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.
A few years ago I wrote about how my mother had gone on a black walnut kick. She developed the idea that she could somehow sell these things to the Lexington Food Cooperative not far from her house. As with many hair brained schemes this one took the cake. First, black walnuts are among the hardest things on earth. Do not let your children or angry spouse get hold of these things because with a little practice and a good throwing arm one could create a lot of damage.
Second, as far as human consumption of these little missiles, forget it. You would probably destroy your house attempting to crack he things. Better to stick with peanuts or regular walnuts. I doubt that you would want to run over the black walnuts because that would damage your rims.
Third, as I described in my earlier post, they are very good at attracting squirrels. I survived a harrowing adventure with black walnuts and a hungry squirrel in my apartment years ago and have never gone near them. I heard about that story I thought surely that would be the end of my mother’s nut collecting career.
And I was wrong. Because there in the corner of the basement are the aforementioned nuts. I am certain that they are included in Mom’s will. When she passes on at 110. Nuts to you, bub.
I disagree with my mother and sister about almost everything. Including my name. So for the sake of our sanity I felt it was best to live apart from them. Several states away, in fact. Better than to have awkward meals and long silences. This has worked well as mom is 93, my sister is 72 and I am a youthful 66. We have avoided appearing in the newspaper in a article about how we died under mysterious circumstances.
Many of my best memories involving my family include jazz. I am listening to Horace Silver on Spotify as I am typing this. My older sister is a big fan of Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown and Art Blakey. I can recall her playing Clifford Brown in her bedroom and being fascinated by this. I guess what I most like about jazz is the staying power of the music. I can listen to songs from 50 years ago and they sound as fresh as when they were originally recorded.
My advice is find one thing you can agree with and stick to it when you come home for the holiday. For me, what works is jazz.
It was hard to believe. I had seen so many predictions of the demise of the democratic party by the right and the so-called Berniecrats followers of Bernie Sanders. I came home after work and turned on the computer last night to pay close attention to the midterm elections. I had tried in vain arguing with people about the Donna Brazile book. These people were convinced that the book told them the primary election was fixed by Clinton supporters. Even when well meaning people on facebook posted stories about how the facts clearly pointed to Clinton winning more votes than Sanders they were determined to chew on that bone until there was not a single shred of meat.
At the same time the midterm elections were approaching. There was New Jersey were the hateful bully Chris Christie was term limited out of office. His Lieutenant Governor was running to replace the most disliked governor in the state’s history. But the big enchilada was in Virginia which has been electing democratic governors and residential candidates. I don’t know a lot about Virginia but I had heard about the democratic governors including Douglas Wilder and the outgoing Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe is a tough talking SOB who will not put up with any bullshit from republicans. Faced with a hostile legislature gerrymandered into safe republican seats, he voted more bills than they could pass. And he did one very good thing for democracy. He restored voting rights for more than 100,000 people who had been convicted of felonies. Many states throughout the south automatically take away voting for life which falls most heavily on African-Americans. On Tuesday the twitter was filled with stories of people who were voting for the first time thanks to him. It was a wonderful night from start to finish learning about the new people who were swept into office in a big blue wave. Transgendered people, black men and women, and a Sikh politician were part of the diverse group who were elected.
It was the beginning of the comeback. If democratic voters want it to be. We can take this as a sign of better days ahead and become even more motivated. The republican legislatures and governors have signed into law evil legislation aimed at curbing our voting rights, restricting our reproductive freedom, putting their hateful religion into our lives and much more. It is time to resist. It is time to begin driving #45 and his evil profiteers from office. It is time for fair legislative districts, it is time for more people to regain their voting rights. It is time to end the rhetoric of defeatism. There were 8 years we were in power and we can regain power if we work together.
On the pursuit of happiness
I have been reflecting lately on two very different periods of my life. I had a long stretch in which I felt dissatisfied with a lot of what was happening. I was working in toxic environments, I was in bad relationships, and I felt unsafe in my neighborhood. Notice that I am using the word happiness as a measure of my life and whether or not I was feeling it. This is very deliberate as I want to avoid the impression that I was depressed during this period. I was not achieving my goals and I saw that it would be a long time before I would make any progress.
I tied a lot of things to get out of this rut including watching inspiring movies like the Will Smith movie I am referencing in the title. Self help books like the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People gave me some pointers. I underwent counseling and seriously considered the advice I was being given. In addition I talked with my older sister and changed relationships and careers. It was not the sort of thing I could do overnight. I almost forgot one tool from the mental health field which was the Wellness Recovery Action Plan. I wrote and revised my plan several times before bidding it farewell a couple of years ago.
On the Hidden Brain podcast a few months ago there was a story about how people ruminate or continue to think about their past decisions. I also go through this process of thinking about what I have done and wondering what I might have done differently. And I also learned that as time passes, you have to let go of what might have been and move ahead with what has happened.
The surprising result of this effort is that I feel happier than ever. I can think back to things that happened and how they improved my life. And I improved the lives of people I met along the way. That is the person I have become and I hope there will be greater happiness in the future.