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Oomah

I was a fairly young man when I lost the last of my four biological grandparents.  In fact, it was 17 years ago today that my Grandpa Wilson passed away, leaving me without a grandparent…

…or so I thought.

Each of my parents’ parents were unique in their own way, and I would like to think that I carry with me and channel a little bit of them on a daily basis.

My Grandma Hattori was a small, gentle woman who had the amazing ability to taste something once and then go home and duplicate it perfectly.  Though technically untrained, she was probably the best cook I ever knew.  I would like to think that a small part of her lives every day in my kitchen…

My Grandpa Hattori was was proud man, who, fortunately for me, kept nearly all of his hair until the very end.  By the time I really got to know him as an older teenager, he had grown his hair out to shoulder length…a stark contrast to the buzzcut he had sported through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  As a Japanese man who lived through World War II, he very easily could have looked at his half-gaijin grandson and wanted nothing to do with him.  Instead, through me, he saw a world coming together, a future of peace.  I laugh every time I think of him because back in 1988, he said to me in, “you represent two worlds coming together as one.  You will be President of America someday.” Though my behavior in college has pretty much made that an impossibility, I do like to think that he inspired me to carry with me a more worldly perspective – one that looked beyond one’s own house, town, state, country or ethnicity.

My Grandma Wilson was, for so long, the glue that held the Wilson Clan together.  She was glamorous, elegant and sophisticated and always brought a touch of class to every occasion, but I think it was her athleticism I was lucky enough to inherit.  Living in South Florida, she would start every day with 50 laps in the pool.  That dedication to health and fitness still guide me today.

My Grandpa Wilson was the last of my grandparents to leave us.  A somewhat fiery man in his youth, he had mellowed quite a bit by the time I got to know him.  I remember him falling asleep in front of the TV, telling his off color jokes and making the best hamburgers you will ever taste (I’d like to think my hamburgers are pretty close facsimiles).  Of the four grandparents, it’s Grandpa Wilson’s voice that I can still distinctly hear.  Not only can I close my eyes and hear his voice, I hear it when I tell really dumb dad jokes to Katie (to which she rolls her eyes). Every time I hear or use a pun I can’t help but think of him (one of his favorites: “What’s two-thirds of a pun?  P-U!” cue the groans).

On January 7th, 1998, I thought I had been left grandparent-less; that I was now the second, not third generation of my family.  At that point, I had been dating Jess for a year. We would get engaged the following September and wed in June of 1999.

Even before our wedding, I can’t tell you exactly when, I knew I had gained a new lease on being a grandchild.  Jess’ grandma June, better known to all of us as Oomah, embraced me as one of her own almost immediately.  The first time I met her, was in Tampa Bay, Florida.  Jess and I had flown down to escape the cold weather of New York City.  At the time she lived in a community that had a pool that Jess and I spent almost all of our time at.  On that first night I was introduced to Oomah’s Cucumber Salad.  Upon my first bite, I looked up and insisted that she give me the recipe.  She simply smiled and said, “we’ll see.”

She needed to make sure this young man her granddaughter had brought to visit was worthy.  On the last day of our visit, she gave me the recipe.  It is, by far, one of my favorite dishes of all time.

She would eventually move north to live with her daughter in Western MA, for which I am very grateful.  It meant that not only would Katie and Brooke get a real chance to know their great-grandmother, but that I too would get to spend some regular quality time with my grandma.  Over the last 17 or so years, through countless occasions, we would always find time to sit, just the two of us, and talk.

We would often talk about the kids, or Jess, or my job or Jess’ job, but I always savored the moments when she would talk about her own personal history.  Oomah was a fighter, a pioneer.  She did not lead a typical life.  As a young woman, at a time when such actions were unheard of, she left a bad marriage, taking her kids with her.  She had a quiet strength, but your knew that if she needed to, she could bring a storm down upon you.  She also had a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor.  Oomah’s singing voice, well, let’s just say it left something to be desired, but she knew that.  She would say that when she sang to the babies, they would fall asleep as a method of self-defense.  She passed that strength, sense of humor and individualism on to both of her children, who then passed them on to their own kids.  Each of Oomah’s four grandchildren are unique, strong, funny individuals, all of whom I admire very much.

I would like to believe that not only through my hours of conversation with Oomah, but also through the relationship I have with my father-in-law, Jess and her three cousins, that I too carry a bit of Oomah with me on a daily basis.  I hope I can emulate her strength and humor throughout the rest of the time I have on this planet.

Oomah passed away Monday night/Tuesday morning, almost 17 years to the day I lost my Grandpa Wilson.  Even though her health had been in decline and we had prepared ourselves for this, it still hurts.  The finality of when our loved ones pass through that doorway is heavy.  I take solace in knowing that some of Oomah’s spirit lives on here in this plane of existence, through her two children and their spouses, four grandchildren and their spouses, eight great-grandchildren, and I am sure many, countless others who were touched by her gentle strength and grace, and hopefully through me.

I already miss youOomah.  Thank you for seeing me, accepting me, and loving me as a grandson.  I am forever grateful.

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Oomah on our wedding day – 1999

 

 

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Thanksgiving with Oomah and the girls – 2013

 

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Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.

Proverbs 10:17

Last Friday I wrote about the myth about human trafficking and the Super Bowl.  It was my response after reading this by this “health” blogger.  The blogger and I have had our philosophical differences in the past, but to me, this was pretty cut and dry.  I left a few comments with links to groups that are in the trenches of human trafficking, pointing out that they, these advocacy groups for the victims of human trafficking, were saying that this myth was hurting, not helping, the victims of this horrible crime.

Her response?  Nothing.

I pointed out that some of the very sources she linked to at the bottom of her post had altered their opinions on the matter, so shouldn’t she?

Nothing.

The very people she is claiming to care so much about are asking her to change her stance and her response is…silence.  Now, I don’t doubt that this blogger’s heart is in the right place, but when you let pride overwhelm what is right, what does that say about you and everything else you supposedly stand for?  What does that say about all of the “out of the box” remedies and life style choices (some of which are brilliant) she advocates for?  If she can’t go back and admit she is wrong on something like human trafficking, how can we trust that the health choices she advocates for haven’t been debunked or even classified as unsafe?

Pride…it can make you do stupid things.

***

The other day fitness model and personal trainer Bella Falconi posted this on her Instagram Feed:

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Inspiring, right?  I used to feel the same way until someone pointed out to me years ago that although everyone does in fact have the same 24 hour every day, some must work 2 or 3 jobs, through no fault of their own other than life, just to put a roof over their children’s head and food in their children’s stomachs.  After a 16 hour day, as a parent, would you choose to go work out or spend some quality time with your children?  I said as much in the comments section, noting that perhaps until one is a parent, one cannot understand.  I can’t actually tell you exactly what I said because Bella Falconi’s response was to delete and block.  Now granted, this wasn’t the first time I had called her out on something.  It was the second.  The first was when she used the term “retard” in a derogatory manner.  Then, just like the blogger above, the response was silence.  At 27, this may simply be the immaturity of youth or that she has lived in the bubble of her success for too long.  I don’t know her, so I can’t say.  What I can say is that the response, much like the one above, seems to be rooted in pride.

***

A few month ago, Autism Speaks held a “March on Washington” event.  Leading up to it, Suzanne Wright wrote her now famous op-ed about lost children, broken families and cities build for autistic people.  As Autism Speaks patted itself on the back with a lavish party in DC complete with a Broadway review, thousands of autistic individuals and their families tried to make it clear to Suzanne and Autism Speaks that in order to truly speak for autistic people, the organization needed to let those people actually speak…but more importantly, Autism Speaks needed to listen.

The response?  Nothing.  Autism Speaks continues to believe that autistic individuals should not have a voice in how the world’s largest autism advocacy group operates.  One doesn’t have to have a Ph.D. to see just how wrong this is.

***

This all led me to posting this the other day:

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And maybe that is what it comes down to.  Perhaps Sarah, Bella and Suzanne all feel that admitting that they are wrong on something will be perceived as a sign of weakness.  Perhaps they are afraid that if they admit they are wrong on something that people will call into question everything that has come before.  I believe the exact opposite to be true, because if you are willing to admit that you make mistakes, it shows me that you actually care about what you are putting forth; that at some point, you will go back and double-check and triple-check your work; that if someone says, “hmm. I don’t know about that…”, you’ll go back, see if there are new facts or new science either backing or refuting what you say, and you will act appropriately.

Admitting you are wrong, when you are wrong, is a sign of strength.  As my friend Allissa said, “Knowledge + Humility = Power”.

***

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
Proverbs 10:17
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Family

Friends are the family you choose...and that choose you.

Friends are the family you choose…and that choose you.

They say you can’t choose your family…I beg to differ.

For those who don’t regularly follow either Jess or me on the blogosphere or elsewhere, it’s been a tough few weeks – we found out that Brooke has been suffering from brain seizure activity and that the seizures may be causing some language loss for our baby.  Although we have seen quite a bit of horizontal growth in her language over the last year, her vertical development has essentially stagnated, if not taken a step backward.  We are in the middle of the process of trying to figure out what is going on.  An MRI performed last week showed no abnormalities in her brain structure.  We are still waiting to hear what her 24-hour EEG revealed.

It’s been difficult and I wrote last week how many of YOU have been our Sunlight during this confusing time.  Part of my personal therapy has been to run – this streak could not have come at a better time for me; some runs have been full of deep thought, others have been an opportunity to simply shut out the outside world and go.  As you may know, I have run every run running the Charity Miles App.  Using the GPS in your smartphone, it tracks your run (or bike ride or walk) and makes a small donation for every mile that you cover.  I’ve written more about the app and Charity Miles —>Here<—.

I always thought that Gene (the founder) was a pretty good guy.  I liked his story and I liked what he was doing.  What I didn’t truly realize was that this guy is paying attention and he truly cares.  When Jess and I first found out about Brooke’s brain seizure activity, we were devastated and that devastation was reflected in my posts – Gene tracked my phone number down through a mutual friend and called me to make sure I was okay.  This isn’t a guy I know.  We have never met, but he cares about his Charity Miles team.  I was floored.

But it didn’t stop there.

A few days later, after finishing up a run, I went through my routine of logging my miles, first through the Charity Miles App.  The way it works is that after your run, in order to have the donations sent to your charity of choice, you must post that you ran using the app on Facebook and Twitter.  Charity Miles always has a few hashtags thrown in, I assume to draw attention to groups they are working with.  I always add the #AutismStreaks hashtag and the day before hitting send.  On that particular day, I was surprised to see another one: #TeamLuau

I blinked.  I didn’t think I had added that.  No, I’m sure I didn’t do that.  Then I wasn’t so sure – sometimes I do these things on auto-pilot.  I did a twitter search of the #TeamLuau hashtag – and there it was, on every Charity Miles run done for Autism Speaks.

I was speechless.  I tweeted Charity Miles that I was speechless, honored, thankful.

Their response?

Simply put?

We’re family.

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