Christmas is full of wishes, hopes, dreams and perhaps joys. Things we desire and things we need. Everyday I awaken, I know I have more now than I had as a child—by far. We have two refrigerators, air-conditioning, nice heating system, colored television, three landlines to phones, relatively new cars that we paid in full upon purchase. Yes, no debt outside the monthly, quarterly, semi-annual and annual bills to pay.
I can drive to the food store. Our daughters have never or rarely ever; I can count on one hand that they had to get something for the house because I’d forgotten an item or couldn’t afford it on my weekly shopping list. We have three pets. Our daughters have and will have an incredible education—the choice of being studious is up to them. We have a double oven. We have an attic and a basement. Our daughters work, not because they have to right now, but because they want to.
We parents have had our own bedroom. We have two bathrooms. We have a washer and a dryer. There’s food in the refrigerator—lots. The children can have eggs, variety of juices, apples, bananas and such year-round. They can predict and desire a variety of breakfast items and lunches too. Dinner is asked of them—what they desire that is. There is always some kind of dessert in our home for them. Ice cream is nearly always in the house. Their mother is healthy, health-minded, and considers them at great length—too ad nauseum.
Our daughters are held in such high regard—that they are given every opportunity to be practically anything they desire to be. Imagine that coming from a middle-class household. What made this possible was hard-work and tragedy. Follow me.
Tragedy can push some down and oppress them permanently. Yet, it can also make us rise to a higher sense of being—making others reckon with what they refuse to reckon with whilst they watch the tragic figure. It is for the observer an opportunity to be grateful. To become more, living to a higher nobility. To settle for more or less. And to teach their children well—better than they have—better than they were given.
Yes, we humans can always do better. Tragedy reminds me of the empty refrigerator which never really bothered me all that much. I remember I’d wonder for a few seconds every now and again as a child, ‘What is like for my classmates who have? And why are they so unkind?’ Then I’d realize that others in the world didn’t have bread and milk—which were the two things we pretty much always had in the house. I’d close the refrigerator door and be happy about that. I could also have some tea and sugar. Life was sweet.
Tragedy reminds me of a sick mother, how I’d rush home after running or school or both to find her not dead yet. Yeah, I did a lot of that. Or late at night wondering if dad would finally have left us, as he’d told us all to go to hell and threatened to leave for how many times? Too many to remember. Part of me honestly I can say really wanted him gone by the tenth year of his threats. He was hardly home physically and emotionally he was nowhere near us. He constantly verbally wished us ill.
Tragedy reminds me of being the constant guardian of my older brother. My mother’s loses of babies, two sons at minimum of nine pregnancies. And for sure showed me how fragile and fleeting life had been, is and always will be.
Tragedy reminded me as a child that war sucks. But someone has to annihilate the bad guy—the freedom takers. Give it all, because we need not just men like that but women too. They have to be mature. As a co-worker once said to me after he’d found out I’d almost lost my life. “You know we Marines most of us come from dysfunction.” His mom was as sick as mine. She’d accomplish what my mother attempted to do. My Marine co-worker was just fourteen when he found his mother—as he’d recalled to me. Then he called me later again on my work phone that day when he’d realized I’d have to go up against a predator and testify. He said, “In front of God and everyone, Jody. In front of God and everyone.” It was to have no fear and to shout from the mountain tops, that I—justice have arrived and will win. Spiritually he was there for me. We were bonded by tragedies, and we knew it. And that was without him ever knowing anything about my parents—neither most of my childhood.
Tragedy reminds me of how ‘God watches over drunks and babies’. A doctor-friend had once said that to me back in 1988. When I told him my dad’s problem wasn’t the disease that everyone thought mysteriously afflicted him—it was his drinking that instigated it. Setting him up for the car accident that changed his later years, and yes he’d been drinking. Thank God it was only him affected in the accident.
Tragedy reminds me of how I have always been willing to fight for other’s health and well-being because of how horribly I was treated by the medical field of mostly white men. That and physical pain and debilitation made me change the direction of my work in life. I decided if I had been so disregarded, then there were others who were in pain and treated just as poorly. If I dealt with them and was engrossed in other’s pain; then I could ignore mine and heal over time. And perhaps, bring together another level of thinking into the western medical fold back then filled with the dictatorship of white men. Show them to bend, be the practitioners—the practicing instead of the arrogantly demanding know-it-alls. But say it amicably.
Tragedy reminds me, I don’t have to wear running shoes with holes in them anymore. So, I checked and still check our eighteen- and twenty-year-old’s footwear. I’m all about that. I buy what they need and unlike my mother I can and do buy them what they want.
Tragedy reminds me, that I have an acre I can now shovel, mow, rake, seed, plant that I own. I find joy in being forced to be physically fit. Too, I am reminded how doctors over the years, since age six told me I couldn’t. My body was too defective; then it was I worked too hard; then it was I was too physical to last in my job; then it was I was too physical to last...
Tragedy reminds me that I myself can clean my home better than anyone in my family ever could. And so, I do. It reminds me that if I do this work and not ask of others to do it for me/us, I’ll not only save money—but it will give our daughters the time needed to study, socialize and develop. I am flawed in offering such time and effort to our daughters, perhaps. But it was something not done for me.
Tragedy teaches me patience, for I am slow to anger. There are good reasons for that. Yes, I am what some would consider at times a ‘Walking Doormat’. I acquiesce because I know just how hard life can be, is and may be. And I’m wearing my body, my experiences and not someone else’s.
Tragedy reminds me how hard my dad was. As it was unnecessary to be so hard in a hard world you need to have a permeable soft heart. I just won’t let our daughters know too much about how hard the world may be. They’ll find out in time. It’s not always for me, their parent to deliver the ugly messages. It’s for me to check in with them and figure out what they know and if they realize what they are up against. Once I do, I know not to nail it home to them as it was done to me—reducing some well-needed innocence. Innocence allowed in life is for the love they can gain and for the love they will have the ability to give.---Jody-Lynn Reicher
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