Happy Birthday Dad!

mourning symbolIt’s amazing how grief works. I’m horribly absentminded and more often than not can’t remember my train of thought. But, every year as my father’s birthday and the date of his death approaches, I always know where I left of grieving last year. It’s taken a long time, over twenty years, for the happy memories and the pain of his loss became equal. I miss him every single day. And I wish he were constantly.

It’s amazing how grief works. I’m horribly absentminded and more often than not can’t remember my train of thought. But, every year as my father’s birthday and the date of his death approaches, I always know where I left of grieving last year. It’s taken a long time, over twenty years, for the happy memories and the pain of his loss became equal. I miss him every single day. And I wish he were constantly.

Today, I give Funeral Blues written by Wystan Hugh Auden. Loss has never been more poignantly captured.

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Happy Birthday Dad—love you always!mourning symbol

Happy Birthday Mom!

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Mom in Monaco

Today is my mother’s eightieth birthday. What’s more amazing than the sheer number of years she’s lived are the drastic events my mom’s lived through—World War II for instance. When she speaks of the black bread and food rationing during those years, I am astounded.

My mother’s an incredible woman. She was born of Portuguese parents in Georgetown, Guyana and grew up in that city. She knew tragedy early in life. At the age of nine, her two eldest brothers drowned on the same day. Her parents were poor immigrants and struggled to keep her in school, yet she graduated high school. She met my father at the tender age of eighteen, and they were married less than a year later.

That doesn’t sound significant, but my mother married a mixed-race man in 1955 (against her parent’s wishes). In those days, the population of the Caribbean, Guyana included, was strictly segregated—albeit voluntarily.

She went on to give birth to one girl (me) and three sons. Today she is chairwoman of a Caribbean conglomerate, and, at the age of eighty, still goes to work each and every single day. She has eight grandchildren (who she totally dotes on), three nieces, and one nephew.

When my father died 23 years ago, my mom was the glue that held the family together. In the Caribbean, it was unheard of for a ‘woman’ to take the reins of a large company, and many expected that the business my parents founded would fall into bankruptcy. No way. My mother refused to let that happen. She’s stubborn like bull and told the bankers holding our loans to go where the sun don’t shine.

You may have gathered that I’m proud of her. You bet.

Mom and I didn’t have much of a relationship until after my dad died (I was daddy’s little girl—totally). But, then my mother and I did a twenty-eight day road trip through Monaco, France, and Spain, and we bonded. I love you mom and wish you many, many more birthdays.

All my love always,

Jianne

Happy Birthday Mom!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy girlfriend, Tamarind, believes that everything happens for a reason and that that reason somehow improves your life. Until my father died, I agreed with her. There was nothing, nada, zilch, absolute infinity zero, that his death could have a positive impact on my life.
I was so wrong.
Because I was the apple of my dad’s eyes, my mom and I didn’t have much of a relationship. We co-existed in a kind of temporary truce. She was his wife and, me, his only daughter. I was, to put it mildly, the favored child.
He died suddenly and tragically in 1994. In 2008, after many requests, I agreed to go on a 28 day mother-daughter trip to Europe. Okay, think about it, 28 days with your mom in strange countries. I expected we’d quarrel and fight non-stop.
The opposite happened.
And I realized my girlfriend had been right. I had never had a close relationship with my mom, but that trip changed everything. We had a blast. Went twenty-eight days without a single quarrel. Got along like a zillion houses on fire.
Every single day, we got lost – I can’t tell left from right so that’s kind of obvious. But, we had such fun getting back on track. And we ate our way through the most delicious locations in France and Spain. We had three eleven course meals. All decadent and heavenly.
I’d loved my mom before that trip. But I learned to like her during our jaunt through Europe. The pic above is us sharing a meal at La Belle Etoille – the best bed and breakfast on the planet. They served foie gras done three ways every night. I was in gourmet heaven. And my mom went along for the ride.
Today is my mom’s seventy-night birthday. I lost my dad right after his sixty-second.
I am so grateful, mom, to have you here with me. I love you. I’m so proud of you and I only want a good thirty more years. So, take care of yourself.

Love always,
Your daughter,
J