Wednesday, March 16, 2016

About My SonI

This is an abbreviated version of incidents surrounding my son. He grew into a good person despite the sorrows and traumas of the past. I believe we all have had to let go of a great deal. Today, James is the leader of a national and international non-profit dedicated to families and the importance of fathers in their children's lives. He is generous to his children and his mother. God's hand has protected him from the beginning of his life through the present. He remains a God loving person and I believe he is a credit to those of us who love him and the people he helps.

Like many Latina/o families, having a son is of paramount importance. At least it was that way for my parents. I made up for being a female by giving birth to my son. Fortunately, for me and for Jimmy, I fell in love with my baby boy. He was a good little guy until he turned 4 and his mischievous ways popped up.

Unfortunately, although his life began fairly well--he had  a Mom and Dad and then the sisters arrived and his little world changed a lot.

There were other issues that changed life for our family.

Life for me was hectic because I had a demanding husband who moved me and the children too often. At the beginning, when it was just me and Jimmy with his Dad, it was terrible to have a husband who could not settle in one place. So thanks to him, I became acquainted with the great NorthWestern part of the United States. We settled in Oregon eventually, but before doing so Jimmy, his Dad, and me and my pregnant belly travelled to New York. Jerry could not find work that suited him so we moved. The process was my first introduction to letting go of things for which I cared.

It was good for me to meet up with Dad and my New York bound family. I reconnected with aunts, uncles, and cousins and even relaxed a bit. Something happened when I was not present which alarmed my Dad and had him asking that I stay with him until the baby (Louise Alexandria) was born. How I wished I'd heeded his plea.

At this point, I want to move forward several years to the time after Jerry died because that was the time during which I learned what Jerry had done to Jimmy. Apparently, in front of my Dad, Jerry picked up his son and flicked his penis or other genitalia with his finger leaving bruises. I don't recall this. However, when my son heard this from his Grandfather, it added to many issues he would develop against his father and his fathers family.

Indeed, I agreed to stay with Dad, but my husband came back with a great amount of self-righteousness to get us. Why would a man with no prospects for a living come to get his wife in the third trimester of her pregnancy and his little toddler to go for another long drive to the west coast? Now I can think of these things logically and without the many emotions that enveloped me at the time. Then I thought I should stay with a man with whom I'd exchanged marriage vows.

To get to the consequences of that second return trip to Oregon, I had a horrible labor. My child couldn't turn around--after all I'd been seated for so many hours driving cross country. Life was so difficult that within two weeks of going through a 33 hour plus labor and having to have the humiliation of being a kind of guinea pig for the student doctors at Multnomah County Hospital in Portland Oregon, I was finally delivered of a little girl. Louise was a beautiful child but her beginnings would be difficult too. Before she was two weeks old I had to find and begin working to support the family.

I'm not even covering the fact that it took a snow plow to get my car out of a slanted driveway so I could get to the hospital in the first place.  Wow my adventures were so exciting.

To skip many years and to get to various incidents that demonstrate my son's character from his toddler-hood I'll share some incidents. They'll show that many of his adult characteristics: persistence, stubbornness, goal orientedness, extreme sensitivity behind his outgoing facade began in childhood and teenhood.

While I was going through many of the trials divorce brings to an isolated and very insecure woman, my son tiptoed down the stairs and quietly put his arms around me and told me "Don't cry, Mama. I'll be your lover boy." Many times when I have disagreements with Jimmy (James), I think of that moment and forget the argument.

At age 4 he climbed through his sisters' upstairs bedroom window, grab a tree branch and swing his little self to the top of the fence. Then he'd shimmy down the fence and have a field day.

Waiting for his father to pick him up were the most heartbreaking moments for him and for me. I suffered with him when Daddy did not show up and called at last moments if he bothered to call at all. The pain on Jimmy's face was palpable. and it was hard not too cry with him.

Before we moved out of the two story house where Jerry and I lived, I sometimes had one of Jimmy's friends over to keep him company that is when the spirit of adventure would rise again. One Sunday morning I received a call at around 6:30 in the morning. The woman asked me if I were Jimmy's mother and did I know where he was. I told the woman I was Jimmy's mother and that he was in bed. She asked me to go check. Sure enough Jimmy and his buddy Chris, were not where they were supposed to be. The kind woman gave me her address and directions as to where to get the two boys.

Divorce created a great deal of trauma for me and my children. We as part of the divorce settlement were supposed to sell the house divide the proceeds and go our separate ways. The problem that rose, however, was that because he stopped supporting us financially, I had to apply for food stamps. The agency worker, came over to my house to check me out. Of course, we did get the food stamps, but Jerry never got half of the proceeds from the sale of the house. He did not count on me being a clever woman.

At court I presented an analysis of Jerry's submission of proof that he'd paid child support. I indicated that the face of the check, the back of the check, and the receipt were not for 3 payments but for 1 payment. That way I showed how his estimates of support for his family were in fact 1/3 of the actual amount he'd submitted.

A year later, 1976 or there abouts, he called concerning his health. He knew I was interested in nontraditional as well as traditional medicines. From what he told me I suggested he see an oncologist. The symptoms sounded like cancer. In the meantime he wanted something to build up his immune system and I made some basic suggestions while reminding him that these herbs and vitamins were no match for his symptoms.

In the meantime I had gone to a therapist because I knew all the children and I had to deal with the major changes. That did help Elizabeth, but James and Louise balked at being thought of as not normal which of course was not my intention.

Suffice it to say, the family had many issues to deal with because I had to work. In the meantime, I took children to see their grandmothers and Jerry showed up every few months to be the fun parent.  However, in 1978, I became concerned because Jerry hadn't called to make arrangements for Father's Day visitation. I knew the children were looking forward to his visit as they did have a good time with him.

During the waiting period, my mother-in-law called to ask how I'd manage if I couldn't receive child support from Jerry. I told her if that happened I'd go on welfare to supplement my income.  She slurred as she spoke so I know she was drunk. However, after a few more weeks I asked James to call his grandmother Beulah. She answered the phone and asked him if he was big enough to handle some news about his Dad. She then told him that Jerry had been dead, buried for a month. My son bolted out of the door and I grabbed the phone. It was then that I learned of Jerry's death and the fact that this woman did not call to allow my children to say goodbye to their father. My daughters internalized the pain. In a way this was worse for them. I also impacted our relationships with one another.

James began to act out by dropping all his "white" friends and hanging out with "Cholos". He became a Mexican wannabe and later a Black wannabe. I'm not a psychologist.

I fought off many of the changes in James by keeping him involved in sports. However, the loss of his father without having the opportunity to say good bye and ask his father's forgiveness for not saying I love you after their last visit ate at Jimmy's conscious.

Other issues that led me to take James to New Day had to do with the fact that I knew I could not fill in the male role in a family. I tried to wrestle with him when he was young; however, when I had to cheat to break even or win, I knew it was time to stop. Also, there was the matter of sex education. I could speak about it from a female point of view, but where was he going to get a man's perspective? James was always considered a good boy by his teachers but all of his teachers and one principal spoke to me about concern for his academic future. It seems he did not put in as much effort into his school work.

James' grandparents tried to fill in gaps for his needs. I always felt they spoiled him tremendously and if I had assigned a punishment for misbehavior or not complying with his school requirements, I could count on my MOM to let him slide. She really adored her only grandson.

So after Jerry's death, the contacts with his paternal grandmother slowed down. In part because she did not act as loving toward my children. The Maternal Grandparents continued to be involved in his life and trips to visit them and to the beaches and mountains were distractions to help James and the girls get out of Rialto. However, the ANGER issues that James had for his dad's family could not be undone.

One further note: while living in Oregon when James was one year old and his sister just a baby still in diapers, I almost lost my children because I left the care for them in my husband's hands. Apparently, he lost control one day when Louise was crying and he hit her bottom. Even through the diapers, he left an imprint. I never told my children about this because I felt guilty about staying with a jerk. But my parents took Jerry's death as permission to unwrap many secrets. Thus the need for James to get more attention from me and the underground Dads I encountered to help him deal with lack of a father.