Remembering Without Knowing Irvin Pharris

 

Tears well up while polishing dry crackled wood on a magazine rack built by a grandfather I never knew.  How can this inanimate object built over 70 years ago effect my emotions this way?

Though I never witnessed his wrinkled brow in concentration while whittling, sawing or hammering, I do know he was a serious and solitary man who had creative talents in carpentry. I know that he was a man who loved his daughter, my mother.

This wonderful piece of wood was constructed with patience and caring. Was it his hope to please my grandmother Evelyn, who was never happy? Or did he need to escape from her to his workshop, to keep his sanity while she was on the verge of loosing hers? Evelyn married a man 20 years older, a railroad man. He was away a lot. She berated him often. She complained and was unkind to him. My mother shared stories about her childhood, raised under her mothers ridicule, a frightened little girl in an unhappy home hearing her parents fighting, and the loss of a daddy who was dear to her. He died in his 50s from complications of a stomach ulcer. Evelyn had an affair with his coworker who drove her to the Railroad Hospital in Chicago where he was dying. I only found this out recently, but I am not surprised. Evelyn was cold. She was never grandmotherly. I suspect she had a personality disorder but the family never discussed that, and that is another story.

Wiping wood cleanser on it’s ancient varnish to bring back its luster also brings back my own childhood. My earliest memories are of playing on the floor near this magazine rack, hiding my stuffed animals inside or using its wooden platform for my Barbie dolls to stand against, it was the perfect size for Barbie feet. However, as I approached my teens, I rebelled against it, mad that my mom insisted my sister and I dust all its crevices, along with all the other furniture, every Saturday.

Thinking about my mothers’ deep sadness makes me cry. She is gone now too. All I want to do today is call her, talk to her. I want to tell her again how blessed I am to have been nourished by her love. I want to hear her kindness flow over me and hear our laughing together while we share every little thing about our lives. I want to ask more questions about her daddy, which she referred to him as with a faraway look of longing in her eyes. I wish I had realized the significance of her sharing those stories when I was younger. I failed to grasp the hurt she endured since my own childhood and our family life was very happy.

This magazine rack is a root to our connection that I keep in a safe place in my home.  I keep my mom and her memories of my grandfather alive in my heart. This piece, as well as two chairs he built, are the only things that I have from a grandfather I never met. That, and the knowledge that my mother loved him so he must have been a good man. These pieces of wood created under times of hardship, furniture unknowingly left by him, are somehow a legacy of love to a granddaughter he never knew.

Irvin Magazine

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High Society At A New Low

Passed out til noon

She swigs Bloody Marys while applying

War paint with an unsteady hand.

Sunken, hungover, puffy eyes

Veiled by Visine.

Barely gets the red out.

But the sparkle is gone for good.

 

A counterfeit in coiffed curls and fake smirk.

A gussied up clotheshorse in brand name style.

Dressed to the nines to disguise DUI’s.

 

Living an artificial reality she deceives even herself.

Sipping on Crown, searching out imperfections in others.

Fabricating falsehoods while pretending frivolity.

Stirring up slanderous gossip with her silver spoon.

Tossed back with a shot of ad naseum

She makes Happy Hour an irony.

 

08/27/2014

Donna J. Heatherly

My Dad

He is a gatherer of ideas

Expresses them well.

He is an ideal man.

 

He is open minded

Uncluttered and receptive to the opinion of others.

He is a liberal thinker.

 

He laughs openly and often.

Shares sharp amusing outlooks on current politics.

He is a humorist.

 

He is approachable and friendly.

An ally to all lucky to know him

He is a conversationalist.

 

He is empathic and sincere.

Pained and enraged by global cruelty

He is a humanitarian.

 

He is loving and loved.

He is my greatest supporter.

He is genuine.

He is my dad.

    Donne Jeannine Heatherly (08/07/2014)

 Happy 80 years wise my dear dad!

IPhone 2013 009

Ethnocultural Empathy

Our society is comprised of people from an array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. However, unfortunately, we are far away from being a successful pluralistic society. Although some integration happens spontaneously, a pluralistic society is one that acknowledges, allows and accepts the cultural diversity of its citizens. Multiculturalism is an ideology. The term refers to salad bowl or melting pot. Critics of multiculturalism often debate whether the multicultural ideal of nonthreatening, co-existing cultures that interrelate and influence one another, while remaining separate, is possible, logical or even desirable. It is argued that cultures who would previously have had a distinctive cultural identity of their own, lose out to enforced multiculturalism and that this will ultimately erode the host nations’ distinct culture.

In a political context, the term multiculturalism is used for a wide variety of meanings, ranging from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity. The politics of today limit an honest discussion of multiculturalism. Leaders will only express what they think their audience of the hour will want to hear. The heated debate about immigration reform has been ongoing for decades, and yet it continues with no real solution. I disagree with the idea that people do not need to integrate with the society in which they immigrate to. I do not think that you can set up your own little country inside of another, with differing laws and extreme values. Immigration should be examined and laws implemented in order to aid both the immigrants, as well as the host country. I think outreach action from communities to accept immigrants into their neighborhoods is crucial as well, in order to help them become and feel more integrated.

The Census Bureau predicts a shift in the composition of the U.S. population. With an estimated yearly influx of 1 million legal immigrants, there is an equal number of illegal immigrants entering the United States each year. The overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and illegal, come from the Third World. Another factor which will radically change the ethnic composition of the population — a factor given less attention by the Census Bureau — is the differential birth rates of the various groups involved. It is quite likely that, given current trends, the European American will find himself in a minority long before 2050. This would suggest that the United States of 2050 will be America Balkanized, an America without Americans, an America in which citizens will identify with their minority status and forget about the nation as a whole. This is due to three of the four major population blocs will constitute visible minorities: European Americans or Whites, African Americans or Blacks, Asian Americans or Yellows, and Hispanic Americans. These four blocs will be relentlessly political, locked in a struggle to determine how the increasingly scarce economic goods and natural resources are to be distributed to each group. Can a nation so wracked by internal struggle long endure? History suggests not.

The September 26, 2011 issue of Newsweek, on page 48, titled “Marry or else!” by Michelle Goldberg, there is a quote by former Associate General Counsel of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, James Walsh, who gives the opinion that the Balkanization of America is underway. I wonder, is this just fear-mongering? Walsh states, “Immigrants devoted to their own cultures and religions are not influenced by the secular politically correct facade that dominates academia, news-media, entertainment, education, religious and political thinking today,” He further states, “They claim the right not to assimilate, and the day is coming when the question will be how can the United States regulate the defiantly unassimilated cultures, religions and mores of foreign lands? Such immigrants say their traditions trump the U.S. legal system. Balkanization of the United States has begun.”
In an interesting decade-long study by Harvard professor of political science Robert D. Putnam, showed how multiculturalism affects social trust. He surveyed 26,200 people in 40 American communities, finding that when the data were adjusted for class, income and other factors, the more racially diverse a community is, the greater the loss of trust. People in diverse communities “don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions,” writes Putnam. In the presence of such ethnic diversity, Putnam maintains that we act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not similar to us, we distrust those who do not look like us.

I think the humane and moral solution to ease the fears, and thereby aiding in a greater understanding of all peoples on this great earth, has to begin with teaching individuals cognitive and behavioral ethnocultural empathy. This should be done at an early age. Once children understand the physical differences with other groups, they then are able to become aware of the perspectives, experiences and attitudes shared by other ethnic groups, and finally develop the ability to take the perspective of other ethnic groups. Using cultural empathy as a “learned ability” may prove to aid in conveying an accurate understanding and more peaceful interaction between the mosaic peoples of the world. Using cognitive, affective and communicative processes together, perhaps we can probe for deeper insights, find similarities, and help to accept our differences.

Traditionally, empathy is roughly defined as the intellectual ability to take the role or perspective of another person and/or an emotional response to another person with the same emotional display. Increasing research found that people usually hold different levels of empathy toward different individuals based on perceived psychological similarities, such as ethnics and culture. Particularly, people usually feel more empathetic towards individuals who are in the same ethnic/cultural groups as they are than those who are not.

Ethnocultural cultural empathy has been used in many other research areas such as racism, feminism, multiculturalism and ethnic identity, and is sometimes applied in cross-culture and/or cross-ethnics analysis. Degrees of ethnocultural empathy were reported to vary by demographics and societal factors. Previous research indicates that women are more likely to report higher level of ethnocultural empathy than men. Non-White individuals are found to have significantly higher levels of general and specific ethnocultural empathy than their White counterparts.

The doctrine of multiculturalism encourages passivity and limits intellectual discussion, and poisons perception. The mere idea that we believe that cultures should coexist without problem, does not eliminate the problems of coexistence. Blind rhetoric is not a substitute for solution to problems, so a more practical approach that is focused less on kind words and more on the best practical results, is the best. Pragmatism wins when it is at conflict with ideology, and different situations require different practical solutions. In my opinion Social integration and Social Blending is a superior alternative. But, can we create one culture that can embrace new customs?

Donna J. Heatherly

 

Limerick To My Dad

Limerick To My Dad

 As a wee lass, there were cuddles, laughter,  and kind words when I was crying.

 There was naught ever a thing in my life time that I needed.

Alas, the Insolence of youth, rolling of eyes, and sounds of sighing.

His sage advice I seldom heeded.

With age and maturity my own offspring were seeded.

Now it is known to all who have known him…

My dad is the finest, without even trying!

Thank you for your constant care and love!

 Donna J. Heatherly

Image

Dad and I Circa 1961.  He grew a beard in honor of the E. St. Louis Centennial… the hat I am wearing is his from the event.

His beard was red, and his hair was blonde, I should add!

 

 

Moments From My Daughter’s Wedding

                    My Favorite Memories From My Daughter’s Wedding (May 28, 2011)

My happy father, road-trip ready, full of life and conversation on the long ride to Minneapolis. His continuous chatter, jokes and anecdotes made for a more enjoyable journey.

Toasting the bride and groom at Friday night’s ‘meet the parents’ dinner.  Being introduced to Kent and DarLa Anderson, and getting good vibes from my daughters’ new in-laws!

Arriving at Loring Park for the ceremony and finding Tyrel’s dad all decked out in his suit, and armed with a leaf blower doing goose poop removal duty. Now that is going above and beyond!

Lauren, cool and collected by all outside appearances.  But, knowing her heart was truly all aflutter.

Tyrel’s pacing pre-ceremony, waiting for his bride’s arrival.  (She was a bit late, he was a bit worried).

My arm intertwined with Lauren’s, sharing her walk down the aisle with her dad.  Knowing how much she will always want me to share these special moments with her.

Hearing the sincere emotion in Tyrel’s voice while he read his personal vows, and actually feeling him control his tears, while witnessing his love of my daughter.  Knowing she will be cherished, appreciated and he will do everything in his power to keep them both happy.
 
The beautifully and brightly decorated cake!  Baked with love by Tyrel’s mom and presented so gorgeously. And, of course the cutting of, where the happy couple got out of control and spontaneously gave us all a giggle.

Breakfast the morning of the big day at Keys Restaurant with Dave, Diana, Vernon and Dad, enjoying freshly baked whole wheat bread served with homemade jams.  

Surprised by my sense of calm while I read the poem ‘To Love’ during the wedding ceremony.  Proud that they asked me to do so.

My very well behaved grandsons!  Dylan and Devin looked super sweet in the bright colored polo shirts and khaki’s.  The had a great time at the reception too.

Each and every guest getting out of their chairs to dance with Lauren and Tyrel during their unique 1st dance – ‘Home is Everywhere We Are’.

Dancing with my dad to Johnny Cash, to help get the party started.

Watching the amazing video that Heather put together to surprise Lauren and Tyrel, and seeing their happy, emotional reaction.  

Walking the city scape and exploring Minneapolis. Seeing first hand where Lauren and Tyrel live and knowing they are in a great place together.  
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The Huntsman

Static from the Motorola alerts me.

His whispered voice asks if I can hear him.

Urgently I pick up the walkie/talkie.

“Yes”, I whisper back.

Quietly, he tells me the bait has not been hit.

Anything can happen.

It might return tonight.

I whisper into the black device “Tonight it will happen. I feel it”.

His randy response, “I know something will happen tonight. With or without that bear”.

 

Valle’s Rock

Valle’s Rock

 

I am told of a sacred place of hunting ground

Of which he will take me

Sooner than the sun sets in the west

We trail a creek up a steep incline

A beehive appearing boulder

Rises in solitude near the bluffs

Among the pines, ash and oaks

Of the Shawnee National Forest

This mammoth of magnificence reaches 25 feet tall

 

As he shows me this tribute to Valle

A natural granite ladder leads to elation

Hands, without hesitation, pull me skyward bound

Feet sturdy on unyielding rungs of purity

I tread steps of topography seldom trekked

Reaching the pinnacle

I am solidly secure in the moment

Of our love atop an immovable existence.

In The Early Mourning

In The Early Mourning

 

Morning dew seeps

Still unable to sink

Into a peace I so need.

A veil of regret

Befalls inexhaustible.

 

I think of those days, not knowing

They were her last

The words never said

Which should have been spoken.

 

Tears escape to my pillow. Hopeless.

Like the single drop that she

Shed nearing her end.

How is it possible

She is gone

 

As I dredge up those days, now knowing

I have her to welcome me.

My fear of death is forever buried

With the ashes of her body.

 

Remembered Kisses

Nervously, my innocent lips seek out Chris’ darting tongue in the dark.   1976

Paul’s hands on my face, pressing against me with immediacy, when I walk into his house.  2008

Gingerly holding Heather in my arms, I put my parched lips softly on the top of her newborn head, while a tear of joy escapes. 1984

“Pucker up” my dad says, as he gently tucks my sister and I into bed. We giggle to his silly singing, “make a magic circle and mark it with an X.”  1966

Chivas and cigar smoldering kisses from Rich.  His eyes remain stubbornly open.   I learn too late that his heart remains closed.  2001

Taking control of Mike with my kisses, I convince myself that he turns me on.  1979

Vernon’s lips graze mine, over and over again, becoming stronger, he looks deep into my eyes as we collapse at the moment of truth.  2009

The kiss I could not give; damned by the mask, leukemia, hospital rules and my dear mothers’ abrupt death.   2009