Fatherly Reflections

I have watched all of the Father's Day posts with avid fascination. I have been equal parts resentful of those who still have their fathers and grateful I had the two of mine as long as I did.

Not very gracious, I know, but I think we have all been there.

I noticed that different posts brought different men to mind. In that vein, I want to expound on Fathers.

Cline Boyd Nimrod was my dad. He helped bring me into this world and with all of his faults, hee was still "Dad." We rarely saw eye to eye but I called him when I needed dad. There was more to him than met the eye and he was the smartest man I knew. I miss him still.

Uncle Dan was our "other dad." He stepped in as much as possible when Dad was out of our lives. He loved us so much and did a great job of being a touchstone when we desperately needed one. He was always real.

Uncle Ed was my dad when I had no one. He never raised his voice but I always knew when I disappointed him and that hurt more than I thought possible. He expected me to do more and be more. He made me think I could fly and he was right.

Steve Bryant has been a constant father figure for me since I was 10. He can be intimidating and even terrifying but he loves me and that is all that matters. He saw my brokenness and was careful to treat me with kid gloves because he knew I was raw. He gives amazing advice and haas always been there for me.

David Daniels was my Daddy. We didn't get along at first but he changed my mind when I had my nervous breakdown. He held me and made me believe I could be okay again.

Along the way I have been loved and cared for by some amazing men. I have been so very lucky to have them.

There is one more man to thank, not because he was my father figure but because he was such a good father to Michél. Thomas Alexander helped me and loved her as his own. Thank you, Thomas. You were a great dad!

Random Thoughts in the Darkness

I would give anything for another conversation with Moma as I sit and watch someone I hold dear having to work towards goodbye with his mother.

It is never easy letting go. As our loved ones move toward heaven, we enter the gates of hell. Grief changes us in ways that those who have not lost can never understand.

Grief is not a dwelling place but rather a path we will all walk at various points in our lives. We will all carry the scars differently but when it comes for you, it will at first feel like you have been swallowed by an ever-crashing wave.

You will gasp... desperately trying to get above water. Slowly you will find that you have time to draw a breath between the waves. Eventually, the waves become rolling breakers that you can manage but the massive waves will still come. Without warning. A smile, a memory, a flower... you will never know when it will hit but you do know how to ride it. And you know you will make it to shore again. (Not my analogy, wish I knew who to credit).

Tonight I am missing our Moma. Imperfect as she was.

I am missing Michél. Her sweet smile, her little giggles, her healing hugs.

I miss the future she would have had, the grandchildren she would have given me.

Her death is as present now as it was the day she died.

I wish I could tell my friend that it will be okay and believe it myself. Sleep is distant because the specter looms. Perhaps darkness is as necessary to life as light but I could really use some light.

Grandad, Grans, and Travel with Kids

Most folks know that our Grandparents raised Euvah and I. Euvah is right at 8 years older than I and we had 4 male cousins (we had 5 male cousins and 1 female at the time but only the four boys lived nearby, LaRaine and Van lived in Hawaii) that were Euvah's age and older.

Grans and Grandad would take us on trips in the station wagon and it always took us forever to get to our destination because Grans would have Grandad stop every 10 get to dig up a plant she wanted. Okay, maybe it was every mile but, well, you get the picture.

I don't recall us minding. It was just the way it was. Grans always brought a shovel, a hand spade, vegetable bags, paper towels, newspaper, several gallons of water and bread ties to deal with her loot.

Back in those days, discipline was swift and decisive. I only recall one time that Grandad ever put a hand on me and that is a story for another day. On our trips the natives would get restless and more often than not - arguments would break out.

On one occasion in particular, I remember Grandad saying, "That's one," as the arguing continued. "That's two." A brief pause was followed by the sound of fresh arguing.

Grandad calming pulled over on the shoulder of the 2-lane highway in the middle of nowhere and said, "Get out." This was met with disbelief and prompted Grandad to say, "Get. Out. Of. My. Car."

It did not take long for all 6 of us to pile out on the side of the road. Then Grandad pulled the car up so far we could barely see it. So we walked. Just as we got close, he pulled up again. This continued until the last kid was as limp as a dish rag and had the energy of a brick.

When we were finally allowed back in the car, there was no arguing because we went to sleep! It also taught me a lesson... it was best if I rode in the front seat because then I would not get in trouble!

In today's world of coddling kids we have lost sight of holding kids responsible for their actions. While this wild not work now, there has to be another way.

Electric Can Openers, Keyboards, and RA

I have never cared for electric can openers. They make a whole lot of noise and do a job in the same amount of time it takes me to open cans with a few twists of a handle.

I don't believe I have ever actually had one in my kitchen. Oh, I have purchased them. They just never get taken out of the box and used. I wind up giving them away.

Now this may seem random but one year ago this month I hurt my hand. I whopped it on something and it hurt like hell. Well, in the ensuing year I have had hell opening cans. I am ambidextrous so I figured I could use my left hand to open them and quickly realized it hurt, too.

I am also a writer who ONLY writes with my right hand thanks to my kindergarten teacher taping my left hand shut because the left hand is a "sign of the devil." It was 1970. I have always preferred to write by hand and then put it in the computer. It relaxes me. That hurts like hell right now, too.

Last Thursday I went to the ortho for my hand and was under the misguided impression it would require surgery and it would be fixed so when the doctor said it was Rheumatoid Arthritis I lost it. I was so not prepared.

I am certain that I completely freaked out my ortho because I have always been jocular and upbeat. When I left his office I called my Sissy (Euvah Bryant) bawling like a 2 year old.

I know it will be okay. But in the moment it felt like a death sentence. Stupid and an over-reaction but there you go.

I saw the electric can opener and computer keyboard as my future and it really hurt.

I am okay now and will buy the damn can opener on the first but man it really bites.

Rethinking Homelessness

In 1987/88 I was homeless. I did not sleep on the street, I slept in my car, a car without insurance and that my mom "sold" me for $1. I had a job, I don't think I have never *not* had a job, actually.

I had friends so I could go shower but I washed and died my uniform at work, I owned one pair of jeans, 2 tips, 1 pair of underwear, one bra, a pair of hose (they were required for my job and while I don't remember who paid for them, I know it was not me), and a pair of socks.

The shoes were also purchased by who knows ejected, maybe Moma, angry were the cheapest shoes that matched the job requirements.

My job was at Luby's when there was a Luby's at 5 1st and Memorial in Tulsa.

I see so many homeless videos now and they virtually always show the people who have less than I did.  The people who have shopping carts, not cars, the clothes on their backs and, if ther they are lucky, shoes that may or may not be in one piece.

What about the ones like me? The ones that are waiting on you while you eat? Or are checking you out at the grocery store?

The ones that deliberately work at a restaurant because they get at least one meal a day on work days and if they are lucky,  they can charge a meal to their check on their days off?

Sometimes they sleep in a friend's driveway and sometimes they don't get in trouble for sleeping in the work parking lot.

If all else fails, if they have fuel they can drive to a truck stop and sleep there and if it is a good week, do a load of laundry and shower.

They make just enough to cover the basics but really, food is a considered a necessity they can skip as often as necessary.

Homelessness is definitely an epidemic. But it is also more than the bag people you see. Sometimes, it's the person next to you.

Bipolar {is a} Bitch!

In 1987 I was diagnosed Manic Depressive which was later changed to Bipolar Disorder.  In 1991 it was changed to Schyzo-affective Bipolar Disorder.  My current diagnoses are that ^ and OCD, PTSD, and possible IED and ADD. You are certainly familiar with all save IED which is Intermittent Explosive Disorder.  ADD is, of course, Attention Deficit Disorder without the hyperactivity... I could not be hyper if I tried!!!

There a few schools of thought on ANY Mental Illness.  Mostly, even now, they can be summed up by saying, "What is your problem?  Just push through it." or the ever-ready, "Yeah, I have that.  I got over it though. You should too."

I get it.  I get that the first thing worked and you are strong enough to get through/over/under it. One of my mottoes in life was, "Get over it, get around it, get under it.  Whatever you do, just get ON with it!" it didn't help nor did it work.

I love the people who find out I have mental illness and immediately distance themselves.  Or the pastor that said, "There is no such thing as bipolaritis." I walked out.  You think I *like* having the brain I have??

Most people never have a clue.  If I see you at church, you might THINK you know me, but you don't.  We might be best buddies but unless you SEE me in cycle you do not have a clue.  Being me is NOT fun... for anyone.

I get told how nice I am and How much of people person I am.  No, I have people skills because it is rude to blurt out, "Please.  Just shut up so I am not forced to choke you with your tongue." People just do not understand when that comes out!

I am HORRIBLE about taking my meds. The meds I NEVER miss are my mental health meds. I have been on and off of them soooo many times.  It took raising my children unmedicated for me to SEE what that whether *I* thought I needed them or not, I did.

After Moma died, I got the help I so desperately needed.  I was at appointments in Muskogee almost every day for quite a while.  They wanted to admit me to "get (me) started," which a euphemism for, "Hey, how about we admit you, take away the money you live on, medicate you until you are stoned and do not care and take control of your life." No, thank you!

I usually know the meds are no longer working but this time I had no idea.  Nobody ended up in the hospital, I had not lost my mind on anyone so I thought all was well.  It took some pretty serious issues before I finally realized I was in major trouble.

Once I realized what was going on I sought help.  We are working on finding the right combination of meds now and I am back in therapy.  Having someone to talk to is amazing.  Especially since I have seen him off and on since I was knee high to a grasshopper.

Being in  my brain right is terrifying.  I am literally staying away from people I do not like or do not know so that I do not have issues.

When I am cycling like this, I become evil.  No other word for it.  I go from "Hi, how are you?" to "I hope your obituary is written." in the blink of an eye.  I am not a nice person folks.  I am really not a nice person.  The folks who know me best know that there comes a point when all bets are off and it is time to get the h-e-double-toothpicks out of Dodge. Right now, Dodge is a very bad place to be.

I have planned the perfect murder.  Several times.  Using different methods.  Yes, that is where my brain goes.  The really scary part is that normally, meaning when I have this under control, I settle for using my words or staying in my head.  Outside I am all, "Hi!  So good to see you!!!" Inside, I am like, "Hmmmm, ripping out their throat is probably a bad idea."

I wish I could control it.  The doctor who added the Schyzo-effective diagnosis actually asked me at least 20 times how many people I had killed while reassuring me it was okay.

Every psych I see is astounded that I have not yet killed someone or committed suicide.  I can only thank the good Lord for that.  He has given me a very strong sense of what I can and cannot do.  But because I have not killed anyone, simply means that I have been stopped.  Four times.  The first was in 9th grade in high school before I left for Alabama.  No one was told and I am still not sure why.  Four teeth were surgically removed from her throat.

The second time was a guy who popped me on the butt one tooo many times.  Seventy plus stitches was his reward.  No one stopped me that time.  I only hit him once.  Not my fault the Foosball table was there.

Number 3 was a kid at Westside in Selma right after I enrolled.  My math teacher stepped out for a minute and a guy called me honky whore or something along those lines and shoved a table at me. I hurdled the table and grabbed him by the front of shirt and shoved him out a window... on the second floor.  When I looked out the window I saw that an administrator at the school that I did not like was walking under him.  I *really* wanted to drop him.

Mr Morrow came back in and told me that I did not really want to to do that.  My response? "That is where you are wrong Mr Morrow.  I really want to do this and since Mr Dallas is down there it would be a "twofer." Needless to say, Mr Morrow talked me out of it. I once woke astraddle my boyfriend with a 10" chefs knife at his throat and remember wishing I had slept 30 seconds longer. Sometimes I still do.

I normally believe that causing injury to another person should be reserved for war and protection but when I am like I am now, death is the preferred option.

Mental ILLNESS, folks.  It is called an illness because it IS an illness... just like diabetes or high blood pressure.  Some people can be helped easier than others.  It just so happens that when I am not receiving the correct medication cocktail, I become a horrid person.

I am mad when I screaming and crying but God help the poor soul that causes me to dry my eyes and lower my voice.

All of this is about the fact that we do not CHOOSE to be ill.  It is not something we enjoy.  It is not contagious, we cannot just snap out of it, get over it, move on or otherwise choose a better path.  When we are n that path, it is because it is the only path we see... even when we see the train coming!

Please, be kind.  To everyone.

What Might Have Been

Most people know that I have lived virtually my whole life at my current address. Yes, I have lived other places as far flung as Florida and North Dakota but this has always been my permanent address, as the military calls it.

It occurred to me today that if my life were laid out in strings the widest and most pronounced line would be a less than one mile line from my home to my grandparents in Okmulgee.
To be fair, the second closest would be the one that encompasses the area from the 700 block of N Central to the 800 block of N Alabama, but a vast chunk of my life is on Alabama avenue.
Some of my earliest memories are of Sissy (Euvah) taking my hand as I insisted on toddling from our home to our grandparents home five blocks north. We had the same numbers in our address (Can't say either for fear of some psycho hunting me down and killing me!  LOL). They lived on the west side of the road, we lived on the east, but regardless, it was nothing for us to wonder out the front door of one house with nary a word and up to the other house.

I was spoiled completely rotten for the first 2 years, 5 months and 13 days of my life. I just figured that up, BTW. My sister and 5 male cousins were all 8 or more years older than me and the cousin closest to me in age was 2 or 3 years older (What year were you born, LaRaine?}. Between them, Moma, Dad,  3 aunts and and uncles, and my grandparents, there was no hope for me not being spoiled. Then the twins came along :-O.

I am sure it could be said that they saved me but who doesn't like being spoiled?
One block north of our home was my elementary school and 2 blocks south was(is) the high school.
Most folks don't want to be here or, if they are here, they work in the city, Tulsa for those not from here, and commute. (Side note, not only did I live on Alabama Ave in Okmulgee, OK and move to Selma, AL near Ocmulgee Creek but both towns were similar in other ways includng having a T-town close by!)

I have always known I would come home to stay and I can thank my sisters for making it possible. My neighbors to the north have been my neighbors my whole life. It is nice to know your neighbors. I cannot imagine going back to not knowing the folks around me like when I lived in Atlanta or Louisiana.

My friends were, as they say, the neighborhood kids. Of those kids, 2 are deceased now that I know of and the rest have moved on. Some are still in contact and others did what they promised, they grew up and moved away and stayed away. Still others are here in Okmulgee plugging in and trying their best to help bring back the Okmulgee of yesteryear.  (Scott Fetgatter, I am looking at you!)

In 1972 the oil refinery was shut down and Okmulgee began to die. In the following years, some more far flung than others, we lost both Ball Brother's and Anchor Glass as well as any other large companies to other communities furthering the decline. Now a small town of 12,000 (maybe 15,000 when the colleges are in session) it is trying to make a comeback.

I know that our hometown had a long way to go, but I also know that it can happen if we join together and say no more.

My Truth

I have been judged my whole life. With my last name being "Nimrod," reddish naturally curly hair, fair skin and freckles, I was a prime topic for snide remarks, and constant picking. Same for my siblings. Add glasses, being dirt poor, and Moma making our clothes, and cutting our hair,  let's just say we relied on each other (my siblings and I).

Our sister who is 8 years older than me raised us. When she was in school and we were not, we went to a day care center. That center was directly across from where Moma spent her days. I could talk through the fence to her and more than once when I saw Euvah pull up, I would beg her to come get us.

The day care was great, but what kid wants to locked behind a fence when they can plainly see their Sissy is home?

Euvah and Steve got married on 1977. As per usual, it made Moma mad and she tried to keep us from seeing them. Okmulgee is a small town, though, abs by that time we were old enough to go wherever we wanted as long as we were in the house when the street lights came on.

In late October, 1980, I decided to live with my father and my grandma in Alabama. It hurt my mom but it also saved my life.

When I got to Alabama I reinvented myself, somewhat. I stood up for myself and I got a reputation for being tough.

I was hurt, angry, belligerent, and had an attitude that would not stop. Mr Morrow stepped out of the room for two minutes and when he came back in he had to convince me I did not want to drop the boy who had been picking on me two stories to the drive below. I had the kid dangling out the window. Had I dropped him, I could have had a "twofer." In Selma, a "twofer" means I could have taken out two people at the same time. Terr was able administrator I despised walking under the kid. The guy was clueless.

My best friend became Lanai Lippe and she was part of the cool crowd. With the help of Lanai and Mitch (my silent protector), there was a lot less picking and most folks just let me be.

My first actual job was at Piggly Wiggly as a cashier. I worked my butt off late into the night and still passed high school.

The April after I turned 17 I joined the USAF. I had just gotten off of helo after flying for several hours and asked where to sign!

I left Alabama in early June for a brief sojourn at home  (Okmulgee) on my way to BMTS in San Antonio.

I arrived in July and due to issues with my JROTC commanders, I did not think I would get to " Proficiency Advance," (PA) out if basic. With the dedication of my DI's, and squadron Commander, and XO, I was able to complete basic in three weeks.

Because it had been so difficult, I ended up in "Casual" which is another word for slave who has no job for now. Lol. They moved my Tech School slot up and I arrived in Wichita Falls in August.

While there, I passed a kidney stone, broke my foot in 7 places, destroyed 4 cats in 6 days, and still graduated with the highest aggregate.

I worked hard and I partied hard. I was blessed to have my dear friend Mitch close and I had nothing to worry about. Life was great!

I visited home for a long weekend and when I left for Minot, I was excited and terrified. I have always preferred to be close to family and here I was 17, headed somewhere I had never even considered.

I arrived at Minot in October. It was 40* out, there were 5' snow drifts and folks had shoveled the deck and we're laying out in swim suits.

I immediately went to the pay phone and called Grans. I asked her if she still had the list of things I would do when hell froze over and she said, "yes." I told her to get it out because I had arrived in Minot and hell had indeed frozen over!

In January 1985, I was supposed to be painting the vertical stabilizer on an F-15. The entire plane was covered in 4 mill Visqueen (very thick, slick, plastic).

I was training a buck airman and our Sergeant (<--that does not look correct) insisted we put paper booties on our low quarters  (shoes). I tried to insist that this would not end well and was told to follow his orders, so I did.

Jay, the airman, followed me to the stairs. Once poisoned, we locked the stairs in place and began our ascent. I told Jay not to get on the wing walk until he knew I was steady. I placed my left foot firmly on the wing walk and picked up my right foot - I clearly remember skating across the wrong like I was flying and can still draw a very clear picture of the inside of the hangar roof.

As I feel 16.5 feet to the concrete below I remember thinking, "If I survive, this is going to hurt."

I hit in (as the doctors explained) in the ONLY position that I could have landed in and not be in a wheelchair instantly or dead.

I had only been permanent party since October. Ate the accident, I was given grunt candy, aka Ibuprofen and released to work. They said I had fractured my lumbar spine butt they were stable, go back to work. So, I did.

In February I received a bad result in a pap smear and deliberately got pregnant.

I chose to leave the USAF due to internal issues as well as medical. I received an Honorable discharge and made it back to Okmulgee to be with my Moma and my little sister.
With fonds of help from my family, Euvah and Dee arranged a surprise baby shower for me and their friends and them, rained gifts, love, and laughter on me.

On November 15, 1985, Michél Lanai Nimrod came into this world as strong as an ox. I was sick and was in the hospital 9 days. Michél stayed, as well.

I made a ton of mistakes in her short life but I loved her more than life itself and she knew it. Because of my spinal injury and the pap smear my pregnancy was very high risk. I had been denied care but was lucky to get David Parker here in Okmulgee.

I would be walking and suddenly, I would be grabbing the nearest person, rack, country, mannequin... you get the idea. I fell, a lot.  I had to have blood work and an ultrasound every week.

On June 6, 1986, our apartment building burned to the ground. A police officer who was a dear friend (Chris Edwards) came pounding on our door about 6:00 a.m. We literally grabbed Michél, bet diapers, as many clothes as possible, her formula and food and ran like hell.

On June 29, 1986, I woke up and Michél was gone. It would be determined that she was a victim of SIDS.

On August 24th 1986 due to my health I had to have a complete hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy at the age of 19. According to the surgical report there were "no recognizable female organs left."

After losing Michél and almost dying, I was in a very bad place. I weighed 89 pounds, soaking wet with a Brock in my pocket. I am 5'11" and no, I was not anorexic, I was poor and I was proud. Had I ever asked, Moma and Daddy (David) would have helped even with what little they had. And that is why I didn't ask.

For the record, I have received state assistance in the form of medical and/or food stamps, NEVER check or cash, precisely 25 months since I turned 18 on November 2, 1988.

When I was injured the second time in August 1990 I was active duty for training with the 1st/377th USAR. My civilian job at that time was managing the Henryetta Pizza Hut. I spent 9 months on crutches and was forced to quit. I not only completed my Arms Training, I did it in halfthe allotted time and was helping train other soldiers. ALL while on crutches and permanent profile, meaning I could not march, nor do any PT.

I have worked an average of 40+ hours per week since 1993. I stayed home for 5 months between  November 1994 and March 1995 to help the kids settle in. 

With those exceptions, I have worked. I have paid taxes, it was hard. I was repeatedly denied my disability because, "Obviously,  [I] could work, therefore  [I] was NOT disabled *enough.*"

How about you ask my kids? The kids that would have been homeless, shoeless, food-less... if I had NOT worked my back-side off. 

ASK them what shape I ended up in; how much pain I stayed in; how much they had to help because I was working 2 and 3 jobs or, when at Heilig-Meyers, my one job meant they were asleep when I left and when I got home. They fondly remember helping with the paper route while I remember being so worried about them missing sleep. 

Virtually every job I had, I worked my way up from the bottom. I was never too good for a job. Scrubbing bathrooms, sweeping, mopping, dishes, coming, fast food, retail, collections, management, telemarketing... if I could earn money and support my family I did not care. 

Money can be made. On May 31, 2002, I left my job as executive assistant to the owner of Arco Electric in Baton Rouge, LA.

I came to Oklahoma at my sister's expense to relieve her in taking care of our Moma in September, back to LA (Sis and Steve, again) in November and back to Okmulgee again, this time bringing Jeremy's car ($ by the Bryant family, yet again). 

In 2003, Moma passed, on my watch, I stayed to care for my step-dad. 

It was then that I was finally able to get the mental, physical, financial and educational help I needed and was owed, by the military and VA.

It took 9 more years to get approved. I began school in January 2007 and graduated with a Bachelor's in English in December of 2010. I was notified in November of 2010 that my disability had been raised to 60% permanent and total and was told that unless a job had prior approval from the VA, I would not be able to work. Period. November of 2011 I was approved 90/10. Permanent and total. 

That 90/10? That means I am un-employable. I am not **allowed** to work. Yes, I do get a check every month. I also get told twice a year or so that because I did not "earn" my disability that I may not get paid next month. This year, there was no COLA (cost of living adjustment) which is not a huge deal except that most everything else went up even though oil went down. 

I do not get any other assistance except medical... that I have to spend hours arguing for. 

Since 1985 I have almost died 3 times, I have been paralyzed from the waist down twice, I have beaten, and I have used, and abused my body beyond what most could tolerate. 

This is not a whine, nor do I need or want sympathy. This is the very top of a massive Iceberg that I don't discuss. For almost 30 years I have gone to sleep and I have my daughter's face as I drift off. Not the face of love but the face of death.

I am imperfect and impatient. I have nightmares that won't stop but I also know that God has this. God had me and he has Michél.

I was blessed with four beautiful children in 1994 and I have never looked back. I don't really know that there is a point here. Maybe I just want people to stop looking at the surface. Everyone has a story. Everyone is fighting a battle.