I decided to go to the gym yesterday at a time that the March for our Lives was taking place in Washington and elsewhere across the country. I was on the treadmill when the young people were taking the stage. I read their words on closed captioning. It was an amazing sight. My generation sought tremendous social change and I am proud to see a new generation dissatisfied with the status quo. During the 50s and 60s I never feared for my life in school. No one came our schools with guns and opened fire. I never thought that those I disagreed with would try to kill me. But now with Facebook, computers, social media, all kinds of new technology, come higher tech weapons and more people with anger and vengeance on their minds. We need news media to report truthfully what is happening or get out of the way. We need to keep changing the times. It is once again a time for hope and change.
My sister and I talked on the phone the day after her 73rd birthday. We talked about the future. She is a fan of the University of Buffalo, which we both graduated from. UB made a splash in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Now, next year, they need to get some taller players. She talked about bringing Mom to the game. Mom will be 95 and just surrendered her driver’s license. The women’s basketball team has done very well and is one of the top teams in the country. So many things are different from when we attended the college and that is positive.
We spoke of her granddaughter, my niece. Things she needs to be around to teach her. Things she she wants to train her son’s pet to do such as recognizing that he does not need to bark at everyone, especially family. It is horrible when you visit a house with a pet that is allowed to run the house. It makes the visit unbearable.
One of the more lighthearted moments came when we discussed selling girl scout cookies. I didn’t solicit my co-workers, many of whom enjoy desserts. But my sister said she put up a sign in her doctor’s office and sold about 25 boxes. She sold at least as many through her hairdresser. So she is going to send me a sign for next year.
We know what lies ahead but we are going to enjoy as much life as possible. We take fairly good care of our bodies and we both have health insurance. What happens often seems unfair. Recently a lifelong bicyclist died at 68 from natural causes. He had a heart condition. A few weeks ago someone else died from complications due to pneumonia. A much younger than me. Rage, rage and do no go gently. But someday we will all go. Reach out and grasp as much of life as you can and hold onto it.
Sometimes I regret not playing more of a role in my nephews’ lives. My oldest nephew, John, was born the year I graduated from high school. When I was graduating from high school, I was experiencing deep depression. I felt loss from a woman I loved. I was protesting the war in Vietnam. I wanted to be a part of history. I was a horny male teenager. The depression was the most difficult of those things to understand. I remember writing letters back home in lower case to try to make them understand I was not doing well. Depression was a family characteristic. My mother and older sister have also lived with it. When you are 17 or 18 everything seems so overwhelming. The depression was about what my mind was saying about feeling empty and lonely.
Nobody who is that age is old enough to understand. If there is one thing I regret I wish I had learned to understand myself sooner. My younger brother also lived with a mental illness triggered by use of hallucinogens. I believe that I survived because of a combination of nature and nurture. James left home as a teenager and went west at a time many people were feeling alienated and wanting to get away from home. I was old enough to go to Howard University and be a part of history and the largest anti-war demonstrations in American history.
When you are young and you are struggling you have more options than I saw as a teenager. For me, the best choice after dropping out of college was the military. But when I returned to civilian life, I struggled with economic security. I heard the voices of my nephews but I was in no shape to be able to help them. Now that things seem to be different and I have gotten help I am no longer being driven by depression or mania. I am doing well. I was part of my niece’s life at an event to retire the flags last week. I cannot go back into the 1970s but I am proud to part of the present.
I have been thinking about my public persona since last year’s presidential election. It was the most polarizing election I had ever witnessed and I noticed that the many candidates and their supporters were very active on social media. I was a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders who I had noticed for the previous two years saying more and more things I approved.
But as I joined different Bernie Sanders groups I became concerned that some of them seemed to use ideas from the far right in attacking Hillary Clinton. I also saw nude pictures of Trump’s wife being circulated as if she was a campaign issue. As the campaign wore on I noticed people in the Sanders camp trading stories about law suits and supposedly uncounted votes and there was nothing you could say to them that could change their minds. I decided some websites were publishing fake news and told my friends to stop spreading them.
Similarly the things I saw from so-called Jill Stein supporters portrayed Hillary Clinton as a war monger. When I looked at what Stein presented I was clear that she was unqualified and a waste of time. I found myself in more heated discussions and blocking people on a regular basis. There was no evidence that the Green Party had any impact or tried to raise issues between the presidential elections.
Another source of Facebook arguments is on atheist and humanist pages. Some religious people troll these pages and I enjoy mocking them and their beliefs. Why not? I often block these trolls who think that all I need to do is read the bible. Not going to happen.
Trolls are people at the bottom of the social media visiting and disrupting sites they don’t agree with, throwing insults and disrupting discussions. They are not worth anyone’s time so I get rid of them. Trolls are people who are looking for a fight. Occasionally I am accused of being a troll when I ask questions. I visited a page for a candidate for governor of Wisconsin and someone very soon said he thought I was a troll. I think supporters of candidates need to be less defensive.
What I find more surprising is that I have been drawn into arguments with people in introvert groups. Some of these were very religious people who liked to regularly ask people what religion if any they followed. Others were introverts who were incredibly socially isolated. One man talked about not he had not left his room in 3 years and it would be my fault if he went back into there. Obviously you don’t want to communicate with people like that so I needed to block them. Other people in introvert groups were pushing their politics, especially Donald Trump. I left most of the introvert focused groups I had joined because I become tired of seeing them talk about how wonderful it would be to live in the middle of nowhere.
I have grown more impatient this year in my political discussions. Some people still want to fight over last year’s elections. I have focused a lot of attention on the off-year elections and found reason for hope. The people who want to talk about how they distrust the Democratic National Committee or want to bring up Donna Brazile are a waste of time, in my opinion. I don’t want to be drawn into more arguments about who does not like Hillary Clinton because there is not enough aspirin.
I am surprised that I am really a hardass on Facebook. I don’t usually go around telling people STFU in person. I may be arguing with people who are at least as old and grumpy as me in which case they are used to me. For everyone else, if you were not such a knucklehead you would have blocked me or been spending more time with your loved ones instead of arguing on social media.
One of the more unusual discussions I had with my family during Thanksgiving week was regarding my nephew and his stepfather Richard. Richard is a 60-year-old with the body of a man 20 years older. He has never taken good care of himself and as a result he has developed certain conditions such as diabetes. In fact he is facing the possibility of having his toes amputated before the end of the year and more to come.
Richard did not have a close relationship with his sons and so neither is feeling willing to pay the expense of his funeral when it comes in a year or two. My sister suggested getting one of those life insurance policies sold specifically to cover final expenses. I bought one at her suggestion several years ago. However I am also thinking that I should suggest cremation. But the problem is I will not be in a position to advocate for my body. My solution will be to write down my wishes including whether I would wish to have any and all measures taken to prolong my life. This will be something different from what usually happens in my family where we seldom live a will or final instructions.
I think that Richard might serve the African-American community better as a cadaver at the university medical school. There, they could study the impact of preventable disease on the human body. I am not certain whether he would have to contact the university but someone should talk with him as soon as possible.
African-Americans are infamous for neglecting ourselves. My nephew told about the things he had suggested much in vain for Richard to use in the hopes that he might have a better quality of life. A lot of the women in our family have lived long healthy lives well into their eighties and beyond. However, a lot of the men die relatively young. I have outlived my father by several years.
I saw a movie about a black man who confronted the unhealthy lifestyle choices in his family and began eating and exercising more. It became contagious and they were no longer living with diabetes. Death will eventually come to all of us no matter how healthy we try to live. But we can live longer, long enough to see more generations of our family grow up and long enough to provide good examples for them. There is no need to rush to see the end.
Dinner music was provided by Clifford Brown
I was asked to say grace tonight. The last time I was asked, I respectfully declined but this evening I found these words:
We are all we got.
This is the day.
This is the one
Wild precious life
We are given
So let us find a way
To rejoice and be glad in it
My sister Chris is on the left and our mother and keeper of black walnuts is on the right
My sister lives with chronic pain from various medical conditions which to becoming disabled. She just told me about a doctor who is being investigated for over prescribing pain medication at his clinic. When she was healthy my sister was a pharmaceutical representative. So she knew a little something about medication. Then she had to learn a lot more once she became a patient. She also has a college degree and paid attention to the number and type of pills that the doctor was prescribing.
Chris found that she could not tolerate the medication and described the doctor’s waiting room as a kind of casting call for potential addicted people. You will not see stories about people like my sister in the flood of media coverage about opiod abuse largely because of the color of her skin. Today’s newspaper has an article about white millennials as the face of the crisis. But long before it was a white problem, there were African-Americans in pain clinics who were being given way too many pills. Chris escaped because she recognized what was going on and changed doctors.