Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Touching The Rock

Familiarity. Comfort. Sameness. History. Finding the touchstones in our lives that make our progress and our anniversaries so much more is important.

I've reached my sixty-first year. Today. That longevity in and of itself is an achievement to the ingenuity of homo sapiens. We have found ways to prolong our lives through better nutrition, medicine, better living through Monsanto, and bigger weapons than the fangs of genus smilodon** who stalked our asses as we dropped out of the trees onto the savannas or into the water, depending on which anthropologist theory you follow.

We've learned how to upgrade our wood, stone, and flint bows, arrows and spears for state-of-the-art models with technology unknown to our distant forebears. Who knew that if you jazzed bauxite ore with cathodes of electricity you could produce light-weight aluminum, and concomitantly, the modern crossbow and long bows used in hunting today. I have a point here, readers. Bear with.

So. I'm thinking. Progress. Not necessarily technological progress, but just the achievement of a human having made it thus far with tales to tell, wisdom, experiences, changes, knowledge. I remember musing if I would make it to the year 2000. I would be a decrepit 53! LAWS! What an achievement and ripe old age! I was a young fruit of 17 when this first occurred to me.

And here I am at the ripe old age of 61 today looking back at the carpet of my life, having made it through the turn of the century, wanting to do the same for myself as I did for my dying mother: Remind others that the lump of flesh and bone in front of you is more than the sum of it's parts. This body has BEEN places! DONE things! WORKED, INVENTED, CREATED, HEALED, LOVED, SCREWED UP, MADE THINGS HAPPEN, MADE A MARK!

When I was caring for my mother in her dying phase, she would fall or wrangle her way out of bed. Her swollen weight was way more than my skinny ass could bend down and lift up. So. I called the Fire Department Rescue guys. They knew us from the familiar calls on 911.

"Mamie Drury Kerik has fallen and she can't get up", and they were on their way to maneuver, lug and lift her dead-weight back into her hospital bed which she constantly tried to escape from. These escapes always happened when sleep-deprived me was comatose from a 36 hour stint of ass wiping and fetching and toting and spoon feeding that never seemed to be enough to please or assuage. This was my life long song and lament. This was the lullaby sung to me from the age I was old enough to comprehend. I had already failed at my duty of taking care of mother 4 decades before it became a reality and duty. So. That when I got there, it was already a set up.

Sense some psychosis here? Good for you. But. Back to my original reason for the post. Touching the rock. When those rescue guys came in to lift Mamie up into her bed, there was always this aura that they ignored her. They talked to me as they maneuvered her up onto the hospital bed, never addressing her.

Me. With all my childish angst and issues, found this unconscionable. My mother was someone to be reckoned with, after all. She was a founding mother of the women's movement during the 1970s, anchoring the N.O.W. right here in Tampa Bay. She filed lawsuits along with my father at our kitchen table that allowed other women to get the first jobs with the Tampa Police Department, discriminations against big corporations like Coca-Cola and Tampa International Airport slapped down and paid for, giving the Barefoot and Pregnant award to presidents of South American countries renowned for their abominable treatment of women despite the pleadings the US State Department, and she was key in getting the first female news broadcaster ever hired in the Bay area on Channel 13. There were others involved in all of these, but I'm focusing on Mamie here.

So. The firemen and ambulances and oxygen techs and hospice nurses and doctors in the ERs would talk about Mamie over Mamie. It bothered me to my foot bones and bunions. She was a force to be reckoned with in her lifetime and in mine, and here were all these medicos and para whatevers talking over her. It didn't matter my issues with her. No childhood angst could excuse the rudeness with which these people dismissed this force of nature that was my mother.

She. Who had ridden a Harley Davidson down US 301 topless. She who had been a bouncer at Sweethearts Skating Rink where she met my father during WWII. She who had steered a little bit of history to the left for women. She who had single handedly taken on Sears and Roebuck and won a victory for the downtrodden everywhere. She. Who had raised me hard, had given me the gift of fearlessness with fist and arm, respect for root and knob, who was dying ignobly was being talked OVER.

I came up with a project. I dug out every picture that I had of Her from buxom 16 year old Ava Gardner look alike in a one piece Catalina swimsuit, to pharmacologist greeting the French representatives of L'Oreal who kissed her hand and begged her to go back with them, to reactionary who marched alongside the likes of Bella Abzug, Alan Alda, Gloria Steinem. Aged like a good ass wine from birth to 74, I had pictures. I wanted to post them above her bed. This is the woman who could find her way through the Okefenokee Swamp, shoot straight, and grab a rattlesnake by its tail and snap the head off in one smooth movement!

"Look. This is who you are dealing with here! THIS being before you, this awkward lump of flesh is the sum of it's parts, all experience, all nascent, all able to hear you when you talk about her as if she isn't there"!

So. The project. Touching the Rock. Find all those pictures of you birth to forty and beyond. Make a timeline out of your life like I plan to do so that no one stepping into to it (your life) close to the finish can dismiss you as unimportant, forgettable, clueless.

I'm starting my project out of turn. This is my graduation photo from C. Leon King High School in Tampa, Florida, Class of 1965. I will go back to the beginning as I'm asking you to do with your timeline. But for me, this graduation photo is symbolic. I'll start touching the rock from here.

** Paleolithic Saber Tooth Tiger


Martha Marshall said...

Happy birthday, Dina! Sixty is the new forty, you know. And you are still fabulous!!!

By the way, did you ever put up the Mama and the Sears Man piece on your blog? If not, would you, pretty please??

Max Stone said...

Happy Birthday my lovely Lady! I hope your day is blessed with cool winds, warm sunshine, good food, and better wine. I love the story of your Mom, I've heard parts of that story before, but never like this. I love the way you write. I love you, I wish I could be there to par-tay down with you!

Pam said...

You should write a book about your mother and yourself. You are an extraordinary woman, and I can see where you got it from!

Happy Birthday Dina!

redchair said...

Happy Birthday Dina. You and I were born under the same moon. My birthday is tomorrow.

I think it’s so endearing that your thoughts are with your Mother today. She was obviously extraordinary and brought forth an extraordinary daughter as her very best legacy.

I actually wrote my life journal, loaded with pictures, about 4 years ago. (One of the first things I did when I retired) It took me almost 9 months to say it was done. I put it on CD as well as printed it out. It feels good. It’s strangely cathartic. As I wrote, I laughed and cried and remembered things I hadn’t thought about in years.

Have a great day sweet girl.


queenlint1 said...

Thank all of you for your wishes! My 'present' from all of you are these wonderful comments.

Marty, I'm your sidekick, girlfriend and I will dig up "Mama and the Sears Man" and put it up!

Heather Marie, Seeing those bedroom eyes appear right here reminds me of looking at them across your kitchen table and us sharing our histories. I love you, too!

Pam Biscuit, Now see. I think YOU are extraordinary by being able to use both that left scientific brain in research and the beauteous right brain as you turn simple strings into creative art both humorous and lovely.

And Vikki. I would love to see that CD! What a tale you would have with your enormously sucessful and eventful life! I will be wishing you warm, fat and juicy blessings on YOUR day tomorrow!

Thank you all for the wonderful thoughts. You've made my heart swell today!

Cousin Deb said...

You, dear cousin, are forever making me cry. I remember your mother ~ my Aunt Lonnie ~ as a very, very, very strong woman. I remember her killing palmetto bugs with her bare feet. And I remember her getting mad at your father ~ my Uncle John ~ every time he'd play "Ruby, don't take your love to town" on his guitar. I always thought "lioness" when thinking of your mom... possessive and protective of hearth & home. I love the picture of you in cap and gown, too. The one I have of you is with blue cape and white trim. So beautiful. . .

Anonymous said...

Dina, my twanga friend, here I sit almost in August just catching up on your blog between vacation, rehearsals and life. I love the picture of you-it is SO you-determined, a force to be reckoned with, resourceful and one to take names and kick ass. I am grateful to the day that you were born-so glad to know you. In the words of one of my current favorite broadway songs(from Wicked) "Because I knew you, I have been changed for good..."Thank you for all of the love, laughs, advice, encouragement and costumes. In this world, you are one of the few people who really gets me-and that means a lot. I love you! Cinzia/Twanagalicious

queenlint1 said...

Wasn't she just industrial strength?? And I remember her throwing dishtowels at daddy when he played, "Ruby" with that devilish look on his face.

You have my 'chitlin' grinning' photo then! If I had any more teeth and grin wrinkles in that one, it would have been wall-to-wall pearlies!


queenlint1 said...

Sentiments shared, my good friend! We have weathered the past few decades and all the men in camo that have come and gone in them!

More to come because we've just been seeing the previews!