Just some super random thoughts:
My father always teased me while I was growing up about certain things I had done during toddler-hood, or earlier; he claimed to adore my prematurely acquired sense of humor, despite the things it often reflected back onto him with my ever-inappropriate joke-telling in an out-of-turn setting. One thing that he never let me live down was the self-proclaimed affinity that I announced having to “God’s People from the Holy Land” when I was barely able to string sentences together yet – approximately age three-ish.
He brought it up until the day that he died whenever he got the chance to reminisce upon the story with family or friends, reminding me of my earliest ‘ah-ha moments’ without skipping a beat at the opportunity. My older set of brothers (“the originals”), of course was on board also, and chimed in just as often over the family favorite of my youthfully profound closeness to Jews. I had never even met a Jewish person before making the statement with the utmost certainty to both my father and my Papa (grandfather) from across the room.
I am not sure if I actually recall this detail or if the story has been told so many times over the years of my life that it’s become an implanted thing; but I do have a “photographic memory” to an almost autistic degree, so I think that I truly remember. I recall how hurt my feelings were when they both laughed heartily at my words, and I recall being somehow very aware at that moment that they were not like me – that my set of brothers and I were not the same as the rest of our family unit. I do not remember ever harboring any true expectations after that instance of either of them to really appreciate, nor respect, my native blood.
I had no idea back then that two of my brothers and I are half-breeds; no tickle of any notion behind why I felt the things I did – in contrast to the men (and ONE grandmother) who raised me collectively; I had no concept of the ties that bind by nature just as strongly as by nurture. It’s only been since I grew older, that I fully understand the affinity to the Jews that I was struggling to recognize and verbalize at a very young age; and now it seems blatantly obvious in its cause:
the worst genocidal executions in the history of humankind belong to the separate populations that make up Jews and Native American Indians by a landslide.
And somehow, the very un-tuned but already empathic blood in my veins was trying to speak to me about such truths and realities way back then. Just some thoughts…
I’ve sat down so many times –
to write to you, to your heart –
to get through,
to tourniquet the bloody parts…
A curse of mine that you’ve come to
so well-define – in the dark,
a partner in crime
painted in timeless hue
in every lifetime…
But, I’m still blessed –
through a curse, every time
by my bond to you;
So when I try
to sit down and describe –
with any words
or piece of alter-ego art,
exactly what it is,
that’s happening inside of the wound
from which I pulled your dart…
The words do not come
in accordance to
any drawing or poem
or hardcore theme song –
and I’m always brought back
to the sentimental fact,
that you couldn’t have known,
but you’ve always known
everything, all along.
My Great-Grandmother Tannuea (who is full-blooded Shawnee) is the legendary storyteller of my mother’s family, and has always told me stories and lore that were a macabre mix of her own personal and epically divine inclination towards the “Mysteries”, and the blood and guts and gore of the American Yankee Spirit. She always spoke of Great Spirits that took on the form of animals and men and women, fish and birds and trees and rivers…she is the eldest member of our family, who has told every child in her far-extended family the most cherished and sought out tales to be told. I have blood relatives through this woman whose faces adorn Totems in places I’ve never even heard of, much less visited. Grandma T has bore and bred true greatness in her lifetime, though she would NEVER stake claim to this TRUTH. She has also bore and bred sheer Hell during her years alive, but would not be caught dead in allowing such a thought in her mind. She has the whitest hair I’ve ever seen; she always has, since I can remember. She smiles, and I swear to the Gods it seems as if everything else just evaporated around her – she holds strong energy, even at age whatever she is – she is ANCIENT. She is my GREAT Grandmother!!! She has outlived several generations of her offspring, another heartbreaking truth that she neither leans on or against in times upset. She is just present. Always, ever present, in the moment – alive.
I can tell you that not a single one of her stories was lost on me; I was typically either terrified to the point of tremors, or was intrigued by a thought she had tickled deep down in my cerebral cortex during one of the wild sagas she had us entertaining . I always had the feeling that my brothers weren’t listening; they were hearing the words…just not listening to the messages.
She demands alone time often, always has; she can meditate for hours on end, quite happily.
Sometimes, I would happen upon her during her quiet times when she “rests her mind”; she would be silently sitting: the picture of posture, humming her tunes into the air – with ever-replenished tears streaming down the deep lines in her taught, leathery cheeks.
“Who would make Grandma Tannuea cry like that? And why?”
Humankind makes her cry; because it is a damn shame.
Tannuea hails from the Ohio Shawnee clan that Tecumseh lived amongst and led in the late 1800s; she can recall a childhood full of discomfort and prejudice thrown at her after her tribe’s forced assimilation with the Cherokee Nation in the 1870s; she grew up in its wake. She is a stickler about kindness; I have a funny feeling it is because she was never shown much of it throughout her lifetime. For the young Tannuea who endured her own ‘trail of tears’ as a result of being a native-born tribeswoman during the formation of the present day United States of America, a life of hardship was embedded deeply and without awareness. Still, this woman SURVIVED, still survives to date – to be a solidly founded boulder for others: many, many others.
Because of my Great-Grandmother’s support and guidance, I was able to deliver a very healthy baby girl (Boo, 7 lbs. 13 oz. /19.5 inches tall) in 1997, under extreme duress. Because of the same soft-spoken woman’s wisdom, I was able to find the inner-gladiator that it took to testify in court against the father of that beautiful baby girl for his attempt on my life in 2002. She showed me how to be strong when I didn’t feel strong; even still after all these years, her very presence in a room with me naturally humbles me beyond words.
A human being, who has never seen kindness in the first person, yet knows the intricacies of it as if she created its very essence.
THAT is empathy.