LESSONS, PRAYERS, AND GUIDANCE

How and when do you learn what is important? I ask that question from the perspective of an adult who learned about what is important from my parents and subsequently taught those lessons to my children. Lessons that were co-mingled with those learned by my husband from his parents. Lessons that I revise in my head for the grandchildren I hope to have.

Like all great teachers, my mother and father talked to me and exemplified what was important.  There were no classroom chairs or chalkboards, rather the dining room table, the garden, and expeditions to cities or theatres or rallies served as my training ground.  My parents demonstrated what was important in the stories they told and by the history they highlighted.  They exemplified the importance of love.  Love of self, family, spouse, and the building of relationships. There were lessons about the habits of living.  Basic things like spirituality, education, health, cleanliness, honesty, survival, equanimity, struggle, respect, responsibility, order, and perseverance—stick-to-itiveness as my mother called it.  There were those step-here-a-minute-sit-your-ass-down-do-you-hear-me-talking-to-you lessons and there were those invisible and silent lessons that were the by-products of sharing a home and spending time with one another.  There were also lessons, prayers, and guidance written in my parents’ letters to me. In their absence, I often re-read their letters and cards and find in them the sound of their voices, the warmth of their arms, and the extent of their love for me.  Always exactly what and when I need to hear about what is important in life.  Especially today:

May your 14th birthday be full of surprises—gifts (or the promise of them)—and newer, deeper insights into the beauty of the human spirit as manifested through friends and those who love you.

May all your birthdays be a celebration of the discovery of the best possible in all people and all situations.

May you have the strength and determination to conquer—to overcome—all negative visions that dull the luster of your profoundly beautiful soul.

May you search for and find those aspects of work and pleasure that satisfy all your inner hungers.

And may this search of your own rich treasures bring forth a greater selflessness and dedication to truth.

We wish you a long, rich life, with good health and much deep joy.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

—Love Daddy & Mom & Daddy & Mom

 

I challenged my parents when I could and strayed from their guidance from time to time, but I believe that I hold and practice what they deemed to be important as what I now deem to be important.   Some of the realizations came a while ago like when at 16 and I announced that I would not be going to college because I thought it was irrelevant.  My mother’s response lasted just a few seconds, and I have since gone on to get a doctorate.  Some of the realizations like the importance of planning and managing my time came much later.

Seemingly through osmosis, what you learn as important shows up throughout your adulthood.  It comes out of your mouth as the words of your parents as well as their temperament. It stares back at you when you look into the mirror.  And you can only hope to see it in the faces of your children who, when you have with them the conversations that your parents had with you, remind you of yourself.

Certainly, however and whenever you learn what you deem important changes with experience and time. I believe that the most important lessons and guidance from my parents were in their prayers for me; the hope that I would find and facilitate joy in my life and in this world.  Reading the lessons in their letters to me is like finding pages from the Instruction Manual for Life along my path.  Crumb navigation indeed.

Crumb #94: May every lesson, each prayer, and all guidance create a path to joy and compassion—the truly important things in life.

 

HAPPY 95th BIRTHDAY MS. RUBY DEE-VA! – She Lied About Her Age

(1922-2014)

My mother instilled in my brother, sister, and me the importance of hard work, equanimity, and integrity, but Mom used to lie about her age. At various points in her life, Mom was between 2 and 14 years older than what was recorded, reported, or otherwise divulged. Mom had one age on her birth certificate, another age on her driver license, yet another on her passport, and another in the media.

Growing up, we knew better than to ask her how old she was. As we got older, she preferred for us not to divulge our ages. Conversations about age turned into conversations about how older actors were passed over for roles. She was already black. She was already a woman. She wasn’t about to be old too.

When Mom needed a new driver license, and when Homeland Security got involved with visits to the White House, Mom had to align her documents. Even then, I still didn’t know her age. After Daddy passed in 2005, their attorney blurted out, “Oh Ruby, you know you’re the same age as me. Eighty-two.” When she didn’t correct him or deny it, I covered my mouth and gasped. It was the first time I knew for sure how old she was.

My mother did not claim her real age publicly until 2012 when we celebrated her 90th birthday with a screening of, Life’s Essentials With Ruby Dee. It was then that she embraced her age and talked about galvanizing the elders to get their walkers and wheelchairs and roll against the injustices that never eluded her outrage.

Every once in a while Mom would say profound things. Once she turned 90, her pithy remarks were mostly about living and aging well. Noodling Ninety, she called it. Crumb Navigation features some of Mom’s quotes seasoned with  her wisdom, courage, grace, and her inimitable sense of humor about aging and life in her nineties.

There was no one like my mother. She was a generous, selfless, hopeful, rough, and rusty street fighter who loved her family. Along with my brother, sister, and our families, I will always be humbled by her compassion for us as well as for the People. She was a true believer in the human spirit, and marveled at what she called the “God stuff” in every living thing. She was proof that life is an incredible set of circumstances.

 

Photo by Anthony Barboza