The Silence Breakers

person-of-year-2017-time-magazine-cover1In what has become an anxiously awaited tradition Time magazine selected its Person of the Year last week. Much as has often happened this year’s winner of the cover spot was a group of women known as the “Silence Breakers.” In bold moves that have toppled the reputations and careers of a host of powerful men, women both famous and unknown have stepped forward to reveal acts of sexual harassment and violence long hidden from the public eye. In a veritable deluge of accusations the stories have dominated the news cycle for weeks and pointed to a societal problem that has generally been unspoken but well known. The tales of mistreatment have included men of all stripes and have initiated a national dialogue that heretofore existed mostly in the shadows.Many wonder how and why so many women are suddenly speaking of incidents that they kept secret for decades. Particularly among doubters there are questions about why it took so long for them to reveal what happened to them and what has made the present time so different that the #metoo movement that has gone viral.

I suppose that for some the first thoughts go back to the story of the boy who cried “wolf” so many times that when the sheep were really being attacked nobody was willing to listen. Some wonder if the number of accusations has been exaggerated by a kind of mass hysteria, and I suppose that it might be easy to go to that place. Instead I would venture to suggest that the very reason that so many women have been silent is because of the doubt that is historically associated with such incidents, particularly when the man involved is a powerful person. We only need to consider the denials and insults that ensued when a number of women spoke out against former President Bill Clinton. Paula Jones was described as trailer trash. Monica Lewinsky was defamed. Kathleen Willy was thought to be unhinged. Such are indeed the reactions toward women who have the audacity to reveal acts of personal degradation that have been perpetrated on them. It is little wonder that there is great fear when it comes to speaking of such things. When a man who brags of highly degrading behavior with women then goes on to be elected to the highest office in the land it makes all of us fearful of being heroic.

There is also the strange psychological phenomenon in which the victim actually wonders if somehow she either imagined the abuse or brought it upon herself. I can attest to such situations myself that I did not discuss for a very long time because what happened was so shocking that I was unable to know for certain that it even took place. One of those times occurred when I was a young adolescent at the beach with my family. As I walked along a fishing pier my gaze was suddenly averted toward an old man with a smirky grin on his face. He pointed downward and that is when I saw that he was exposing himself to me. I turned and ran away, but I was so embarrassed that I said nothing to anyone. Instead I stayed close to my aunts and uncles and told everyone that I was feeling sick. I have since learned that my reaction is very typical. My mind twisted the shocking event into something for which I felt responsible.

Even as an adult I hesitated to admit to a situation in which one of my coworkers frightened me with highly suggestive language. I kept it to myself for many days before speaking of my discomfort to my husband who insisted that I inform my boss immediately or he would. I felt a great deal of relief when my employer believed my story and began to investigate other whispers that he had heard about the man. In only the space of a couple of days the offender was fired from his job and a number of us felt immediately safer. The news of the man’s departure was greeted with applause.

Sadly not all such situations turn out so well. On another occasion in which I informed the Human Resources Director of the highly unprofessional behavior of a supervisor I was accused of attempting to foment a rebellion. It was long after I had decided that my only recourse was to leave that job that it was determined that everything that I had said was true and that the reality was even worse than I had described. It had felt horrible to be deemed a trouble maker and someone who might be stretching reality. While I treasured the fact that I had done the right thing, I also understood why so few women are willing to endure the humiliation that I suffered at the time. The pain associated with being a witness can be quite real.

My mother was a beautiful single parent, someone who was quite attractive to men. She often told me of situations that became very difficult for her. In her infinite wisdom she taught me how to proactively avoid the pitfalls. She instructed me to watch how much alcohol I drank when I was out at night so that I might be in control of my faculties. She noted that I would be better served if I did not dress too suggestively. She taught me how to sit and stand and carry myself around strangers. She cautioned me to never ever meet with a man alone in a hotel room. She even worried about the moments when I was in a car at night with a male that she did not know well. At times I thought that she was overly paranoid or that she only imagined her allure, and yet over time I realized that she knew exactly what she was saying to me. Her intentions were profoundly protective and effective in a world that can be hazardous for women.

I’d like to believe that there is a movement afoot that will make things safer for women in both the workplace and private life, but when a politician who is accused of child molestation is ahead in the polls I lose heart. When the members of his party are unwilling to speak out for what is right, I become cynical. I realize that we have a very long way to go and that mothers still need to school their daughters in how to take care of themselves. I also understand how brave the “Silence Breakers” are, because I know that even now there are those who doubt their motives and perhaps even think of them as liars.

I believe that we all have to be silence breakers to the extent that we have to condemn the actions of men who sexually harass women. The process of reeducating our society begins with each one of us. It’s critically important that we teach our children the importance of mutual respect and individual dignity. Our actions will be more important than our words. When we condone sexual abusers by ignoring their grievous actions we are guilty of creating an environment that accepts the degradation of women as simply locker room antics. Instead we must send the loud and clear message that such behaviors are wrong and that those who cross the line of propriety will be duly punished.

We must take this movement seriously, and be just as angry with anyone who falsely accuses a man as we are with the perpetrators of indecency toward women. It is well past time that we make the relationships between the sexes less fraught with dangers. It is obviously possible because the numbers of men who treat women with the respect that they deserve far out distance the predators. We have the capacity for making incidents of sexual harassment less and less frequent if we all agree that we have reached a watershed moment, and if we honor the women who finally took the first step in regaining control of their lives. 

Update: In a dramatic election decency won last night. Thank you, Alabama.

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A Whole New World

hqdefaultGrowing up with a single mom in an era when such situations were quite rare gave me a different point of view than many of my contemporaries. I was raised to believe that I was capable of accomplishing anything that I chose to do. My mom was liberated out of necessity and she was a feminist out of choice. She was also as American as apple pie, someone who cherished freedoms and served no masters other than her God. She never wanted me to clean houses or wait on tables. While she saw such jobs as honorable work, she often noted that her own mother had done such things in order to lift up her children, and it should not be our fate to be at the beck and call of either the wealthy or the powerful. She believed that we were as worthy as any other humans and that we must never bow down in submission to anyone, not even a queen or a king or a president. I suspect that she would have enjoyed seeing the Obama family approaching Queen Elizabeth on equal footing. She truly saw the United States as a place where each man or woman had the potential to rise into the higher echelons of power. She viewed education and the use of intellect as the most direct pathway to individual success, but she never pushed me or my brothers one way or another. Part of our liberty lay in the ability to make our own choices.

Mama adored the Queen of England, not so much because of her royalty but mostly because she carried herself with such dignity. She had the same kind of affection for Eleanor Rosevelt and Jackie Kennedy because she saw them as distinctly American royalty, women who were equal in every way, and sometimes even a bit superior, to their powerful husbands. She truly saw these two as being more regal by way of their accomplishments and in the manner in which they carried themselves than most of the blue blooded royals throughout the world. She was inspired by both of them, particularly after they proved themselves to be such strong individuals after the deaths of their spouses. Because of my mother’s philosophies I suppose that I  grew up without the traditional female filters that had so defined women for eons. I quite arrogantly understood my own capabilities and simply forged ahead, announcing my plans to my husband rather than conferring with him to get his approval. Luckily I married a man whose own mother was strong-willed and he saw nothing unusual about my way of doing things.

My brothers are in turn married to incredibly independent women who have always marched to their own drumbeats. Their partnerships, like mine, are based on mutual respect. Neither of them feel that they or their spouses should play a dominant role in their marriages. They have loving and faithful wives, but always coequal partners who share both the burdens and the blessings of married life. There is no competition in their roles, but rather a strong sense of mutual respect and support. They are as thoroughly modern as my mom was.

Women everywhere are breaking stereotypes and punching holes in glass ceilings. In some corners of the world they are sometimes held back by cultures and traditions that do not deem them to be as worthy as men. Even here in the United States we still struggle to understand and encourage the female half of the world. Recent news developments have proven that we have a long way to go before we see the universal acceptance of women as fonts of power in their own rights. Still the evidence of their abilities and potential has always been right before our eyes. Everyone has a story of a remarkable woman that carried her own weight even when it was thought that doing so was crude and maybe even rude. Our minds regarding women are indeed changing even if the pace is slower than we wish it to be.

It’s not really so difficult to help young girls to become as strong as we hope they will become. All we have to do is allow them to make their own choices and to understand that we support them regardless of which direction they want to go. In our typical folly we sometimes think that we have to throw the baby out with the bath water to foment change. In other words we go from swathing baby girls in pink and showering them with thoughts of being princesses to insisting that they eschew fashion and all study to become engineers. It’s important to understand as my mother did that the key to raising mighty women lies in encouraging them to follow the destinies that lie within their own hearts, not ours.

Even the staunch and staid monarchies are slowly but surely changing. This week Prince Harry announced his engagement to a woman who might have been scandalous in a bygone era. She is a divorced biracial American actress, but none of that appears to matter as much as the fact that she is an amazing woman or that she and Harry are very much in love. She has established herself as a success in her own right, and she has been honored for her compassion and the causes that she supports. In the new frontier she does not have to be of royal decent to forge an alliance with a prince. While she is indeed quite beautiful, I suspect that it is her generosity and openness that captured Harry’s heart. I think that my mother would be quite pleased to hear of this remarkable development.

I have great hopes for society even though we women still have miles to go. More and more often we are being accepted in the halls of commerce, academia, manufacturing, and politics. Right here in my own little corner of the world a tiny young lady kicked the winning field goal in this year’s gridiron rivalry. Women are winning seats in local, state and national government at a faster rate than ever before. More than half of today’s college graduates are female. We go places and do things that were once taboo. We still have a long way to travel, but there are positive signs that women are finally enjoying more and more of the kind of freedoms that my mother so appreciated and desired. We have some kinks to iron out and bad thinking to overcome, but the future looks brighter for young girls all of the time. 

I have only one granddaughter. She sometimes has to fight her way to be part of the group of six young men who are my grandsons. She is all too often unfavorably compared to her twin brother by well meaning teachers and relatives who have not discerned how truly remarkable she is in her own right. She has very special talents that will no doubt take her far. She is unafraid to take risks and she works twice as hard as the guys to reach her goals. She is determined to make her own individual mark on the world, and I believe that she will find the success that she seeks. Like the female trailblazers who have come before her, including her great grandmother, she is on a mission to change the way we do things. If she maintains the courage to focus on being herself, she will be able to ignore the naysayers and the slights and find her way. If my mother were still here she would remind my granddaughter that she is just as important as a queen, maybe more so. She would urge her to hold her head high and follow her dreams. After all, even a girl from an ordinary family who has proven to be quite competent on her own may soon be a princess. It’s a whole new world and it is good.

On Becoming Mighty Women

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At heart I am a naive cockeyed optimist, a Pollyanna, someone who loves the world and it’s people and assumes that everyone else is the same way. I like and prefer being that kind of person. It actually feels good to be able to see the best in people. I’ve had to accept the fact that the favor is not always returned. Over the span of my lifetime I’ve been stabbed in the back, hated for no real reason and lied about. Nonetheless I still choose love over hatefulness, but I have learned to measure my trust a bit more carefully. I am not a fool. I just don’t allow someone else’s hangups to take me down. When someone proves to be a great deal less than honorable I find myself feeling a bit concerned about them, because surely something or someone has truly harmed a person who is unwilling to accept me just as I am.

I’ll admit to being a big ball of imperfections. I am humble in that regard, but I also submit that each and every person is flawed to a greater or lesser extent. It is the way of the world. We take on characteristics based on our genetic tendencies and the totality of our existences, so when we form relationships with new people we must always take into account that they will be different from us. That’s part of the fun of our journeys. If we keep an open mind we learn from those who do not share our same ways of behaving and thinking. It becomes an exciting adventure to enjoy the variety of humanity without self righteous judgements.

I grew up in a rather isolated community. Most of us had similar backgrounds and we rarely ventured from our tight knit neighborhood. I was one of the few kids who did not have a father. It made me feel a bit weird, and I’m certain that it colored the way I behave to this very day. My mother had to be a strong woman, and so as my role model she taught me to be very independent. As a result I have always seen myself as an equal to men. I did not have to be liberated, I already was. I suppose that I naturally gravitated to my husband because his mother was quite powerful and unafraid of the idea of being a thoroughly modern woman at a time when many females still demurred to their husband’s wishes. Thus it was almost a foregone conclusion that would marry a man accustomed to viewing women as equals and that I would raise my daughters to be mighty women who were unwilling to simply follow. I taught them to fight for their rightful places in society. Luckily they in turn found husbands confident enough to be proud of their independent natures.

It has not always been easy for any of us to feel so free to express ourselves and stand up for our ideals. We have often been misunderstood by those who still believe that women should lead more traditional roles. We anger those who do not believe that we should have so many questions and ideas. The “b” word has been hurled our way more than once without an understanding that this is the way we were encouraged to be. We are perfectly willing to love and respect those whose opinions and ways of living are unlike our own. In fact we applaud our differences, but we will not become automatons just to keep the peace. We will listen and consider alternatives, but we will not abandon our fundamental principles. It is the way we were brought up to be. It makes us quite sad that some think that we are difficult because we will not simply defer to a so called usual or preferred role for women.

We really do want to be open to everyone, but if they take advantage of our largess by pushing us into a corner or threatening those that we love, we tend to react like mama grizzly bears. We have learned that women do not have to call upon the men in their lives to take care of themselves. They have all of the tools that they need to be self sufficient. When we choose to share our lives with a man it has to be on equal terms. We will be part of a team, but never engage in a master and servant bond. Sometimes it surprises us how many people still operate under the assumption that a man will always be the head of a household, the boss, the one who makes the ultimate decisions. For decades the women in our family have been just as competent as the men, and respected for being so. We can’t turn back to bygone days. We have to be who we are.

Just as my husband accepted me as I was, and even felt a sense of pride that I was accomplished, so too have my sons-in-law been remarkable in honoring and respecting my daughters. It pleases me that neither of them have attempted to dominate the relationships. In turn my grandchildren, most of whom are male have grown up viewing the marriage contract as a partnership of equality. I suspect that they will continue the long family tradition of allowing the females with whom they may one day form a bond to be on an even footing with them. Once the idea of parity between the sexes becomes the status quo, there is no turning back.

Still we are not yet there as a society, and so as women who have come to expect acceptance it is always a jolt to learn that not everyone has yet reached that level of liberation. We are appalled whenever we are bullied by a man. We cringe when we witness another woman being mentally or physically abused, and refusing to leave her oppressor. We are especially astonished to hear of instances of sexual harassment or injury, and the frequency with which such situations are hidden out of fear. We cannot understand why our sisters would turn on us and call us vile names just to gain the attention and affection of a domineering male. We still weep for women who have not yet found the freedom that we so enjoy.

Do not misconstrue my comments. My mother, mother-in-law, daughters and I passionately love our husbands. We enjoy a deep relationship that transcends any ideas of subjugation or mindless devotion. Ours have been powerful unions based on mutual respect and trust. As such they are healthy and fulfilling in all regards. I believe this is how the marriage of two people was always intended to be.

I suspect that my husband and I have weathered forty nine years of wedded bliss because we have always supported each other one hundred percent. If I wanted an advanced degree, my spouse moved heaven and earth to encourage me. If he desired to risk changing to a more enjoyable but lower paying job, I found ways to tighten the budget to provide him with that opportunity. We constantly listen and discuss and compromise and decide together. We also make it a point to learn together as well. We open our minds and our hearts to the beautiful variety of thought that makes our world such an exciting place to be. We find it wonderful that as our family grows ever larger we are introduced to new people and new ways of thinking. It makes us all better, and it all began with our mothers who broke the mold of restrictions that once dictated how women were supposed to be.

I am as proud of my daughters as any mother has ever been. They have forged their own pathways. They are literally two of the best wives and moms that I have ever witnessed. They are good and faithful daughters, neighbors and friends. All the while they have not sacrificed their own identities. When they gaze in the mirror they are able to see their own convictions. They are even better than I taught them to be, and I’m certain that their grandmothers are congratulating each other in heaven as they happily realize that they were the role models who started it all, the trailblazers who ignored the negativity and became mighty women in their own right.

Being What We Want Our Children To Be

kids-learn-from-adultsUntil last week I really had no idea who Harvey Weinstein was. I’ve seen and enjoyed a number of movies that his film company produced, but never really paid attention to who was responsible for them. I thought that some movies like Pulp Fiction were the products of unadulterated genius and others not so much. I didn’t realize that it was because of Weinstein’s efforts that Shakespeare In Love won the best picture Oscar when it was up against movie gold like Saving Private Ryan and Elizabeth both of which were far superior to the winner in every imaginable way. I’ve since learned that Weinstein was masterful at garnering votes for movies produced by his studio. With his business acumen he made a name for himself and was quite the powerful man, not just in Hollywood but in political circles as well. In just a little more than a week his reputation and possibly his empire have come tumbling down. It appears that he has been taking advantage of his power by sexually harassing and maybe even attacking  young women who fell victim to his advances out of fear of destroying their careers if they came forward with accusations. The old stories of producers and directors having casting couches abound in the history of movie land and appear to be alive and well to this day.

I can’t say that I am all that surprised. I find the Hollywood scene to be so artificial. Let’s face it. Matt Damon is not really Jason Bourne anymore than any of the actors are the characters that they play. We tend to be star struck and to idolize them to the point of taking them more seriously than we ought. At the end of the day they are as human and imperfect as we are. Take away the lights, makeup, and film editing and they are often rather ordinary. The same goes for their thoughts and beliefs. As my mother always said, they have no more insight into how we should think than anybody else. In fact, it is generally in the most ordinary of circumstances that we find the most remarkable people.

Think about the totality of your life and you will be able to recall a cast of characters whom you have known who will never receive rewards or accolades, but whose ways of living were worthy of the pages of books or even the bright lights of the big screen. I recall teachers, neighbors, relatives whose impact on my development was positive and inspirational. There were so many of them, and they were oh so real. They were truly as courageous, generous and loving as they seemed to be. There was no trickery or illusion. They were the real deal, hard working people who quietly showed me how to become a responsible person in my own right. I watched them with the critical eye of a child and then a teenager and learned from them by example. I’ve never needed the moral dictums of movie stars or directors, because ordinary people have always been around to show me how to behave and treat others.

It is often said that children will do whatever they see the adults around them doing. I feel certain that that is true, because I often find myself emulating the behaviors of people that I admired long ago in my little corner of the world. My mother demonstrated unconditional love and acceptance each and every day of her life. Even when I was grown I often felt humbled by the generosity and selflessness that she demonstrated day after day without any thought of receiving thanks or praise. I had some incredible teachers who with their examples literally taught me how to be a good educator. Not any of the professional development that I have taken has ever been more effective than watching those inspiring mentors who encouraged me to love knowledge. I learned well what works in a classroom and what doesn’t from them. From my childhood neighbors I came to understand that we all live in a village in which we are keepers of one another. It is our duty to protect the people around us as much as we protect our own.

Perhaps more than anything I recall what I learned about being a woman, and those lessons were continually conveyed to me by other women who demonstrated strength and dignity in everything that they did. They showed me how to respect and protect myself. They made me aware of how to keep myself safe, and most importantly how to refuse unwanted sexual advances. I learned how to be aware of my surroundings and when to know that I might be in danger. They repeatedly helped me to understand my own importance in the world and let me know that I need never do anything that makes me uncomfortable. They gave me the tools that I have used to achieve an equal footing with my male counterparts without ever having to surrender my principles.

I feel for women who have been subjected to unwanted sexual harassment. My mother was a particularly beautiful woman and men were quite attracted to her. Sometimes they crossed lines in their behavior toward her, especially after she became a widow. She never allowed herself to be lured by promises or power, not even when she was struggling to keep up with the finances of leading a family alone. Still, she always felt such anger and humiliation whenever men attempted to take advantage of her. They always seemed to insinuate that she had somehow asked for the unwanted actions.

Why anyone would treat another human in such a vile way is beyond my comprehension, and yet we hear of such disturbing behavior again and again. Sadly it is not unique to men. It is sick and disgusting and yet we all too often see it happening and say nothing because we are frightened or simply don’t want to get involved. It’s up to each of us to not only be unafraid to report such things, but we have to get past the idea that certain people bring such incidents on themselves. We have a tendency to blame the victims of sexual violence more than we should. What’s even worse is when we assume that people from certain backgrounds are more likely to be lying whenever they step forward with stories of abuse. We need to listen to anyone with a story of sexual violence and then seek the facts that will ultimately reveal the truth. By the same token we need to be careful not to find someone guilty before we have all of the evidence that we need.

It is always shocking to learn that someone whom we trusted is not the person we thought him/her to be. What is especially sad is when many people know of abuse but look the other way. I tip my hat to anyone who has the courage to speak the truth no matter how powerful the offender may be. As a society we have to insist that nobody be given a pass regardless of who they are. Common decency and fairness requires us to be honest in dealing with abuse because our children are indeed watching. The messages that we send, the hypocrisies that we accept will mold their futures. We need to be certain that what they are seeing and hearing reflects the way we want them to one day be. The only way to curb the kind of behaviors that lead to powerful people believing that they can harm people with impunity is to bring what they have done into the daylight, and demonstrate that we will not tolerate such indecency from anyone. Right now we seem to have a long way to go before we set aside all of our false posturing and stand up for what is just.

A Wedding, Two Funerals, and A Hurricane

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This summer has left me forever changed in ways more dramatic than I might ever have imagined. It began innocently enough with a visit to New Orleans with grandson Ian. He saw my favorite city with a new set of eyes that were innocent and inquisitive. It was the history of the place that fascinated him more than even the food and entertainment. He was particularly entranced with the World War II Museum which filled him with wonder and so many questions. I suppose that in many ways the day that we spent reliving the drama and importance of that era when was the beginning of a circle of life that left me profoundly different by the end of my journey through the warm lazy days that have heretofore represented fun and frolic to me, but would no longer be so simple to consider.

After our sojourn in New Orleans we travelled to Cancun for the wedding of two of our favorite friends, Tim and Dickie. We learned just how powerful love can be and that how it cannot be narrowly defined. We also went on a journey back in history to study the Mayan people and their glorious civilization that had been quite advanced in its time. It humbled us to learn of the ingenuity of mankind, but also to understand that the upheavals of life and how we humans react to them have the power to take down or raise up even nations.

We had scheduled so many more amazing travels for July and August when our world was shaken to its very foundation. My husband Mike had a stroke on July 3, and it was as though the earth itself had stood still. Nothing really mattered to me other than Mike’s health and I was thankful that he was still alive and that I would have more time to convey my feelings for him. I suppose that from that exact moment forward I quit taking anything for granted. I became more attuned to the colors and sounds and people all around me. I rejoiced each day when both Mike and I arose. I reveled in even the smallest bits of joy that came our way. Somehow I found myself caring little for things and greatly appreciative of relationships and love.

Mike and I shared a viewing of a partial eclipse of the sun rather than than the total one that we had planned to witness. I suppose that I should have been disappointed that we were not able to travel to Wyoming for the event, but having the pleasure of sitting with Mike in a park watching the little piece of wonder that we were given was more than ample for me. I felt that our day together was truly glorious just because we had the gift of being together. Whenever I thought of what might have been, I felt frightened but mostly grateful for my blessings. Each new day was glorious, but I had little idea that an even greater test of my endurance lay ahead.

As the summer drew to a close my two eldest grandsons readied to go off to college. We celebrated at our favorite Cuban restaurant, El Meson, in the Village area of Houston near Rice University and the Medical Center. It was a beautiful night in which we enjoyed knowing what fine young men our Andrew and Jack had become. It was yet another reason to be thankful and our hearts were filled with joy.

Later we had the privilege of having our twin grandsons Ben and Eli at our home while their parents helped their older brother to check into his dorm at Texas A&M. I was charged with helping the two boys to complete a project for their English class and we worked quite hard for an entire Saturday. I woke them up early on Sunday so that we might finish and still have time for some fun before their parents returned. Just as I had hoped we found ourselves with enough free hours that we were able to go bowling at the Main Event. Later that evening we played a rousing game of Scrabble with no holds barred, and Eli literally blew us all away with a remarkable score. We laughed and felt so good that I once again found myself silently saying prayers of thanks for such precious moments.

Then came the threat of hurricane Harvey. It seemed that because the eye of the storm would be so far away we would be in little danger. There were predictions of massive rainfall but somehow that didn’t seem to be much of a problem, and so we decided to stay in our home. On the first day after the hurricane made landfall we spoke of the hysteria of the forecasters because their promises of floods appeared to have been premature. We were much more saddened by images of the devastation in Rockport, Texas, one of our all time favorite camping spots. It was not until the evening that the rains began and kept going and going and going for three solid days leaving forty three inches in our neighborhood alone.

We began to hear dire reports of friends and family members whose homes were taking on water. The television stations showed us live pictures of familiar places that looked like ocean front property. More and more people that we knew were evacuating, sometimes in the middle of the night. Suddenly I became fearful because it was apparent that if my husband had another stroke there would be little that we might do to get the help that he would need. Those three days became a kind of terror for me. I watched the rain and the street in front and the yard in the back, ever vigilant and unable to sleep lest I might need to get Mike to a medical facility. I cared not about any of the things in my home, but only about my husband and his safety. I realized that I was going to do whatever it took to get him through.

When the rain finally stopped and moved away from our city after dumping fifty one inches across a one hundred mile wide area I was emotionally drained and filled with conflicting emotions. I cried for all of the souls whose worlds had been turned upside down. I sobbed for those who had lost their lives and their homes. I felt lucky that Mike had made it through the days and nights in good condition. I laughed that we had stayed home from camping trips and the eclipse lest he be in a situation in which he might not be able to receive immediate medical care, and ironically for three days we had essentially been trapped on a kind of island with so much happening all around us that we were actually quite alone. I had to praise God for caring for us and for giving me the strength and the calm that I had needed to weather the storm.

Last week our city began to attempt a return to normalcy in earnest. Children returned to school. Adults went back to work. There were actually days that felt so much like the glorious beginning of fall that has always made Houston a kind of Chamber of Commerce postcard. Only rides around town reminded us of the horror of what had happened. Still we had to be happy that we were able to meet with great friends for a brunch on Sunday. We were grateful that we got to visit Mike’s father on Monday and see that he was doing well. Then our week was punctuated with the sorrow and celebration of the lives of two incredible women who had died. I think that perhaps more than any other event their funerals impacted me with a realization of what is truly most important as we live out our days.

Both of these beautiful souls had lived through those harrowing events of World War II that we had studied in New Orleans with Ian. One of them had resided in England. She met her soulmate during that conflict, an American GI. The two of them fell in love and he took her back to his home in Texas where they had seven children that they raised in a home filled with love and goodness and faith in God. The other woman had been born in Italy but eventually immigrated to New Orleans where she too met the love of her life. They also wound up in Houston in the same neighborhood where I grew up. They had four children who would become dear friends of mine. Both women were devoted to their families and required very little in the way of possessions or wealth to be happy. They sacrificed for family and felt honored to do so. In the end they were in turn loved and adored by their children and their friends.

When I attended the two funerals I was accompanied by people that I had known since I was quite young. We had each accumulated a lifetime of stories and memories, but somehow we knew that those women had demonstrated to us how to truly get the most out of life. I felt a sense of peace and a feeling of understanding that has all too often eluded me as I have fought to accomplish rather than to relate. I saw that these women had always realized that titles and bank accounts and possessions were not the things that define a life well lived, but rather the moments when we touch hearts. Somehow I understood that in spite of the topsy turvy nature of this summer, it had been magnificent because it had opened my eyes to how I need to embrace each moment that I have. Somehow I am all the better for what I have learned from that wedding, the hurricane and those two funerals.