This year I turn 65. It’s official. I’m old.
Some days I feel it, others, nope. Regardless it’s true. 65 is old.
Some days I don’t care. Other days, I’m resentful. Yet when I hold my first born grandson Rhodes Wilder, I’m glad! Grandmothers should be old, and not too skinny, according to my daughter Adriel.
Recently at work, a 20 something “kid” asked if I’d help gather carts overflowing in the parking lot. I gladly agreed, loving the sun and exercise break. I did however want to get my leather jacket first. He urged me to just get out there, “Cuz it’s warm”. He was in short sleeves.
After the work out of maneuvering 5 long lines of carts, we returned to the store. I laughed, “Buddy, that’s the difference between 20 something, and 60 something. I can still “Muscle it”, but you’re hot, and I’m not!”
I do physical stuff on purpose at my job because I do not want to be old and weak. I dye my hair to it’s original blondish, because I’m not ready to be gray, but can’t wait to have a head full of cool white hair, like my 67 year old husband, who wondrously plays guitar and out-thinks most people half his age, problem-solving in the world of computers.
Recently our son Jacob started compiling a family tree online. He found the wonders of GGGgrandfathers on all sides named Jacob. These marvelous men, Jewish, African, Hungarian, Russian, Austrian, Native American, English, European, American… all his beautiful blood.
The final proof of our beautiful black blood (which we’re all gleefully celebrating) has been rediscovered by the latest generation and posted proudly on Facebook recently.
I LOVE THIS! I love the fact that my GGGrandfather Jacob Cornelius Benjamin, was such an incredible man! You can read about him on Google archived newspaper.
I used to be furious at my Grandfather, Benjamin Montgomery Bruce, for not embracing his ethnicity before he died when I was 3. He was so handsome, and the most exotic being in the universe. We were always told he was Indian… East Indian. Actually, he was part Native American and West African.
The day I saw the movie Malcolm X, with a number of all colors friends, I realized without a doubt, that my grandfather had to be at least a good portion African American. All the young, Zoot-suited “lighter skinned” guys looked so much like him. He even slicked his hair flat back like theirs.
I used to be really furious at my mom Virginia, who despite my constant prodding for years would never admit her bi-racial heritage and later freaked out thinking that her 8 offspring would also freak out upon learning she was dating a wonderful black man (both in their eighties!)
My fury started fading the day I met Emmett Till’s mother, heard their story and with many friends, sang songs of love and hope to honor them both. That day changed my life forever. I realized, when my mother was born, Southerners were routinely hanging black men and boys from their trees for very little, to no reason, let alone because a black man was actually marrying a white woman. I think my grandfather often lived in fear and my mother knew…
I prided myself growing up totally open-minded and remember the first time I noticed black people. At age 3, I was enchanted by a family working together in their garden. I called out in glee to my parents in the front seat as we drove by to, “Quick! Look at the Chocolate People!”
I tested my parents who claimed to be non-racist, by declaring I would date a young black guy who belonged to a famous athletic family in our town just to see if my parents really meant what they said. They did.
When I was 14, the age Emmett was beaten to death, we all sang along with Bob Dylan songs while changing from of our gym clothes back to school garb, “Oh the times, they are a-changin’.” Later it was to the radio with Otis Redding, “CHANGE gonna come.”
Months earlier our President Kennedy was assassinated, the Civil Rights movement was taking wings, the Beatles landed on our soil and the Vietnam war with its famous Green Beret guys, came back home to my own Chicago Burb, only to find us kids fearful of the warriors and against the war beginning to rage “over there.” To understand the huge changes we were all going through then, see the wonderful PBS program AMERICAN EXPERIENCE 1964.
Selma’s marches, Malcolm X, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations, Vietnam protests, and too many of my generation dead from war, AIDS and genocide were all coming soon to my fast changing world.
Two things I know will never change: ALL LIVES MATTER, and it’s best to choose love, forgiveness, and peace rather than hatred, anger and war. For me, this is The Jesus Way.
– Laurel Heverly Heiss
Laurel is a singer, songwriter, mentor, teacher, wife, mother, and birth/labor coach, church planter, actress, dancer, writer, producer, crew member at Trader Joe’s Nashville, and founder of “Finding Hope,” a Skype-based counseling/life coach/mentoring program. As a follower of the teachings of Christ, Laurel has made it her life goal to welcome, encourage and walk alongside others on the journey of discovering lasting hope, speaking truth in love, celebrating the wonders of life, love and JOY of living, in working together on this amazing planet of ours with grateful and peaceful hearts.