mosquitoes

nick-de-partee-97063“I guess our invites to the mosquitoes got lost in the mail,” Granddad chuckled to himself, Schlitz on his breath, a hot dog clutched in his hand.

“I guess so,” Dad grinned.

“I know it’s a little bit cooler than usual out here but you think they could bother to put on a sweater or something,” Granddad said, amused with himself.

Dad shook his head over by the old Weber grill.

“Yeah, you’d think so,” he said.

It would be our last summer barbecue at Granddad’s before he went to the home, and we didn’t know.  There was no way we could’ve known about everything that was going on with him—the lost stretches of time and faces and seemingly numberless copies and copies of house keys that Dad had to keep making for him.

“He’ll fight it,” our mother had told Dad.

“I would too,” Dad had said.

But it was so much cooler than it should’ve been that evening in late August that we didn’t need citronella candles or bug spray or any of that nonsense.  So we sat out there on the back porch and ate hot dogs as a family and heard the same stories we’d heard time and again until the stars shone through the inky sky hanging above our messy summertime heads.  And though Granddad had forgotten so much we all remember him and our last summer barbecue together when the mosquitoes couldn’t be bothered to attend.

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rosa

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The thing I’ll always remember about her is how she loved color—any color.  She spoke so softly and so seldom that so many people never knew that about her, but of all the electric things I knew in her that made her who she was, I remember her love of color more than anything else.  And no matter what happens I know she’ll be here among us, plain in our face with a brave smile and open heart, if we just take the time to look.

So pack light

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It’s the only option we have left.  We have to leave, to run.  And we damn well better take advantage of this light while we’ve got it.  It’s a luxury we absolutely have to make the most of, because once that’s gone, the darkness is gonna be the least of our worries.

An open letter to Betsy DeVos from a public school parent

Mrs. DeVos:

I, and many other Americans, found your remarks and answers regarding the future of America’s schools alarming.  I understand that many of the questions posed to you by Senators such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders may be politically charged and slanted in at least a small way to further Democrat political agendas, but your answers and conduct made one thing abundantly clear: you are not fit to be our Secretary of Education.

I would especially like to make it clear to you how wrong you are on the topic of guns in our schools.  Guns have no place in our schools, and to argue that they may be needed “in case of grizzlies” is especially infuriating to my family.

My son is half grizzly.

I am married to a sweet, wonderful, and caring grizzly bear who works hard to provide for us, and our son attends public school every day where he gets excellent grades.  He doesn’t have many friends, but the ones he does have are very dear to our family.  He has endured bullying and ridicule since he was a cub because he is different—a difference that he had no choice in, mind you.  And for you to claim that he is a danger to his school simply because of his DNA is outrageous.  I’m just happy his father is in hibernation right now so he doesn’t have to see this.  President-Elect Trump has done so much to normalize hate towards people who are different, and your suggestion that my son—my sweet, loving son is dangerous and should be held off with a gun is yet another heartbreak added to the long list of tragedies perpetrated by small-minded, weak-hearted people.

Mrs. DeVos, you are unfit to serve our country as Secretary of Education, however, should you be confirmed, I assure you that I will not waver, nor will my family.  My son is a strong young man-bear with a beautiful heart.  He will go to school with his head held high in pursuit of his dreams, and his father and I will be right there with him to support him in any and every way we can.  Love always wins, Mrs. DeVos, and you’ll need something much stronger than guns to stop these Grizzlies.

Sincerely,

Sharon A. Hayes-Grizzly

Pointe North, Wyoming

I thought you’d look different

qyftkpfqzv4-wil-stewart-1“I thought you’d look different,” I said.

“Different how?”

“I don’t know,” I said.  “Different.”

Silence.

“That’s all?” he asked.

“I can’t think of anything else, to be totally honest,” I answered.  The whole experience had me knocked back, and though I knew I should say something, needed to say something, I didn’t have a word.

“Okay,” he said, shrugging his shoulders and turning to face a particularly bright patch of stars.

Silence.

“Are you sure?” he finally asked.  “We don’t have much longer.”

“No?”

“No.”

We stood there for another moment or two before he sat down on a rock.  I joined him and we sat there together, just staring into the night sky.

“I guess I thought you’d be older,” I finally said.

“Everyone always does,” he answered, keeping his eyes pointed into the sky.

I smiled a little and nodded.  “I’m sure,” I said.

“But don’t worry,” he finally said, turning his eyes to me with a quiet smile.  “It doesn’t hurt.”

Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner

We begin by saying grace.
I try to follow,
But my own words take over.
Dear God,
Do you really hate queers that much?
Amen.

The squash in front of me
Reminds me of everything we stole
And continue to steal—
The water, the land, the culture.
Their gourd has been bastardized by spices,
Then pureed or extracted
To add to cookies and coffee,
Consumed by my sister
Becky with the hair she tried to twist into “locks”.

I look at the apple pie
And see brown hands
That picked each fruit,
Perfectly ripe
But now bitter in taste
With the memories of families torn apart.
Sugar only adds to the astringency,
Evoking images of black lives
That didn’t matter then
And don’t seem to matter now.

My father reaches across the table,
Over my plate,
To grab a roll.
My brother follow suit
And nobody protests
Beyond a comment about “boys”.
They never ask,
Only take.

Mashed potatoes seem safe for me,
White and plain,
But the gravy resembles a stain,
A contamination
And I choke on the water
I drink to push back
The bile rising in my throat.

I see blood in the cranberry sauce
And forced assimilation in the stuffing.
My mother cuts me a piece of turkey
And I cannot tell if it’s brined
By tears of protestors,
Or of mourning families,
Or of my own privileged guilt.
It’s too much
And I excuse myself from the table.

fearless

I’ve never liked that word, ‘fearless.’ Like, the absence of fear. I mean, maybe if you don’t have time to be scared you can be fearless. You jump on the grenade or push the little sister out of the way of the bus and it smacks into you instead faster than you can even think to know you’re supposed to be scared of dying, then yeah, I guess you’re fearless then. But for everything else, I don’t like that word.

We’re all scared of so many different things, and I think we’re conditioned to feel bad for that, but I disagree. It’s okay to be scared, I think. It’s okay to be terrified and occasionally shout “Zoinks!” and try your best to run away but you’re suspended in midair from your feet whirling around so fast, so you don’t really escape. It’s okay to have that sinking feeling in your gut when the teacher calls on you and you don’t know the answer, it really is, but what I feel isn’t okay is letting that fear rule you. Letting that fear paint the lenses of your world to distort how you live and work and love and make your way through life.

And I’m not talking about anxiety disorders or being afraid of heights. I’m talking about sitting back and allowing fear to change who we are inside because that’s more comfortable than standing up. I’m talking about allowing people to use hate to twist us against each other because “us against them” is a much simpler storyline to follow than come together. I’m talking about letting fear, one of the realest things in the human experience, come between us and destroy everything we have all worked so hard for.

And I’m scared. I’m terrified. I’m not at all fearless, but I am brave.

So I’m going to stand on my shaking knees. And even if my hands tremble I’ll make fists if I need to. My voice will crack but I’ll speak, and I know my eyes are going to cry but goddamn it they’re going to be open.

I just hope I’m not alone.