A Shout out

Actually, if you don’t count Bush, Mandrell or Streisand (whose parent’s were startlingly phonetic with the spelling), I only know four “Barbara’s”. One Barbara is a mentor, another a colleague and the last two are me and the woman I was named after. I usually just call her “Mom” but, whatever. My parents will never be renowned for their creativity (I’ll give you one guess who my brother is named after), but they have a bevy of other traits that make up for it. My mother is the typical familial matriarch. None of us were ever under the impression that we were living in a democracy. “Her way or the highway” wasn’t a playful turn of phrase, it was the eleventh commandment. None of us minded this really, because she is beautiful and strong, vibrant and honest and I think we are all as captivated by her force of nature as my Dad.

As the stereotypical, eldest (of three), female child, I share a lot of my mother’s traits and characteristics. My mom taught me if there “ain’t no way then MAKE one”, and so I have her self-confidence and an innate self-esteem that is the single most valuable thing a parent can give a child. To her, it wasn’t a question whether or not I would go to college. The question was where? It wasn’t a question of whether or not I would receive a lucrative job offer. The question was which one did I want? When I told her I was going to Africa for a month? She braided my hair and didn’t laugh at me when I modeled my wetsuit for her. When I told her that I wanted to leave my well-paying job and travel to Latin America, she (and Dad) bought the single most expensive piece of gear that I would need. She constantly affirms my abilities and decisions in such a way that I have never struggled much with self-doubt, nor been prone to second-guessing myself all that often. I hope she would say that in my own way, I have been an equal member in our mutual admiration society.

I had assumed that should anything happen to her that I would be strong and stoic, helping our small but close-knit family keep it together. That I would go about “taking care of business” as she would say, with her grace, class and authoritarian way that constantly reminded everyone that though this was a dictatorship, she was happy to have you in her castle (and you generally realized you were happy to be there too). Unfortunately, in early 2000 she suffered an aneurism. Fortunately, it was caught before it burst. Unfortunately, she had to undergo emergency neurosurgery, a long hospital stay and a month without her cigarettes. Fortunately, she is fully recovered and still handily reigns the kingdom with cigarette in hand. You need only know how she handled the event to understand my mother’s approach to life. She checked HERSELF out of the hospital and wheel-chaired to the emergency entrance, she smoked a cigarette, and then took off for Mexico with two of her sisters telling us: “I’ll be back when I get back.” That sounds like a cruel thing to do, but she knew it was what we all needed. My Dad and I needed to pick up our professional lives; my siblings need to attend to college courses and children. I presume she needed tacos and tequila and to regain her footing, to not have us underfoot treating her like some fragile invalid. If she had stayed at home, none of us would have strayed very far for a while.

I tried to appreciate her strength and grace, her power and class but I didn’t understand what she really meant to me until we almost lost her. We were all so stunned by the event that I don’t remember my Dad sleeping for the three or four weeks I was home. I tried to keep him company as he used the salve of the “shoot ’em up” Westerns that he loves to watch to deal with the situation. We had these crazy, incomplete conversations at 2 a.m. in which he’d say things like “Marriage isn’t 50-50, if each of you is only giving 50%, you’re already in the hole.” I simply nodded and prayed that sleep would come gently for him.

Like everyone else on the planet, I strive for a gratitude that shows itself daily, but my narcissism, short attention span in the face of shiny objects and generally amiable disposition get in the way. I don’t tell anyone I love them as often as I would like, I’m not sure that anyone does. I’m not sure that we’re supposed to really live every day like it could be the last. It isn’t a sustainable lifestyle and statistically the numbers play out such that you’ll be here for a while yet. I prefer the idea that we live everyday as if it’s the first, that way we are at once grateful and hopeful, aware but not afraid. And though I am incredibly fond of the other Barbaras in my life, there is only one that I am truly afraid that I cannot live without.

19 thoughts on “A Shout out”

  1. I finally decided to get off the road to busy work and check out your travelog. As I read, laughed, awed, and teared up as I read the love filled descriptive rendition which beguilded me to humility and pride. After reading “I know five Barbaras” I’ve decided the words are to be read at my “going home” memorial. This request may sound morbid and I don’t feel that it is, however, no words other those written by your father will describe me as accurately. My job is done. You are the legacy the world will witness. I prayed I would leave behind and be most remembered for your achievements and you got the “message” loud and clear. It was not my intent to be larger than life or a “pain” in anyone’s butt. I only wanted to plant a seed of self discovery, self actualization and witness the growth of acquisition aka achievement of the goal/dream. You have achieved that status. Thank you for the words of empowerment. I am on Chapter 58 in the book of Barbara’s life. I Love you and thanks for the memories. Please remember this: “When I gave birth to you, so did you give birth to me.” WOW

  2. I just wrote this long email in response to your latest post and when I tried to submit it it gave me an error. Oh well. I am going to chalk it up as maybe it wasnt meant for the world to read. To sum it up. I love my Barbara’s. All two of them.

    I am posting to you to let you know that I put in my two weeks yesterday and my last day here is the 29th. I start my new gig with the florida department of transportation on april 7th. I have an interview today with another company. Im not playing around with this thing. Anyways, we said goodbye almost 10 times in a two weeks span. Here is another one. Im outta here sis. Holla at cha boy.

  3. Barbara (DIA),
    I just finished reading your “I Know Ffive Barbaras” I know and have known many Barbara’s, but only one that is as dear to me as you are. We were joined by marriage for only a short time, but I hope you and I will be joined by friendship forever. I am sitting here at work crying and missing you. We have had some great, long, into the night talks, and I have always had love for you since we first met. You are having a great adventure and are making many good memories. God bless you and keep you in his arms. You are much braver and confident than I will ever be. I admire you in so many ways. You are the daughter I never had, but wished for.

  4. @ Mom: I am dying for some potato salad!

    @ Ms. D: Wow! You are going to make me cry, then I’ll get beat up and someone will steal all my stuff.

    @ Lil Bro: I’m proud of you and happy for you, your risks will pay off in both growth and new adventures. I will miss having you so near.

    @ Nikkijam: the feeling is mutual, but you already knew that 🙂

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