Monday, November 21, 2016

Summon Him

Aidan's birthday falls the day before Thanksgiving this year. He would have turned nineteen. 

He'd be in the middle of his freshman year at college. I'm guessing he would have chosen to take his post-secondary education slowly, to give himself more time to figure out where he was headed and how he wanted to get there. After four years of diverse learning opportunities as a home-schooled high-schooler, he would likely have already accumulated some community college credits.

I think there was some film-making in his future. His first novel would have been finished long ago. He probably would have found a publisher before me, darn him. He'd be writing poetry, and he'd have chapbooks on the shelves at Quimby's or Barbara's Bookstore. He might be starting to think about seminary.

I dreamed about him recently:

I was working a table at a school fundraiser. Papers, clipboards, and a cash-box littered the surface of a rectangular card table. 

Aidan sat on a metal folding chair behind the table. My tiny, white-haired boss walked through the door and hovered near us, flitting around like a nervous aunt in charge of the cookie table after a baptism in a small town church.

In front of me on the table, photographs and images of varying sizes were arranged on a wide poster board. Flimsy and uneven, most of the photos had been cut from magazines. Captions printed on strips of white computer paper lay with casual inelegance below the images. Some of the pictures had come loose. Others, I noticed, had not been placed carefully enough and covered portions of the captions.

As I tried to rearrange and re-attach the pictures, other pieces came loose and needed to be re-taped. I felt my anxiety building.

“I’m not old enough to help,” Aidan said. There was sadness and frustration in his voice.

“Well, you can help me fix this poster,” I said. I started to show him what I needed him to do with the tape and pictures. He smiled, but barely, concentrating with serious attention on the work at hand.

Somehow, even while I was talking to Aidan and demonstrating how to fix the board, I knew that he had died. I knew that he was no longer with us. It didn’t make sense—I didn’t understand how he could be there with me after he had died.

Maybe Kevin could explain it to me. I couldn’t make sense of it, but he would understand.

I stepped away and crouched down to dig my phone out of my purse. I briefly wondered what my boss would think about my getting out my phone to make a personal call right in the middle of the fundraising event.
I pressed the code to unlock the phone. The icons on the home page had been jumbled into a different order. I swiped and searched, looking for the phone app icon. Finally I opened the phone app—but I could not find the re-dial button, or the list of recent calls so I could call Kevin with the press of one button.

I couldn’t remember his phone number. I started to cry.

The phone was a lost cause, so I went off to find Kevin in person. He was sitting on the tuscan yellow leather couch at home. His dad sat on the other end of the couch, and his mom sat on a straight back chair.

“I have to ask you something,” I said. My crying turned into choking, gasping sobs that made it impossible to get the words out. I couldn’t even remember what words to use because I was so confused. 

Somehow I managed to force the words out of my mouth.

“I know that Aidan is dead,” I said. “I know that I can’t make new memories with him anymore.“ I sat down next to Kevin on the couch. His dad was nearby, and now we were all crying. “But he’s there with me, working at the table.”

Crying made it hard to breathe. I closed my eyes. In my mind I saw Aidan standing next to the table, leaning over the poster board where I had left him: cowlicky, flyaway hair; long, slender fingers; a gangly adolescent frame; his shoulders and chest slightly concave from having his chest cracked open several times.

“I don’t have memories of this—I’m making new memories of being there with him,” I said, still crying and gasping for breath. “I don’t understand how I can be making new memories with him when he’s gone.”

The dream ended. It had encapsulated a heartbreaking truth of loss: I will never make new memories with Aidan again, except in the fleeting, surreal images of my dreams.

If I could summon him to my dreams, I would sleep all the time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

For the Other

Please stop telling me how to feel.

Stop telling me to calm down. Stop telling me to get over it. Don’t tell me to relax or to stop being offended.

If you know me, and you care about me, I would be grateful if you would give me a minute; if you would really pay attention.

I am grieving the outcome of this election. I am disheartened, discouraged, and disappointed. I have just recently attained a small degree of emotional health and stability after a crushing personal loss—and this feels like a set-back to me.

You may not understand this. You probably don’t understand it. That’s OK. You don’t have to understand it in order to be empathetic. All you have to do is believe me that this is really how I feel.

I am trying my best to not say unkind things about people who supported Trump. I think I’ve succeeded for the most part—but if I’ve said or written something that feels like a personal attack or insult, please bring it to my attention. I do not want to hurt or offend you. I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, and I would like you to do the same for me.

You say how upset you are by the negativity—as though “negativity” on its own is a bad thing. “Negativity” is the only appropriate response to racism, ethnocentrism, sexism, and violence. No matter who we voted for, we should ALL be negative when we read a story about a young Saudi college student in Wisconsin beaten to death, or middle-school students in Michigan chanting “build the wall” at Latino classmates.

This is why I grieve. This is why I am discouraged, and even afraid for my friends who are Latino, black, gay, Jewish, or Muslim.

White Trump supporters do not, as a group, I presume, feel threatened and afraid when they leave their homes. They don’t wonder if they will be insulted or demeaned or threatened just because of who they are or what they look like.

But the groups that are targeted by Trump and some of his supporters do feel these kinds of threats and fear. The president-elect of the United States has said rude, scary, demeaning, threatening things about them—and some of his supporters take this as license to bring their formerly hidden racism, ethocentrism, misogyny out into the light.

Trump’s America is frightening for some people—entire groups of people. If you could acknowledge this without minimizing it, or contradicting it, or blaming it on the media, it would go a long way to helping those of us who are grieving and/or afraid to believe that this is not the America that you want to see.

Please don’t minimize it by saying it goes both ways.

I know of a few incidents that went the other way—Trump protesters that went too far, a white man who was beaten possibly because he voted for Trump. But these, I believe, are rare events in a backdrop of rising intolerance for the Other.

Pointing out that some Trump supporters have been insulted and even harmed by Trump-opposers does not mitigate the fact that Trump’s presidency, aligned with the KKK and other hate groups, represents an increase in fear and actual danger to at-risk groups. This comparison is another false equivalence in a sea of false equivalencies. It doesn’t even come close to being the same because Trump supporters are the ones who have the power and influence of the President on their side.

I’m not in any way saying that all Trump supporters are racist or sexist or any other “-ist.” I’m not saying you are. I’m saying it’s out there, and it appears to be getting worse.

I started out by telling you about my own grief and discouragement—but none of this is really about me and my feelings. I acknowledge my own white, cis-gender privilege. My sorrow is not for me.

I grieve for the Other. For the immigrant. For the mother of young black men. For a Muslim woman afraid to wear a scarf. For a brown-skinned store owner, for a young woman getting her first job, for a queer student in a classroom.

I am grieving for America.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Dear Internet,

Today's election day. It's also my birthday. 

l was born on election day sixteen years ago. I've read enough ancient history to know that Election 2000 was tightly contested. Al Gore won the popular vote, but George Bush won the electoral vote. (I don't really understand the electoral thing completely--but from the little bit I do know, I think we should get rid of it.)

My mom told me she voted for George Bush back then, and then again in 2004. I can't even with that. What was she thinking? Then she got her head straight and voted for Obama twice. 

I know she said her opinions have changed a lot over the years. This is another thing I don't really understand. She doesn't even get the difference between gender and sexuality--I had to explain it to her at dinner tonight. She sort of got it.

I said, "How can you not understand this?"

She said, "For fifty-five years my brain has been wired to think about it differently."

Old people. Sigh.

Now it's election day on my birthday again. It's another close one, but it looks like Amerikkka has gone and elected what seems to me to be a terrible person who says offensive things about women and Muslims and disabled people every time he opens his mouth.

I am not happy about living in a country led by a cartoonishly misogynistic serial philanderer who actually bragged about committing sexual assault. Who incites his scary followers to beat people up. Who threatens to kick Muslims out of the country.

I'm so disappointed in America. 

I'm only sixteen. I should not have to carry this burden of fear and disappointment about a whole country on my shoulders. I should have a couple more years to be carefree (ha) and lighthearted (double ha). But no. America goes and does this.

Thanks, America. Thanks for ruining my birthday.

M. Peevie, out.

Oh, I should mention my parents gave me a beautiful Andrew Bird poster for my birthday which I love. I'm giving my mom credit even though I'm positive my dad picked it out.