Category Archives: family

The Death of Dr. Jack Kevorkian


Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his Death Machine

It’s strange somehow to hear that Dr. Jack Kevorkian died.  It’s like hearing that Sara Lee ate cake or Les Schwab had his car repaired.  One rarely thinks that those who work in a field actually experience their work as a customer as well.   Jack Kevorkian advocated for individuals to have the right to terminate their lives with the help of a physician if both feel their quality of life is at such a low level as to make that life no longer livable.  He not only promoted this idea, but participated in physician-assisted suicides many time.  Kevorkian had guidelines for this choice; however, they were much more liberal than any state’s that has passed legislation allowing physician-assisted suicide.

My father, a pharmacist and brilliant man, agreed with Dr. Kevorkian.  After many conversations with Dad about Dr. Kevorkian and his beliefs, I know that Dad believed that if a person’s life did not meet the standards of quality he or she desired, or if an individual had a condition that would cause deterioration of his or her body or mind, the person should be able to choose death instead of suffering.  He also believed that a physician had a responsibility to assist those who could not take their own lives if the patient chose to do so.

My father had a challenge with the chemistry in his brain that caused his mental faculties to progressively diminish.  After his death, we discovered that his condition could have been remediated with medication, but my father did not want to be on that type of medication for the rest of his life.  I suspect he knew the side effects would leave him different from the person he was before.  The problem was that he had already changed dramatically, but because of his condition he could not recognize those changes.  He honestly thought he was the same person he had always been.  He was wrong.  He had become paranoid, angrier, and posed a threat to himself and others.  He made rash decisions and often spoke with vitriol when he felt slighted or ignored.  We felt we could not discuss this with most people as it would further damage my father’s reputation.   The community he served so loyally, respectfully, and compassionately over the years wanted nothing to do with my father as he grew more unpredictable and unpleasant. Our family understood their response, although it hurt us very much nonetheless.

Floyd and James Glica in the 1980s

Dad read Kevorkian’s book and learned about the options for suicide should his life take a negative turn.  In 1999, my father’s worst fears became a reality.  As his mental deterioration continued, our family decided we had to make a decision about placing him in a facility for his own safety and the safety of others.  He was trying to buy a gun to protect himself from people he was certain were trying to kill him.  No one was trying to kill my father.  No one at all.  Although we tried very hard to keep our plans from him, through an error at his physician’s office he found out.  After a great deal of planning, on July 30, 1999, my father drove to a secluded spot in the mountains around his home, put a hose from the exhaust pipe to the back of his covered truck bed, started the car, climbed into the back of his truck, and there, alone, died from carbon monoxide poisoning. I suspect Dad chose this method to die because he read that this type of death was painless and fairly quick.  In his meticulous planning, he sent a note to my mother that day telling her where he could be found. The next day, when the letter arrived in the mail at my aunt’s house where I had sent Mom to ensure her safety, Mom had the police and two of our closest friends go to the spot Dad described.  He was there, dead, no gas left in the GM truck, and his mission accomplished. He did not want to live a life that was less than he dreamed.  What Dad couldn’t see is that his death, let alone in this fashion, was not what we had dreamed either.

As Kevorkian lay in his hospital bed dying, surrounded by those he loved, listening to the classical music he so dearly enjoyed, I wonder if he thought about the lives he changed in which he may not have actively participated, but inspired nonetheless.  I wonder if he understood the anguish of the parents, spouses, children, and siblings who have to deal with the choices these individuals made.  It’s not Kevorkian’s fault certainly, but, at least in my father’s case, he played a role in my father’s choice.

In my faith tradition, suicide has spiritual consequences with which I, for one, would not choose to engage.  I recognize that not everyone agrees with me on this topic.  My father clearly did not agree.  Neither did Jack Kevorkian.  Although I’ve actively cared for people at the end stages of their lives due to cancer and other conditions, I do not claim to understand the depth of agony individuals experience at the end of protracted and savage illnesses. I can say that I understood from the outset why my father chose as he did, but it didn’t help ease the grief for us, especially for my mother.

The irony, of course, is that Kevorkian recently said that he was not ready to die yet because he still had missions to fulfill in his life.  One might contemplate whether a part of Kevorkian’s karma is dying with his life ending unfulfilled.  Perhaps for families like ours was in 1999, his unfulfilled missions are our blessing.

Plaque commemorating the site where my father died.

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January 1, 2011


As we approach the new year of 2011, I can’t help but remember my father’s observation as a pharmacist in the 1980s.  He said, “We’ve had more changes in the last 50 years in medicine than in all the years prior.”  Of course, the changes that transpired in those immediately previous 50 years emerged from the foundation of work by generations of scientists.  After all, the first concocted antibiotic wasn’t developed until sulfanilamide and penicillin in the early part of the 20th century.   As I contemplate the last 100 years, inspired by the recent loss of my great-uncle Gene at 103, I took a gander at what he had seen in his lifetime.

In the last 10 decades, we’ve seen the Nobel Prize for physics go to Madame Marie Curie (France) for the discovery of the elements, radium and polonium in 1911.  50 years later, in 1961,  this same prize was awarded to Robert Hofstadtler (United States) for his determination of the shape and size of atomic nuclei.  A mere 10 years ago, in 2001, the award went to Wolfgang Ketterle (Germany), Eric A. Cornell, and Carl E. Wieman (United States), for discovering a new state of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate [1].  Imagine!  A new state of matter, theorized by Albert Einstein, but not proved until this group did so.  This year, we will see new weights established for the periodic table.  We have seen the extinction of animals and diseases and the rise of others.

As we enter 2011, diving into the year 5772 in the Hebrew calendar, 4708 in the Chinese calendar, 1432 in the Islamic calendar, or the Mayan long count of 12.19.18.0.0, our lives have been changed dramatically by many events.  We have seen wars and conflicts in Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, to name a few.   The Berlin Wall has been built and destroyed.  Cultural revolutions have fulmugated around the world.  We have witnessed the New Deal, the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of an African-American president of the United States.  

We have seen unfathomable growth and challenges in the last century including the change in perception between the First World War when little was thought about homosexuals at all to the current day when homosexuals will be allowed to openly serve in the military.   We have moved from a time when a Black person couldn’t marry a White person to today when gays are marrying in some states in the U.S.  The economy has seen boons and busts throughout the century including the Great Depression in the 1930s.  Here are some other interesting tidbits:

Year     Fed. Spending [2]   Fed. Debt [2]  Postage [3]  UI Rate [4]

                   (In billions)             (In billions)

1911          $           .69               $           0.o          $ .02              6.7%

1961                  97.72                        292.6             .04               5.5%

2001            1,864.00                   5,807.o              .34               4.8%

2011            3,833.90                    1,266.7              .46               9.6%

I suppose with all this reminiscing about our past, the next logical step would be to imagine what will be in our future.  I’d rather not.  Not because I think things will be worse, but because it won’t serve any purpose.  The real question is, where are we now? 

On a personal level, I have lost my entire adopted family of origin, but I have found my family of birth.  I have encountered family members from seven generations born between 1881 and 2003.  I’ve changed careers from working in a pharmacy in the 1970s to being a music educator  today.  I’ve had the pleasure to see my husband, children, and grandchildren all working toward growing their successes.  I have returned to school to complete my education.  If my family is a microcosm of America, which it may be, then one can extrapolate that although things have been tough, we have our eyes on making things better.  We are stepping back to get a good view of where we are, and taking steps to improve our situation. 

January 1, 2011, is, I suspect, a preparatory time toward a major shift in our lives.  We, as a family and as a country, are readying ourselves for a giant leap forward.  What shape that will take, I don’t know.  We are talking about our spirits.  We are valuing our children in a more vibrant way.  We are demanding a better education for them.  We are begging for art and beauty.  We are striving for unity.  These are all good things that I believe will make us stronger, wiser, and more solid as a national and world community. 

I welcome the coming new year with everything it has to bring.  Gratitude permeates every fiber of my being as I look forward to the forthcoming 365 days.   So, in that gratitude, I say in anticipation of the coming celebration, Happy New Year and welcome to 2011!

_____________________________

References

 [1] Infoplease.com (2010) List of Nobel Prize winners for Physics.  Retrieved from  http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0105785.html

 [2] USGovernmentSpending.com (2010) [Data] Retrieved fromhttp://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year2011_0.html

[3] U.S. Postal Service (2010) News Release:  New Rates Retrieved from  http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2010/pr10_064.htm

[4] Forcasts.org (2010) Unemployment figures (Data) Retrieved from http://www.forecasts.org/unemploy.htm

(2010) “Happy New Year 2011” [Photograph] Retrieved from http://win7dl.com

(2010) “Human Arrow” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://ypg-prioryroad.com

(2010) “Marie Curie” [Photograph]. Retrieved from http://reich-chemistry.wikispaces.com

Songs of Winter, Songs of the Heart


When it is cold, people spend more time indoors.  As they gather, music seems to play a vital role in their quiet time, celebrations, and family cultures.  As Chanukah has passed and Christmas approaches, I’ve thought about this quite a bit.   My question is, why is music so important to many of us at this time of year?

Higher level animals make sounds as part of their communication systems.   These emanations are warnings, calls to their families and potential mates, and serve as locators.  Human beings developed the ability to create organized sounds through speech, and the rhythms became an important part of their communication process as well.  There must have been something intensely satisfying to the first humanoids to insist on recreating these sounds. 

Take a moment to close your eyes.  Breathe deeply.  Now, hum a little bit.  Do you feel it rumble in your chest, right near your heart?  Now, hum your favorite song for a few bars.  Are you transported to a higher level of happiness as you do this?  Most of us are.  These sounds surround our heart, fill our chests, and heighten our minds awareness.  They cause our bodies to produce a chemical reaction that gives us pleasure.

When we join together to sing or listen to music, the collective happiness grows exponentially.  Our voices, hearts, and ears are working together to unite us and remind us of the precious gifts we have.  If we do the same things we did earlier, only together, we will see how much better it can be.  Take someone you love, hold them, close your eyes, and hum a song you like together.  The intimacy is intense; the joy fulfilling. 

During the holidays, we raise our voices together in celebration of God’s promise and His gifts.  As the Festival of Lights shows us, we are sustained here on Earth through the miracles of resources we never imagined possible.  In Christmas, we find the birth of unimaginable love.   In one another, we are reminded of the same gifts.

So, this holiday season, join together to sing or listen to music.  Remember the hum of your heart and spirit as the music envelopes you.  May God bless you and keep you and your loved ones happy and safe this holiday season and throughout the coming new year.

Sexuality vs. Love


All hearts can love.

As we continue having debates regarding rights, freedoms, and full citizenship for people in same-gender relationships, we may want to conserve our energy and make our discussions more efficient and accurately reflective of every type of relationship.

As I watched Current TV, the channel developed by former vice-president Al Gore, and Illinois senator, Al Franken (D), I heard a woman say that these debates, especially those going toward the U.S. Supreme Court, are made more challenging because the word sex is involved.   The word to which she was referring was, “Homosexuality.”

If it’s really an issue, why not use a different word?  The Latin word, “homo,” means, “same.”  “Hetero,” mean “different.” The Latin root, “amor,” means, “love.” 

Homoamorous means two people of the same gender love one another. 

Heteroamorous means two people of different genders love one another.

So, why not change the word.  It’s not as though we’re using ancient or sacred words to describe our relationships.  “Homosexuality” was coined on May 6, 1869 by Karoly Maria Benkert, a 19th Century Hungarian physician, who first broke with traditional thinking when he suggested that people are born homosexual and that it is unchangeable.  With that belief as his guide, he fought the Prussian legal code against homosexuality that he described as having “repressive laws and harsh punishments (Conrad and Angel, 2004).” 

One would suspect that Dr. Benkert would appreciate this change in lexicon so that we change our focus in this debate from sex to love.  John and Frank are not two people in sex.  They are two people in love.  Deborah and Sheila are not two women who spend their lives sexing each other, they are two women loving each other.  This is especially true because homosexuality has been demedicalized in so many ways.

If we’re going to have to have this debate in the first place, let’s speak accurately about the people involved.  We are homoamorous people.  We are two people of one gender who are in love.  Those in opposite gender relationships are heteroamorous. 

How complicated can that be?  If I were to approach someone and ask them if they’d like a slice of bread, their first question is likely, “What kind is it?”  As a people, we love clarity.  Homosexuality and heterosexuality are simply not clear enough terms for the breadth of our relationship.  Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are clear winners when it comes to describing the relationships with which I am most familiar.

Sexuality is an important, if not a terribly time consuming part of most marriage relationships.  It helps motivate our interest in a particular person whose gender is consistent with what we prefer; however, that, too, is not always the case. 

Is it unthinkable that two people can have a relationship that is purely emotional in form, without sex, who continue to love one another nonetheless?  Ask many people who are of a certain age. 

Homoamorosity and heteroamorosity are not only options for the terms homosexuality and heterosexuality, they might even be the preferred forms given their more emotionally inclusive qualities. 

My mother used to say, when trying to get the direct truth out of me, “Jim, call a spade a spade.”  Although I never played bridge, from which this term comes, I knew what she meant.  Name something as it is.  I now get that message all the more clearly.

Thanks, Mom.

__________________________

References:

2010, Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/homosexuality/

Conrad, P., & Angell, A. (2004). HOMOSEXUALITY AND REMEDICALIZATION. Society, 41(5), 32-39. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Governor Attacks the Poor… Again


According to a recent report from NBC affilliate, KCRA 3 in Sacramento, California, Governor Schwarzenegger has once again carved into the lives of the poor, the young, the infirmed, and those least able to bear the edge of his economic scalpel.

Programs like Cal-WORKS, which is the  work-for-welfare program, mental health services, foster parent programs, and other necessary departments are being slashed to accommodate the $20 billion shortfall.  According to the report, this budget reduction will affect 1.4 million people in the third largest state in the union.  With a total population of 38,292,687 California citizens, that means that over 3.5% of the people in the Golden State are going to have to decide what to do in response to this situation.

One must wonder whether the highest paid administrators in state government are taking cuts in their pay, or if there is going to be a reduction in any of their benefits. 

The lame duck governor has also indicated that a budget will not be signed that is not accompanied by budget and pension reforms.   That is akin to saying that we must have better architectural plans for a barn that is currently burning.   I’m certain that in Governor Schwarzenegger’s mind he is trying to avoid future issues of this type; however, as is spoken in the vernacular, he is “a day late and a dollar short.” 

Click here for "Governor Schwarzenothing"

It was less than a year ago, we were discussing the the fact that the governor was flexing his muscles in areas that were not a top priority for the majority of Californians. 

Programs such as research grants, expansion of prisons and universities, secondary transportation activities that are not being supplemented by the federal government, and parks and recreation should be cut long before programs that support children and the ill.  

There should be three rules of thumb by which the governor reviews the budget:

1.  Does this item support our children in any way?

2.  Does this item support physical and mental health care for the largest number of people?

3.  Does this item promote employment in the state?

Anything else should be eligble for reduction. 

The ironic thing is that after all these years contending with Governor Schwarenegger, we’re finally realizing that he doesn’t meet any of these criteria. 

Hey! that gives me an idea!

________________________  

For great websites presented directly to you, go to:  http://alphainventions.com/

Reference:  http://www.kcra.com/politics/23553612/detail.html

Mothers Mine


For you, mothers mine.

More than most, I’ve been blessed with mothers in abundance.  I’ve had a birth mother, an adoptive “real” mother, a genuine second mother, and two wonderful mothers-in-law.

On this Mother’s Day, May 9, 2010, I remember those women who have graced my life with their love, wisdom, strength, nurture, and change.

Betty Arroyo

Elizabeth Gertrude Herrera Arroyo (November 24, 1939 – August 12, 1990)  Birth mother – You gave me life and years after I left your presence, you gave me answers about who and how I am.  I am forever grateful for all the gifts you gave me, Mom. Love, Teddy/James

Teresa Glica

Maria Teresa Chavez Glica (August 15, 1922 – November 23, 2005)  Real mother – With strength and grace, you showed me how to be the best of who I could be.  You guided me toward living a life in which I could look for nothing less than the best of myself and others.  You were always my best friend.  I love you, Ma.  Love, Jim

Mary Baldi

Maria Theresa Catalano Baldi (October 28, 1919)  Second mother – You’ve shown me what fidelity and veracity are in a way that few others could.  You always speak the truth and show me love and support.  Thank you, Aunt Mary.  Love, Jimmy

Carla Daw

Carla Mary Koster Daw Jacobson (November 7, 1936 –  May 19, 2007) Mother-in-law –  Mother-in-law-dearest, you trusted me with your daughter and your grandchildren and even after the divorce, you still called me,  “Son” the day before you died.  That meant the world to me.  I miss you.  Love, Jim

Eva Hoffhine

Eva Garcia Hoffhine (October 17, 1937 – April 16, 2011)  Mother-in-law – You never lost hope in me, even when times grew difficult between your son and me.  Thank you for keeping the light burning because you’ve added to my life in immeasurable ways.  I love you, Mom. Love, James

To my grandmothers, Gam and Mami, who were here as well, thank you for my memories that I will always cherish of both of you.

So, to each of you I present this bouquet of roses as a tribute to my love, respect, and gratitude for the years of support and joy you’ve brought to my life.  Like this varietal ensemble of beauty, each of you have offered the best that life and love have to offer.   With all my love, I honor you, mothers mine.

 

Updated:  October 17, 2011

 

Last Few Minutes of the Game


Texas Longhorn receiver, Quan Cosby in last seconds of the game.Whenever we see a sporting event or theatrical production, the last few minutes of the experience are so powerful.  The teams are battling for supremecy, the last push is thrashed for the big win, or the 11:oo o’clock song is sung.  It’s the finale, so everyone expects things to be big, dramatic, and utterly memorable.

Life is like that, too.  When we are closing in on the final days or minutes of our lives, our life experiences become phenomenally intense.

In the month preceeding my father’s suicide, he began scurrying all over California, trying to find a place to call home where he felt safe.  His mental illness and paranoia was taking over and we, as his family, had to make decisions that would protect him and those around him, including my mother.  There were battles and accusations, pleas and vitriol spewed everywhere as we tried to resolve these issues.

Ultimately, Dad decided how things were going to go and killed himself  in the back of his truck using carbon monoxide from the exhaust pipe.

When Mama was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer six years later, she seemed fairly resigned to her fate.  She was, after all, 83 years old and ready to be with my father. 

The strange thing is that the night before she died, she grew very impatient and angry.  She wasn’t able to communicate because her lungs had filled up with fluid from the cancer and she was incredibly weak because she hadn’t be able to eat for four weeks.  I gave her some medication to calm her down and she went to sleep.  I will never know what it was she was trying to communicate because she died during the night.

When my son and grandbaby were lost to miscarriages, the intensity was overwhelming for everyone.  With my son, my then-girlfriend and I were 15 years old, far too young to be parents.  With my grandchild, my daughter’s grandmother had died only days before.  In both instances, the turmoil surrounding the pregnancies carried dynamics that these precious children couldn’t bear. 

Even my former mother-in-law asked a fascinating question as she lie dying in her hospital bed.  She and I were unusually close, considering that my ex-wife and I had been divorced for 22 years.  She asked, “Jim, what do you think it’s like after we die?”

This amazingly strong woman was 71 years old and was asking me this question.  It was a profoundly powerful moment of intimacy between us. 

“I think that there is an afterlife and it is whatever we believe it will be.  I believe it will be loving and joyful if that’s where our hearts are.  It will be cold and lonely if that’s how we view our lives.”

“How do we know when we’re going to die?” she queried.

“When we are free from fear and ready.” I responded.

As she pondered what I had said, I saw her looking around her hospital room into the faces of her loving daughters and granddaughters. 

“I’m ready.  Let’s pray.” she said.  So, we all joined hands and began praying out loud.  Then, the room grew silent.  After nearly ten minutes, Mother-in-law-dearest, which is what I always called her, opened her eyes.

“I’m still here?”  We all broke out into ribald laughter.

The next morning, quietly and peacefully, she joined those who had gone before her.

One of my former students, who lost her life at 21 years old in an automobile accident, knew at her inner most level, if not consciously, that she was not long for this lifestream.  Her poetry, music, and prayers all were clear pictures of that truth.  We all missed the messages because we either weren’t ready to hear them or we weren’t supposed to hear them.  The preparation experience apparently was for her alone.

There are times when we do see it coming. 

When my brother, my family, and I were sitting around the table eating the day my mother died, after a discussion about his alcoholism and desire to be alone, my family and I knew that David would be gone within the year.  Sadly, it only took him four months to transition into his new existence.  The signs were there.  His awareness was there.  He was clearly ready.  We were simply able to see it.  Even with that clarity, there was nothing we could do to prevent him dying from his alcoholism.

Life is intense and full of meaning.  Death is no different. 

Our fears and our joys are amplified as we approach our final time.  It’s remarkable how many times one has heard, “He said he loved me in a way that was so much more intimate the night before he died.”   There had been no warning or omen.  There had been no disease or chronic illness.  He was just aware at his spiritual core that he had to say good-bye and mean it.

As I watched my cousin deal with his own demise this week, I realized that his battle has only begun, although it is likely to last only a few more weeks.  Like my mother, his aunt, he is dying of pancreatic cancer.  He is only 50 years old.

His children and girlfriend are also trying to make sense of what makes no sense at all. 

I hope they all find peace in this process and can say good-bye in a loving, healthy way, as a unified family.  It will make a difference to all of them, my cousin included. 

I’ve experienced 46 deaths of people close to me in my lifetime.  Each of their lives have changed who I am.  They have made a difference.  My cousin has made a difference in my life.  The weight of their absence is great.  The silence of their voices nearly painful.  Yet, the love they’ve given and the love they’ve let me share is what I hold onto now.  It’s all I have left.

Now, as your shot clock winds down, as the last few pages of your score are sung, I wish you “Good journey!” Joe.  Bravo, Cousin, for a life fully lived.  I love you.  I will miss you.  Thank you for changing my life with your love.

__________________________________

For great websites presented directly to you, go to:  http://alphainventions.com/

By Any Other Name…


Oddly, I’ve been thinking recently that having someone else’s name is a strange thing to do.  I write, “Oddly,” because I’ve had no fewer than six monikers in my life time.  From earliest to most recent:

Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera (The name my mother would have bestowed upon me had she not given me up for adoption.  Both names were after my paternal and maternal grandfathers.)

Herrera (The name on my very first birth certificate.  This was Mom’s surname.)

Hal (The name given to me by Children’s Home Society before I got adopted.  Look at my face to the right.  Do I honestly look like a Hal to you?)

James Stanley Glica (My adoptive name, after my uncle who introduced my parents and my paternal grandfather.)

James Stanley Chávez-Glica (The name I chose to honor my mother and father.)

James Stanley Chávez Glica-Hernandez (My married name.)

Sometimes, I like to string them all together with my title and degree, just for effect:

Reverend James Stanley Teódolo Conrado Arroyo Herrera Chávez Glica-Hernandez, D.Div.

Come on, say that five times fast.  I dare you.

Anyhoo, after all these name changes, I’m starting to think that my name, which at its core has remained James Stanley Glica since 1959, was enough all along.  I love my mother and the name Chávez for a million reasons, but Glica was the name she chose to use, as well.  My children are all Glica.  I didn’t take my ex-wife’s name when we got married.  I have to admit that it’s because I might have become James Daw-Glica.  Uh, no, thank you.  Go ahead.  Re-syllablize it yourself. 

Did you have fun?  

We could talk all about the sociological reasons why wives originally took their husband’s names.  Yes, class, ownership is one reason.  We could talk about the standardization of second class citizenship afforded women until relatively recently, even on a letter:

“Mrs. Herbert Smith”

Either this woman’s parents need a solid chastising, or this poor woman has lost her name.   Thankfully, I, of course, would not be Mr. David Hernandez.  That would be silly because my husband is Mr. David Hernandez.  I’m Mr. James Glica-Hernandez.  Yet, I digress.

Am I any less married if I were to use only Glica?  No.  Plenty of people are overwhelmed by their wedded bliss while still maintaining their names of birth or adoption.   Look at my husband.  It’s my guess that he thinks Glica is a strange name and not one he wants to carry around the rest of his life.  Hernandez is simple.  Sure it has three syllables, but everyone can spell it, knows where it’s from, and almost always knows someone else by that same name.   I only know this because on some of my identifying information, I use, James C. Hernandez.

“Ooooooooohhh!,”  the young, ebullient fellow behind the counter squeals, “I actually know two different James Hernandezes…ez…ezzzzzzzzzzz…  [Author’s note: you must visualize here a young fellow with a face that I once heard comedian, Dov Davidov, describe as having smelled freshly-baked cookies]. Do you know either of them?”

For goodness sake.   And, this coming from a boy named, Myke Johnson?  (Do you see how that’s different? Kewl, huh?)  Ugh!

 What I’ve realized, though, is that these various incarnations of my name are like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs back into my gingerbread house of memory.  As someone whose had two small strokes already and probably will have another one eventually, any tools that amplify my memory are good tools, indeed. 

“Was that pre-Chavez or post-Chavez?  When did we meet them, before- or after-Hernandez?”  It’s worked a few times, quite honestly.   The only thing is I’ve been a Chavez longer than I haven’t and I’ve wanted to be a Hernandez since nearly the time I first met my husband a dozen years ago.   So, the muddiness continues. 

After it’s all said and done, I guess I’m still Little Jimmy Glica from McCloud and Dunsmuir, California,  no matter whose grandfather I’ve become in the last 50 years.  I like it that way.  I’m proud of my entire name of birth, adoption, and marriage, and the paths I’ve taken to receive these beautiful names; however, like at the core of my name, the core of my spirit remains the same: a happy, loving little boy who loves to see people smile, sing, and dance. 

Some things, as it’s said, never change after all.
________________________

Alpha Inventions Ranking

Her Prom


The Glica Family 1993

The Glica's 1993

Like any good grandfather, when the day of my eldest granddaughter’s junior prom arrived, I called her to wish her a marvelous time, hoping the memories of her infancy were not too obvious in my voice.   Of course there was bound to be some level of poignancy in this moment considering she almost died in the hospital from being born so prematurely.    Mary is the infant in the photo to the right.

Her Grandma Barbara made her dress just as she had made her own dress in 1974 for our prom.  Mary was attending the prom with someone she has know her whole life.  In fact, their mothers were pregnant at the same time. 

I live far away from Mary and I have been ill this week with complications of my chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, so I was not there to see her off.  The interesting thing, however, is that reading my daughter, Ana’s words that she posted upon watching Mary drive off was, to my heart, just as wonderful. 

Mother and Daughter

Ana-Maria wrote, “Weeeeelllllllllll!!!!!!!! Wasn’t it just last week she was learning to walk?  Today, I watched her walk down the stairs and get behind the wheel of the car with her boyfriend at her side!  As they drove off to the prom, I realized just how much of a lady she has become!”

I smiled, because I knew that being recognized as a lady was the highest praise a young woman could receive in the Schaeffer clan, one branch of my ex-wife’s people.  It was a familial tradition that, if not met, was considered a grave transgression, indeed. 

Mary and her prom date/boyfriend 2010

Mary Elizabeth is indeed a very special young woman.  She’s very smart, well spoken, acutely intuitive, can be very compassionate.  Her talents in music, art, academics, and sports would make any grandfather beam.  On top of everything else, she is beautiful, too.   As you can plainly see, she does meet the definition of a lady. 

What I love best about Mary is that she is learning to become her own person.  She knows what she wants and speaks her mind to pursue it.  She doesn’t take no for an answer… she simply suggests an alternative version that suits her. 

Mary Elizabeth will be 17 years old this September, a mere twelve months away from legal adulthood.  I believe she will be ready for the responsibilities of adulthood.  I just wonder if we will be ready for her as an adult?

Like I said, she is someone pretty special and definitely a force to be reckoned with!

Is Teenage Parenthood in Our Blood?


  As I was reviewing my genealogical records, I realized something profound.  Although I was not reared with my family of birth, I still followed my birth mother’s family tradition by feeling compelled to have children before I was twenty-years-old.  As I figured the ages of my ancestors when they had their first child, I recognized that in the Herrera line, my daughter Ana-Maria, who had her first child at seventeen-years-old, is the eighth generation to be a teenage parent.  

This generational pattern can be followed in these ancestors and progeny. 

Name  (Birth year) – Age at first child 

Gertrude Palomares Leal (1831) – 16 (possibly married)  

Guadalupe Leal Herrera (1864) – 17   (married) 

Lorenzo Herrera (1881) – 19  (married) 

Great-Grandmother Gertrude

Gertrude Herrera  Morales (1903) – 19 (unmarried)  

Lorraine D’Anna Herrera (1923) – 16  (unmarried) 

Elizabeth Gertrude Herrera Arroyo (1939) – 19  (unmarried) 

James (Teódolo Herrera-Arroyo) Glica (1959) – 16  (unmarried) 

Ana-Maria Glica  (1976) – 17   (unmarried) 

Mary Elizabeth Whitney (1993) –  Hopefully, over 20 

Having been put up for adoption at birth, I must wonder why my call to parenthood was so incredibly strong so early in my life; and, let there be no mistake, I specifically wanted to be a parent.  I always believed that it was because I was longing for a genetic link because I was missing that through my adoption.  

Now, however, I don’t know.  Perhaps there is an instinctual need to have children early in life based on my direct genetic lineage.  Could our desire to have babies be stronger than in some other families?  I simply don’t know.   In my particular Herrera line, we don’t even feel the need to be married when we have our first child.  

When I was in kindergarten, Mom was called into Mrs. Dawson’s room for a meeting apart from the parent-teacher conference.  Mrs. Dawson indicated that she was concerned about my preoccupation with playing “Daddy” in the schoolroom’s “house” area.  I regularly pretended I was everyone’s father.  Mrs. Dawson gently referred to it as “distracting.”   Could this have been the precursor to finally having five children, some of whom were not born to me? 

There are thousands of variations in the human genome that select for specific characteristics, including maturation, development, and personality.  Are these genetic details in our blood in a way that could be tested and identified categorically?  

As I look at my granddaughter, I pray daily that she breaks the pattern of our family.  I long for her to fight that cellular urge to move us all another generation up the ladder.   I have only four years to wait.   I hope she waits until she’s married and over twenty.   My suspicion is that she will.  

Wish us all luck.