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Monthly Archives: August 2011

I’m good. I’m always good.

“I understand now that the vulnerability I’ve always felt is the greatest strength a person can have. You can’t experience life without feeling life. What I’ve learned is that being vulnerable to somebody you love is not a weakness, it’s a strength.”  ~Elisabeth Shue 

“There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.” ~M. Scott Peck 

“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ~Madeleine L’Engle 

Hi. My name is Tabitha and I have the incessant fear of being vulnerable. This fear most often plays out in my desire for control and my extreme discomfort of not being in control. If you know me at all, this is nothing new to you. You will rarely, if ever get a call from Tabitha in tears or some extreme emotional state. Despite my mental or physical state my response to “how are you?” is always “I’m good,” because the Tabitha that I prefer to show the world is always good and always in control. I have a tendency to deprive myself of things I enjoy be it food, an activity or even a person just to prove to myself that I do not “need” anything. Since I am far from okay with “feeling” things from a personal stand point, I find myself preferring highly emotional music (i.e. love songs and country music), depressing documentary and tragic romance movies. These have become a safe outlet for me to express emotion without the feelings of weakness or personal connection. I have no personal connection to the dog that died in that random country song or the heart that broke in the movie. This allows me to sympathize without personally feeling that pain.

I have an incredible gift of making others feel very safe, open and vulnerable with me without ever reciprocating the same vulnerability or openness with them. I will give my body, my time, my money before ever considering giving my heart to others. I imagine that many people share my fear of vulnerability and the underlying problem of worth. At our core we all desire to be loved and give love freely. Will others still find us worthy of love if we expose all of us? In my heart I know and feel I am worthy of love. Self-esteem issues have never been associated with “that pretty pretty girl” or “The Great”. So what is keeping me from “tearing” down the walls that prevent me from displaying vulnerability in a real way? My independent nature kept me from a lot of the “peer-pressure” issues that many of my friends fell into, but it is also keeping me from forming real connections with others. I hate the feeling of depending on something, mostly because of the possibility of being let down. We have a way of manifesting both our dreams and fears, the energy I have spent on thoughts that people will let me down have manifest into people letting me down. In two separate occasions this month I feel like I’ve expressed to two members of the “inner circle” of Tab, that I needed them in a specific way- something that rarely occurs, for whatever reason they were not able to provide the support I desired from them. Which only strengthen my resolved of independence and desire of not ever needing to be in a position of “needing” anyone in my life. While I have purposely distanced myself from those two individuals, I do realize they probably do not know how I am currently feeling about them. Perhaps I was not as clear about what role I needed them to play as I thought I was. The mature thing would be to express and discuss these feelings with them, but I rather ignore and repress until I am over the disappointment and resentment.

I really wish I was writing this to tell you that I am actively facing my fear of being vulnerable, but I am not. I will probably continue to speak more candidly Oprah’s life than my own. Sharing random news stories or celebrity gossip rather than giving any tangible news about my life. My answer to “How are you?” will continue to be “I’m good. I’m always good.” I will maintain some aspect of distance from all of those around me, never truly trusting others with all of me. While also realizing that in order for me ever to really grow as a person, friend or lover- I will ultimately have to face those fears of vulnerability.

~Just Tab

I really hate these types of blogs- the emotional/ self-reflective type, but when a girl can’t sleep at 4am her thoughts have to go somewhere. I promise there won’t be much more of these type of blogs…

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Learning bout Tab!

 

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This may be the last time (Part II)


My mom came into my room for the second time that morning, “Your father says if you are going with him you need to get ready now”.  Since this was the second time I figured I should wake up and get dressed, I did tell my father I wanted to visit my grandmother before I left. I look at my cell phone- I had two missed calls from my father and a text stating “I am going to Ft. Pierce need to be there by 9:30 are you going with me.” I kept telling them that calling me does not “wake me” because I am a pimp and my phone stays on silent. I got dressed and rolled into my father’s room. He was on the phone talking to someone about a morning appointment.  We finally got on the road and headed to Ft. Pierce. The whole time my dad kept pointing out how the “boys” were out, as we got over to exit the highway one of the “boys” clocked my father- he claimed my dad was doing 85mph or something. Not true.

We pulled into Ft. Pierce a city that holds so many childhood memories for me but is currently more like a ghost town in my head. We passed where R.J. Gators used to be…where the Orange Blossom mall- the place my grandmother would drag me to get dresses and when I was a little older I would go on those Black Fridays after church. I pointed out to my father the direction of a church I remember  being at as a young child for mother’s friend Vicki’s funeral, he told me the direction was right but it was further back closer to my friend’s Tasha house. That brought back whole other set of memories. We picked up my Uncle Allen who was mad at me because I had been ducking his calls for a couple months. I brought back 3 souvenirs from Central America in total, I gave him his shirt and the man’s whole demeanor changed.  I was his favorite niece again. As we drove my father and his older brother would point out things- remember that used to be this or that and blah blah lived there and so and so died then. A few blocks later we pulled up at “Sarah’s Memorial Chapel,” the local black funeral home. As we waited for the funeral director to see us for our appointment my father and uncle talked to the staff about their kin folk. Telling the funeral home director’s nephew how much he looked like his father and asking what his mother was up to now. Small town talk, while I just sat. Mr. Rufus Jerry Alexander III the licensed funeral director was finally ready for us and we went and sat in his office. I would later learn that Rufus used to be my father’s protector from older boys when he walked home from school. This man’s office was filled to the brim with all kinds of “stuff”. There was two couches one directly in front of his desk and another next to it closer to the door as well as a loud AC unit. For the next hour or so he gave us the run down on funeral arrangement, told us about packages, showed us different programs and caskets, flowers and music and gave us price breakdown. While I am able to bet serious money on the fact that I have been to more funerals than anyone reading this, I had never been on the planning side. I sat their quietly watching my father and his brother listen to this man tell them about this casket and that. I thought about how it must feel to know that your mother death is in very near future, I thought about others that I knew personally who were probably in this same room after their mother’s death making the same arrangements. I thought about having to pick out my own parent’s casket. And I really thought about how ridiculously expensive a casket- that people would see for 6 hours max was. Just burn my body and scatter it in the ocean or something and do something useful with the money you save. The man would occasionally say something to me like about getting pictures for a memorial DVD or something technologically related. I had trouble hearing him because of the AC and because I was in my own world. When he finished he gave my father the printout and said he would not put “mother’s” name on it, since we were just talking and she was still with us. We left and dropped my Uncle off at his house. As we drove to my grandfather house my dad pointed out other places in Ft. Pierce. A couple blocks from my Uncle’s house is the site of Zora Neale Huston’s grave. I asked my dad what ever happen to the man who ran into the church and shot a preacher because his wife was spending too much time there. Ft. Pierce is death and long church services to me.

My grandfather was outside in his garage as always. He like my grandmother looks frailer and wearier every time I see them. Once such a big man- I am talking 300pds, my grandfather is now significantly smaller, walks with a cane and very hard of hearing. My father went in to use the bathroom as I open the car door for my grandfather and helped him in. You know I got those pimp skills. We drove to Vero Beach to go see his wife. Each of the previous two times that I have been to the nursing home were on Sundays, I was not prepare for the hustle and bustle of a Tuesday. We signed in and went to her room, the previous times she would be in one of the common areas- never in her room. I think I forgot to say that she was just released from the hospital, part of the reason we came was to talk to the nurse about her status. My grandmother was sleep, her 80-something pounds curled up with some sort of IV wrapped up around her arm. Her hair was white and wild; the picture of frailty.

My grandfather called for her to wake up and asked her did he know who she was. She opened her eyes and just stared at him.

Her eyes got noticeable brighter and she began smiling. Not speaking but just smiling at this man. As he keep repeating “Kayeola, do you know who I is”. I doubt she would have been able to say remember his name, but the love in her eyes and in her smile said she knew who this man was. I am not a fan of marriage for a lot of reasons and most people would see this display and think aww so sweet. It is sweet. But I would never want this in my life. I would never want the person that I been with for years not to have the ability to say my name or not to remember my love’s name. For me this is just one more reason why I never want to get married.

We spent the rest time just hanging in the room. There were several baby dolls in the room, I would later find out they are used for to help Alzheimer patients in “baby doll” therapy. My grandfather held a doll for the whole visit. Remarking how much he liked the doll and how he wanted one. He would tell my grandmother look at his baby, while holding and playing with it. This sounds quite odd but dolls have been shown to be soothing to seniors. Especially those who can no longer take care of themselves, it gives them a sense of importance and responsibility.

My grandmother would occasionally talk but her voice was so low, I could barely hear her. She asked me questioned and what I could not understand I made up in my head. She was on a lot of medication so she would slip back to sleep occasionally. When she was up sometimes she would look at me and just smile. We sat with her or a while, waited for her to go back to sleep and before leaving. I gave her a kiss and left. Very much aware that would quite possibly be the last time I would ever see my grandmother alive.

I posted part one on last Sunday night/ early Monday morning. Monday I talked to my father and he told me they were going to probably put my grandmother in hospice. I had a “sleepover” Monday night.  My guests were asleep in the living room. I was in my bed and glanced at my phone, it was around 7ish in the morning. I had two missed calls, Jeremiah (my brother) and my father. I called Jeremiah back first and the first thing he said was “You talked to dad?” Immediately I knew that my grandmother had passed. I asked “She’s gone?” which he affirmed.

Two weeks to the day that I had last seen her-was the last time and I did know. She was the only grandmother that I have memories of and I am thankful for those memories. I am thankful for my nana. I am grateful that I got to see her and her smile one last time. I am appreciative that she transitioned peacefully. I am exceedingly blessed to have known Kayeola Chester as my nana (Special shoutout to her collard greens).

~JustTab

This version with Anthony Hamilton and The Blind Boys of Alabama is how I remember hearing this song growing up.

However I really like the arrangement that The Staple Singers version uses.

 

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This may be my last time (Part 1)

When I was little child after communion they would always sing the same song.  The song was called “This may be my last time.”  The lyrics were simple:

This may be my last time
This may be my last time
It may be my last time i don’t know

I never really understood how real those words were until I got older. Thinking about times I said goodbye to someone not knowing it would be the last time. Then there are the times you say goodbye knowing it is a good possibility that you will never see that person again. While in Central America my father told me that my grandmother, his mother was not doing well. The last time I saw my grandmother was last August before moving to Arizona. She lives in a nursing home about an hour and a half away from my parent’s house. Since she moved there three years ago I have visited three times, the third time being last Tuesday (July 21st). My parents always go on Sundays after church and I have other plans. The drive takes too long. I don’t want to drive alone. My parents never tell me until they are just about to leave. I can come up with a million excuses why I have not seen my grandmother more. But the real reason I don’t go is the woman that I knew as my grandmother is no longer there. The woman who yelled at my brother for pissin’ in the bed or yelled at my grandfather for telling us stories of all his secret white girlfriends. The small but feisty and strong woman, who knew my name has been gone. In her place is this fragile often confused woman who does not know who I am. The last time I saw her, my nana was my college graduation in 2004, but even then she was slipping away from me.

When I went to my parents hotel room after graduation with my friend David, who has since passed away she asked me was he my boyfriend. I just giggled and said “no Nana.” The main reason why she came was to give my grandfather a break, her Alzheimer’s was getting worse.

The following Christmas she came and stayed with us for about a week, to again give my grandfather a break from the constant care she needed. I tell this story a lot- about how my grandmother began complimenting me on my beautiful legs then later ask me did I have a girlfriend. I thought she was asking me if I was gay, I told her no, she smiled and whispered “It’s okay. You can tell me.” It would not be until later I realize she asked me that because she thought I was a boy. My mother will try to explain to her that I was a girl, but she wasn’t believing it. I told my mom it was cool, let her think whatever she wanted. The whole people thinking I am a boy thing has become way too common on this blog, I need to change something. She clearly no longer had the same mind as she did before. She would wake up in the middle of the night asking where “Mr. Charles” (my grandfather) was. I would have to find my dad to calm her down to go to back to bed. Shortly after this visit my grandmother went to live in a nursing home, it was too taxing on my grandfather’s health to care for her anymore. When I became a boy to my nana, I knew I lost her to this disease. The first time I visited her in the nursing home was Memorial Day weekend 2008. Summer 2008 was filled with so many growing pains that it deserves its own volume in the forthcoming autobiography (you know the one I will write when I am rich and successful). But back to my grandmother, my mother and I visited her because my father was gone to Uganda. I had a little bit more hair, but she still thought I was a boy. This time when my mother explained to her I was a girl, she believed it a bit more. She shrugged and said “I guess”.

For whatever reason the next time I went to visit her was August 2010. This time I went with both of my parents one Sunday after church. I would be leaving the area to move to Arizona the following week. I saw a bit of the grandmother I remembered from my childhood. Her feistiness- trying to stop my mother from touching her. “Who is this lady, tell her to leave me alone.” It had been a while since I had seen my grandmother and my father together. They looked so similar. When you can see the mortality of your grandparents the realization of the mortality of your own parents becomes so clear and undeniable. Due to my father’s profession I spent countless Sunday’s visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes. The thing that is the hardest is the look on their face when they realize you are leaving them. My grandmother really did not know who my mother or I was and was pretty annoyed with my mother. I don’t blame her, who would want some strange lady touching her. I do not know if she knew who my father was specifically but she understood he was one of her children or someone close to her and needed to be “distracted” so that he could leave. Nursing homes are hard not just because you have to leave your loved one behind but also because the other people you have to see while you are there. The ones who families never visit, the eyes of the ones barely holding on and the faces of those who seem not sick “enough” to be there. I always feel guilty that she is there and for never coming to see her.

And for proof that mother was annoying my poor grandmother the whole time…

 

This is actually not what I was planning to tell write, the set up took a bit longer than I anticipated. So think of this as the prequel. Part II will be coming soon. Writing this helps me remember how much things have changed. I completely forgot that I only knew my grandmother as “nana” growing up. As this disease has progress the way I refer to her has become less personal and more distant, just like we have become to each other. I been struggling with how I felt about my grandmother sickness for a while now, this is just my way of sorting it out.

 

~JustTab

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Learning bout Tab!

 

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