My name is Vette. I think I'm a writer, among other things, but right now I'm just figuring things out...
I didn’t grow up in an intergenerational family, never ran to embrace a grandmother or grandfather. There were no holiday dinners or birthday parties, no summers with great uncles or aunts. I didn’t meet my paternal grandmother until I was eighteen, and by then my grandfather was deceased. I didn’t meet my maternal grandparents until I was thirteen and placed in kinship care. So, as a little girl who had no relationships with older people, I feared them. I feared their dark, deep-set eyes, and their paper-thin skin that did little to cover the soft sinews, bones and blood vessels of their fragile, claw-like hands. When an old person would reach for me in public, grasping at me for emotional connection and physical touch, I would cry, and squirm away while telling them, “no.” As a young adult, with my own unresolved pain, that fear morphed into indifference. I had no patience for the aging. I would roll my eyes and briskly pass them when their pace frustrated my own, or aggressively speed around them when they drove ten miles below the speed limit. I didn’t know what it was to sit and listen to an elder tell a story. I couldn’t surrender my attention long enough for them to get to the marrow of the tale, and I didn’t trust there was any to be found.
November 23, 2019, was the most difficult day of my life. My mother, Sandra, passed away. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. My mother had been my best friend. We talked every day. Monday through Saturday we facetimed at 6:30 in the morning; on Sunday I would facetime with her after church. We had spent years dealing with the trauma of my childhood and had come to a beautiful place of healing, joy, and divine reconciliation. I had forgiven her, and in turn could forgive myself for what I had put my own children through as I carried our collective, familial trauma into their lives. There wasn’t a time that we didn’t laugh or say, “I love you,” during those calls. I told her often; I wanted her to know, without a doubt, just how much she meant to me.
The Emotional Violence of Unhealthy Expectations
I had just gotten back home from a seven-day working vacation in Colorado. Although the trip was amazing, I was excited to get home. With my son staying in Colorado for a few additional weeks it was going to be the first time in sixteen months that I would have my place to myself. But things haven’t been working out the way I planned. After taking Dramamine to get through my flight, I made it home around 2 pm, exhausted. My plan was to shower, unpack and maybe do some more research so I could finish a fifteen-page paper that was due in two days, of which I only had six pages completed. But that didn’t happen; I was too tired to focus. I chalked up my fatigue to the Dramamine, and the emotional toll of my visit with family and friends in Colorado. I rested. The next morning I woke up feeling unmotivated, like really unmotivated; it almost felt like despair. I had no choice but to research and write because the paper was due the next day, but it was a painful process, and the paper was not what it should’ve been. I spent the afternoon curled up on the couch, silently berating myself, and watching The Handmaid’s Tale until midnight.
Why Offer Him My Body?
Many years ago, maybe twenty-seven years ago, I worked for a man named Glen, here in Fort Worth, Texas. Glen was a good man, a nice man, very professional in the work place, and he had given a woman like me, with a sordid past, the opportunity to work. The office was a hodge-podge of good, but troubled folk who came from varying backgrounds that simply needed to find their footing in life while earning a living. Well, not quite a living. But, I enjoyed working for Glen, and it was because of him, and his character reference that I was able to move on and become a file clerk with the City of Fort Worth even though I was a convicted felon. Several years after leaving Glen’s business my life fell apart, as it had always done, and I found myself working the streets of the Southside of Fort Worth to support my crack addiction. I never saw Glen again, but he had never left my heart, my mind, as a person who had given me a chance. In 2008 I moved away from Fort Worth. I moved away because being there came me to close to the painful realities of my addiction and I needed to go away and heal.
Georgia on My Mind...
After enduring the Texas blizzard of 2021, I was ready for the warm temps that crept in during the following weeks. One morning, after having showered, I realized my feet were in need of some care, and my toe nail polish was from fall of 2020. Giggling, I thought to myself, “today would be a good day for a spring pedicure,” and I grew excited to see my friend, and nail technician, Tina--we just clicked. I go to “U Nails” right here by the TCU campus and they’re always as happy to see me as I am to see them. Tina, who is Vietnamese, asked, “Where you been? I scared you move.” She was using her hand to do the go away gesture to complete her thought. I told her “Oh, no, my program runs another two years. Don’t worry, I’ll be around for a while.” and we hugged. She took my hand to look at my nails, and asked, “What you want?” and I told her, “Just a pedicure, I haven’t had my feet done since you did them last.” She replied, “They look bad then,” and walked away laughing. I followed her to my seat.
It was during this summer I realized Bowie was no longer acting like a three-year-old; he was lethargic and sad. He didn’t want to go outside and play. He would lean on my sister and me, as if he couldn’t hold up his own weight, and needed to be comforted. I was watching Bowie and my sister while John and Linda worked, and one afternoon I watched as he vomited blood, with clot-like masses. I had no idea what was wrong with him, but one day I lifted his shirt and there was a distinct hand print across his abdomen. I attempted to place my fingers in the fingerprint places but my hand was way too small. I believed John was hurting him, but I never witnessed it. Over the years I had been beaten with switches, slippers, race car tracks, extension cords, and a cubed-stick. John only ever used a belt, so there was no consistent precedent for him to be a violent man, except for when he damn near beat my mother to death, but other than that I had never seen him physically abuse anyone in our household. I mean by today’s standards our whoopin’s were abuse, but not back then and not in my community.
Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop
It was June of 2016, and I was preparing to move to Westcliffe, Colorado to take my first appointment as a pastor. I wasn't ready, but I took the appointment anyway. Addiction had been a part of my ongoing narrative since I was 9, and in 2016 I was struggling with alcohol and Ambien abuse. I was in an unhealthy relationship, and as it was my pattern, I used those vices to run away while standing still. I drank to comfort my sadness, quiet my hateful self-talk, and numb the rage of my discontentment. These tactics never worked. I couldn’t escape any of it, and I was spiraling--Spiraling. It wasn’t long before I was being hospitalized for bouts of pancreatitis. One evening I was lying in the emergency room, behind a soft gray curtain, tears falling away from my eyes and getting caught in the folds of my ears while the nurse tried to draw blood from my dehydrated body, for the seventh time. Despondent, and in pain, I turned to my partner, and he was looking at his phone, smiling. I looked back up at the ceiling, and wondered if I would ever be free—whole.
Nappy Hair, No Hair
This morning, after grieving through a five-year journey with androgenic alopecia, I’m going to get my little afro cut off, well, what’s left of it. Two weeks ago, I completed my second round of follicle transplants, in which the surgeon shaves off all the hair on the back of the head to harvest follicles to place where I’m balding in the front. Ugh. Although my stomach is churning with anxiety, I’m excited because the surgical process is over, and I know from here my hair will come into its own. Within myself I’m okay with my journey, but there’s this nagging that keeps poking at my “okay-ness” it’s this thing within me that dreads my hair process being witnessed, ridiculed, and judged. Here’s an example. Several weeks ago, I was with some people I care about. I don’t love them. I don’t hate them, but I care about the quality of their existence. It was my fifty-first birthday, and I was speaking to a room of women who are in the same recovery home where I had worked on my own addiction many years ago. It was a full-circle moment. I was in my element, encouraging women just like me that change is possible, always possible.