The Parents

Morning_sun_coffee_newspaper_table_590Today, my mother is dead 13 years. One of the last things I promised her was that I would look after her husband. “When I’m gone,” she said, “he will have nobody.”

A few years later I was sitting in my mother’s kitchen, in her vacant chair, having coffee with her husband. I remember it was about nine in the morning and he was telling me how he needed some help in the house. “I had me an old n***** woman once …” he began, and I set my coffee cup hard on the table. He dipped his head, laughed, and tapped me on the arm. “Oh kid, lighten up,” he said, “I don’t mean nothin’.” A few minutes later he offered me a Little Debbie snack cake and told a joke. “There was this n***** …” the joke began. I said, “Knock it off, or I’m leaving.” He kept on. I stood up, washed out my coffee cup, and left my mother’s house for the last time.

By now we’ve all seen the 9 second video. University of Oklahoma fraternity brothers on a bus singing their song. The first time I saw the video I thought about how joyful and strong they sound in the singing, it’s like they’re belting out the school fight song. As a parent, I’m now thinking about the parents of this evicted house of young men and the mad scramble they are probably in today to take care of their kids, to find their boys a place to live. I wonder about the conversations they are having at home. I wonder how many were shocked by the song and who thought it was no big deal. I wonder who the parents are most angry with: their boys’ behavior or the university president who booted them.

Last week I had a question about the first parent-teacher conference I attended. I had been a mom for about a month. I remember that I drove to the school on a Tuesday evening to meet my new son’s 5th grade teacher. I remember sitting outside the classroom in a line of aluminum chairs, feeling the “who is that woman?” stares from the other moms. I remember meeting Mr. Moynihan and not liking him and wondering if he liked me. I thought I remembered there being no parents of color, but was that right? I had to ask my now-28 year old son to fill in the blanks and, as he told me story after story, I was embarrassed to realize how little I knew about his life at that school.

This morning I’m alone with my cup of coffee. I’m thinking about the parents of those University of Oklahoma boys: who’s telling a bad joke and asking what’s the big deal, and who’s shocked to know what was going on at their son’s school. This morning I’m missing my mother and thinking about her elderly husband, my stepfather and his jokes, the empty decade between us, and the promise I did not keep.

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106 thoughts on “The Parents

  1. whenlifeisgood

    I would have left the house as you did that time. I dislike language that offends. As for the singing boys, they will survive somehow, don’t you think? They were very rude.

  2. brokenthorne

    I find it very beautiful that even though his comment was racist you accept the fact that maybe in his old age he wont change. he may never grasp the real concept of racism, but you were strong enough to walk away and not be apart of a downhill conversation.

  3. phoulem

    It is nice to see someone standing up for what is right. I often contribute racist people to a lack of education and the video you are referring to puts a big hole in my theory. These are university students they have an education.

    1. Melissa @ Ever Growing Farm

      Yes, they are educated. However, they are also victims of Sheeping…just going along with what they’ve heard and/or experienced before. Unfortunately, there are more Sheeple than free thinkers out there these days. Real education comes from stepping outside of the box you’ve been put in (or put yourself in), taking a hard look at the people and choices around you, and intentionally choosing another path. That 9 second video was one person’s new path 🙂

  4. trdimc

    thanks for sharing, love comes from within, you have to love yourself first, in order to love others, be blessed

  5. annapauthor

    The otherwise loving and kind woman who cared for me as a child while my parents traveled often used language such as this. I found it very sad.

  6. chadcustus

    This really hit home with me.
    Growing up my grandfather would say many of those same jokes and stories that all started with n****. I remember running upstairs to tell my mother in tears about the horrible thing he had said. Both my mother and grandmother would say “he’s just old” or “that’s just the way he is” and “that’s the way it was back then”. They would shrug him (and my feelings) off for years. He does it to this very day and I cannot stay in the same room as him.
    Shamefully I must say that my anger and frustration with him taken a toll on my grandmother who is a sweet old lady and I love dearly. I cannot bring myself to call in case he picks up. I cannot bring myself to go over and visit in case he is home.
    Mostly though I am angry with my mother and grandmother for making it seem like it’s okay. I have lost all respect for not just him but for both my mother and grandmother for the lack of respect they have for themselves,for me and there inability to stand up and say something.
    I’m 30 years old now and have lost all love for that side of my family. But it still burns to think about it. I feel as you do.
    Thank you for the post.

  7. Pingback: My response to “The Parents,” a beautiful post about an ugly topic by Teri Carter | The Mrs. Adventures

  8. jmpod

    Complicated questions buried here – I love the way your post hints at so many things on your mind – connected but unresolved – and the tension of that — without giving us any easy answers.

  9. askjustine

    Hi my name is Justine and I have started a blog called ask justine it’s askjustine.wordpress.com it’s a blog to basically make a friend to have some when you feel you have no one to get advice to get your spirits lifted 🙂 can you please spread the word thank you so much in advance

  10. justinbeene

    Stumbled across your blog and was drawn in by its close design to my life. Losing my mother 12 years ago and will not go back to her husband to visit because of the life he forced her to live, and us kids as well.
    You are a product of your environment they say. As a parent now of a collage student it’s frightening to send them out into the world as we know it. It’s a cruel place if you lose your focus. Sorry to ramble. Great blog

  11. namrathasaldanha

    It’s very sad when people are shun away due to the region they were born in, or due to the color of skin they dint choose. Many innocent victims have to bear the brunt From the hurting comments hurled by dim-wit retards.

  12. moodsnmoments

    how time turns! from being mothered to being the mother – the essence of care – how different at both stages yet so similar – lovely post. thanks and congratulations!

  13. jetseteatrepeat

    Great article. We tend to overlook hurtful things our parents say and forget about it because “they’re from a different time”. Sometimes it’s important to stick up for what you believe in, and make them understand that there’s no room in today’s world for that kind of backward attitude. Great reminder for putting it into practice.

  14. Kathy Simmons

    Maybe you kept your promise after all. Maybe by leaving that day and not returning, your step father was left alone over the next decade in thought to ponder. And, maybe just maybe the world was spared one less heartless joke. Your mother would have understood…Congrats on FP!

  15. dulcetlove

    Wow. Very interesting. What your mothers husband said was in not okay. I’m sure it was disturbing to hear. Have you spoken to him since? Maybe you should talk to him and let him know that you would really appreciate it if he kept those comments to himself when you are there if he wants to maintain a relationship with you. He may not be a bad person, just brought up with that unfortunate mindset. If he can agree, then you might be able to still keep your promise to your mother.

  16. ReTreeve

    Touching post. I have to say – had I been in your shoes, it would have taken a lot more than that to disregard my mothers wishes. Forfeiting a relationship based on the misguided use of language of an old man is (in my own personal opinion) a tad harsh.

  17. JojoVovo

    Wow. Powerful thoughts. I’m glad you are reflecting, as the alternative would be ignorance. Thank you for sharing. If you ever want a touch-in from spirit, I’m a spiritual medium and would be happy to tune in, with your permission. ❤️❤️❤️

  18. Ray Smith

    You have wonderful thinking about your parents… they are very important to us… i love my parents by core of my hearts.. thanks for sharing your great thoughts with it.. these have inspired many people…

  19. devi r menon

    yep Parents are wonderful They love u selflessly give their life to u but children realise it only when they cross and go How strange aint it?Children are their world but for children they become an unnecessary burden whom they hurriedly dump into old age homes They feel parents demand and they intheir turn give nothing in return They fail to realise the wealth of love and warmth and the trials the parents have undergone to give them a good life.It is said that a woman who is heavy with the child climbs the last steps to enter a room that moment is priceless nothing in the world can repay that

  20. Samantha

    The bottom line is you promised your mom that you’d look after your step-dad, and you didn’t. Is he racist? Maybe. But I don’t view that as justification for what you did.

  21. ayikujeiruth

    Exceptional. Its usually 10 out of a 100 who can stand up to racism. Since you have this care for all, God bless you. You can however explain patiently when given the chance to clear others of their ignorance. Thank you.

  22. natculturalmagpie

    I know what it’s like to feel responsible for look after people who are difficult. I also have had that feeling that I haven’t done things exactly right too. But life is not about being perfect. Don’t listen to those who are saying you made a wrong decision. You made a decision and you can only control what you do now. Thank you for sharing

    http://www.culturalmagpie.com

  23. miss.shreya.patel

    Generational gaps make it so difficult to relate to others. My boyfriend’s grandparents struggle to accept me as I am an Indian girl, into their white family. But my boyfriend and I do not see colour. It is amazing what changes occur through time…

  24. dkmoosa

    Aw lovely post… I like your style of writing… but let me tell u I had same kind of experience with my aunts none of them got married and used to live with us they loved us like their own children even spending money on us buying expensive gifts and celebrating our little achievements. . But some of their habits were not liked by us.. sometimes we used to ignore them or try to get rid but I m happy that I was with them when they breath their last. But after so many years when I am a mother of a lovely 4 years old son… I realize the worth of those people. . Now I know their importance and I miss them.. think about them..

  25. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

    This was powerful. I have often wondered about that with this incident and a myriad of others. It all comes down to parents and how children are brought up. And children sometimes get it wrong if kids fall in with a bad crowd.

    I have often shared how I overcame that southern racist background with my own children. I now live up north and when we began searching for a house to buy, I chose one in a neighborhood with many different races and cultures. My girls had friends of several races and her closest friend was a black girl that lived in back of us; they played with dolls, swam in each other’s pools and so on. Both my daughters are now grown and they are inclusive people; to them it matters not the race but that people they associate with are good people.

    I am only one – but I believe what I did was successful.

    1. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

      I grew up in a hate-filled, racist environment where the N word was often heard. I did not want that. Where we live now and the atmosphere in the home makes a huge difference. You need to remember, too, that most people who are saying those awful things claim to be Christian. I grew up in a Methodist Church where my Sunday School teacher harped on “the birds of the air do not mix” until I was fed up. I quit going to church because of the hypocrisy and decided to try on my own to live like Christ in my actions and words. I am not a perfect person; I have anger/rage issues stemming from abuse as a child but I like to think I am a work in progress. Looking back, I think I did the right thing.

      PS: One of my daughters married a guy who is not racist but is still in the southern area. They were on a trip today to see her in-laws and she sent me a photo taken at a convenience store of a license plate: “Kamp KK.” I told my daughter, “Welcome to the south!” (My daughters are white and Peruvian.) Many people there are proud to be racist.

  26. Ra.Luca

    The first post I read on your blog. It feels so…sad. It’s like your words managed to have my heart in their hands. It’s such a long time since the last day when I felt this. I wish you all the best, that this world can offer. Belive in everything, belive in yourself and belive in your words! Cause…damn, your words are so strong!

  27. Jan Deelstra

    I cannot help but wonder if humans will ever truly awaken to the power of words, not just at an intellectual level, but at a creative level. It’s appalling. And it’s just as unsettling to hear the use of “bitch” these days, not only from ignorant males using the term in a derogatory manner when referring to male friends, e.g. “My bitches in the locker room,” but worse, by women referring to their friends, “My bitches are the best….” When we don’t take a stand, it is said, we will stand for anything. I appaud you in your action of taking a stand where your step-father goes. And I am certain that your mother forgives you. Now you might want to do the same: Forgive you. That promise had a shelf life that has long since expired.

  28. psychming.

    That was chilling, immaculately written. Sometimes people push you to extents that you are not willing to go to, it’s not your fault and who knows you better than anyone? Your mother. If strangers on the Internet can understand why you didn’t keep the promise then it doesn’t even need explaining to her, she understands.

  29. miniontour

    You never said you step dad had passed but the way you wrote it I’d say he had? If not, it is never too late. Nice story but have no regrets at the time you did what was right for you!

  30. mylifeofthoughts

    Like everybody sais here: you were not to blame when you left that house. You warned him and gave him a second (or more) chance and he still continues with that language. Your mom gave you a thug mission. Good luck !

  31. navasolanature

    Young people seem to want to live a different way but do make mistakes with offensive language. Older people maybe it was just part of an unthinking and racist mindset but didn’t mean they would take part in violent acts. There seemed to be a revival of the N word in music and youngsters. We need to talk and remind why it was used. Know the history and leave that language there.

  32. birdiezm

    Very honest and touching post. Racism is a learned behavior from parents to their children. Kids are born to love and taught to hate

  33. muslimah411

    It is hard to be with the person who is racist and dislikes certain kind of people and label everyone like that, but the way you wrote this article, very touching

  34. msaintrome23

    Its very sad but true that in this day and age we are still experiencing racism. i believe its learned behavior and we have to be mindful of how we speak in front of our children and pay attention to the friends they keep.
    I applaud you for not entertaining the comments made by your step father.
    sexy50.wordpress.com

  35. Anna at A Wondrous Bookshelf

    Thank you for sharing. This is a sad story. Racism exists everywhere, even when people pretend it doesn’t. There was a time when people could get away with a lot more than they can today. I understand your motive and I don’t judge your actions. My heart goes out to you.

  36. Saloni

    I can totally understand how u feel, but the way u expressed it was amazing. It requires a lot of courage to share what u went through. This must have inspired a lot of people. I m glad i read it
    Thank you

  37. sharonah76

    It is sad that racism is still prevalent. I respect you taking a stand. I myself am half native American but didn’t know until I graduated from college. My grandparents hid their race due to racism. They could “pass” for white, so that is what they did. It saddens me that they felt the need to hide who they were.

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