It will inspire and humble you. When this simple woman came on stage, everyone laughed or smiled, but no one expected her to knock their socks off. Simon Cowle (sp) said, he knew they would be in for a surprise, but I don’t think even he knew how it would materialize.
When I hear this woman sing, I cry. Every time.
How many times have I wanted to give up and had this long self talk of “why do you keep at it?”, “you’re just not that good”, “Why don’t you grow up and give up and just live your life peacefully and quietly?” ” Relax like other seniors, find yourself an innocuous hobby like painting”. Scary huh?
I can’t give up though. It’s not in me to give up. So I keep plodding along jotting down story line after story line. I read somewhere that without dreams, one has no purpose. Dreams and goals keep us alive and can bring you long life. How can it not?
I knew a long time ago I would live a long life. I haven’t given up on the outside, but it’s the inside self talk that wars inside me and if I let it, could get the best of me.
When that happens I must remember this little reclusive woman who dared to come out of hiding and become a star.
Memorial Day is coming up in two days and I decided, I guess in memory of the many lives lost in the Vietnam War and because it was the war that impacted me the most, that I would settle in for a movie I’d dodged for some time. It somehow seemed apropos.
The movie was “Born on the Fourth of July”. It wasn’t long before I realized why I had avoided it all these years. A third of the way through, it was all I could take. As a screenwriter, I felt it was important to get through this highly acclaimed film that won so many awards when it came out. I failed miserably. I could only bear the first hour and a few minutes before I started to experience hot flashes and an eminent panic attack. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t watch.
Seeing what some of these guys went through after they returned was as daunting as imagining what they endured while in Vietnam; what they went through and how some must have felt getting that dreaded draft letter in the mail saying, “Uncle Sam Needs You!”. It was a bad time.
I know there were countless young men that either got married, stayed in school, fled the country (including a past president), claimed a religious exemption or spent time in jail rather than fight a war they didn’t agree with, and who somehow managed to dodge the bullet so to speak, but this isn’t about them.
This is also not about those who died. Instead it’s about the ones who came home, the ones who suffered upon their return, those who were spat on, cursed and dealt with poorly.
Growing up, I was pretty sheltered from the world and it’s politics because at the time, I belonged to a religion that abstained from politics. I was not a strong participant but it was the religion of my mother and I lived at home. Was it easy? No and Yes. Did I know there was a war? Of course, but only one person in our religion that I knew of went to Vietnam. He died.
Later, I would date a guy in college who hoped he wouldn’t get called up and another who eventually did. I would later lose classmates to the war, some would never taste battle because they were picked off one by one parachuting down, like sitting ducks. Another got hooked on drugs unable to cope with the horror of the war and the rejection at home. I never knew about what these crippled and maimed soldiers would experience in the facilities they were put in when they were recovering, nor that they were treated like so much trash. The depiction was overwhelming.
Did Hollywood embellish? Perhaps. They are famous for their “creative license” but in this case, I seriously don’t think so. Perhaps not all places were the same, but I do know that today they have suicide watches in some facilities for both soldiers and their families. That’s another story.
I first came face to face with the realities of the war while I worked as a flight attendant. One day, in about 1968, our captain told us that we would be picking up soldiers in San Francisco and bringing them home to L.A. I am grateful to say I never felt loathing for these young men nor was I a protester, ever. That perhaps, was the saving grace of my religion.
So when I saw our cargo, I felt only compassion for each and every one of them. Each one had been seriously injured and/or missing limbs. The more serious of the group was a personable, but very nervous young man missing opposite limbs. He was seated in the front row and he told me that he was afraid of how his mother would take it. He’d not told her how badly he’d been maimed and was wishing he’d prepared her. The others had. I thought, what was he thinking? He was young though and I think of my son the Marine and know he would have done the same thing. In any case, here he was. Afraid of how she would react, he asked to disembark last, which we honored.
I watched as his parents approached the plane and waited at the foot of the stairs as the agents carried him down to the chair waiting for him. Upon seeing him, I caught a brief start from his mother and the pain in hers and his fathers face. Amazingly they bravely kept it together and greeted him lovingly. At the top of the stairs tears were forcing their way through as we, the crew and I, stood watching solemnly, keeping it together until they were gone. And yes, we later cried or I should say I bawled but not until we’d said our good-bye’s.
At some point and before he had gotten too far, he turned and waved at us and his family thanked us for bringing him home. We waved back. I look back on that day realizing the honor and privilege it was to have been a part of their homecoming. I know my flight crew, having been veterans themselves, felt it as well.
I have often thought about that young man and about all those young men, wondering what ever happened to them? I guess that’s why this film touched me so deeply. Could that have been them? What was their experience? Every now and again, I see a vet on the street holding a sign, begging and I wonder.
A dear friend is always saying, “Why can’t we just get along?” I know he says it in sincerity and with passion. I agree. It’s an age old question. Why can’t we?
When I belonged to my other religion, we often quoted the scripture that states:
Luke 12:51 “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Granted it had more to do with warning those who would take up the banner for Christ to expect to be ostracized, persecuted and suffer oppression. Yet…
That has become a global reality . There are many who say all wars are religious. In the early days they may have been territorial, but isn’t that what we see now in the Middle East, is it not in the name of religion, in the name of their god that there is so much killing?
“Why can’t we just get along?”
I realize that Monday we honor veterans on “Memorial Day, not just those who died in Vietnam, but those who’ve died in all wars and perhaps if nothing else, remember them and say a prayer for their families and for those who are still living to have peace and be peaceable.
I’m on a writing jag right now, compiling all info for rewriting Baja, which may get renamed. While doing so I got carried away fleshing out characters, watching films, taking notes, chillaxing watching sunsets and all that goes into creating a story.
I have a story and when I sent it in to the Austin Film Festival, they were kind enough to suggest that I give my female lead more angst between her and the antagonist which happens to be her father and expand the other women characters giving them more to do. It has come to my attention, not that I was not aware of it before, that there is a shortage of meatier roles for women, so that is a need I am determined to fill.
Needless to say, I am looking at women more closely. How they move, how they talk, dress and interact.
You are probably wondering why I’ve never done that before, truth is I was never a woman’s woman. I like guys. I can show you how they walk, talk and gesture when they do. Guys have their own unique swagger. Women don’t. My daughters are the same way.
So, I’ve had to study women.
The more I pondered my needs, I got to thinking about some of the women I do know and realized I have quite a few strong women in my life. Women, who if someone they loved got into a jam or was threatened, would threaten right back. A few even know how to handle a gun and one is adept at handling several types of weapons even though she looks quite feminine. So, there ya go, I’ve got my characters.
I had an arsenal to work off of after all and they’ve all been given notice. One day, they just may make it in my movie.
Their personalities that is, of course… and yes, that lady up there is one of the ladies I know.
I know today is Mother’s Day so I thought it was apropo that I write something about my mother.
As I have mentioned before, I came from an abusive family and growing up in an un-nurturing environment was a challenge at best, but let me be clear there is a caveat when it comes to my mother.
I remember my brother’s comment regarding his feelings at the time dad passed versus those he had for mother “she did the best she could with what she had” (the rest of that statement will come later and I promise it will NOT be on Father’s day).
My mother was born in the little town of Esquinapa, Mexico in the state of Sinaloa, just south of Mazatlan, where the hardships of her life began ( and interestingly enough where my first child was conceived).
She did not speak fondly of those days.
They were poor and she would have to care for her father who died of tuberculosis when she was 10 and care for her two younger siblings. Imagine that for a moment. Being a child, your mother has to go to work and the helpless feeling of seeing your father whom you adore, waste away til death and you can do nothing nor afford to do anything.
Her father, from what I gathered was possibly a fisherman, but in truth I don’t know for sure. Her memories of him were of a nurturing male, wanting her to go to school and to have a better life than they had at present. Sometimes he would take her out on his little boat and the two would have these magnificent talks of what her future would be like. Finishing school was at the top of the list. That was never to be.
At times they lived on the beach in a little make shift lean-to of palm leaves. No house or roof over their heads, the equivalent of being homeless today I suppose. Whether that was before or after his death was never stated, but sometimes I got the feeling she longed for those carefree days, so I’m thinking it was more than likely before.
After his death, life became quite difficult. Life without a man in any country in those days was horribly hard. My mother left school and abuelita would make tamales and send her out to the streets to peddle them. If anyone has ever been to Tijuana, Mexico, imagine a little street urchin hustling Chicklets or whatever it is they do these days. I’m certain that was why mother was so generous when one of these sad faced children approached us. I looked at them as scammers. Whether or not they were didn’t matter, to her they were reminders of how it had been.
Later, as she got older, mother would pick up milk from the local farmer and along with a childhood friend, the two would trek into town to deliver to the homes of the more affluent. Mom remembered peeking into the window of a home once where a little girl about her age was taking piano lessons and wistfully wishing it was her.
In my memory, there were few happy moments with her that I can recall, and when I made mention of this, she said I didn’t understand. She was right I didn’t understand. There were a few though as follows:
The picture on the right was taken either on Rosarito Beach or Ensenada, B.C. around the same time as the first picture above with my dad, on one of our occasional “camping” trips.
She loved her friends and she loved my brother but we girls were the bane of her existence. Given her above history that of her father being her ally and her mother the taskmaster, it is no wonder.
Sometimes she would liken me to my abuelita but never in a favorable way.
She would occasionally get angry at me for being convivial as though it were a bad thing and then later turn around and say, “you always make me laugh” and that I’m “always happy” in a good way. I believe mother wanted to be happy and sometimes we were privileged to see “happy” as in the following shots.
One with my boys at Knott’s Berry Farm, she really got into the train robbery heist.
It tickled and surprised me to see this side of her, but then she was with “her boys” and I know how much she loved them.
Here she is in her garden with her flowers. Her passion was growing things and learning about them. She had many books and magazines with notes and scribbling’s and although she never finished school, she knew a great deal. Then there was Martha Stewart. MS was her idol. It was MS this, MS that. I know she contributed to MS becoming a very wealthy woman. She had her books and cooking accessories and I’m sure they didn’t come cheap!
The fact that she spent so much time learning was odd in a way because when I was a child, she would constantly accuse me of being “lazy” when she found me in a corner reading. Go figure.
Mom could be sweet and generous, a side we seldom experienced personally but observed in her interaction with others especially her grandchildren. With them we saw her effuse the love we sought for ourselves.
Mom constantly pushed us to be better, to finish school or to go for that better job. She constantly strove to give us all she ever wanted for herself when growing up. A better life.
When mother’s Alzheimer’s was finally diagnosed, I would learn that mother had also suffered from bi-polar disorder and depression. After much discussion with her doctor about what our lives had been like he speculated she may have also struggled with paranoid schizophrenia with perhaps multiple personalities, but it was hard to know for sure since her Alzheimer was advanced to a stage that blurred the evidence. I wasn’t totally surprised because when the movie “Sybil” came out, I recognized some of the same symptoms in my mom and did some research. Mother was famous for turning on a dime, behaving one way with us and then when the doorbell rang or whatever, becoming another person to deal with whatever was at hand. But, in those days and surprisingly even before HIPPA (health information portability privacy act), doctors would not discuss these things with children. Earlier on, before my grandmother died, she asked me in Spanish, “Take care of your mother, she’s a bit crazy” (In Spanish, it doesn’t sound so harsh, but it confirmed my suspicions). She knew.
Sadly we were never engaged to help her or to get help for ourselves.
So on this Mother’s day I dedicate this page to you mom …
“I understand now. I know you will never know how much we wanted to know you and have you comfort us, but know this I love you and know that God is taking care of you now and has made you better. I hope you are happy and that He has given you a nice big garden to work in. Happy Mother’s Day!!”