Friday, June 17, 2016

The Grieving Never Stops

16 years ago a family was torn apart.

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On Friday June 16, 2000, my cousin Kathy Inman, her husband Billy and their 16-year-old son Dustin, were traveling from their home in Woodstock, Georgia to their retreat in the mountains of North Georgia, to celebrate Father's Day with a weekend of fishing. As they waited behind a car at a stoplight in Ellijay, a speeding vehicle plowed into them from behind, wedging Kathy's Grand Am into the car in front of them. The force completely crushed the backseat and Dustin and his dog Lucky died instantly. Kathy and Billy were seriously injured and airlifted to the trauma center in Atlanta where they both lapsed into comas.

While we were all trying to understand this senseless tragedy, my aunt and uncle and Billy's family had to make arrangements to bury their grandson and possibly his parents because we just didn’t know if they would make it. I recall sitting in my aunt’s kitchen as she talked about not knowing how many funerals they’d have to plan, when she picked up Dustin’s wallet that had been given to them by the police. The wallet was stuffed with cash that he'd been saving to buy a car. She showed it to me and then she started to cry.

Billy was discharged after a few weeks, scratched and bruised and suffering from memory loss, while Kathy remained much longer due to her more extensive injuries that required rehab. During a visit with her in the hospital, she recalled to me in very few words, because she wasn't able to talk much, that she knew Dustin was gone before anyone had told her. She told me that he’d visited her at the scene of the accident and told her he was okay.

After her hospitalization and rehabilitation, Kathy went home to begin the rest of the recovery process. Due to brain damage and spinal injuries, she faced a very long, painful rehabilitation. We'd all had hope she would make a full recovery but sadly, 16 years later, she’s confined to a wheelchair, enduring constant pain and frequent visits to her doctors.

The man who committed this crime, Gonzalo Gonzalo Harrell, aka Gonzalo Harrell-Gonzalez, admitted to police at the scene that he'd fallen asleep at the wheel. After complaining of stomach pains after the accident, he was taken to a local hospital in Gilmer County where he was left unattended by police and escaped, never to be seen again.

Police determined that Gonzalo Harrell was an illegal alien with a North Carolina driver’s license. In 2001, he was indicted by the Gilmer County Grand Jury on several charges including vehicular homicide. In 2002, the FBI issued a federal warrant charging him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. A nationwide manhunt ensued with his face broadcast on America's Most Wanted and other news programs. A few years later, through Billy's tireless efforts, law enforcement authorities located a man they thought to be Gonzalo Harrell but the man told police he was actually Harrell's brother Roberto. Forensic experts determined this was true and so the manhunt continued.

Billy has been on a crusade these past 16 years pushing for immigration reform and justice for families who have experienced the loss of loved ones at the hands of individuals who are in the U.S. illegally. He is not anti-immigration, he is anti-illegal immigration. Billy and Kathy's story has been featured on nearly every major news outlet over the years and all they've wanted out of it is justice. Recently Billy received a letter from the Department of Justice informing him of the inability to extradite Gonzalo Harrell to Mexico because that country does not criminalize vehicular manslaughter without intent to commit a crime. In an effort to placate Billy, the letter went on to state: "Notwithstanding the limitations of the law, you should be comforted by the fact that your efforts have not been in vain. Your tireless fight for justice has reached the highest levels of both the United States and Mexican governments and your family's loss has touched us all."

Not high enough apparently. There is no comfort for Billy and Kathy and they feel their tireless fight has fallen upon deaf ears. Billy’s exhausted and feels like a failure at times for not being able to bring to justice the man who decimated his family. He told Breitbart in March of this year, “I want something done so this doesn’t happen to others, but there’s just too many people that just don’t care. Even when you have family members that tell you we’re wasting our time. They say it’s making my wife worse, and the depression and all of the issues she’s got going on worse. They say it’s just dragging her heartache out even longer—they don’t understand that our heartache isn’t going to be any longer or lesser either way."

Billy wants to care for Kathy in the manner she requires but it’s difficult. She’s in pain and discomfort every single day. She wakes up in the middle of the night screaming and crying. In addition to her physical pain, the emotional pain is overwhelming. They’ve accepted their son's death but they cannot accept the manner in which he died and the fact that the man who did it is free to live his life and hug his three children every single day.

Dustin's death left a devastating impact on his family. For his parents, there is no comfort or peace. They take it day by day and do the best they can but every single day they’re reminded that their son will never age, attend college, get married, have children of his own, and grow old and gray. The dreams Billy and Kathy had of retiring one day and moving to a cabin in the mountains and spending time with their grandchildren will forever remain just a dream.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Math never lies.

This isn't about banning or not banning guns. This is about indisputable facts. Click below for more from the Washington Post:

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Congress, not the NRA makes the laws!

This is tomorrow's NY Daily News front page. They missed an opportunity here. Congress, not the NRA, makes the laws in this country. The NRA is one hell of a powerful lobby and their power is derived from the members of Congress they've bought and paid for.

So, that front page should read "Thanks, Congress" and list every single member of Congress who is aligned with the NRA because they are the sole reason we can't pass this law.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Sometimes there's just nothing you can do...

A Compilation of Experiences

All that’s left behind is the cabin you built, which sits empty.
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For the 35 years living next door to my family, you kept to yourself and yet we knew enough to construct a picture for your family after your death. After all, 35 years is a long time and you get to know a few things. When we moved there from the city, you helped us move in. Like dad, you were 35, young and strong. Together the two of you moved in all the heavy appliances. We'd talk to you occasionally across the fence and we got to know Pat a little. I remember mom used to borrow Alka-Seltzer from her. She was always nice to us. Then one day she left and we never saw her again. You were all by yourself with the dogs, Thunder, Lightning, Sad and Lonely.

On Saturday nights we could hear country music coming from the house. You obviously enjoyed the solitude. You took care of your place and the horses and you worked and that was it. That was enough for you.

When you weren't at work, you were usually outside working. Most of the time you were shirtless, wearing a ball cap, shorts and tennis shoes, and you'd be on that tractor cutting grass, trimming trees, grooming the horses, washing the truck, something that kept you outside most of the day. I recall you had a tan from working outside. For a while you were busy building that cabin. There were times you and dad were both working outside and you'd take a break to talk by the fence behind his shop. You were always nice to dad but you never wanted to be friends, that much was apparent. It wasn't us though, we realized later you didn't want to be friends with anyone. And so we respected that.

We never recalled anyone visiting and you never spoke of friends or family. I didn't learn until later that you had at least one friend and you didn't talk to your family. As it turns out, we may have known you better than anyone else. At least we knew enough to tell your family that you were a nice to us, kind to animals, worked hard, and were quiet and never bothered anyone. I was glad to meet your sister-in-law, though I wish it'd been under better circumstances and not your death. It felt good to tell her about you. I felt she needed to know there was more to you than misanthropy and isolation.

Upon making the decision to end your life, you could not possibly realize how it would affect the few people who knew you. For a while I felt guilty that we didn't reach out more, but it's likely you wouldn’t have been receptive. In the end you were sick, and very tired. You'd lived 70 years and life had taken its toll. It took a while for me to come to terms with your death. I kept thinking about the man who was once young and vibrant and how 30 years ago he never could've imagined his life would arrive at the point where he felt the need to end it. If only that young man had been given a brief vision of the future, what would he have done differently? I guess it doesn't matter, for now you’re gone and all questions are irrelevant. All that’s left behind is the cabin you built, which sits empty, all the things you'd collected over the years, now gone.

In the months just after you died, when I was visiting mom, I'd walk over to the fence line and just stare at the cabin. It was quiet save for the occasional barn owl and whippoorwill and the rustling of the leaves from the soft evening breezes wafting through those tall trees that were just seedlings three decades ago. I'd lean on the fence, close my eyes and turn my head just so... and then I thought I heard music—that old country music you used to listen to—coming from the cabin.

Our lives are a compilation of experiences and the people we meet. They help make us who we are. Without even realizing it, you were one of the many threads, woven together to make up the fabric that is my life.

Those threads all matter.

Monday, June 06, 2016

When you know something's not quite right...

I find that I am tired often. Sometimes, at home, out of the blue I'll find myself exhausted and have to nap. I have pain on at least a dozen pressure points on my body. It is hard to get up some mornings. I wear out easily. I also have headaches more often than I used to.  A friend asked me what it feels like and the only way I can explain it to her is that most days I have a dull ache all over, but I get used to it so I don't really notice unless I think about it.

My nurse practitioner did the Fibromyalgia pressure points test and I seemed to have most of them. I've yet to see a Rheumatologist although that's next. I saw one a dozen years ago to be screened for RA after complaining of being tired, but the doctor told me I didn't have it.

There's definitely something off here. Depression, forgetfulness, fogginess, moodiness, inability to concentrate and focus, headaches, exhaustion, muscle pain, joint tenderness and pain in the form of a dull ache all over my body every single day. This is not normal.

I recall that episode of The Golden Girls years ago when Dorothy went to the doctor complaining about the same thing and nobody would listen. The doctors told her it was psychological. Turns out it was a real physical ailment called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. A real disorder.

Yes, this could all be related to menopause. I'm in my mid to late forties and my doctor and I have suspected it lately. Whatever it is, I'm going to be doing my own research into this and doing what I can to feel better like getting back to my vegetarian eating habits, more exercise, and reducing stress is a good start. I'm determined to handle this without medication, if at all possible.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Tired of the politics already...

I am so tired of being told that not voting or voting third party is a vote for either one of the two major candidates. I'm tired of being told that I don't know what I'm doing. Trump supporters accuse me of being a leftist, Hillary supporters accuse me of being anti-woman, of being brainwashed by the right. Please! I have a brain of my own, I've been following Hillary Clinton's career since 1992. I'm no idiot. I'm not blindly following the right or the anti-Hillary media, I have my own beliefs -- about both major candidates, I don't need the media to tell me what to believe.

It's both fun and exhausting to discuss politics with friends. I'd say that most of us would lean more heavily toward the "it's exhausting" right now because let's face it, it is. This is a brutal election and I think we're all worn down at this point. I love my friends and I respect their choices even if I don't agree with them. I don't question or chastise them for supporting their candidate and I always appreciate the same courtesy. I have friends whose political beliefs vary greatly. Some support Hillary, some support Trump, others are for Bernie or other candidates and some support none of them and don't even want to vote. They all have valid reasons for their political beliefs. None of my friends is radical or extremist, they're just normal, everyday people who care about what's going on and want to see positive changes happen in this country. One thing I've noticed is that in regards to my friends who support a specific candidate, they don't seem to agree with all of that candidate's ideals but there's enough there that puts their candidate ahead of the rest.

No matter what choice we make in this election, someone is going to be upset by that choice. If we do not vote, we'll be chastised and told we have no right to complain. If we vote third party, we'll be chastised and told we have no right to complain. And if we vote for either one of the two major candidates, and the one we voted for winds up in office, we are chastised and told we  have no right to complain. No matter what we do, we're screwed. 

So, all we can do is make the best decision we can and let it go. Once it's done, it's done. And fuck what anyone has to say about it.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Dear Media: Women have been going without makeup for years.

So, Alicia Keys has started a ‪#‎NoMakeup‬ "movement" after writing a piece recently discussing the struggles and pressures of women to look a certain way. And God knows the Huffington Post and the rest of the media are all over this and singing her praises.

This is not a movement, it's one woman's personal choice. It's also nothing new. Women of all ages have been going without makeup on a regular basis for years. 

Alicia Keys has had a personal epiphany which has improved her life and that's great, I say more power to her. But this label of her epiphany as a sudden "movement" is ridiculous. I also hope that it doesn't send the message that women who wear it are vain, lacking in self-esteem or pressured by society.

The woman who chooses to wear makeup because it makes her feel good is no less strong, no less confident, and no less empowered than the woman who doesn't. Instead of #NoMakeup let's encourage women with the message ‪#‎BeYourself‬ which means be your TRUE self in whatever way makes you happy and fulfilled. If that includes wearing makeup---or not---so be it.

And by the way, I wear white after Labor Day, should I start a movement for that?

Friday, June 03, 2016

John Wayne, The Man Behind The Myth

I'm reading a book, John Wayne, The Man Behind The Myth by Michael Munn and I'm really enjoying it. Not sure why I didn't read it years ago but no matter, I'm glad I'm reading it now. I've never read a biography on John Wayne because I've never felt the need to. I know the man was part myth and there were truths behind him that his family, agents, and others didn't want us to know. Those truths never bothered me. I liked the man for who he was. I appreciated the man and the legend and never felt a need to read about it. Until the book was given to me and I thought "what the hell?" and decided to go for it.

Michael Munn now a British filmmaker but just starting out back in 1974 when he met Wayne, was fortunate enough to have the chance to meet the man, be accepted into his circle and his confidence. In fact, Wayne gave him his blessing to write about him. Munn did his homework too, interviewing hundreds of people who worked with Duke over the years including some of the people who worked closest to him.

I'm a third of the way into the book and I give it a thumbs up. It's straight forward, interesting and not at all a "tell all" or embellishment of Wayne's celebrity status. In fact, if anything, Munn portrays John Wayne as a real man, exposing the myths in a way that makes you love the Duke just a bit more.

I grew up on the Duke. My dad was a huge fan and so we watched his movies all throughout my childhood. Even my mom liked him. In fact, I knew very few who dislike him except maybe for his politics. Everyone has reasons for the beliefs they hold dear and when you start reading about Wayne's, you start understanding a bit more about why he thought the way he did.

There will be more to come on this, I can assure you.