Posted in Inside Lane

We Don’t Hit


Dementia surprises me on the regular. I meet aspects of my mother’s personality that were previously hidden to me. We have conversations I don’t think we ever could have had before, but now, I’m having those conversations with someone who cannot understand what they do or mean to me.

The week we moved my mom into memory care, she had a really hard time. After helping her with a shower that she did not want, I started helping comb out her hair. She’s tender-headed and I was being as gentle and slow as I could be.

She just fussed and snarled, and complained. I flashed back to the number of times she had left knots on my head, cracking me hard with the backside of a plastic Goody hairbrush for complaining, or moving, or–God forbid–crying while she teased my hair into a bouffant style. For a second, I hesitated and considered whacking her with the flat side of the comb. Her scalp looked so pink, though. That would really hurt.

I told myself I didn’t want to hurt her, but an ugly little part of me reared its head and said I did. I pushed that part of me down and satisfied myself by threatening it instead. “Hey, now. Do you want me to do what you used to do to me and whack you on the head every time you fuss?”

My mother scoffed and pouted. “I didn’t do that to you! Your mother did.”

I was still in the memory of sitting on my knees on the toilet lid, trying to cover my head and getting my knuckles cracked for my trouble. I laughed, “Yes. My mother did.”

Mom sighed then, and shook her head, making it harder to comb. I urged her to be still and she said, “I used to tell her, “Don’t you hit that little girl!” But she never listened to me. She never listened to me. She just hit that little girl again and again. All the time.

“I tried to protect that little girl from her mother, but I couldn’t. Please tell that girl. I’m sorry. I really tried.”

I was frozen, not sure what to do, but she was so plaintive and sincere, and I realized I was getting an apology. Sure, it was from a disassociated personality, but at least somebody in there realized I needed one, deserved one.

Patting her shoulder, I went back to combing. “I will. I will tell her.”

She went back to fussing that I was pulling too hard.

*

It is true that my mother used to hit me.

“Don’t you mean she spanked you?”

When I worked up enough nerve to tell someone, that’s what they asked me. More than once. It was a rhetorical question. “Your mother loves you more than anything in the world. She would never hurt you. I’m sure you just mean she gave you a spanking.”

I quit telling anyone. No one wanted to hear it.

It is also true that my mother loved me more than anything in the world.

So, it’s weird. My mom doted on me, lived for me, adored me, and also beat the shit out of me on a regular basis. She did call it spanking, and she explained that I just had very fair skin and that’s why I ended up with bruises and weals. It wasn’t how hard she was hitting me, or with what. It was just that I was pale. It was normal. And face slapping and backhanding, well…I was sassy. If I learned to watch my mouth…

She had this thing she did where she would do the “spanking” part, then she would make me sit in her lap and she would cuddle me and tell me how much she loved me. It became a ritual. Family remarked on it. “Look how much that little girl loves her mother.”

*

When I was three, we lived in Colorado.

My mom tells this story and she laughs. I used to laugh with her because I thought I had to.

I wandered away from her in the fabric store in Cinderella City Mall. I remember being lost, but I knew the way to the store owned by one of our neighbors. I asked someone to take me to that store, and that’s where she found me. Along the way, I lost my little blue sweater. It had a hood. A part of me still keens for that sweater–I really loved that sweater. I know where I left it. It was on the back of a chair.

I don’t remember the part between my mom finding me, and my mom taking me into the restroom. I do remember how afraid I was when I realized she was angry. She carried a wooden spoon in her bag, just in case. I do remember trying to get under the sinks in the restroom. Surreally, I remember the way the acoustics amplified my voice when I screamed. And, I remember two ladies rushing in and trying to stop her.

I remember her posture and the way her back looked when she got between those ladies and me, and I remember her threatening to flush one of them down the toilet if she didn’t mind her own business.

I also remember worrying and crying more, and saying, “I’m okay! Leave her alone!”

The ladies left and my mother resumed, and finished “spanking” me.

My mom loved this story because she thought it was so funny that the other ladies ran away, and she loved that I had defended her against them.

I was three.

I was three, but I knew the anger really well. I was used to having my face slapped. I was used to being taken by the shoulders and shaken until my teeth rattled. I was used to being slung around and just generally hurt. And I was used to being cuddled and petted, and adored after the hurting stopped.

*

I was sitting in the activity room with my mom and she was telling me about how terribly everyone in the facility treated her. “No one likes me. And they are all mean to me. They push me and they pull me, and they won’t let me go where I want to go.”

One of the first things I learned was that you can’t reason with Dementia, so I just let her talk and didn’t try to explain. She went on, her credibility dipping as she told me that my aunt had called her that morning to ask her to come fix her car, and how she had driven all the way to Alaska to do so. My aunt lives in San Antonio. She left Alaska when I was a toddler. Also, I know they haven’t spoken in quite a while.

“I’m telling you, Lane, I am telling you. I’m going to hurt someone here.” She veered swiftly away from a three-level parking garage in Juneau and back to the memory care–which she believes is a prison. “I’m just starting to realize how much…anger…I have inside of me.”

“Just now?” I laughed.

It was like that time she told me she was mellow and easygoing and I nearly ran the car off the road laughing because those are the last two words anyone who’s known my mother for more than five minutes would choose to describe her. Mellow. I’m laughing right now.

Suddenly, she was right there in the moment with me. For a second, her eyes cleared and she tilted her head and regarded me shrewdly. I picked my chin up from where it rested in my hand, and looked back at her.

Slowly, seriously, lucidly she said, “I have used that anger to hurt you. I have really hurt you with that anger, haven’t I?”

“You did the best you could,” I answered. I didn’t want to upset her, but I couldn’t deny it either.

“Oh, Sweetie. I am so sorry. I am so sorry. There is so much I would change.”

“I know.” I took her hand. “You did the best you could–and look! I turned out okay.”

“You turned out more than okay. Oh, Girl, you are my heart. You are my world.”

“I know.”

“And these people here are so jealous of you,” she snorted, and she was gone. Dementia regained possession of her and she shared her belief that her nurses were trying to drive a wedge between us because they were jealous of our relationship and wanted her to themselves.

I put my chin back in my hand and let Dementia rattle on until she tired herself out.

 

*

My son was around two the first and only time I slapped him. He was in the backseat of the car and he had been screaming non-stop in a tantrum for 45 minutes in traffic. I lost my temper, reached back and struck him in the face with my open palm. As soon as I’d done it, I wanted to die. I wanted to pull the car over, gather him up out of that car seat and hold him and love him, and beg him to forgive me. I can still see his eyes in the rearview mirror. He was so betrayed. I vowed I would never do that again. I’m still sick over it.

My son was about three the first and only time I ever spanked him. I gave him five swats on the butt–mostly hand to diaper through his tiny shorts. I’ve never done it again. He was so small, and I was so big. I made a decision to never lay a hand on him again.

Have I wanted to hit him since then? YES. Yes. That time he purposefully headbutted me in the face so hard I saw stars? He was three then. I was holding him and he was pissed off. But he was so small, and I was so big.

I handed him to his father and walked away.

He has smarted off at me as a tween in such a way that I have wanted to haul off and backhand him into next week, but we don’t hit. We don’t hit.

The last time my mother hit me, I was fifteen. We were standing in the kitchen. We were disagreeing. She said something. I said, “Duh,” and rolled my eyes. Next thing I knew, there was blood in my mouth and my glasses were on the floor.

My mother was abused as a child. She told me about it regularly. She gave me great detail about the whens, the hows, the whos of her abuse, and she told me how lucky I was that she only hurt me a little bit, when I deserved it. She told me how lucky I was that she never loaned me to other people to abuse. This, as she rocked me, stroking my head after she’d hurt me.

By the time I was three, I knew how badly my mother had been abused, and that I was lucky she loved me so much and only beat me a little bit.

I was lucky. She could have done me a lot worse. And, at least by over-sharing all that information, when I grew up and faced down the demons that were haunting me, I could understand why she wasn’t able to win against the demons she’d been fighting.

She did the best she could.

I’m doing the best I can.

My son will do even better.

*

The best I can includes sometimes staying away.

In the past couple of years, my mother’s increasing helplessness and attending neediness, clinginess, and anxious drowning-man grip have threatened my grasp on kindness and keeping of gentle hands.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Man–I feel that as an adult who is trying to give patient care to a parent whose patience was best described as thin. I have had every opportunity to do unto my mother as she did unto me.

So far, I have not given into the temptation, but I have to work against it. Old bitterness, and a Greek chorus of ghosts from my memories shove me toward cruelty like boys pushing their friend toward a fight. “Do it! Say it! She deserves it! Get her!”

I have forgiven, but forgetfulness is a challenge. I remember. I can’t help but remember, and then I want to avenge myself. For a very real moment, I want to fight for the child who could not fend for herself.

But then I look at her. She’s so small now, and I’m so big. She is so weak and frail, and I am so strong. I could break her. It would be easy to break her.

But, we don’t hit. We don’t hit with hands, and we don’t hit with words.

So, I hand her over to professionally trained caregivers and I walk away.

*

My grandfather didn’t have a father, and from all accounts, his mother did not care for him very well. He was the love of my life until he passed that torch to my husband, and Thor came along. I’ve often wondered what he could have been if he’d had a loving family.

When I had Thor, the goal I set for myself as a parent was to be the kind of mother to him that I thought my grandfather had deserved. I figured the best way to honor my grandfather was to treat my child the way I wish he had been treated. I wanted my son to have the chances my grandfather didn’t have.

I wanted to parent into the past to make a better future.

My mom was grossly abused. Grossly. Shamefully abused. I have often wondered what she could have been if someone had protected and cherished her.

When I took over care for my mom, the goal I set for myself was to be the kind of mother I wish she’d had. Because, if she’d had that mother, my mother might have been able to resist those demons that always got the better of her.

I am parenting the moment to heal the past–hers and mine.

 

(My mom did the best she could. And this isn’t the whole story of who my mom was. A big part of that story was told on the stage of Listen to Your Mother Austin, when I shared how my mother’s love shaped some of the best parts of me. Watch the video at the link above, or read the story on Scary Mommy here. My mom had issues because of untreated trauma, but she tried really, fucking hard to do better than had been done to her. And I always knew that I was loved. She’s not a monster or a saint, just a human mom who sometimes failed, and sometimes knocked it out of the park with parenting.

If you know a child who is being abused, this is a great resource.

If you are abusing your child, or if you are afraid you might abuse your child, this is a great resource. Call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) then push 1 to Talk to a Hotline Counselor for help.)

 

 

 

Advertisements
Posted in Dealing with your Olds, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Inside Lane

The Call Is Coming From Inside


Hindsight is 20/20. 

 

Looking back, my Mom was exhibiting behaviors symptomatic of dementia as many as five years before the day I found her wandering around her house in a state of pantsless confusion, and hijacked her out of the 3-bedroom house of my childhood and into an independent senior living community. 

 

My mom has always been a little…weird. Her behaviors have never followed any kind of norm, or been at all regimented. Her moods have always swung wildly between delight and despair. She has always been unusually paranoid. She has always been abnormally unpredictable, careless and scatter-brained, and sometimes frighteningly in denial of reality. It was all part of her charm if you weren’t living with it.

 

So, the night she called me from a stranger’s phone because she had lost hers and then gotten lost in Dallas, I just chalked it up to my mom being her kooky, forgetful self. If she hadn’t had my son with her, I wouldn’t have given it another thought.

 

The stranger gave her directions to get home, and I met her at her house to pick up my son and take her a burner phone to use until we could retrieve or replace hers. She was as distressed as I’ve ever seen her. 

 

Before we did anything else, I started dialing her phone to see if maybe it was just under or between a seat. We could hear it, which was great. But we couldn’t see it. Finally, when Mom and I leaned into the same space, I realized it was coming from her. The call was coming from inside. Inside her blouse. It was in her bra.

 

We laughed, sort of. She was embarrassed and angry. I was worried and angry. And, we were both in denial that something was really wrong. 

 

I told myself that maybe her chest area was still numb from the heart surgery she’d had the year before. Maybe that’s why she couldn’t feel the vibration that accompanied the sound? I mean, she’d always gotten lost while driving. Half of my childhood was my mother being lost and us having to stop and ask directions. 

 

It was easy to ignore the problem because I didn’t want to see it. The problem inconvenienced my life. It meant I had to have hard conversations with my mom about moving out of her house. It meant hard conversations were coming about whether her driving days were over. It meant confrontation about how she couldn’t take my son out anymore, and inconvenience to me because she was my best babysitter. It meant hurting her feelings and insulting her sense of dignity. And, it meant confronting my own mortality. 

 

The writing was on the wall, though, and I started trolling the internet for information about how to ease cranky seniors out of their homes into Homes. I narrowed my search from Everywhere down to 3 potential places.

 

Then, in September of 2017, after she hadn’t answered her phone in a few days, I went to her house to find her wandering through her hoarder’s nest dressed in only a t-shirt. She was confused about what day of the week it was and why I was there, and I couldn’t be sure the last time she’d eaten. 

 

I took her to IHOP and fed her, which seemed to help clear up her head, then took her to my house, where she stayed until I moved her into the Independent Living community a mile away.

 

Since her official move-in date of October 31, 2017 and her official diagnosis of Vascular Dementia on November 13, 2017, I’ve learned a lot about Elder Care, Independent versus Assisted Living, and Memory Care versus nursing homes. I’ve learned the differences between hospitalized rehab and skilled nursing rehab, geriatric psychiatric units versus geriatric behavior units, versus geriatric care. I’ve learned about Powers of Attorney and Medical Directives. I’ve sold my mom’s house and researched the best way to save her money. I’ve also freaked out a lot about her money.

 

I’ve dealt with doctor’s appointments, and insurance, and the Department of the Navy, and the IRS. We’ve been through multiple stays in the hospital, a stroke, surgery, and recovery. I’ve managed her friends and family, a full-time job, and a teenager, and perimenopause.

 

I’ve learned tricks to manage medication and mental illness, while trying to take care of my own physical and mental health. I’ve learned to do what is necessary and let the rest go. I learned to let the internet carry my load, and let my friends carry me.

 

I’m kind of tired of learning right now.

Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, Family, Inside Lane, relationships

My Mother’s Keeper


You’ll notice I haven’t posted here since September of 2017. I hadn’t even realized that until I came to make this post, which works out because the reason I stopped posting is also the reason I’m coming to post today: My mom.

On Facebook, I’ve been sharing a lot of the journey I’ve been on with her declining mental health over the past two years, but especially the past three months, and I’ve had so many people reach out I decided to share with a wider audience.

So, let’s start in September of 2017 and I’ll get you up to speed.

Actually, let’s start in October of 2008, when my mother was recovering from colorectal cancer in my home and I realized I was not a nurse, I was not a natural-born caregiver, and my mom was a double-fisted handful of impossible to please when she’s ill. I mean, I already knew that last part. I had remembered that from my childhood. What was new was realizing that my patience level had changed.

In October of 2008, my son was three, my husband was working full time and going to school full time. I was also working a stressful, full-time job, caring for my little family, and then driving 1.5 hours every night ONE WAY to visit my mother in the hospital, until I brought her home after a series of events in the hospital nearly killed her.

I learned that I had the patience to be my son’s mother or the patience to be my mother’s caregiver, but I did not enough for both–and that’s probably the healthiest realization I’ve ever come to and set me up for success in the following years. I don’t feel bad about that. I have limits and I know what they are.

From 2008 through 2014, at intervals, I would ferry my mother to and from appointments in order to be the detail-keeper. I took her to the MRI appointment when she took 3x the dosage of valium they had suggested and then behaved so cruelly and so badly that I chose not to connect with her for a couple of weeks after I was sure she was back to normal. (She needed the MRI because in a bout of what was increasingly erratic behavior, she had “playfully” charged my son like a bull, tripped, and busted open my front door with her head, pile-driving my then-7-year-old first-grader into a flight of stairs. She hit the door so hard, it knocked out a chunk of drywall when it hit the wall. A couple of years later, while “playfully” grabbing at my son, she would trip, fall, and break her arm.)

In 2014, when she had open-heart surgery, I reprised my role of caregiver both before and after her hospital stay, and was there when she went absolutely apeshit in the ICU for three days. I stayed at her house with her to help her settle in and it was pure, unadulterated misery for both of us. I couldn’t do anything right for her, and she couldn’t find any relief. My mom suffered every emotional side-effect associated with open-heart surgery, without the willingness to do anything the doctor or I asked her to do.

When we made our 6-week return to the surgeon, my mom (whose recovery had been arduous and unending) admitted that she had stopped taking any of the medication that had been prescribed after surgery because she didn’t think she needed it, and I lost my shit. I sat through the surgeon berating me for not taking better care of her, and not making sure she was taking her medication (I would ask, she would say yes, that was that.) I sat through her truculent response to his insistence that she take her medicine. And, I sat through at least five red lights on our way home before I absolutely lost my shit.

I was furious that I had spent so much time and expended so much emotional energy into her health, only to have her scoff and say she could cure herself with herbs. I was enraged that I had missed important things with my son so I could sit by her side while she recovered since she was just going to kill herself with a refusal to cooperate with the doctor after the fact. I was livid about all the pieces I had been forced to pick up before and after her surgery, and what all I’d had to give up and do just to make her home habitable for when she returned from the hospital. I had poured money, time, sweat, and a lot of tears into her health. All she had to do was take some pills.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than that. It always is.

A transient ischemic attack (or, TIA), is what kicked off the ER visit that led to the heart surgery. Now, I know that a TIA can also kick off or kick up levels of Vascular Dementia. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I can see that in the weeks and months after the TIA, my mom’s mental health was never the same. I can see that she honestly could not understand the importance of her medication routine. I can see that the part of her mind that helped her plan for the future, and helped her reason was crippled. I can see that my mother’s current diagnosis of vascular dementia probably got its start in 2014–maybe earlier.

All I knew then was that my mother knew she had Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, and she wasn’t willing to do the work to manage either issue, and I had a child to raise and a marriage to foster. I had to work, and I had my own physical and mental health issues to deal with. So, unless she needed me for transportation due to anesthesia (colonoscopies 2x a year) or wanted company at the doctor, I released her to her own healthcare. I worried, but I let go of responsibility.

Over the course of the next three years, I saw (but did not recognize) all the symptoms of dementia in my mother:

  • Confusion
  • Trouble paying attention and concentrating
  • Reduced ability to organize thoughts or actions
  • Decline in ability to analyze a situation, develop an effective plan and communicate that plan to others
  • Difficulty deciding what to do next
  • Problems with memory
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Unsteady gait
  • Sudden or frequent urge to urinate or inability to control passing urine
  • Depression or apathy

I started scouting senior living facilities because I was worried about her house falling down around her, and her not being able to manage or maintain it (and also because I plan in advance like I’m playing chess with Death), and I started trying to convince my mom that she needed to move.

We fought a lot. A LOT. Our usual daily communication dwindled because her behavior was so erratic and unsettling. She was not emotionally reliable, and I started pulling way back on the time she spent with my son because I felt like she was using him to fortify herself. It wasn’t healthy for him. She started asking him to lie for her, and that was the end of that. She thought I was mean and condescending. I thought she was stubborn and killing herself.

And that’s where we were in September of 2017, when after three days of her not answering her phone, I went to her house and found her wandering around pantsless and weeping.

And that’s the day I became my mother’s keeper.

Posted in Howling Sea Lane, Inside Lane

Falling off Bikes and DACA


Thor and I like riding our bikes. Last night, I skidded out on the downward slope of a gravel incline and went over my handlebars into a metal railing and tried to mop up all the rocks with my leg meat. As quickly as I could, I scrambled up and off the bike path, Thor hurrying to catch up and make sure I wasn’t too badly damaged. It was pretty grim.

I ended up looking like someone had taken a cheese grater to my legs, and forearms, and had to take off a sock to staunch the blood flow from the chunk I took out of my palm, but we rode another quarter mile to the water fountains where I could clean up some before heading back home. We were nearly three miles away from the house at that point, and I was not looking forward to the trek. But, what else do you do? No way out but through.

I told the kid, as blood ran down into a puddle in my shoe, making a squish sound as I pedaled, “If you’re going to bike regularly, eventually something like that is going to happen to you. I’m not going to lie. Right this second, I hurt like fuck, but we can’t stop. We have to keep going. And if you ever fall like that and you don’t have your phone, you can’t stop. You have to keep going no matter how bad it hurts. I want you to keep in mind what you saw me do, how I reacted, and I want you to not be afraid of falling or of getting back up.

You can’t just lie in the road because then you run the risk of someone hurting you worse by accident, and them getting hurt–you have to get up and get out of the way, then get home because otherwise, you can be the start of a bad domino effect.”

I told him about a couple of other falls I’d taken, bad enough that I had to walk my bike back home because both the bike and I were too wrecked to ride, trying to really impress that the important thing is making it back home before you break down.

We rode home, and I went into the bathroom and cried because…oh my god. So painful.

broken-bike

Jeff Sessions just announced the rescission of DACA, and for a lot of people, it’s like going over the handlebars of a swiftly moving bicycle. Teeth are coming out on impact with this one. It’s bad. It hurts like fuck. Let’s take a second to acknowledge that hurt, then let’s act. Let’s get out of the road. Let’s take off a sock and cover up the worst cuts. Let’s find a place to clean off. Then, let’s get back on the road and pedal like crazy toward home. Home being the place where children brought to this country, who have grown up in the US for all intents and purposes as much citizens as my own born-here baby, have assurances of continued safety and a path to legal citizenship.

Our next step is to contact our representatives in Congress and demand that they protect our Dreamers. And once we’ve done that, we can go into the bathroom and cry. Then, we’ve got to rinse and repeat until those children and adult-children are safe from being deported to countries they haven’t seen (for some) since infancy.

I just learned a fancy new way to accomplish this and started my love affair with the deliciously subversive sounding Resistbot.

Text the word “Resist” to 50409 and Resistbot will connect with you and help you contact your representatives. I asked my Senators, as a citizen of the United States and a proud Texan to strive to save DACA through congressional action. I asked them not to let our Dreamers down.

If you are reading this and you are a Dreamer, your bike might be too wrecked to get yourself home. Hop on mine. I’ll pedal. You rest until you feel strong enough to fight again. I know a bunch of people with bikes. We’ll work together for you.

 

 

 

Posted in Inside Lane

Walk Humbly with Your God


Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:9

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Exodus 20:4

These are the scriptures that have been ringing in my ears as I watched the news coming out of Charlottesville, VA over the past few days. Walk humbly with your God, eschewing false idols/carved images, showing love to your fellow man–the kind of love you demand for yourself. The kind of love that would lay down its life that you might live free.

I’ve thought about those scriptures while watching people who call themselves Christians argue to maintain statues of men who were willing to die that other men might live enslaved, treated as animals or objects, to be bought and sold at the whim of a human master.

I watched a man commit murder over a statue.

I watched other men beat an unarmed man with flag poles over a statue.

And I have asked myself, where would Jesus have been in that crowd, and I’m afraid the answer is that he would have been either on the beating end of a flag pole or the hood ornament of a Dodge Challenger.

I was raised, making heroes of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I was raised to have pride in my Southern heritage, and devotion to the idea that we, as an oppressed group, would surely rise again. I loved that flag. I loved that song. I loved being part and parcel of the romance of the Antebellum South.

841087_10204767378849994_3651558253606184553_o
Tiny Lane on a visit to a plantation in Alabama, circa 1975.

Then I met people who thought differently. I talked and argued, made an ass of myself on a regular basis and kept saying things like, “I’m not a racist, but…” until something got through to me. I don’t know what it was. I can’t even tell you when it happened. I just woke up and something had gotten through my thick head and into my heart.

Maybe it was the birth of my son? Maybe it was the thought of every other mother out there. Maybe it was because I kept hearing the scripture about Rachel crying out for her children. Maybe it was realizing that if I’d been born enslaved, someone could have sold my son away from me and not even God in heaven could have kept it from happening. There is no romance in that notion. There is no romance to that world. There is nothing either sweet or nostalgic about a world whose beauty is made on the shredded backs of enslaved people.

As Thor and I were talking yesterday, we talked about statues and what they mean, and where they belong. We talked about how no matter how you slice it, no matter how many excuses or how many #notallsoutherners you throw at it, no matter how many points you can get across about the wrongdoings of the Union, the bottom line is that the Confederacy was fighting to protect an economy that was only possible through slave labor.

I asked him how he would like to work for no wages. Or how he would like to know that his parents could be sold off away from him at any time. Or how he would like to know that he was less valuable than a horse. Because no matter how many other reasons the South might have had to rise up, so long as they were protecting their right to tell a little boy he was a thing not a person, they were wrong. They were wrong.

And we shouldn’t celebrate men for fighting for the right to oppress other men, no matter how they treated their own slaves–and god the bile just rises up when I type that because there shouldn’t have been slaves to begin with, and no one should get a cookie for “freeing” his own.

We shouldn’t celebrate war period. But shame on us for insisting that we honor the politics that meant the deaths of so many brave men and women–because that’s what we’re ultimately doing. We’re celebrating the politics that forced people to choose sides when the right thing being done to begin with would have saved so much blood.

Celebrate and honor your heritage with honesty and with humility, and with the understanding that your story isn’t the only one worth telling. I am Southern. My roots run deep. I am not proud of our part of the mark on history left by slavery. But I am very proud of the individual people who make up my bootstrapping family with the understanding that what made our bootstrapping possible was the fact that we were white.

 

10644140_10204767378329981_4287887250798481665_o
Tiny Lane contemplates the decor.

 

I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir. It’s just important that the choir knows which pulpit I’m standing in. And if you happen to read this and are offended by it, I suggest you spend some quiet time asking yourself why and playing devil’s advocate with your own discomfort.

When I’m thinking about statues, I’m thinking about my kind-hearted, tender, little boy, and I’m wondering what it would mean to him to have to walk past a memorial honoring a man who was willing to die to protect the idea that my son (had he been born a Black child) was not a full human.

Think about that. Think about what it would mean to you to know that someone was willing to give his life so that you might be enslaved. Think about what it would mean to you to know that we were honoring someone who was willing to DIE so that someone else could own you. Really. Seriously. Think about that. That’s what we do to lovely, decent people all the time.

I’m wondering what it does to the psyches of little boys and girls everywhere, who grow up being told, “You’re equal,” but then have to walk into schools named for men who were willing to die to protect an institution that meant buying and selling them like animals or furniture.

I’m wondering what it does to the hearts of children to look up into the stone faces of men who, if the war had gone differently, were fighting to maintain the right to keep them in chains.

Why are we okay with sending those messages to our children?

And keep in mind that it isn’t just White Southerners who lost the war. Black Southerners lost it, too. What did we do, as a Southern Nation, to help the freed slaves find lives? We were too busy licking our own wounds and trying to survive, and some of us were buying sheets, and starting lynch mobs to do much other than nothing. We cannot, must not forget how we responded to those men, women, and children after the war. Remembering that in some states, like Texas, we didn’t even bother letting the slaves know they’d been emancipated.

Yes, many White people did good and valuable things. Let’s put up some statues of them if we need statues. Let’s put up some statues of abolitionists in the places of generals and failed presidents. If we have to have statues of white people, let’s find some decent ones.

And know that it pains me to trash talk Robert E. Lee because I have a very hard time not hero-worshipping him as a cross between Santa Claus and Jesus. But Santa never laid switches across a man’s back, or fought for his right to do it. And Jesus sure-as-shooting never took up a cross for anyone’s right to treat another man like a mule.

So, I’m going to stick to worshipping the dude who said that the greatest love is characterized by laying down our lives for our neighbors–sometimes the best way to lay down your life is to set aside your false idols and show love through humility.

10710310_10204767377929971_4365333368403921960_o
Tiny Lane bids you adieu.