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Archive for the category “hope”

Finding Resilience in Giving

The store was out of small turkeys. Lines were not ridiculously long and Black Friday started .. what…. day after Halloween? 2020 for lack of a better word has been a giant sh_tshow and as the holiday season begins, it is a reminder of that which is this year. The year that needs a global reboot.

This Thursday morning November 26th, I would be in New York with my friend, standing out in the freezing cold or like last year in a wild wind at 4am or 5am in order to be ballon handlers for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We are not in New York. We didn’t even go to BallonFest in New Jersey to see and practice with the new giant balloons. Wednesday night we would board a bus outside of Macy’s in DC at midnight and make the trek into the New York City. My first year back in California, I flew into DC to experience the parade as I have in the past – meeting my friend, boarding the bus, sleeping on the bus until we rolled into the moonlit street and buildings of NY. Young I am not, so last year I flew into NY the night before, slept in a hotel and then made my way to the Javitz center to suit up. Last year the winds were so wild, we didn’t even know if the balloons could fly! Fly they did albeit a bit low. Our Star Group 3 had to wrangle the large Macy’s star balloons that kick off the Parade right after Tom Turkey!

This Wednesday night I was struck by all of the emotions of not doing what I have done in past years. I was even thinking about the past few weeks – a weird fender bender (all ok except my car); the passing of my cousin who I would stay with on my Macy’s Parade treks; the stores that are reminders that I am not the only one impacted by what’s going on in the world, we all are.

First thing Thursday morning I text my friend saying how much I was missing our time together and not being at and part of the parade. Their response was about their unexpected sadness. We are adults of course we will miss this ritual event but there were no words for the emotional thump in our chest at the reality of it all. I don’t want to be sad. I especially didn’t want my friend to be sad. I don’t want any one of us to be sad. Quite frankly I am tired of being super sad. Something has to give.

Next thing I know I am on my way to the store (as soon as it opens at 6 am) to buy giant balloons. And my friend, on FaceTime helping with the selection. If we can’t go to the parade – then I will make the parade come to us – kinda sorta. My neighbor has this great framed 3-D picture of New York. I have a bunch of puppets (don’t ask why – I am guessing that is another story) and now I have huge in proprotion to the picture and the puppets…. character balloons. With my camera phone and “live” option on, the parade begins as does the resilience and the giving.

Shot after shot I send my friend a text with some snarky commentary about the balloon going by and the crowd reaction. We are having our parade. maybe not as good as the iconic Macy’s parade, but it is ours.

We will get through this. I hate we have to be resilient related to things that are external to us – I don’t want to resign myself to the fact that those things should even exist – period. Why must we build ourselves up to protect us from the slings and arrows of a pandemic, grief, racial injustice, trauma? While those of us who are being the change the we want to see in the word, resilience is the armor that helps us through until those things don’t exist in the world any more.

So look, I am not one who celebrates thanksgiving as the historical institution from which we were taught. This year however, I did find that to get through this especially tough time and day without my family, best friend on the east coast and participating in the Macy’s Day Parade, I had to be resilient, be thankful for the many many things I do have and give to others. Yesterday we had our parade, maybe not as good as the iconic Macy’s parade, but it is ours and now it is yours too.

Find resilience in giving – I did.

We can get through this together.

Squished Like Apple Pie

Of course, apple pie is not squished or even squishy, cows are not purple and one does not make three-bean salad apart from opening the ‘cans’, draining the liquid and dumping the contents into a serving bowl. According to my cousin however, this is not “making” a salad as I liked to proudly proclaim during holiday family feasts “I made the three-bean salad!’.  And each year, each meal, my cousin would remind me that opening a can is not making a salad. But I knew if I said I made it – he would eat it and tell me how good it was regardless of the semantics of it all.

None of that really matters. These are all random memories. Memories of my relationship with my twin cousin. Yes, I know there is no such thing as a twin cousin especially when born 2 days and 7 years apart. But we are both Geminis so by default we are twins.Nothing here will make much sense except to me and Desmond and to our family who knew our closeness. 

What am I going to do without my Desmond? What are we all going to do without our family member, friend, colleague? We are going to remember. We are going to live our lives better because we all carry him in us, with us and through us. The memories do matter and are not so random but meaningful, powerful and beautiful. 

As a global nomad (ok, most use the term ‘army brat’), every three years meant a move for our family. My first years of life were spent in Germany where I was born. Our US home base was my grandparent’s house in Englewood NJ. 170 Liberty Road, Englewood NJ 07631. I can easily recite this address in its entirety after all of these years of moving and travel because of the rich fond memories of the home and of our entire family. My great grandmother, grandmother, grandfather, aunt, uncle and their two children, my cousins, are 170 Liberty Road in my mind.

In that house is where my coloring books were staked amongst the great books in the hallway – that is where my cousin found my ‘purple cow’. With his classic side eye, he would tell me how pretty my coloring was and remind me that cows are not purple while congratulating me on my creativity to make the most unique cow in the world “The Purple Cow”.  

In that house is where I lived the year my father was in Vietnam. Add to the large ménage my mother, brother and me. My uncles and grandfather would ensure my brother and I had a “father figure” to attend various events. Desmond was away at college but would come home as well during this time. He would accompany me to the school or scouts “father-daughter” events. What 18 or 19-year-old would leave school, drive hours to come home and hang out with their little cousin? I have asked myself that often over the years and even ask it still today. It takes an extraordinary person, young man, African-American young man to care so much for us to leave weekend parties, studying and the freedom of being away from home – to return to be with his little cousins and his aunt. That is the essence of Desmond. The selflessness, the caring, the family-man that I will remember always.

Everyone calls Desmond ‘Desi” except me. I love the name Desmond and honestly, I do not have a nickname. Desmond tried to give me one – spell your name backwards: sirek kcirym. Uhhhmmm….no. ‘Ok then I will just call you ‘k’’. uhhhhmmmm …no. He called my “k” on many occasions none the less and I liked it, but he was and will always be Desmond to me and the only one who can call me “k”. 

Desmond, when visiting LA upon my families return from Germany, dared me to stay up all night as we were all squished together in our little room – Desmond, his sister Ellen, my brother Kyl and I – squished like apple pie. During the night, I repeatedly had to tell everyone by blurting it out into the darkness – “we are squished like apple pie!”. There was no end to the teasing by Desmond the next day – “apple pie is not squished or squishy but gotta admit it is good and we were definitely squished’. It’s such an odd memory to hold – I think I hold it because to be squished like apple pie is to be close to the people we love whether in proximity and or from afar .

There are so many memories – the visits to Philadelphia so we could be together with my dad for thanksgiving or Christmas. Meeting me at Macy’s Parade Balloon Fest in Jersey just to give me a hug and see his west coast cousin.

Our love for Monty Python and the ease in which we could drop a quote from our favorite movies like a secret language. Our sarcasm which could cut to the quick or humorously defuse any sticky situation. Our love of cars and adventures in them – learning to drive a stick shift; the tale of the Saab Sonnet3 breakdown in what we feared was KKK country and our tow home (and explanation to my mother why we were out all night. My mom though said she knew I was ok because I was with Desmond), my first driving adventure in NY city before I even knew how to drive. And how many amusement parks and roller coasters have we ridden? How many episodes of Star Trek original series have we watched over and over and over again? Don’t even get me started on disco dancing—on roller skates!! And how he recognized the geek in me? Desmond hearing me talk about the DARPA challenge at a dinner with my parents leaned over and said to them – “look at her beaming, she is a total geek!” and he said it with pride. That one moment gave me permission to let my inner geek out and let my geek flag fly!  And as the youngest in the extended family, teaching me how to stop the clock at 5 minutes before 6 am so that our new four-year-old cousin Jason would have to wait until the little hand on the clock hit the 12 before he could wake either of us up to play. (‘wait did you do that to me when I was little’, I asked and of course Desmond answered “yes”! now you know how to be an older cousin”. If I haven’t mentioned, yes, we both could be a bit mischievous and now you know where I got that from!

Girl with Doll -MIrrorImage Artworks

And his daughters – Kristin and Lauren – how he told me he was going to be a father for the first time – and when Lauren was “on the way” we watched Kristin with her lifelike-newborn baby doll proclaim “I am going to be the best big sister”. That moment captured in my artwork as she carried this baby doll by its feet! Now Desmond and I had to give the side-eye to each other as we encouraged Kristin to be exactly what she is today “the best big sister”.

We always spoke by phone – if he had not heard from me I would get a call or text. Given we cannot travel at this time I was feeling very sad and missing my trips to NY and looking forward to another trip from Desmond to California. Looking through my photos I reached out and the response was just what I needed – to know that I am missed and that I am loved.

And we always communicated on holidays (dropping hints at our next adventure). Halloween, Saturday October 31, 2020 7:33 pm PT-

On Monday November 2nd I got into a gnarly fender bender and I started a new job. On Tuesday, I received a phone call that Desmond had passed away on Monday November 2nd.

“But I just spoke to him” I screamed to my father. Through our tears, our pain our anguish at losing to me what is like a brother and to my father what is like a son – we had to, from afar and through the airwaves of a phone call, hold tight to each other, our family our memories. And our love.

Desmond – from Uncle Howard

We are going to remember. We are going to live our lives better because we all carry him in us, with us and through us. The memories do matter and are not so random but meaningful, powerful and beautiful. Thank you Desmond for teaching me to be a good friend, a loving family member, a leader, a thinker, a doer, and compassionate caring human being. Desmond, I love you so much and I will miss you. We are forever twin cousins squished like apple pie.

My twin cousin and me

Desmond A. Jordan

Rest in Power. Rest in Peace.

Say hello to my mom

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