Thanksgiving Memories

Practicing Praxis, 28 November 2019 – Thanksgiving Memories

Lisa’s occasional blog

It’s Thanksgiving Day morning and I’m thinking about specific memories I have about Turkey Day.  For me, this day is not about huge family gatherings, or food, nor is it about preparing for the gift-giving consumerism of x-mas (or Chanukah).  It’s also cannot forget the myth of Native people and the pilgrims sitting down together to happily eat, given the history of Native genocide perpetuated by us white settlers.

I’m a New Yorker, so this morning, as I watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on TV (in cold and snowy Minneapolis), I’m remembering the day when I was a little girl, and my dad took me to the Macy’s parade. I don’t think I was older than about five.  We took the subway from Queens into Manhattan. My mom stayed home, I think, preparing our meal. She was not much of a cook, which is why I probably don’t have great family food memories.

 It was FREEZING outside.  We parked ourselves right near the Macy’s marquee on 34th Street where the parade traditionally ends.   I remember the police barricades – back then, they were called wooden sawhorses. Stamped on them were the words: “Police Line – Do Not Cross.” I could stand up straight and still fit underneath them (As a white Jewish kid, I had no fear of police nor did I know anything about police violence directed at people of color.) We waited and waited for the parade to start, and I grew colder and colder. My dad saw how cold I was getting, so he grabbed my hand and we started to walk a couple of blocks to a Nedick’s ( for you non-New Yorkers…pronounced NEE-dix).  I’m not sure if it exists anymore, but in NYC, you could always find a Nedick’s on a street corner.  When we walked in, my dad bought me a HUGE cup of hot coffee!  I was a big girl, right? And he had already taught me to love coffee.   My little hands gripped the cup tightly, willing it to warm up my insides. Damn, it tasted so good—especially with the milk and sugar!  After I sucked down the whole thing, we smiled at each other, and slowly walked back to the parade.  I felt great. It was much more crowded when we got back to the parade.  I pushed my way back under one of the wooden sawhorses so I could get a good view.

Note:  As I’m writing this, I’ve looked up periodically at the current parade on TV.  Just saw the Rockefeller Center Rockettes – all white? (What century is this?)  I also glimpsed a bunch of lip-syncing performers, a mix of country and pop singers, several K-Pop groups and a couple of hip hop artists. I don’t know most of these people. I guess I’m too old. I cannot keep up with pop culture these days. At this moment, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots are gyrating non-stop on a float, looking pretty silly.  There’s been a few numbers from current shows on Broadway, all abbreviated so that there can be lots of time for toy commercials interspersed on TV throughout the parade. I’ve seen a bunch of marching bands from around the U.S.  They have all been high-stepping in unison in the front of Macy’s playing x-mas music, in uniforms that include huge hats, lots of tassels, some swords, and lots of thin girls in bathing suit attire. They all look enormously proud with their heads held high (as they shlep tubas and drum sets), though those girls are probably freezing their asses off.  It’s a big deal to get accepted into the Macys parade.  I can visibly see a few people of color sprinkled in the bands, even though I know there are many youth of color bands around the country.  In the Twin Cities at local parades, these bands bring out huge crowds of community supporters.  I guess they didn’t get accepted into these national parades? Usually, each school has had to raise enormous amounts of money to rent buses to get to NYC. It’s a highlight for all these kids to go to NYC, and if you don’t come from a family with money or a well-to-do community or school, it’s a stretch for a family to get their kids there.

Today, it’s very windy in NYC so all the huge balloons that this parade is famous for are being held by Macys workers very low to the ground, rather than soaring high between skyscrapers. When I was college student, I came home for Thanksgiving one year and went into Manhattan on the night before Turkey Day. I got really stoned with a friend and walked along the Upper West Side on the side streets to watch the balloons getting blown up.  It’s a NYC ritual to see all this happen before the actual parade.

Well, the parade is about over, and I’m home alone. I’ve got to get ready to go over to Pat’s house, where I’ll have a turkey meal with her and the other women who live there. Susan who owns Cecilia’s Place (where Pat lives) cooks a great meal.  I’m bringing an apple pie from a local bakery.

Yes, I do feel lonely. But I’m grateful to reminisce about NYC and the parade, and to remember my dad. It’s something that Pat can’t do anymore, robbed of her memories.

death is always at our doorstep

Practicing Praxis – Lisa Albrecht’s once-in-a-while blog

Death is always at our doorstep, Nov. 22, 2019, Iowa City, Iowa

When we say that “death is at our doorstep,” we often mean that death is soon.  But death is part of the journey we are all on…every day.  I am learning that today.  I’m in Iowa City with Diane (in hospice), Jill (her partner/wife of over 30 plus years), Jorgito (their nine year old grandson whom they are raising [that’s another story]), and any guests –like me this weekend—who are coming to say “goodbye.”  I am part of all the wonderful people in their lives. Diane only “eats” fluids now, and so many friends come by with food – liquids, solids, everything to feed any one here.

Before arriving yesterday, my stomach hurt every day as I anticipated this trip.  I felt scared of visiting, of being close to death. I don’t feel that now. I feel close to love and deep care. Hospice is an amazing service.  Instead of Diane needing to call and visit all the different doctors who have cared for her during her long cancer journey of over 5 years, she just calls hospice.  Someone comes and coordinates whatever she needs in terms of care, pain and medicine.

If only healthcare in the U.S. provided this to all of us on our life journey.  But we know, health care doesn’t do this, unless we are lucky enough to have this kind of “coverage.” Coverage is an interesting word, isn’t it?

 My friend, Cindy, in the Twin Cities is on this same long journey with cancer. When I go home (tomorrow), I want to talk with Cindy about hospice.  She has been on a similarly long journey and she is also nearing death.

I’m 68 years old now and one year beyond my weight loss surgery.  I’ve lost an enormous amount of weight to help me live with osteoarthritis pain, and I don’t eat much and don’t enjoy food much anymore – kind of like Diane – I’m “dying” too, like all of us on life’s journey. Though I’m not at death’s doorstep–the conventional way of viewing death. I could live another 20 years, or two years, or fall and hit my head and die tomorrow.  We don’t know, do we?  On the plane ride, I brought a magazine I subscribe to here.  It’s Yes! – Journalism for People Building a Better World (Fall, 2019) – The Death Issue – How to have a Good Death.  Am I obsessing about death?  One of the articles in this issue, “7 Things People Forget to Do Before They Die,” has taught me the following:  1) Use the D-words; 2) Ask your health care providers questions about death; 3) Research your death; 4) Take advantage of the little things; 5) Let your loved ones know you’re going to lean on them for support when the time comes; 6) Think about what kind of legacy you want to leave; and 7) Consider a different bucket list.”

Diane’s hospice nurse was talking with Jill earlier today, and I learned that there are different levels of hospice care, and they are deciding on possible next phases, especially around levels of pain that Diane has. Death is getting closer.  Diane said to me yesterday that she wasn’t sure if she’d make it to x-mas.

Last night, Diane, Jill, Horgio and I  went to hear wonderful music and dance by Los Compasinos! –an amazing group of Los Angeles latinx musicians at the arts center at the University of Iowa. Diane used to work at the university.  Many of Diane and Jill’s friends came up to them and hugged them. They are blessed because they are connected to such a rich community. And all their friends make it clear that they are devoted to Diane’s family because of all the love she and Jill have always given to them. I was exhausted from all the love by the time the night ended! 

Today, at their home, I’ve spent time with Veronica and her partner, Bonnie.  Veronica, a white woman born in Austria, is a recently retired gynecologist. Bonnie, her African American partner of 25 plus years, used to work for the post office.  Veronica cleaned Diane & Jill’s kitchen, while Bonnie and I shared stories.  Bonnie grew up in Queens, not far from where I grew up but she was raised in the Black part of Queens and I grew up in a white Jewish enclave. Bonnie’s mother lives in Iowa City now and has alzheimer’s, living in a local nursing home.  Yet her mom totally remembered how to make sweet potato pie!  There are many people with Alzheimer’s who still carry long-term memories that are fabulous. Veronica, directed by Bonnie’s mom, made a wonderful pie. I just had a piece and it is delicious!

First Interruption:  I just got a call from Pat’s healthcare provider where she lives.  It looks like she has another UTI (urinary tract infection – common for older women who don’t move around much- like women with Alzheimer’s.) I still juggle Pat’s caregiving with the rest of my life.  We have to now make sure Pat gets her UTI meds and then we have to schedule a flu shot for her. 

Second Interruption:  Two really kind hospice doctors just arrived to care for Diane.  She’s now on a higher dose of oxycontin for pain, and they are deciding how best to relieve Diane of pain near the site in her stomach where she is connected to a tube that removes nasty stuff (that’s the best I can do to explain it). The tube gets clogged and the pain more intense.  They’ve decided to take Diane to the hospital tonight.  They will x-ray her stomach and find out what’s next.  She’ll stay there at least overnight. Jill is driving her soon.  Jorgito will do an overnight with a friend, and I’ll stay here with Baraka – sorry I haven’t introduced you to their wonderful mutt; they have a friend who picks her up every day and takes her to the country where she runs around for the day, and then she returns her home. Baraka just arrived; she’s my date for tonight.

Postscript

Text from Diane Finnerty…24 Nov 2019…sent from her hospice hospital room, “be well, my dear friend, and I will be ready to greet you on the other side…Big love!”

Patricia Rouse

This is a photo of my partner, Pat.
She has Alzheimer’s and lives in a residence near where I live.

Jewish Voice for Peace

Jewish Voice for Peace opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression.  JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East. Current mission statement adopted in 2009.

Middle East Israel-Palestine Organizing

Jews Say: End the War on Gaza – No Aid to Apartheid Israel!
“How many of our lives are dispensable enough until the world takes action?
How much of our blood is sufficient?


As Jews of conscience, we answer by unequivocally condemning Israel’s ongoing massacre in Gaza, whose victims include hundreds of civilians, children, entire families, the elderly, and the disabled. This latest toll adds to the thousands Israel has killed and maimed since its supposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. 

Read more.

Equality v. Equity

This explains the differences between equality (which means everyone gets the SAME help) vs. equity (which means everyone gets what they need, so if I need both reading AND writing help, I will get both. That doesn’t give me an advantage…rather it brings me up to speed.

4 Levels Of Racism

Racism happens on multiple levels simultaneously. This chart shows what happens at “micro” (individual) and “macro” (systems) levels. Individuals can demonstrate racism towards other people and groups of people. Big systems (like schools or prisons) can be racist towards various groups of color). When you link systems together (like housing policy and prisons), you see how working together, it is incredibly hard for formerly incarcerated people to get Section 8 housing.