family, love, memories, nostalgia

“We’re all gonna be here forever…”

This morning, I woke up to a delightful surprise from one of my cousins. He sent me a private message with a photo that was taken during the summer of 1981. I smiled with instant recognition, as I gazed at the picture of me, at age 9, with a bunch of my cousins and a friend of my cousin’s family.

Years ago, on my original blog, I wrote a blog post called “Family Reserve”. It was about a couple of relatives I lost in 2015. The post’s title came from a Lyle Lovett song by the same name that seemed appropriate. I wrote in those posts how I came to discover Lyle Lovett– courtesy of Mormons, no less. Maybe I’ll repost those old memorials today, since I’m referencing them in today’s post. Anyway, his song “Family Reserve” reminded me of my own family… but since I already used that title in another post, I decided to use part of the chorus as the title for this one. If you don’t know this song, and can abide Lyle Lovett’s music (and I certainly can), I would encourage you to listen to this great song by him.

Seems appropriate for today’s post… I’m glad someone made a stir on that summer day in 1981.

My cousin, name of Bruce, could not have known that I still have many vivid memories of that day at Tank Hollow, as well as the ones that surrounded it. I had just had a birthday, and Bruce and his brothers, all of whom were adolescents, had traveled from Texas to Virginia with their parents to visit other family members. Because they lived in Texas, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them when I was growing up, even though my family almost always has a family reunion at Thanksgiving. For three years of my early childhood, we lived in England, so of course we didn’t go “home” for the Thanksgiving party. Prior to our time in England, I was too young to remember what we did. We were in Ohio before England, but I was a baby then, having moved to Ohio when I was about six months old.

When we came back to the States, I slowly got to know the relatives I never spent time with. And in 1981, I was acquainted with the “Tolley Boys”, as they were called– four sons of my Uncle Ed and his wife, Nancy. They came to visit my parents first, in Gloucester, Virginia. At the time, two of my sisters worked at Busch Gardens, which is located close to nearby Williamsburg, so we had a bunch of free passes. I remember we all went there for the day and had an absolute blast, even though I lost my wallet. The “Tolley Boys” were like my big brothers. They treated me like a princess, and of course, I ate it up. It was not a normal or usual thing for me to be treated like that.

After their visit to my parents, Ed and Nancy were going to be visiting Natural Bridge, Virginia, which is where the “family homestead” is. My grandmother lived in the house that has been in our family since 1935, along with my Uncle Brownlee, and his wife, Gayle, and their two kids, Justin and Suzanne. I don’t remember why, but there were other family members there that summer. Nancy and Ed took me with them to visit Natural Bridge. Later, my parents came to get me.

Below are some much more modern photos of Granny’s house. It’s been fixed up a lot since 1981. My Uncle Brownlee was extremely handy, and he really made the house a showplace before we lost him in 2019.

I remember that trip was so much fun! I mean, I got in trouble a couple of times… but Uncle Ed was a really fun uncle in the early 80s. He knew where all the best swimming holes were, and he liked hanging out with us kids.

One day, we all got into the back of my Uncle Brownlee’s pickup truck and rode to a place he called Tank Hollow, in Natural Bridge. It wasn’t very far from where my great grandmother lived (she died the following year, in 1982). As a matter of fact, I think we visited her on that trip. I seem to remember her house as a brick structure near a creek, much as Granny’s house is. There are lots of creeks in Natural Bridge, as it’s in the mountains and near the James River. Edited to add: I see there are other falls in Virginia called Tank Hollow– in a place called Cleveland in Russell County. Please note, this is not the same place— I think Ed called the falls “Tank Hollow”, because they were located off of Tank Hollow Road in Natural Bridge. I don’t know if the falls we went to even have an official name.

Tank Hollow was in the woods, and it consisted of a waterfall that overlooked a murky pond. We were all wearing tennis shoes, because of all the rocks and such. Next thing I knew, we were all jumping off the waterfall into the cold, mountain pond. I remember being so enthralled by the experience. The waterfall seemed huge to nine year old me, and I felt so brave jumping into the water and swimming in the creek. It was one of those days when I experienced “pleasant exhaustion”. You know, when you play so hard that you wear yourself out… That’s how it was that day.

Me and nine out of my 21 paternal cousins (plus a friend of the Tolley boys), circa 1981.
Not unlike aspects of my childhood. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I remember the next day, we all went to the James River. We made homemade fishing poles with sticks and string, baited hooks with worms, and fished in the middle of the river. I don’t remember why, but I recall Uncle Ed threatening to spank me for some reason. He never did, but I do remember the threat. I probably mouthed off one too many times. I also remember my Aunt Nancy threatening to send me home. Still, that was also a fun and memorable day, spent with a bunch of my cousins. Ed and Nancy had driven a big Suburban, and it got stuck in the mud.

Here are a couple of other memories from that trip…

My cousin played this repeatedly during that visit.
This song was a huge hit that summer, and I remember hearing it a lot during that visit in 1981.

Granny’s house was located next to a “hollow”, that had once been part of the original property my grandfather bought years earlier. I remember we weren’t supposed to go walking “down the hollow”, because it was no longer owned by our family. Brownlee once lamented to me about that, because it really was a heavenly piece of property, with two creeks that met each other and flowed to the river.

Anyway, sometimes we would walk down the hollow. I went with my cousins, Jeff and Jeff. One Jeff was the son of my Aunt Doris, and had once been my neighbor, as we had lived in Fairfax County for two years before we moved to Gloucester. The other Jeff lived in Natural Bridge with my Uncle Carl and his wife, Betty, and very little sister, Lori. Natural Bridge Jeff was telling the other Jeff a really dirty story. It was the kind of story that adolescent boys tell each other. Of course, I was nine, and eager to grow up. I heard the story, laughed with them, and later repeated it to two of my younger cousins, then aged 7 and 5.

My Aunt Gayle overheard me repeating the story I’d heard from my older male cousins on that walk. She promptly “blessed” me out, as she put it. She told her kids that I had a “dirty mouth” and they shouldn’t listen to me. I remember crying, because I didn’t know I’d done anything wrong… She later apologized to me and said her kids “didn’t know what to do with that stuff”. Hello? I was only nine years old myself. I didn’t know, either. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Oh, I probably knew it was “forbidden” stuff, but I was still just a child in need of guidance, right?

In spite of the few negative incidents that happened during that visit, I remember it to be a really fun time and a happy memory. For many years, I remembered going to Tank Hollow and fantasized about visiting again and swimming there. Years later, I asked my uncle about it, because I didn’t even remember where it was located. I said I remembered it to be a big waterfall we jumped off of a bunch of times.

I clearly remember Ed saying, “That was Tank Hollow. And the waterfall wasn’t that big.”

I had such a hard time believing that, because I remembered it to be huge from my memories as a nine year old child. One day, during the summer of 1993, I visited my relatives in Natural Bridge, and we went to Tank Hollow. I was there with Aunt Gayle, and my cousins Justin and Suzanne, and one of Justin’s Army buddies. Sure enough, I saw that Ed was right. The waterfall was a lot smaller than I remembered it. But we jumped off it anyway. Somewhere in storage, I have photos from that day, not that I’d necessarily want to look at myself in a bathing suit, even when I was 21 years old.

When Bill and I were dating on Labor Day weekend in September 2001– the week before 9/11, actually– he came down to Natural Bridge and met my extended family. I took him to Tank Hollow, which now seemed even less impressive. The water was even murkier than it was before, and I wondered if there were snakes there… that thought hadn’t crossed my mind at all, when I was a child, or even when I was a younger woman. I also took him to another local swimming hole called Straw Pond, and we went swimming there, and at Cave Mountain Lake, a park area with a lake where we used to go when I was a kid… I loved it then, but saw it through different eyes as an adult.

A photo of Goshen Pass, dated November 2014… when I was last “home”.

Then, we went to Goshen Pass, another special place in my past, as I remember having my sixth birthday party there, with members of my huge, extended family, and my Granny giving me Sweet Honesty perfume in a bottle shaped like a sheep. Goshen Pass is a beautiful place, and it’s probably where Bill and I realized we were in love. We had a magical day enjoying the gorge. Then, the following week came 9/11. Bill was in the Pentagon– in the area that was hit by the jetliner. When he survived, we realized we should probably go public. It wasn’t long after that that we were engaged.

Natural Bridge has always been such a special place to me. And yet, I haven’t been there in almost nine years… I never thought I’d stay away for so long, nor would I have ever expected to feel “weird” about being there now. But, I have to admit I do feel weird. So much has changed since those days in the early 80s.

My Aunt Gayle still lives in Granny’s house. I hope it will never leave the family, because it really is a magical place, and there’s so much family history there. The road it sits on is actually named after my grandfather, Lloyd Tolley, who used to run a store there that sold basic essentials.

In fact, in the old wax museum (which closed in 2014), there was a wax depiction of one of my distant relatives– my great great great Uncle Archibald “Bar” Tolley. I think his nickname was actually “Bear”, but because of the Scottish-like hillbilly accent in those parts, it sounded more like “Bar”. I see another blogger has written about him here, and a bunch of my apparent relatives are chiming in. He was famed for hunting and killing a lot of bears, and was said to be known for his honesty and “salty” tongue (so that’s where I get it).

By coincidence, last night, I was reading about “Bar” Tolley, and figuring out how we’re related. I can see his father, Ezekiel, was my 3rd great grandfather, and his brother, Thomas Milton Tolley, was my great great grandfather. So, that would make Archibald “Bar” Tolley my great great great uncle, I guess. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s so funny that he was immortalized in the Natural Bridge Wax Museum! The link leads to a video someone made about it. I’m so glad I took Bill there over that special Labor Day weekend in 2001.

Well… it’s always a delight to see old photos and remember things through rose tinted glasses. I do have some fabulous memories of when I was a child. We did have a lot of fun, especially during those less “regulated” times. Or maybe it just seems that way to me, because I was a kid, and I wasn’t worried about the things that worry adults of every age. I’m grateful that my cousin, Bruce, shared that long ago photo of us on that awesome day in the summer of 1981. I miss those times… and those people.

Here are the lyrics for Lyle Lovett’s old song, “Family Reserve”:

When I saw the ambulance screaming down Main Street
I didn’t give it a thought
But it was my Uncle Eugene
He died on October
The second, nineteen eighty-one

Now my uncle Wilbert
They all called him Skinner
And they said for his younger ways
He’d get drunk in the morning
And show me the rolls of fifties and hundreds
He kept in the glove box of his old gray Impala

And we’re all gonna be here forever
So mama, don’t you make such a stir
Just put down that camera
And come on and join up 
The last of the family reserve

Now my second cousin, his name was Calloway
He died when he’d barely turned two
It was peanut butter and jelly that did it
The help, she didn’t know what to do
She just stood there and she watched him turn blue

And we’re all gonna be here forever
So mama, don’t you make such a stir
Just put down that camera
And come on and join up 
The last of the family reserve

And my friend Brian Temple
He thought he could make it
So from the third story he jumped
And he missed the swimming pool only by inches
And everyone said he was drunk

And there was Great Uncle Julius
And there was Aunt Annie Miller
And Mary, and Granddaddy Po
And there was Hannah, and Ella
And Alvin, and Alec
And he owned his own funeral home

And there are more I remember
And more I could mention
And words I could write in a song
But I feel ’em watching
And I see ’em laughing
And I hear ’em singing along

We’re all gonna be here forever
So mama, don’t you make such a stir
Just put down that camera
And come on and join up 
The last of the family reserve

Sigh… :'(

Standard
communication, family, lessons learned, narcissists, psychology

My mom confirms something important to me…

The featured photo is a picture of Mom and me in Sousse, Tunisia, over the New Year’s holiday in 1978. I was five years old. We lived in England at the time, so it wasn’t a super long journey.

Last week, I tried to call my mom a couple of times. I had forgotten that she was going to be having knee surgery. She had told me about it in March, I think, and it slipped my mind. My mom lives alone in a senior apartment community in Hampton, Virginia. The community was formed out of what was once a grand hotel. It overlooks the Chesapeake Bay. She has a wonderful view from her two bedroom apartment, where she’s lived since 2009. My dad shared the apartment with her, until he died on July 9, 2014.

My mom is going to be 85 years old this year. She’s still quite independent. Her mind is sharp. She still drives, though not as far as she used to. She doesn’t go out much, though, so I was a little worried when I called her three times and didn’t get an answer. Our neighbor’s mom is my mom’s age, and she’s been having some problems lately. She broke her leg, and a few weeks ago, she picked up the wrong keys to her house and got confused. Not being able to reach my mom caused me to to worry a little. I hoped she wasnโ€™t suffering with the same things our neighborโ€™s mom (who is also a neighbor) does.

I sent one of my three sisters a private message on Facebook, asking her if she knew if Mom was okay. She reminded me about the surgery, but then contacted another sister– the eldest of the four of us– to confirm. Oldest sister said Mom was doing fine. The sister I contacted also called Mom’s apartment community to check on her, and they confirmed that Mom was okay. So that was that.

This sister and my mom have always had a lot of interpersonal issues. I don’t know what they stem from, but they’ve had difficulties for as long as I can remember. It’s too bad, too, because both my mom and my sister have things in common. They are both extraordinarily artistic. My mom can do almost anything with needles and thread. For years, she owned her own business, in which she sold cross-stitch, knitting, needlepoint, and other supplies. She taught many people how to do these needlecrafts (although I’m not among them). My mom, even in her 80s, has made some extremely beautiful things by her own hand. When I was little, she used to make clothes for me. She also knitted sweaters, hats, socks, and scarves.

My mom and one of her many incredible creations… She is a very gifted artist.

My sister, likewise, is very talented with needles and threads. She sews and does needle crafts, like our mom does. She’s also a legitimately gifted artist in the way most people think of artists. She paints, draws, and creates true works of art through many different mediums. In addition, she’s a skilled writer, having earned a master’s degree in journalism, and she has excellent taste in music. My sister introduced me to some of my favorite artists, including Kate Bush.

Really, though, my sister is probably best known as an artist. I’ve been to a lot of art museums, and I can tell you that I would expect to see something my sister did hanging in an art museum. Below are a few examples of her work:

You’d think my mom and my sister would get along famously. They have some things in common. But they don’t really get along. My sister seemed to mesh better with our dad (most of the time). I, on the other hand, have always gotten along with our mom. My dad and I fought a lot.

Back in July 2007, while Bill was in Iraq doing his “patriotic chore”, I attended my paternal grandmother’s funeral. Granny was almost 101 years old when she passed. She was much beloved by everyone in her community. I had to bring my dogs with me, because it wasn’t possible to board them. Consequently, when I stayed at the Natural Bridge Hotel (for the last time, it turned out), I got a room in the “cabins”, which were motel rooms on a hillside. My uncle ran the Natural Bridge Hotel for years, and I’ve stayed there many times. The last time I stayed, it was pretty uncomfortable. I think they’ve renovated since 2007, but I haven’t been back… in part, because it was uncomfortable, and in part, because of something my sister said to me that brings back traumatic memories.

After Granny’s funeral, my sister and I were talking. She was also staying in a “cabin”. For some reason, she chose that time to tell me that she’d always believed I wasn’t my dad’s daughter.

Keep in mind, we had just buried our grandmother, who was my father’s mother. If I wasn’t his daughter, that would have meant that Granny wasn’t my actual grandmother. She was pretty much the only grandparent I’d ever known, since my other grandparents died when I was very young. I do remember my mom’s father, but he had severe dementia when I was conscious of meeting him, and he didn’t really know who any of us were. I also met my paternal grandfather’s mother– my great grandma– but she was also very elderly and died when I was about nine years old. I didn’t have much of a relationship with her. So, as you might realize, Granny was very important to me– more so than she would have been in any case.

When my sister made that declaration to me, I will admit there was a part of me that wondered if what she was saying could have been true. My dad and I fought a lot. I don’t look much like him. Instead, I really favor my mom’s side of the family. But I only wondered about it for a moment…

My sister was telling me about how she formed this idea that maybe I was a “bastard” child. She said our mom was friendly with a neighbor in Hampton, Virginia, where I was born. She said he had blond hair and blue eyes, like mine. My dad had black hair and brown eyes.

I decided to gently challenge my sister. I say “gently”, because I didn’t want to fight with her, especially at Granny’s funeral. I asked her how it was possible that our mom could have had an affair. At the time, our dad was away on Air Force missions a lot. They had three children– my sisters are 13, 11, and 8 years older than I am. How would our mom have the time for adultery?

Also, our mom is painfully honest. I mean, she’s honest to a fault. I just couldn’t see her cheating on our dad. She isn’t the most demonstrative person, although she’s definitely friendlier and more demonstrative now, than she was when our dad was alive. There are a lot of things a person might say about my mom’s rather laid back mothering skills. The truth is, she was kind of neglectful to me– and she’d probably be among the first to admit it. I think she would have been better at mothering had she not been married to an alcoholic during the Vietnam War era, and had she not had four kids. But she has a strong moral compass and a very deep sense of loyalty and duty. She took excellent care of my dad until the bitter end of his life. I know she truly loved him, too, even when he wasn’t very lovable.

Finally, I suggested asking our mom point blank about it. My sister very quickly backpedaled, and said she had a wild imagination. It was clear she didn’t like that idea. Uh huh…

Still, for a long time, I wondered if there was any truth to my sister’s theory, because it was true that my dad and I had a rather contentious relationship. I didn’t know the people who were our neighbors in Hampton. I was a baby, and we left Hampton when I was about six months old, and moved to Dayton, Ohio, where my dad took a job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I only have the barest memories of Ohio. It’s probably a blessing. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Dad and I didn’t share very much in terms of physical similarities. Now that I’m older, I think bone structure in my face looks like his, somewhat. Actually, I think I look a little like this particular sister, in terms of facial bone structure. She looks more like our dad, though, while I am very obviously my mom’s daughter.

Years later, I submitted my DNA to both 23&Me and Ancestry.com. I saw that a number of my DNA matches came from my dad’s side of the family. Obviously, I am his daughter.

Which brings me to last night’s chat with my mother. We’d been talking for about an hour and were about to ring off. Mom said the surgery and the drugs she was taking were causing her to need the toilet more frequently than usual. Before we finished our conversation, I asked her if she’d watched the coronation of King Charles III. Mom loves watching British ceremonies. She said she had, and that led to another rabbit hole of discussion.

The topic turned to Prince Harry and Meghan, and she brought up their children, Archie and Lilibet. I said that some people were speculating that perhaps the kids weren’t actually conceived between them (not that I believe that myself– it’s not really my business). I added that since everybody is getting their DNA tested these days, it would be hard to lie about something like that.

My mom said, “Well I want you to know that your dad and I are your parents.”

I thought that was kind of a weird thing to say, and before I knew it, I said “Well, thank you for that. There was some doubt at one point. But then I got my DNA tested.”

Naturally, Mom wanted to know what I meant. So I told her about that toxic conversation I’d had with my sister back in 2007… right after Granny’s funeral. I didn’t mention her name… but Mom quickly guessed who had said that to me. It turns out my sister had directly accused our mom of having had an affair. Mom thought maybe she was talking about the young Black male nurse who had been helping to take care of Dad in his last years. At the time, the nurse was an 18 year old nurse’s aid, and our mom was in her 70s. Dad had accused them of having an affair; he had severe dementia at the time. The idea of Mom having an affair with a teenager was ridiculous and laughable, and she did laugh about it. But no… my sister said Mom would have had an affair with a white person.

For sixteen years, I never mentioned to my mom that conversation my sister and I had. I hadn’t meant to mention it last night. To my mom’s credit, she was pretty cool about it and even apologized to me that my sister had said that. It was pretty hurtful.

And maybe I shouldn’t write about this here… Some people would find it inappropriate and too personal. On the other hand, abusers thrive on secrecy. They say and do mean things, counting on their victims remaining silent. In spite of what some people might think, I’ve been silent about a lot of things. It’s not really my nature to be silent, either. One of the gifts I inherited from my mom were, after all, the gifts of music and communication. Actually, I inherited both of those from my dad, too… Music and writing are a couple of a few things I got from him, even if I don’t resemble him physically.

I’m not angry with my sister. I don’t know why she has these issues with our mother. Some of the things she says seem rather fictitious to me… and in fact, she often reminds me of other people in my life with whom I’ve had to do battle. Perhaps dealing with her is one reason why I am so “saturated” when it comes to narcissistic types, like former landlady and Ex. My sister, by the way, thinks she’s an empath. Personally, I don’t really see it. Bill is an empath. I am not, and neither are any of my sisters.

I’m not sorry Mom and I had that talk. Thanks to DNA tests, I already knew that my sister’s conspiracy theory was utter bullshit. I never really believed her theory, even before I had my DNA tested. However, it was good to hear it from my mom, who even told me about the time I was conceived. Apparently, it happened after my dad had taken a “round the world” trip in the fall of 1971, escorting generals to different embassies. Mom said they used to joke that they were going to name me “Ethiopia”. She said she’d told me about that once, and I thought it was “terrible”. I swear, though, I don’t remember the story. She also said the person my sister thought she’d been messing around with was just a neighbor who, along with his wife, had kids the same age. They were just neighborhood friends. In fact, the wife of the couple recently sent Mom a letter. She’d tracked her down in Hampton.

We ended our conversation on a really lovely note. Mom said she loved me, and reminded me that I’d been a good kid who never got into trouble. I guess buying me a horse worked… (and my sister tried to take credit for that decision, too). I wished Mom a happy Mother’s Day, and said I’d call her before we go on vacation next month. It’s a gift to me that she and I can be friends now. She might be one of the few people in my family with whom I would probably choose to be friends, even if we weren’t related.

Standard
family, politics, rants, sexism, slut shamers

“Sweater hams” and a new kid in town…

This morning, I was reading an article about a very busty, but tiny, nurse who has gotten a lot of complaints about the way she wears her scrubs. She made a video for Tik Tok, and it went viral. I’m nowhere close to being as tiny as she is, but I’m about her height with huge boobs. I know the pain. I’ve had big “sweater hams” my whole life. I worry about them a lot, since I’m 50 and hate visiting doctors for things like mammograms. I have had back issues, though I’m sure my back pain isn’t anything like hers.

A crappy video about the woman’s Tik Tok.

I could relate to the nurse’s comments about people sexualizing her, telling her that her body shape was a problem for them. They told her she looked “inappropriate”. The top of her scrubs made her look too sexy. Honestly, if you’re really sick, are you going to care what your nurse’s scrubs look like? Short of getting surgery, which this nurse may one day decide to do just to alleviate the back pain, I don’t know what she’s supposed to do. Sizing up might not be a good solution, since the scrubs might not fit the rest of her properly. Maybe she could have them tailored, but that would be expensive and time consuming. Her body is covered. I figure that’s what should matter.

I did have a laugh in the comments on God’s page about this story. One commenter wrote:

I’ve been told by teachers I was “dressed inappropriately” while wearing a sweater… Look it’s not my fault I have big sweater hams. It is however the ADULT TEACHER’S fault that they are looking at a minor with inappropriate thoughts.

Everybody went nuts at the term “sweater hams”. I think I’ve heard that before, but it’s not a very common euphemism for big tits. In any case, I can relate. I have big boobs, too. This time of year, they aren’t much fun to deal with, because it’s hot outside. Naturally, there was a mansplainer, who wrote this:

I want to roast some serious ham. Just because I think the phrase “big sweater hams” is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. You don’t have meat. You are not meat. You are a person. Ham is delicious. Women are not meat.

Um… she was just being funny, guy. Read the room. Most everyone thinks the concept of “sweater hams” is hilarious. This is not the time for you to be giving someone a hard time for saying something unconventional. Why do people have to confront others for expressing themselves?

Amy Klobuchar is a very vocal liberal. Conservatives like to hang out on her social media and harass people.

Yesterday, I was reading Amy Klobuchar’s Facebook page, and she posted about Steve Bannon’s guilty verdict in court. It was the end of a long day, and I wrote that I wouldn’t be happy until he was behind bars. And two obvious conservatives, a man and a woman, decided to leave me crappy comments, which I ignored. Why do people do that? Why harass strangers over sharing their opinions? These folks don’t even like Amy Klobuchar’s politics. Do they just want to spread misery and rudeness to strangers? I don’t see the appeal. It would be one thing if it was a news story. This is a liberal politician. They aren’t gonna vote for her. They just want to be assholes to people who support her work. I don’t understand the motivation. That behavior doesn’t change hearts and minds. I won’t be voting for a conservative politician because two random Trumpies confronted me on Facebook.

And finally, I got some news this morning from one of my cousins. My Uncle Ed, a man with whom my last conversation occurred in 2017, and ended on a very bad note, is apparently on his deathbed. He’s 85 years old; and last month, he suffered a bout of pneumonia. Apparently, he’s been struggling the whole time, and is now probably on the verge of death, if he hasn’t already crossed the bar. My cousin, who is a gay man, sent me a DM last night, while I was asleep. He lamented that his brother, who is a colossal Trump supporter, chose that time to argue about politics. It got ugly.

People can get really weird when someone close to them is about to die. I mean, my cousin– the infamous “Timmy”, whom I’ve written about before in this blog (and whose name isn’t actually Timmy)– is not acting strange when he argues about politics. He does that all the time. It’s just that he’s choosing to do it now, when his father is at death’s door. Instead of coming together with his brothers, including the one who wrote to me, Timmy is acting like an asshole. I suspect it’s because it’s his way of coping.

In July 2014, when my dad was dying, one of my sisters similarly acted like a huge asshole. I never confronted her about it. I wanted to at the time, because what she did was extremely inappropriate. My dad was in the hospital and had to be put on a ventilator. My sister, who has a habit of minimizing and discounting other people’s opinions and painful experiences, had (and maybe still has) a chip on her shoulder about the fact that I don’t hang out with my family much anymore. I specifically didn’t hang out with my dad much, because my dad was a source of a lot of pain. He regularly humiliated me, insulted me, and when I was younger, physically struck me. I finally got to a point at which I didn’t want to endure that treatment anymore, so I withdrew. And having sisters diminish that, and basically tell me that it was up to me to swallow more shit, made me want to withdraw from them, too. I’m happier and healthier for it.

Well, as my dad was dying, my sister somehow got the idea that I wouldn’t be coming to see him in the hospital. She kept sending me emotional blackmailing emails. In one email, she sent a picture of my dad in his hospital bed, wearing a huge CPAP mask. I knew this was not a photo my dad would have consented to. I doubted our mom would have approved, either. She had sent it to be manipulative, and to shame me into doing what she felt was “right”.

What really pissed me off, though, was that she absolutely didn’t need to do that. I was going to go see him, even though we were in the middle of trying to move from Texas to Germany. It wasn’t necessary for her to make the situation more painful than it already was. And even if I had decided NOT to go, that would have been my privilege. I am an adult, and I make decisions for myself. I was really tempted to lash out at her, but I decided that would make things worse than they needed to be. So I “thanked” her for the information, and Bill and I went to see my dad for the last time. He died two days later. I remained pretty upset about the photo my sister sent. It was inappropriate, unnecessary, and totally disrespectful. She wonders why I don’t want to go home and spend time with the family? It’s because of shit like THAT! I just want to live my life in peace.

So, when I read my cousin’s comments about his brother’s behavior, it made me think of my sister’s behavior. It’s not uncommon for “Timmy” to behave like a political blowhard. He traded booze for religion and politics, and has turned into an insufferable turd. But I know, deep down, he’s not really like that. I know that he’s a good person, underneath that MAGA facade. I assume most of the jerks I run into online are also, deep down, not terrible people. They say these things because they’re afraid. They think their lives are going to change, and they can’t control it. So they lash out with hate. It’s bad enough when that negativity is directed at a stranger, but it’s heartbreaking when it’s toward a supposed loved one.

Right now, my cousins need each other. They are sharing the experience of losing a parent. They are understandably under stress. I’m sure that arguing politics is one way to stop thinking about the huge loss they are about to endure. I love my uncle very much, even though the last time we communicated, he called me a “liberal nutjob”, and reminded me so much of my dad when he was on one of his worst benders. I know that overall, like my dad, his brother, my uncle is a decent person. But, like so many of us, he’s lost the plot and fallen into the abyss of political and religious bullshit. And it’s taken a huge toll on family relations, which is a real shame.

Which brings me to the “new kid in town” part of this post…

It occurs to me that my Uncle Ed may, if he hasn’t already, be crossing into the great beyond. I imagine my dad, his brothers, Carl and Brownlee, and his sisters, Jeanne, and Susan, his wife, Nancy, and his parents, Pappy and Granny, will all be waiting there to usher him into Heaven. That’s if Heaven exists, of course… and if they all went there. All of them were devout Christians. Ed will be the next “new kid” in town. And as I ponder that, I ponder this awesome album I downloaded by J.D. Souther, who helped write the song made famous by The Eagles. Below is a link for your consideration…

This whole album is gorgeous. I love J.D. Souther’s music. He’s underrated. This particular version of “New Kid in Town” is just sublime.

Well… I don’t know if Uncle Ed is gone yet. I do know that his mother, my Granny, died fifteen years ago yesterday. So if he has passed, it’s kind of an interesting time to go. My love goes out to my family who will miss him. I have many great memories of him, and the fun we had at family events. Before Trump changed him, he was one of my favorite people. I hope he finds much joy and peace as he becomes the newest family member to join the party in Heaven.

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communication, condescending twatbags, family, healthcare, history, law, politicians, politics, true crime

Granny’s notes give me perspective on the past…

I had an interesting Thursday, and not just because it was my day to vacuum the house. It was interesting because I did some thinking, and even became a little inspired. My Aunt Gayle sent an email containing a document written by my Granny years ago. The fifteenth anniversary of her death is approaching next week, so Gayle sent out “Granny’s notes”, which was basically a brief history of Granny’s long and fascinating life. Granny was born near Natural Bridge, Virginia and spent most of her life there, though she did have some brief sojourns to other places. She was the fifth of ten children, and the last of the children to die, at almost 101 years of age. Had she lived just 54 more days, she would have made it. But it was time for Granny to go, as she had obviously witnessed a whole lot in her life. I can’t imagine what she would think of what’s happening today.

My grandmother was born at a time when women couldn’t vote, and were thought of as little more than property to their fathers and husbands. She died in the age of the Internet. In her lifetime, she bore nine children, and outlived two of them. She saw a man walk on the moon. She watched cars take over horses and buggies. She traveled to England to visit my parents, my sisters, and me, stopping in Scotland and Ireland, to walk on land where her ancestors lived. What would she think about the way women’s rights are being rolled back today? Granny was a conservative lady, but she was always very smart and practical, and she had a sharp mind until the bitter end of her life. I don’t know what she thought of topics like homosexuality or abortion. I suspect she was more progressive than some people would have liked to have given her credit for being. I say that, knowing that she was born and raised in Rockbridge County, which is a very red part of Virginia.

When I got my aunt’s email last night, I thought of a woman I “met” on 23andMe. She and I are first cousins twice removed. It turns out my Granny’s brother, Ed, had a fling with a young woman who had come from Longwood University (then known as the State Teachers College) to Natural Bridge to teach school. Ed and the young woman conceived a baby girl, whom they surrendered for adoption in Roanoke, Virginia. The girl was adopted by a couple from Roanoke and grew up there, while Ed went on to marry another woman and have a son. I seem to remember hearing that Ed’s son died when he was still in his 20s, although that happened when I was still a glint in my dad’s eye. Ed died a few years before I was born.

The woman I “met” is the daughter of Ed’s “illegitimate” daughter (to use an antiquated term), who was given up for adoption. She is in her 70s now, and has a half sister. They live in Maryland. I hadn’t been chatting with her lately, mainly because after we exchanged information, there wasn’t much else to say. But Granny’s notes changed everything. I immediately contacted her on 23andMe and told her about the document, and asked her if she’d like me to send it to her, since Granny had written about her parents and grandparents– and they were also kin to her. She enthusiastically agreed, so I forwarded the document to her.

Then I thought about the rest of this woman’s incredible DNA story. Her mother had grown up in Roanoke, apparently unaware that she had been adopted from a couple in Rockbridge County. When she became an adult, she moved to Washington, DC to work, and there she met a young, dark haired man who worked for the Ecuadorian Embassy. They had a fling, and sure enough, she got pregnant. When she told her mother, her mother snapped “Just like your real mother!” That’s when she found out she wasn’t her mother’s natural child.

Unlike her biological parents, to include my great uncle and his girlfriend, my cousin’s mom chose not to give her daughter with the “Ecuadorian” up for adoption. So she grew up not knowing her dad, but assumed she was half Ecuadorian, since that was where he was from, and he definitely looked and acted the part. Many years later, when she took her DNA test, it turned out that actually, he was Ashkenazi Jewish! I guess his family had moved out of Germany to Ecuador as a means of avoiding Hitler.

Of course, it’s not lost on me that had this all happened years later, Ed’s girlfriend could have chosen to have an abortion, and I wouldn’t have this novel worthy story to tell. And the truth is, I don’t cheer for abortions. Personally, I like the idea of choosing life over an abortion. But I am against forcing women to give birth, because there are simply too many reasons why having a baby might be the worst decision. And so, I read stories about women who made that tough choice and agonized over it, or even laughed about it, as Alison Leiby has, having written a comedy show about her choice to have an abortion before Roe v Wade was overturned, and women’s rights became even more threatened than they already were.

Yesterday, I wrote about Alison Leiby’s op-ed in The New York Times titled “Please Laugh About My Abortion With Me”. I still think it’s an article well worth reading. I found it very thought provoking, and I think she’s very BRAVE to have written it, given how completely horrible and closed-minded some people are about this topic. For those who missed yesterday’s post and don’t want to read it, here’s another link to the unlocked article.

I noticed that a lot of people on Facebook were commenting on Leiby’s op-ed, but it appeared that very few had bothered to read it. It was behind a paywall, so that’s to be expected. Still, it’s disappointing when someone writes a piece that is thoughtful and interesting, and the masses– who can’t or don’t want to pay for a subscription– feel the need to make irrelevant comments about it. So I posted that I thought Alison Leiby’s excellent op-ed was “thought provoking”, and it’s a shame that few people appeared to have read it. Others who had read it gave me likes, while a few obvious pro-birthers gave me laughter.

Naturally, it wasn’t long before a guy named Steve decided to engage me. He immediately wrote a mocking post to me, asking what part of Leiby’s post I thought was thought provoking. His comment was full of the usual tripe about how Leiby is obviously an uncaring, irresponsible woman who made a poor choice in sexual partners and then cold-heartedly KILLED her baby. I laughed at that and wrote, “Didn’t read the article, huh?” Because I knew that if he had, he would find out that the piece was not about Alison’s decision to have an abortion, but rather how she had processed the experience, the difficulty of discussing abortion with others… and yes, LAUGHING about it. She’s a comedian, so tackling difficult topics with humor is literally what she does for work.

Steve came back at me with more hostility, accusing me of not having read the article, which I actually did. And then he demanded that I defend my pro-choice opinions to him, which I don’t have to do even when people ask me politely, let alone make demands. But I decided I wouldn’t be engaging him at all, when I noticed that in his snarky retort, he referred to me as a “chick”. Imagine that. I’m 50 fucking years old, and this “pro-life” man, who doesn’t even know me, just called me a CHICK! I’m not even a fellow human being to him. I’m a baby chicken who happens to have a uterus (for now, anyway). My Granny used to take care of “chicks” on her family’s farm. And then he expects me to have a thoughtful discussion with him about a topic as complicated as abortion is? I don’t think so.

“Duck you, Steve.”

My response was more or less, “I can answer the questions, but I am choosing not to, because it’s obvious to me that you just want to judge this woman’s very personal decisions. The fact that you just referred to me as a ‘chick’ gives me a pretty good idea about what you think of women. I couldn’t be less interested in interacting with you. Please leave me alone.”

To his credit, he did stop tagging me. It’s a good thing he did that, because if he hadn’t, I could have commented on the fact that not only does he dismiss and dehumanize women by calling them “chicks” when they’re being serious, he also doesn’t respect them when they say “no”. And this overbearing habit that some men have of not hearing the word “no” when a woman says it, is precisely why a lot of women need to seek abortions in the first place!

Fortunately for Steve, he did hear me when I asked him to leave him alone, and he complied with my wishes. Not every guy offline or on social media is even that respectful, so I guess I should be grateful that he knocked it off when I requested it. But it was quite clear to me that he hadn’t read the essay and was betting that I hadn’t, either. Then he had the nerve to try to demand that I interact with him. I wonder if he was ever like that on his dates.

Is Steve like this guy?

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on ol’ Steve, though. It probably didn’t occur to him that calling me “chick” would trip him up on his path to the idyllic Land of Mansplaining Sanctimony. Like a lot of people, he failed to think ahead. Failure to think or plan ahead, is another reason why some women want or need to have abortions. It’s natural that this happens, and as Steve has proven, it’s not just the women who have this issue.

It occurs to me that Granny, who was a very strong, intelligent, wise, and hardworking woman who bore nine kids, probably had to deal with that kind of shit from men all the time. I know she had to deal with my grandfather, whom she had said was the “nicest man” when he wasn’t drinking. The trouble is, he was “always” drinking, and had a legendary temper. Or so I was told by his son, who was my dad. By contrast, Granny wrote in her notes that her own father was very quiet and gentle. Being married to “Pappy” must have been quite different to her, just as being married to my gentle husband is different for me. Like Pappy, my father was often very nice and kind, but he was also a severe alcoholic who could be brutal. Thankfully, he wasn’t physically abusive very often, although it was often enough.

I think about women who are still, even in 2022, when we have laws against domestic violence, trapped in horrific relationships with men who won’t take no for an answer. I think about women who are on their way to financial freedom, or finally have the achievement of a lifelong dream in their sights, or maybe can’t keep any food down because they have severe hyperemesis gravidarum, or any other medical issue, just wanting to make their own private decision about whether or not to be pregnant. If I had gotten pregnant with Bill’s baby, I would have been very happy about it. But if I had gotten pregnant after being date raped at a fraternity party, not so much (and no, that never happened to me, but it could have). Likewise, I served in the Peace Corps, where female Volunteers have been known to be sexually assaulted. I personally knew of one person who was raped when I was serving in Armenia. She didn’t get pregnant, but if she had, she would have been required to get an abortion at her own expense, or leave the Peace Corps.

And guys like Steve want to frame a narrative about how anyone who wants or needs an abortion is just some loose, slutty woman with no heart or morals, who “got herself pregnant” because she was “irresponsible”. Same guy wants to call me a “chick”, as he demands that I engage with him. I’ll bet he was expecting me to write something coherent and sensible, too, even though he degraded me by calling me a slang barnyard term for a young woman. It’s crazy! Why should anyone waste the time or energy?

That brings me to some other news that has come out this week. That ten year old Ohio girl who was raped and had to go to Indiana for an abortion resurfaced in the news, after certain right wing pundits theorized that her story was a hoax. And then, Indiana’s attorney general, Todd Rokita, was allegedly “outraged” that the girl’s doctor, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, allegedly hadn’t reported the abortion— except she HAD, and the story is absolutely true. See below.

I’ll bet that jerk, Rokita, hasn’t even apologized for his mistake, and decision to smear the good doctor’s name. She did a great compassionate service to a CHILD who was raped, not once, but TWICE! No ten year old is, in any way, prepared to have a baby! But Rokita isn’t about to humble himself. Instead, he’s “gathering evidence” to see if he can still nail Dr. Bernard for doing something that was obviously medically indicated. Guys like Rokita just want to put doctors and nurses in prison, don’t they? Misogyny is still alive and well in our country. I wish there was more empathy and decency!

At least in Ohio, some of the politicians are showing some remorse for their mistakes, having initially cast doubt on the girl’s story. But you know how remorse is, when it comes from a politician. It’s often pretty hollow. And Ohio is a state where a MALE legislator wanted to make properly treating ectopic pregnancies ILLEGAL. He wanted to plug and play non-viable embryos– technology that doesn’t exist. What makes me especially sick is that these dumbasses aren’t even learning from their mistakes. Ohio’s MALE attorney general, Dave Yost, was among those who doubted that a ten year old could get pregnant. Yes, they can, and this is one major reason WHY abortion should be allowed… and frankly, kept PRIVATE. There’s no reason why the whole world should have to know about this girl’s hellish torment, even if she is anonymous (for now). This is something that should have been kept confidential and dealt with by medical personnel, social workers, and law enforcement. It should not be a political football. And for Christ’s sake, she should not have had to go to another state to get an abortion done! Way to prolong and increase her pain, Ohio!

Some people, unbelievably, think that poor baby should have been FORCED to birth— and they have even said they would have “hoped” she would come to understand why birthing her rapist’s baby, when she’s ten years old, is the right thing to do. Naturally, it was a MALE lawyer named Jim Bopp who said that. That shit regularly happens in developing countries, not the United States! And even those countries are reevaluating their draconian positions on abortion.

So, you see, we still have a long way to go… in spite of the great wisdom in Granny’s notes and the great progress she personally witnessed in almost 101 years of living. I truly do wonder what she would think of how things are today. Reversing Roe v Wade has opened a huge Pandora’s Box. I really hope we can get this mess straightened out for the women of the future. But at least I know it won’t affect me personally. I haven’t had a period in about two months. I think very soon, Aunt Flow will finally become a guest from my past. And I thank God for that on so many levels.

In other news… Ivana Trump suddenly died yesterday in what appears to be very suspicious circumstances. It was curiously announced by her most famous ex husband, Trump, who disseminated the news on Truth Social, his very own social media platform. It seems curious that she died so suddenly, weeks before Trump is expected to announce another run at the presidency. But I’m sure the details will come out soon enough. Maybe it’s a coincidence, like Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide was. I know that many idiots will still happily vote for Trump, even though it’s very obvious that he’s a liar, a cheat, and unhinged to the nth degree. I think the people who keep supporting him will eventually find themselves on the wrong side of history. I think if he wins again, it will be a disaster. Hopefully, the saner people in the Republican Party will keep him from running for the Republicans. They already know he can’t be controlled… and I’ll bet he’s paid for MANY abortions.

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dogs, emergencies, home

I went all Granny T last night…

Last night, I was sitting in the dark living room, working on the latest jigsaw puzzle. Suddenly, I heard Bill, and he sounded concerned.

“Arran, come here. You can’t have that nut!” he said.

Arran, who celebrated his ninth anniversary as our devoted family member yesterday, came running into the living room. He was clearly in distress. Bill was grabbing him around the stomach. It looked almost like Arran was choking on something, but I could tell he was breathing.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“He’s got a walnut in his mouth.” Bill said. Apparently, Arran had found an unshelled nut somewhere mysterious, broke it open with his teeth, and half of it was stuck on a molar. The other half, thank God, was in his bed. Walnuts are not really safe foods for dogs for a number of reasons.

“Oh my God!” I said.

Next thing I knew, my fingers were in Arran’s mouth, feeling around for the nut, which I thought was already halfway down his gullet. Vision of his sudden death flashed in my head as my fingers came out of his mouth, unsuccessful. I noticed splotches of blood on his right front paw, which he’d been using to frantically paw at his mouth, trying to get the walnut out.

I reached into his mouth again, determined to get the nut. I felt it stuck on his tooth. Somehow, I managed to grasp it and pull it out. It was all bloody, having cut the fragile gum tissue.

For a few minutes, all three of us were shellshocked by the sudden emergency. Bill had tears in his eyes as he comforted Arran, who was still scared and bewildered. I suddenly had a vision of my grandmother, Granny Tolley, who had a history of saving the day whenever one of her descendants got in trouble. I remember stories of Granny grabbing hatchets to kill snakes or break kids out of locked bathrooms. Granny died in July 2007, about six weeks shy of her 101st birthday. She was a tough lady.

After a few minutes, we were all a bit calmer, and Arran was back to sniffing the kitchen floor, hoping to find something edible that was dropped. He was perfectly fine within twenty minutes or so, but Bill and I were still a little bit shook up. Arran is about 13 years old, and it looks like he will be the dog who will have the longest tenure with us.

Our dog, Zane, died just a couple of months before what would have been his tenth “gotcha day” anniversary with us. But we got Zane when he was younger, and he had more health problems than Arran has ever had. Zane was a ray of sunshine, but he was fragile, suffering allergies and three years of mast cell tumors before finally succumbing to lymphoma.

I don’t think Arran was in any danger of dying last night, as the walnut wasn’t lodged in his windpipe or throat. But it was definitely a scary situation. I was kind of pleased with myself for jumping in and helping him out. As for how Arran got the walnut, I don’t know… I think he might have found it in the backyard. We lost a tree last weekend, and it’s still lying in the backyard, waiting for better weather and “processing”. I think the tree’s fall has unearthed some stuff.

As for Noyzi… he missed the entire drama. He usually hangs out in his bed upstairs in the evenings, except when we’re eating. Even then, he shows up fashionably late, sometimes even after we’ve already finished eating. He goes outside, does a few frenetic poop runs, tends to business, drinks a shitload of water, then puts himself to bed. Lately, Noyzi has had some pretty disgusting diarrhea, so that’s been fun… especially with the muddy backyard. I’ve been giving him pumpkin to help bind his poop.

As I write this, both dogs have come into the office, begging for attention and a walk. It’s cloudy outside and I’m a little depressed. I’m tempted to stay in my cocoon… but I guess it would do us all good to take a walk and get some air. Maybe it will motivate me to do my much hated Thursday chore of vacuuming, and pick up my guitar for some practice.

Last week, I was inspired to record my version of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” It turned out nicely, although it doesn’t have many hits. On that video, I used a lot of pictures of my dogs, who keep me sane. I noticed the YouTube guy I’ve been doing collaborations with did a version of the same song a few hours ago. I guess he was inspired.

Sometimes I feel like my dogs are my only real friends. I’m sure glad Bill and I were able to dislodge that walnut before Arran got really hurt. I’d like to keep Arran around for as long as possible. He’s such a sweet, loving, gentle dog, and he shows us every day how much he loves us. We love him right back.

If I get inspired to write again, maybe I’ll be back… but I’m feeling a little depressed today. It might be a day for reading and napping.

ETA: I just vacuumed the house, and when I went downstairs to put the vacuum away, Arran had managed to pull a small bag of treats off the counter and was trying to suck them down. Fortunately, he wasn’t successful. I guess he’s fine. Good thing these dogs are so loving and cute.

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