Friday, November 14, 2008

My Situe

"You can't live two lives."was advice from my Situe that I heard many times. So, true!

Situe is (was) my paternal grandmother and the last of her generation. At about 5 a.m., November 14th, Situe quietly slipped from this earth. She has gone home. Gone home to Popue (my grandfather who passed in 1990). Gone home to her seven sisters who preceded her. Gone home to the Lord.

I will miss her dearly. I feel fortunate to have known this wonderful, generous lady for forty five years. I am grateful that Theo and Khairi, my own children, had an opportunity to know her. My brother, Greg, spoke very eloquently about Situe and Popue's legacy. They were totally devoted to family. Looking around at those who were able to attend the funeral mass, their legacy was obvious. I see it in how my parents raised us... dinner together every night, with home cooked food, at the table, with no tv... Something I do in my own home, but has become a rare practice in today's world. Church on Sunday... Living within your means... quietly giving to help others...leading by example.

I have so many memories...

As children, my sister and two brothers spent a lot of time at Situe and Popue's house on Fleetwood in Harper Woods, Michigan. My dad and Pop started an auto parts business together around 1958. My uncle joined the company some years later. My mom worked from home and handled all of the finances, payroll and legal issues. At least once a week, Situe would arrive, goodies in hand (usually cookies and as my brother, Greg, mentioned at the funeral, Heavenly Hash ice cream), to help Mom with the banking.

Sunday dinners at Situe and Popue's. The dining room table would be set with china, table cloth, cloth napkins- all her best things. The meals were elaborate... standing rib roast, grape leaves, kibbee, salad, mashed potatoes, and homemade pie. Situe rarely sat down for long. Always getting up to grab something from the kitchen... milk for Uncle Roni, olive oil for the kibbee, more bread, Vernor's ginger ale for us kids.

This weekend, my mom mentioned that she was Situe's favorite. We all felt that way. She was the most loyal and fair person in the world. She had a spirit of service and wanted everyone to be included. If she gave one of us something, she always made sure that she gave the same to the others. At Christmas, she would give each of us money and a gift to open. One year, we all recieved gloves, another year, it was scarves and still another, umbrellas. As we got older and moved into our own houses and apartments, it was a soup ladle or kitchen towels.

I loved her way of greeting us when we entered her house. We always entered through the side door into the kitchen. Situe would usually be wearing an apron and would be wiping her hands from washing them as we came into the kitchen. Her hands would still be damp as she took our faces into her hands and kissed us.

We used to tease her about the index finger on her right hand, which was crooked... "which way are you pointing?" we would say. She would good-naturedly join in the laughter. As I held her hands in her last days, I thought about her hands... strong, sturdy, always outstretched to help others.

In order to distinguish between Situe and my great grandmother, we would call Situe "Good Situe" and my great grandmother "Old Situe"

Situe loved gardenias. She loved to play poker (and win!). She and Pop loved to have parties.

She would bake this incredible, triple layer german chocolate cake once a year-- for my birthday. I remember purposely eating as little dinner as possible so I would have room for a whole piece of that cake!

Last night, I dreamt that we were back at her house on Fleetwood. I remember every room of that house. After Pop passed, some of her furniture was moved to her apartment. Whenever I was there, I would always remember where a particular piece had been placed in the house. The little rocking chair with the crushed velvet seat that my great grandmother used to sit in was in the living room next to the couch. Her coffee table with the green, covered glass dish that was always filled with Brach's candy (butterscotch, peppermints, coconut neopolitans). The marble-topped table that was in the living room against the wall that led to the bedrooms.

She lived almost 97 years and was healthy the vast majority of it. Her mind had been slipping in the past couple of years and she had arthritis, but many times when my boys and I would visit, she was happy and alert.

She came to me in a dream the other night. She was wearing a turquoise sweater and looked so beautiful. Situe, I miss you already, but I know you are still with me and I love you!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I voted for Barack Obama

I voted for Barack Obama. I cast my absentee ballot in person at the City Clerk's office on October 30-- I waited almost 2 hours! I have to say, this is the first time I have voted for a Democrat for President. Colin Powell really said it best when he endorsed Obama a few weeks ago. He called him a "transformational figure." Before you jump to conclusions, hear me out...

As a freshman in college in 1981, I was taking political science classes , witnessing the newly elected Ronald Reagan's presidency unfold and decided to get involved in the political process. I joined the College Republicans. For those of you too young to remember (did I just say that?), the GOP was much different in the 80's. I chose the Republicans because although they best represented my views at the time--socially moderate, fiscally conservative with strong libertarian leanings.

It was only recently--the late 1980's-- that the evangelicals began organizing politically and then pretty much hijacked the Republican Party. I have come to believe that government plays an important role in our country, but have seen the devastating effects on our families, our food system, our environment and our standing in the world when public policy is driven by money, power and greed. This greed is not the domain of one party-- they are all wrapped up in it to some degree.

I have either voted for a third party candidate or in the case of the last two elections, written in a candidate for President. The candidate whose name I wrote in was John McCain. I had been following his career for quite some time and had a lot of respect for him because he was not afraid to take on some of the rightwing zealots who were in control of his party.

In November, 2007, his presidential campaign was pronounced DOA. Somehow, though, he was able to come back, but he was never the party favorite and if you listen to talk radio, the religious right was furious that he won the nomination. Then, instead of being true to who he is, someone convinced John McCain that he could fire up the Republican base (i.e. the religious right, who gave George Bush victory in 2000 and 2004 because THEY VOTE). Personally, I think this strategy is backfiring and I don't believe the religious right is going to come out for McCain. What clinched it for me was when he picked Sarah Palin as his VP. I knew that I could not vote for him. The question became-- now, what? Vote third party again?

Living in the city of Detroit, in the most segregated metropolitan area in the country, and being the mother of two African American boys, I feel like I have a perspective that many white folks do not, either because they have not had an opportunity to understand or just don't give a sh*t a.k.a. willful ignorance.

Colin Powell said it best when he endoresed Barack Obama a few weeks ago. Powell said on NBC's Meet the Press: "We've got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president. But which is the president that we need now? Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time? And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities — and we have to take that into account — as well as his substance (he has both style and substance) he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama."

I have my reservations-- mostly about the fact that the elected officials are beholden to those with the cash to support their re-election. But in the end, if the "only" thing that Barack Obama's election accomplishes is to help us resolve some of the longstanding divisions between races, that will be a miracle.

Stay tuned...Tomorrow will be an historic day!