.

Is that crazy or what?

LOL!