Therapy's house The middle of my memoir

I have written this ten times, deleted, restarted and began again eleven times. It will never become what I want it to be. A story of a willful, head strong, clueless, independent, curious person who loved books, reading and awkward writing more than anything else. I wanted to lock myself away and read books for the rest of my life. But very much so very unfortunately, one has to do the required status quo and do life.

I disliked school with a passion. I was shy, dysfunctional (at least as far as everyone else’s standard was concerned) and didn’t feel much like I would ever fit in with the regular ways of doing things. I now know that I would not change me for all the riches in the world. (Well, maybe just a little).

On top of it all, I was an autodidact (a self-taught person) although I did not know it at the time. This made learning the regulated ways a bit harder to comprehend, which then led to me being seemingly disruptive and a non-conformist. I found ways around the normal teachings to arrive at my answers, which drove my teachers and tutors nuts. Being misunderstood, and not quite understanding the situation yourself can be frustrating to everyone concerned.

Still, I forged on to achieve some form of an education.

High school, graduation and the leaving of all the school friends with whom I went on long hikes up into the Jamaican Blue Mountains. The milestones to my coming of age got accomplished, yet I so sadly miss the wonderful trips to the beach and many visits to the artistic home of Sydney, our art class teacher, a wonderful mentor to us young people. He made high school bearable for the very friend allergic types like myself. Sydney’s house was a virtual museum of Art, he even named one for my aquarian birth sign. He called it “Aquarian Dawn”, and it was beautiful.

After graduation, came the government mandated “National Youth Service’, a year of giving back. After the National Service, we all went our separate ways, some to college, some to work, (I did both) and as will happen, we lost touch. So much uncertainty was now facing my tentative advent into the world of becoming an adult.

I never much liked college, maybe because it was so challenging, juggling work and school, yet many were doing it. I managed to graduate and transition to university, it made me miserable, I realized I was enduring this lifestyle because it was expected of me, because everyone else was doing it.

Ah! Relationships, I was terrible at it, tried it, failed miserably, so I just avoided the topic. I was always being told that I was wasting my life, time and efforts by declining some advances, by having a different mindset from the expected. My sole purpose and reason for living was not the satisfaction of the size any man’s……ego. I desired a more independent path to finding myself.

So, I resolved to build myself a house instead. In hindsight, this endeavor was akin to therapy, as I needed an outlet for my thoughts and feelings. Such a thing as therapy was not even in our vocabulary back in the Caribbean life and times.

The company for which I worked began selling shares, many of my co-workers declined the offer, not understanding the concept. I could not see the downside of buying into a company for which I worked, it was a large national telecommunications company, where could I go wrong? So I jumped right in. They loaned us the money to buy the shares and took a small downpayment from our paychecks towards it monthly. Where was the downside to that. After a couple years of paying them back we were able to cash out and repay the small balance.

I bought land to build my house. I bought a car and started my own small taxi service, hiring someone to drive. Then I began building with a contractor, not having much clue as to how it should be done. I had hoped that my father would have been there to supervise all this, he had been a skilled workman, but had lost his life in a car accident just shortly after my plans had started to come to fruition, and on my birthday, to boot. I also lost a brother to a horrible illness, and had watched my mother care for him tirelessly and unselfishly.

Robert Burns, says it best for my lot then:

But Mouse, you are not alone

In proving (that) foresight may be vain:

The best-laid schemes of mice and men

Go oft awry,

And leave us nothing but grief and pain,

For promised joy!

“If you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans“. (An old Yiddish proverb).

I managed to complete my house, despite all of that. It was not the largest house on the block, it had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but It was mine, I built it. Yes, there was thieving of materials and trials, hoops and hurdles, but it got done. I did all this as a single mother with other family obligations and trials and errors. Considering that this was all done in a struggling Caribbean country, makes me proud that I actually did all that by myself. Never dare me on anything or tell me what everyone thinks is best for me. We all need to come into our own in our own way.

After living in the house for a few years, I rented it out, left the original job and transitioned to the United States. My restless spirit took me all over the place, I worked in casinos, hotels, nursing homes, department stores, traveled, and even freelanced for a while.

A story about the human spirit or lack thereof

When I first arrived in the USA and awaiting the completion of the long months of paperwork, I worked with patients in a private nursing home. One day a very handsome and successful young man came to us. He had become ill, his partner had died, and he was disowned by his parents due to his sexual orientation. A very kind, well mannered, well spoken, obviously well-educated man, he was with us for maybe a month. One day the parents came to visit, they stood a little way off outside his door, refused to enter, and enquired about his briefcase, which was the only thing that he had arrived with, clutched close to his chest. I assured them that it was tucked away safely in his closet.

When he coughed, they took a step backwards, getting even further away from him. I was standing by his bed, I covered his cough with my gloved hand, it was mandated. They never entered the room, just looked at their child lying on the bed, helpless, and with eyes pleading for their love and parental acceptance. They turned and walked away, never even said thanks to me for caring for their child. I remember how he cried. I dried his tears and read to him from the Bible. He liked when I did that.

I was the only one caring for him, administering his injections and medications while monitoring his vitals. He was by that time quite weak and barely able to raise his hands, so I had to feed him. The stigma of his illness was in its first phase, yet I had no fear of taking care of him. The owners of the nursing home, though the woman was a nurse, did not help, only dispensed advice and left. I spent as much time with him as possible, I had three more patients to attend to.

I loved that gentle sweet soul that I knew for only one month of his life, who was ill, but was more concerned for my safety than for his imminent departure from this life.

He died a week after the parent’s unfortunate visit. I had stayed up with him as usual, read the bible, though by then he was not able to move or understand my words. I hoped and prayed that somewhere in his quietness and stillness he understood that I was still by his bedside, reading and praying for his happy flight into the next phase of his life.

I had nodded off, my eyes opened just as he was taking his last breath, I grabbed his hands, clasped them tight, just before he passed away quietly. I hoped he knew that I was there for him, seeing him off. I stood by his bedside with his silent spirit for a little while, before bidding him goodbye and godspeed.

The owner was called, the police and parents came. The first question the police asked was:

“Where is the briefcase”? As if that was the sum total of a son’s life.

“In the closet”, was my response, a metaphor for where the parents wished that their son had stayed. They asked me to get his prized possession.

They took it and handed it over to the parents. Papers were signed and the parents left. No one cared about the person inside the room, or even asked me if I were ok. They were just intent on securing that briefcase. I never once thought about the young man’s case and what was in it. I understand that he had been a very successful and wealthy stockbroker. They disowned their son, but were quite happy to own his assets, may they burn in hellfire. None of his friends had come to visit.

Incidentally, the parents never paid for the nursing home stay. The owners never pursued it. It was so sad.

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory”?

I have not been able to forget this chance encounter with the true nature of some people. I would have hoped that either one or the other of the parents was redeemable. That one of them would have dropped by without the influence of the other, to see their son, speak with him and reassure him of their love. That never happened. Poor child, may his wings ever soar.

Patients came and went, unfortunately they all went out in the quietness of death. Most however, had loving, caring families to see them off. A year and a half of my life was spent in this way, I have never regretted being there with these souls and sharing their experiences in their twilight days and nights.

…….. ……………….

I went to work with the US Air Force after that, assisting with the transitioning military families on their many tours within the US and all over the world. It is a non-stop changing of the guard for these families, the military life requires a discipline that is not for the faint of heart. Here I am now in the UK, still a part of that ever moving machine of the military family.

I am also a part of the Vocal family, making new friends and finding out that it is worth it. An experience which teaches you what you want, or definitely do not want.

One of the gifts a new friendship can bring, however, is the ability to see yourself through a different lens. Where older friends might have a set idea of who you are, with newer friends, the additional layers you’ve gathered through life’s constant churn can become the core of who you are in that friendship. I have never been one to pour my heart out even to people I would consider close friends.

The journey continues to the bitter, sweet, uncertain, challenging, titillating, extremely curious and hopefully long rest of the pathway into the future, before the end of one’s memoir invites a penning.

It might not seem like a revelation that being more open and honest is actually pretty key to making new friends and bringing old ones closer. We are all armed with that knowledge, even if we do not realize or appreciate it. It’s not always easy to put opening up your deep inner self into practice. But who knows, it might just be worth it.

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