Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Long Goodbye

I told my mother goodbye tonight. I kissed her on the cheek many times, and I am sure she heard me and understood me. The hospice workers believe she will pass away in the night. They admit that her heart is strong, but her body is breaking down incredibly fast.

Who was my mother? These words come to my mind: stoic, stubborn, honorable, humorous, a fighter, humble, generous, kind, dignified, simple tastes, cultured, able to deal with adversity, a civilian survivor of war, strong, strong willed, angry with injustices against people, and very proud. I have so many memories of her dancing in my mind right now. The good and the bad. All good memories now.

I still cannot believe how much I was able to communicate to her for the first two days of this week. She was able to talk to me, smile, and discuss frankly her fear of death but also the fact that she was ready to go. When she said to me “I think I am going to die,” I was honest with her and said “yes, I think you will—very soon.” I told her it was ok to die, and that we would be here for her. My last words to her while she was still able to talk to me were “oyasumi nasai”—good night. It is a saying that was heard every night in our house when she put us to bed.

These last two days have been difficult because of her constant state of distance in her eyes and her inability to talk in these last two days. It has been taxing on me and my sister. I have seen my hair turn noticeably grey. I have found myself wanting to be alone to reflect on her life. I am hoping that she is not in any pain as she flies away. She does not deserve to be in pain right now.

I once again spent time with her today, assuring her that it was ok to fly away. I told her that I loved her, I wished her good night, and I said “sayonara” to her for the first and last time in my life. I told her that I loved her with all my heart, and that I will be seeing her again. I believe that I will see her again in my dreams very soon.

Good night, mom. Oyasumi nasai. Sayonara.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thank You All

I am overwhelmed by the internet response to my post yesterday. Thank you all for your thoughts.

Today was a better day—mom no longer had the distant look, but she can no longer garner the energy to talk. So I talked to her. I told her how proud I was to be her son. I told her that she had taught me so much—especially about human justice and the injustice of prejudice and discrimination. I told her that she meant so much to me. I spoke in broken Japanese to her. I reminisced about funny memories from my childhood. And she would smile and her eyes would brighten up. I sang to her, and hummed Japanese songs that I didn't know the words to. When she finally fell asleep, I left.

Each day is different. I have come to expect that. I am not sure what tomorrow brings. But I want to keep assuring her that she can fly away, and that she means so much to me—and always will.

Yesterday was my birthday. I will never forget it....

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Very Difficult Day

Today was difficult. I visited mom this morning with my sister and mom was unresponsive. She wasn't there—we could tell. Her eyes would occasionally open, but she had the most distant look I have ever seen. At one point, her eyes opened wide and she scanned us there and asked “Everyone Here?” But then she quickly fell back in to that distant state. I am trying to be strong, but this was difficult to handle. I am glad that I saw here wen I did and didn' delay coming out here—I have a feeling her mind and sprit are now gone.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What does death look like?

That is the question I have right now. I saw death tonight—I am sure of it. My mother saw it too. She got scared and said so. I stared into Moms' eyes all night long. I'm not sure what I am looking for. I am going through the same feelings I had during October 2005 when I returned home to New Orleans to examine our house. I am looking at my mother almost with academic inquiry--”what does death look like?” On the other hand, I know this “separatedness” keeps me stable while I am with her. I must not show sad emotion here—it is not the Japanese way.

I will read her the Bible tomorrow. If you know me very well, you know how much personal sacrifice this represents that I will go through to ease her journey. I understand the importance of ritual and culture here. It would be significantly important to me. “When I Die, You Better Second-Line.”

I really want to be there when she passes on. I want to be the last voice she hears, one that soothes her. Perhaps that is selfish—but I think that is my place in the Bushido order.

Saints Win--But Mom Is On My Mind

After the Saints victory on Sunday, I barely had time to celebrate. I knew that I would be on a plane Monday morning to visit my mom for one last time. She has been deteriorating for the last few weeks to the point that she is really no longer eating and barely drinking. She will not be put on life-support, and she is on morphine to ease the physical pain.

I saw her last night once I got into town. My sister Patty has been an angel taking care of mom for the last year—she picked me up and we both went to visit mom. Mom looked so frail—skeletal and ashen. But she did lighten up when I arrived, and I was happy to see this. I will visit her daily this week.

I hope I help ease her pain and quicken her journey to the other side. She is so strong—but I know she really wants to die. I just want her to go in peace. I hope my visit enables that to happen.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So Much for National Health Care

Of all the legacies to leave behind for Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, one would have thought the Health Care battle victory would be one of them. But due to an inept campaign on the Democratic front (never take campaigns for granted--never) and a strong national surge against Obama, the Republicans have taken Kennedy's seat in the Senate.

There are two road that the Obama administration can go down now--either be aggressive in pursuing a progressive agenda, or wallow in a middle-of-the-road treading of water until 2012. At this early point in his administration, my assessment of the national pulse is that we are lurching back towards a right-wing society and that our only chance for any progressive change will have to come in this year. Democrats are bound to lose control of one or both houses of Congress, and Obama will be a figurehead in office.

There is no doubt that the right wing has turned "fear" into a franchise. That and an ability to bamboozle the public. If I were to theorize and hypothesize on the direction of our society in the future, I would mix a bit of "anti"-Marx (we are a social animal--but to turn it on its head the less social we become, the less likely for species survival) and pure Weber (consumed in self-interest, society will simply disintegrate, thus ending the species). No armageddon stories here, but dangerous fractures in an already fragmented society.

It is not a pretty picture I wake up to today.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ray Nagin IS A FRAUD

He has done NOTHING for Blacks in New Orleans. NOTHING!!! I have never been sure what his agenda was as mayor--maybe he just jerks off to porn in his office. I'm not sure. But he didn't do a damn thing for anyone--black or white--in New Orleans.

What A Fraud!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Help Needed For Haiti

Here is a list of agencies that you can contact to donate money to help Haiti. Please, give anything you can. Link courtesy of the Rachel Maddow Show

Help Haiti

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mitch Makes the News in New York City

It seems that the New York Times is interested in our upcoming local mayorial election. The Headline is "Racial Divide Tested in New Orleans Vote." The under-headline reads "Race Assumes Central Role in New Orleans Mayor's contest." The article goes on to state that Mitch has a resounding lead, in part due to Senator Murray's dropping out of the race.

My money (literally) is with Mitch Landrieu. I really hope he wins this time. I know the limitations of the powers of a mayor in any city, but I think he will inject a sense of relief among all who have struggled so much to rebuild New Orleans.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

"Hey Now It's Carnival Time...."

Thanks to Al "Carnival Time" Johnson for today's inspirational song ;)

I finished one paper yesterday, and now it's in the hands of two able editors here at home--Susan and my friend Allen. I should have a pretty well polished paper before it gets sent out to the wolves in publication land on Friday.

This morning, I will venture out to my local HEB to see if they have King Cakes. Surprisingly, they have King Cakes every 12th Night. I just always am surprised and touched to see them here. It is funny how little things like that can spark emotion in me. It's the New Orleans in me, I guess.

Good news on the Mardi Gras front. Our friend Rhonda will host us for Mardi Gras weekend. We finally get to come home for Mardi Gras, and we get to once again march with St. Anne on Mardi Gras day. My costume is complete (it has been for four years)--it's just been waiting for its inagural appearance in New Orleans :)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Search for Publishers Begins

If there is anything "good" to come from the post-Katrina life, its that I've had an opportunity to document the rebuilding of my former neighborhood in New Orleans (Broadmoor). I've interviewed friends, seen quite a few of the houses getting refurbished, and measure the progress of my neighborhood with the progress of the City. Nearly rebuilt, patches of significant need, patches of missed opportunity, but for those who have returned both a sense of Resiliancy and ANGER that dominates the rebuilding effort of the "new" New Orleans.

I've completed basically two chapters of my book on rebuilding neighborhood in New Orleans (three if you count the introduction). It's now time for me to submit a complete book proposal to potential publishers to get this thing out the door by next year. I want to tell a story of how a neighborhood rebuilds after disaster--how the draw of both New Orleans AND the neighborhood brought people back, and how much our identities are imbedded in both the neighborhood and the City that we find it totally natural to come back to New Orleans. Where else would we go.

As I reflect on this, I realize that today (Jan. 5) marks the 4 year anniversary of my move to Harker Heights, Texas. On January 5, 2006, we were driving from Crossville, TN to Harker Heights and had made it finally into our new house. I would start my new job within a week--a faculty position at Tarleton State University Central Texas, and the reality that I would have an opportunity to build a new University. I was going to give the job five years at most before I would seek out opportunities back in New Orleans.

This has been a good move for my family, and given the current state of higher education in New Orleans and Louisiana, I fully understand that we probably will be here for more than the five-year plan I had initially proposed. I am now a "dean" equivalent at my school, and it would be difficult for me to find something similar to this in New Orleans. We have, as so many people tell us, "landed on our feet."

Still, the pull of New Orleans is strong. I guess I can accept the fact that I will be an expatriate for a number of more years. But I am looking for new ways to bring me back to New Orleans for longer periods of time. This summer, I hope to bring my daughter Cecelia down for a four-week internship in the City. This will give me an opportunity to catch up with her and to be in New Orleans for a long period of time. If this works, then I intend to do it every year.

These little things "will do" for the time-being. I only hope that something ultimately helps bring me back to New Orleans.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Oh no, Mrs. Dollar Bill....

I am a bit saddened at the thought that Mrs. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson feels "entitled" to some of the money Dollar Bill handled in illegal activities.

I guess it's ok to receive illegal money if your partner earned it "fair and square." I guess I'd be entitled to half the money stolen from a bank that was robbed by a family member. Jeez--is this really happening? Only in New Orleans, y'all....

Personal Log

To a certain extent....

I have to say that I honestly "hate" the idea of going back to work today. This has been one of my most enjoyable breaks over the past few years, and the simultaneous trips to New Orleans and Tennessee really helped revive the soul. Being back home for the final week helped further relax the brain and soul, and I wish I could just work from the house for the rest of my working life.

But, I am a realist and I know I must go back to work today. I am hoping for a very quiet work week. All is good.

I had trouble sleeping last night because I was "dreaming" about who the Saints were going to play in the playoffs. Wow--that's a bit too intense for me. But I will begin planning the Playoff Party(s) here at the house in two weeks. I am very happy with this season, though my only disappointment was the loss to the Cowboys. Best season ever--and I have confidence they will dominate in the playoffs. The key will be to score on their first possessions.

News today in the New York Times about the South (Alabama specifically) turning into a solid Republican region. There are times when I so hate living in the deep south. The conservatism and the religious-fanaticism drive me crazy. If you want to see a real dumbing-down of America, come visit the deep south. I enjoy bringing out the critical thinking skills of the students in my classes, but it significantly challenges them to think beyond their taken-for-granted perspectives on the world. It is a sad state of the nation right now, and I am fearful that the country will move further to the Right over the next few years.

I've got lots to work on today. I've got a paper to present in New Orleans in April, and another that I must send out for publication. Those two pieces of work are my end-goals for this week. Close the door and don't answer the phone :)


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Time For A New Direction

I can't believe I haven't written a thing since April. I have so much on my mind, and so many things have taken place in the world, in the US, and in my life since then. I will try to post something (even if it is a brief note) on a daily basis for this year. THAT IS my New Year's Resolution. Banzai