….and even then, you still may not understand. But at least I know I tried to make you understand.
I want you, or someone, to really appreciate my care-giving experience, and must provide the whole picture.
My family dynamics, and the circumstance in which my mother and I were born into had a significant impact on my care-giving trials.
The personalities of my siblings, extended family, and others impacting my care-giving struggles, is equally, if not more significant.
Writing this part will be challenging, therefore I reserved describing personalitie, when providing the details of my story, as those characters appear.
My Family History – My Mother
My mother was born into turmoil, just as I feel I was.
She was born on The Day of the Feast of the Guardian Angels, October 2, 1918. Catholics, devout ones as she was, sincerely believe in angels, God’s loyal servants, aiding them just as they did for Jesus, from the prediction of his birth through the judgments by Christ at his return, the angels were engaged in working with Jesus.
She taught me to believe in angels too. Like her, I experienced angels appearing during my trials to help me. My mother talked to me about angels and miracles all the time, and she was a true believer.
Unlike no one in my immediate or extended family, my mother prayed through her troubles, and she experienced many.
I remember running and playing through the house as a young child, and being told, ‘Be quiet, momma is praying’. I would see her praying morning, noon, and night. On some occasions she would sneak me to her job, working as a maid for an affluence white family. She would have to hide me in the back stairway, reserved for servants.
I would peek through a door crack, and even see her praying at work! My mother introduced the importance of prayer in my life.
She and I prayed together through my years of caring for her. When she was able, I took her to masses and novenas, sometimes daily. When she was no longer able, I attended alone, but still prayed from specific Catholic prayer cards at home, each day.
This practice serves me today. I pray and meditate. I pray as my mother did, every day, and throughout the day. As she told me, ‘Praying works’. Praying has given me hope through trials.
Her trials were many. My mother was born at the height of the period when the bubonic plague, The Black Plague, had spread to New Orleans. This occurred at a time when it was believed that it been contained. But New Orleans was a major port, with increasing traffic, became victim to the rats that stowed away in the ships traveling from Europe and Asia.
I am not sure if the plague affected her mother or grandfather or other family members, but as it is described, it was a very frightening period, given that years earlier the city tackled yellow fever.
Throughout my mother’s adolescent and teenage years, she lived through The Great Depression. She spoke about it to me and the rest of my siblings quite often. She spoke to me privately about it up to her final days.
This must have been an especially tough period for New Orleans, and my mother, because she could not erase it from her mind. It’s similar to I can’t forget about my caregiving terror.
Here is an excerpt from an article in this period, from KnowLouisiana.Org
New Orleans, however, experienced some of the worst aspects of the Depression in the state. With the precipitous decline in foreign trade, New Orleans’s warehouses emptied and its docks fell silent; the army of stevedores and handlers that serviced America’s, and the world’s, agricultural and industrial production, lay idle.
By early 1930, in fact, one census counted at least 10,000 unemployed workers in the city, although the true figure was probably much higher. To handle the pressures of public relief, the city formed a Welfare Committee in early 1931 and raised more than a half million dollars from private sources.
When this money ran out in 1932, municipal leaders floated a $750,000 bond issue, but this likewise proved insufficient to deal with the mass of the unemployed and their families.
My Eunice mentioned how hard it was during The Depression. One story that stuck in my mind is when she told me that she would pick up coal every day that would fall from trains, near the railroad tracks, and use it to heat the stove and the home.
She told me that her grandmother died by being scaled to death. She was scaled by boiling water, used to manually wash clothes. She mentioned having to walk miles just to secure a small piece of meal, and beans for the family. Beans were a staple for every day that helped them stay healthy and endure the hard times.
This is the turmoil in which my mother was born. She’s told me many times, ‘I’m a tough titty’.
That she was, likely inherited from ancestors I know nothing about. I did try to research ancestry and made some progress, but it led to dead ends, and more money, so I stopped. Besides, I’m not really convinced that searching ancestry works well for descendants of slaves. The records that I found were not always reassuring, sometimes having to rely on documents as basic as rail train boarding registers.
I heard that these services are run by the Mormon Church. The Mormons have a practice of tracing family trees to identify ancestors who died without learning about the restored Mormon Gospel so that they can be baptized by proxy in the temple. I’m not sure, as a black man, how I feel about going to the Mormons to research my history.
But I was able to go back as far as 1861, finding my mother’s father, mother, grand and great-grandparents, as well as, my father’s side of the family. Both sides, outside of our African ancestry, point to Cubans and Mullatos. Some of my research was reassuring, for I found that the names of some of my siblings, and other relatives, were the same as some of our ancestors.
I found the name of my father’s father, Francisco Delgado, born in 1875, dying in 1904, one year after my father was born. This was an exhilarating finding, for I remember being told that my father wanted my name to be Francisco. But, my mother objected, giving me a first name she probably randomly chose.
However, as a devout Catholic, she took the greatest care in selecting our middle names, which were all saint names. My middle name is Michael, after Michael the Archangel. My mother’s middle name is Mary, after St. Mary. All of my siblings have saint middle names, as well.
Here is an excerpt from Beliefnet.Com on Michael the Archangel. Sometimes I feel that I served in this role, for my dear mother.
Most angels in the Bible are portrayed as messengers, but Michael is described in all three books as contending, fighting, or standing against all evil spirits and principalities.
Michael is usually shown with a sword or carrying the scales of justice. Renaissance paintings show him wearing armor. These are all symbols of his strength, courage, truth, and integrity.
Michael is engaged in a ceaseless war against the forces of evil. His most famous example of this occurred when he cast Lucifer and his followers out of heaven.
It seems to me now that my family may have had an ancient curse upon them. My mother constantly told me about stories where she was forced to drop out of the 8th grade to care for her mother, while her sister was ‘out in the streets’. Simultaneously, she had to care for her grandfather, who was a Cuban immigrate. Her story makes sense, for New Orleans has a Cuban population and a Cuban history that dates back to 1763, when Spain controlled the state. My father’s grandfather was also Cuban.
She would directly equate my caring for her, to the same mission bestowed on her, when caring for her mother and grandfather.
She stressed how she had to give up everything to serve this calling, just as I feel I did for her.
I took this responsibility as my greatest responsibility from day one, but didn’t notice those around me who sat idle and disengaged, as welcoming about it as we were.
She would tell me, ‘You’re taking good care of me like I took care of my mother and my grandfather. That’s why God is blessing me today.’
There is also an ugly side of my mother’s stories that makes sense now. She never forgot to mention how ‘light-skinned’ family members were favored over darker ones. She was light-skinned, while her sister, and I believe my grandmother, was darker. My Cuban great-grandfather participated in color favoritism, favoring my mother, and my aunt Grace, who looked almost identical. My mother told me that the nuns got my grandfather a job in the hospital, operating the elevate because he could pass for white….passe blanc.
About My Father
My mother married my father, at Corpus Christi-Epiphany Roman Catholic Church in New Orleans, in the Creole 7th ward, per the suggestion of my grandmother. My father, at the time, ran a numbers game. The numbers game, also known as the numbers racket, or the daily number, is a form of illegal gambling or illegal lottery played mostly in poor and working-class neighborhoods, wherein a bettor attempts to pick three digits to match those that will be randomly drawn the following day.
She did marry him, and gave him 9 children, me being the youngest. My mother has two other children in earlier years, who both predeceased me.
In our conversations, strangely she seemed to blame her mother for ‘forcing her’ to marry my father.
I don’t know my father at all. I only know how he looks from an oval-shaped, wooden and gold-leaf hand-colored photo-painting that hangs on my wall today. It hung in my mother’s home, for most of my childhood. I know of no other image of my father.
From the stories told to me by my siblings and my mother, my father was quite a character. Interestingly, though, my siblings, particularly the female ones, paint a gentler picture of my father, than does my mother. They describe him as very intelligent, hardworking, disciplined, and sometimes erratic. They seem to tread lightly on his jealousy, for my mother was very beautiful, his fooling around, and his alcoholism.
My mother on the other hand, nearly always describes him as somewhat of a monster, bringing strange women into our shotgun home, being physically abusive, spending irrationally, putting her and her children (including me as an infant) out in the streets, at wee hours of the night, and his attempted and ultimate execution of his own death.
In these juxtaposed accounts of my father’s character lies the roots of conflicts that I would ultimately have with my siblings throughout childhood, and especially when solely caring for our mother.
My father killed himself in our shotgun home in New Orleans. My mother and siblings were present when he went into the bathroom and drank acid. I was present too but was only 8 months old. In retrospect, as I reflect on all the information that I gathered, this final act, seemed destined.
One of my siblings told me that on an earlier occasion, my father tied a noose around his head, and asked two of them to push the ladder that he stood on. It rightfully terrified them as kids, causing them to run screaming out of the house.
Another told me a story about my father bringing what seemed to be a prostitute into the back room of the home, having to pass in front of my mother, siblings, and me, to get some privacy for sex.
But, according to my siblings, my father was very disciplined and worked exceptionally hard to provide for his family. He only had bouts of alcoholism and destruction, but otherwise was an intelligent, hardworking, dreamer of a better life for his family. They say his feeling inadequate as a provider for his family, is what drove him to suicide.
He seemed to favor my sister, his first daughter, by exclusively allowing and teaching her to drive, buying her gifts, and selecting only her and ‘the girls’ to pay a piano that he irrationally bought, to my mother’s strong objections.
Meanwhile, my mother was neglected, rarely receiving admiration from him.
I realize now that my mother held resentments against my sisters, and perhaps them against her. This resentment may not be the primary cause of my caregiving issues but was deeply rooted in the conflicts that I would later encounter.
My mother, on the other hand, really did not have a lot of good things to say about my father. She seemed to present this marriage as a prison in which her mother placed her. As it related to me, she mentioned repeatedly how my father would throw me around as an infant, and she would shout, ‘Stop it! You are gonna kill my baby’.
As I reflect on and try to understand this family dynamic, I do remember my mother nurturing me exceptionally well. I also remember being very close to her as a child and feeling very loved and protected.
I have rationalized that at the time of my birth, and my father’s suicide months later, that my siblings may have needed mental counseling, and resented that I and my mother were figuratively off in a corner somewhere soothing each other’s grief.
We helped each other through the grieving process, while they may have gotten little seriously needed support. In 1960, and especially for a black New Orleans family, support group therapy or family counseling, was not available.
Imagine, what they had to endure through, seeing my father come out of that bathroom, foaming at the mouth, and eventually dying from the chemicals literally eating out his insides. That must have been traumatic for them to witness without counseling.
I wondered if they subconsciously saw me (and my mother) as the enemy. My mother tells me of a time, after my father’s death, where my sister locked me out, as a baby, on the front concrete porch, unattended. I may have nodded off, and fell down the concrete stairs, alarming her when she had to rush from work to bring me to ER with injuries.
I can remember later in childhood when my siblings would ridicule me about my stepfather, not being my real daddy, to turn me against him. At this time, I did not even know the story of my father. It was kept from me until my mother showed me the Times-Picayune newspaper article when I was a teenager.
In this instance, skin color reared its ugly influence again. My stepfather was very dark-skinned. They use to refer to him as ‘my black paw’, and taunt me about him.
As a result, I used to sass him, and tell him, ‘You’re not my daddy, I don’t have to listen to you’. Realizing how this hurt my mother, I later reconciled and have the fondest memories of my stepfather. He really loved me and tried to compensate for the loss of my real father. My siblings too reconciled with him, over time.
On another occasion, when I was about 7 or 8, one of my sisters and a friend, who was a neighbor, dressed me completely as a girl, in a dress, and with pigtails, and paraded me around the neighborhood, as my sister’s cousin.
There are several occasions where my siblings showed resentment toward my mother, as children, and as adults. These may be explored later.
I can’t confirm how deeply my perception of resentment from my siblings went, but it clear that it did have an impact on how I was treated by them, as my mother’s caregiver. It is clearly part of our history, therefore it affects our relations, even today.
Like my mother, I believe that I was born into turmoil. We have a few things in common: being pushed into caregiving, our faithfulness, and our determination. I inherited and developed these things from my mother.
I may have inherited some of my father’s traits too, but clearly not the worse ones, as my siblings tried to stick on me, strategically. For one, I am very sane. I did not inherit his mental illness. I would never ever even consider committing suicide as he did. I love God too much; it’s blasphemy!
Besides, a family services psychologist explained to me that growing up in traumatic conditions as a child is more likely to result in mental illness, than inheriting it. Well, I only experienced 8 months of my father’s wrath. My siblings, years of it, at older ages.
I may have inherited some of his addictive tendencies since I have had challenges with drugs. But I never went to the extent of being strung-out, abusive, or violent. The segment of my life was brief. I was functional and overcame that trap nearly 20 years ago. But, just the fact that I was attracted to drugs at one time, may have come from my father. I have since become instrumental in encouraging and support others’ recovery.
If my father was really intelligent as my siblings say, I may have inherited his intelligence.
I know that one of my brothers did. He was brilliant and used to be my mother’s clear favorite until he died of cancer. I know it seems like a narcissistic thing to say about myself, but hear me out first.
I have been told many times that I am very intelligent for figuring out things that seem quite easy to me. I would just play it off, time after time.
Then, after my spiritual awakening, and learning to love myself, I thought why should I feel bad about receiving that compliment? I decided that I shouldn’t. My achievements seem to reinforce this sentiment. I may have gotten this from my father, who I never really knew.
Now I have shared the muddle that I, my siblings’, and mother were born into.
This sets the stage to go deeper into my story serving as a caregiver for my mother.
…To Be Continued…..
1960s USA New Orleans Jazz Funeral, Children Dancing, African American – 897 views – thekinolibrary – Published on Mar 8, 2017
From the Kinolibrary Archive Film collections. To order the clip clean and high res or to find out more visit http://www.kinolibrary.com. Clip ref BF385
1960s, 1970s African American People on the Street, Louisiana, Southern USA – 99 views – thekinolibrary – Published on Feb 17, 2017
From the Kinolibrary Archive Film collections. To order the clip clean and high res or to find out more visit http://www.kinolibrary.com. Clip ref AB14
You’re still here — Living after suicide | Amy Biancolli | TEDxAlbany – 166,916 views – TEDx Talks – Published on Jan 6, 2015
This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Amy Biancolli, who lost both her husband and her sister to suicide, talks about surviving those blows and figuring out how to move on. Loss forces the living to reinvent themselves, to re-tool family dynamics and to find meaning in life and laughter with the loved ones who remain. The grief has a mind of its own, frequently ignoring the tidy “stages” we expect of it. But so do moments of levity, which come and go at will. Biancolli tells some of her own story, including her decision to write about a personal subject so often hushed in public.
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*PLEASE NOTE* This video was not done for entertainment value, unlike my other videos on my channel. I wanted to do a serious video about something that was important to me. I filmed this in hopes that it could comfort people, making them realize they aren’t alone.
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