Family

CoVID19 and War Stories

grandp
This is not meant to minimize any pain or isolation anxiety you may be experiencing

 

This is day eleven of my self imposed “Stay at Home,” routine and day five of the California Governor’s decree.

How are you all doing?

Amid the humorous and not so funny memes and photos, I came across the above message, which gave me pause to reflect.

My mother is in her 90’s. Practicing self-isolation, I don’t visit, but I phone and ask her how she’s doing.

“Oh, fine.” She then goes on to talk about her “normal for her” ailments of age.

I talk to my sister, who lives with Mom, and ask, “How’s Mom doing?”

“She’s like nothing’s different, no big deal.”

I realize Mom is in a different situation than most elderly. She has a family member living with her who takes care of cooking, cleaning, and her medication. The other family members live within the county and take care of appointments, excursions, and visiting.

Many other elderly are not as fortunate.

Mom and I got to talking about her experiences with difficult times. She was born during the depression and was a pre-teen during World War II, which she remembers clearly.

Orphaned a year before war broke out, Mom was one of five children, second to the last. The youngest nine and the oldest seventeen.

This is one of the stories Mom related:

In the post office, there were giant posters of an Army woman, with a finger to her lips, with the caption “Shhh, be careful what you say because it may cost a life,” and “Loose lips sink ships.” 

Newspaper headlines reported that a Japanese submarine fired on a boat off the coast of Santa Barbara.  Another paper headline said “LA Area Raided!” There were rumors that Los Angeles had come under Japanese attack with airplane fire and bombs.

Your Uncle Cata enlisted in the Army. He had quit school when he was in the 9th grade, so he could work to support us when our parents died.

Lute was fifteen, but he worked at two jobs, which kept him out at night. He tried to enlist, but he wasn’t accepted.  He had injuries from playing football and was called a 4-F.  He was so disappointed; he moped around the house for days, but I was glad he wasn’t going, because then who would take care of us?

Sometimes I was frightened, mostly in the evenings when Lute was gone to work. I had nightmares about the Japanese bombing Pomona, especially when the practice air-raid siren would blast its earsplitting alarm. 

Walking up and down the street, the neighborhood air raid warden moved his flashlight around our dark yard, the light darting across our rickety wood fence and up and down our fruit trees, like ghosts running back and forth.

Della and I would turn off the radio, the lights and cover the windows with blankets. We’d run through the darkness and hide under our bedcovers, hugging each other,  sweating in the summer heat, when the warning siren blasted into the night.

How I wanted to have my mother and father, to wrap their arms around us and tell us that everything would be okay; that we weren’t going to be bombed and that they would protect us and we would be safe, like before the war. 

But I knew that wouldn’t happen. They were dead. My dad for four years, my mom for one. 

So I held my tears in and tried to be brave for my little sister.  I told her everything was going to be okay, even though I didn’t feel like it was the truth. It was a very lonely and scary time.

This saddened me, because I know life can be so much worse. I thought about the kids in the same situation, those in detention centers, those without caring parents or siblings to protect them, and sad for any person who is isolated without anyone to help.

I think about what others are doing, the medical staff, first responders, educators, my son who stocks groceries and prepares food at a Brooklyn natural foods store, my daughter who works in a doctor’s office, and my other son whose factory is now making hand sanitizer.

I worry that they could catch the COVID19 virus by taking the subway to work, although it’s desolate now, or coming into contact with others at their worksites.

But Mom’s story also reminded me to continue to record all of her recollections. If you haven’t put your parent’s experiences onto the page, or computer, now’s a good time. Organize those old photos, tell their stories to your children, tell your stories to your kids. Now’s the time.

Thanks for reading. Now, I’ll return to the routine I’ve set up for myself. My “Artist in Residence” schedule.

Writer’s and Creatives

Prayer, meditation, writing, reading, exercise, gardening, meal preparation, phoning others, thirty minutes of news and social media, a couple of hours of T.V (you know I’m lying, it’s sometimes more) and back to prayer.

Be safe. Stay at home. Be Kind. Wash Your Hands.

 

 

 

 

Family

February, My Own Personal Valentine

 

Mothers of daughters are daughters of mothers and have remained so, in circles joined to circles, since time began.

Signe Hammer

Ah, February, a month that begins with love. This is not because of Valentine’s Day but rather because my daughter was born on February 1st.

I laid on the chilly stainless steel bed in the operating room pissed off that I couldn’t bear my child ‘naturally.’ After hours of labor, I needed a C-section.

“You’ll be awake, at least. Not like the first time,” my husband said.

The memory of the emergency cesarean I had with my son, after twenty-four hours of labor, an epidural and a spinal block, shifted through my body.

I pushed aside my feeling of failure, for that’s what I believed having a c-section meant instead of vaginal birth.

The intake of breath of the doctor and nurse made my heart sink until both of them said,

“Look at that hair!” and my husband yelled “A girl.”

I held my nine-pound bundle of a baby girl with her halo of dark hair and creamy soft skin and breathed easy.

There is an old Mexican tradition of naming a child after the baby’s grandmother but we didn’t need another “Maria,” much to my mother’s chagrin. I gave my daughter a name that is a combination of my mother’s name and my middle name.

Already having a rambunctious son, I wanted a daughter to cuddle for more than a minute but as she grew, she had her rowdy times too as well as her playtime talking with her dolls and the family dog.

Now my daughter’s hair is dyed chrome silver after having been aqua, green, and jet black in earlier years. So hair is a focal point even to this day.

It’s a wonder how a baby shoots up to a kindergartener, a teenager and on to a young adult.

If I could give my daughter…

Sometimes, I forget my daughter is no longer a dependent kid but an independent woman who lived on her own for five years in Denver, bought her own car, pays her own bills, takes good care of her cat, and has managed to travel to Chicago, New York, and Houston on her own dime.

In the years between those two spectrums I hope I’ve given her the three beliefs that are listed in the quote above:

  • The confidence to know her self-worth
  • The strength to chase her dreams
  • The ability to know how truly, deeply loved she is

I am a definite on the last two and I’m reminding myself to speak out on the first one more often.

So, on February first I celebrated my daughter, in the month of love, and with my own personal Valentine.

 

 

 

Family, Latino culture, Mothers, Strong Women

Ghosts past and present

Not the spirit Mom saw but close enough. Photo by pixaby.com

 

My mother’s seeing ghosts again.

She hasn’t seen one in over 75 years. So why are they visiting now? And not one but two of them?

These are the questions I’m asking myself as she tells me about the spirits floating in her room, at the foot of her bed, for the past three nights.

On the first night, the spirit is a woman dressed in a flowing white dress. Mom can see the figure is feminine, but she has her face turned to the side, so only her profile is seen. Mom flips the bedcovers over her eyes and begins to pray.

The next night the woman in white appears again. She’s staring at something to the right of the bedroom wall. There’s a figure in a black cloak, hood and all. Mom can’t see a face. She pinches herself to find out if she’s having a nightmare. Nope. She hides under her blankets and prays for them to go away.

“Geez, Mom how did you see all that? You’re legally blind,” I ask.

“I don’t know but I saw them,” she says. “What do you think it means?”

Of course, I don’t want to say the words out loud: ‘it’s the grim reaper.’ Who wants to give their mom that news?

Instead, I suggest she ask them who they are or what do they want or tell them to scram. Mom appears to be thinking about that suggestion, “Hmmm.”

I offer to bring over some sage to burn at the entrance to her room; to ward off evil spirits.

Mom scrunches her lips. “Do you know Becca saw a ghost in my room years ago?”

I can’t remember that but I think my sister used sage for the entire house a few years back.

On the third night, the spirits come again. This time both are side by side in front of her closet doors. The one in the black cloak moves away towards her dresser on the adjoining wall. This time Mom shuffles out of her bed turns on the light, and they disappear.

What to make of these apparitions?

After the questions about whether she was dreaming or not, what did she eat for dinner, and all those questions meant to have her doubt what she saw, she says:

“I know what ghosts look like.”

She’s right.

She’s seen the ghost of her father come to her at a migrant camp when she was eleven years old or so. He appeared, dressed in his work clothes, standing at her feet while she slept on a blanket on the dirt, next to her best friend, Sally. They reported the sighting to her friend’s father.

Sally’s dad said not to be afraid, seeing her dad was a good thing, he was only visiting her at the same camp he used to work at when he was alive. Mom accepted that idea.

Four years later, Mom was ironing in the kitchen and heard her dead mother’s voice call her name. The hanging light bulb above the ironing board swayed. Her mother called for her again.

“I was so scared, I ran out to the porch and wouldn’t go back inside.”

Her friend reassured her that her mother was looking out for her and not to be afraid.

The reassurances about visiting spirits is not unusual in the Mexican culture which has centuries of Mayan and Aztec beliefs about the supernatural world. After all, Day of the Dead celebrates and invites spirits of the departed.

I’ve never seen La Llorona but I’ve heard her wailing.

Ghosts are nothing to fear unless it’s the infamous La Llorona or the Cucuy (because we know what they’re coming for and it’s not pretty).

After the two spirits depart, on the third night, Mom decides to use her holy water from Lourdes. She tells me she sprinkled some drops from the bottle to her doorway, on her closet doors, her dresser and her bed.

Gathering the holy water of Lourdes, France

I can’t believe she still has the holy water since it’s been twenty years since she visited Lourdes, France.

“I’m not ready to go.” She huffs like those spirits better get a grip. Yup, she’s a chingona like that.

There must not be an expiration date for the holy water because Mom hasn’t seen any spirits for a couple of weeks now.

 

 

Encouragement, Family

Summer Solstice and Hope

 

Twittering birds began their rabble-rousing earlier than usual this summer solstice morning.

I enjoy listening to their conversations and energy as I wake.

This morning I’m praying for a better day for the thousands of detained immigrant children spending agonizing days and nights without their parents or someone to comfort them in their distress.

I’m praying for the moral treatment and morale of our country to do better.

I’m thankful for the hundreds of organizations, thousands of Americans, and others around the globe signing petitions, and calling on elected officials to do something more humane for refugees/immigrants.

My own personal problems are minuscule by comparison. There is no comparison for babies and children ripped from their parent’s arms.

I’m heartened by those who are showing up at airports, detention centers, and their elected official’s offices to show their support of the refugees and their anger about the existing law.

I’m grateful for the many organizations who are helping refugees and those who are using social media about the places to donate. (One organization is Raices).

As the quote above states:

Let all things live with loving intent.

Today, all things seem possible. I’m praying more people will live with compassion and loving intent.

Make your summer solstice day one of random acts of kindness, a supportive word, a hug, a smile.