Hello Fear?

 

abstract-black-cell-phone-1275929
Photo by Tyler Lastovich from Pexels

So, last Monday I was the victim of the type of scam called “telephone kidnapping”. Although I’m a news hound, for whatever reason I’d never heard of it before. I don’t want to go into too much detail because this post isn’t about the actual experience. I will say it was incredibly frightening. A person called me from what appeared to be a relative’s phone number and said he’d kill her, blow her brains out if I didn’t do exactly what he told me to do. This relative has a job that made the threat credible enough that, although I suspected it was a scam, I couldn’t chance that it wasn’t. It was thirty minutes of hell, but thank God no one was hurt, and law enforcement is investigating. There’s a link at the bottom of this post to a news story about this scam.

What this post is really about is how it feels to deal with fear and vulnerability in the second half of life. In the last two to three years I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m less confident in my abilities than I used to be. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t really know why. Is it simply because I’m older? Am I being sent the message (by my kids, by the culture) that I’m less capable because I’m older? Up until Monday nothing had happened concretely that pointed to a diminishing of my faculties. I haven’t fallen and had a “I can’t get up” moment. I’ve never believed the IRS was going to issue a warrant for my arrest. But the fact that I was scammed and the fact that it scared me as much as it did, at first, left me shaken and filled with self-doubt. I felt very much like a stupid old woman. I spent the next day comfort eating and cowering in my bedroom. But on Wednesday I came out on the other side.

I realized that I haven’t gotten this far in my life to live it in fear. I have too much faith for that. One of the benefits of being in the second part of life is the sheer bulk of experience. I’ve had enough bad things happen through the years to know that I can overcome, survive and thrive. Ok, the scammer scared the sh** out of me but it’s over. I’m not going to look over my shoulder each time I leave my house. I’m not going to jump each time the phone rings fearing it’s the scammer. I refuse to allow him to become a boogie man under my bed every night when I’m alone or trying to sleep. I’ve toughed it out so far and I’m still here. If I look at myself objectively, without listening to the little voices in my head, I know I’m strong and capable. Age hasn’t changed that. And I’m old enough not to let some weasel lessen the appreciation I have for the very good life I’m blessed with. So since Wednesday I’ve been loving life in joy and gratitude. Thank you, Mr. Scammer Man.

Telephone Kidnapping

 

 

 

 

They’ve Changed

There were a lot of family around here during the holidays. I mean, a lot. My family structure is fluid, the configuration changing rapidly and in interesting combinations. People come and go in different ways, births, deaths, marriages and partnerships, divorces, engagements and estrangements.  Relationships morph. Yup, more changes to process.

I’m one step away from the goings on pretty much these days, an observer to the changes, part of the looking forward from back here thing. It’s primarily my offspring, those grown folks, who have to navigate all the transformations, revisions and modifications to our family relationships. (Although there are other members bringing the drama um…involved too.)

When they were young, I lived and breathed for my kids. I loved and nurtured them with everything I had. When they got older they let me know that they would determine how I could love them. Stay in your lane, Mother. My offspring think they decide the level of my involvement in their lives. They don’t really.

Reactiongifs.com

My involvement fluctuates.  I think about all the stuff they’re dealing with and how they handle it. But I don’t say anything. To them. I mostly keep my mouth shut and do what my mother always advised, I watch and pray. Mostly. I’m trying to understand how to be supportive without making suggestions. I’ve talked to other moms (sorry dads, fewer opportunities to talk to you all) of grown kids about the challenges of older parenting so I know I’m not the only one still trying to figure it out. I wrote a poem a few years back when I realized my son and daughters were adults. If you happen to be a parent to grown people maybe you can relate.

Who Are You?

You think they’re strange now,
wait a few years.
You think those tiny people
who don’t understand anything,
who look to you for everything,
who believe you control it all
are complicated?

Wait until they grow up
and dislike you,
because they are
extensions of you,
an essential you,
themselves, but also you.

When you ask yourself why
you are a parent,
wonder if you created them
so you could give yourself
your own love,

when you cry at both
sweet memories
and present truths
you’ll come to realize
how hard kids really are.

(©2018 Kat Tennermann)

And still, I love them. They are smart, wonderful people. And believe me, they’re good to me. I’m grateful for them every day.

 

Sooner or Later We Have to Face Before

You’re probably aware of the sudden controversy over the lyrics to the song  “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. What’s funny to me is that I thought about the creepiness of the song a couple of years ago.  I also wrote the piece below, which is along the same lines, a few of months ago. I decided not to post it because I didn’t want to upset anyone in this #MeToo moment. But now, I think maybe we can talk about it.

*****

I was listening to a Larry Graham tune the other day. He’s very talented and he was at the height of his career during my salad days. He was one of the original members of Sly and the Family Stone. He also had his own group for a minute, Graham Central Station, and a successful solo career. Some of you probably remember him for his song, “One in a Million”. (That was played one and a million times at weddings back in the day.) I used to dance to his music and he was one of my faves. A couple of his songs still loop in my head. I was thinking about one of the ones that comes up occasionally in my mind’s playlist. The song is Sooner or Later, from the album of the same name. Graham is a bass player with an beautiful deep, sexy voice. I was enjoying the memory of his voice on that particular song when it hit me that the lyrics sound strange in 2018.  I don’t know why I didn’t notice before. Like a lot of folks, I guess I’m more aware and sensitive these days.

The lyrics start out all right, your basic “I love you” tune. But a while into it, it starts to feel uncomfortable.
“You can’t run away from me. Oh baby, sooner or later I’m gonna make your mine…I know it’s just a matter of time.”
What? Umm…that’s vaguely intimidating. He goes on to say that the girl’s the sweetest in the world and he,
“just can’t let you go. Oh, oh you can’t run away from me.”
Ok, if a woman heard someone say that today it’d be a red flag, right? He starts riffing toward the end,
“You’re gonna be my darlin baby, ain’t no maybe…I’m gonna make you mine forever…”
What does that mean? Will there be ropes and duct tape involved?
“… we’ll be together…Although it might take time I’m gonna make you mine.
C’mon now, that doesn’t sound slightly threatening? Right now, it sounds like he’s planning on stalking.

Obviously, I’m not taking the song too seriously. But when I think of the number of times I sang along to Sooner or Later back then and wished my boyfriend (my husband three years later) would say those things to me, I gotta admit I’m a little embarrassed. I know the song is a product of its time. It was 1982. Tootsie and Victor/Victorious were in theaters so we had at least started to think outside the traditional lines of sex and gender roles but on the other hand Richard Dawson was still kissing the female contestants of Family Feud on the lips. I also know that when I was young, women my age didn’t think so much about the ramifications of men’s attention. We didn’t analyze the positive or negative connotations of that attention. We were more inclined to ask, “Why isn’t he giving me attention?” than “What does his attention mean?” I’m glad young women ask now. And if that questioning means we have to re-examine beloved chestnuts like “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, maybe that’s a good thing. We can think about it while still listening and enjoying.  I’m going to continue listening to Graham’s song cuz I like it. Maybe I just won’t sing along.

 

 

 

1968

So here I am on the last day of April trying to stick to my commitment to post at least once a month to this blog. It’s been a challenge to do it since the re-launch. I used to have so much to say and now apparently, I don’t.

Anyway, I’ve been watching some retrospectives on TV commemorating the fifty-year anniversary of the significant events of 1968. The year factors largely in a novel I wrote during my hiatus from blogging. (It’s unpublished which is why I haven’t mentioned it before now but it is copywritten.) In one chapter the main characters talk about how they felt as children witnessing some of what was going on in 1968. I was a child then too and the TV programs reminded me of how I channeled my feelings into those of my characters. It was an impactful time, even for children. Since I can’t think of anything else to write about, I decided  I’d share a little of the chapter with you. If you like it, maybe I’ll post more from the novel later.

fire-flame-man-105541

 

“I’ll tell you, it was some year, sixty-eight. Crazy. John dying in his crib like that.  Mom and Dad both wildin’ out and on top of all of it, half of Baltimore burning up in the Holy War Uprising. Yeah, it was crazy.” As Thomas gestured with his drink in his hand, his eyes filled with long past images. He, Junior and Judi thought back to the Baltimore riots of 1968 and their collective memory was one of fire. Memories of the glow of the TV screen in the living room of the homestead as David Sr. and Ella sat on the sofa, watching the pictures of everything burning. They remembered the way Ella, her pregnant belly touching the cushions, squeezed David’s hand and whispered, “Damn, that’s right where your cousin lives.” The kids had turned and looked at Ella wide-eyed because cussing was their father’s forte, something in which their mother rarely engaged. But it frightened them the most when David said, “It looks like hell.”  After a solemn dinner that night, the three siblings had huddled together in the playroom wondering which sins had caused the troubles and whether the hell fires would get them too.  The memory faded and the spell was broken by David Jr’s deep voice.

“Ain’t that much different around here now Tom, and um, you’d know if you didn’t live in a gated community.” Thomas was ready for his big brother’s taunts.  To him David Jr. was like Baltimore City, still vital but a little rough around the edges. The oldest sibling wasn’t the big, bad brother he’d been when they were younger. He hadn’t been since Thomas entered the meat and potatoes of his adulthood, the years that had brought the reality of negotiating a good career, marriage and parenthood as a middle-class black man. Thomas set down his glass and scratched the hair on his chest through his starched blue business shirt and undershirt.  

     “Ok, that’s true Dave but back then black folks weren’t just rioting because they were mad like they do now.  Everybody in this neighborhood and for that fact in black neighborhoods around the country were talking about Black Power. And it was all over the news so we saw all those pictures of raised fists on the TV when Mom was trying to herd us up to bed after dinner, remember? Matt, we know you and Ruth were too little to remember but I’m telling you it felt like something real would jump off at any minute.  Even at five I knew something big was going on.  It scared me, it really did,” Thomas said.

©Kat Tennermann, 2016

##

(Photo by Ivan Cujic from Pexels)

 

In the Dead of Winter

I mentioned in my previous post that I have persistent thoughts of death in the winter. I don’t mind because I think it’s natural. Historically winter has universally been interpreted as the dead time of the year.

Every year I contemplate the lack of plant life and the hibernation of animals at this time, but more than that I think about human death. I tend to focus on loved ones who have passed on and re-mourn their loss. I would say that my definition of ghosts is the occurrence of re-experiencing someone or something that is gone so as to feel as though they are still present and further to feel the absence as a presence itself. To me ghosts are our own feelings. That’s why I think those ghost hunting shows are hilarious. Why hunt our own feelings? (Although a lot of us spend time doing it in therapy). And as an aside, how would the dead, who have moved on to a totally new reality, spend time here. Can you or I go back in time?

Anyway, I think about that every time I look at pictures or movies of people who are gone. I know they are gone yet it feels to me; it registers on my emotional scale as though they are still here. I couldn’t watch any of my favorite old movies if I viewed the actors as a bunch of corpses or ghosts. I was thinking about it today while I was listening to one of my favorite Curtis Mayfield songs. I could hear him inhale in the recording and yet he was not inhaling. The time of the recordings are “ghosts” themselves. That particular time of that song being sung that particular way is gone yet I am experiencing it now. Just as the plant life and animal life appear to be gone at this time of year yet we experience them anew but what feels like again in the spring, are we humans ever really gone as long as someone can re-experience us in some way? Ghosts, ghost images, ghost songs, ghost feelings. .. Ahh, but spring is less than a month away (March 20th).  The full snow moon is behind us and sunsets happen later now. As always, the added light prompts in me thoughts of new life. I hope it does in you as well.