Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Good, Bad, Random 11/23

The Good:

The film festival was a lot of fun. I met some great people, was able to hang out with friends and saw some pretty neat films.
My film played to a really nice audience.
I was able to help someone with car trouble get home safely.
Friday night, I was able to share a meal with my husband at Uncle Bill's Pancake House and I loved the time with him.
I saw a friend I haven't seen in a really long time and it was really a good experience.
I had lunch with someone who might be able to help me in ways I could never have imagined and it was a very interesting full circle moment.
I met several people that I really like and had some absolutely wonderful and real conversations.
I like my black boots.

The Bad:

I was not in the audience for Oprah's Favorite things!
I've been fighting depression and despair all week.
I have not cleaned my house and even the minimum is starting to really get to me and it is just another way for me to make myself feel bad.
I hate the way I look in the mirror.
I hate the way my clothes fit.
I allowed someone to demoralize me about getting a personal trainer, so I didn't do it and I have not been able to recover from it and I am still bitterly angry about it because it only hurts me.
Sometimes I think people take joy in seeing me fail. It's probably not true but I still feel it.
It's been harder to be positive lately.
I feel overwhelmed and am tired of breaking promises to myself.
I hate the cold.

The Random:

There is something to be learned about expectations. Because I am optimistic, I always hold out the hope for the best in people and I think it leads me to having that hope, that expectation, so I allow disappointment to be present in my life.
The fact of the matter is that past behavior definitely informs future behavior and I really need to lower my expectations of certain people.
There are certain people that promise me things that never follow through.
And sometimes later, it gives me pause to be very disappointed in them and take it on myself to feel that if they cared enough to be a little more honest, it would go a long way.
I'm not even sure it's entirely my fault. Actually I am pretty sure none of it is my fault.
Yoda said "there is no try, only do."
When I find myself saying "I will try to be there."
Usually I know I am not going to be right then and there. If I have to bother to say I will try. It's a way of letting someone down easier when you don't show up.
I don't always show up, but I show up a lot.
So, in that spirit, I'm going to try to expect those people to not be there when they say they will and if they show up, then I will be happy but when they don't, I won't be hurt.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Worms, Roxanne

Recently, a friend I'm very fond of got married and when he updated his facebook status and posted pictures, it was no surprise that his page was flooded with congratulations and well wishes. I scrolled through them briefly before making my own congratulatory comment and read the words:
"Congratulations on winning such a beautiful bride."
This sentence has bothered me for two days now.
Why, you ask, why, Vanessa would this simple sentence haunt you and bother you, follow you around and pester you?
Because language is powerful and meaningful, and the thought that in 2010 in the era where a woman can run for President that a woman can be verbalized as a beauty won as a prize or a trophy in marriage bugs the crap out of me.
Now, as these two wonderful people are boarding the plane to embark on their honeymoon, I did not comment on this comment. I did not take issue with this person, because it would have been wildly inappropriate to start a discussion on this issue on his page when these two lovely people are beginning a life together but I'm afraid I had to address it somewhere. And since I did not know this person, I had no idea whether the comment was an homage to an old play that my friend was in or where it came from, but either way, it got me thinking.
And it got me thinking about how we use language in our everyday life.
The notion of winning a bride is buried in the past, right? That was Shakespeare's time, right?
Still I got to thinking about all the ways that women are monetized and thought of as prizes. The term 'trophy wife' is still bandied about regularly. A trophy wife is some meaningless trinket that a rich man has bought for himself to make his house and car look nice. He didn't even 'win' her at auction, or in a contest because the trophy wife can be bought outright. In fact, she is that rare and precious commodity known as a 'gold digger', after she is purchased, she is covered in gold and sent out to glitter.
Did anyone find this offensive?
There are some who would use this language of a young man winning his bride in a very high manner with a lovely English accent to make it sound less sexist and more nostalgic but the fact is, women as commerce is an old notion we have not quite gotten rid of!
A few years ago, I was at a wedding in Paris. The bachelor party had gone to Amsterdam for the weekend and at the reception, one of the guys who had been on the trip was telling his story of his time in Amsterdam. I sat in awe as this man revealed in great detail his experience with a prostitute.
He began by saying "It was legal, so I was going to do it!"
He then went on to describe the women advertising themselves in windows along the street.
"I walked down one street and the women were all good looking, then I got to the next street and they were even better looking, the longer I walked, the more gorgeous they got, so I kept walking til I saw some ugly ones."
He described in detail the process of looking at all the women and trying to decide between them and when he made his choice, finally, there was great detail of the sex act, how much it cost and how great he felt about the whole experience. He was confident, puffed up, triumphant and self satisfied.
I listened to this entire story that he related to the couple standing next to me and the woman he was talking to asked him to go into excruciating detail on every aspect of it.
When he was done with the story and feeling most proud of himself, I looked at him and said "You realize, you just described window shopping for a woman, then buying her and when you were done, you returned her. This entire thing you did to a human being."
He says to me "It's completely LEGAL."
"Let me ask you something. Was it completely moral? Would you tell your mother this story with the same amount of pride and justification? Just because you CAN do something, doesn't mean you should do something. Lots of things are legal. That was a human being and you just described her as a transaction."
Yeah, I know. I'm a major buzzkill at parties sometimes. That's probably what he said about me later!
But language is powerful and meaningful. Words have power. It bothers me so much when women are referred to as prizes to be won or trophies to be possessed. When we enter into a marriage, it should be an equal place where we divide our roles in the household in a way that makes sense, not according to gender expectations- at least, that is my idealism showing.
If we think of love as a contest that we can win, then we expect a prize and not a person. A person whose value is in beauty and not heart. I'd like to take these phrases and pack them away in a box in the attic and bring them out in fifty years and laugh at how silly and dated it all seems to have ever thought that way. I'd like the language with which we use about women not to be 'bitches and ho's and sluts'. Wouldn't it be nice for a man's value to be placed on his good works, not how good looking his wife is. This is the language we place on one another to run each other down.
I wish I could say I felt we are getting there as a society but we're not yet. This is just my little blog calling attention to the power of words, which become sacred powers to affect our perception.
Even if some of these notions are dated, these words are still pulled from religious books to enslave us some more. Instead of doing away with the notions from centuries ago because we are supposed to know better, we pull them out as "traditions", another word to make the sexism more palatable.
I like some traditions, but there are some I can do without. And let me be clear, I know that the general meaning of a father walking a daughter down the aisle and giving her away has changed to largely ceremonial and there are many daughters who value their father doing this for completely and utterly different reasons- but it still exists as an outdated patriarchal notion. And I respect the decision to do this- the decision other women make. But this is why, while I accepted and embraced marriage, especially as an act that I could engage in on my own terms, I completely rejected this tradition of a father giving me away.
I think, even if I did love my father, I would never have let him walk me down the aisle. The act of a groom asking a father for permission to marry his daughter is just as offensive to me. The language is "Who gives this woman?"
When did my father possess me? Did he possess me more than my mother? When did I become a thing to give away? At what point did I lose the power to give myself?
Ah, because marriage began as a transaction. Here is the money to buy your daughter so I can use her for breeding purposes and to clean my house. I promise to feed her and allow her to raise my offspring. Thank you, kind father, and when we stand up at the altar, I want you to tell everyone you are giving her away.
Think about the power in those words.
Who gives this woman?
Why, her father does, to the man who won the contest, paid the most money...
Ah, but it's a 'tradition'. It doesn't mean the same thing any more in 2010- we put aside the true meaning of things for the sake of tradition. It has lost its meaning. Or... has it?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Last Wednesday at Trader Joes

I love Trader Joe's. You can't do all your shopping there but there are things there that you can get that can't be found other places. Recently, I have discovered this pizza dough they sell for 99 cents. If you like thin crust, you can make four home made pizzas out of it, if you like a thicker crust, you can get at least two. I've made pizza dough from scratch, it's time consuming. Still. There is nothing quite like a fresh from the oven pizza.
I find I can get fresh and healthy ingredients from there, and I was happy with my latest discovery. This last trip was supposed to be in and out in fifteen minutes. I knew exactly what I wanted.
There I was grabbing my pizza dough and I heard this woman grumbling about low sodium something and what a pain it was to stick to that diet.
I chuckled a little and said something along the lines of "Tell me about it."
These are the things strangers say to one another in the grocery store. I have heard of women picking up men in the grocery store but I have never had more than a 45 second conversation with a stranger in the store on average.
I don't expect long conversations to happen. I've run into friends from time to time but strangers seem limited to the very simple exchanges.
We comment on the price of eggs going up. We sometimes ask one another what aisle the peanut butter is in. But I don't hear a lot of life stories in the grocery store- but on Wednesday I met Bianca.
Bianca informed me she was 71 and was born and raised in Sicily, came to this country in her mid twenties with her very controlling husband, who refused to let her further her education when she got here. What began with a generic discussion of the best vegetables to steam when you're trying to stick to a low sodium diet, morphed into her extreme views on racial profiling, full body scans and how her family had hidden in a barn during the Holocaust, barely escaping the tyranny of the Nazis.
I think I said about ten words during this conversation.
Bianca was alternately racist and outraged at racism. If you asked her, every person who even looked like a Muslim should be pulled out of line and strip searched. She had disdain for those southern peasants in Italy, and sympathy for political refugees. She refused to be politically correct or to apologize for her world view. She was a full blown flawed and incredible character. She had come to this country a shy and repressed young woman, afraid to assert herself and had emerged a woman living out loud. I don't want to misrepresent her, I think she had as much sympathy for those wronged by prejudice as those who she had prejudice against. I stood there in the grocery store for an hour listening to the greatest hits of her life story.
Life stories are precious. We are running out of people alive to tell Holocaust stories, to stand and listen to hers was a privilege. She was very young when this was going on, a child during the war, but both her memories and stories of her mother as a young Jewish woman in hiding were horrific and fascinating.
I found this woman inspirational in her strength. She stood there unafraid to express herself openly and truthfully to a complete stranger. She cataloged her abusive first marriage and grieved for the love of her life who had died only a year ago. The years had been kind to her, I would never have guessed her age, she looked much younger than she was. She was trim and fit and honestly the picture of health. She was wearing an orange track suit and she looked like she could run a marathon.
She had two grown children who she lamented had not given her any grandchildren but she said she was blessed with nieces and nephews and a large and wonderful family. You could tell the people in her life were loved completely. I wondered briefly if she was lonely, talking to a stranger in the grocery store and but by the time I was done talking to her, I realized this woman had a very full life with friends and activities. She described her walking schedule, men she had met at various events, I got the feeling she was starting to date again. It made me smile.
She told me a story of a refugee ship that was full of the elderly and children, 400 people sailing to America. They got to Miami and were refused entrance for some reason, so they went to Cuba, where they were also refused entrance. They tried to go back and forth to several places but everywhere refused to let them in. In the end, they had to go back to Hamburg, Germany. 8 people were left alive on that boat in the end. This was why she hated Roosevelt. Funny, she didn't mention hating the Cuban government in this story.
In all, I wish I could remember all of what she told me. I think the most important thing I did was let this woman talk, because when I stepped out of the way, she was able to reveal her full self and it was one of the more fascinating hours I have spent. Sometimes you have to just listen and open your mind. I could have argued with her about some of her more outrageous prejudices but instead I made the decision to let it be. She was who she was and I'm glad I got a moment to see who she was.
Here is to you, Bianca, thanks for allowing me to hear you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


According to my mother, I was a difficult baby, very demanding, up all night, needed to physically touch my mother at all times. But once I grew out of that, I was a fairly easy kid. I had my moments but for the most part, I was pretty good. I was however, a huge challenge as a teen. I was pretty bratty a lot. I ran away, I was mouthy, a liar, I snuck out regularly and I did no chores and hardly ever did what I was told without attitude.
So, I did not expect easy children.
Yesterday at 6 PM, it was 44 degrees outside. I told my daughter, Marissa to get ready to leave the house at 5:30. She was wearing a tank top and a pair of pajama bottoms and flip flops.
She informed me she was ready.
I told her to change and that I would be watching Oprah until she was ready.
She went to her room and returned in a tank top and a pair of shorts.
I informed her of the temperature and told her to go put some pants on.
She said that she didn't have any clean pants except school pants and wasn't going to change and it was fine.
I told her it was up to her how late she was going to be for where she needed to go and that I wasn't driving her anywhere without pants. Any pants would do other than pajama pants.
So, she went out and sat in the car. I stayed inside and watched Oprah.
After about three minutes, she started honking the horn. I didn't move.
Three minutes later, she began repeatedly ringing the doorbell. I didn't move.
Then she came in the house, yelled about how she was fine and I calmly repeated the fact that I was not leaving until she was wearing pants.
She went back to her room and returned wearing pajama pants with the shorts on top. I took one look at her and sat back down on the couch and resumed watching Oprah.
She went back outside, but now the car was locked, so she couldn't sit in it. She resumed ringing the doorbell. I turned up the TV volume.
Finally, she came back inside and went to her room, put on pants with the shorts on top. She came out and informed me how dirty the pants were and asked me if I was happy. I told her I appreciated it when she did as she was told.
She was a half hour late.

Friday, November 12, 2010

GBR 11/12

The Good:
My talk at MCA went well. I sat next to my former film teacher as a colleague and it felt really good.
I was voted President of MCA for next year.
My daughter has her lines memorized for the next play she is in and opening night is tonight.
I met some really cool people this week and laughed a lot.
My film is playing on Monday night and I am really excited.
My cats love me and I love them. They never tire of being with me and sleeping with me.
I apologized to someone whose feelings I hurt.
I have not gotten sick in spite of all the germs in the house and everyone seems to be feeling better today.

The Bad:
I had several ugly and stupid fights this week.
After telling Isabella no for three hours, John caved in again and made her pancakes, so now she knows how long she has to complain to get her dad to do something for her and yet again we had to have the talk about boundaries, and saying no and meaning no.
Last night, I did not have a babysitter so I was unable to attend the opening night Cinema St. Louis event and I missed an opportunity to meet Kevin Spacey.
I have been bummed out about it all day long because I wanted to go to this even before I found out Kevin Spacey was going to be there.
I said some not very nice things to someone who did not deserve it.
(But was able to apologize for my words)
Derek, Isabella and Marissa have all taken turns being really ill this week.

The Random:
John and I play this game called "What did she do cute, today?" When Marissa was younger, we did it with her and now we do it with Isabella more.
If he is alone with our daughter, he tells a story of something she said or did and if I have alone time with her, I tell the story.
A few nights ago, Isabella decided she wanted me to read her 'the monkey book'. I did not know what that was because it was something her dad had read to her last time it was his turn. I pulled out about ten books and none of them were the monkey book, so I told her she had to pick another one.
She refused, so I picked two and gave her an ultimatum. Either she chose one of those I had in my hand or she could go to bed without a story. Reluctantly, she pointed at the Mickey Mouse book in my hand.
I began to read to her and she was sniffling and quietly wailing, not really listening to the story. So I went off book and started making things up.
"Minnie Mouse really wanted to go on a picnic but Mickey would not stop whining and crying and he was really making everyone bum out."
Immediately she stopped sniffling and said- "That is not what it says."
"How do you know?" I asked.
"Look at the picture, he's not whining. He's smiling."
Uh oh, she had me there. Smart kid. But she stopped whining and crying long enough to listen to the story and go to bed.

The Reincarnation of Cats

I grew up with cats, have always had cats in my life. The years I spend living without them, I missed them very much. My mother was partial to Siamese cats and when I was very little we had two Siamese, a blue point, Rasha and a seal point, Sappho.
Rasha died suddenly when I was seven and we were living in England. It was my first real devastating loss. When we returned, we moved to a new house and Sappho decided that I was the person to sleep with. She came in my room every night and put her two paws on my arm and I slept on my side with the cat. In the morning, she would meow to get out to eat but she came every night to sleep with me. I thought this was nothing extraordinary, but as I look back on it, I realize how extraordinary it was for a cat to bond like that with a nine year old child. She wouldn't sleep with anyone else, occasionally my mother but it soon became obvious that the cat preferred me at night. She died when I was eleven and my mother didn't get another cat after that because we traveled so very much.
When I was 17, my boyfriend gave me a cat named Charlie. He picked him out of a litter of five. This was not the kitten I would have picked for myself. I was favoring a little gray tabby named Ashes that was friendly and outgoing. This nervous black and white cat was so shy he was afraid to play.
But when he was handed to me on my birthday, I was happy he was mine.
My boyfriend and I moved in with the couple who owned the cats and soon decided to give me the little gray cat as well. And it was like Charlie understood he was my kitten. Pretty soon, I was the only one he would sit on, the only one he would be near. He would hide good portions of the day and wait until I was quietly reading and creep up on my lap and purr. It soon became obvious that I was the only one he would come out for. He was particularly afraid of my boyfriend but would come out for no one but me. The room mates would call and he would ignore them. When he heard my voice, I would hear his little meow and he would come creeping out and run for me.
A year later, my boyfriend and I broke up and I moved back in with my parents, pregnant and alone with two cats. My parents were very welcoming of the cats and happy to have the house populated by kitties again. Ashes was very friendly but both parents worked very hard to get Charlie to come out his shell and accept them. Eventually, he grew to trust them and would even sit on their lap but as soon as I walked in the room, Charlie would jump down and fly to my side. All I had to do was talk and he would come. I have never had such a loyal and loving cat, his devotion was amazing.
As I grew up, Charlie went through all the years of difficulty and disappointment with me. He was the one who comforted me through all my tough breakups. I used to tell him "No human will ever love me like you, Charlie." and I am pretty sure no cat will either. Still to this day, I am amazed by what that cat saw in me. Charlie was my first baby and he lived for 18 years. I had an inkling that when I was going on this long trip to London, I might never see him again, and unfortunately, I was right.
He died two weeks before I was to return. His organs were shutting down and to keep him alive for those few weeks would have meant he would have had to suffer in the hospital, not at home and not with me and with no guarantee he would have made it those few weeks anyway. The fact was, he was just dying. The other bitter pill was, there was no guarantee that if I booked a flight that day and flew home that he would even be alive when I got there. I could hardly bear it. For two days, while we waited for the verdict from the vet, I could do nothing but cry. I couldn't go out in public because I was bursting into tears so often. I felt a lead weight on my whole body. Everything was dark, I could barely leave my flat and my whole being was in pain and grief. I walked around with the weight of a bowling ball on my chest. Every step was heavy, every moment was laid with guilt and despair.
I was on the train, on the third day, having managed to get out of bed, leave the flat and go into the world. I felt the train rock back and forth and in this rhythm, I took in one deep breath and felt it all let go. The weight dissipated, the heaviness left me, my soul took a deep breath and exhaled.
It was later that I learned, this was the exact moment Charlie died. My dear friend, who cared for him so lovingly for me, told me she found an old shirt that smelled like me, and he had curled up in it for comfort in those final moments.
I have never gotten over feeling that I should have been there. I don't think I will ever get over not being there.
I got a Siamese kitten in 2003 and named her Sophie. She's nothing like any of the previous cats we owned but she likes to put her two paws on my arm and put her face under my chin. I always thought that was funny, and it reminds me of Sappho.
Several years ago, my son went through a bad breakup and called me up, wanting me to keep his very young cats for a month or two while he moved back from Oklahoma.
I said no. I think I said it several times.
But you know, he still showed up one day with the cats.
I know me and cats. There is no way I won't bond with them. And it wasn't going to be just a month, I know him. And if they stayed for longer than that, I wouldn't want to let them go. I informed him of the risk he was taking even bringing them here.
He brought with him an all black cat he had named Jager and a black and white tabby called George.
When I went to bed that night, George came up and got in bed next to me, curled up and announced he was home and that I was his person. In a few days, George was following me everywhere, and crying for me to sit down so he could sit on my lap. He sleeps at my head or my feet every night and after about a month, I heard my husband call him Charlie by accident. I had almost done it myself a half a dozen times, but I thought it was just me.
"He does kind of look like him." I said."But he isn't shy at all."
He gave a small meow and demanded my lap again.
"Look at the way he's looking at you," my husband said.
"I know."
That boyfriend who gave me Charlie, it was our son who brought me George. That was about three years ago by the way. I don't know if there is such a thing as reincarnation. I know that I have always been a cat person, a cat whisperer, have always felt a special kinship with these animals. And I know a thing like the reincarnation of cats is probably a preposterous notion, but if there was a way Charlie could have found me, I have no doubt in my mind he would have found a way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Good, The Bad and the Random

I have a friend who has a gratitude list and she posts every day what she is grateful for. I think it's kind of a neat idea. It's a really cool personal thing that she does and I think it is nice she puts out positivity in the world. I emailed her a long time ago, thinking I wanted to do something like that but wanted to make sure I did not offend her if I did so.
She responded that it wasn't exactly an original idea, and I couldn't really tell whether or not this would bother her or not because she wasn't saying outright that it was but she wasn't being really encouraging either. Nevertheless, after some thought, I decided that I wasn't going to do it for me, that it wasn't exactly the right fit. I didn't want to A, feel constantly like I might be pissing off a friend and B, it wasn't something that I was a hundred percent into.
I'm also not sure that I want to do something every day. I think I can probably fit in something once a week much better.
And a gratitude list would likely get on my nerves sometimes. I don't think I am exactly cut out for that much all the time. Hey, I am all for being grateful but I also like to bitch. No, I need to bitch. I need to allow myself the time to feel bad if I feel bad. And if you only hear the good stuff all the time, I feel like it creates this unreasonable false nature that things are perky and beautiful all the time. And I don't mean to be insulting, I think this is really excellent for some people and for my friend, it is great for her, but sometimes I read it and it depresses me and it makes me feel small and inadequate and think- how can her kids like her all the time, and how can her life be that good all the time, and I know she doesn't portray it that way, but sometimes people's gratitude lists just make me feel like shit. I want to be clear, this isn't the way it is, just sometimes the way it makes me feel.
Other times, they make me feel good and inspired but sometimes I have felt utterly discouraged by them- and sometimes I can't find the good and I have had such a miserable day that I don't want to try and I don't want to feel worse about feeling bad already.
However, I absolutely don't want a weekly bitch list. As perky and positive and annoying as it would be for me to tell myself to have only good thoughts all the time, the same sort of negative rant and constant complaining would wear on me and I am absolutely sure it is not a good thing to put out into the world. I don't want to put nastiness and negativity out there by itself.
Still, I seek balance and lying in bed the other night, I finally figured out what I want to do.
I want to spend the time making a list of the good, the bad and the random weird shit that happens or occurs to me. The humorous, the stuff that defies rational thought, stuff that makes you go hmmmm, maybe stuff that makes you go ewwww. I would like to find the balance of my day or week. This feels more right to me, and it feels more honest and it feels more like me.
I'm good with this idea and looking forward to the way it works out.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This is my truth

There is always someone you offend when you tell the truth. I took down the previous post in deference to my brother. I used his words without his permission and perhaps that was enough of a reason. I only used them because I found them beautiful- but I should have asked him. That was wrong of me.
We disagree on the whole of my post and I allowed myself to be censored because I love him. And it's because he is in so much pain that he behaved with great demands, so I forgive him. He's in great pain. He would have demanded I take the post down had I not offered. I could have taken down his words and left mine up but without the balance of both, it would have really sucked because it wasn't the whole story. There is balance to a life.
I am circumspect and thoughtful and in my mind, there is only both sides of the person to me. It comes out in the wash. Dirty laundry has a way of stinking when you leave it in the corner and try to pretend it doesn't exist just because someone is dead.
I will always remember my grandmother as a wonderful woman with an irrational temper whose capacity to hold grudges was nearly epic. Whose capacity to love and care for her family and to sacrifice herself to see the right thing done was equally epic, not to mention her tenacity and artistic talent.
But for me, one without the other is only the half of the picture. It was a triumph for her when she did let a grudge go. A supreme and amazing feat. You would have to know that bad part about her in order to appreciate who she was.
And the truth of it was, like everyone else in this world, she did some appalling things that hurt people. And she did some wonderful things that inspired people.
I told the truth. That is enough to make someone mad at you.
It has always been enough to make someone mad at you. Nothing I said was a lie or slander or anything of the like and in my own way, I felt I was respectful to a well rounded view of which I presented both sides because good and bad exists in a person.
I expose my bad as well as my good, because to pretend that it doesn't exist is only letting the stinking dirty laundry pile up.
So now there are no words that are mine to say anything about my dead cousin whose funeral was yesterday. She is only dead- that is all I feel I can say- and because it was insisted to me that only good must be said about the dead, and even though I don't believe that with any part of my mind or body, I will refrain from saying anything at all because it has been made clear to me that I am not supposed to tell the whole truth, and if I can't, then I won't say anything at all.
I hope when I die that people tell the truth about me. I don't want to be remembered as a saint. Because I am not. And I never will be. And I don't want to be.
If they whisper "Vanessa was a real bitch in the morning."
I know they will have remembered me.
I don't want to be remembered for who I wasn't.
I know that when they speak of me, I will hope they will have been fond of all of me, my annoying traits, my deep faults, and the things that made me wonderful to someone. I know my best friend will remember how annoying it was that I never knew where my shoes were and that I was always late. It will make her smile. She will also remember how we fought and when she does, it will probably bring her a twinge of pain.
Maybe some will learn just hearing about my mistakes. God knows, I did. And I made a lot of them. Maybe I can be someone's cautionary tale. By the way, I have a shoe tree now. I always know where my shoes are. I can't be who I am without those huge mistakes. I don't want you to forget my virtues but I think I got a lot of them through the horror of my missteps.
But mostly I just want to tell the truth, and I am sorry if that makes some people mad. I am not without compassion.
When I find a better way to remember my dead cousin without using someone else's words to balance out the truth of what I knew, I will do so. I admit I made a mistake publishing his public speech. And that is fine, I admit it was ill advised. I understand why he sees this as disrespectful, though it was meant as anything but- I did not mean to cause anyone more pain. And that, most of all is why the post is down.
Because the living have feelings, and however unintentionally, I hurt someone and that is something I have to take responsibility for. I regret that I hurt someone I care about.
I wish that part had not happened. It is an unfortunate side effect of speaking one's mind. It was the tragedy and the beauty I shared that I hoped would touch people. And it did. It really did. I am sorry that part was missed in the hurt feelings. My point was always that no matter what our mistakes were, inside us is that golden child.
I can't make the truth different than what it is.
And the truth of this is, you can't change what has happened. It is very personal how one chooses to remember a loved one lost.
The fact is, the truth has always hurt. And it will continue to do so. When I was sixteen, I walked out of the grocery story, driving off with my mother's car and left her there, stranded. She had to walk home in the rain carrying a gallon of milk. I was a selfish bitch that day. If I live the rest of my life, I don't think I can ever make that moment up to her. It is probably the worst thing I have ever done. I cannot make that act go away. I did that. If someone tells that story at my funeral, I would hope they also would mention that in committing that act, it changed me forever. There are few moments in life that will haunt you forever, and change you. Luckily, I have had an opportunity for redemption and forgiveness. Not everyone gets that.
Some people die before they get that chance. Sometimes people just die as who they are. The problem with dead is that dead is dead. Nothing you can do about it.
A eulogy is knowledge of good. Good words said at a funeral. I did not say words at a funeral, if I had, they might have been different from what I wrote here yesterday. I'm going to defend what I did and what I wrote and my right to say my words but also say that I wasn't completely right about it, either. And later, I am sure I will have more to say, as writers always do.

In Memory of my cousin, Stella

Before we begin to tear our lives apart as adults, we are children, and maybe the best of us lives there a little. At least, this is mostly true for my cousin, Stella, who ran a red light and plowed into a semi truck going over sixty miles per hour and died almost immediately. Hopefully there is a bit of us that lives there, and we remember the sweet hugs and skipped rocks and Halloween costumes.
This is how I want to remember my cousin, Stella. She was five years older than me and not much interested in playing with me. She had my older brother to pal around with, he was a lot more fun. And when she wasn't being bounced back and forth between rageaholic and alcoholic parents, she had a few sweet moments playing at her grandmother's house in Georgia.
And that is where I remember her best. She was around seven when her mother left her father, in the middle of the day, her youngest brother, a baby, sleeping in his crib and her next youngest brother, a toddler himself, only maybe three at time when her mother just walked out the door and left them alone. Walked out carrying her suitcase, walked out without her children, I can only wonder at how she could have allowed herself to do it. Somehow, Stella managed to hold down the fort until her father got home from work hours later.
My grandmother drove up overnight from Georgia to New Jersey to be with the children so that my uncle could go to work the next day.
Somehow, her mother was forgiven this indiscretion and was allowed custody of this young girl, but she let the boys go.
My first clear memory of this cousin, Stella who I heard about often but knew little about was the summer she came to visit Georgia as a teen, the same time we were there. I must have been about eight myself which would make her around 13. The boys lived for a time with my grandmother so I knew them much better. Stella was a mystery to me but I was excited at the prospect of having a girl around. I was surrounded by boys. I had no sisters and the boy cousins were fun and all but it would be nice to have another girl around.
Except, she didn't want to play with me. This happened a lot when my older brother Geoffrey was around. The girl cousins all had crushes on him, so I routinely got pushed out of the way so they could cast adoring looks on him. I hated it but I was used to it.
And after all, she was a teen who didn't want to be hanging around some little kid. My brother was far more interesting. On this particular lazy summer afternoon, they announced they were going 'uptown' to get some candy. In this small town, uptown was around four or five blocks. A ten minute walk to the five and dime store, right past my uncle's feed and seed storefront.
I wanted to go with them and they teased me with the possibility.
"First," my brother said. "You have to prove that you can be a good lookout."
Then they talked me into keeping an eye out for my mother or grandmother so they could safely sneak dollars out of my mother's purse.
My brother tried to tell me it was perfectly okay, that Ma let him do it all the time, I just shouldn't tell anyway.
Stella giggled as they went into the room together. I didn't get to go uptown with them but I didn't tell on them either. Something about the shame of being tricked like that made me keep my mouth shut. Besides, my mother would have wanted to know why I hadn't even tried to stop them. She would have been disappointed in me, and I knew it was stealing.
Maybe I witnessed the first time Stella was involved in theft from my mother. It wasn't the last.
The girl with the easy smile and the golden hair grew up needing and wanting something I don't think she ever found. The last time I saw her she was married and had two little girls and she seemed stable and happy. This was right before she started smoking crack cocaine.
Soon after that she was finding ways to impersonate my mother and stealing from her dead father's estate. Money that would have belonged to her in a number of years but was to be split between her and her brothers. It wasn't hard for her to impersonate my mother, they had the same name, after all. They were both named Stella and she had my mother's maiden name. What followed were two more divorces and a boy child born addicted who she lost custody of to her sister in law. I don't know how many times she was in rehab. She called me up one time a long time ago looking for comfort and solace.
That was the last time I talked to her. I heard a desperate woman who didn't really want to quit using and didn't know a way out of her pain. And she continued to try to embezzle and until she rammed into that truck, I think she remained a lost child in a grown woman's body.
She was a lost child, a girl who could have turned out different, but didn't. And was loved in spite of everything. I wish she could have finally filled that empty place inside her. We all have it. All of us.