Wednesday night, I took a MUCH needed break from working long days (and nights) and went to see the True Colors Theatre production Broke-ology with my neighbors.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the title, but the play definitely surpassed my expectations.  Not focused just on the fact that the family was poor and how some things in life are just more important than how much money and possessions you have, this play explored many issues that hit close to home: how to take care of an illness-stricken family member, the responsibility of being close to home versus being limitless in chasing dreams, family planning, and even how people deal with death.

Since I want you to go see it (it’s at Southwest Arts Center until Sunday), I won’t get down into the details of the plot (except where it relates to my impending ramblings).  Suffice it to say that despite my sleep deprivation this week, I didn’t fall asleep for a second!

I love when art causes me to slow down and self-reflect, which definitely happened Wednesday night. One of the characters went home to Kansas City, Kansas after receiving his graduate degree from UConn.  His brother never left home, and although he works at a wings spot, he has been instrumental in helping to make sure their father, who is suffering from MS, is okay.  The younger brother, the UConn graduate, has no idea just how difficult it has been for the family and is extremely torn about staying at home and helping out but knowing he will likely get “stuck” or moving back to Connecticut after a summer position with the EPA and following his desire to teach and do environmental research with his academic mentor. Can you say para-llel? I’ve often felt the same way–except not as torn just because I go home semi-regularly since I can drive there. I’ve considered moving back home sooner than later (I at least want a second home there), especially when I see how stressed my mom gets trying to help the rest of my family.  Or even when I think of every day things that I could do if I were there that I never have time to do during my visits, like playing spades with my family like the characters were playing dominoes or learning crocheting techniques from my grandma for more than an hour or two here and there. I love being at home, and I love my family more than anything. But I’ve always been the explorer. The adventurer. I’m not quite ready to lay my roots down there. As far as my career is concerned, I could make some small strides at home, but I’m really flourishing here in Atlanta and I’m not ready for a slight career change, a veer on the road if you will.  I could work for organizations who are my clients currently, but I like being the consultant, and I love working in different communities, seeing the different dynamics.  But I always have my family in the back of my mind. Wondering if I’m being selfish. But I know in the grand scheme, I’m not because I give back and help out in my own way. But is it enough?

I got a little sentimental, though, when the older brother who has been in Kansas City the whole while told his younger brother that if he moves, he will miss all the milestones of his baby that’s on the way.  I immediately thought of my nieces and nephews, who I can’t be as close to as their aunts and uncles that are in town. I write letters, keep up with them on Facebook, spend time with them when I go home, but I’m definitely not doing nearly as much or being as influential in their lives as I would if I lived there. But on the other hand, I think back to my own aunt Vernita. She was an explorer like I am. She lived in DC until she was murdered when I was in the 9th grade. I remember vividly being so excited to see her and spend time with her when she would visit.  Although she lived so far away, I didn’t care as a child.  I can still remember her smell and her smile, even her laugh, and I would just bask in her presence. I still think about her from time to time, and it hurt me to the core when she was taken from us. I never begrudged her being away–in fact, it inspired me. My mom has told me countless times over the years that I remind her of Vernita. And that makes me feel close to her, even though I didn’t spend as much time with her as some of my other aunts and uncles.

I would keep going, but this post is getting a little long. And truthfully, I’m getting a little misty thinking about my aunt.  So… I’ll leave you with this: Cherish your family, no matter where they are. And seek to be a part of solutions, not problems.  Happy Friday, people!

The Greats and Grands in Our Lives

The Greats and Grands in Our Lives

Instead of a feature today, I just want to get some things off my chest. I have a half-written post about Nacirema Society, but y’all know how I am–I have to have some inner inspired motivation to write in this here blog. Even despite my little ploy to get myself to write twice a week no matter what.

What’s on my mind today? Family. Love. Responsibility.

I dream of a day when I’ll be able to just help my loved ones when they need it. Remember when my granddaddy died and I said that I needed to step up? Well, stepping up ain’t so easy. I mean, really, who thought it’d be hard? Well, I guess I should have known. For goodness sake, I live 400 miles away. I see my mom struggling to help everyone, and I feel bad because I can’t be there to help her help everyone.  My other granddaddy has Alzheimer’s and it’s more than a notion caring for him and making sure he’s safe and as healthy as he can be.  Sometimes he thinks it’s the 80s, sometimes he can be a little sneaky, sometimes he can be a little aggressive, but all the time he needs someone to make sure his best interest is being considered.  My mom feeds him everyday and really doesn’t get much thanks.  And of course, when I got home last week I kinda felt some kinda way about it and didn’t want to visit.  But of course, my mom is who she is and made sure I walked next door, and I softened as soon as my granddaddy said “Besides your hair, you sure are looking pretty!”  (I think it’s funny–he’ll always be himself no matter what.)  I had to be thankful that he can still recognize me and is still happy when I come home to visit.  I just wish I could help distribute some of that caretaker’s burden.

I also went to see my great aunts who I usually do not make time to see, and I have no excuse for it.  My Aunt Geneva is doing GREAT for her age and my Aunt Sweet had to blink her eyes and give me her suspicious stare before giving me her award-winning smile, and I immediately felt bad that I hadn’t been inside either of their houses in way too long although I have to drive past them any time I go to or leave my mom’s house.  Houses I used to walk to just to be around them when I was a kid.  I used to love sitting in my Aunt Sweet’s kitchen and watching her bake.  I credit her for my little baking talents now.  Why does the absent thing happen?  I know I’m not the only one who has gone too long without checking on my elderly loved ones.  I think there are several reasons. It’s hard to watch your loved ones get older and less spunky, less mobile, weaker.  It also gets easier to keep focusing on the distractions–I’m sure the first time I didn’t make time to stop by, I felt awful, but as the visits passed and I still didn’t make time, the bad feelings went away.  It also gets overwhelming to hear about family drama that you can’t do anything about.

But here are some reasons we should make time for the foundations of our families.

  • They are so wise and full of information, knowledge, and inspiration. I feel rejuvenated after I spend time with my grandma.  She loves to tell stories, and she gives advice that sometimes is masked in anecdotes.  I guess, almost like Jesus and his parables, except as she’s giving me advice, she’s sharing our family history.  I love to hear about her life experiences, how they are similar to or different than mine, and how she became who she is.  You can’t beat an oral memoir.  Besides that, I enjoy looking at her features and thinking about who looks like her, kinda like her, and imagining what I will look like as I get older.
  • We should appreciate people while they’re around to feel appreciated. My grandma and I share a special crocheting relationship.  I appreciate her for teaching me how, and she appreciates me for wanting to learn from her and carry on her talent.  And now that my granddaddy is gone, she needs to know that she’s not alone.  Of course, her kids and grandkids can’t replace her baby, whom she was with for 60 years, but we can still try to fill that gap with love.  I’m so grateful that my cousins spend time with her and do for her.
  • We kinda owe it to them. They may be a little feeble compared to the old days, but think about all they did before they went through a transformation of getting older.  It has to be tough getting older, realizing that your hands don’t work the way they used to, seeing the wrinkles invade your space, having to take medicine more than ever before.  But before that, they were ripping and running.  Doing for us.  Showing us the way.  Working to provide a good life.  They took care of us, so now we need to take care of them.  Besides, we’ll miss them when they’re gone.  I should know this especially.  After all the family funerals I’ve been to, you would think I wouldn’t have to learn this lesson so often.
  • The elderly are not aliens from outer space. Some people get really uncomfortable around older people, and sometimes I wonder how uncomfortable that makes the older person.  They’re still people, just a little older.  They still need companionship and human care and concern like er’body else.

I could talk more about abuses that I’ve read in the paper and online.  But y’all know how dirty people can be and how some people target the elderly.  All I will say is, please don’t be one of those awful people who take advantage of people.  If you haven’t visited an older member of your family in awhile, I encourage you to do so soon.  Maybe at Christmas or something.  And if you don’t have a “Great” or a “Grand” in your life, consider going by a nursing home or assisted living facility and meet one.  They’re treasures, and we should treat them as such.