At this moment…

At this moment…

January 30, 2013

At this moment, I find myself in the midst of transitions of the most unexpected and most gentle kind.

At this moment, I overheard mom talking to her half-sister over the phone. Another McCalla, Victor McCalla, my mother’s brother died. Death is usually the only reason a McCalla would contact another McCalla. The drama of he said, she said and there will be no burial, cremation, and the ashes will sit on the living room shelf until someone goes to Honduras mantra starts after the death announcement.

If I remained a Walsh, my reaction to this news, the mantra not the death, would be comic relief but since I became a McCalla my reaction to the mantra remains, trying not to react. I always cry at the news of death.

Mom’s side of the family is dysfunctional and I believe Webster honoured them with the definition. Mom’s family is also large. Out of ten children, only four are presently alive and only two communicate maybe once a year. Two are on the east coast, two on the west and east does not speak to west.

All the McCalla’s (except me…sigh) were born in Honduras, when Belize was British Honduras. Some were born in Tela, others in Roatan while La Ceiba claimed another. Some were born with Indian hair soft as silk, while others had coarse wavy hair that refused taming with VO5, while yet others had the kinky cotton kind of hair which only  a lye relaxer could control. The relaxer ruined the hair passed down from their ancestors. The hair from Africa by way of Akan, Bantu, Igbo, Fon or possibly Yoruba, way before Scotland via Jamaica than onto Honduras and mixed with a bit of India saturated the blood.

Mi Tío could not stand his African hair. He could not stand his last name either and changed it to Mangroo. It sounded more Indian, which he longed to look like but did not. Mom's brother045

His kidneys could not stand his body for they failed. His weekly battle with the dialysis machine was just that, man against machine and of course, the machine was in control. As the machine cleansed his blood of waste, it also cleansed his alma (soul) leaving it bitter and in disarray.

Was I close to my uncle?

No.

I did not like him. He favoured my light-skinned sisters with Spanish lessons and his version of Indian history. He was mean to me and spoke harshly to me and about me. He once accused my mom of jealousy towards her sister’s kids, for they were born with the wavy hair that refused taming with VO5. I was born with the kinky cotton kind of hair which mom coated with lye relaxer to control.

I hope my uncle, mi tío, is in a better place now. A place where there are no dialysis machines, where he does not have to endure living in his house with an ex-wife and her boyfriend because he refuses to sell and pay off the ex, where skin colour has no meaning and speaking Spanish is irrelevant. I hope the angels are soothing his soul or that karma will take pity on him when he returns.

Once, I could not stand my African hair and yearned to look Indian like my mother with her Indian features and Indian hair, soft as silk. But, God gave me what I was born with for a reason and I am grateful for his gentle everyday reminder of who I am and where I come from.

“You talk too much…”

“You talk too much…”

You talk too much, you worry me to death.
You talk too much, you even worry my pet.
You just talk, talk too much.
—Joe Jones

You know who they are and avoid them whenever possible but most times, AVOIDANCE IS FUTILE. Imagine having one as a colleague who must be worked with in order to close that lucrative deal. Or worse yet, you live with one and the connection cannot be easily severed and frankly, you can’t complain about this because you knew about the talking too much beforehand.

A person who talks too much is self-absorbed and fixated upon expressing thoughts and viewpoints, listening only to their voices. At times their words are harmless fluffs of letters and vowels. Other times, their words, especially the words which begin with capital letters are fueled by hate, feed off unhealthy gossip and revel in criticisms of the MOST NASTY KIND. Attempting to get a word or two in is impossible because a person who talks too much has an overwhelming amount of words to expel. Overdosing on one’s own words is possible although I have yet to witness it.

After a hardy session in the company of a person who talks too much, when my ears are finally free and able to breathe, compassion sets in. I realize loneliness instigates the need to be heard. To be lonely and not heard is emotional damage. I make a thought promise to give more of my listening ears next time, knowing in truth, I will avoid that person at all costs. And I should know better.

As a KID, I was a person who talked too much.

Refusing to subscribe to the ‘children should be seen not heard’ train of thought, my mouth rambled on producing coherent and incoherent words which flowed from morning to night. Only sleep afforded my mouth rest. My demand to be heard was carried out regardless of feedback or television volume turned high.

Granted, I was annoying but my motivation for talking too much was the result of abrupt life changes: parents’ separation, siblings marrying and/or moving out, and cousins moving to Jersey. These changes left empty slots on my social calendar. Social verbal exchange was greatly reduced-in other words, no one to hang around with or annoy. No one to spy on to later retell the events to another with acute attention to details while munching on a bag of Wise potato chips.

As an ADULT, I do not talk much (I don’t) and maybe that is the reason I attract persons who talk too much.

“Sorry seems to be the hardest word…”

“Sorry seems to be the hardest word…”

1. feeling regret, compunction, sympathy, pity, etc.: to be sorry to leave one’s friends; to be sorry for a remark; to be sorry for someone in trouble.

2. regrettable or deplorable; unfortunate; tragic: a sorry situation; to come to a sorry end.

3. sorrowful, grieved, or sad: Was she sorry when her brother died?

4. associated with sorrow; suggestive of grief or suffering; melancholy; dismal.

5. wretched, poor, useless, or pitiful: a sorry horse.

What does it mean to feel  Sorry, to say you are Sorry or to write you are Sorry?

 If I say I’m Sorry do I admit guilt, admit I’ve done wrong? Am I trying to correct a grave mistake or pacify hysteria? Does it matter if Sorry is said immediately or two years later?

Sorry is said for loss, for someone else’s loss or when a physical or verbal slight is unleashed. I bump into someone accidently, I say sorry. I bump into someone on purpose, I don’t.  I feel sorry for abused and/or neglected animals. I do not feel sorry for those who did the abuse and/or neglect.

When I say I am Sorry, it seems as if redemption takes hold, the negative vibe releases and closure is complete. When Sorry is said to me, I forgive automatically (at least I convince myself I do) even though the residue of the slight lingers.

Sorry can be complex or simple.  One may have to repeat it several times for its effect to take place while others undo the damage in one take. “I’m sorry- I’m sorry too.” Did you say sorry because you meant it? Or out of an automatic response like in “I love you- I love you too.

How about the “I’m not sorry” which opens up a new level of writing possibilities filled with vengeance and strife, great for a blog piece but not one I care to venture into-well just a sample.

 ‘Yes I ate the last piece of cake and I’m not sorry because you ate the last piece of sausage I was saving for breakfast and in order to feel better about that offense for which you have yet to apologize, I in turn, ate the last piece of velvet cake specially ordered with organic ingredients,  from,  Dean and Deluca. ‘   

 

Little Earthquakes

Little Earthquakes

August 1998

My belongings were stuffed, prodded and cursed into my 1991 Honda Civic Hatchback . Once the goods were loaded, I pushed and prodded my cousin (primo) who had gained considerable weight over the years into the car. Seven years spent in California. Seven years of struggle, frustration, immense joy and gratification with my commercial still life photography business and it took only one year, to realize it was not working. Financially drained and emotionally barren, my career was over. Running back home was not an option, but a necessity. It was time to drive east, back home to NYC.

 Little Earthquakes                                            

September 11, 2001

While en route to work, close to the World Trade Center, I witnessed black smoke coming from Tower One of the Twin Towers and immediately thought, ‘Oh Boy, Con Edison messed up big time.’

Along with many others on the sidewalk, I stopped, watched, made small talk and questioned the scene. Then…

BANG!!!!

The sound of the explosion (which later turned out to be the impact of an airplane hitting Tower Two) was overwhelming.  A bang; followed by silence. Not a bang from a hand hitting a wood table or a fire cracker exploding. The bang not belong in NYC. It was ominous and it pierced my heart. It was reminiscent of a Hollywood action movie where explosives try to obliterate the bad guys-sometimes.

From the bang emerged a fireball, horrific, with vibrant colours of yellow, orange and red. The flames billowed and flowed from the middle section of Tower Two.  It was now 9:20am.  I was late for work but instead of walking towards the job I squatted down to the ground, called my mom, and hyperventilated into my cell as she turned on the TV news for information. Unlike an etch-a-sketch where a gentle turn erases the etching in its sand-like plastic structure, the image of the tower engulfed in flames permanently engraved itself in mi alma (soul).

Little Earthquakes

 

 

 

 

 

July 31, 2009

7:00am appointment-July 31, 2009
Colonoscopy and Endoscopy @ NY Cornell-Weill Presbyterian Hospital with Dr. Crawford

Mom, my mom endured months of anemia, fatigue and going from 136lbs to 120lbs in less than two months without dieting. Although diagnosed as anemic the site of the blood loss was untraceable. Unable to walk up steps and sleeping most of the day, mom gave in to her primary care physician’s suggestion to have a colonoscopy and endoscopy.

The day before the scheduled 31st  appointment began with the “prep”- Miralax and 64 ounces of clear Gatorade, chased down with two Doculax tablets. The combination produced the desired cleansing needed for a clear colon track. Mom’s nickname during the procedure was “Shitty-Bottom”. Washington D.C. has its “Foggy-Bottom and now mom had her “Shitty-Bottom”. The nickname supplied the laughter needed as mom ran from bed to toilet.

The following day, the 31st, we took a cab from Brooklyn into the city. The cab driver maneuvered through the Brooklyn Bridge unto the FDR Drive during early morning rush hour simultaneously driving with one hand while yelling into a cell phone. The colonoscopy day, the following day began with the check in. Mom changed into a blue gown with non-slip padded bottom socks. She joked with the nurses as she lay on the procedure table waiting for the Dr. Crawford who arrived and explained the procedure and risks. Mom signed a release form absolving the hospital of procedure liabilities. The nurses nodded at me, signaling my time to leave the room and I kissed mom. As I went through the doorway, I turned back and was relieved to see mom relaxed and ready. She was 82 years old.

A week later, Dr. Crawford diagnosed mom with colon cancer as I cried hysterically in the consultation room. Uncomfortable, and affected by my reaction, he spoke softly and stated his father died of colon cancer. My crying stopped. Three weeks later I met the oncologist, Dr. Popa, who whispered to me, while mom was distracted and laughing with the medical techs, words that forever changed my life: Stage 4- Sixty percent survival rate.

I was numb, no tears this time but a tremendous surge of strength which shut down all emotional reactions and released a hyper-drive of analytical thought and rational action. Sixty percent was better than fifty. I was determined not to lose my mom that summer. It was internet research time geared towards mom’s survival; time to fight, dig, claw, scream and PRAY to get what needed to be done, done.

Four bags of blood transfusions, meeting with a cardiologist, stress tests, sonograms,  CBC’s, EKG’s, CT’s, family medical history, hot chocolate and beef patties (mom drank the hot chocolate, I ate the beef patties) mom cried only once and it was not due to the cancer but to the five hours confined to a chair receiving the transfusion. Her daily routine of soap operas, napping and futzing around the house were curtailed and she realized normal routines were not normal anymore.

During the initial consultation where the surgical procedure was drawn on paper to help mom understand, Dr. Lee inquired about setting the surgery date. I replied, “next week”, expecting his response to say in a month’s time. He scheduled the procedure for the following week. Dr. Lee performed the laparoscopic colon surgery  on mom and she was fortunate to have this doctor, who along with his colleagues created the particular procedure she would undergo. There was no apprehension towards mom’s age and Dr. Lee talked proudly of his success with the same procedure performed on a patient in their 90’s.

                                                                                 Little Earthquakes

Dr. Popa, Dr. Lee and Dr. Crawford-mom’s cancer team, saved her life and were kind through my aggressive behavior, internet research, and questions on every test, chemo coctail, port procedure, white blood cell count, CBC’s, mom went through. Mom, my mom survived the operation and endured the special diet which followed. She also handled six months of chemo coctails administered through a port inserted into a major vein near the heart, hair loss and weighed 110lbs when it was over.

During mom’s eight-day hospital stay, I did not leave her side but slept on a chair near her bed and hallucinated during the day from sleep deprivation. Some family members assumed limited responsibility towards helping mom through her recovery but the help was at their convenience while others continued onward with their lives buried in self-absorption.

Three years later, Mom, my mom now weighs 140lbs and is in remission and I am finally receiving the much needed help in calming the Little Earthquakes.

Little Earthquakes, while associated with war veterans is also linked to less severe exposure to trauma which may produce similar symptoms in various degrees.

**Mom continues at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC for all her medical needs.

Foods we once ate…and in some cases continue to do so

Foods we once ate…and in some cases continue to do so

Oh, food the family ate, back in the day before the pyramid guide and nutrition hysteria.

Here’s a sample of what was:

Curried Lamb-made with the cheap curry found in A&P

Curried chicken with Perdue Chicken before chickens were put on a so-called healthy grain diet

Curried beef-I guess at this point curry put on just about anything

Carolina white rice smothered in Heinz ketchup or was it Heinz ketchup with a dash of rice?

Devil’s Underwood spread on Wonder bread

Chef Boyardee-spaghetti and meatballs or ravioliEgg salad-saturated in mayo- the Hellman’s kind

Uneeda biscuit crushed and placed in a bowl with milk added

Beer with pep milk and sugar- I found this combination quite strange-maybe it’s a Jamaican thing

Olive loaf and spiced ham on Wonder bread, lathered in mayo-the Hellman’s kind

 

Oxtails in gravy with Lima beans

Pigs feet with white beans in sauce

Scotch bonnet peppers pickled in vinegar

Bread pudding

Fried cakes (Johnny cakes) with ketchup

Whole wheat bread lathered with mayonnaise, American cheese and tomatoes

White bread toasted, buttered and sprinkled with sugar

Raisin bread, lathered with mayo-the Hellman’s kind, American cheese and tomatoes

Canned sardines in tomatoes sauce with a side of Carolina white rice

Canned sardines in oil on top of Saltine crackers

Liver, fried and smothered with onions

Cow foot (YUCK!)

SPAM slices, fried with eggs over easy

What foods did you or your family eat?

The Best Christmas Present Ever-One year later…

The Best Christmas Present Ever-One year later…

The Best Christmas Present Ever  from last year has evolved into the ‘gift that keeps on giving’.

Although I failed to see it due to my emotional state during last years’ presentation of the gift, a snowball effect of changes was a comin’!

Like a snowball, at the top of a hilltop making its descent towards the bottom. Along the way,  snow gathers to its shape and it transforms into a humongous ball of loosely packed snow. At the bottom, it smashes into the bank and puffs of discombobulated snow suddenly infiltrate the air! That explains the impact of the changes in my life and as each puff anchors itself to the ground so has the change within mi alma (my soul).

This precious gift has changed my personal and emotional outlook towards dealing with toxic people or “emotional vampires” as a Face book friend likes to describe them. The ‘gift that keeps on giving’ is responsible for my refusal to allow toxic people to control my emotions or dictate how I feel about myself.


On Christmas Eve, I attended a midnight mass at the Church celebrating the birth of the messiah. Darkness enveloped the church at the start of the mass as an acolyte walked through the pews lighting parishioners’ hand held candles. When the church was illuminated, the procession towards the altar of acolytes, LEM’s and the Rector began. I carried the baby Jesus (large figurine) held up high, to be placed in the manger when we reached the altar and quietly cited a “Don’t drop the baby…Don’t drop the baby” mantra as I took each step. Prior to the start of the procession the Rector gave me sound advice on walking with baby Jesus, “If you drop the baby, you’re going to hell”. (He was kidding of course, or was he?)

Sunday, Christmas day morning, my nephew who luckily missed the start of last year’s, The Best Christmas Present Ever, came for a visit. We exchanged gifts, ate eggs and nana, my mom’s fry cakes while downing freshly brewed Bustelo. It was a nice gathering and my nephew spending time his nana, my mom was thoughtful.

The rest of Christmas day was spent at the Rectory for brunch that consisted of eggs and biscuits, kielbasa, and other foodstuff as well as Bloody Marys, wine and cheese. The Rector did the cooking while the guests carried food from the kitchen and set the table. After the cooking and setting was completed we sat down to eat in an atmosphere filled with warmth and comfort.

It was pleasant and the conversation included opinions on opera, current events, with jokes and laughter and most importantly freedom of expression on my part. No ridicule or silencing of my words from anyone. Finally, relief and enjoyment with people who accepted me for who I am.

This year opened outlets of socialization and connections I did not see or seek before, because I truly believed holidays are spent with family members. Unfortunately, blood ties do not compel one to adhere to ties that bind. Sometimes family members are not the people to be around especially when emotional pain and abuse are the consequences.

The results of my decision to eliminate toxic family members from my life has transcended into understanding and dealing with toxic people in general. I have learned to accept people for who they are and what they bring to the table in regards to emotional and spiritual support and most importantly I am not disappointed when they fail to meet up to my expectations. If their toxicity is overwhelming, I will not deal with it. I move on.

This Christmas was the year of spirituality and sharing the holidays with those who share my faith. Our shared commonality of faith offered me support and encouragement and I am grateful for having that in my first Christmas alone.

My LIL Brother

My LIL Brother

My lil brother’s name is William and he is twenty-five years younger than I. He lives in San Francisco, sharing a one-bedroom apartment with
two others and has supported himself since his late teens. He aspires to and is well on his way towards reaching the high tier level of fashion photography.

Together we share the same father only, so technically our sibling tie falls under the title of “half”. Half brother or half sister, or ‘agnate’ as Wiki states.  Whatever the label, or the politically correct response to those who inquire, my ‘half brother’ is simply, my lil brother.

I cannot and will not distinguish a half from a whole just as I cannot and will not distinguish between a half-filled glass or its’ opposite. We have an emotional bond, some of the same DNA and a host of other psychological thingies not worth mentioning.

On a recent visit to NYC to explore, meet his network and shoot three days of fashion/beauty photography with models and a crew, I realized this twenty-two year old had allot to teach his much older sis. His positivity towards life and his refusal not to drown in the ‘if only’ is infectious.

My lil brother’s visit taught me:

*Self isolation and self medication is not a good thing

*Routines can be stagnant with no opportunity for growth

*Having one’s own place is a blessing and a luxury

*Remain in motion-sometimes going backwards generates the
inertia needed to move forward

*Laugh, smile and explore

*Making do with what you have at the present may be the only
good option

*Food in moderation is good-mass consumption is
not

*In order to partake in the hobbies you love you have to work to make the money to do so

*Fresh bagels, smoked salmon, cream cheese and an assortment of gourmet olives are an exquisite treat when shared with loved ones

*Walk fast to your destination; walk fast from your destination

*Our father had a strong work ethic that we inherited

*One Bloody Mary during Sunday brunch is quite satisfying

*Family high drama is laughable but remember to brush the remnants off one’s shoulder after its half hour shelf life has expired

*It is okay to hug and say I love you

Living

Living

Mom, my mom, loves to quote scriptures. Stories of revenge on the news and she will say, “You see, the Lord said ‘an eye for an eye’.” Mind you, for mom it does not matter if the person taking the revenge was the one who started the whole thing in the first place, received a reciprocal blow from the other and instead of allowing it to end, decided they had to have the last word.

Mom’s interpretation of bible scriptures is conducive to whatever mood she may be in at the time. The power of the words written by the all knowing from above is all she needs. Like whip cream on top of bread pudding her usage of the scriptures solidifies her point. Bible passages are converted to validate her opinions and predictions. The interpretations of the best theologian scholars have no merit and forget the thousands of hours these scholars spent researching and dissecting. Mom’s interpretations are set in stone-figuratively not literally, for she lacks the strength to hold a chisel and is not related to Moses-the movie kind of Moses, i.e. Charlton Heston, where the hand of God writes in stone tablets.

“Living is giving. All things would die if only receiving” is a favourite quote of mom’s, my mom, used frequently throughout my childhood into adulthood. When asked about the origins of the quote, she will swear it is from the bible. Using the phrase verbatim during a search in Google as well as the enlisted research skills of friend did not lead to any hits on the internet to prove this. So its origin remains a mysteriously (unless someone reading this can verify where it actually stems from).

“Living is giving. All things would die if only receiving”, mom will say when someone is complaining about someone else’s selfishness and that someone complaining is usually me. I get it, I think.

One must be able to give in order to live. What is the definition of “living”? Day struggles or conquering the world? What exactly are we to be “giving”? Money, volunteering, time, presence? We give, we live, we live, and we give. What happens when we give too much and others are content receiving too much? What happens is we give too little? Are the receivers aware that the giving is too little? If I give and do not receive, can I justifiably be angry or resentful?

Kids or Dogs

Kids or Dogs

There seems to be an onslaught of books on a topic rarely brought up in public conversations-the decision to remain childless. Walk on Seventh Avenue in my neighbourhood on any given day and you will hear endless conversations concerning children, daycare, and schools, play dates, eco friendly diapers etc. These conversations are not only coming from groups of women but also men and nannies. As I navigate through the strollers, herds of running toddlers and the occasional breast feeding new mom sitting outside the Häagan Dazs shop, I smile because I am so glad I do not have children. I have dogs.

 During my late teens, I decided not to have kids.

Carefully thought out and an easy choice to make, I knew back then I was too selfish to sacrifice one hundred percent of my needs and especially my wants in order to raise a child. My surroundings helped with the decision. My siblings and their kids allowed a front row view of the trials and tribulations of child rearing. Babysitting dilemmas, erratic feeding schedules, diapers and prams, and the ear piercing levels of screaming/crying  for food, to be held and changed, along with other monumental chores,  solidified my decision. Of course, there were moments of grandeur: the first word, the first walk, the first solid food, the first curse… that had no effect on my decision.

I saw and still see the negatives instead of positives.

There were teenage female classmates who mysteriously disappeared during the school year only to resurface during the summer with a baby and stroller in tow. There were also neighbours in the old ‘hood’ having more than one child to increase their welfare and housing benefits. In addition, during my teaching years, some of the parents of the emotionally disturbed students whom I taught, viewed teachers as overpaid babysitters, who freed up their time during the day so they could party up with drugs -horrible situations to place a child in! 

Having children is a serious decision with serious ramifications.

Children do not fix damaged people.  They will not cure loneliness or repair broken relationships. Nor will they take the place of a dress up doll. I live across the street from a playground where I see more nannies with babies than parents and yes in my ‘hood’ it is quite easy at times to distinguish nannies from parents. What is the point of having children if the parents are too busy working or taking care of their needs and especially their wants without the sacrifice? If a nanny takes care of a child on a full time basis, then the parents’ decision to have children was hastily decided. 

I chose dogs.

Dogs are wonderful companions who love unconditionally and flourish under a daily routine of food, exercise and love-not necessarily in that order just as long as you stick to the routine. Provide nutritional food, which can be bought or made, exercise them like crazy, because a tired dog is happy and less destructive and finally, lavish them with cuddles, belly rubs, grooming and praise. This accounts for sacrificing sixty percent of my needs and especially my wants although I must say it is more like ninety percent. 

Having a dog is a serious decision with serious ramifications.

The same ‘nanny’ concept holds true for dogs. If a dog owner needs to place their pooch for nine hours every day in doggie day care then maybe the decision to have a dog was hastily made.  Dogs require bonding with their owners not bonding with the attendant at the day care.

Dogs will not prepare couples for children.

I met a couple who adopted a dog for the sole purpose of preparing themselves for children. They figured caring for a dog would give them insight into the responsibilities of having a child. It was also a test run to see if their relationship was ready for the next level.  Unfortunately, they adopted a Jack Russell terrier and did not bother to learn about the breed. The dog’s hyperactivity resulting from lack of exercise strained their relationship. They moved from the neighbourhood and the dog’s fate and if they decided to have children after all remains unknown. 

As I got older, traveled, studied, relocated across country and back, the decision was right. Traveling with a child while studying abroad in the Caribbean would have been disastrous. I was involved with my studies, trekking through plantation sites and battling mosquitoes capable of transmitting Dengue fever.  A baby in the midst of this would not have made the trips possible or rather; I was not ready to give up the opportunities in order to raise a child. When the settling stage set in, less travel, sticking close to home and financial stability, the decision was made to share my life and enlarge my household. I chose dogs!

The enormous responsibility of child rearing was and still is not on my list of things to do.

The Best Christmas Present Ever-edited by Mykl

The Best Christmas Present Ever-edited by Mykl

This last Christmas, I received the best Christmas present ever. It was not a coveted Amazon gift card nor fuzzy mittens. It was not designer soaps that end up banished inside the dresser drawer, never to see daylight again. And it was not chocolate. This best Christmas present ever came from an immediate family member and was given to me right before dinner.

My best Christmas present ever was actually a full-blown verbal assault. The wounds inflicted by this person were emotional, therefore invisible. It would have been horrible to spend Christmas seething and putting imaginary band aids on these invisible wounds, so I left the scene of verbal carnage. Once I got back home, I realized there was nothing to eat in the fridge. My empty fridge, on Christmas day, was just imaginary peroxide poured on the invisible wounds. My customary Christmas ham and Chardonnay wine was replaced by Japanese takeout food and two servings of hot sake. During my solitary dinner, I realized it did not feel like Christmas anymore.

How, you might ask, does this event fit into the realm as the best Christmas present ever? During a phone call to a close friend, I described the emotional slaughter.

“My Christmas was ruined,” I babbled. Then I tried to calmly explain what had happened. While I rattled on, he listened silently. 

“Don’t you realize you got the best Christmas present ever,” he responded, in his most polite and enthusiastic voice.

“How is that,” I ask.

“You don’t have to attend a dinner again. You are finally free. Don’t you see it?”

Up until he said that, I did not see it. His words made it perfectly clear. There will be no more ‘putting up with,’ no more criticisms, no more smirkiness, no more laziness and no more drunkenness. There will be no more nasty little snide remarks. But most importantly, the narcissistic personality disorders of not one, but two family members, are gone.

“Your mother got the chance to see it. All those years of telling her about their treatment towards you, always with her ambivalent responses, has now paid off. She got to see and hear it,” my friend said.

Suddenly I realized that emancipation had finally arrived.

There are two sides to every story, as my mom often reminds me, and yes, this writing, is  my side. I do not foresee any interviews taking place with the other participants of the best Christmas present ever. Not now, not at any time in the future and not anywhere on the horizon, that I can see.

“Is it OK to eliminate this episode, in its entirety,” I asked myself. I believe so. What will it accomplish and why rehash old wounds. There will be no clarification or justification coming, none offered. Besides, this is my version of the best Christmas present ever.

What makes this somewhat surreal is the fact that I was verbally attacked by a thirty-something (I’m somewhat older) that felt the urge to suggest my need of meds to control some perceived psychosis they imply I suffer from.

I see this family member, maybe three or four times a year. We seldom talk on the phone. There is little FaceBook communication. (Does clicking on the “like” button count?) Never-the-less, this family member believes they have the authority to prescribe what I need to be taking to be in control of whatever psychosis they imagine I have. This is only a part of what was unleashed but it is the part that bothers me the most.

Our family season of dinners starts with the traditional Thanksgiving. This leads into Christmas and culminates with Easter. Dinners from earlier years were always at my mom’s apartment. She would park herself in the kitchen, preparing culinary delights with a West Indian/Spanish flair. She would be working in that kitchen from morning until long after the other siblings had gone home. She spent all her time cooking, serving, pouring, carving and doing whatever was necessary for a large family dinner. She worked at cleaning all the dishes, the pots and pans, the serving platters and ended the day putting the apartment back in order and completely cleaned.

Fragmentation within the family arose and began to grow. Over the years, dinners and gifts became sparse, in quantity and quality.

Those family dinners became a battleground, a family form of conflict. They were filled with critical and hurtful words. Angry and derogatory words. Judgemental and sarcastic words. My communication was ignored by them talking over it. The constant use of words such as idiot, fool, stupid, and many others, were used to describe me. Constantly being baited and goaded, over and over, year in and year out, eventually caused reactions of the most unfavorable kind. Attending these dinners eventually turned me into a reactionist. These family dinners were a form of sadistic torture. Continuing to attend these events, to please a certain family member, makes me a masochist. I always silently hoped that maybe this time, maybe this one dinner, will turn out differently.

Absolving myself of toxic family members, removing myself from family dinners is indeed the best Christmas present ever. Because it validates my existence, my integrity, my sense that I am a person that deserves respect. That validation, that sense of self-respect is the best Christmas present ever.