I can’t believe there was a time when I didn’t know about Anthony and the Johnsons. The lead singer, Anthony, is an enigma with a voice even Adele would envy. His falsetto trill and profound lyrics will lull you to whatever world he hails from. My favorite song is Hope There’s Someone, a plaintiff love song that usurps every song that came before by singing it raw and plainly, “I hope there’s someone who’ll take care of me, when I die, will I go.” Which to me starkly resonates the will of us all, we just hope there’s someone who will take care of us.
I prefer their live recordings, because you never know what you will witness. It doesn’t matter what version, I love Cripple and the Starfish. It is a song not meant to be as beautiful as it sounds. And we’ve all been there when we’re happy in a relationship, when it’s as healthy as it could be, yet we’re waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop and began questioning whether we deserve such happiness. Just listen to the lyrics, “I am very happy, so please hit me…I am very happy, so please hurt me.”
I could wax poetic about my next favorite song, but you simply must just listen. Rapture is the kind of song that makes you ache, not just because of the lyrics but the emotion the melody evokes. It’s about the end of it. That painful breakup, that saying goodbye to someone you love. The falling down of everything you’ve known. Reaching out toward…what?
Some other notables:
Now go listen!
I rarely comment on pop culture. Not because I don’t follow it, but because I’m mostly bored by the travails and triumphs of the famous kind. Except for Meryl Streep. She’s a goddess. I still read People magazine and I always check out the entertainment section of any news. I so don’t care who Jennifer Aniston is dating. Leave the poor girl alone and let her date. I am interested in fashion but not in their politics. I’m a moviephile, but I don’t care of their lives outside of the characters they play. Again, except for Meryl Streep.
Having said all that, I read Whitney Houston died and felt that pang of sadness. I know the world mourns the loss of her talent. It’s tragic that someone who seems to have had it all at her fingers could become a victim of her addictions. We do not know the cause of death yet, but everyone is holding their breath just knowing it’s drug related. Having a mother who is a full blown addict (even though she thinks a prescription means it’s not addiction), we’re always waiting for the time she takes an extra pill or increases her intake from three pain pills and three anti-depressants a day to an overdose or worse. I consulted an addiction specialist who advised me to mourn her as if she’s already passed. He assured me that unless she’s willing to seek treatment, there is absolutely nothing I can do but to demand her sobriety or I am no longer in her life. So my sister and I did it. Now, we just wait for the phone call.
I have sympathy for anyone who is beholden to addiction. It really isn’t a switch that can be shut off. It’s devastating not only to the people around them, but to themselves. I don’t believe in rock bottom, I believe it’s so much lower than that. I can’t imagine what my mother goes through every day in order to medicate herself to the point of comfort. I don’t believe it’s a choice she makes any longer. But there is a choice to get help. When your family and friends beg you to go into rehab, you are making a choice not to. Of course, she isn’t making decisions with a sober mind, but I do believe she sees the destruction she’s caused to those around her and no longer cares.
Yet, as I read Whitney Houston passed away, I thought about those Powell boys who were murdered by their father. That really is a true tragedy. They were innocent and subjected to their father’s evil. Who knows what talents they might have possessed or what they might have contributed to the world. It will never be known now.
I just remember shaking my head when Amy Winehouse drank herself to death. Just another in a long list of talented, famous people who succumb to their addictions. So, after watching the train wreck Whitney Houston became (and it was like watching a train wreck if you ever saw her reality show), she’s added to that list. I often wonder what it’s going to take to convince these troubled minds to live to a ripe old age.
I’ve been asked by more than one reader about my mother. Apparently she’s missing from my blogs lately and people are curious about my very complicated and volatile relationship with her. It’s like reading a book and there’s a protagonist and you’re just so curious about what really happened to them. I’m not sure if in my case if it’s more Patricia Cornwell or Stephen King. The truth is, I haven’t spoken to my mother since October. Now, before you judge me…..
The last time I saw my mother was at my aunt’s deathbed. I held my aunt’s hand and watched as she succumbed to the cancer that had been periodically visiting her body for the last fifteen years. She was ravaged by pain and regret and although we had a falling out, attributable mostly to my mother and my desire that my aunt stop enabling her prescription pill habit, we were able to communicate both our love and our sorrow before she passed. I comforted my mother in her sorrow and ignored her painful outbursts aimed at my aunt’s husband and myself. It was time to put aside petty things.
I thought the pain and the sorrow of losing her sister would be enough to make my mother realize what she was inflicting on her children and her grandchildren. She was not speaking to my sister. My sister had been angry and said angry words, and according to my parents they were unforgivable. They decided to never speak to my sister again, and in doing that had not spoken to their grandchildren either. I played mediator for a period of time, and had clung to a small vestige of hope that all of it could be resolved. I talked my sister into visiting the hospital with me while my aunt was still cognizant enough to know she was there. I watched from the doorway as my mother snarled at my sister and rolled her eyes and the disgust was palpable. My sister’s egregious act was by telling my mother and my father she was angry, she was hurt and they had caused it. For this, my mother could barely even look at her as she sat crying at my aunt’s bed side.
I was certain death would be the catalyst to bring us all together. After all, hadn’t my sister and I forgiven my parents so many things? There were instances of neglect that were so painful, and yet we saw past them. We had overlooked my mother’s drug addiction for years and had forgiven my father for enabling it. Surely, words spoken would not be the straw that broke my family’s back. Yet, even in the tragedy of death, they could not see beyond their own selfishness. First one, then two holidays past and they refused to see my sister or their grandchildren. I pleaded and ranted at my father, and still he held steadfast.
So, how is my mother? To be honest, I have no idea. I haven’t spoken to her in three months and neither will I. It seems cold dead hearted to abandon my parent when she needs me the most, but I’ve extricated myself from the guilt I’ve carried all these years. I cannot have a relationship with her while she’s on drugs, be them prescription or not. It has been her decision to not speak to my sister and her grandchildren. Now, she’s locked up in her house, sleeping in a recliner when she’s not watching Law and Order and I can’t imagine a more miserable existence. I once believed loving her could make a difference, but it hasn’t nor will it ever.
I’d like to say at least I have my father, but I’m no longer speaking to him either. His choice has always been to allow my mother to erode our family. He has chosen not to see his grandchildren. He has chosen to disown my sister. There was a time when I understood his pain, but those are bygone days. The history speaks for itself and my parents have to live with the choices and decisions they made. It sounds harsh and simplistic, but it’s anything but. I’m a parent and I love my child more than my own life. I cannot imagine she could say something so egregious I would cut her out of my life. I cannot imagine saying to her that her pain and the words she may say in it, are unforgivable.
I’ve thought a lot about this. After all, I was grateful I had sat at my aunt’s bed side and said goodbye to her. I was grateful I heard her apology and I was able to give mine. It’s beyond sad to waste moments that could be spent loving and understanding each other. But I hug my sister, this woman who was once this baby I loomed over in her crib. I had loved her wholeheartedly. She was a prelude to the daughter I would one day call my own. She is a beautiful soul, yet in so much pain directly caused by my parents. They did not keep us safe and did not protect us. She wears the open wounds of someone who longed for comfort and never received it.
It is a miracle neither of us are drug addicts or in prison. Instead, we turned to each other and found the comfort in our family of two. Our family expanded with our children and we swore we would do things differently, and we have. Our children have never felt alone in the world. We had each other. I remember laying in bed at night, whispering to each other in the room we shared, trying to cheer her up with funny stories. She deserved better. I deserved better.
So since my father insisted I had to choose a side, I did. I thought of my sister crying in a hallway with my mother smacking her and my father standing feebly by. I had pulled my mother off her and demanded my mother to leave. She didn’t and my father didn’t make her. But in that moment, we became all that each other ever had. So if my parents can’t forgive my sister for the words she said, then they have chosen to be alone. We are surprisingly happy and well adjusted. Not having to watch my mother slur her words and lash out while high on drugs is a relief. Not having to wonder why my father didn’t and doesn’t do more to prevent it is no longer an issue. We have each other. Maybe that’s what got us through it all.
Death puts everything in front of you in perspective
The question of what you really want becomes prevalent
I sat with my Aunt while she passed
Holding her hand
So young with so much unfinished
But she found happiness
Her husband was kissing her cheek
His tears falling onto her pale skin
He loved her completely
She didn’t leave this world alone
She left with her heart full of love
With the knowledge of what she left behind
Of who she touched
She left knowing she had what others long for
Looking into the mirror
I asked myself
Who are you?
What do you want?
My answers were no surprise
The Tibetan monks spend weeks creating sand mandalas, intricate sand painting of vibrant color and meaning. Once the mandala is complete, the monks then perform a ritual of sweeping up all the grains into a glass jar, wrapping it in a silk cloth, then distributing it in moving water. All the weeks of labor, of painstaking placing sand to represent deities and ancient symbols, swept away and carried across the water. The lesson in it all is that material life is impermanent. You and your things can be swept into a jar.
When my daughter was four we were living in NYC and I heard about a Tibetan festival being held on Long Island. Braving the city traffic, the bridge and Long Island, I drug her out in the cold fall morning to see something she could have cared less about. I was in a crisis of a sort. I had been since uprooting my daughter from Kentucky and moving to a city I knew nothing about with a man I was beginning to discover I knew even less about. Spending a Saturday with Tibetan monks seemed a better alternative to the chaos my life had become.
We arrived at this nondescript house down an equally unassuming road, drove up an impossibly steep driveway to stumble upon Shangri La. There among the apple trees was a Tibetan wonderland. Behind the main house was a large hall, open to the outside and there scattered on the rug on the floor were monks enveloped in orange robes, tied with ruby sashes, with their eyes closed and the most mournful, plaintiff chants emanating from their open mouths.
My daughter, usually a flurry of activity, paused in the doorway with me, holding my hand tightly with her eyes wide with wonder. We stood there, the pair of us, enraptured by these men in their robes, so removed from anything but the harmonious sound that carried us away. In that moment I was standing there with my little girl, whose tiny hand was intertwined in mine. It was just the two of us, experiencing something beautiful and profound and I had blinked away tears at the perfection of it all.
Later, after we were given paper mandalas to color and a small woven bag, we mulled around the grounds, saying hello to our like minded brethren. An elderly woman from Tibet approached us, her smile toothless and her face creased with the beauty of her life. She crouched before my daughter and ruffled her hair, pinching her cheeks. Then she looked up at me, her dark eyes alit with something I could only describe as happiness, and remarked I was surrounded by love. It was one of those remarks you file away.
I was watching something on television the other night and they were explaining the sand mandalas. My little girl, now a beautiful young woman, turned to me and asked me if I remembered that morning we went to the Buddhist temple. I did remember, I told her. I had been thinking about the same thing. That morning, listening to those monks, seeing that old woman. I am surrounded by love. At the time, I thought it meant I had people who loved me. My daughter, my family, my circle of friends and the man I had moved to NYC to be with.
Years later, sitting in my living room, I realized that’s not what she meant at all. I am surrounded by love. I am the carrier of it, not the recipient. I am the one with the open heart who was shocked by the power of loving my daughter, whose heart flew open with the possibility of getting love in return. I am surrounded by love and it’s mine to give with no expectation of it returned. To love a book, a song, a band or a perfect Saturday morning. Love is not restricted to people. It can apply to food, to scents or to soft sheets. You can love this life despite all it’s impermanence. I have built my life mandala, only to have it swept away in a stream, but always return to work on another one. This time more intricate, more colorful than the last. To see for a brief moment, this life in its entirety and then to sweep it up.
I am surrounded by love. And love is all you need.
Cancer has always been on the periphery of my family. My great grandmother died from it, my grandmother Tumor died from, yes, you guessed it, a tumor. My aunt had colon cancer at thirty five. It’s always been there lurking.
Now it has invaded my immediate family. My father recovered from surgery, the tumor was small and supposedly all gone. It has not invaded the surrounding tissue or lymph nodes. He’s home from the hospital and resuming life, albeit with the knowledge he had cancer. It was there and now it’s gone. Gone. Stay gone.
I would be remiss as a human being for not wondering when it’s my turn. When does the Russian roulette of junky genes call my number? My new attitude has been “if it’s not happening right now, it’s not happening.” A mantra I’m repeating over and over as I lay in the dark blocking out whatever negative thoughts might try to creep in my conscience. It’s not happening to me right now, so it’s time to concentrate on my father, on my daughter, on this life I’m navigating.
I keep telling myself I’m different from my family. I have never smoked, and they all were heavy smokers for at least 20 years or longer. I’m a vegetarian. I attempt exercise. I meditate. I try to wash whatever bitterness I have on my skin off in the shower. But it’s still a roulette wheel isn’t it. If it’s my turn, then it is.
I’m not going to change the life I’m trying to carve out because of fear. Fear has never been a friend of mine. It’s led to rash decisions that have reverberated through my life. I won’t allow fear to dictate my future. Or cancer.
I am the captain of my own destiny. Or something profound like that.
Just as I began my search in earnest for my love of all things food, my father is diagnosed with colon cancer. It was a devastating blow to all of us. There is the worry and concern for my father, and then the worry and resentment my mother is in no way able to take care of him. There was one day of complete worry about the future for him or if there would be one. Then he saw his surgeon and hope sprang eternal when he was informed he would have a less invasive surgery and basically resume a normal life.
My sister and I sat at the table with our parents, and we both pleaded the case for healthier eating. My father is the type to eat a dinner, a second helping then a bologna sandwich an hour later. Their cupboards are stocked with chips, sweet treats and enough carbs to fuel the Boston Marathon. Their freezer is overflowing with frozen food and ice cream. My sister and I insisted he needed to change his diet not only for this latest health set back, but also because of his twenty year battle with heart disease.
The first thing my mother did is angrily insist his diet does not need to change. Our relationship now is cold and distant, there is resentment and anger simmering between us like a volatile moltov cocktail waiting to explode at any moment. There have been several times I’ve pleaded with my mother to not bring boxes of Ho Ho’s and Twinkies into the house. She insists my father should have more willpower and be able to not eat the things he shouldn’t.
When I first returned to Kentucky, I began cooking healthy foods for my father. We attempted a strict heart healthy diet in hopes of helping him lose pounds quickly after yet another heart stint was necessary. My mother doubled her efforts to bring home his favorite fatty foods and by the time I moved out, the diet was long forgotten and he had returned to enjoying fried foods with mom again. My mother also refuses to smoke outside despite begin informed by a Cardiologist she should for my father’s health.
So, I thought about food again but this time as a way to nourish and heal the body. I’m making double steel cut oatmeal this morning and I wish I could convince my father how it’s not only healthy, but delicious. I believe the biggest obstacle to my father changing his eating habits, is indeed my mother. She likes the attention on her and her illnesses. Yesterday, when we sat at the table, she began crying and everyone there completely ignored her. Within seconds, her tears were dried and she stomped off to another room. My father’s health has now become the focus of our attention and she does not like it.
I’m now not thinking about my love of food, but what it does for my body. When I eat healthy, I feel healthy. With the gene pool I’ve been cursed with, it’s more important than ever that I am mindful of what I do put in my body. It’s not enough I’ve given up meat and maintain a vegetarian lifestyle. I’ve given up coffee and have replaced my tea with decaf. I’m insisting my daughter make healthier choices. Who knows maybe by example I can convince my father to replace his ice cream with Greek yogurt.
I know I’m supposed to be happy this man who inflicted such evil in the world is dead. Don’t get me wrong. I am relieved such evil no longer exists. It is a sigh of relief that a man with no other agenda but to create destruction and death in the world, is no longer part of it. Yet, it does feel strange to celebrate the death of anyone.
I can imagine it is akin to the death of Hitler. He was a man, but his diabolical soul made him so much less than that. The death of someone so removed from the human race cannot be a bad thing can it?
I suppose I had hoped we would find Bin Laden, crouching in a spider hole like Hussein. I wanted to show him unkempt and unworthy of any idolatry. I had hoped his followers would see him as what he really was. Just a man. A man living less a life than those he tried to murder. Not someone to be martyred or beatified, but someone who exposed himself as just flesh and bones and vitriolic hatred of those who found the goodness in life.
I know he’ll be a martyr to the cause now. A sacrifice to the agenda of those who no longer understand what it means to be part of a race of people. I’m relieved he’s gone. But he will not be the last of his kind. I just hope they can be exposed for the cowards they are before it is too late.