PARENT TO PARENT…CARE GIVING IN AMERICA


IMG_0620_editedHolidays of 1997

During the holidays of 1997, my life was extremely busy until a shocking reality forced me to readjust my schedule, to make time for a new, unsuspecting emergency when my father needed me the most, during his illness.  I was stepping into a new chapter of my life, green and naive of the responsibilities I would endure.  The roles of life were reversing, and before the Christmas holidays of 1997 ended, I learned about new duties while serving as the primary caregiver to my beloved, headstrong, and courageous father, Walter W. Perkins.
On December 9, I sat alone at the hospital waiting for the results of an endoscopy, feeling confident my dad would be okay.  I flipped the pages of a magazine while waiting for the test results.  When his doctor approached, I realized from his body language and the look in his eyes he did not have good news to report.  When he whispered esophageal cancer, I screamed. Standing in the corridor of Roper Hospital, my entire body shook. This cannot be true. It must be a mistake. My dad is a tower of strength. Nothing gets him down. Nothing!
Later, I regained my composure, while the hurtful words of cancer echoed in my head.  How could this be?  I pondered the diagnosis.  Dad would need chemotherapy and radiation.  I did not know if he would agree to the treatments, realizing that if he found the courage to fight such a dreadful cancer, he would become dreadfully sick.  According to the doctors, chemotherapy could help, or because it was so toxic and potent, it could kill him.
The prognosis was not a positive forecast.  The oncologist estimated that he could live possibly six months; nevertheless, he was not able to retain food now and was malnourished.  He needed a feeding tube, to pump nutrition into his stomach.  If he did not respond and maintain food soon, he would probably be dead within two weeks from malnourishment.

My heart palpitated as I realized my role model, mentor and advisor of life was terminally ill with a dreadful disease, and I was helpless to stop it.  My father was my guiding light of life, always strong and healthy.  Now, he would fight the battle of his life, and I did not doubt that I would be by his side for the duration of his illness.  Our roles in life were reversing, only this time, I would become the caregiver to my devoted, charming, and loving 82-year old father.

I was not sure I was ready for this challenge, but I knew I would not allow him to fight the disease without me.  Although I failed to understand the correct definition of a primary caregiver, I would learn, and change my lifestyle schedule to be by his side.  Realizing the nightmarish roller coaster ride I was on was a wake-up call I hope never to experience again.

I was a proud, energetic, fulfilled woman of the baby boomer generation, the generation designated to babies born during the years of 1946-1964.  I was involved in a demanding career, relieved that my son was grown and living on his own, planning to get married soon.  Now, it was time for me to do what I wanted to do until I realized my father would need me now, more than he needed anyone in his lifetime.  I was the parent to my parent.

LIFE WAS SPINNING, OUT OF CONTROL
I accepted the challenge, never understanding how the cycles of life were spinning uncontrollably while I slowly stepped into the dreadful middle age years, stepping into a new chapter of my life as a caregiver.
Americans of the baby boomer generation are aging.  Approximately one of four American households are involved in some form of caregiving.  The number of primary care providers is diminishing because many family members live far away or cannot become involved. They work. They have careers. Demands. No time is left for cancer and caregiving.  Where does this leave the elderly?  Who will feed them, dress them, and provide for their needs and companionship?  Who will see that their medical, financial, and personal needs are met?

In America, hospital and long-term care is skyrocketing.  Medicare will not cover the needs sufficiently.  Only a small amount of American families can afford private nursing home care or long-term medical care.  Approximately 36% of primary caregivers are over the age of 65.  As the baby boomers reach senior citizen status, the elderly population is projected to increase significantly and will require physical, emotional, assisted living and special needs.  Although the majority of caregivers are usually women, many of these women must juggle a full-time job and children still living at home, while managing the care of an elderly parent.  These demands can lead to physical ailments, including depression or burn out.
I was under the impression that Medicare would take care of the medical needs of my father, along with the elderly.  I was sadly mistaken.  Medicare would not pay for his prescriptions unless he was hospitalized; and if he needed long-term care, Medicare would only cover twenty days.  Fighting for his life, Dad worried about the bills, along with how he would afford the expense of cancer.  He was encouraged to file for Medicaid.
While the toxic brown bag of chemotherapy dripped into my father’s thinning veins, I realized I had to take charge of his life, at least for now.  Although I did not feel emotionally strong enough to endure the horrors of filing for Medicaid, I knew I had to become his voice, his nurse, and advocate.

I made an appointment to file for Medicaid. The process to file is a three-hour process where the social worker asks questions dating back to my paternal grandparents and great-grandparents. Since my parents were divorced, I had to find the divorce papers and other documents proving that my father was not a wealthy man.

 

LIFE WAS SPINNING LIKE A WHIRLPOOL
I adjusted my schedule, missing weeks of work, along with months of sleep.  When I visited him, I smiled while struggling to camouflage my emotions.  Dad was so weak and nauseated from the chemotherapy, he failed to notice, and I was thankful.  I wore myself out physically, almost to the point of exhaustion.  My emotional life was spinning out of control, trapped in a whirlpool I could not escape.

Returning to work after a nine-day absence, I had a meeting. During the meeting, I fell asleep, so exhausted I could not find the strength to work. I prayed for God to give me strength to survive.

To my surprise, I found an inner strength within myself, focusing on my father’s medical, financial, and physical needs.  We developed a closer relationship, and although we never discussed how it felt for him to suffer a terminal disease, I still remember his poignant words to me during one hospital visit.  He reached for my hand, whispering, he said, “You know, Barbara, cancer is not contagious.”
Tears filled my eyes as I turned my head away so he could not see me crying.  “I know, Dad.”  I kissed him on the lips, telling him I loved him.  I was proud to be his caregiver, and I was thankful he had confidence in me.

Emotions were pouring out of me so I rushed to the arboretum at Roper Hospital. Opening the door, I discovered no one was around. I sat down, wiping the gushing ocean of tears from my face. I rushed to the balcony. Opening the doorway, I closed it and started screaming. At first, just a whimper of screams. Listening to the traffic along Calhoun Street, I realized no one could hear me, so I let the fears, tears, and heartache of Dad’s illness escape. Afterwards, I realized I felt better.

PRIMARY CAREGIVER SUGGESTIONS
If you serve as a primary caregiver, be good to yourself.  Find time to be alone, while juggling the demands of caregiving, even if it means you must close the door for a bit of privacy for only a few minutes.  Make the most of your days, especially while caring for your loved one.  Take charge of your life.  Do not feed the doubts, or listen to the negative aspects of your new lifestyle change.  Repeat to yourself that you are taking life one day at a time, and make the most of every day, even if it is a dark and dreary day.  Be thankful for your blessings and the days that you and your loved are sharing.
Learn to speak up and fight for your rights, and the rights of the terminally ill, or elderly person you are caring for.  Watch for signs of depression, in yourself and your loved one.  Some of the symptoms of depression include: inability to sleep, inability to concentrate, and a mind that constantly races, especially at night, sometimes referred to as circular thinking, lack of appetite, irrational behavior, crying, or irritability.  I was in denial of my emotions, unable to see the warning signs.

DYING WITH DIGNITY
While serving as a primary caregiver, encourage your loved one to be strong, to fight for life, and to be courageous.  Let the person you care for make some of the decisions.  Most of all, open your heart, your mind, and share your love.  Never leave your loved one without a touch of affection and the simple words I love you, because you may not have tomorrow to express those affections.  Discover the rights of the elderly.  And when the time comes, allow your loved one to die with dignity, if that is his or her wish.
Search on the Internet for caregiving issues, publications, and become an advocate about elderly care.  I found numerous websites, and I read them passionately late at night, when I could not sleep.  Stand up for your rights, trust your instincts, and support your loved one’s wishes.  Make the most of every day, without making excuses for mistakes you make, appointments you must cancel, or demands you can no longer meet.  Become familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act, and do not allow others, especially co-workers or a boss, to intimidate you.

After I missed so many days of work, my boss met with me, wanting to know why I wasn’t dedicating myself to work anymore. Suddenly it seemed I was not efficient at my job and I appeared not to be dedicated to working so many hours, including weekends. I cannot give my all right now, I said. My priorities are my family, not my job.

One month later, I resigned, taking another job with ‘flexible’ hours and compassion for my situation.
Walter W. Perkins died on July 6, 1999, and although I am no longer a caregiver, I still consider myself an advocate for elderly care, especially where the rights of residents of nursing homes are concerned.

During the many nights I failed to sleep, I wrote CONDITION OF LIMBO,” a memoir based on the stressful experience of serving as a caregiver, and the lack of assistance for terminal illnesses. Published in 2001, the book discusses many of the issues my father and I experienced while he desired to die with dignity.

NO ISN’T AN OPTION

During Dad’s illness, I never took no for an answer, and I learned everything I could about Medicare, Medicaid and the rights of the elderly.  I wanted to be the voice my father could not be because he was so gravely ill and frail.  I have no regrets, and I am proud to say my father was my top priority in life, during his illness, and residency in a nursing home.  Although he died while I was walking into his room for my daily visit, I know that he knew I loved him, and I was devoted to him.  He was my life, and now he is my shining star.  A few days before he died, he reminded me to make the most of every day of my life, and I still strive to live life to its fullest, remembering his wisdom, his love, along with the passions he held for others.

LIFE AS A CAREGIVER

You, as a caregiver, or a baby boomer, could be the next family member to walk into a nursing home or a hospital, while your loved one is dying.  Live for the moment, hoping to see the sunrise and sunset of a new tomorrow.  Never forget to share your love and special times with the terminally ill or elderly.

After the death of my father, I fell apart.  As I dug my way out of the darkness of despair, I realized I was lost in a world of depression, unable to confront my emotional well being.  It was my darkest moment.  I managed to join a grief therapy session, while I learned to accept his death.

WAKE-UP CALL

Watching my father battle the debilitating disease of esophageal cancer, as he struggled to maintain his dignity, gave me a wake-up call I will never forget.  Now, I make the time to search for flowers, rainbows, birds and butterflies  and I enjoy the little things in life while enjoying life’s effervescent sunrises and sunsets.

PROUD TO SERVE

Be proud to be a caregiver, while serving as a parent to your parent, and never look back!  Life is too short to be trapped into a spider web of despair and regrets.  We must remember to make the best out of a problematic situation, feeding the decisive moments, while forgetting the negative and hopeless feelings we as caregivers experience.  We must educate ourselves about caregiving.  We must trust our instincts, and know that what we are doing is not a sacrifice, but an act of unconditional love while we learn to adjust and place our needs aside.  We are sharing and teaching, and growing into the citizens and family members that we need and desire to be.  We must stand up, not only for our rights but also for the rights of those who we love during their hour of need.  With the support of our families, friends and other caregivers, we are building memories to cherish for the rest of our lives.
May God bless caregivers, the family members, and loved ones we care for; and may we as caregivers continue to find ways to improve the lives of the ones we love and want to remember — one day at a time!

 

https://www.amazon.com/Condition-Limbo-Barbie-Perkins-Cooper/dp/1588511774

 

Chattahoochee Child – Excerpt


Dearest Readers:

Posting a bit of the story I’ve had dancing inside my heart and soul for many years. Too many years to mention. Yesterday, I realized I have to let go and write this. I hope you enjoy.

 

Yesterday, my husband and I went to the theatre to see “I CAN ONLY IMAGINE.” Based on the song, “I CAN ONLY IMAGINE,” recorded by Mercy Me in 1999, I remembered when I first heard this song and how the lyrics affected me. My dad passed away in July, 1999. I was in such a severe depression after losing him, I prayed to die, realizing I was being selfish. I still had life to live. People to care for and love. Visiting with my doctor, she asked if I was suicidal. I laughed, realizing she knew me better than I knew myself.
How can a song affect someone so passionately? Writing this question out, I recognized I failed to have an answer. Kneeling at my special window, I looked up into the Heavens and prayed, only this time, my prayer was different. I asked God to help me live and to learn to forgive.
My mother and I were alienated since 1988. After my high school class reunion, I discovered my mother told our little boy his mother was a whore and a drunk. The morning after the reunion, little Michael David rushed to me asking me what was a whore. “I know what a drunk is since Grandpa in Charleston is a drunk, but I’ve never heard the word whore. What is it, Mommy?”

I scooped his tiny body into my arms and bear hugged him. “Mommy is not a whore. A whore is someone who goes out with other men and sleeps in the bed with them. I’m not a whore, Michael David.”

“Granny called you a whore. But you only sleep in the bed with my daddy, Mommy.”

“It’s not a nice name and it’s a word you should not speak again, at least until you’re grown.”

“Why would she call you that word?”

“Granny doesn’t love Mommy the way you and Daddy love me. That’s a good question, and I will ask her in a minute. You go back to sleep.” I kissed Michael on the cheek, tucking him in with his father. I slipped on my robe, walking toward my mother’s room.

I knocked three times. She opened her eyes. “Why did you call me a whore?” I shouted.

“I did no such a thing.”

“Yes, you did.” Michael stood next to me. “You said my mommy was a whore and a drunk.”

The argument continued for an hour. Garrett awoke to the shouting. Recognizing this conversation would be an eternal shouting match of two stubborn women who butted heads all the time, he said we were leaving. I grabbed our luggage and stormed out of the house, refusing to look back.

I cried an endless ocean of tears from Columbus, Georgia to Charleston, South Carolina. Michael David apologized for starting the argument. I responded that he was not the problem. My life as a child of the Chattahoochee, the daughter of a woman who could not show love at all, was the problem. The only solution was to build my life with my family, Garrett, and Michael.

In 1988, I realized home is where the heart is. My heart was in Charleston, not Bibb City, or the Chattahoochee. My life in Charleston was filled with suburban roots, and a solid brick foundation, not a detour route of housing projects, mill villages, shouting matches and nothing to refer to as home. The windows to my world reflected love, pride, and ambition. I pinched myself to bring myself back to reality. I did not wish to remember the annoying disconnections I shared with my mother, nor did I want to walk in her footsteps.

I lost my mother on September 11, 2002. She died a ‘questionable death,’ after battling to survive a stroke. Since that time, I’ve discovered she choked to death by inhaling nuts. My mother was allergic to nuts. Her body was paralyzed on the right side. How she was able to inhale nuts and choke to death is a question I need answering. When my sister phoned me telling me of her passing, the one question she repeated to me was: Do you think they’ll do an autopsy?

Interesting question I failed to understand since I was ill with acute bronchial asthma at the time and failed to comprehend what my sister was asking.

Do you think they’ll do an autopsy? Interesting question…

I can only imagine!DSC_0061
 

Remembering Sir Shakespeare Hemingway


035Today, March 7, 2018 is an extremely sad day for me. Today is the first anniversary of losing my precious mini-schnauzer, Sir Shakespeare Hemingway. Exactly one year later, I am still heartbroken over losing him. Over making the decision to allow him to go to Heaven so he would not suffer any longer.

On the morning of his loss, when he struggled to walk outside, his rear legs gave out on him again. Those precious little energized legs split apart. He fell down and looked at me, as if to say, “It’s time. I’m tired. I’m weak. I’m sick. Mommy, please do something so I will not ache anymore.” His legs were so weak he could not lift them like most male dogs do when they potty. He was pitiful, deteriorating right in front of my eyes.

Sir Shakespeare was born on April 11, 2003. On April 12, 2003, I met him. There were three newborn puppies. The female was promised to someone else. I touched both male puppies gently, rubbing their ears. Little Shakespeare, the “piglet” responded with a slight moan and I knew he was the pup we wanted. He fit into my hands and I kissed him on the nose while whispering his name: Sir Shakespeare Hemingway. We visited him weekly and when he was six weeks old, I was told he could go home with us. I wrapped him in a blue blanket and we brought him home. Little Shake n’ Bake squirmed from my lap onto my chest, and there he rested until we arrived home.

Independent. Affectionate, and a unique personality – that was Shakespeare. We communicated. He slept with me, always wanting to rest on my hip – touching me. Always. He did not like it if I asked him to please move over. He responded by scooting his little body over, grumbling the entire way. In the morning, he would climb on top of me. If I didn’t respond, he reached out with his left paw to touch me and awaken me. His eyes stared deeply into mine. I kissed his nose.

When I was sick with acute bronchial asthma, Shakespeare followed me around like a shadow. He would kiss me once, then he crawled onto my chest, sniffed at my nose and mouth and refused to move. He was my nurse, caring for me while he listened to the wheezing in my chest. He would not move away from me, even if I asked him to. He simply stared into my eyes, as if to say: “I’m taking care of you. You’re sick. You need me.” He fell asleep on my chest and when I awoke, he was there. My nurse. My loving, caring little Shakespeare.

Over the years together, we walked daily, until Shamus died. Shakespeare would lead us. Occasionally, he stopped to smell a flower, or to feel the fresh breeze blowing in his ears. Sometimes he would pick up a stick and carry it while walking. He had a phobia of darkness if he was alone. On one night my husband and I got home a bit late. The breakfast room was dark. Shakespeare and our other pups slept in this room if we were not home. On this night, when Shake n’ Bake heard the car, he was barking a loud and vicious bark. When we walked into the room, he jumped on my leg, still barking. He was reminding me that he was in the dark and he was frightened. Don’t ever leave me in the dark again. You know I hate being alone in the dark.

The next morning, I placed a lamp on a table in the room, turned the light on and never left it off. Shakespeare would not be in the dark again.

As he grew older, his appetite grew. He would eat his food and if another of our precious little friends hadn’t finished their food, he would attempt to move them over so he could eat again. During his yearly wellness check-up when he was 10-years-old, the vet suggested giving him green beans and less food. Shakespeare lost weight, weighing in at 24 pounds, losing six pounds.

In September, 2016, after grooming, I noticed Shakespeare was still losing weight. Occasionally, he turned away from his food and wouldn’t eat. I struggled to feed him from my hands. He wasn’t hungry. His legs began to give away and when he went outside, he would move to a corner of the back yard, ignoring me asking him to come inside. His hearing wasn’t as good as when he was younger. I noticed if I clapped my hands three times, paused and clapped three more times, while shouting “Come here, Shakespeare” after a few minutes, he would get up and move slowly towards the door.

Although I could see Shakespeare fading away, I refused to accept it. I wanted him to fight. I cradled him in my arms, telling him I loved him and I wanted him to fight. He responded by licking my face, jumping from my arms, and when his feet hit the carpeted floor, he whined.

Our nightly ritual of cuddling in the chair no longer happened unless I picked him up, and when I reached to pick him up to cuddle with me, he wiggled, moving his back legs like spaghetti. He was in pain.

The vet said he was getting older. He reminded me that most schnauzers have a lifespan of about 14 years. Shakespeare was 13. He would be 14 in April. I wasn’t ready to lose him.

Over the next six months of his life, Shakespeare wanted to go outside less, and when he did go outside, he squatted. He could not lift those painful rear legs like most boys do. He would look in my direction, as if he was saying, “Don’t watch me. Don’t watch me fading away from you.”

In December, Shakespeare could not hold his bladder. He would urinate on the floor in the breakfast room. Sometimes he would do other business there. We placed puppy papers on the floor nightly since he was sleeping there now. I let him know I was not upset with him. I understood. His body was getting older and he was fading away. He licked my face to let me know he understood and he loved me.

On March 7, 2017, we made the decision to have the vet check him over and see if it was time to let him go. Our vet knows how much we love our animals. After examining Shakespeare, he looked at me with tears streaming down my face he said: “You’re making the right decision.”

I held Shakespeare in my arms. I told him it was time to see Shamus again. He lifted his left paw, touching me, and he kissed me one last time.

My arms were holding him as he went to sleep. The vet gave us a few more minutes together, then he asked if we were ready. Since Shakespeare was sleeping, I nodded. I heard Shakespeare’s last breath, and he was gone.

How I wanted to bring him back, but I knew he was suffering, weighing only 17.6 pounds on this date. He was so tiny now it was easy to pick him up. After losing him, guilt almost tore my heart out. I questioned everything while realizing we did the most humane thing by letting him go. I did not want him to die alone in the house with only his brothers around, nor did I want him to die in darkness.

I prayed that God would welcome him into the gates of Heaven and let him find Shamus so he would not be alone. I reminded God that Shakespeare did not like the dark, and I prayed for a sign to let me know he was ok and happy.

A few days later, I found a fly inside the house, flying around my desk. I was writing at the time so I did not pay attention to the fly until I found it floating inside my coffee cup.

“Shakespeare!” I cried. “You’re here. You’re letting me know you are OK.”

Through blinding tears, I smiled, remembering how Shakespeare detested when anything got in the water bowls, especially IF it was a fly. He would sit while taking his front paws, moving them into the water, attempting to remove the fly. After a few minutes, he would bark – his demanding little bark. He refused to drink any dirty water, or water that contained a fly.

Staring at the fly floating in my coffee cup, I picked it up, poured it out and washed the cup, while remembering my precious, silly, demanding Sir Shakespeare Hemingway.

A few nights later, I had a dream. Shakespeare was sitting on a hillside with the greenest pastures I’ve ever seen in life or while dreaming. He barked and wiggled and barked once more. In the brightness of the lights of Heaven, Shakespeare barked one more time, then he turned to run away while looking in my direction. Yes, Sir Shakespeare Hemingway Cooper was in Heaven, playing with Prince Marmaduke Shamus Cooper. Little Shake n’ Bake and Shamey-Pooh were together again.

Yes, today is a sad day for me. A day of remembrance and so much everlasting love.

1393110-R3-013-5

Merry Christmas, 2017


Dearest Readers:

Today, December 24, 2017 is Christmas Eve. Today is also the anniversary of two of our dearest Friends, Joan and Jim Adams. May your anniversary be as special to them as they are to us.

If you are out and about in the middle of the insane Christmas rush, please DO NOT TAILGATE. I had too many careless drivers almost attached to the bumper of my car this week. So close, I could not see their headlights. Of course, if I had to stop suddenly all of you know what would happen. I simply do not understand drivers who love to drive that close.

Please, if you are driving, do not text and drive. Do not mess with your phone if you are driving. One never knows what can happen in the blink of an eye, or taking your eyes off of your driving.

May all of you have a safe and happy Christmas season. Yes, I say Christmas because Christmas is the holiday. The birth of the Christ child.  The ONLY reason for the season.

Enjoy your time with family and friends and please make every day special. We never know how long we will be here, so please do not take careless and foolish chances with your life or someone else’s life. Life is too short to rush it away.

May all of you have a wonderful Happy Christmas. I am hopeful 2018 will be a calmer, happier year for this household. Less drama. The years of 2015, 2016, and 2017 have been so stressful to me I have to remind myself to INHALE…EXHALE…BREATHE. INHALE…HOLD FOR EIGHT SECONDS…EXHALE…HOLD FOR EIGHT SECONDS…BREATHE.

At times, practicing the art of relaxation works. Other times, I want to scream. I simply must learn to relax again. After all, life is too short.

Merry Christmas to all of you, and Happy 2018. Another year is quickly ticking away.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday, Walter Perkins – My Dad


Dearest Readers:

On December 19, 1914, two identical twins were born in Michigan. Lewis Eugene and Walter W. Perkins. Never did I have the honor to know Uncle Lewis. He died at 26-years-of-age from Bright’s Disease. I believe it is an inflammation of the kidneys. After his death, my father reportedly changed to a sad, miserable man. He and his identical twin were inseparable until Uncle Lewis died.

I lost my dad to esophageal cancer on July 6, 1999. I confess, a part of my heart died on that day. My dad and I were bonded. During his terminal illness, I visited him daily at the convalescent center and hospital, unless I was sick with my episodes of bronchial asthma.

Today, I would like to wish my dad and Uncle Lewis an early happy birthday in Heaven. No doubt, tomorrow will be a sad day for me; nevertheless, I will focus on the memories we made. Singing together. Teaching me to harmonize. Sharing my poems and other stories with him, and hearing him say on WCSC Channel 5 during an interview, “No. I’m not the writer. My daughter, Barbara, now she’s the writer!” My heart melted when I heard him say that. Finally, he was proud of me!

Our life together during my childhood wasn’t a good one. From the age of five-years-old, until I was 15, I served as the referee between my mother and my dad. Their marriage was a volatile marriage, filled with “I hate you…How I wish you were dead…I wish to God I’d never married you… You’re nothing but a bastard!” From both parties the hatred poured from their lips like steaming hot volcano ashes rolling vibrantly onto the grounds. Poisons. Poisons from lips without love or any form of happiness. During my childhood, I believe their angers, hatreds and tumultuous physical battles were protected within our home. I do not believe my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends of the family knew about the dreadful, dangerous domestic battles my parents fought. Secrets. Protected, never to be shared, until now. I knew not to say anything. If I did, my mother would come after me, slapping, knocking and pulling my hair out. If I wanted to live, my lips must remain closed.

Finally, at fifteen, I stood between them for the last time, telling them one of you needs to leave this marriage and this house. You’ve always hated each other… The next day, my father packed up and left. My mother spat at me telling me she hoped I was happy now. Their marriage was over and it was all my fault.

I rushed into my room. Never confronting her. Never calling my dad. I pondered my heartache inside while praying I would see my dad once again, and I would sing with him again. He visited us after the divorce. He rushed to hug me, something he never did until the bitter divorce. Gone were the shouting and fighting matches. My father had finally found out he was a ‘better man,’ as for my mother — her poisonous tongue spilled hatred to me every time she could. Shouting matches. Slapping my face. Pulling my hair until clumps of my hair fell into her hands. Never did I share these shattered, horrifying days with anyone.  I was taught to be seen, but not heard. How I detested whenever we visited family members. I was told to “say hello. Give a hug and keep your damned mouth shut.”

And so, I did!

To escape the misery of my teenage years, I married at 17. After moving to Charleston, Dad and I became much closer. When he was 68, in 1982, we moved him to Charleston to be closer to a family member. I delighted in caring for him and visiting him in his apartment until 1988 when I had to find a job to save my home and family. My job was demanding, working 40 hours plus, including weekends.

In 1997, during the holidays, Dad became ill. In December, he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He chose to battle the debilitating cancer until his death in July, 1999. During that time, we made wonderful memories. I changed jobs, so I could spend more time with Dad. I watched the wonderful, happy man he became and I loved him even more than he, or anyone, could imagine.

The week before his death, he sat in his room at the nursing home, reading his Bible, praying for God to ‘take me home.’ He was spiteful with me. Almost cruel, according to his roommate, Mr. Dudley. Dad would move his hands, telling me to leave his room. Although it hurt, I swallowed my pride and listened to him doing his best to detach from me. He did not want me around when he died.

On July 6, 1999, as I walked towards his room, I met a nurse, pushing an oxygen tank. “Oh no,” I managed to say, “that isn’t a good sign.” She nodded and when she and I placed our hands on the door of Dad’s room, I knew the moment of his passing had arrived.

I screamed. Cried. Hysterically, I sat in a chair, across from Dad’s room and I listened. The nurse wanted to know if I wanted them to ‘bring him back.’ I said No. He’s a DNR. Please do not resuscitate him. Let him go. He was praying to die soon.

Nineteen years ago, according to birthdays, my father celebrated his birthday now as an identical twin. No doubt, he and Uncle Lewis have caught up and replenished their lost years. I can picture them singing in the Heavenly choirs, inseparable and happy together.

Today, I would like to celebrate Walter and Lewis Perkins, better known as the Perkins Twins a wonderful Happy Birthday. Now, 103 years-of-age December 19 will be a joyous celebration in Heaven. I can hear my dad singing harmony with Uncle Lewis, probably singing Amazing Grace together while celebrating their reunion and Christmas.

As for me, I will be busy wrapping Christmas packages and maybe going out to get more Christmas goodies for our pups and for Phil. I always keep myself extra busy on December 19. While I am happy for my father to be reunited with Uncle Lewis and with God, I miss him.

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Angel Oak Tree, a gorgeous tree embracing Johns Island, SC

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to the Perkins Twins. Oh, Dad — how I miss you!

In memory of:

THE PERKINS TWINS

Lewis and Walter – Identical Twins

Separated by death at age 26;

Reunited with God’s love at 84.

Holding the gates to Heaven’s Door.

 Missing and Loving you both —

Walter’s Daughter – Barbara

 

 

Sexual Assault/Molestation – My Story #MeToo


Dearest Readers:

Today I am writing about a topic close to my heart. A secret. Well, not after today’s post.

Listening to many current events, I am finding the courage to come forward about a subject, once closed. Another of those topics considered “a family matter.” Maybe I am finally finding the courage to share these experiences now since the issue is in the news. If you follow current events, I’m certain you’ve heard the accusations regarding Harvey Weinstein. Allegations of molestation…Rape…Sexual assault. And on…and on.

Many of these stories I haven’t read thoroughly. I get angry, and then, I have dreams, actually nightmares. Nightmares I want to toss into the trash, or delete from a keyboard. It is a bit difficult to delete these tragic events from one’s mind, so for many, many years I kept quiet. Never mentioning my sexual assaults.

Last night, I awoke, talking in my sleep. While I do not recall the entire “nightmare” I heard my voice saying “Stop it! Don’t touch me. Let me go! Stop it. STOP IT!”

When I was fifteen-years-old, I was sexually molested. I remember it just like it was yesterday. My parents were in the middle of a bitter, volatile divorce. My mother would tell me to “Never trust a man. They only want you for one reason, and when they’re through with you, they’ll toss you away like yesterday’s trash. That’s just what your daddy is doing to me. Throwing me away. I hate him, and I hate you. See what you’ve done. Your daddy wouldn’t divorce me now if you left us alone. I hate you and Him!”

Yes. It’s true. I caused my parents to divorce, after separating both of them while in a tumultuous fight. Arriving home from school, I heard shouting. My bedroom was across from their room. Leaving my bedroom door open, I listened to them shouting words of hatred to each other. The fight continued for a while, then – silence. I knocked on their door. No one responded, so I opened the door.

My mother was gasping for breath. Her face was blue. My father had his back turned, then he threw a pile of mail at my mother.

“What’s going on?” I said. “I heard the fighting.”

It wasn’t the first time my parents fought. I had served as their referee since I was five-years-old. My mother stumbled to a chair.

I picked up the mail, noticing “Past Due and Final Request” stamped on some of the bills.

“She’s gone and spent money again. Money I don’t have. There’s a letter from an attorney. If I don’t pay these bills, my wages will be garnished.”

I wasn’t surprised. My mother could not handle finances and when she wanted something, she purchased rings, and other items on credit cards.

Suddenly my mother rose from the chair, heading in his direction. She balled her fist, shaking it while cursing him. Dad rushed to her, hitting her. She fell. I rushed to her aid, shouting at my father, telling him he needed to stop hitting her. If he wanted to hit someone, he could hit me. I’ve seen my father’s anger many times, but today was the worst.

I stood between them, hands extended like a referee. “Don’t touch my mother again. If you keep doing this, one of you will kill the other one. Then, you’ll be in jail. One of you needs to leave.”

The next afternoon, I came home from school excited to share I had the lead in a musical. When I walked inside the house, my mother was scantily dressed in a torn, thin gown. Her hair was messy and her eyes were filled with hatred and rage.

She jumped towards me.

“I hope you’re happy now,” she shouted. “You stupid girl. Your daddy’s left and it’s all your fault. He’s divorcing me. You can consider him dead now!”

Three days later, we moved in with our grandparents in Bibb City, the mill village of Columbus, Georgia.

One of my great uncles took a liking to me, always telling me I was pretty and sweet. He invited me to ride with him on his dry cleaning deliveries. He said we’d have a ‘good time.’

Little did I know what his definition of ‘a good time’ really meant.

It was early springtime when I rode with him. He packed a variety of Tom’s snacks and Nehi orange soda for us to enjoy on this warm Saturday. Driving along, he talked about Papa and fishing and music. He knew I loved music. He played musical instruments so he invited me to sing with him at his house.

“You’ll love the music we play,” he said. “Good ole gospel music.”

“I like jazz,” I said, sipping my drink.

Carefully, I watched the directions of his driving. I’ve always been one to look for landmarks on the road. Little did I know how smart this little game of landmarks would become. We rode around to Smith’s Station, Alabama. According to roadmaps, Smith’s Station was exactly ten miles from Columbus, Georgia.

My uncle made a right turn on a dirt road. I glanced around, looking for homes, or maybe a farm. All I saw were dusty, red clay fields and another dirt road. He made another right onto another dirt road. I glanced behind me, noticing the dust from the roads created a thick, red fog.

“There aren’t any homes around here. Where are we going?”

My uncle smiled a devious smile. He reached his right arm over to me. “Come here,” He said. “You need to sit closer to me.”

I did not move. He thrust his arm my way, pulling me to him. My body tightened.

The interior of his truck was dusty. Freshly cleaned clothing hung on one side of the truck, covered with plastic and delivery orders attached. Still, I could see the red fog, now so thick I wasn’t certain anyone could see us.

“Where are we going?”

My uncle grinned. “Just relax. We’re going to pick blackberries.”

All I could see was a dirt road. The fields were freshly planted. I doubted blackberries were ready to pick. Something frightened me.

My uncle turned right again, pulling into a thick pile of brush and leaves. Tall pine trees grew in a line, so tall I felt I could reach the clouds if I climbed them. I wasn’t a tree climber. My uncle parked the truck, turning the motor off.

He laughed a horrifying, wicked laughter I did not like to hear. He pulled me closer to him.

“Stop it,” I said. I don’t want to get close to you.”

“Don’t you miss your daddy?” He asked. “Your mama said you cry for him. Come closer to me. I can be your daddy.”

“No,” I shouted, knowing no one would ever hear me. We were in the middle of a deserted field of red clay and pine trees.

“I want to get to know you better.”

“There are no blackberries around here. You lied to me.”

I remember crying. I was so horrified. Just what was my great uncle planning to do with me?

“I wanna go home,” I said, wiping my tears.

“And I want to know you better. You’re such a pretty girl. Your mama knows how pretty you are. She said I should be closer to you since your daddy left.”

His hands gripped my legs hard, moving up my thigh. He moved his right hand to my chest. I pushed away, but he was strong. Now, he was moving his entire body towards me, getting on top of me.

I screamed again, only I knew no one would hear. If I had any chance to get away from this monster great uncle, I had to fight for myself.

Since I was only 15-years-old and did not have any brothers, I had no idea how to fight, but I did all I could. My mother had never discussed sex with me, or what a girl could do to fight back. My arms were hard to move since he was on top of me. I heard the sound of a zipper, realizing my shorts were loser now. His hands rushed all over my body, moving into my genitals. I bit his arm. He pulled away for only a moment. My right arm was free now, so I moved my hands in the direction of his crotch. I had no idea what I should do, but I remember grabbing his crotch and I squeezed as hard as I could.

He screamed in pain. His body went limp. I pushed him away and I grabbed the door. Rushing outside, I ran as hard as I could. I knew the way home. I could walk. Smith Station and Columbus were only ten miles away. I was suddenly thankful I had strong legs and could walk the distance. The dirt road was almost an open field, so I could not find a place to hide. In the distance, I heard his truck. He was coming after me.

Raised in the Assembly of God Church, my grandmother had taught me to pray. Tears streaming down my face, I ran. When I saw his truck, I darted into a dry field with trees. Just maybe he could not drive his truck into the trees.

“Please, God. Help me. I don’t know what he wants to do with me, but I don’t like it. Please, God. HELP ME!”

My uncle saw me. He stopped the truck, opened the driver’s door and got out.

“You need to come back. We’ve got to pick blackberries.”

“You’re a liar,” I shouted. “I’m not getting back in the truck.”

He laughed. “Just how do you plan to get back home?”

“Walking,” I shouted as loud as I could scream. “I know the way.”

He rushed towards me. I noticed he was moving slower. Just maybe I had hurt him a little bit. Good. He deserves to hurt.

He moved closer to me, and when he did, I kicked him as hard as I could, right between his legs. He fell to the ground. I ran.

“Please God, guide me home. And please don’t let him catch me.”

A bit later, I heard the truck. My uncle gunned the engine, catching me. I looked behind me. The truck was getting so close I panicked, remembering when I was hit by a car at nine-years-old. I stepped to the side of the road. My uncle stopped the truck.

He was holding one of his hands by his crotch, and he moaned as if he was in pain.

“You get in this truck. I’ll take you home.”

“I’m walking,” I said.

My uncle jumped out of the car, picked me up and opened the passenger door. Kicking and screaming, I remember fighting as hard as I could to get free. He threw me in the seat.

“Don’t you move!” He said. “I’m taking you home.”

“I don’t want to be with you. I don’t like you anymore.”

“You just sit still. We’ll be back to your house before you know it.” He drove off, driving as fast as he could.

“If you tell one person I touched you, you’ll be sorry.” He said. “I’m a deacon in the church. No one will believe you.”

Tears were pouring down my face, and I tried to speak but my words were only garbled. Inhaling, exhaling, and slowly breathing, I calmed myself down, managing to speak.

“If you move one finger over here towards me, you’ll be sorry,” I said. “I know what to do now, and I’ll do it again if I have to. After today, don’t you even speak to me again. I hate you!”

Arriving home, I rushed to my bedroom. My mother asked why I was home so early. I ignored her.

I gathered some clothes and I rushed to the bathroom. I wanted to get the red dust off of myself. Scrubbing my body hard with Ivory soap, I cried and cried until there were no more tears left.

My great uncle came to the house a few days later. When I saw his truck, I rushed away.

Still, to this day, I can still hear his words, “I’m a deacon in the church. No one will believe you.”

Maybe now, someone will. I was victim at fifteen-years-old. Never did I report his sexual molestations of me. Why? Simple. Back in those days, who would believe a fifteen-year-old? They would say, You were asking for it. You wore shorts and T-shirt and you have a nice chest. You were just asking for it.

No, I wasn’t. In the dark of night while sleeping I still hear his words echoing to me.

“I’m a deacon in the church. No one will believe you.”

When he died, my mother phoned me, encouraging me to come to his funeral. I remember saying to her, “He can rot in Hell for all I care. He molested me.” That was the first time I shared his attack with anyone.

Regardless who or what a man is, there is no excuse for anyone to molest, rape or sexually assault any child or woman. Even if he is – a deacon in the church.

Now, people are under the impression a woman should always come forward; however, unless you are a victim, you cannot understand why it is so difficult and painful to “come forward.” It takes courage.

Victims are made to feel dirty, cheap, with a lack of self-esteem. I’ll not share how many years it was before I came forward and shared my story about my great uncle. When I did, I was told he had a history of ‘liking young girls.’

Looks like he got away with what he did, at least with me, after all – He was a deacon in the church.DSC_0032_edited

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Memory of Chef Shane Whiddon


Good morning to all. If you follow my posts on Facebook and my blog, you will know yesterday was another tragic day in the Holy City of Charleston, SC.

Yesterday, a disgruntled, former employee walked into Virginia’s on King Restaurant with a sick mission on his mind. He reportedly has mental health issues.

Holding a weapon, he told everyone inside the restaurant to get on the floor and exit the building. One woman stated he pointed the weapon on her stomach. He did not shoot her.

Since I write about food and hospitality, I know quite a few chefs within the Lowcountry of Charleston, I researched Virginia’s on King Street Restaurant. At that time, I was able to click on to the website and read. I did not research the chef at that time.

Later, after reports of one person killed and the shooter in critical condition, I rushed back to the website, hoping to discover who the chef was. When I clicked on the site, I discovered it was temporarily unavailable. I realized there was probably only one reason the site was down. Perhaps the chef was the victim killed. Listening to the news reports, the interviews with Sheriff Al Cannon, and the Mayor of Charleston, John Tecklenburg, no one would share the name of the deceased victim or the name of the shooter.

While reports continued, a reputable friend sent me the name of Chef Shane Whiddon. Although he looked familiar to me, I do not recall ever having the privilege to interview him for a story. It is unfortunate that I’ve never eaten at Virginia’s on King Street.

Chef Anthony Shane Whiddon was 37-years-old, leaving a wife and two children.

http://abcnews4.com/news/crime-news/shane-whiddon-chef-at-virginias-on-king-dies-after-shooting-at-charleston-restaurant

I have no details about the shooter with exception that he was a ‘disgruntled former employee’ and he is in critical condition now.

My heart breaks for the family of Chef Shane Whiddon, Shannon, his wife, and their two lovely children. A neighbor of the family has established a Go Fund Me page, hopeful to raise $10,000 to go to the family.

https://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/Eat/archives/2017/08/25/gofundme-campaign-created-to-support-the-family-of-chef-shane-whiddon-virginias-restaurant-homicide-victim

I’ve lived in the Holy City of Charleston for many years. I recall working as an intern at one of the local TV stations when I was in college. One of my responsibilities was to contact all police departments to see if anything was happening so we could be first with the “if it bleeds it leads,” stories. During my internship, the only report I discovered was a fire. No shootings. Killings. Rapes. Robberies. Drug busts…Nothing newsworthy.

I’ve had the honor and pleasure to know many successful chefs as students when I worked at Johnson & Wales University. Many of them are internationally famous, earning many awards for the amazing and tantalizing foods created by their talents, and many of these chefs chose to remain in Charleston. I suppose you could say, I have been blessed. Yes, indeed!

Now, almost daily there is a shooting. Drug busts and robberies. I ask myself: What has happened to the Holy City of Charleston?

Yes. This beautiful city has grown. Reportedly, we have lots of hopeful new residents moving into the lowcountry daily. I suppose with growth comes crimes. Now, we have crimes on a daily basis. I have been told by a number of people about how easy it is to get a weapon in South Carolina. I suppose I’m from the old school and don’t believe in weapons, but — this is South Carolina and in the Holy City, apparently it is rather easy to get a weapon. So sad. And now, another innocent victim is gone, all because a ‘disgruntled former employee walked into a restaurant and killed the chef.’

Since I am active within the hospitality industry, knowing many of the leaders of food and beverage and hospitality, I pray everyone will come together to assist the family of Chef Shane Whiddon. Now, his wife will be a single mom, raising two children who probably will never understand why their daddy was taken away by someone shooting and killing him. Just how do you explain that to a child? Yesterday morning, Chef left his family to go to work, creating delicious Southern foods for the guests at Virginia’s on King Street. He never came home.

Just what do you say when the children ask: “Where’s my daddy? Why can’t he come home to me? I miss my daddy.”

Chef Shane Whiddon was a family man. He had a generous heart and soul. I checked the Go Fund Me site only a moment ago. Contributions raised in only nine hours: $5,280.

No doubt the Holy City of Charleston feels the pain and loss, and so do I.

Such a sad day today. We are expecting more storms this afternoon probably like the torrential storms pouring down while the police officers rushed around to protect our city.  I must say, they did an amazing job yesterday. Makes me proud of our Holy City.

To the family and friends of Chef Shane Whiddon, I am so sorry for your loss. I pray God will guide all of you and give you strength during this traumatic time of grief.

If you would like to contribute to the Go Fund Me page for Chef Shane Whiddon, visit:

https://www.gofundme.com/helping-the-whiddon-family

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