Thursday, September 15, 2011

Living, loving, & leaving legacies

Panaramic View from the Jerome Hoxie Scenic Ov...Image via Wikipedia
Legacies. It's a topic of conversation that I find myself having more frequently these days. I've always found the importance of others' legacies, but never truly considered the impact on my own. I've been stuck in Rhode Island for a few extra days waiting for a replacement light for my truck. I guess we'll start with how that happened since I've got some time to write...for the first time in a long time.

A couple weeks ago, I was parking my car and backed into a tree, which broke the entire light off my truck.  My depth perception's been way off lately due to pure exhaustion. Living in a neighborhood where I came home to gun shots ringing through the air on a regular basis led me to putting all of my belongings in a storage unit lent to me by a friend from church. I've been crashing on friends' couches and trying to figure out my next step for a couple weeks. Having just taken a new job, I'm not in a financial position to move anywhere and the man who rented me the room will not give me my deposit back. This trip to Rhode Island couldn't have come at a better time. I was at my breaking point and I needed to get some perspective...and rest.

This trip was pre-destined as I had a family reunion to attend here. I had pushed really hard for us to re-unite this year. My Aunt Peggy used to do a lot of the organization for it, but since she and my uncle passed, we hadn't been as organized at putting it together. This past Easter, I talked to one of my cousins about planning our reunion and offered whatever help I could in getting it back as an annual event. I got a text from her shortly after and I guess my response, as brief as it was, was enough to inspire an email and getting the wheels in motion to reserve a spot at Goddard Park, where we always had them in the past. I followed her lead and created a Facebook invitation to reach out to other members of the family that may not have received the email. We were on our way to continue the legacy, which began with her mother.

Just as I felt like I might go insane from worrying about where I was going to sleep and how  I was going to make my life work in New York, it was time to come home to my family reunion...which I was late for. My cousin and I joked when I arrived about me being late since I was the one who had pushed so hard for it to happen. Man, it felt good to laugh. It also felt amazing to be surrounded by my family, who have been watching my journey on Facebook and I realized how tremendously supportive they are and how much they believe in me. I couldn't bare to tell them the truth about what was going on back with my living situation.

I told one of my cousins, the one whom I've confided in before. And the only reason I really told her was so that I could ask for her to pray for me. I'm not holding my hand out to anyone to beg for help or look for an easy way out. Nothing worth having or doing is ever easy. I accept that truth and I embrace the challenges I have faced and continue to face. They have built me to be the strong young woman I am proud to be today. It's part of my legacy.

While I was home, I stayed with my brother (though not a brother by blood, he's as much my family as any one of my blood relatives). My first night there, I played music with him in his jam room. It felt good to get on the drums and bang out some of my confusion, frustration, and good that I passed out in his jam room. I woke up at 6 a.m. alone in the jam room and walked to my car so I could get a decent kind of rest in a bed at his house. As I walked out, I realized my car had been hit. I was too tired to really react to it. Reacting to it changed nothing anyway.

I went to his house and got some rest. When I woke up, I told him what happened. Without a second thought, he responded with, "Oh, that was me." I had to laugh. I was so grateful that he was the one who had done it because I wouldn't be mad at him and at least I had someone to blame if I really wanted to. he offered to put it through his insurance, but I shrugged it off and told him I had more important things to deal with than my bumper. If nothing else, my life's trials and tribulations have taught me perspective...something I'm grateful to add to my legacy.

I went to my parents' house and showed my father my light. Upon inspection, it was decided I needed to replace the entire light encasement. I had been pulled over 2 days in a row prior to arriving in RI and I couldn't return with the light the way it was. I had already gotten a ticket for the tint on my front windows the first time I was pulled over. My father and I peeled the tint off my window and he ordered me a new light through a local salvage yard. And he told me he would pay for the light. If you know anything about my father, he's not one to volunteer to pay for anything. One of his most common sayings growing up was, "If you girls didn't have your mother, you'd get NOTHING from me." Sounds harsh, but if you knew my dad, you'd just laugh when you heard him say it.

My dad's a good man with a heart of gold, a cancer survivor, who gave most of his life to the telephone company. He worked tirelessly as we were growing up, taking any overtime he could. Having three daughters wasn't cheap and my mother's mental illness took a toll on family's finances for the better part of my life. He was always trying to catch up and/ or stay afloat. That is part of his legacy.

My mother got involved with ordering the light, too. She made sure I wrote down my VIN number and all the info about my truck so they'd have it ready when they ordered it. My mother is a remarkable woman, so quiet now and slow with her motions. She's endured more than most 10 people off the street. She's suffered from manic-depression my entire life, in and out of mental hospitals for most of my childhood. She's survived breast cancer after a misdiagnosis and been diagnosed with diverticulitis and colitis. Last year she had a hip replacement, whose surgery spiraled a manic episode  and then got re-admitted after finally making her way to rehab because her wound opened. My mother seems to be a walking study of Murphy's Law....but she has survived it all. She may not be the loud and boisterous woman she was once known for, but I thank God she's alive.

This morning I went to visit my Gram, my grandmother on my father's side and my only living grandparent.  I do my best to pay her a visit every time I'm home. At 90 years old, she looks and sounds amazing. I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to play her my music. She may never see the day (if) I walk down an aisle or have any children, but I'm so grateful to God that she's alive to hear the music I've given birth to and to watch my boldly follow my dreams. We sat and talked about my grandfather, an amazing artist, my  great uncle, whom I've never had the pleasure of meeting, and the Hoxie's, my uncle's family, in California. My Pa, as I affectionately called my grandfather, was left an orphan, but spent much of his life tracing his lineage despite being abandoned by his father. My grandfather understood the importance of legacy and certainly left an impressionable one as a loving husband, a caring grandfather, a cheerful neighbor, a talented artist, and so much more.

I left the nursing home once I walked my grandmother down to lunch. She's always so proud to introduce her granddaughter from NEW YORK! I love the pride she has as she introduces me to her friends and I'm glad I didn't mention not having a place to live during our visit. Before I left, I told her I'd have a music video to show her the next time I came to visit, kissed her goodbye, and choked back tears until I reached the front door.

From there, I drove to the memorial plot of my friend, Tim Lyons. If you're not familiar with who Tim is, you can read more about his life and legacy in one of my past blogs (Forever Young). Tim's life was tragically cut short by a drunk driver when were in 8th grade. During this trip home, I also visited our junior high to talk to the principal about replacing the tree that had been planted in his memory the year it happened. The junior high went under major renovations last year and Tim's tree was ripped up as a result. I'm working hard to ensure that Tim's legacy lives on and I have a few friends working to ensure this happens.

Just as I got in my car from visiting Tim's memorial, I got on my Blackberry and posted a picture of the plaque that still stands in the place where he was struck. As I scrolled down my news feed, I saw a post from my college roommate, one of my very best friends. Her grandmother had just passed away, only 1 year from when her father, a firefighter and first responder for 9/11 had passed away(See Sun Showers, another past blog, to learn more about her father's legacy). Tears streamed down my face as I realized the year she had faced. I was glad that her grandmother was alive to see her get engaged, but saddened at the notion that both her father and grandmother would be absent from the wedding. And again, I was reminded to put my life into perspective.

As the clock ticks, I'm trying to patiently wait for the phone call saying that my light is ready to pick up so that I can get on the road and back to New York. I have to get back to make it to band rehearsal and face my reality...a reality that is so daunting sometimes that I barely know where to begin. But I'm strong and I will persevere through all of it. I can't wait to overcome all of these challenges and continue to pursue my dream. I will keep on keepin' on. And I will write to tell you of my triumph over all of this. And that is my legacy.

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