I think it’s safe to say anyone who knows me (be it IRL or via the innanets – I’m my authentic self in any setting) knows that my female friendships are extremely important to me. My mom often reminded me in my younger years, “Men will come and go but good girlfriends are forever.” While I’ve also seen some “friends” come and go, I by and large hold on to good friends.
Last week I found myself making last minute plans with a few of my new Portland girlfriends to watch the College Football Playoff championship game – with Ohio State and Oregon. We quickly realized this would be one helluva feat, given we lived in Portland and the bars would be crowded with die-hard fans. To avoid crowds, I suggested the girls come to my place since I had a TV and wine. It would be their first time visiting my apartment, and though I hadn’t had a chance to tidy up beforehand I didn’t want to pass up a chance to have some girl-time. Turns out, we did much more talking than watching the game (which was for the best, because the ass kicking Oregon took was painful to witness), and it was exactly what the doctor ordered! We talked about everything and nothing and it was so therapeutic. All of us have been in Portland less than 3 years, all relocated for jobs, all living with our significant others, all in the same sorority, all #TeamNatural, all struggling to figure out where the hell does life take us now. As we sat facing each other, popping blue
pillsberries and sipping wine, and repeatedly squealing, “OMG me too!” or “OMG I’m the same way!” I felt giddy with excitement that we were all placed in each other’s lives to help us get through and make this new city far from our family and friends a home (at least for the time we’re located here).
A looooooong time ago my dear friend Amy Juicebox tarted a social media campaign called “Love Letters to Black Men” – a way for Black women to show support during a sensitive time when Black men were increasingly under attack (quite literally, in many cases). She asked me (and countless other Black women) to write a love letter to Black men. And well, I never completed the task. I just didn’t know where to start. It’s such a huge task to sum up my love of the men who raised me, taught me, inspire me, motivate me, and most importantly love me. I didn’t revisit this task until my aunt asked members of my family to contribute to a memory book that will be given to my Father on his next birthday (in a few weeks – the day after mine). It took many hours, many tears, and many laughs to complete my contribution for my Dad’s memory book. It’s a love letter. I love Black men because of the love and respect I have for my Dad. Everything he is encompasses a rich Black history, Black experiences, Black thought, Black pride, Black beauty. I love Black people because my Black father loved me and I love my Black self.
For many who follow me on Twitter, you may have heard me discuss the hilarious antics of Papa Gem. My Father’s larger than life persona is quite legendary (among his circle of family/friends, my mom’s circles, my brother’s circles, and certainly my circles) and yet he’s a complete mystery to me, wrapped in an enigma, encased in a riddle. Locked in a cryptex. He’s a constant, finite force, while altogether surprising and unpredictable. And since my Father can’t be confined to the type of simple linear regression models (i.e. a straight line) he solves in his spare time “for fun”, neither should my love letter to him. So here it goes…*
Dad, it’s easy to say “I love you” but hard to say what that means or how that feels. Defining words with more words is more an exercise of flipping through a hard-covered dictionary (and though I much prefer dictionary.com these days, I still have the dictionary you bought me when I went off to college) than of defining feelings in a manner someone else can understand. You taught me that what you say and how you say it, is of utmost importance. Whether reciting timeless verses of Robert Frost (voice inflections, the right emphasis on the right words, and hand/face gestures are important details) or supporting an argument for why rap music will not rot one’s brain (it won’t, trust me, I’m a doctor), expression of words requires thoughtfulness, animus, and grit. And a dictionary. So when I tell you I love you, I’m telling you my mind is replaying our time together because loving you is directly tied to our journey through life together.
School shoe shopping (I blame/thank you for my sensible over fashionable shoe purchases). Hospital nurses’ stations. MLK tennis courts. Jazz. Car Talk Radio. What you did to that glovebox. Trips to see “the little people” (especially when playing Santa’s Helper). Amateur boxing matches. Poinsettia and Holiday Bowls. Aztec, Padre, and Charger games. Battle of the Bands. You being present at every single swim meet and band performance (parade, field, concert) – with thousands upon thousands of photos to show for it. Video footage of my childhood. Trips to Hawaii, Vegas, Disneyworld. Pilgrimages to Howard Universi-tay. Witnessing incomparable friendships with Dan Gaither and John Golding. Being exposed to a positive, intelligent, assiduous, flourishing community of Black professionals. The ambiguity of your so-called time spent in China. Made-up Spanish. Story telling. Driving lessons. “We didn’t get you perfume for Christmas, Mommy.” Wrapping presents. Teaching you how to use features on your computer. Grade school projects (the Mission, the Indian village, Andrew Johnson, Emperor penguins). Not learning how to play chess. The father-daughter waltz at my debutante ball. Thinking of the right song for us to dance to at my wedding. Telling Jesus on you. Playing the trumpet as a wake up call at my birthday sleepover. Singing at my door and pretending Mom is playing the radio too loud. “What it is? What it was? What it will be? What it could be? What it should be? [Etc…].” Ninety second phone conversations. Batman movies. Calling me George (or mistakenly Patricia, Shari, or Delilah). Watching you be a grandfather to my nieces and nephews, and eagerly awaiting the day you meet my future kids. Always challenging me to think harder, smarter, and wiser. Brutal honesty. Your love of knowledge (even your geeky obsession of words and math). Being the funniest, smartest, most generous person I know. Setting a standard for the main man in my life.
These are a few of my favorite memories. This love letter will never quite be complete because there are so many more reasons that you will give me to love you for the rest of my life. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!
Papa Gemmie’s Little Girl
* This letter is slightly modified from the one that will be in his memory book. Because you always think of something else after you’ve finished your “final” draft. And it’s Father’s Day 🙂
Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers holding down fatherhood! But an extra special recognition to my own father, Papa Gem. As I get older, I appreciate my father more and more for all the many things he has done for me and the influential role he has had in my life. Our relationship is far from perfect but I’d argue all parent-child relationships have their benefits and drawbacks.
I will say though, my Dad is a bit of an enigma wrapped in a riddle. And after almost 30years I’m not sure I know exactly who he is lol. But his mysteriousness makes him all the more fascinating and special to me.
That said – I will attempt to describe my favorite things about him, in no particular order…
1. He’s the coolest of the cool kids.
- Just about all of my friends who meet my Dad think he’s the most hilarious and fun guy ever. And not just because he tries to liquor them up on Margaritas and/or rum and cokes. He steals the spot light wherever he goes and increases my cool factor exponentially. But on the flipside…
2. He’s kind of a gangster.
- Let’s just say you don’t want to be on the wrong end of his cane. You will get got.
3. He has very few Fs to give.
- My Dad is that old Black man who just says whatever he wants and dares you to come for him – very #whogoncheckmeboo?! He speaks his mind and is unapologetic about his opinions and outlook. Be it with race, politics, your taste in music, your hair style, he will let you know what’s on his mind. Oddly enough, this is especially apparent when…
4. He wears a murse on occasion
- Or fanny pack, depending on the mood I suppose. He’s not about to be walking around with fat, overstuffed pockets. It’s practical but amusing.
5. He’s low key very thoughtful
- My dad isn’t big on talking on the phone or expressing his feelings but he finds ways to show he’s thinking of people. And it’s usually unexpected, making it all the more awww-inducing. Be it a hand written note, a text message (that undoubtedly took him 10min to draft for less than 100 characters), or an email – usually detailing some fact he learned that pertains to my work or city of residence – he shows me I’m on his mind in his own way.
6. He’s generous.
- He gives in his time and resources to me and countless others. He freely shares his knowledge and wisdom (and unsolicited opinions lol). He has a lot to offer and he offers it readily.
7. He’s a nerd.
- Pops is intelligent and scholarly, always seeking more knowledge and constantly challenging himself and others to think critically. He reads physics and differential equations books just for fun. He creates mathematical “theories” just to pass the time.
8. He’s a great story teller.
- My mom and I have probably heard the same stories 1 thousand times over, and yet he tells the story almost identically every time, complete with animated expressions and vocal inflections. It’s a gift. I want to get him on film one day. Speaking of film…
9. He’s amazingly creative.
- My dad is a great musician and artist (drawing/painting). He used to make video cartoons for me, using various items (my coloring supplies, McDonald’s happy meal toys, my siblings). He even served as my personal illustrator for my grade school projects (shhhh don’t tell my teachers).
10. He hates rap.
- And he is constantly letting me know how much he hates it and that it’s rotting my brain. For some reason, I find this terribly endearing and comforting. We are so much alike in so many ways but this is the one thing we can emphatically not find common ground on. And it makes me smile.
All in all, my Dad is unlike any other person I know. As I said, he’s an enigma wrapped in a riddle. He’s a sh*t talking OG who doesn’t GAF that has a murse and does nerd sh*t after work hours. He’s an unlikely combination of so many different traits and interests. My Dad is really one of a kind and all the things listed above make him so super to me. Papa Gem is just the biznass. Period.
What are some things you love most about your Dad (or whatever male figure that helped raise you)?
From a loving and adoring daughter,
11. He loves Beyonce He probably wouldn’t recognize a Bey song if she sang “This be Bey!” over and over, but he rides for her regardless. And I approve.
Yesterday I discussed how difficult it is (for me) to maintain close, meaningful friendships into adulthood. Because friendships need to be nurtured, and to be tended to… like a garden. Some plants require more attention and need certain conditions (just enough light, just enough water, the right pot and/or soil, etc) to thrive, while others need much less and still manage to grow without much interference. Most of my friends tend to be of the latter nature. Many of us can talk on the phone a handful of times throughout the entire year, and see each other maybe once a year, and still be the best of friends. No love is lost simply because we aren’t in direct communication all the time. The quality of the communication we do have makes up for the lake in quantity of phone calls and in-person meet ups. I still desire to have more communication and better contact with my friends because having those moments where we can share with each other and enjoy each other’s company are so important to me. But most of those friendships aren’t in jeopardy of existing if we aren’t up to date with minute to minute information.
I don’t have many of the “needy” type friendships now that I’m adult. I just don’t have the time or patience to tend to a needy friend. The friend who feels that if they aren’t in constant communication with you, know every single detail of your life, and have immediate access to you, then your friendship is a sham. And as I’ve already mentioned, life gets more busy and difficult to manage over time – and ain’t nobody got time for that! And I don’t know if I naturally select friends who aren’t very needy or I just subconsciously let those friendships fall to the wayside because I don’t have these types of friendships, I just wouldn’t be able to keep up with them.
And as a few people mentioned in the comments yesterday, when your priorities and life situations change, often times your friends do too and you sometimes have to cut friends out of your life. I’m a firm believer that you have “seasonal” friends – friends who are only meant to last for a temporary period of time in your life. They may be a good friend to you for a certain time, but their role in your life wasn’t meant to be long lasting. I think we all have or have had those “friends” who you think are pretty cool, we hang out with on occasion, we always get invites to for events. They might be “friends” from work, from school, from an organization you’re in – you’re connected by some common thread and there’s no good reason you shouldn’t be friendly. And I would venture to say they’re more than an acquaintance because these are people you would choose to hang out with voluntarily in leisurely settings and you might even share things about yourself (not necessarily really personal things) over drinks. I think of acquaintances as people you know from say work or is a friend of a friend that you might occasionally see after hours at ULYP events and will chop it up with but who you’d never consider inviting to attend a Foreign Exchange concert or Kevin Hart show with you and your crew. I had numerous casual friends when I was living in Pittsburgh. I was a student, in a sorority, and actively involved in my church and local organizations – so I met a lot of cool people and made a lot of friends. Just about all of the people I know in Portland also fall into this category of casual friends.
Wherever I go I tend to have a network of people I can be social with. But when I leave those places, I leave a lot of those friendships behind. I still have contact with many of these friends via Facebook or Twitter, but I don’t actively pour into those friendships. Because they weren’t meant to be long-lasting. I still like many of these people, and wish them well in life, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to be a part of their life or have them be part of mine. I haven’t needed to intentionally cut friends off because I tend not to nurture a friendship that I see going nowhere (or that isn’t meant to continue past it’s shelf life). And when I have noticed that a friendship is going nowhere (i.e. a casual friendship trying to parade as a close friendship, or a close friendship that has gone stale and stagnant), I stop caring for it. Not the person, just the relationship. There are only a few instances where I’ve cut some one off completely (no communication whatsoever), but by and large there are many people throughout my life who have just taken a very low priority on my list of people to actively think about. The people I put and keep in my life matter very much to me mentally and emotionally, and there isn’t room for some one who isn’t going to make me better or contribute to my well being.
I think the entire goal of the maturation process is finding out who you are and what you need to live the life you want. Part of that journey is learning to navigate the sometimes murky waters of relationships with various people – especially friends. It seems the older we get, the more we change but the more stuck in our ways we get. And our tolerance for people that aren’t beneficial additions to our lives seems to decrease exponentially with age as well. Unfortunately, everyone our age doesn’t mature at the same rate, or they just don’t mature at all, and so they’re left behind and look at you crazy when you say “I don’t have time for this/you.” Like, your being a fully grown adult is problematic. Le sigh.
Do you have different categories of friends or do you only have your close friends and then everybody else? How do you deal with friendships that seem to be more effort than they’re worth? Have you kept friends around that you know you should let go but you don’t have the heart to part ways?
I had an awesome Facetime date with my friend Keisha Breezy last night. KB lives in Toronto – in a different country on the other side of the continent. So needless to say, I don’t see her much. In fact, I’ve only ever seen her in person twice in the entirety of our 2 year friendship. We met at VSB’s Three Deez party in DC back in 2011, after having previously built a virtual friendship through VSB and Twitter. She’s one of a few faithful female VSB followers that I made through VSB, met in person at Three Deez, and have kept in touch with over the last couple of years. But like with KB, we all live in different cities and depend on the wonderful world of wifi, and 3/4G to stay in touch.
Living in different cities, from the inception of our friendship, has required us to put effort into maintaining some sort of communication, since we won’t ever just run into each other on the street or see each other at work/school. So to keep up with what’s going on in each other’s lives (in more detail that can be shared via social media), we schedule phone/Skype dates. And I mean literally scheduled and marked in our calendars – carving out time beforehand and putting priority in making the phone/Skype date. This has to be done, otherwise it’s always “Let’s talk soon!” or “We have to catch up some time!” – and soon or some time never comes!
And that is the state of my adult friendships – having to make time for my friends is something I have to make time for! KB and I talked about this last night when we spent almost 3 hours chatting, philosophizing, and ranting over Facetime while periodically breaking to adore and gush over her 8mo son. I had so much work to do last night, work that should have been completed last week, but I didn’t put this phone date (which had already been rescheduled from an earlier date) on the back burner. I need to be connected to my friends, in one way or another. They are important to me and I don’t want to be too busy for friends.
But it’s very difficult! I live 2-3 time zones from ALL but 2 of my closest friends. And I work late many nights, or have evening commitments – so by the time I’m home, most of my friends are asleep. Plus, most of us are professionals and have busy work schedules. Those of my friends who are in committed relationships and/or have kids, have the added busyness of family life to juggle as well. And many of us are involved in various organizations and sports, so there’s always something “extra” on our schedules. Adult life is busy and hectic. I can hardly find the time to get the sleep I need to do the work I’m responsible for, and now I have to make the effort to keep up with my friends too?!?! WHAT IS THIS GROWN UP LIFE ABOUT?!?!
When I was in school (just last year), it was easy to spend time and catch up with my friends (the ones in the same city, anyway). There wasn’t a week that went by that I didn’t have some interaction with one or more of them. Even at the craziest time of my life (writing my dissertation), I managed to be pretty connected to friends. I had people there when I needed them – be it a shoulder to lean on, an ear to complain in, or a hand to high five. It was really sad for me when friends started to graduate/get promoted and move away to another city, because it became much more of an effort to see or talk to them.
And now I’m the one who graduated and moved away for a job. Now I’m isolated from the rest of my friends. While I’ve made some friendly acquaintances since living in Portland, I still need and desire those other friendships. But tapping into them is so much more of a chore now. And I hate that it has to be this way. Adulthood is so whack! So many responsibilities!!!!! *shakes fist and wall slides*
I am, however, determined to make my friendships last. The people who I call “friends” are friends for a reason. And I just have to continue to make the effort to keep them healthy and meaningful.
Here’s what I currently do to keep myself in tune with friends:
- GroupMe chats: I have about 3 GroupMe chats that I use to keep in touch with friends. I try to pop into these at least once a day to say hi to my girls and see how they’re doing and/or share something interesting/weird/sad/hilarious happened. This is a great way for multiple people to be connected at once. So much better than individuals texts because the convos can be so dynamic and life-giving.
- Twitter & Facebook: I’m a social media addict so I love using social media for the way it was intended – to be connected to people. Especially people you don’t normally keep in touch with (i.e. high school classmates who you like but aren’t besties with). I love being able to have access to people that are far away, and be able to do so on my own time. There’s no pressure for me to be on Twitter/Facebook all the time or at certain times. Although there are certainly down sides to this form of communication, I enjoy it when I’m using it.
- Skype/Facetime: I hate talking on the phone. Having the phone to my ear irritates me. But I LOVE to use video technology to see and talk to people. It’s not something I do often, and I have to actually schedule the time to do it, but it’s fun and meaningful when I do do it. I wish I had more time for it but it’s probably my favorite way to spend a few hours catching up with some one.
I can’t be the only one who feels adulthood is trying to ruin my ability to keep friends. How do you keep up with your friends? Do you find it hard to make time to keep/catch up with people? Do you have friendships that have suffered as you’ve gotten older, perhaps do to time and/or distance?
Friends before… ends,
This past weekend I was in Washington, D.C., working hard for social action, working hard for Delta (my sorority). As I was in line waiting to check-in to my hotel, I noticed a nice-looking brotha and his ~5yo son get in line a few people behind me. There wasn’t anything particularly notable about these two to make them stand out. But the interaction that took place between them caused my heart to flutter…
The little boy (apparently) began to ever so gently and ever so quietly play with one of the rope dividers that were setup around the check-in line. He wasn’t really being “bad,” just doing something he probably shouldn’t. In fact, I didn’t even notice what he was doing until I heard his father say in a low voice, calmly but seriously, “Son, how much do you think those medal stands weigh?” Son: *stops moving and gives blank stare*. Dad: “Do you think they weigh more than you, or do you weigh more than them?” Kid: “I weigh more.” Dad: “OK, so if you weigh more than the stands, and you sit on that rope, don’t you think it’ll fall over and you’ll hurt yourself?” Kid: *nods* Dad: “Right. Now leave it alone and come back over here.”
All I could do was smile and chuckle to myself. And secretly wish this man was my husband. It was such a calm, level-headed call to critical thinking and responsibility, if you will. No yelling, no getting upset, no physical interaction. Just words. In a true discussion, that required participation from both sides. And this father sounded exactly like my father (and even my brother). The snapshot of this parenting moment is easily one that can be found in my childhood files. I rarely see this type of interaction between parents and their children–it’s usually antagonistic and loud. It was actually quite nostalgic for me. So much so, that later that evening I called my parents to tell them the story.
My father is notoriously known for what he did to that glove box1 his matter-of-fact, no-nonsense, logical way of parenting. Like the gentleman at the hotel, my father was never one to draw attention in public and get overly dramatic when his child was doing something she wasn’t supposed to do. My father talked to me like a grown person, not a baby. My father wanted me to use logic and common sense to make good choices.
Typically when I was caught making, or planning to make, a poor decision, my father gave me an “out”. He allowed me to weigh my actions with the consequences that would follow. Being ignorant or uninformed wasn’t an excuse. And it was always ALWAYS a teaching moment. If I tried to walk across the street before looking both ways, my father would require me to consider the laws of physics, and expect me to act accordingly.2 And yes, even at a young age I was aware of how physics would work against me. Being ignorant or uninformed, even at 3 or 4 years old, was never an excuse to make a bad choice.
Seeing that father and son interact at the hotel this weekend took me back in time for a moment. And in that instant, I was a little girl again, peering up at my dad, trying to absorb bits and pieces of his infinite wisdom and sensibleness, and eager to show him that I could make good decisions. And hopefully to date I have.
What say you? Do you have any “father (or parent) knows best” memories? Does/did your parent know best? Has there ever been a time when you witnessed a parent and their child(ren) and it reminded you of your childhood?
Smiling and reflecting,
1 If you didn’t catch the story on twitter over the Christmas holiday, my dad did this to his glove box. He decided to break into (read: savagely assault) said glove box when he couldn’t open it with his key. Apparently whatever he needed, he needed IMMEDIATELY. Did he bother to ask for help? No. And his way to fix it? Duct tape. S.M.H.
2 Even to this day, my dad reminds me that force equals mass times acceleration or other such equations to help me identify the properties of mass.
Until recently, I had gone almost my adult life without having to deal with the death of close family member. My paternal grandparents never got to meet me since they were deceased [before or shortly after] I was born. My maternal grandparents and my godfather died before I was in high school. I grew up feeling like I was missing key people in my life–people who were supposed to be instrumental in my upbringing and maturation–but I haven’t had to experience that kind of loss in a very long time. I’ve only been to 3 funerals in my life, so I had a vague recollection of what mourning a lost loved one feels like.
Until… my mom called me a few weeks ago to tell me my 42yo cousin Sherry lost her battle with breast cancer. Though my cousin and I weren’t very close (in age or relationship), I was devastated. I think I was mostly sad for the loss my cousin’s daughter, father (my only paternal uncle), and younger siblings (whom she was like a mother to) had to bear. I was also sad that she had to deal with such a horrible disease and the invasive treatments that came along with it in the first place. I’m incredibly afraid of breast cancer, since it runs in my family and there is a very high chance that my mother and/or I will one day be diagnosed with it. But even beyond the sadness I felt with my cousin’s death, I felt guilt. Guilt that I hadn’t made more of an attempt to be close with her, even after knowing she had been dealing with cancer for a few years, or reach out to her to give my love, support, and encouragement in her time of need. I would often visit the area in which she, my uncle, and others cousins lived but never made much attempt to visit. Even when I saw her last year for the first time in over a decade, holding her bald head high and proud, and she expressed desire for us to keep in touch, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I only communicated with her through her daughter on facebook. I was too scared of her condition. I allowed her sickness to be a barrier between us. Though I prayed for her constantly and managed to call her when her condition began to take a turn for the worst, I regret not reaching out more. I regret letting my fears ruin my opportunity to express how much I loved her and admired her courage, strength, and peace of mind which were all rooted in her love of the Lord. There are so many things I wish I had handled differently, but I take the time to miss and remember her dearly.
Her death served as a reminder to me how short life could be and that were was no room for “laters.” It seems so cliche to say that we have to enjoy our time with our loved ones now because we can’t predict when they will be taken away from us, but it’s so true! And so necessary. Sitting in my cousin’s funeral, in the arms of my older sister, I made a decision to make a better effort to reach out to my cousins and to try and restore my relationships with my siblings who I had been disconnected from (as I’ve mentioned previously).
But before I could even get the seeds of renewal sowed, my father called me yesterday to inform me that one of my older brothers, Butch, died from a drug-related heart attack at the age of 44. I find myself sincerely heartbroken at this loss. Heartbroken that my siblings and I lost a brother. Heartbroken that my father (along with his ex-wife) has to bury his son. Heartbroken that my nephew no longer has his father. Heartbroken that my big brother was so beaten by life and depression that he had to self medicate to cope. Heartbroken that we never rebuilt our relationship. Heartbroken that I wasn’t there for him when he needed love and support. Heartbroken that he didn’t reach out more for help. Heartbroken that I didn’t get to say goodbye. He was such a private person who shut most of the world (including family) out, so I wasn’t aware until now just how much my big brother was hurting and struggling. The “fixer” in me wants to rewind time so I could save my big brother from himself. I want to go back and pick up the broken pieces of him and put them back together. I want to go back and change him, make him more open to the love, support, and help of his family. I want to make things better. Or at the very least, I want to tell him I love him one last time.
Since I’m powerless to change the hands of time or control the circumstances of others, I submit my sorrows, grief and guilt to the Almighty. I pray for understanding, comfort, peace, and forgiveness as I mourn with my family over the loss of our loved ones. Undoubtedly my Cousin Sherry and Big Brother Butch will be in my heart forever. “And I’ll take with me the memories to be my sunshine after the rain…” And it’s my sincere hope that anyone reading this (myself included) will actively cherish those loved ones still here on earth with us and won’t wait until it’s to late to tell them you care.
With a heavy but hopeful heart,
I have come to appreciate my relationships and friendships much more with age and maturity. There are reasons and seasons for all relationships and I’m working hard to maintain the ones that matter, and build bridges to get over the ones that don’t. I’m learning to be grateful for them ALL because each relationship helps me learn about myself and ultimately how to be a better person. For the most part, knowing when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em has come naturally and easily as I get older. Except when it comes to my relationships with my siblings…
As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, I am the youngest (by many years) of 5 children and my parents only child together. Moms has one of my siblings from a previous marriage, and Pops has the other three from a previous marriage. But the only consistent relationship I’ve had has been with my mom’s son, my big bro L Boogie. We are extremely close, even though we’re almost two-decades apart in age. To many people’s amusement and wonder, my brother L and I have a tight friendship and uncanny sibling rivalry that even causes Moms to pause with confusion (after all, we didn’t grow up together). If Dre and Sid from Brown Sugar were strictly platonic best friends, they would represent me and my brother because we relate to each other through hip hop culture. He’s the Ren to my Ten. We got that whole unity thing going. U-n-i-t- why? Because. Exactly. Thank you. [Side note: we literally communicate through Brown Sugar–and even other black comedy–quotes. No other words are necessary, we have our own language]. Simply put, he’s my brother, my friend, my homie, my ace.
And because I’m so close with L Boogie it really bothers me that I’m not close with my other siblings. (L Boogie isn’t either). My siblings witnessed their respective parents’ divorces and the later marriage of my parents to each other. I’m sure there was residual resentment and uneasiness about transitions as a result. The effects just seem to have had a much longer lasting effect on my dad’s kids. They’ve been distant from my family (namely my parents) for as long as I can remember. They’re fairly close with each other, but still disconnected. And though I have fond memories of them showering me with their love and affection when I was young, they’ve become increasingly more distant with me, their baby sister, over the years.
I’m the one who tries to keep in touch, sometimes to the point of pestering. From them, calls, texts, cards, or emails are very rare. My big sister only lives about 4hrs away from where I live now, but I’ve seen her once in the 5yrs I’ve lived here. And I’m in her area at least 5 times a year. She’s on Facebook now, so maybe communication will improve. Recently, when I went to OKC to pick up my niece and nephew to go to Orlando, I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing my big brother M (who is closest to me in age), who I haven’t seen since I was in high school. He is the one sibling who was living at home when I was growing up, and he was my hero and I was never far from his side. But even though he knew I would be in town for a brief time, he was no where to be found. It broke my heart that he didn’t come to see me, his baby sister! But what can I expect from a man who is in and out of trouble and doesn’t even consistently see his own children? *smh* I still expected something. As for my big brother Junior? He’s a recluse and it’s only when I take the initiative to drive by his house unexpectedly (since he refuses to answer his phone) when I’m home in Cali that I ever have a chance of seeing him. But I gave up on the drive-bys a few years ago.
I’m tired of chasing my siblings down as if they’re being forced to interact with me. More than anything in this world I think I’ve prayed the most for my other siblings to build and cherish a relationship with me. But sadly, it seems this feeling is unrequited. This used to make me feel sad and lonely, but it’s grown to actually make me mad and slightly bitter. Admittedly, I resent them because I feel ignored and abandoned by them. Even if we aren’t all close, we could at least in communication. While I understand there are probably many issues and demons and unsettled feelings that keep them from reaching out to me, I feel like our blood relation and my sheer desire to want to be in relationship with them should trump it all. Maybe I’m just a big baby and wanting everything to go my way, as the baby of the family often does. *shrugs*
So today, I choose to openly forgive my siblings who I am out of relationship with. I forgive them for not being the siblings to me that I want(ed) them to be, and for not being more to me like L Boogie is to me. I forgive them for playing the longest game of perpetual hide-and-seek and choosing not to ever really be found. I forgive them for putting their hurts and sorrows about our family before the good and happy aspects of our family. And lastly, I forgive myself for having my own selfish expectations of them, holding them to a standard they never asked to be at, and for trying to change them, for that is out of my control. I sincerely pray that they too are able to forgive (whoever, for whatever) and learn to deal with the pain that keeps them at such a far distance. I have and always will love each of them, no matter what.
Wishing Nobody Put Me In A Corner,
Annnnnnd I’m back!! You’re welcome 🙂 Did you miss me? Of course you did.
I recently returned from vacation at a Disney Resort in Orlando, FL this past week with my family. My parents thought it’d be great to get their kids (ended up being just me and my eldest bro, not the other 3) and grandkids (5 of the 11 total) together to experience the magical world of Disney as one big happy (yet incomplete) familia. So after 3yrs of planning, the parentals made it happen! I traveled to Oklahoma City to pick up my other big bro M.V.’s kids–a boy (who’s not biologically his) and girl that none of my family had met. Initially, M.V. was supposed to bring the kids down to Orlando himself, but being the trifling hard-head ninja he is backed out at the last minute (*smh* to be cont’d later…). So, the kids’ mother (who couldn’t attend due to school) released her precious children into my care. What a great aunt. eh? With my newly intro’d niece (Lil Ma’am, 6) and nephew (Ray Ray, 8), we headed to Orlando. The trip was smooth and I had no problems with the kiddos. We were then met by my oldest bro, who drove down from Georgia to Florida with his wife, and 3 sons (D-Money, 8; Tone, 8; J, 11). It was quite a cute sight to see all 5 cousins meet and excitedly play together. In fact, their 1st activity as a group was hunting toads and lizards on the grounds of our resort before dinner. Gross. All the adults were gagaing over my niece, who is rather adorable and who we’d been dying to meet after receiving numerous pictures of her doll-like face over the last 6yrs. We purchased 3 day passes for the Disney parks and were all ready to enjoy our time together as a family exploring the hometown of Mickey and Minnie.
And, well…. that’s pretty much where the warm fuzziness of the “let’s all go on vacay as a fam” spirit ended. [Sidenote: Anyone who followed my tweets are aware of this. I had made a pact with myself that I would take a break from my Droid and enjoy my vacay time without distractions. But yall, twitter was my only way to vent!!] By the first full day, when all 10 of us went to Magic Kingdom, I was ready to quit my duties as babysitter. Since none of the other adults were really interested in riding the fast rides, I was the default ride chaperon. There were very few moments I was ever apart from the munchkins. And having 4 boys ages 8-11 is nonstop energy and rowdiness. And my niece? Well let’s just say she was deceptively cute because Lil Ma’am had plenty of bratty attitude and tantrums for my a$s. She was impatient, hard to please. easily bored, and got very angry and aggressive when her older boy cousins wouldn’t pay attention to her. She was constantly going at it with Ray Ray and D-Money. J, the oldest, tried to reason with her but wrote her off as annoying and didn’t want to battle with her. Tone, her one advocate most of the trip, had to tell her on the last day, “You need to work on your attitude.” Now, my nephews are a handful, but they are pretty well behaved and submit to grown folk, so it’s easy to take charge of them when they get out of hand. I was having to constantly reach within myself to bring forth my maternal side and discipline her while simultaneously trying to make sure everyone was having a good time. My family can be rather harsh and unyielding and it was obvious she wasn’t used to that kind of treatment and made it that much more difficult to deal with her.
For some CRAZY reason, I actually thought I was going to have time to myself. Since we were there, in part, for an NMA meeting, I figured I’d make my way over and mingle with some single doctors. I even made sure to pack cute sundresses and chic evening wear just in case their was an opportunity to hang out at night. WRONG. I never quite escaped the little people. My mother did offer to watch my niece one day, so I could go meet up with some people I knew. But I turned her down since (a) I wanted to use my passes to go to Animal Kingdom (which ended up being mad whack) and Hollywood Studios with the others and (b) I didn’t believe my mom really wanted to be bothered with Lil Ma’am by herself. And really, I had agreed to come on this all-expense paid vacay knowing I’d be helping with the kids. My babysitting was my way of earning my keep. And truthfully, I didn’t mind. I was happy to relieve my aging parents of the hassle of alone time with their grandkids lol.
Despite some of the hardships of playing Auntie Gemmie, I had a great time with my family. We bonded, shared a lot of laughs, got in some great rollercoaster rides, had tons of pool and tanning time, and enjoyed being away from our daily routines. I am truly blessed to have been able to go on this trip and being with people I love. There’s nothing like QT with the fam–especially with my big bro, Lou, a shining example of who a great man should be.
Some trip highlights:
- Meeting my niece for the 1st time. Brat or no brat, I love my niece! I’m so happy I got to meet her and her brother (and mother). It’s a shame that it took 6yrs to meet her but I’m so happy it finally happened! I look forward to more visits in the future.
- Being at the happiest place on earth. Disney world, though run by thieves of the worst kind, is quite a spectacular place. And I got to be with my nephews and niece for their FIRST experience of the magic of Disney. I love being an auntie 🙂
- My in-flight in-my-head romance. I met the most gorgeous and friendly man on my trip with the kiddos to Orlando from Houston (our mid-point stop from OKC). He was probably about a decade older than me (I’m assuming from the beautiful gray sprinkled through his hair) and he was traveling with his son and a few other families for a basketball tournament. We talked on and off for the entire flight and our convo helped take my mind off the fact that I was nervous about flying with 2 children I hardly knew. If only it could have continued once we got back down to earth *stares longingly into the distance*
- My family consists of natural born comedians. From my dad trash talking everyone, to my brother cracking jokes about his 2520 wife, to the kids reciting quotes from The Godfather at random times, we were CTFU constantly. Even Miss Thang had her me laughing when I wasn’t plotting on leaving her at one of the parks…
Lil Ma’am: What’s your name again?
Me: [Gem’s govt name here]
Lil Ma’am: Can I call you Margaret?
Me: Uh no, that’s not my name.
Lil Ma’am: I’ma call you Margaret
*Ray Ray tells a terribly unfunny joke*
Lil Ma’am: Why don’t you think about your jokes some more and try again later, ok?
*Lil Ma’am loses her 2nd baby little pony and only has 2 left*
Lil Ma’am: I lost another pony! Oh my gosh, I hate myself! *screams into pillow before composing herself* Well, at least they’re even now…
- My dad’s obsession with my Droid. My dad thinks smart phones are a waste of money and unnecessary and took every opportunity to tell me so. He hated big time. When I found the grocery store we’d been looking for on my Droid? Dad: “Your Droid didn’t find $h!t.” By the end of the trip, my dad declared he was going to buy himself a Droid. Yeah, right. Good luck trying to figure out how to use it when he can barely work his flip phone *eye roll*.
- GTLing. I didn’t exactly make it to the gym but please believe I shed calories and likely fat by walked around endlessly in that hot-as-hell Florida weather. Likewise, all that time in the sun at the park and by the pool caused my skin to get colored in! WOO HOO!! I’m a brown skin lady now! And since we had a w/d in our room, I came home with only 2 pieces of dirty clothes. Boo yow!
Moms is now talking about everyone going on a Disney cruise. Lawd! I may have to conveniently schedule important experiments that can’t be rearranged around the same time. Either that or she’ll have to lure me on the ship with an Idris Elba doppleganger as bait. And I WILL bite.
Have you ever been on a vacation that turned out to be different from what you planned? Have you been on a family vacation that exhausted you and made you want to take another vacation to actually relax and have alone time?
Still in vacay recovery,
~Darkie Gemmie Mouse