A lot is said about bringing “sexy” back, but maybe that’s not the problem…

I think I’ve seen just about every female celebrity twerking, or flashing her toned ass online.  I’ve seen, regrettably, Heidi Klum boasting about her love for nudity.  I have seen Emily Ratawhatever in every degree of nakedness known to mankind.  I’ve run into Kim Kardashian’s sizable rump, Khloe Kardashian’s nipples peering through a sheer blouse, and Kourtney Kardashian embracing her son with her nearly naked derriere pointing towards the camera.  Mothers cannot seem to embrace their toddlers without showing their cleavage (even breastfeeding has been elevated to “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman…” in a way that, quite frankly, I don’t get.  I breastfed for FOUR YEARS, and no one ever really noticed when I did it in a public place…because no one likes being stared at while they eat.  That was my logic anyway.  I don’t think it deflated my powers as a breastfeeding woman to be discrete, but what do I -a currently middle-aged prude- know about that, right?) There is also the long list of young girls with pierced nipples, pouting lips, toned tummies.  It’s all empowering, supposedly.  It’s everywhere.  The little girl from Modern Family posed on the beach with her bikini bottom so low-slung that it looked like we’d be able to confirm how well she waxes her nether regions.  No one seems to own a bathing suit that covers anything more than the crack of their butt.  I suppose that fixes the issue with sand in your pants, but it really is getting tiresome seeing women of all ages trying to prove that their bodies are worth a view.

If that is sexy, we have more of it than we really need.  I say let’s call a moratorium on it, and let’s bring something else back…being actually nice to each other.

I am about to say some really trite things, and I hope you will bear with me…  I don’t want you to think that I’ve become some sort of spineless creature, but I am really sick and tired of the meanness that I see (yes, see…and hear) everywhere.

I don’t really know where it started.  We can go back to shock comedians who spoke their mind; we can take it to Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Don Rickles…and we can say “that’s where it stared.”  The thing is this: those guys were smart, and they were direct, but they were not mean.  Maybe I’m wrong about this, but none of them (or their humor) inspired me to be crass and inconsiderate.  Blunt?  Maybe.  Mean?  No, not really.

Why am I saying this?  Yesterday was rough.  Many websites (supposed “news” websites) kept flashing pictures and videos of Kathy Griffin’s and Tyler Shields’ stunt with a supposed Donald Trump “severed head.”  It was unpleasant.  It was unnecessary.  It was shocking and, quite honestly, it made me feel bad.

Furthermore, I had to actually turn off the computer because if I tried to check the news, there it was, and I didn’t want J to see it.  I didn’t want to see it either, but between the stunt, the apology, and the backlash it was (until I said “no more”) hard to escape.

We see, more often than we should, videos of people beating each other up, attacking each other, bullying each other, throwing public tantrums.  Then we witness the comments: people insult each other with either “libtard” or “Trumpster”, and that’s just the kinder sliver of invective.  It gets worse.  The anonymity of the internet allows for all sorts of shameless abuse that feels liberating to those issuing it.

There was a time when our society was angry and proactive.  There was a purpose to the anger.  Now we’re just angry, and we take it out on each other.  We feel outraged by anyone who doesn’t agree with us, and the response is usually potent, concentrated, vicious.  The same reckless abandon that is displayed in exposing bodies left and right and calling it “empowerment” is applied to expressing opinions with no filter or consideration and calling “freedom of speech.”

I am all for both, but I am also for taking a step back and asking “is this the way to do it?”

Dada’s job search has taught us a lot about the way the world is now as opposed to the way it was six years ago.  Yes, a lot has changed.  We didn’t realize how much, but it has.  There are job boards all over the internet, and it is “easy” to apply for jobs there.  You basically upload your resume and then you re-enter all the information into the forms that each employer uses.  Your information then disappears into some sort of limbo where, if you don’t strictly represent very specific parameters, it will never be looked at by another human pair of eyes.

I don’t say this out of bitterness.  Dada has had a fairly good response from people (actual humans) who reviewed his qualifications.  But all the electronic layers of filters and sieves will overlook the human behind the verbiage.  And this is, sadly, everywhere…

Have you noticed that more stores have self-checkouts now?  You don’t have to interact with a cashier if you don’t want to.  Have you seen how many flavors of pre-packaged chips there are?  We counted six or seven when we were growing up, and now the chip aisle is as long as our kitchen, and multilayered. You can also have your own Keurig or Nespresso machine at home so you can have your latte, but never encounter a barista ever again.  Never mind that it doesn’t taste the same, or that actual coffee bean bags are being replaced by those little cups at the store…you can have that at home, and not interact with humans.

I am not a fan of people.  That is: I am introverted and have trouble behaving in a way that isn’t awkward when in social situations, but I still have manners, and I hope others will have manners, too.  My idea of social interaction is not the one that I see out there: you either agree or disagree, and react accordingly, or you “present” like a baboon in heat and expect people to hit “like.”

It seems we have forgotten that we are, essentially, dealing with other people, human beings like us, and that they have fears, concerns, frailties, senses of humor, feelings just like we do.  We seem to have forgotten that we used to live outside of shock value, outside of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  We used to all populate an actual plane of reality where our feet touched ground and we had to look each other in the eyes after saying or doing the mean thing.

Can we please bring that back?  Can we stop worrying about freeing the nipple, and start worrying about whether we just scared a kid who is not as sophisticated as we think all kids are?  (Barron Trump, it has been reported, was scared by the image of what appeared to be his father’s severed head.  People doubt this.  People assume being eleven is tantamount to being a world-weary fan of Tarantino who has seen it all and feels nothing.  This, I think, needs to stop…eleven year-olds should be allowed to be as naive as eleven year-olds are.  Otherwise, let’s just start handing condoms, Hustler, Jim Beam and unfiltered Camels to all nine year-olds so they are ready when “being eleven” rolls around.)

So that’s today’s rant.  I apologize if you disagree, but that’s the way I’m feeling today…after skulking back online trying to dodge video of the latest “graphic video” that has replaced the last “graphic photoshoot” that made me cringe.

No,  I know I don’t “HAVE” to look, but…does that mean that you have to hide if you want to live in a kinder world?

 

 

The way we live now…inside and outside of the shell

This is Dada’s last week at his job here in WV, and J is trying to adjust to the new face of our everyday routine.  We worked on that this past Monday (Memorial Day) when Dada was at home.  Instead of treating it like a holiday, we inserted some of J’s regular Monday routine into the mix as well as some fun activities he doesn’t expect to be doing on a weekday.

It sort of worked.  I’m sure that next week will be “interesting” because it’s one thing to pull off a “Dada’s here from work” one day, and it’s harder when it’s a few days in a row without a trip planned.

I have grown used to the horse pills I have to take every night.  I don’t enjoy them, but they have yet to upset my stomach so I’m grateful for that.  Taking that much iron in one fell swoop is something I’d never had to do before, and I’m slowly starting to feel better, but the prospect of attracting the refrigerator magnets is daunting.  It’s nice to not look like death warmed over, but it’s also a revelation to see that not all my physical limitations are the result of galloping anemia.  I am, and this cannot be denied or reversed, definitely getting older, and it shows.  I am, however, also looking forward to having more energy (something the doctor tells me I will work up to as my body restores its iron reserves to a decent level).

J is doing well.  The Risperdal, of course, wreaks havoc on his weight, but that doesn’t stop him from exercising and trying to control the urge to eat us out of house and home.  In recent weeks we have accepted that we need to exchange certain menu items…pasta and pizza on the same day are a no-no, and J now put his pizza on the schedule, put away his pasta (he gets fourteen noodles for a lunch, people, it’s not like he gets an immense amount anyway) and has his yogurt and banana chips for breakfast.  I make him a salad…he eats it with what can be described as resignation, but he eats it.  Today (Pizza Day) is also Fish Day…  Very little impact on his waistline so far, but at least he’s learned to accept that he can’t have it all on the same day.

Now that the weather has improved (although we get rain most days) he is also going for walks.  Once Dada is home until his next job happens we have planned an after-breakfast walk, our mid-morning workout, trips to the pool, and -when weather allows- walks on the track at school.  Lunch will be the biggest meal of the day.  We will do more outside, and we will all get ready for the next stage of our life as a family.

We still don’t know for sure where we’re hanging our hats.  It looked like Atlanta, GA for a while, but the employment market there is extremely tricky.  Lots of jobs, but not a lot of feedback from potential employers.  The state of North Carolina, on the other hand, has surprised us…immediate replies to applications, unexpected calls regarding jobs we didn’t know were out there.  We are actually quite enthused about this prospect; Raleigh is where I lived with the kids (in my sister’s home) after I separated from the children’s father, and that is where Dada came to visit and proposed to me…eighteen years ago.  We’d be coming full circle, and it’s an area that we both find appealing.

With just a few days left for Dada at work, and the prospect of an out-of-state move within the next few weeks we are all getting a little antsy.  I look at the house and see things to pack, throw away, donate.  Dada looks at the house and sees a messy process.  J probably thinks “all my stuff is coming with us, right?”  He has realized that there is a great deal of change in the near future, and it has made his anxiety ebb and flow erratically, but we are working with him to help him cope.

One thing that has thrown him off completely…unexpected, unannounced visitors over the past weekend.  On Friday, as I opened the garage door to air out the space before J got on his elliptical, a truck pulled up and former aides from his school showed up for an impromptu visit.  To be honest, it took me a moment to recognize them…they were so out of context that I had to take a second look.  As they cleaned the classroom (one year later) J’s ceramics assignments and some CDs he had left behind turned up.  Of course, I had to tell J they were here…I couldn’t not let them say hi…it would have probably seemed suspicious to them…  J was thrown by the visitors, and he wanted them (although not in an aggressive or insistent manner) to leave.  I think he worried briefly that he would have to resume his old schedule, and -while it has taken him time and effort to become a man of leisure) to leave.

After they went he was relieved, but he kept going to the door to make sure no one else was showing up.

On Sunday, just as we were getting the last details of dinner ready to go, the doorbell rang.  This time it was a visitor for Dada.  We had run into this person the day before at the bookstore, and he was recognizable to J, but he was also inexplicably here…close to dinnertime.  J was, I must confess, very good about the whole thing.  His main thing was to go back to his schedule board and reiterate that the events, tasks, activities and ideas he had for Monday remained unchanged.  He did this about sixty times…in fifteen minutes.

We eventually found our center.  We eventually sat down to dinner.  And Monday happened in a pleasant way…

We’re getting the hang of it…again.  Another hang of another it…

…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…

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.

 

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…