Saturday, November 29, 2008

Boredom and Young Adulthood

My son has been in northern Virginia since Tuesday evening. And until an hour ago, I hadn't seen him since Tuesday evening when he left my home to go and play basketball with his father. My last words to him were, "don't let those old men shove you around."

Tonight, yes four days later, he stopped by just to check on me. He promptly announced that he's bored, and he can't wait to get back on campus. I offered to rise from my comfortable spot on the bed reading a book, dress, and drive him back to campus. My earnestness in getting him away from boring northern Virginia quelled his sighs and moans for an hour. In that hour we chatted. I got a little information out of him, not much. But I do know that although I hadn't seen him since Tuesday, he needs me to take him to rent a tuxedo tomorrow for the winter ball! Now, I told him about time management, asked him what has he been doing since Tuesday, and queried him as to why hadn't he secured a reservation for a tuxedo already. He had an explanation, but the bottom line is that he wants me (yes mom) to go with him to pick out a tuxedo. Oh, he's still my baby after all.

All is quiet in our hood. My best friend's father died on November 25, 2008. I've blogged about how diligently my friend has been caring for his father since this past May. My friend's tenacity is amazing to me. He is alarmingly quiet now, but on some level I know that the quietness is due perhaps to a disbelief that he has nothing to do. These past few months my friend had grown accustomed to providing for his father's basic needs and care, nearly around the clock. A nurse came in three days per week for a few hours to bathe his father. However, often my friend was dissatisfied with the nurse's care and would go behind her to improve his father's cleanliness and comfort. I know that witnessing his father's slow demise has altered him in some way. Perhaps when we see each other, he will share some insight with me.

I was spared watching my mother die. She always felt that death was a very private affair, and she died very privately in my father's arms. The closest that I have come to witnessing the dying process is when a very close friend and former paramour was dying of brain cancer. I went to the hospital to visit him. I found him half his normal weight: thin and fragile. His hearing was impaired somewhat, so I had to resort to writing on a notepad what I wanted to communicate to him. We spent a few hours scribbling notes back and forth. This was the last time I saw him alive. I recall that he wanted to give me power of attorney, and I couldn't assume that responsibility because he had three children, two of whom were adults. He couldn't explain to me why he did not trust either one of his children with his affairs. But I perceived that something was amiss and I did not need to get involved. Nonetheless, despite my reservations, his desire to give me power of attorney signaled to me that after all those years of knowing him and although we had broken off our romantic relationship (we remained friends), he trusted me completely with making decisions about his medical care and handling his business affairs. But we both knew that if he were my attorney advising me (and he was always my attorney who gave me excellent advice) he would have advised me not to get in the middle of that "mess." I took his unspoken advice and stayed out of his affairs.

So my child is bored. I dread going back to work on Monday. And it's too cold for anyone to be outdoors right now. Perhaps sometime soon I will finally blog about AFRICOMM and Obama's cabinet. But until then, it's the holiday and I'm not engaging in any real thinking until Monday.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I know that for some of my friends, today represents the beginning of European genocide of the Native American and African, and the onset of European hegemony. But for some, it is a day to get together with friends and family and to eat too much.

Johnny is responsible for the turkey this year. The women in our Starbucks crew have spent time schooling the brother. My goal is not to take over, and allow Johnny to figure it out (he cajoled me into preparing nearly the entire dinner last year, doing the grocery shopping, and even purchasing table linens). He's going to put the turkey in the oven and drive 30 miles each way to run an errand. Oh well, there goes a moist turkey. But hey, it's on him. My best friend dropped off some crab cakes last Saturday. Yes, a guy, and he cooks better than I do. So I've just filled my belly with two delicious Maryland style crab cakes; if the turkey isn't good, I won't be hungry.

One of my weaknesses is helping men who pretend to be helpless or needy. But I'm not going for it any longer. I have a self-sufficient 18 year old son, so I know it's possible for men to take care of their domestic needs, if they want to take care of them.

The younger Michele used to walk into a man's environment and straighten it out. The new Michele knows that if any person lives in a domestic environment in a state of chaos, it's because either he doesn't care how he lives or he is incapable of creating a habitable domestic space. Either way, it's not my job to fix anything.

When I walk into my father's home, it is neat, orderly, and clean. Having always seen my mother take care of the home, I presumed my father was incapable of taking care of domestic matters. But to the contrary, he's real good at maintaining his home.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving; don't eat too much; and I will blog tomorrow about Johnny's turkey.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Friends and Thanksgiving

Spent time with a friend whose father is slowly dying. My friend and his mother are providing, in-home, around the clock care for the father. I admire my friend, his mother, and his father. I am unsure if I would have the tenacity to do what my friend is doing for his father. At times though, I know that he is tired, and he takes a respite at my place to collapse and rejuvenate. But this time he told me that he had to have some television, so he brought an antennae to hook up to my television. I really don't like television, and I've never been much of a watcher of television. For some reason, I can't follow the story lines. Anyway, anything to make a friend comfortable. When you've known someone nearly 30 years, and have shared almost every life-changing event with that person, from marriage to death, you have to accommodate the person. Oh, and I finally found out that he is a grandfather. I suspected that his younger son became a father last year, but my friend wasn't speaking a word about it. He told me that he wanted to be "60 years old" before he became a grandfather. I told him that "you should be proud that your son is carrying on your gene pool."

A neighbor (and friend ) is planning Thanksgiving for all the single people in my neighborhood. We had a good time last year; my niece and I did the majority of the cooking. Unfortunately, I am struggling with vertigo, and I can't commit myself to cooking for 20 people and then find myself flat on my back with a half-cooked turkey. So for one of the few times in many years, I'm only responsible for preparing a side dish for Thanksgiving. Wow, it feels so good not to be responsible for Thanksgiving dinner.

It's too cold outside. Thank goodness for Du Bois and hot mochas, although moving to Florida is looking more enticing each winter. Stay warm, and don't forget to curl up with a good book. Soon I will have to post a word or two about Obama's cabinet. To say the least, I am disappointed. But an astute scholar and friend warned me that nothing would change under an Obama administration, that he would be simply a tool of the elite to further their agenda. I knew that he was right, however, everyone knows how damn idealistic I am.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ten Reasons for Looking forward to My Son Coming Home

Okay, I've almost survived my first lengthy separation from my only child, my son, David Malik. Now, I have seen him a few times on campus. One time he caught me totally off guard by walking up to me on the quad and wrapping his arms around me in a bear hug. It's not uncommon for one my students to tap me on the shoulder and then move, causing me to get whiplash as I turn my head to find out who's trying to get my attention, but my son's bear hug was completely unexpected.

But, I have to admit, I've missed him despite all of my proclamations about being single, moving into a bacherlorette pad, spending more time writing, and reading, and hey, maybe even dating!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I miss him and want him to come home because:

1. I'm tired of throwing away food that I buy and then don't cook.
2. I'm tired of eating alone.
3. Sometimes I can go an entire day and not talk to anyone, so I miss our grunts and half-spoken sentences; unless, we are conversing about something important.
4. There's no male scent in my living space.
5. I miss seeing his height come through the door.
6. I miss hearing "hey mom" as a preface to a question.
7. I miss hearing him say, "what's for dinner"?
8. I miss responding "food" to his question, "what's for dinner"?
9. I have no one to nag about cleaning up the second bathroom.
10.I simply miss his big rusty butt.

I can't wait until he comes home the second week in December.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Memories of Decadence

My memories of decadence having nothing to do with material wealth. As a child, my parents provided for us as well as, if not better than, most U.S. African families. I was privileged to have college-educated parents, a father who took graduate courses in taxation, a mother who dedicated her life to rearing her children and supporting her husband, a three bedroom, two bath home with a two and one-half car garage (hey in Detroit your garage had to have enough room for two cars and the other stuff), and an abundance of love. While we had everything materially that we ever wanted and asked for, my decadence comes from the sheer leisure that my mother imbued her children with whenever she felt it necessary to our well being.

There were periods when my mother would remove each one of us from school and allow us to do whatever we wanted to do for the day. I recall having lunch at Elias Brother's Big Boys, then wanting to go either to the library or to a bookstore and get a book. Then I was allowed to sit and read all day, undisturbed.

Today as I made a cup of ginger root tea and grabbed Du Bois's "Black Reconstruction," I felt so giddy I had to examine the roots of this giddiness. I suddenly realized that my feelings come from the absolute pleasure that my mother insist that my siblings and I have in books and intellectual engagement. Quiet time in our house was not often spent in front of a television, although we did watch our share of television as children. However, quiet time usually centered around each one of us choosing a book and sitting down to read. While my siblings may have read for an hour or two, I recall reading until I was beckoned to the table to eat. Only my brother could out read me. Sometimes he would raise his head from a book, his eyes bloodshot and blurry, to tell me about how many Russian lives were lost collectively in the two World Wars. I wasn't very interested in Russian history, but he was and no one could get him to stop talking about Russia until we all stopped what we were doing and listen to him.

Toni Morrison once bemoaned the fact that as a whole, some of us are no longer trained to sit alone with our own minds for lengthy periods; or alone and engaged with the mind of an author. I wonder how people fill their time if they are not reading and thinking, habits that are so intrinsic to the constructions of my siblings and me as productive citizens of the world, that it is unimaginable for me to understand one's purpose for living if that purpose does not revolve around ideas and the expansion of one's intellect.

So, as they say, I am as happy as a clam. Du Bois and I are about to get it on again. And after Du Bois, C.L.R. James is by my bedside. It's nice to have a stack of men by my bedside just waiting with baited breath for me to caress their covers and flip through their pages. Okay, I'm writing about books. But as one critic argued, "there is pleasure in the text."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Du Bois and Snow in Northern Virginia

So what do Du Bois and snow have in common? Nothing except for I don't feel guilty about being sequestered in my home, watching the snow flurries, and reading Du Bois's Black Reconstruction in America: 1860-1880. This is a tome that has been on my reading list for years, and finally I got tired of reading historians citing Du Bois and decided to get Du Bois's work and read it for myself.

The book is helping to clarify a family narrative passed down to me from my mother. It is one about how one of my female relatives, perhaps my great great grandmother, searched for her children after slavery. My mother always said that carpetbaggers took my great great grandmother's children from her. However, in a conversation with Dr. Ahati N.N. Toure, he suggested that during Reconstruction an apprenticeship program was established that literally removed U.S. African children from their parents and homes, if the Europeans in the community deemed these children's parents unable or unwilling to provide for them. Hence, this was another form of slavery and a legal form of kidnapping, and might lend some insight into what happened to some of my relatives during Reconstruction.

In reading Du Bois, I am becoming more acquainted with this practice of alleged apprenticeship of U.S. African children, but I need to read a text that exclusively focuses on this painful part of U.S. African history during Reconstruction, for Du Bois does not deal with the apprenticeship of children with any depth. However, I am curious now how my foremother's children were taken from her. As the narrative goes, she spent some years walking from Alabama to Ohio looking for her children. I am uncertain if she ever found all of them. I am uncertain how she negotiated her safety. I know nothing about this narrative but the bit that my mother knew. But it is a fascinating and painful narrative passed down to me, nonetheless, that I intend to investigate.

In the meantime, since it's too cold outside to walk, and not enough snow to go skiing, I'm going to get back to my book. Hey, I tried to talk to my neighbors this morning at the local Starbucks, but when one has a choice between communing with Du Bois or talking to neighbors about the Dallas Cowboys, I'd rather commune with Du Bois. But I am trying to be more socially engaged!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Body Is Not Willing

For those of you living in metro DC, wasn't the weather absolutely gorgeous yesterday. Even when the rain came down in unrelenting sheets, the air remained warm and I kept my patio door open until the temperature outdoors dropped to 56 degrees, and it became apparent that a chill was replacing the cozy warmth in my home.

My son is having the predictable freshman end-of-the-semester-melt-down. I offered him some strategies for how to cope and complete his classes successfully. Hopefully, he will listen and implement some of the strategies I recommended. But it's time for me to put together that care package full of protein, some homemade cookies, and other necessities to keep him going until the semester break.

I tell my students that their stress level equals the stress levels of their professors at the end of the semester. Well, at least those professors who are engaged and invested in their students' educational success. My breakdown came last weekend when I awakened in a hotel room at 4:00 a.m. in New Haven, Connecticut with the worse case of vertigo in 10 years. I know the technique to try to alleviate or at least wait out the vertigo: keep your eyes closed, don't move, and try to relax. But nothing was working and the symptoms were getting worse: so much so that I was completely immobilized. Just turning my head from one side to the other, with my eyes closed, resulted in extreme nausea and the ultimate result of nausea (I will spare you some of the gory details). But it was the pain in my right shoulder and the realization that the women of my family die of heart failure (damn we live by our hearts, this is something that I'm trying to change, but to no avail), when I finally called the hotel front desk and asked them to call EMS. When the desk clerk asked, "would you rather have a taxi"? I had to spend two minutes explaining to her that I was immobilized with pain in my shoulder, that unless someone could carry me downstairs, ride with me to the local hospital, and hold a bag under my mouth while I deposited bile into it, I think it best that they call EMS. The hotel manager did call back, brought me some water (for I knew that I was extremely dehydrated), and assured me that EMS was on its way. The EMS technicians were so jovial and polite, that I couldn't help but find someway to laugh at their silliness, that is, once they ruled out that I was not in any imminent danger, but I did look a "little pale." I mustered up enough humor to ask them, "how can you tell that a black woman looks pale"? We got a good laugh out of that one. Of course, as they wheeled me on a gurney to the EMS vehicle, we talked about Obama and the change hopefully this country will undergo. They transported me to a Catholic hospital (the only one my health insurance will cover: the hell with these PPOs), and the nurses at the hospital were equally jovial and teased me because I managed to be fully dressed when I arrived at the hospital. Yes, I did muster up the wherewithal to clothe myself despite the vertigo, but doing so seemed to take the better part of an hour.

I write this because it became very apparent to me how vulnerable persons are who are alone. It dawned on me as I was lying across the bed in the hotel room waiting for the EMS to arrive and hoping for the symptoms to subside that perhaps my son will remember that I was in New Haven for a conference. I processed how easily it can be for a person who spends most of his or her time alone, to become ill and perhaps die unnoticed for days. I realized how important it is to remain connected even when remaining connected often works against my nature. I believe that I have always been a very solitary and alone person, and being connected to others has always required a lot of effort on my part. When I tell people that I prefer books to people, they often think that I am joking. However, if my mother were alive, she would validate my perception of who I am. But as I age, and as I realize that I have only one child who will be responsible for me as I become less capacitated, I must come out of my shell and force myself to interact with others more. It is not healthy to spend so much time alone.

My body is signaling that it too is tired. That it needs human stimuli. That my brain is just one part of my body, and I can't do a mind/body split anymore, for when I do this, the price is severe vertigo that often occurs when I am alone because I spend so much time alone. So it's time to bring my head out of a book, my eyes off the computer screen, my pen out of the journal, and look up and see and interact with the people around me. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An Obama White House

He won! And for one day we will celebrate, dispense of the cynicism, and relish in a major victory. For today it doesn't matter if we think that Obama's win won't radically alter the power structure in this country that subjugates people of color and African Americans; it doesn't matter if some of us believe that African Americans are not part of the body politic; it doesn't matter if some intellectuals are announcing that we are in a post-racial moment--let us celebrate for Barack and Michelle Obama, their children, and all those persons who believed that it was possible for an African American to ascend to the highest political position in this country and to one of the most influential positions in the world. For one day, let us celebrate. Remember to turn counterclockwise as you dance and yes, the ring shout is permitted.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

Picked up my son from the metro station to take him to vote absentee since he has classes on Tuesday. After a two hour wait and getting close to the room where the voting booths were set up, I was pleased to see members of the OSCE monitoring the voting site on Franconia Road in Fairfax County. After the 2000 elections, I have been crying for the UN to monitor our elections. So hopefully with the OSCE and the world's eyes on the U.S., perhaps there will be less disenfranchisement of voters. We shall see.