Monday, September 7, 2009

The Pieces

Quiet on this Labor Day has been exactly what I needed. I had a whirlwind of a weekend with a bunch of family, visiting some more family and sitting at my grandmother's bedside at the nursing home. This weekend held alot of emotion for me, and I'm still processing through some of my feelings. To unwind today, I flipped on my HBO On Demand and watched a couple of documentaries which were both very thought-provoking.

The first was "Right America" which was Alexandra Pelosi's documentary on the McCain campaign--she traveled around with them to capture the emotions of the heartland on their fierce determination to 'hold on to American values' by voting against Obama. It was as you might expect...a snapshot of southern/midwestern America and the people in it who are scared to death of progress and change. I'm a little too desensitized at this point to really get fightin' mad at some of the outrageous things that were said...I honestly feel as though I've heard them all at this point--Obama's a socialist, a Nazi, a communist, a terrorist...and so on. It didn't reveal much that hadn't been already known, but it did actually make me think on a few levels about the fear these people must feel at this point.

Obama has, no matter what your political leaning, implemented some pretty massive overhauls in a very short amount of time and the speed and depth of some of these programs both passed and awaiting passage are daunting, even for the most loyal follower. I trust him, and obviously do not believe he's out to cause us all great harm. And I am familiar with the fear that comes when a President you do not trust is in the Oval Office--I lived with it for almost 8 years (the first year I was still too young and too naive to understand much).

But watching these people sob for their country as election results rolled in was, dare I say it, a little hard to watch. I think because I do identify with that desperate feeling that the world's going crazy and there's nothing you can do to stop it. These people who genuinely believe this man is out to do us grave harm must be terrified and I felt...sorry for them, a little. Sorry that they won't educate themselves enough to realize the insanity of their accusations, and sorry that these beliefs must be so extreme and short-sighted that they can't relish the good that does remain.

And then, I flipped on "Which Way Home" because well, I must be an idiot. This one made me cry, but it wasn't overly depressing. It followed children (mostly teenage boys) who travel via freight train through Mexico -- primarily boys from Honduras, Guatemala, etc -- and try desperately to get to the US. Watching this band of lost boys toil through hunger, muggings, and the loss of innocence in often-failed attempts to get here was staggering. They spoke of the US as though it were heaven on earth, and it made me wonder who the real patriots are...the flag waving bible-thumpers in the first doc, or these boys.

I think I know the answer to that.

I guess watching heavy documentaries aren't most people's idea of a relaxing day, but it was mine today :) This weekend my dad, stepmother, sister and young nieces traveled to see my aunt and uncle who arrived in from Boston and we all caravaned over to spend the weekend visiting my grandmother in the nursing home. We also managed to cram in a ton of over-indulgent meals, swimming in the hotel pool, hiking and a museum and by last night, I was completely exhausted.

I hadn't seen the Boston branch of the family in about two years, and they had never met my nieces. It was really funny watching them interact with new people--they are always wary of 'strangers' and like to just stand there and stare at new people like this:

(Staring at Uncle Mike, who is trying desperately to make them love him. It somewhat worked.)

They were warming up by the end of the first night and we were all in the hotel pool until late, getting our money's worth I guess ;) I was spinning the youngest around in the pool and "throwing" her toward my aunt and I realized what a funny thing the word "family" can be sometimes. My family life is largely made up of labels instead of blood relations, and many of my "family" members are not technically related to me but are through step-families, by marriage, etc. How fragile it all can be - one stroll down a different path--a marriage that never happened, a move never made, a smile never returned or a second glance never given--could have changed everything. I wouldn't be spinning this particular child and handing her off to this particular woman on this night in September.

Maybe it isn't even worth thinking about--I know (I think) that the path could never have gone another way, we were supposed to all end up in that pool. But, these characters that make up the pieces of my life make it so much richer, and I like to reflect on that and acknowledge it as often as I can--to say grace amid the chaos.

My grandmother isn't doing well. Every time I see her, it's like I miss her even more. At least, I miss who she was. I am grateful that she still recognizes me, knows who I am at the very least, and it's the one thing that keeps me from maybe fully acknowledging how serious it all is right now. I am thinking of her tonight, and willing her to hold on. She drank beer from cans, smoked, and cursed like a sailor while still managing to be classy. She is responsible for me knowing the word "bastard" from a very young age (and repeating it at pre-school).

She gave me her nose, and her blue eyes.


Ms. Moon said...

You've made me realize how desperately my cousins and I need to get together. We are so far-flung and so out of touch.

SJ said...

Funny you say that--I really missed my cousins this weekend (this same uncle's sons). I haven't seen them in so long, and they are some of my favorite people.

Maggie May said...

oh what a sweet, sweet picture. it says so much.