Vietnam

I didn’t go to Vietnam, but I had friends that did. One young man in particular I will never forget. He was drafted.  His name was Benjamin.  His friends knew him as Ben, Benji and sometimes aka “fudgie” because he loved Fudgecicles. (Do they even make those anymore?)

I met Benji while working as a flight attendant for PSA, an airline that prided itself in having the prettiest and sexiest flight attendants in the world. I’m sure many thought we were a shallow bunch, relying on our beauty to attract our mostly male commuter clientele, but there was more to us than that.

Some of my fellow “stews” may have fit that persona but several girls had degrees and one even held a doctorate degree. For the most part we were an educated, beautiful, insecure bunch of girls. I was no different, at least in the insecure category.  It was the 60’s, before women’s lib and sexual liberation; before we found our voice.

Benji was an amazing guy a couple of years older than I was and for some reason he took an interest in me. As I was prone to do, I immediately told him I had a child and was not married. That fact alone, usually drove a guy away unless all he wanted was to get laid. I wanted him to know right off what he was in for, but that didn’t deter him.  He looked like Tom Cruise,so yes, he was handsome with that same contagious grin and nose that would scrunch up just like Tom’s did when he smiled. I’m one of those unfortunates that gets hung up on stupid things like a nose scrunch and it was a stupid thing but it bugged me. Maybe I was shallow.  I didn’t appreciate it then, but then “Tom” didn’t exist then, at least not in my world. He showed up a decade later and would brand that look. Crazy huh?

Benji had been a cheerleader in an all boys Catholic school in Torrance, CA or in that vicinity anyway. He wasn’t happy about the draft, but he was a good boy and didn’t fight it. In the meantime, we made the most of the time he had left before he would leave for boot camp.  Our days off were spent together and he always included my daughter, who he nicknamed Stina.  He was very good to both of us. At some point, he asked me to marry him, not to escape the draft as some were inclined to do, but because he meant it. I said “Yes”.

Later, he would ask me to come up for a couple of days to meet and get to know his parents. His dad was a dentist, a distinguished looking Hispanic; his mother on the other hand was fair skinned, bleach blonde, who spoke perfect English, Hispanic but looked anything but ethnic.  She didn’t like me and I became very self conscious at not being liked.  Her dislike for me perhaps was legitimate, but it might not have been. To this day I wonder if that’s not what lead to what happened later. In any case, it didn’t help.

Her dislike for me was rooted in two things… one, she already had his bride picked out and it wasn’t me. In her mind, it was his ex-girlfriend who I think she may have presumed was still a virgin. Two, obviously, I was not a virgin and “what kind of girl comes up to stay at a strangers house and well, she has a child!? ”

The following day, Ben took me to meet his grandmother. His mother’s mother. We fell in love instantly. She didn’t speak a word of English. She asked if I could speak Spanish. I said, “Yes”. She smiled and then started to cry. In Spanish, she tells me how her daughter was so ashamed of her heritage and how she would never teach Ben the language and would I teach him?” I said yes, of course. He was so proud of me and I of him. It was obvious he loved her very much. I interpreted for her and Ben for awhile and then we parted. I never saw her again, but I will never forget her and those few minutes the three of us shared.

While Benj was at boot camp I would fly up to San Jose, rent a car each weekend and head down to Monterrey. Sometimes I could see him and on occasion I would sneak into the barracks and sometimes, sneak in pizza’s for him and the guys. Lots of it!  One time, they got caught and they were forced to eat their pizza in the shower!

I liked Ben, he was a good friend, but I had these hangups and even though he was cute… he didn’t wow me. I was looking for “WOW”. The last night I saw him, he got to get off base. We rented a room and stayed together one last time. No bells. I wanted to love him because he was the sweetest, nicest guy I’d ever known, but I didn’t tell him.

I didn’t tell him until later. After I did something stupid. I met another guy based out of the San Jose airport. He invited me to a party and I got stinking drunk and ended up in his bed one night. That did it. Ben’s mother was right. I wasn’t the girl for him. I was trash, trash, trash.  I refused to answer Ben’s calls and then he finally found me home. I told him what happened and that I was no good for him. He said, he could forgive me, but I couldn’t forgive myself. He still wanted to marry me. I said, no. He finally gave up. A few days later he left for Vietnam.  I found out later from one of our pilots who was also his brother in law, that Ben had gotten into drugs. He wasn’t the same and that I’d not recognize him. To this day, I cry thinking about him. Did I love Ben?  I don’t know, but I cared very much for him and wonder how his life turned out in the end.

I don’t exactly know what did it. Was it his mom? Was it my past? Benj came from a very well to do family, two parents still together and I, well I’d been beaten and told for so long that I was a worthless nobody, that perhaps I’d sabotaged this relationship because of my own lack of self worth. Maybe it was a combination of the other abuses and my presupposed wanton nature that contributed to my feeling of unworthiness.  I don’t know.

What I do know now is that none of those negative feelings were true, but it would be years later that I would discover that.  I’m just glad I did.

Benj? I hope you’re having a very good life. – Jo

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California VS Alabama

Pros and cons from my perspective.

I love the warmth of the sun. California is nice and warm and I love that.  It’s hard to make friends though.  I have been here 6 months and still not made friends with anyone. Friends in the sense of someone to call up and say, “Hey, let’s go out for lunch, shop or whatever”, kind of friend. My husband has an old cycling buddy and his wife, who we went canoeing with and that was nice.  I don’t think she’s the “shopping” type though. Don’t get me wrong, people here are friendly, considerate and polite but pretty much distant, hard to get to know.

I have a few high school friends that I have lunch with once a month, but they live quite a ways a way, so again, not a drop by and have a cup of coffee situation. Additionally, almost all of them babysit grand kids (mine are in three states, not nearby), so they are not free to just get up and go anywhere.

I’m thinking I  might take a job somewhere just to get out and meet people. I’d like to get close to a few screenwriters to throw ideas around with. People who know what a screenplay is supposed to look like and who will tell you point blank. . . “that doesn’t work, you’re playing it too safe,  how about…?”  and, someone I could do the same with. That would be ideal.  I’m not crying, it will happen. I just need to be patient.  California is just busier and people have very busy lives, that’s what’s different. Plus, I’m different.

Alabama is way laid back.  People march to the beat of a different drummer there.  I noticed right off, how talented Alabamians are.  Almost everyone knows how to play an instrument.  Now they are not as gregarious as Californians,  they are just wired differently.

Russ and I went to a Christmas program here and the kids were so much more expressive and entertaining.  The kids in Alabama were very shy and even those I knew could sing, held back when doing solos.  Not here! This is show biz country and it shows!

We had one little girl in church, maybe 6 years old, who just tickled us to death with the personality she put behind her performance.  Loved it!! Lots of vocal talent here vs instrumental talent there.

People in Alabama are warm and will easily become your friend for life. They will pray for you and with you and bring you meals when you’re sick whether you ask or not. They will throw you a party when you leave and when you come back,  they are just plain awesome.

Having grown up in California, I halfway expected there to be a great deal of prejudice, but nothing could be further from the truth.  The people I knew loved everybody. Sure, there were pockets here and there, but those are mostly the old timers (like near death old timers) who grew up that way, but the younger generation struggles against the tide of the old ways.  When I say struggle, I mean the struggle of reverse prejudice.  It’s hard to explain, but there is still much bitterness from the blacks over “old” history passed down, old stuff they can’t shake and in many cases they have an “attitude” that makes it difficult for the whites. Sometimes, they pretty much “dare you” to like them or to be nice to them. This attitude carries over to the countless Hispanics as well.  I haven’t quite figured out why blacks don’t like them, but they don’t.

The one thing I did notice is that it was the poor blacks who were more inclined that way, even though I have an educated friend who said she has to pray every day to have a good attitude toward whites.  She hated movies like “Roots”, “12 years a Slave”, “42” & “The Help” because they are constant reminders of what it was like and they stoke that fire of prejudice that makes it hard to let go of.  It, like makes them feel obligated to hate. What’s interesting is that she’s my daughters age and by then segregation was over with.  I had one black friend say that she hated white women because they’re stealing all their black men!  Also,  the younger generation all over the country, both black and white see’s movies like the aforementioned and believe that these attitudes or problems still exist not realizing it does but not for the reasons they  think it does and it becomes a vicious cycle.

In the situation of Ferguson, MO what is the real truth?  How will we ever know? It was tainted by prejudice on both sides. The public automatically assumed that because it took place in the “south”, that it was a white against black thing.  So, everyone formed an opinion and it escalated to fact. Once the race card is played, it’s over.

HAPPY NEW YEAR for 2015!!!

How about we all do our part to make the New Year the best it’s every been?  Make 2015 a year we don’t break our New Years Resolutions. Ha!?

I’m taking a trip back to Alabama to see my friends and old home one last time. No, I’m not dying or anything, but we finally sold our house, Yea! We have been so real estate poor it’s not funny.  (we still have one to sell in Colorado) That is the downside of real estate in AL.  You can get a very nice house there for little outlay, but poor you if you want to make money on it. It is a very poor state and with the downturn in the economy, it was a hard sell. But what a good end to the old year! Right???

I’ve got a screenplay, I wanted to add it to this blog but I’m having trouble figuring out how to put the link into the sidebar.  As soon as I do, I will.

IN the meantime, CHEERS!!

Christmas

I love Christmas, even though I don’t celebrate it as I once did because my children live in different states and it just isn’t feasible anymore to get together as we once did when we lived in close proximity of one another.

Finances and busy lives also contribute to us not getting together.  My brother and his new wife live nearby,  as do another brother  and sister. but over the years we’ve grown apart and I have found that we have nothing in common anymore.  My step sister is quite a bit younger than I but still investing in her declining youth. She still looks awesome, don’t get me wrong, but when do you get to the point of it is what it is? I don’t know how many times they’ve refinanced their home in order for her to indulge her vanity.

Her husband is in to UFO’s and conspiracy theories. Their son is a computer geek. Nice kid, but seldom has anything to say. In fact, no one does. My other sister’s son is an officer in the Navy and he too has little to say.

My other brother, keeps my husband entertained at these gatherings and that’s on the plus side.  Having grown up in a family of conversationalists how did this happen? My older brother will talk your ear off about planes, firefighting and airline stuff. My younger sister Di can hold her own and throw in a dash of humor to boot but she lives across the country. But the step siblings? How did everyone get so boring and they all have degrees coming out the wazoo?!

I do realize I’ve aged some and maybe I’ve just lost interest in what appeals to them. I know we’re miles away politically, that doesn’t help. The two things you stay away from is politics (unless you share the same beliefs) and religion. Right?

What’s interesting is that most people in the entertainment field seem to be advocates of the Democratic Party. Many educated are also inclined in that direction.  My niece likens Republicans to Pizza Hut and Democrats to J. Crew.  That didn’t make sense to me because aren’t the poor the backbone of the Democratic party dissing big business and proponents of government hand outs?

Personally, I find fault with both parties. I guess all parties and government generally speaking.  They all lie. They don’t know how to cooperate and work with one another to make the average Jo like me happy.  There’s just too much control. Too much squabbling and comparing anatomy parts. In increments, we have lost our right to think and speak freely because everything can and will offend someone, somewhere. So, there are no freedoms. None. This blog could and will offend.

I don’t mean it to, but it will.

People are mad at Obama for Obamacare, the multiple beheadings,   Sony and the Ferguson debacle. In fact, of late he’s been on everyone’s doodoo list. Those same people are still angry at Bush for bringing down the twin towers, causing Katrina and the Iraqi war, which if anyone remembers was voted on by both parties, live and in front of millions of people.  Oh, but after the tempers cooled down they changed their mind and then it became strictly Bush’s fault. See what I mean?

I would like to see for the coming year, a resolution by all man to make an effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Don’t be quick to judge. Be respectful of police officers who have a tough enough job as it is. Give them credit for what they do right. Give all those that serve us in one fashion or another consideration. Respond with kind words and gestures. Be patient. A kind word and a smile goes a long way.

On a good note. It’s Christmas. I love what it stands for Peace on earth and goodwill to all.  A time to forgive, rejoice and look forward. I hope that everyone has a wonderful holiday in whatever way you celebrate, be it Hannukah, Chanuka or Christmas. Enjoy the time with your family and celebrate life.  – Jo

Family

THE PARENTS

It’s not easy talking about my parents. They’re gone now.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I came to realize the one I was drawn to the most was the one I should have loathed. It was a mixed bag, but it’s funny how time and enlightenment can change ones perspective. My coming to discover the extent of the injury was accidental but … well, I’m not ready for that part of the story right now, so let’s move on.   I’m certain that in the evolution of this blog the complete picture will unfold and the image of what I’m referring to will reveal itself. To put it in words outright is not that easy for me suffice it to say..

In any case both parents were disturbed and abusive in their own way, but somehow we survived and maybe even blossomed. We are fighters.

Friday, the 5th I go in for surgery. I think at this juncture my mortality is a bigger issue than any psychological analysis of my past, which I have to admit I’ve ruminated on more often than I care to admit. I was diagnosed with a small (very small) cancerous lump which will be removed. Yet, in my mind it feels that it (cancer) is everywhere. It is like I’m being devoured by this loathsome disease. I imagine it anywhere I hurt and I hurt in places that should only hurt after a strenuous work out, which I’ve not done.

How that relates to my parents, well it’s my mother’s fault. To be exact, she wasted more hours worrying about what would kill her than living and enjoying life. Am I turning into my mother? She often stated that “we”, my siblings and I would probably be the ones most likely to cause her demise and sometimes I wonder if that wasn’t true. Later, I would take charge of the care of both my parents and frequently found myself saying it was “killing” me to do so and what was I thinking? It was a very stressful time of my life, yet it seemed the right thing to do. It was my job. I don’t regret it though because I learned a lot about them and about myself.

My mom was beaten severely by my father the day before the last time I saw him before their divorce.  For years in fact he did this. But she finally found her way out which resulted in her last beating, the way out would be someone who would rescue her and never beat her. Her rescuer brought with him four of his own children, but that’s another story. Mom, however was not innocent. What I remember is how mother would bait dad until he hit her. It would be years later getting out of two bad marriages before I figured out why she was in a self destruct mode then. With mom, it had become a habit. I saw her try it with her second husband but he never laid a hand on her. He would just say “Yes Vicky”. With my dad, I recall the baiting, but not the beatings even though at times I wouldn’t have blamed him. I understood the probability.  I’m speaking not in my voice on the subject but that of my siblings,  they have vivid memories of it. For some reason, I remember an occasional backhand but I don’t recall him beating her, I only remember those inflicted upon us kids.

I’ve speculated perhaps I shut that and other things he did out as a survival mechanism, a protective instinct. What’s odd about it is that I was the oldest of my four siblings and should have been more cognizant. I wonder where I was? When I saw the scene in Forrest Gump when he talks about Jenny hiding from her father, reluctant memories surfaced. I think I may have done that a lot. Cloaked my memory.

SANDY

My sister Sandy is my “Irish Twin”, born 13 months after me and who we thought at the time as mentally deficient. She calls herself “stupid”; but growing up I’d heard terms used like “fatty”, “la gordita” “dummy”, “retard” or “idiot” used by adults no less. So of course, we would follow suit with just dummy. If we thought she was fat, we didn’t say it. There was way too much name calling that was hurtful as it was. Surprisingly enough some of those same adults would refer to her as “pobrecita” (poor little one), which we didn’t get at all, mostly because she could be so infuriating and confusing.

Let me backtrack a little here. I hate questionnaires and surveys that ask if I’m of Hispanic or Spanish descent. How do I answer that? My mother’s side was from Mexico and my father was a good ol’ southern boy from Alabama. I grew up AMERICAN. I know little of my Mexican heritage but what I’ve learned as an adult and through working with Hispanics at the clinic or the little bit of time I spent with mom’s family. So, I don’t know what culturally Hispanic is so my choices in questionnaires are not based on my “Hispanic” background but that of my “white” father’s background. Questionnaires always want to cubby hole. When I worked in a clinic, I had several patients come in who were mixed. Half black half white. Are they white or black? Neither but both. We would sometimes laugh and say “a coffee blend” then. Their answer would generally correspond with the side they relate to most. Sounds fair enough. Am I right or am I wrong?

Back to Sandy. Sandy was really kind of like the Rainman, yet not. I think she may have a mild form of autism or maybe even Asperger’s because she simply processed things much differently than others do. That’s my diagnosis of course, based on my own observations. I also discovered she was definitely not stupid.

When we were little she had trouble with math. So, Dad got this idea that he would beat it into her, which he did. He thought it was her memory, so he devised this drill to get her to learn. He sat her on a chair in the front yard then gave her equations with the solutions, then had her get up, run around the house and come back and give him the answer. She would come back and just stand there. In theory, it may have been a good exercise, but not for her and if that was all there was to it.

The scenario would go like this. “Two plus two is four, remember that, now go” She would give him a blank look and he’d point and she’d run around the house and back to him. He’d say, “Two plus two is what?” She’d reply “Two plus two is what!” and, he’d get frustrated and say, “No dummy it’s four, two plus two is four!”. She’d look up at him bewildered. He’d sit on the chair, lay her over his lap, fanny up and spank her hard with his club like hand. Then he would say again, followed by “now, repeat it after me”. She would say it then run around saying it, but when she came back and stood before him, she’d freeze. I recall standing on the sidelines crying my eyes out. I think it took about 6 or more tries before she got it. To this day she has a memory like a steel trap. I can’t believe the things she remembers.

Sandy and I are not good friends. I want to be her friend, but find it difficult. A long time ago, mother took refuge with the religion of JW’s. My siblings and I feel that in some way that alliance was our protection because it gave us sanctuary when everything in our lives was so tumultuous. We have all since left the church, with the exception of Sandy and she feels compelled to preach at us or talk down to us either to chastise us or entreat us to return. That and her erratic behavior make it difficult to bond, but I do feel her pain and have a deep compassion for her. It’s complicated.

DAVE

My brother Dave is next in line. He was the only boy and suffered for that. Why? I don’t really know, we all want answers I guess. We all want to understand, to blame but he’s undergone much therapy for the abuses of our childhood, the parents and his siblings. I’m sure I’m in there somewhere as well. I’m not sure what he may have perceived I’d done, but he’s alluded to it a few times without saying and yes, it bothers me some, but not too much. Why?

I had a great deal of responsibility being a small kid always being told to take care of the others and if anything went wrong when my parents were away, it was my hair that was yanked and my bottom beaten, so whatever it was I may have done was probably in self defense. I was a kid.

Besides he was the most rebellious. Always reminding me that “You’re not my mother!!”

Dave was the only one of us who realized his dream. I love and admire him for that. He became a successful airline pilot, made good money, has a beautiful new wife and family. BUT, he also has a son he’s ashamed of. Dave is all about good looks and style. He’s a beautiful people person. A is not like that at all. Yes, he could have good looks but he hides behind a lot of hair, rasta hair and turban. Oh, there’s more, but that’s all for now. In short, I like my nephew, he’s a bit eccentric, but he’s smart. His sister’s are cool too. Gorgeous in fact.

DI

He is followed by our baby sister Diana. Diana was the youngest and for many years I was horribly jealous of her and she of me, yet we grew out of that and became very close. When the others were unable, she, being single came to live with me to help care for my parents. When she could hear and sense in my voice that it truly was killing me, she moved from Florida to Alabama to help. At first she got on my nerves and me on hers, but we worked it out. She makes me laugh. I see pictures of us when we were little and her in whatever clothes she is wearing triggers a memory of her doing something funny,  and I have to smile. Di and I are only 5 years apart.

Her coming to help was a mixed blessing. It was a painful time because I hated to see her suffer too, but I will cherish the bond we now have. We were trapped, but trapped together.

Diana and I share our love for art and that’s a lot of fun. We encourage and cheer each other on, me with her crayon art and she with my writing. The downside however is her moral compass causes her to censor my writing and keep me from being too graphic. I nipped that by not showing her the final draft containing bad language, violence or sex. 😉

Her feeling is that we, I, need to make the world a brighter, happier place. There’s enough negativity as it is, we need to take people to a happy place. Bring joy, smiles and happy tears to them. I guess my work can be a bit dark, but hey look at where it comes from?! I was watching the Hallmark Channel the other day and I cry and enjoy those movies, but they are all the same. They are like a country song played forward then backward.

Never mind. 😉