No time to think, not a second.
A pulsing migraine, my unwelcome guest for five days now.
My littlest one at my side always; beloved and welcome, but also I yearn
for space and quiet and no more talk of farts or Pokemon.
I'm tired, worn, behind. I'm angry and hurting about Charleston.
I'm shrugging under the weight of the horrible Groundhog Day'ness of it.
Heavy in the sadness that still nothing will be done. And this will happen again.
Shocked and grossed out and dismayed by the ignorance out there.
Such determined, righteous ignorance.
Underscored completely by the fact that while other flags were lowered to half-mast,
the Confederate beast flew high. Higher than them all.
With every gust of the wind, a slap
in the face to those who lost loved ones, long ago and on Wednesday.
An ugly reminder of the second-class way they are seen and treated.
Father's Day should be celebrated later in the year, I think to myself.
Every year. At least until the kids are older and need a bit less from Mom.
In June, they are only just out of school and we are working to recalibrate
in the midst of changing schedules and more time at home.
What is steady in all this mayhem are meals. Three squares a day.
Making them count, simply to magnificently, tethers the morning, middle and evening.
They are nourishing anchors of love and pause. They are moments to stop.
Chew slowly, I think. With your mouths closed, please. Savor.
Last night, after a demoralizing online debate with a classmate (about racism -better than it was!-and guns -"we don't have a problem!"), I could only think to cook.
My head pounded in my temples, a throbbing drumbeat I could not escape.
A shrimp boil is surely the answer.
Other than having grown up in Louisiana, I cannot explain the utter randomness of that,
but out we went for three pounds.
Then boil it, I did.
I called Tom home from work early. The four of us sat and peeled and dipped.
Jack continues to assert that he doesn't like shrimp, but he's a hell of a peeler,
and even enjoys it, so I'm happy to have him on my team.
More for me, I think. Thank you, baby.
I wonder if these perfect Gulf treats bring me back to a more naive time.
A simpler one when I was young and not as outraged by injustice,
when it seemed we, there, all just got along.
I question the veracity of my memories now. I hope, but I don't know.
In each bite of shrimp, dunked deeply into excessively horseradishy cocktail sauce,
spiked generously with lemon and Tony Chachere's,
I wish I had Saltines in the house, and I wish for less hate and less violence and less division.
The vet came yesterday. Percy was due for a rabies shot, and, as he just turned ten, a senior physical. Percy is always fairly low on my list of priorities, but as he received two shots and also had some blood drawn, his nails clipped and his body prodded; as I found out he's basically blind in his left eye because of an advanced cataract, and minimally so in the right because of a growing one, I was overcome by love and admiration for this sweet little being who just soldiers though each day, nice as get out to anyone who's nice to him.
He doesn't complain much, and he takes discomfort with a laudable acceptance. He is patient and kind, tolerant and pretty flexible really. Don't get me wrong, those "Who rescued who?" bumper stickers still launch me into the orbit of insanity, but I do sometimes find myself in utter appreciation of animals and the way they just get on with it. I see in them some qualities we people could stand to emulate.
I think of my Nanny, and as my heart hurts so much right now, I keep thinking of her and her grace. Her steadiness. Her tolerance and her willingness to grow and change rather than remain static and become entrenched. It gives me hope.
When Barack Obama was elected President, Nanny initially found it hard to envision a black First Lady. She was born in 1921 in Louisiana and was of that age. She grew up pretty poor and didn't go to college, but was guided by her heart, an expansive, accepting, powerhouse that was always willing to evolve.
She soon came to love and admire Michelle Obama, as she had loved and advocated for the gay men in our family and the less fortunate in our community. As she had always stood up for me and accepted me for just who I was.
Nanny taught me a great deal during the many years we had together, about what is and isn't important, about what does and doesn't matter at the end, about how important it is to stand up for what is right and just. Even if you do it in your own, quiet way. Like she did.
I don't want to be as quiet, for that's not really me, constitutionally or otherwise. But I gain strength from Percy's stoic acceptance and Nanny's singular decency, from the Charleston survivor's forgiveness and all of those who are standing up, right now, in their own ways.
And so, as the thunder rolls through, and the rain washes down baptismally, and the fireflies light with determined goodwill, I think about what I hope people someday say about me: that I loved and tended to others, that I stood for things as fearlessly as I could, that I lived an authentic life full of shrimp boils and puzzles, heartache and tolerance. That, in the best ways I knew how, I mothered and daughtered; friended and wived; fed and accepted. With grace and strength and a loud voice when needed.
Please consider watching and reading the following (though if you've read this far, A) thank you and B) I certainly understand if you're whooped.)
White people keep asking "what can I do to help you in times like this? What can I do to fight racism? Where can I start? I want to take action."
Here's what you can do - collect the white racists in your life. Tell your dad he has to stop making racist jokes. Stop your roommate when he rants against black people in the city. Correct your girlfriends when they talk about bad neighborhoods. Educate your students when they bring in writing that features stereotypical or offensive black characters.
Stop leaving the hard work of educating white people to the people who are suffering and grieving. Stop leaving it to black people to collect and educate. Don't speak for us but if you abhor racism, get rid of it around you.
The shooter in Charleston was able to do what he did because no one corrected him or stopped him when he ranted and raged against black people.
Yes, it's gonna be hard to correct your dad or grandpa but if you want to count yourself as an ally, do this god damn work so I don't have to.