My Radical Conclusion

Blog May 2, 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019.

I am still pretty much fuming over yesterday’s ridiculousness over the embarrassment I exhibited in the doctor’s office. But instead of being negative about it, I decided to be productive and spent the remainder of the day searching for a new primary care physician (female this time, and a real doctor not these cute P.A.’s or whatever bullshit scam this country is peddling upon its citizens in lieu of legitimate healthcare). I also found a reputable ENT relatively nearby so that I am able to officially get some sort of hearing aid device for myself. I am sick and tired of being treated like a second class citizen. And I shouldn’t have to explain why I decided to start taking better care of myself. I am doing so because I fucking want to that’s why!

I was born in America. I have worked incredibly hard over the years just like everyone else. My means for someday obtaining financial freedom may be unconventional and not understood by those who were brainwashed into thinking that having someone else signing your paycheck is the only way to be respected and valued in the community. I am fiercely ambitious and you may consider me crazy but I will not stop fighting for a better life, for a better world, and my way of doing that is through my writing and art. This year, I feel that I have seamlessly transitioned from hobby writer to career writer and even though I’m not rolling in the dough, I have value, I am respected in my field, and I do deserve the same consideration and care as everyone else on the planet.

I read this amazing quote by Audre Lorde today. She once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” That’s the mantra I am currently adopting. I’m not going to let anyone guilt me into thinking that I’m not worth proper healthcare and I don’t have to justify why I’m seeking assistance in getting hearing aids, or bloodwork, or any other thing that will ensure that I remain healthy and mentally happy and at peace.

For years, I’ve allowed people to bring me down, to mock me, to make me feel inferior. But what have those people truly accomplished in their lives? Anyone can get married and/or divorced, have a slew of unruly kids, settle for a nine to five job making someone else richer, buy a home, a car and buy other materialistic bullshit that they just don’t need. I once prescribed to that notion. I felt hollow, empty for not being like everyone else. I tried the whole relationship thing. I was fed notions of possibly having a happily ever after, living in my own home, and all that. But I realized happiness is found from within and I feel truly fulfilled and free when I’m writing. I feel validated and purposeful and I know that my message is a strong one and others need to hear this message too so that we can all break these damaging so-called social norms that make people believe they need to achieve certain things and reach certain goals in order to make them feel whole. Granted, one may feel fulfilled with the lives that they currently have. I’m not arguing that my way is better than anyone else’s. My argument here is to respect that there is more than one way to fry an egg. Happiness is individualized. My happiness differs from yours. And vice-versa. I realize I give too much clout to others and their opinions. But it makes me fucking furious thinking there are people out there who appear villainous and actually thrive on seeing people fail and falling flat on their faces. This rage fires deep within me and I will not stop until I am recognized for my positive contributions to society.

I noticed right away since I was a little girl that I was not like everyone else. My first bra was a neon green disaster. I wore neon pink bicycle shorts and a playboy t-shirt hand-me-down from my older brother. My hair cuts were never fashionable and always uneven. I always got dirty from doing somersaults in the park falling into piles of geese-poop horribly embarrassing family and friends. I have fallen down concrete steps, knees bleeding profusely, while my dad was part of a Portugal day festival in the city hall where I grew up totally shaming my family and godparents. I have fallen down stairs more often than not, that was a major theme in my childhood. I have fallen after attempting to climb a retaining wall in fear of missing the school bus as my sister watched in horror from the school bus in front of all of her friends. I am shy, I am weird, I don’t smell the greatest all the time, I cry a lot and can’t control my emotions and sometimes appear somewhat of a crazy person when I am horribly triggered by cruel and mean-spirited people. I’m outspoken and feisty and have this unusual blend of soft-heartedness and lion-heartedness that often fight together until they harmoniously decide to get along and help me be the productive person that I am today.

I say and do weird things making others uncomfortable. I curse like a sailor on leave, I burp, I fart, I eat with my elbows on the table, I am comfortable talking about my bowel movements in front of family at the dinner table, I laugh at fart jokes and enjoy potty humor, and I wear dresses with stains on them that are not ironed and have cat fur all over them. My hair is in knots, my mother and sister forced me to dye my hair because it had ten-inch gray roots and they bought me hair dye from the supermarket so that I’d look decent for my latest newspaper interview. I may look like I have it all put together in my profile picture, but I’m a wild, feral, hot mess and I have been this way since the day I popped out of my mom’s vagina.

I say and do awkward shit, I can count the number of friends I have on one finger, I eat noisily and fast, I enjoy Mexican food and ice cold root beer and I am done apologizing for who I am.

For those who question why I dress well and have nice boots even though I don’t currently make a lot of money with my writing, don’t realize that my clothes are either donated to me by my mom since we are the same size, or clothes I have purchased years ago when I was teaching. I am not fussy about clothes and just wear old stuff that I take care of because I’m not a behemoth beast. I also notoriously hate wearing shoes and I only own 5 pairs of shoes. I own flip flops to wear around the house, sneakers to go walking in outdoors, my very old Doc Martens flowery boots which may look nice on the outside but smell like your grandma’s crotch on the inside from years of wear, my sandals for the summer that are on their last leg and are about to bust apart at the straps, and my winter boots to ward against ice and snow. I am sick of justifying who I am to others who lack any sort of emotional intelligence or even general intelligence. The amount of willfully ignorant people around me are astounding and no amount of education can create the level of self-awareness and common sense people need to really pay attention to the things that really matter around us.

To the person who stole my quarter bug juice at snack time consecutively every day for 180 school days in Kindergarten and I never said a thing to stop her, to the kid who spat in my face with a mouth full of ham and mayo every day at lunch consecutively every day for 180 days in 1st grade and I never said a thing to stop him, to the little bitch who lied and told the teacher I threw her down the stairs during dismissal when I was nowhere near her in line and I never defended myself, to the teacher who shamed me when I didn’t understand long division showing the class my paper with a zero on it trying to shame me into somehow magically passing not realizing it wasn’t because I wasn’t studying, it was because I just didn’t understand what to do and she did a lousy job teaching me, who will also never know that I got straight A’s in math from senior year in high school all throughout my college career including bachelors, masters, and doctorate years, to the bullies who called me fat and have compared me to every fat actress out there like that is some sort of insult when all of those so-called “fat actresses” are the people whom I admire the most in Hollywood, to the student who called me an idiot who provided the final straw on my last day of substitute teaching and made me finally realize that it was time to move on and taught me that I deserved so much more than the bullshit I was being served, to all of my abusers and oppressors of all forms who have created this neurotic, anxious, and often, depressed individual, I will continue to fight not for you, not because of you, but in spite of you and your patheticness. I continue to write in spite of you. I pour my emotions on this page in spite of you. To send a message to the world, who so desperately needs to hear it that whatever someone does and whatever their circumstances are, happens to be none of anyone’s business but their own, and what works for one person does not work for all. Everyone is on the same team and we are all battling the same villains. Instead of turning on each other and being cruel and meanspirited, reach your hand out to heal, not to destroy. Because you don’t know what is going on in another person’s mind. You’ll never know. I’ll leave you all with another one of my all-time favorite quotes from R.J. Palacio’s marvelous book, Wonder, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” Believe me. It makes all the difference!

By the way, I chose today’s photo because it looked like the middle flowers were flipping the bird. It seemed apropos given today’s topic. Alright, NOW I will choose kind! 🙂

(Of course, I appreciate all of my readers and followers but I wanted to give a shout out to one new follower in particular who gave me props for yesterday’s blog–My message to you is to always keep fighting for what truly matters in life and never let anyone tell you no!)

 

My Pilgrimage to the Ironbound

blog pic april 26th

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, 2019. 

I had an enlightening morning today. My father worked in an area known as the Ironbound section of Newark for nearly forty years. Shortly after he retired, my family and I realized that he was going through something because he began behaving erratically and drove our family crazy for months before we figured out his catastrophic diagnosis. Upon revealing his diagnosis of dementia, our family was devastated but we weren’t exactly familiar with the disease. We were unsure of its progression, we were uncertain of his prognosis; we were basically left in the dark. With each passing month, we become more knowledgeable and educated ourselves on his illness. A lot of what we learned was from witnessing it first hand. There really was no appropriate preparation for what was to come.

Before my father was diagnosed with dementia, my family was pretty much estranged from him. Even though we all lived in the same house as him, my father was a private man and preferred to live his life separately from everyone else. Because dementia is all-consuming and requires round the clock care, this introduced us to a whole other side of my father we never really knew. I realized that I never really fully knew this man I called my father. Not because I did not want to, mind you, but because as I said he wanted it that way. He had his job in the Ironbound, his clubs and organizations that he was a part of, he had his writing and art that he would pursue on evenings and weekends. He would travel and drive around areas alone and we were none the wiser. Since his illness, we became so intimately familiar with our father that it was as if we entered a rabbit hole, an endless fountain of knowledge and information about him, some unsavory, but for the most part, we learned of some things he was interested in that we never knew about.

Today I met with an amazing woman who is well-respected and revered at the Luso-Americano newspaper and discussed my children’s book which I wrote in his honor: My Pápá and Me: A Children’s Book About Our Journey With Dementia. It was so nice speaking to someone who knew my father well. I could almost feel his presence in that building. My father, once notoriously known for how well-dressed he always was, proud and confident in himself walking into the newspaper building and talking away with all of these fine people. It was so comforting to know that he was well remembered. A big motivator for me writing my latest children’s book was to ensure that nobody forgot about my father. He was so important for so many years in the Ironbound community and then he disappeared into the ether and not many people knew about what happened to him. Many abandoned him, some called about him in the beginning but then very quickly it was as if my father ceased to exist. That didn’t sit well with me. As complicated as our relationship was towards the end of his healthy years, I would never want his legacy to fade. My children’s book was essentially my way of coping with this devastating situation my family and I have been dealing with for the past six to seven years. It has been a long, torturous, and highly emotional road for us all. Our goal and mission are to make damn well sure that my family receives the best possible care for him and that he is remembered for his positive contributions to society. I may not have known this side of him well but it was clear from my interview today that he was respected and that provided me with reassurance.

I know that I will continue advocating for others going through similar circumstances. This disease is tragic and heartbreaking. So many times I sit and think about telling my father about all of my accomplishments in writing and I wonder what he would have thought about it. I try not to romanticize his reactions too much because prior to his illness our relationship wasn’t the strongest. But I’ve gotten to know this version of my father and I can honestly say he is lovely and sweet and we currently have the best relationship that we have had since I was a little girl. I have actually read my children’s book to him and he gave me a thumbs up and told me in Portuguese that it was good. I thought his reaction was sweet and heartwarming. This was not exactly the same as if I were to have shown my dad prior to his illness but I accept that. Our family loves him and are fiercely protective of him. I will continue watching out for him and I will continue to fight to ensure that each day he is met with the dignity and respect he deserves. His legacy will persevere. I will make sure of that.

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Thank you very much to everyone who has already purchased my work in the past. Please make sure to leave a review and let me know what you think of my work! I appreciate you all always coming back and returning to read my blogs and to visit me on social media. I am continuously humbled and honored to have you all be a part of The Moonlit Goddess tribe!

These Past 3 Weeks

blog pic march 8 2019

ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

2019 has proven to be one of the most harrowing years of my entire life. I have endured quite a bit over the years but I always seem to be outdone by even greater and more severe challenges. Just when I fear that I can no longer handle what is being handed to me, I finally, FINALLY, see the light at the end of that very, very long tunnel.

I thought new years was bad, but these past three weeks were simply the worst experience I have endured to date. First, I get the flu and bronchitis, then my father, mother, and brother all get it as well. My father, having advanced dementia, was strongly advised to get the flu and pneumonia vaccine this season. We took him to our local pharmacy and he received both vaccines in November. These vaccines gave us this false sense of security because regardless of these vaccines, my father received both the flu and pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. Granted, we were told that there was no guarantee even with the vaccine but it was definitely absolutely ridiculous how he got both back to back and it was such a severe case he was in the hospital for almost a week. He even had to spend his 76th birthday in the hospital!

My family was absolutely inconsolable. Watching my father struggle with fever, cough, sneezing, being in and out of consciousness, was so heartbreaking to witness. Once he arrived at the hospital, they gave me him fluids and Tamiflu. After his week at the hospital was done, we noticed some drastic changes to his behavior.

Dementia is one of the most unpredictably cruel diseases I have ever had the misfortune of observing for the past six to seven years. My father was always a man on the go. He was always working. He was a full-time math teacher during the day, he taught night school and worked at a community college on the weekends. The man always had plans, always was out the door and we barely saw him. During the summer months, he would socialize with his creative art groups in the city where he worked and kept himself occupied. This was the father I knew as an adult. As a kid, we didn’t see him much either; however, because we were young, he would make it a point to do some trips with my siblings and I whether it was to the movies, apple picking, the beach, the park, etc. These events didn’t happen often, but he tried when he had the time.

When my father retired, he became a completely different person. His behavior was erratic, he became clumsy, he became aggressive, violent, and made many foolish decisions. As an adult, I didn’t really know my father well aside from the hi’s and byes and light dinner conversations. I didn’t really hang out with him much. I considered myself pretty much estranged from him. So when these things were going on in my dad’s life, I just assumed it was because he couldn’t adjust well to retirement. I figured he was so busy his entire life and the shock of retirement was just too much for him. But the chaos became greater, the insanity of the events involving my father became so grand scale that as a family we knew it was time to intervene. We did everything we could from allowing his driver’s license to lapse and having his car towed, to other measures to guarantee his safety.

During the beginning phases of his dementia, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer as well. My father was very fortunate to still be healthy enough mentally to be properly treated and has since been in remission. We took him to the neurologist and he’s had MRIs and they had told us he suffered from a series of mini-strokes. There was no way of knowing when they occurred or how often they occurred. As a result of these mini-strokes, his brain shrunk significantly causing the dementia. They said he had a mixture of vascular- type dementia and Alzheimer’s-type dementia. I remember one of the last things the neurologist told my brother at the end of the office visit after diagnosis was that we were in for years of heartache. He certainly was not kidding.

Over the years since dad’s diagnosis, we have had to become smarter and sneakier and wiser and always tried to keep one step ahead of my father. He would sneak out of the house and walk the streets of our town and be gone for hours and we would have to call for help. He would touch all the kitchen items and make himself “food” made out of napkins and milk. He would try to feed our cats saucers of dish soap. He would pace and wander all night in his bedroom not remembering he had to sleep. We went from doctor to doctor until we finally found one with the compassion and empathy to guide us and my father through each stage. She has been an absolute blessing and up until now, she has prepared us for what was next to come.

When dad came home from the hospital, my siblings and I were shell-shocked watching dad’s newest transition of this distressing illness. Dad lost his speech, he looked at us like we were public enemy number 1, and he refused to eat or drink anything. We all came to terms with the fact that this may very well be the end. He may need hospice care and it may be time for us to finally accept that it is time to let go. After the hospital visit, the hospital staff set up several health care professionals to visit the home and evaluate my father and to help with his care. We received two very caring women who have also helped us further understand our father’s condition and to kind of relinquish some control over what was going on.

As human beings, we are raised to believe you have to eat and drink to survive. The one nurse practitioner that visited us taught us that in my father’s condition that need to eat and that need for a three-meal structure no longer exists. He will eat when he’s hungry, he will drink when he’s thirsty and we can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to do. Even though to the naked eye it appears our dad is long gone, there is still the shell of the man he used to be in there somewhere and that man craves attention and dignity. He won’t be told when to eat, he won’t be forced to live up to our standards. He will do what he wants to do when he is ready. After hearing that, I was finally able to ease the tension that had been burdening my shoulders these past few weeks. I’ve let go of that desperate need to want to save my father’s life and to keep him living for a thousand more years.

Once I let go, I realized that my father began eating and drinking again. I nearly collapsed with relief. Along with eating and drinking, my dad began saying a word here and there. If you say, “Hi, how are you?” he will say “Good.” He will also nod his head yes or no when you ask him questions like, “Are you hungry?” or “Are you cold?” This was also a great relief.

I have literally been by his side since he’s gotten back from the hospital and I have been putting myself last, as usual. I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been lax with my podcasting, and I have neglected my latest writing project. I know that is completely and totally unhealthy of me to do. I just have been so traumatized over this event. I just wanted to be there for my father because I realize how short life is and I don’t know how many more moments I will have with my father.

I think life works in mysterious ways though. I think that even though this was such a tragedy, I feel that this has brought us all closer together as a family. I feel like I finally have a relationship with my father. I will never have the kind of relationship I always lacked and always wanted growing up, but I am satisfied with the relationship I have with him now. My father has become a sweet, kind, and vulnerable man. My family and I are constantly advocating for better care for him from the healthcare system. We have reached somewhat of a current homeostasis at the moment. His care is under control. We have people who come periodically to monitor his well-being and as a family we all take care of him and provide him with the best round the clock care we can possibly provide him with given our lack of knowledge of healthcare. We do the very best that we are capable of doing. Given our lack of finances, he is being cared for at home. We’ve adjusted and he is finally at a comfortable level post-hospital. At this point, this is the best we can expect given his condition. We are grateful to have him eating and drinking and engaging with us here and there. At this stage in my life, after everything I’ve endured, and my family has endured, there really isn’t much more we can ask for.

On this day, International Women’s Day, I’m going to allow myself to step away for a while and join the living and get the things I need to get done that I’ve neglected nearly a month ago. I’m happy to be back in my office writing and producing. It’s where I feel the most alive and happiest. Thank you all for continuing to visit to read my blogs. Thanks for the well-wishers. I had the loveliest comment on one of my blogs last night that helped motivate me to get back on track. Thanks to that individual. I am happy that my words bring comfort to some. I wish you all a very lovely day and a restful and relaxing weekend!

Podcast: Happy Birthday, Pápá!

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ALL WRITTEN AND ARTWORK ARE THE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY OF PSG LOPES. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Today is my father’s 76th birthday. I decided to do a podcast reading of three poems I wrote about my dad. In this week’s podcast, I read “Ja Ja James,” “Wrong Door,” and “Broken Pieces of Me.” I discuss the transition of my dad’s illness throughout the creation of each of these pieces and how I went from a position of anger and resentment to one of reflection, peace, compassion, and, ultimately, forgiveness. All three pieces that I have read today on my podcast are featured in my Dark Musings Poetry Anthology: Volume 1 and 3, respectively.

Click here to listen to this week’s podcast.

Thank you, everyone!