Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

COVID and Escambia County

I love my new neighbors in my little house with the sunsets. Early in the morning, as I was hanging my swimsuit out to dry, I saw her and her daughter also out in their backyard, and strolled over to say “Hey!”

She held out her hands in warning. “Don’t come any nearer!” She explained her youngest daughter was in quarantine, her entire high school was quarantined, students, faculty, administration. My friend is a dear woman, she had to quarantine her husband in the basement far away from his infectious daughter, due to health issues. I later learned – not from my neighbor – the school blames a “secret” Halloween party that ended up being a huge crowd event. A super spreader.

Sigh. Honestly, I can’t blame the kids. There is a belief around here that the COVID virus makes you a little uncomfortable and then you get over it. The majority of the adults don’t bother with masks.

We continue to be careful in our little bubble. Today, we drove out to a restaurant we like in the more rural north part of town. We planned, if it were not too crowded, to eat there, but it was too crowded. As we waited, masked, just us and the management and wait staff, not a single other person coming in to order, whether for pick up or for dine in, was masked.

The case rate in Florida is once again rising rapidly. The death rate is rising once again. I have a sinking feeling that the normal big family Thanksgivings will take place here as usual, with a resulting spike in cases and deaths. I am so sick of hunkering down, and I just tell myself to get a grip, I take enough risks, don’t take this one.

November 14, 2020 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Pensacola Beach: COVID? What COVID?

We are in the middle of some stormy weather, which in Pensacola means gloriously powerful thunder and lightning storms, here one minute and gone the next, or maybe lingering for hours, followed by hot sunshine Yesterday, with the side streams of Tropical Storm Hanna blowing by, we had an intensely thundery and stormy day, some periods of torrential rains, followed by sunlight, followed by heavy rains, followed by blue skies – and light sprinkles.

We stayed inside almost all day, then in late afternoon where suddenly everything lightened, we headed for our son’s home, and their lovely large back-yard and nice large warm pool. What luxury! An old friend was visiting, and we social-distanced in the pool.

Today, I told AdventureMan I wanted to go to Flounder’s for lunch. AdventureMan looked at me and asked “Do you think we could risk eating there? Outside?”

We haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March 12th. We’ve ordered out, even from Flounders, and taken it home to eat.

But Flounders, one of our favorite places to eat (part of the McGuire’s Steakhouse chain) has lots and lots of room, lots of seating, indoors and out. Of all the eating-in-a-restaurant risks, this one seemed pretty low. After a big rain, everything seems to sparkle, the air seems clearer – and we need a vacation. I said “yes.”

We drove to the beach, found a parking place immediately – always a good sign – and were seated in the high-ceilinged, semi-covered area, where large booths for six and eight people are separated by these signs:

Although there were two groups of eight seated near us (really once very large group) unmasked, there was plenty of distance. It was a real mix – the parking lot full of licenses from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky – even one from Oregon (!), maybe hiding out down here from the Feds, as so many do. Have you ever noticed how on those old Crime shows, so many of the criminals were ultimately found in Florida? Or California? Actually, my Mother is from Oregon, and I have nothing but sympathy and admiration for those Oregonians showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all the white women showing up in yellow T-shirts (Moms for Black Lives Matter) and the grandpas with their leaf blowers – they really know how to protest with good will and a sense of humor.

OOps. I digress.

People were social distanced. We had plenty of space.

They are using a new, condensed menu, but we knew what we wanted and the waitress told us we could order even if it didn’t show on the menu.

Seafood Chowder. Flounders is famous for it, and it is truly a magnificent taste-treat.

As usual, I forgot to take the photo until I was half done. Apologies!

My husband loves their grilled grouper sandwiches, and he always shares a fry or three or four with me because they are so delicious:

 

I had my usual – Baja Tacos. Here is the truth – they also have a healthier fish taco, grilled, served with a mango salsa but I really love the deep fried Baja Tacos. I usually can’t eat more than one, so I bring them home and have a fish taco salad for another meal.

We had great service.

Some servers were masked. Some were not. It appears they have their choice. Some customers wore masks, some carried masks, some had no masks. Where we sat, there was a lot of fresh air, breezy air, and a lot of space, so we did not worry too much. No more condiments on the tables. Everything looked very clean.

Sometimes you take a risk. This risk was a much needed mini-vacation at a time when we are not comfortable with airplanes or even hotels.

The beach scene is a different story. We could see crowds of people, no masks, no social distancing, around the jet-ski rental places. In spite of the huge red-lettered signs saying DANGEROUS SURF. DO NOT GO IN GULF it looked to me like a hundred or more people swimming around in Casino Beach. We saw lots of large groups. Lots of cars from other places. I can imagine the servers have concerns, especially if they have families, or need to stay well to keep a roof over their heads. The visitors seem oblivious to the health boundaries necessary to prevent transmission. When one person in ten in Escambia County is testing positive, they are exposing themselves and taking the virus back home with them to wherever they came from.

So for us, having a meal out in a restaurant was a unique event. I can’t imagine the conditions are such that we can be comfortable making it a habit. It was a fling. It was nice while it lasted. I hope there are no repercussions.

July 25, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Community, Eating Out, Florida, Food, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida Breaks All Records for COVID Cases

First, to those of you who know me and are far away, we are well.

My Mother died of COVID in Seattle, in April. It was a shock. Although she was 96, she was mentally fit, very sharp, and her mother lived to 104. We all expected Mom to break her Mom’s record.

We don’t live in the biggest hot-spot, the Miami/Dade County area far to the south and east of Pensacola. No, we are in the eighth worst hit part of Florida, and part of the 18 greatest concerns for COVID according to the study out yesterday.

No one I know here has gotten sick. Almost everyone I know has the luxury of staying home, working from home, not needing to interface with the public unnecessarily. It is stunning, however, to think that one person in ten in this area has or  has had the virus.

These graphs are not from the Florida Department of Health website. The person hired to design that website designed a great, comprehensive website to transparently share information. She was fired. She says she was fired for not agreeing to manipulate the information to make things look not so bad in Florida. Our governor is a total toady to President Trump, who is doing nothing to provide leadership to our country in fighting this pandemic, not providing comfort to those who suffer from it.

 

 

These snapshots are from her new website, which has much more accurate presentations of the situation in Florida than the official site. She, and others, gather information which may be obscure, but is available to the public, and publishes it. Her website is Florida Covid Action. She is a hero.

I live in a county where I have friends who support Trump and believe that the Democrats are over-hyping the problems for political reasons, so that Trump will lose his bid for re-election. They also believe masks are unnecessary. They don’t see any reason to socially distance. They perceive restrictions on their behavior as violations of their First Amendment rights.

So Trump has mandated our schools to open as normal – that means in August. The schools must offer an in-school option, which has many teachers frightened and/or furious. They also offer a remote school-day option, 6 hours in front of a computer, and an independent option, where a student completes a curriculum on his or her own. Those who attend school will not be required to mask or to social distance.

My grandchildren are 7 and 10. Their parents face having to choose the least bad of the three proposals. Parents all around the state are debating what to do. Many parents work, and child care is almost impossible to find and very costly. Many parents will have to send their children to school or leave them unattended and unsupervised at home.

The pediatric cases are for my county, Escambia County. The highest rate of transmission is among those 15 – 24. They’ve closed the bars, but the rate remains high, and rising. The rate of transmission among children is also rising.

I am outraged. We have handled this contagion worse that a third world country. We know masks work. We know social distancing, plus masks, plus conscientious hand-washing can flatten this curve, bring the number of cases down, and expect a rational re-opening. Nothing we have done, especially in Florida, has been rational. God help us. Lord, have mercy on us.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cultural, Florida, Health Issues, Hygiene, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Transparency, Values | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IR8

You’ve known me now almost 15 years – imagine. Do you think of me as an angry person? A hostile person?

Do you think words matter?

Saturday, I received a new license plate. For some reason, the state of Florida believes ten years with one license plate is enough, and you are required to get a new one. When I opened it, I had an immediate reaction – horror. It started with IR8.

You know how it is in traffic – you look at bumper stickers, you look at license plates. People can be amazingly clever putting together personalized plates that can surprise and delight a laugh out of you while stuck in traffic. AdventureMan marvels at how I can figure out most of them, although a few totally flummox me.

It’s a small thing, I kept telling myself, and a lot of people won’t even notice. IR8.

But it bothered me. I had to ask if I wanted to live for ten years with a license plate that gave people the impression I might be angry. Hostile. Irate. It matters to me.

It bothered me so much that last night I packed up that new license plate and registration with my swimming gear, and immediately after my morning swim, I headed over to the tax office, where licenses and titles and all those things that require bureaucratic validation are done. I was in a safe-distancing queue and I kept getting messages that there were only “x” many people in front of me and it would be between “11 and 27 minutes.” As the hours stretched on, I heard the gate keeper explain to people that the automatic messages were deceiving, and the wait was really longer.

I did not become IR8. There were people in wheel chairs. There were women seeking Gold Star Mother plates; I nearly wept. There were service people, just arriving from other states, needing new licenses, and rosy cheeked teens, applying for their first licenses. My need was not the most urgent.

I thought about things. I prayed for people who need prayer. I prayed for myself, that I might find ways I can’t even imagine to be part of the great Creator’s purpose for my life. With the storm just blowing over, it wasn’t horribly hot and there was shade and a nice breeze in the outdoor court where we waited. And waited. and waited . . .

One of the things that has made me most uncomfortable in other iterations of my life is living in countries where I was “special,” countries where I was walked past hundreds of people waiting in line to the front. I suspect special fees were paid by the company for that privilege, and my job was to just go where I was told and do what I was told to do (sign here, sign there, give blood here, have photo taken down there, all in a language which I only spoke socially). Sitting a couple hours today waiting with all the other people was a kind of karmic turn of the wheel.

Just as lunch was approaching, I was allowed in the building to another waiting area. I kept getting those deceptive messages, only this time they were telling me I had lost my place in line (!) Others reassured me to just wait, that my name would be called.

(At the top of this post is a photo of the old vault – I am thinking the tax collectors office used to be an old bank, because look at that vault – is it not a wondrous work?)

When I was called to the window, I felt sheepish explaining I really could not live with the license I had been randomly issued. I would like to trade it in. The gentle clerk just laughed. “I hear it every day,” she said. “Can you believe they are still sending people licenses with 666 on them? It’s a random thing. There are ethnic groups that don’t like certain numbers on their plates, and other groups who don’t like what the numbers add up to. It’s a very common thing.”

And, like magic, she typed a few letters, swished out and back, and voila, I had a new license plate, no charge. She was even really nice about it.

In our family, we have a word for these problems; first world problems. We have enough. We have a roof and food to eat, we have friends to love and activities to share. We have everything we need. AND I am so so so so grateful I don’t have to live with IR8.

June 8, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | 2 Comments

The Unknown Unknowns

Gordon was rolling in and no one knew if it would come as a tropical storm or a hurricane. Trust me, preparing for a hurricane is a lot of work, and we had to make a decision whether or not to put up the window coverings (we did not), to check over our hurricane supplies, like water, batteries, towels, buckets, cat cages, etc, which we did. I even made a big fresh pot of coffee, in case it were a long time before I saw coffee again, I could even drink it cold. AdventureMan cleaned the gutters, brought in outdoor furniture that could blow around, and placed heavier plants strategically so they would damage the house as little as possible if carried by hurricane force winds. Like I said, it is a lot of work.

 

We had wind and rain, lots of wind and sheets of rain, and bangs of thunder, and bangs of electrical conduits exploding, but although the power dimmed, we did not lose power entirely. Our only leaks this storm are in the garage.

The morning dawned; continued windy and rainy and thundery. We decided to go to a nearby Italian restaurant for lunch and had to detour three times before we could get there, twice due to deep pockets of water in the road, too deep to drive through, and once due to a tree down over the road. There are lots of pockets of deep water, and several trees down. We got off easy.

Aarrgh; now for putting all the carpets back down, getting the outdoor furniture back outside and putting the house back in “normal” mode.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Florida, Living Conditions, Survival, Weather | | Leave a comment

The NRA Solution to Gun Violence: More Guns

I am livid. I am almost breathless with the shocking audacity of it. “Harden our schools.” And what does that mean, exactly?

“Harden our schools” means putting more armed people inside and outside. Arming our teachers, if Trump and the other NRA supported politicians have their way. More guns. More opportunity for fatal human error.

Our grandson goes to one of the sweetest elementary schools on earth. The thought of his teachers packing heat makes me ill. The thought of armed guards on his school outrages me.

What message does this send our children? Schools should be SAFE, fun places to learn and explore who they are and all the wonderful ideas in the world, places to learn to tools of learning. Guards? Guns? That describes a prison, not a safe, fun place to learn.

Yes, I am all for better mental health. Since the Republicans put the mentally ill out on the streets, back in the good old days of Ronald Reagan, we’ve had increased problems with crime, homelessness, and heartless policies of incarcerating the mentally ill because we no longer give them asylum. The prisons are full of the mentally ill.

Many mass killers have no prior criminal record. The Las Vegas killer was a very “normal,” if strange, man who had a lot of weapons, assault weapons.

I’m not opposed to guns. I am opposed to people owning guns that are neither for hunting nor for sport, weapons designed for killing, weapons that make a mass killer efficient.

“Guns don’t kill people,” say the NRA, “people kill people,” but killing people without an automatic or repeating weapon is a much less efficient kind of killing. While you are in the slower process, you can be attacked and overcome. Banning assault rifles just makes sense. Tightening who can own weapons just makes sense. Oregon just passed a landmark bill taking weapons away from domestic abusers, some of the smartest, most progressive legislation in the nation, passed by lawmakers with backbones and brains. You tell the parents of Sandy Hook students, tell the parents of Parkland students that “guns don’t kill people.” They will have a very different point of view to your own.

I challenge you to Google this: Mass School Shootings in the United States.

Wikipedia has a comprehensive, if incomplete record of many, not all, of the school related shootings. Some take place in school parking lots. Some target school buses. Many shooters have no criminal records, no mental health records, but – they DO have guns.

2nd Amendment rights were created to protect our country; the rights were for militia, not people with a grudge against a woman who is divorcing you, a teacher whose assessment prevented you from attaining your graduate degree, the woman who scorned you, revenge against those who bullied you, showing what a big “man” you are (not a single mass shooter has been a woman.) Owning a gun should be a privilege, not a right.

Those who know me, know I grew up with guns. The first thing we did, in the Alaska where I grew up, was to go to rifle club to learn respect for our weapons. We learned how to clean and care for them, we learned how to shoot them safely, and we learned how to lock them up. We used our rifles for hunting (we ate the meat) and for occasional target practice. We didn’t even carry them when we went berry picking or hikes in the woods; we learned to avoid bear and other dangers, to walk away. I am in favor of responsible gun ownership.

I am opposed to hardening schools as a solution to mass school shootings. It isn’t effective, and it sends a terrible message to our children.

February 28, 2018 Posted by | Alaska, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Parenting, Political Issues, Rants, Safety, Values | 1 Comment

Sexually Transmitted Disease Rate Rising

A local school district is using “abstinence only” as it’s sex-ed class guidance. Has abstinence, among any population, ever worked? Give our hormone-ridden teens some information, please! Tell them that if they are going to have sex, how to use a condom, and explain a wide variety of contraceptives which will prevent an unwanted pregnancy. How many teens do you know who are ready to become parents? Teens are greatly at the mercy of their bodies, teach them to use their bodies responsibly.

It’s not just teen-agers in the US.

One recent fact I read recently is not included in this article; one of the greatest increases in STD’s in our population is among adults 55 and older, and people in retirement homes and nursing homes. We need to get these grown-ups some sex-ed, too!

Sex diseases in US surge to record high

AFP
"All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent this enormous heartach," said Gail Bolan, director of CDC's Division of STD Prevention, of STDs that are passed from mother to child
“All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent this enormous heartach,” said Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, of STDs that are passed from mother to child (AFP Photo/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI)
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Washington (AFP) – Sexually transmitted diseases surged to a record high in the United States last year, with more than two million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis nationwide, officials said Tuesday.

This was “the highest number ever,” said the annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report released today by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Most of the new cases — 1.6 million in 2016 — involved chlamydia, a bacterial infection that affects both men and women.

Gonorrhea also increased among men and women last year, but the steepest rise was among men (22 percent), said the report.

Nationwide, gonorrhea cases reached 470,000, with a large share of new gonorrhea cases among men who have sex with men.

These trends are “particularly alarming” because of the growing threat of gonorrhea becoming resistant to the last recommended treatment, according to the CDC report.

Syphilis cases numbered 28,000, a rate that increased nearly 18 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Most cases of syphilis occur among men — mainly gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

But women too saw a 36 percent increase in rates of syphilis.

There were more than 600 cases of syphilis among newborns — known as congenital syphilis — a 28 percent increase in a single year.

These syphilis cases led to “more than 40 deaths and severe health complications among newborns,” said the report.

“Every baby born with syphilis represents a tragic systems failure,” said Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.

“All it takes is a simple STD test and antibiotic treatment to prevent this enormous heartache and help assure a healthy start for the next generation of Americans.”

Experts say despite growing concerns about antibiotic resistance, these three STDs can all be cured with antibiotic treatment.

If left untreated, however, they can lead to infertility, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth in infants, and increased risk for HIV transmission.

“Increases in STDs are a clear warning of a growing threat,” said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

“STDs are a persistent enemy, growing in number, and outpacing our ability to respond.”

September 27, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Mating Behavior, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Survival, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

A Dramatic Beginning to The Wake of the Vikings

It’s not that I am THAT compulsive, but I do like to plan ahead, and things that happen at the last minute that require attention can disturb my sleep.

This is a trip we’ve had planned for over a year and a half. We didn’t plan for Hurricane Harvey, and we are flying out of Houston. We didn’t plan on Hurricane Irma, another all-time historical hurricane, headed toward Florida, and possibly into the Gulf. Possibly into Pensacola.

 

We have a wonderful couple who take care of our house and our cats while we are gone. She called the day before we were leaving to ask if we had any plans for the hurricane she needed to know about. Hmmmm. No, I didn’t. I planned not to worry about it. And . . . at the same time, all around me, people are stocking up on propane, and Sam’s has run out of water, and . . . . some people are preparing to hunker down and some to leave home, heading north.

We got moving. I had an hour before my last meeting, and spent that hour figuring out what really mattered to me (photo albums) and putting photo albums up high and in cupboards, and fragile things, like the crystal candelabra AdventureMan gave me for our first anniversary in the safest place I could think of.

Law and Order Man (our son) said he would take Ragnar and Uhtred, our very young cats, to a safe place, if needed.

AdventureMan braced the garage doors with huge specially made steel beams that bolt into place, and we called our contractor who said if it looked like Irma was heading our way, he would put up all the ballistic window and door covers.

It’s not everything, but it’s something. We all felt a lot better.

And thanks to the ‘net, we know that Houston is up and running, and our flights into Houston and out of Houston will fly.

Around eleven, we hear the front door opening (? ! ? ! ? !)  and it is the couple who are coming to stay with the house and cats; they thought we were leaving at night, not the next morning. We all laughed, got them settled, and went to sleep peacefully.

 

The flight into Houston was the best kind, uneventful. We love uneventful flights. You can still see a lot of standing water, and water damage, but the greatest part of the upswell of waters appears to have subsided.

 

 

“Today is the first day that the airport is 100% up and running,” a Houstonian tells us. We are good listeners, and he tells us that the worst part of all this drama is that the death count continues to mount as rescue-workers go into places where people thought they could shelter in safety. The mold is also hitting hard and fast, and emergency facilities are strapped. They are functioning, and they are prepared, and some things are beginning to run out.

The best, he followed up with, is that “you know how divided we have all been? Once the storm hit, it didn’t matter if you were black or white or Mexican or Confederate, we were all just people, and we helped our neighbors, we helped each other. In that way, it was one of the best things that has ever happened in Houston.”

Who would have thought? Houston-strong!

September 6, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Hurricanes, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

What to Tell Your Senator About Health Care

God bless the League of Women Voters! They register new voters, and they keep a sharp eye on issues, and how they will effect us, the people. They do their homework, and they share what they learn with others. Today I received a notification about telling our US Senators how we feel about health care, and that we want protection for the poor, those with pre-existing conditions, and for women.

Remember – the promise was that any replacement was going to be even better, and cheaper, and that all would have access. The bill passed by the house penalizes women, the poor, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions.

The League shares words we can use:

 

LWV FLORIDA SUGGESTED LETTER TEMPLATES

Dear Senator ____, I join many Americans to oppose the Senate from adopting a health care bill that was not good enough for the Congress that passed it and not good enough for Congressional staffers who work for Congress as the newly passed bill, American Health Care Act (AHCA) exempts these two groups of people from its coverage. They get to keep Obamacare for themselves while they force an inadequate product on the rest of us.

Perhaps Congress gave itself preferential treatment because it wanted the better, broader, and less expensive health care overage that Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provided.

Perhaps Congress and their staffers did not want to be threatened by the new bill’s potential for skyrocketing costs for pre-existing conditions, and for the elderly who are often on fixed incomes.

Perhaps Congress wanted to shield themselves from the new bill’s threat that their state may seek a waiver and choose not to keep costs for pre-existing conditions within the reach of most Americans.

Or, perhaps Congress and their staffers did not want to be part of the 14 million Americans who would lose insurance in 2018 due to President Trump’s new health care bill.

I know my__________ who has diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer and these family members and friends will suffer dire consequences and may not survive if their health insurance or Medicaid is taken away.

Bottom line, if the newly passed AHCA is not good enough for Congress, then it is not good enough for me and other Americans. Vote no on the new health care bill.
I usually paraphrase a little, but these are really good guidelines. So now, get busy.
Remember Resistbot, too – text Resist to 50409.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Florida, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

“You Go Into Southern Belle Mode”

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I’ve added a new category; I’ve written so many posts in this vein, and it looks like I will continue so to do. Might as well add it as a staple:  Stranger in a Strange Land.

Probably the first mention of that phrase in literature is in Genesis; Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to the desert where he meets a nice girl and marries her. He refers to himself as an alien, a stranger in a strange land. Both Jewish culture and Islamic culture put a high value on taking care of the stranger. Our bible is full of references to taking care of the alien.

Here is one of my favorite stories about what my friend Donald Rumsfeld calls those “unknown unknowns. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that gets you into trouble.

I was at a party, and in a conversation with two women who are widows. We were talking about some of the difficulties, and what has caught them by surprise.

I said I didn’t know how they got through it, that I had a feeling if AdventureMan goes before I go, I’m going to be really really angry, tearing my hair out and shrieking angry, shredding my clothes angry, not wanting to be around other people angry, so so so so angry because if I let myself feel sad I don’t know if I can ever pull myself out of that abyss.

The newest widow just looked at me like I had said something culturally inappropriate, which, it turns out, I had. There was one of those brief silences, you know, it may only be seconds but it feels like it goes on forever because you don’t know what you said.

“If you were from around here,” she said, “You’d know what to do. You go into Southern Belle mode. We’ve all seen it all our lives, so we know how to do it. You pick out your clothes. You smile and shake hands. You put your guests first. You stand and smile until the last guest has gone.”

I was stunned. “You hold yourself together through all that?” I asked.

“Well,” she said with a smile, “You have a plan. You know where you can go with a friend or cousin after the funeral, a place where you are safe and where you can get knee-walking drunk and do your wailing where you need to and no one will ever know.”

She didn’t even have to say “You must not be from around here” but I heard it, loud and clear. There are standards. No weeping and wailing, no public display of emotion, no lack of self-control, oh-my-goodness, I think I must be back in the Middle East. I am in my own country, and still, very much a stranger in a strange land.

 

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Aging, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Local Lore, Pensacola, Relationships, Stranger in a Strange Land | 2 Comments