I always learn a lot in February because it’s Black History Month, but this year I’ve been especially focused on it and have been rewarded in a myriad of ways.
Last weekend we started a new family tradition with Kendal going to her first performance of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I’m thrilled to restart this tradition after more than 25 years of attending with my Mom and other family members. We all enjoyed the performances, especially the dance Revelations, but it was the free performance and demonstration after the show that was the most emotional for me. We all danced and learned as the retired Ailey dancers took the hundreds in attendance through the various dance moves in Revelations. Watching Kim and Kendal alongside each other and even up on the stage, and then me dancing side by side with Kim brought tears to my eyes. I took quite a few video clips that I shared with Mom this week. She smiled and said “good” though I’m sure she can’t process what she was watching, but the fact is we are making historical memories that I hope will last a lifetime.
The only part of February that I dread is Valentine’s Day. I’m used to being by myself now, but I still get that ache in my heart as the day approaches. So this year I made plans to spend the afternoon with Mom, and then to pick up Kendal after school to put together a LEGO set. I was stunned when I arrived at the group home and all of the residents and caregivers were dressed in red, looking gorgeous! I had made some Valentine’s Day coloring sheets for me and Mom to do, but she wasn’t talking at all or very aware so I just sat with her. Like I always say, I have no expectations with this disease so I wasn’t upset at all that we didn’t color. After a couple of hours with Mom I took a few pics and then headed to pick up Kendal. The surprise of the day was when Kendal got in the car. I told her that I’d spent time with Mom and she quickly said she wanted to see her too. So back to Mom’s I went. Mom was totally different when I returned. She barely acknowledged me, but when she saw Kendal, she smiled from ear to ear and said “HI!!”. She hasn’t smiled like that in a long time! The card I brought for Mom had gold colored lettering and it was hard for her to see. So all she could read was her name and mine that I’d printed. As she struggled reading the card, Kendal said “I’ll read it to you Grandma”. Oh Lordy!!! Mom and I listened intently as Kendal read and tears came to my eyes. What an amazing kid she is. We had a great time building the LEGO set at my house too, it was simply the perfect day! I forgot all about being alone, and I know Tim was with us and smiling!
Yesterday I had already set aside time to attend a Black History lecture on Josiah Henson (on whom the book Uncle Tom’s cabin was loosely based). The lecture was held at Surratt House (where Johns Wilkes Booth ran to after assassinating President Lincoln) which is literally down the street from my house. Most important of the many things that I learned from the lecture was how Josiah and his wife and four children walked through dangerous territory for 6 weeks from Kentucky to Canada so they could be free!!
Today was “historical movie” day for me! I watched the Netflix series on “Who Killed Malcolm X”, and “Barry” (a young Barack Obama) and documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Maya Angelou, Quincy Jones, and Allen Iverson. It was a day full of pride and tremendous learning for me and I wish Mom could have enjoyed some of it with me! I hope we can continue to share our history with Kendal and I will continue to review history with Mom just as she used to do with me. Role reversal is such a humbling experience but I try to continue to rise to the occasion and pray I’m doing all the right things. Next up is Mom’s birthday on Tuesday and the folks at the group home are really looking forward to our celebration! Love you Mom can’t wait to have cake with you!