As a Catholic sinner who drinks and dances and cavorts with the worst people on the planet (broadcasters) , I will admit that prior to this afternoon, I didn’t know that much about African-American Baptist dealings. So as I sit here on a stormy Saturday afternoon in Southeast Texas watching the late Whitney Houston’s “homegoing” enter its fourth hour, I must say I’m amazed. There was even a nurse there dressed in a classic Dr.Kildare old school white nurses uniform,complete with white hose, that cap…the works. There, I suppose to help keep grief from manifesting itself phsyically. Too bad Aretha didn’t know this. She and her leg spasms could have attended.
This was as much pep rally as it was funeral and you know what? If any of my repressed white friends and family, be ye Catholic or Protestant, are reading this, then I wouldn’t mind a little jubilation at my cast off skyward (at least I hope the direction would be up ↑).
Whitney Houston’s funeral was lovely, spirited, a proper send off, but it was still odd–odd to wrap one’s head around. Not unlike Princess Diana….JKF Jr. and others taken by surprise. She was a woman who ostensibly had everything, including access to excess. Her death is, I hate to say, in some ways, a sad tragic suicide. Drugs (street or prescription), alcohol, weed. She dealt with her demons with her own weaknesses. Her fame and celebrity couldn’t throw her a life-preserver. She couldn’t save herself….I don’t think you can when you’re past a certain point. It’s in the journey to that point of no return that you have to adult up. It’s then when you have to be responsible and accountable and give it your best Rita Hayworth impersonation and shout, “I Want To Live!!!”.
Whitney Houston’s death should be a wake-up call for anyone trying to exorcise the demons of drink and drugs. Michael Jackson’s should have been as well, but perhaps some people weren’t in class that day.
I say this because I understand this process of destruction, then redemption. There was a point in my life that my willpower deserted me. Then again, I opened the door and shoved it through. But once the lesson is learned, the most important thing you can do, is forgive yourself. Let it go. Sweet release.
I think I’ve done that. I think I continue to do that. Whitney, for whatever reason, couldn’t.
A couple of weeks ago, while visiting my mother in the Hill Country, I had my will prepared. My attorney asked me very pointed questions about my the end of my life. It was surreal. I walked out of his office feeling a million emotions. What I had done that Friday afternoon, set the pace for the entire weekend. It was reflective. In some ways, wistful. In many ways, entertaining.
And in that three day span, I came to the conclusion that good, bad or indifferent, I’ve had an interesting life–I think. Normal, by most standards Difficult and emotionally taxing with a few glimpses of happiness thrown innotm, –I think and often, that serves as fodder for my blog posts.
I’m the youngest of three girls. My father now retired, was a successful car dealer and my mother, for the most part, spent most of her time toiling in the fields of Amana, Kenmore and Maytag drudgery.
Growing up in small town South Central Texas was interesting, too. When I was a kid, we only had three networks–four if you include PBS, which back then, we rarely did–and this was when stations weren’t 24 hour stations. Once you heard the national anthem at midnight, that was it, until the early morning inspirational show, ”Lamp Unto My Feet” started the next broadcast day.
Variety was not the spice of life back then. Not in a small town. I grew up with two small mom and pop owned grocery stores and essentially, they had the same inventory. Namely, in that both were limited. My hometown had two pharmacies, a library and one clothing store, three car dealerships and a bank and a savings and loan. I don’t remember their being more than a couple of restaurants. Chains stayed away, save for the Dairy Queen which didn’t arrive until early 1973.
We lived the nice, quiet life of a small town family-life. I had an OK relationship with my parents, but there were things we just didn’t talk about. Was it avoidance? I’m not sure, but it forced me to learn about life on my own. And I did. TV helped, so did my friends; there was the “Weekly Reader” and of course, Walter Cronkite. I’d come home from school each afternoon, do my homework and finish up just as old Walt was announcing the number of B-52’s lost over Hanoi that day.
My father was very supportive of that conflict. In his opinion we were there for a “damn good reason”. He also loved Nixon, considered LBJ to be a polecat and thought there was a Communist lurking in every trench coat. He’s mellowed some in his old age, but for a while there, he was, in some ways, Archie Bunker with a college degree.
For example, in High School, I went out with a Vietnamese boy named Trahn. Great guy, first generation American, born and raised in the states. Still, all my father could see was that he wasn’t Occidental in appearance. Daddy knew his name, but insisted on calling him “Charlie”.
I didn’t understand what that meant until much later in life.
My mother? She was better; somewhat more tolerant of the things my father couldn’t deal with, but rather strict and all about propriety. We were forbidden to call boys––ever. We couldn’t accept phone calls after 9pm and NO dating until age 16. But I would sneak out and talked late to my boyfriends all the time. I had my own phone–separate number. I never understood how my mother didn’t find out what a rebel I was.
Wanna know something? She and I never had “the talk”. You know the one. That special mother/daughter confab you’re supposed to have just as boobs and other things are starting to sprout? She just didn’t talk about things like that. But she was very good at cautionary tales. Such as telling me that chewing my fingernails would give me intestinal worms. Eating raw cookie dough and uncooked hotdog wieners would do the same thing. Biting my lip would cause cancer. Sleeping near an open window would render me helpless and the gypsies would come steal me. You know the ones…born in the waggon of a traveling show, their mammas had to dance for the money they’d throw, their grandpas’ would do whatever they could.
The closet thing she ever told me that could even be remotely construed as “the talk” would be that masturbating would cause cancer. So would sex.
Which at the time, I thought was a number between five and seven.
How and when I learned about the proverbial birds and the bees, beats the hell out of me, but somehow I understood it. Innately, maybe. I totally got a man’s protrusion and how it would fit into a woman’s intrusion. I knew that sperm + egg would/could =fetus. I do remember watching that film that the school nurse showed the girls back in fifth grade. I remember that pamphlet that came with it, too. But for some reason, it was if I already knew everything.
It was 1969. I was ten. The made-for-prepubescent females, school flick, “Growing Up and Liking It” addressed all the issues. We learned about our impending monthlies and all the feminine hygiene products that end in an “X”. We also learned that it was OK to bathe and ride a bike when in the throes of our menses but we should stop short of swimming, unless we were COMPLETELY current on the proper use of certain Kimberly-Clark products.
You see, “Growing Up and Liking It” was produced in the late 50’s.
Years later, I asked my mother why we never had “the talk”. She replied, “OK Laurie. Better late than never. What does my adult daughter want to know”.
I asked, “After all these years, would you please tell me about the facts of life?”.
Her response? “It was an NBC sitcom which starred a black chick named Tootie”.
Well, that explained cramps.
Sleep well, Whitney.