…and when you hit rock-bottom there’s more under that…

Ah, anemia.  No, sorry…Anemia.  It needs to be capitalized.  It is, sad to say, taking over everything.  I cannot even walk around the store without looking like I’ve barely survived Lawrence of Arabia’s desert march to Aqaba…

It seems that there’s a normal level for ladies of my age.  It seems I’m not only nowhere near that level, but I’ve drastically fallen short of any reasonable expectations.  I’ve even fallen short of unreasonable ones.  I am, in a nutshell, so anemic it hurts…

Here I go again with Lawrence of Arabia:  “The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts.”  I mind.  I can tell that it’s causing grief to Dada and J, and I mind terribly.

I am in earnest about feeling better.  Going to the doctor twice in one month isn’t my idea of fun, but the second go-round helped greatly.  It didn’t help the anemia per se, but it helped with helping.  Does that make sense?

So unlike Nigel Tufnel, I don’t go eleven across the board…nowhere near, but I’m working on it.

Unknown-1

Spinal_Tap_-_Up_to_Eleven

J has been concerned.  Seeing me walk up the steps (18 of them from basement to kitchen level) and realizing I am out of breath and ready to collapse isn’t something he could easily ignore.  I am also pale, and the bags under my eyes have taken on a really dark hue.

J is helping a lot, people.  He offers me his arm when we go for walks (which, granted, hasn’t been happening as often,) and he sits with me when I need to sit down.  When I show signs of being a little more energetic than I have been of late, J gets very affectionate, wants to cuddle, and requests fish kisses.  He is being very patient with his falling-apart mother.

Whenever someone tells me that a person in the Spectrum (as firmly planted on the severe end as J is) feels no empathy, I call bullshit.  This kid has been worried, and empathetic, and helpful.  This kid cares.  This kid, when he saw me improve thanks to the doctor’s intervention, looked RELIEVED.  So one bad thing opens the door to many realizations…J is very present in his own way.  And I am grateful that he is, and so is Dada.

In the meantime, I am trying to be patient with myself.  I don’t know how I got this bad, but there you have it.  I am working on it, though.  I won’t go so far as to eat liver (blech…double blech…super double blech…ultra blech), but I’m working on getting better.

And that’s all there is for now…

 

When life hands you lemons, skip the lemonade…

I need limoncello.  If you’ve never had limoncello, google it.  OK, that’s tantamount to saying I need alcohol…which I don’t.  I just need to do something with these darned lemons…

Sigh…

The trek to the Social Security office served one purpose, and here comes another letter: you’ve been overpaid.  You can appeal, or ask for a waiver.  Otherwise we’re going to take the money out of your next few checks.  That’s because you live with your parents, and they live too nicely.  If you’re going to be receiving benefits, have the good sense to live like you need them…or have your parents live like you need them.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, once more “we live too nice.”  Never you mind that we have only two windows, three sliding glass doors, and cannot go out because people let their dogs run rampant.  Never you mind that we have to take our trash to the dumpster, and the mail doesn’t come to our door unless it’s a delivery that requires signature.  Never you mind that “luxury” is a throwaway word…we pay too much for this place, and we know it.  Now, it seems, J doesn’t pay enough…

It doesn’t help that I don’t feel well.  Let’s chalk it up to menopause and let it go at that.  I go back to the doctor tomorrow, and we’ll see what she says.  Right now it’s a major impediment to my daily life; I am not fond of having to stop three times while climbing a flight of steps.  I am not fond of being told I’m profoundly anemic, being given pills that resemble shotgun shells, and STILL feeling like crap.

So back I go, and hope that this is a matter that can be resolved with a minimum of fuss because, surprise surprise, J is the priority here, and -like many other parents in the same situation- we don’t have J-care coming out of our ears.

That’s my rant today…

Limoncello would totally drain me.  Lemonade it will have to be…

Some mornings are just too much…

Anxiety is a bitch.  J’s anxiety is a relentless bitch.  J’s realization that he is stronger and bigger than I am makes his anxiety a hard-to-handle relentless bitch.

I say this because we went to the Social Security office today, and I had to take files.  J was not happy seeing the files.  They stress him out so he wanted to put them away, and I had to say NO, WE NEED THOSE.  So he tried to get to them, and I tried to redirect him…and he became, quite quickly and determinedly, a wall.

A stone wall.  A tall wall.  A firm wall.  A deeply-rooted wall.  A wall with no openings, or weaknesses.

This became an argument, and I ended up hating myself.  I always end up hating myself when J and I have a disagreement, or when I need to impose what needs to be done in spite of his anxieties.

We sat in front of the SSA employee looking, I’m sure, quite exhausted.  J had a bruise on his lip, and I made sure to tell the man “this causes him anxiety.  Having to go through this, bringing him here, it can be a problem for him because it is too abstract for him to process the thought that he needs to prove he is who he is, and who he is is a citizen of the United States.”  I didn’t do it to be mean, but I wanted to make sure that, after confirming (not providing) all the basic information about J’s birth, there really was no need for all this to be done…  He asked, very kindly, for a copy of his birth certificate and I, who want to make sure this doesn’t happen ever again, provided him with it, J’s original Social Security card, J’s Selective Service registration card, and his identification.  I made sure that the file is complete, and that J doesn’t have to worry about being dragged to an office because someone doesn’t believe he is who he is.

As I said: I merely confirmed the information that was popping up on the Social Security computer system.  Name (which they gave as First and Last, and I clarified was First-Middle-Last-Hyphen-Mother’s Maiden,) birth date and birth place.  Everything was already in there.

I was not angry.  I was very dignified.  I wore a dress, heels, my hair neatly pinned in a bun…we were both neat, clean, properly dressed, properly equipped with paperwork.

The man whose letter summoned us looked humbled.  It might have been because I stated “the purpose of this visit could have been stated with more clarity; there was no need to generate anxiety.”  The other employee who was helping us agreed, and I’m sure that whatever training takes place on Wednesday afternoons (they close at noon for that purpose) might involve a quick mention of conveying a clear message when communicating with beneficiaries and their representatives.

J was nervous; he used the iPad to entertain himself, and when it ran out of batteries (his apps are never the low-consumption ones) he took my phone and, with the Proloquo, kept asking to call a TAXI and go HOME so he could EXERCISE, eat PIZZA and do a LEGO.  This was done frequently enough that the person whose computer was moving as slowly as Flash in Zootopia looked like he wanted the ground to open up and swallow us.

But it’s done now.  I feel exhausted.  I am hoping that J and I can make up for this morning’s kerfuffle, and that we will forgive each other for re-enacting the whole stanza about the RAM and the DAM in the song High Hopes.  There was a time when we were more the ANT and the RUBBER TREE PLANT, but…  (By the way: A Hole In the Head, the movie in which High Hopes is performed by Frank Sinatra, is a really good non-It’s-a-Wonderful-Life Frank Capra movie…just in case you feel like watching it.  And, on the subject of Capra: look up Five Came Back on Netflix.  It’s totally worth your time.)

Off I go.  We’re getting to the part in The Sound of Music where the kids sing The Sound of Music to the Baroness and Captain Von Trapp joins in, and by the time they sing So Long, Farewell I’ll be getting ready to pop his frozen pizza in the oven.  By the time we get back from the mail it will be ready…

And we’ll find our center again.  Maybe we’ll find our balance.  Quite possibly, I hope, we will be peaceful and un-wall-like and un-ram-like…  High hopes…high apple-pie-in-the-sky hopes for that…

Remember, girls and boys, boys and girls, communication is not just about talking…it’s about conveying meaning…a little understanding and clarity go a long way…

Sigh…

Wild thing, you make my heart sting…

Our oldest son, always known here as TGG, got married on Friday.  Because of a disagreement we had over the weekend, we only got notice of his intention to do so via text.  Confirmation came over iMessage on Friday night…from someone who saw it on Facebook.

I gave Facebook up months ago, and actually went back on to see if there were pictures.  I’ve been blocked.  Oh, well…  I deactivated the account again.  I will not be sucked into the drama because, well, I’ve come to realize it’s really not worth it.

So we’ve spent the whole weekend wondering how we became the villains straight from central casting.  We’ve reached the conclusion that we suck so badly our entire experience raising children has been part of a delusional alternate universe we live in…

Something in the posting our son and his wife put on Facebook caught our attention.  Stay wild, stay true, stay you.  Not being up on all the youthful lingo of the hipster generation (which they claim not to belong to,) we assume that this is some sort of call to arms.  We are baffled: our son has never been wild (tattoos notwithstanding…he is possibly one of the more timid people we know,) and as for being true and “you,” well…this is the kid who used to be tremendously unique until he realized that the other kids made fun of him, and he relinquished his uniqueness so he could embrace the “generational uniqueness” that all his friends professed.

My dad used to say that what we all have in common is that we want to be unique.  More often than not it is the people who sustain the barrage of abuse from their peers who fly the flag for uniqueness.  If you sublimate, you are saying “thank you, I will blend in until such a time when I am comfortable with not sublimating.”  Our son became one more of the long line of kids who got tattoos, earrings, listened to rap or heavy metal, and acted like the world was an unjust place without ever really understanding that he was doing all this from the comfort of his middle-class existence.  He was “edgy!”  He was “rebellious!”  He was “wild.”

The results of this are two children by two different women in less than three years; a wasted semester in Nursing school; living from meager paycheck to meager paycheck, and complaining about how hard he has to work for said meager paychecks.  And, of course, the attitude that WE are the ones who have NEVER understood him.  How dare we???!!!  He just wants to be…wait for it…HAPPY!

In a nutshell, we are bad parents who don’t understand, and we bring him down.  We are lame, and that’s why we don’t understand.  I believe Busby Berkeley had a sequence in the movie set to this tune; I’m sure Cecil B. DeMille had a cast of thousands performing a scene where this was the gist of it.  Francis Ford Coppola, Lasse Halstrom, Steven Spielberg, Wim Wenders…they’ve made movies about this, I’m sure.  The entire musical history of the Sixties, Seventies, Eighties, Nineties, and so on and so forth has documented this feeling…

Parents of young adults who think they are entitled to whatever it is we do for them: we had it coming.  We suck.  We had best sit here and accept that we failed.  As they raise their iPhones in the air, shake their fists on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to protest our lack of understanding, let’s take a moment to look deep inside and see the swamp in which our lack of parenting skills is steeped.

We wanted him to get an education.  We never demanded straight As; when he wanted to be an actor, we encouraged him.  He liked to draw…I have lost count of how many sketchbooks, pencils, materials we’ve bought over the years.  He had a guitar, a keyboard.  He was interested in them for about twelve minutes in total.  He wanted to learn swimming, be a Cub Scout, play soccer…we acquiesced.

He wanted an earring.  He wanted tattoos.  He liked to dress like James Bond.  He wanted girlfriends.  He wanted to not be subdued by parental demands for academic excellence; he almost didn’t graduate high school because of his grade in Baking.

His first car, granted, was a Saturn, but then he had other cars.  Against our better judgment we allowed the Playstation, the Xbox, the GameBoy, and the countless hours that were necessary to become well-versed in all sorts of games.  When he wanted to get a job, we signed the paperwork so he could work.  When he graduated from high school (I think his Baking teacher simply didn’t want to deal with him over the summer,) he traveled to NYC with his friends, and went to see plays on Broadway.  When he was sixteen we bought him a suit, shirts, ties, shoes at Men’s Wearhouse.  They weren’t cheap.  He also had a video camera; he was going to be…wait for it…a filmmaker.

When he knocked up the first girl we were supportive.  Disappointed at his lack of precaution, but supportive.  We made an overture, and his child would come visit.  Then he hooked up with another girl, and away went every illusion that school was a priority.  And then came the second kid.  And now he’s married.

In the interim we’ve bought tires for the car, a bumper, paid handsomely for chores that I could have done myself for free, filled his freezer, and so on and so forth.  When I called him out for saying something callous about my mother, that was the end of it for him.  How dare I misinterpret something that he, and I SHOULD KNOW THIS, didn’t mean that way!!!!

Yeah, you know…I probably overreacted.  My mother is old and frail, and -at my relentlessly advancing age- I am struggling with the understanding that being parentless is not too far in the future.  That I will lose whatever link there is to my childhood, to understanding why my mother never quite “took to me” is not easy.

On top of that, my friends, my body’s aging is causing mild-to-moderate health issues.  And I have to, in the midst of this, prepare for the next stage in our lives, and deal with being J’s primary caregiver 24/7.  I could have been a little less angry, but non-apologies and arrogance are something I have very little patience for these days, especially when they come from someone who flatly refuses to meet us halfway.

In light of that, we have decided to embrace our status as bad parents, and we are baffled, but we are accepting.  We know there will be whispers, and gossip. The world thrives on that, and we could address them directly and call out our son in all the public forums he has made his own, but we don’t have the energy for that.  We have places to go, and things to do.  We won’t drag J into it…J doesn’t deserve that sort of shit.

“Stay wild.  Stay true.  Stay you” he posted.  We hope they are happy.  Life can be long, or short, but it will always -inevitably, mercilessly, relentlessly- be full of surprises, and wicked turns.  We have done all we can, and we will take this stinging sensation elsewhere, and there we will recover.  And we will find  a new way of being proper selves because WE have always been wild, true and very much us.  Unrecognizable to our son, who has led a life of privilege without even realizing it, but wild, true and very much us nonetheless.

When I married the absolutely inappropriate man the first time around, my parents were present.  They were not thrilled, but they were there.  They looked mildly horrified and resigned, but they were there.  So were our friends and family.  I made my declaration of independence, my grabbing-life-by-the-balls very public.  Every choice was bold and misguided, but I was proud of the fact that I was fucking up in my own terms.  When Dada chose to marry me, he did so boldly, proudly, even in the face of people thinking “what is he doing?  He’s marrying a woman with a child who has Autism???  What a moron!!!”  We had witnesses; we were thrilled at the community spirit of our declaration of boldly going into the great unknown together.

We managed, somehow, to raise someone who declares his independence through Facebook and text message.  Ah…this generation.  Selfies, but no self-assuredness.  Go figure!  “I take thee, and we become we…we must change our Facebook relationship status.  Take THAT, bourgeois parents!!!!  We are wild, free, true…”  Whatever…  Sigh….

Wild middle-aged parents of the world, UNITE!  We did our best.  It’s time to move on.  🙂

Ain’t nothin’ but a stim thing…

Thunder.  Lightning.  Not necessarily in that order, but all night long.  It isn’t any wonder that J woke up in a grumpy mood.  I admit to being grumpy too.  The flashes of lightning were close enough to be immediately followed by the rumble of thunder.  Even with the curtains closed we could see the sudden bursts of light…sleep wasn’t impossible, but it wasn’t easy either.

The day is wet and dreary.  The only plus to this is that the world has turned green and lush in short order, and J knows it’s coming up on shorts and sandals season.  The snow boots and jackets have found their spot in the garage next to the Xmas decorations.  The cotton sheets are back in rotation, and we will soon talk J out of putting the red fleece blanket on his bed when he does his Sunday morning sheet swap-out.

We understand that J is trying to make sense of the world through his random acts of, for want of a better term, self-aggression.  He was moody and irascible because the world (in flashes of lightning and rumble of thunder) came in through his closed windows and drawn curtains.  He is touchy because he senses change in the air (maybe it’s all the AAA maps, the Zillow home searches, the piles of things we are discarding or giving away forming in the garage.)

We would love for him to take up painting to express his concerns, but that’s not his way.  J’s way is to flick his chin, hit his head, and apologize profusely.

It will all wind down…eventually.  Right now he is wondering where all this subtle upheaval (yes, there is such a thing…you try to discreetly proceed through the waves of change while whistling and twirling your umbrella in your hand) is leading.  If I am to be honest, we are wondering, too.

In the meantime, we try to make life interesting.  We take our cues from him.  We accept that there will be stones in the road, pebbles in our shoes, and moments of doubt about how to handle them.  J, I think, trusts us.  I like to think he does, and I like to think that he will be as excited (albeit cautiously) about it as we are.

I confess that there are moments when life, people, surprise me.  Or, rather, when the way people see my life surprises me.  A neighbor stopped by today; we share a house-sitter/J sitter.  This is the lady who recommended J’s companion to us.  She is a nice lady.  She is about our age, obviously a little higher up on the socioeconomic slippery slope, and educated.  I like her.  I wouldn’t want to be stranded with her on a deserted island, but I like her.

The purpose of her visit was to drop off her keys so our mutual sitter could pick them up.  She is going away for a couple of weeks to supervise the refurbishing of an oceanfront property that her family owns.  I asked her in (I was still in lounge pants and not at all looking like a lady of any degree of leisure) and she sat to chat for a while.  The chat was, for the most part, about how difficult my life is.

I tried to explain how, in the great scheme of things, this situation sort of sucks sometimes, but it’s not at all bad.  J is a congenial (if prone to asshole-ish-ness) individual who isn’t as much work as one would suspect if one has never had a child with a disability.  The words “sacrifice” and “burden” came up, and I let them slide because the alternative would have been to be holier-than-thou.  I said that, when you boil it down to its essence, J is just a demanding roommate.

Dada was in “I’m hiding in the sitting room” mode.  A) He was in his pajamas, B) he didn’t feel like socializing because he was playing some computer game (per his version he was looking at job boards,) and C) he would have been drawn into this conversation and he would have, as often happens, said something he’d later regret.  (See, please, my reference to the time we visited a couple of our acquaintance -foodies of the highest order- and they were talking about “that guy from Dallas” in reference to a chef, and Dada chimed in with “Oh!  Larry Hagman????”)

He heard the exchange over the baby monitor.  When we were once more alone and I returned to the living room, he looked up at me and said “wow…burden!!!  I could hear your teeth gnashing through the floorboards.  I could also hear your face cracking from the “I’m a civilized human being” smile you had painted on your face.”  I shrugged and said “if it makes her feel better, who am I to explain that this is annoying, irritating, overwhelming, and absurd, but not really as much of a burden as refurbishing a coastal property???”

He laughed.  He gets it.  He knows that I have gone past the point of responding to that sort of condescension.  Like J’s flicking his chin or hitting his head, I know it serves some sort of purpose for the person saying the stupid thing.  It annoys me, and I wish it would stop, but I give it time to fizzle out.  J knows this, and he looks at me and slows down the behavior that is “off” and then it’s gone.  He apologizes.  That is because J understands that we cannot communicate properly if he is doing something that is counterproductive to the process.  When he has no control over his actions (that is: during a meltdown,) I have to accept that he needs help; when he is throwing a tantrum or being an asshole, I have to let it go.

This lady, in a nutshell, was being the most well-intentioned kind of asshole there is; she wanted me to know that she felt my life was framed in very unfair terms, and that she felt for me.  To correct her would have been unfair of me; she doesn’t -aside from the superficial sharing of a sitter- really know me.  She is not a bad person; she is just not working with all the data that she needs to properly assess our situation.

People sometimes talk for the same reason that J randomly hits himself.  It stimulates them; it gives them the impression that they are empathizing, that they can interact in a way that we will value.

It’s just another stim thing…annoying, unnecessary to the casual observer, but present nonetheless.

 

An update on the whole kerfuffle…

On a busy Friday evening, while making lamb meatballs and rice pilaf, I dialed the Social Security 800 number.  I waited for about 40 minutes before getting   human interaction, but it was well worth it.

The letter they sent is a mystery to them.  The person I spoke to was as baffled as I was, and their supervisor was baffled, too.  They have sent a request to the local office for an explanation and, hopefully, I will receive a phone call from the person who issued the letter within 10 business days.  If they don’t call me, I am to go to the office and ask for an explanation.

The response I got echoed my own reaction: 1) why now?, 2) why at all, 3) the record is as clear as a bell, and there is no question.  The best guess is that there was a clerical error when they did their most recent call with us.  If it’s a clerical error, why wasn’t it properly audited?

So, we go to bed a little calmer.  I won’t force J to leave the house to appear at a district office on Monday.  He is disrupted enough by the letter, the phone calls, the stress as it is right now.

The phone rep, an articulate, helpful, efficient young man who understood why we were asking all the questions we were asking, told me to sit tight and wait.  I will respect his request.  I will also, once the 9 days are up, put on my dress, my hells, pack my binders, and -like my aunt use to do- march my fanny down to the SSA office to get this thing squared away.

The misconception that people who cannot verify their citizenship get away with collecting benefits is sad.  When you apply for benefits, your ass becomes a high-traffic tunnel through which many (with spelunking helmets, high-powered lanterns, and all sorts of equipment) crawl freely.  If you manage to slide through a crack and don’t immediately get caught, trust me, they will catch you.

Like I told Dada over a bowl of fixings for lamb meatballs: would Jon Neiderlander or Tiffany McAllister get questioned?  Probably not.  If a supervisor was acting based on a report generated by an underling who was not yet fully independently functional in using a database, that’s what auditing is for.  You double-check, and double-check again before you issue a letter questioning a person’s information giving conflicting names.  When I worked for the federal government (back when I was young, green and untried) I would get called to the mat if I made a mistake.  And we didn’t have the sophisticated software that is currently in place.

If there is one thing I learned early on about customer service it isn’t that the customer is always right, but rather that the customer can be made to see where they are wrong if one uses the proper courtesy and dignity when dealing with a situation.  When a person providing a service acts as if the service is being provided to an inferior being, the battle is already half lost.  When a person doesn’t understand the nature of the information on which their service is based, the rest of the battle goes down the pipes.

A simple audit of J’s actual file would have clarified the whole thing.  Yes, a lot of people receive benefits, but you consider that there are 600 Hispanics in this town, and that it’s very likely a very small portion of them receive SSI benefits, it stands to reason that looking at the file isn’t such a stretch of resources.  If you consider that the letter can be worded as a requisition of verification rather than summons to prove that you are not committing fraud…well…

That’s where things stand.   Lamb meatballs, pilaf, a nice Rioja, Bull Durham and a pint of ice cream later we are ready to face the weekend.   Kindness to The Other doesn’t have to mean ass-kissing…it can mean something as simple as doing the job right.

I get it if you don’t get it, but bear with me…

We received a letter from Social Security today.  It was addressed to me, and to J.  In it we are told to come to the Social Security office no later than the fifteenth of May to speak to a specific employee because J’s citizenship (his name stated incomplete) has not been proven.

I propel us to the house, and I grab the phone.  The certain employee who has issued this letter isn’t available, but another employee will help me.

J’s Social Security number, J’s name, his birthdate, my name, my birthdate, my mother’s name, her birthdate, our address…all these questions are asked, and I answer them and, to top them off, I add the previous two addresses, our birthplaces…  Yes, yes…I throw in my Social Security number…

Hold for a moment.

Ah, the letter is wrong.  We just need to prove J’s identity.

WHY????

Well, there’s an error in his file.

Since when?

Recently.  You have to bring him in with his ID.

WHY????

Because we need to prove that he is who he is.

You realize that IDs can be acquired fraudulently.

Ye-ees.  Then we can use a document from a medical services provider that states his identity has been confirmed.

WHY????

Um…it’s just something we have to do.  If you don’t want to come in, you can mail us his ID and we will return it to you.

NO!!!!!!!!  We will be there Monday morning.

What I didn’t tell him is that I will be there Monday morning with a cart full of binders proving J is who he is; birth certificates (the original and a recent official copy,) his original Social Security card, his school records, his medical records, his Ident-A-Kid cards from when he was a mere tyke, our tax returns, everything!

The guy, of course, treated me like I was hyperbolizing but, and this I told him, considering the current social and political climate, can I be blamed for that?

Say J’s legal name is Javier Rolando Gómez-Torres (it isn’t, by the way,) and the letter is addressed to him and to me, his mother.  In the body of the letter it reads “we have not been able to confirm citizenship for Javier Torres.”  Why send the letter to Javier Rolando Gómez-Torres (with his correct Social Security number, which is issued in that full name) if you want to know about Javier Torres?  If you don’t understand patronymics as applied in Hispanic countries, territories, cultures, etc., I will briefly explain: Javier and Rolando are first and middle name, of course; Gómez is the father’s last name and Torres is the mother’s maiden name.  If you don’t use a hyphen here in the states, the name becomes Javier Rolando Torres Gómez, or Javier R Gómez.  The mother’s maiden name disappears.  Back home, and all over Latin America, we keep both.  So when I read Javier Torres, that is not the same person the letter is addressed to, and it gives the impression that the agency is implying J’s name is not what it is, that we are saying he is someone he is not.

J is NOT Javier Torres…not even not literally; J uses both first and middle names, his father’s last name, and my maiden name.  We hyphenated them because we want to make sure that both are in there.  When I married Dada I hyphenated my name, too…so my kids would be easily identified as part of this same family unit.  So…I am (again, not really) Margarita Isabel Torres-Sandoval, married to Diego A Sandoval,  and my kids use Gómez-Torres connecting us all in one rather confusing mishmash.

There isn’t, nor has there ever been, in this household a Javier Torres using J’s Social Security number, and that this question is being raised NOW is not a particularly pleasant feeling.

“Why must you make this about politics????”

Well, that’s a tricky question.  It is about politics because none of this had been questioned before people started fearing The Other as openly as they do now.  When we first arrived in this town, in 2011, people were congenial, helpful, kind, charming.  Over the past year, without becoming openly hostile, some of that has been lost.  In general, the country has seen a shift to mistrust of The Other, and -sadly I must admit- it goes both ways.  We, The Other, have started to wonder if all this delving is “normal.”

A few months ago I handed my ticket over at the dry cleaners, and all was chit-chat and charm until I got my items back, handed over my credit card, and there was my very undeniably Hispanic last name.  The lady, bless her soul, clammed up and didn’t really talk congenially anymore.  The cashier at the store who asked what a plantain was, and said, after I explained, “ah, foreigner food” didn’t help matters.  Hearing people say things about how “their” country is being taken over by outsiders, and they want to “take it back” is kinda scary.

Whether this is in response to a primal fear of being overrun by The Other, or whether it’s because The Other might have his/her hackles raised in defensive awareness is anyone’s guess.

The truth is that I had never, in spite of several experiences as a small child learning English during trips to visit my grandmother in Florida, thought of myself as The Other.  I thought, and I am starting to sense that it was pretty naive of me, that I was just who I am.  I served in the Armed Forces.  I speak the language fluently; I also read it, think in it, pray, do math, argue…I earned a M.A. in this second language of mine while never forgetting my own.  I have a trace of an accent, but it’s not so much so that you’d not understand me when we have a conversation.  I have lived on both sides of the continent.  I am an American who also happens to be a Puerto Rican.  It used to work just fine.

Seeing that letter shook me.  Hearing that I have to physically produce J and his ID, and that I cannot -even as his legal guardian- prove who he is…he has to do it himself…either writing his name, or making his mark…it jarred me.  If his name was John Smith, would this be happening?  I am left to wonder if it is the fact that J lived in Puerto Rico, then North Carolina, then California and then New Mexico before coming here…there’s two “heavy on the immigrants” states in that list.  Maybe we’ve snuck him in and passed him off as this Javier Torres person?

I don’t know.

I am trying to reconcile this knot in my stomach with my knowledge that we are honest, upright, loyal citizens.  I am wondering if someone, out of spite, decided to say “hey, those people…,” just to see us squirm.  Or because they can.

I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I am worried.  I shouldn’t be, but I can’t help it…

Because the world is turned upside down, and people have lost track of things that used to be reasonable.

Sigh…