Deafening Silence: White Silence and Alton Sterling

I want to start by being very specific about who I am talking to; this post is meant for people who look like me, those of us with white skin. Many of you woke up this morning and heard the news ab…

Source: Deafening Silence: White Silence and Alton Sterling

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# What Does the Shiny Red Button Do?

I only recently started using Twitter. As an author, I know I should be totally ashamed of my appalling lack of social media prowess, but it is what it is.

About a week ago, I started working on my hashtag game. My current morning routine involves checking the trending hashtags on Twitter as I settle in for a day of writing. Usually the hashtags seem kind of fun and frivolous, and I am able to join in on some lighthearted fun. Today, however, a hashtag with all the potential to be fun hit me hard.

Really, really hard.

#WhatDoesTheShinyRedButtonDo

The moment I saw it, I thought, “I would give Donna her son back.”

My heart beat a little faster as a massive list came rolling through my previously happy thoughts.

I would give my author friend Sage her two sisters back.

I would give Suzy her daughter back.

I would cure Peggy’s Cancer.

I would get better insurance coverage for my cousin who struggles with ADD and depression.

I would give every person in an abusive relationship the courage, the self-love, and the means to leave.

I would give my best friend the assurance that her two special needs children are going to grow up to lead happy and meaningful lives.

I would give kids who feel inadequate from constant standardized testing an education system that works better to bring out the best in them.

I would give those in the fight to raise minimum wage a freaking raise AND more respect, because no US citizen working full time should be expected, yes I said EXPECTED, to live in poverty.

The list goes on and on. There are so many things that I would do with my shiny red button.

But, I live in a little place called reality. I know people like me rarely ever have the magical, shiny red button. Instead, people like the Walton Family (heirs to the WalMart fortune) and [insert name of ANY scumbag politician] have all the red buttons.

And what do they do with them??

Anything that benefits them and keeps the rest of us normal folks in our places, which, according to them, is down.

No, I don’t have access to a shiny red button, and that makes me incredibly sad.

If you had access to a shiny red button that had the power to change something, what would your shiny red button do?

With Love,

~Adrienne D’nelle Ruvalcaba

What is Lupus? Is it Serious?

When I received my initial diagnosis of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, my first reaction was relief.  I had been feeling unwell for several years; the year leading up to my diagnosis was one of the worst in my life.  For more than a year straight I woke up feeling like someone had beaten me up the night before…

My blood count was so low, it was at the level where doctors recommend a transfusion, and I had arthritis in all my joints.  Simple activities like standing up were incredibly difficult.  I dreaded having to go to the toilet because it was so painful just to sit down and then get back up.  The stairs were like some kind of evil torture device, yet I continued to take them every day.  I would tell myself, “you need to stop being so lazy.”  Before my diagnosis, I chalked all the symptoms up to laziness and low pain tolerance.  At no point did I consider that it wasn’t normal for a 25 year old to feel so rundown all the time.

Someone sneezed in my face during calculus class one day, and I caught their cold.  Weeks later, the cold had turned into pneumonia and I missed two weeks of school.  Still, I didn’t think anything was really wrong with me until one of my professors suggested I might want to see the doctor.  The results of the lab tests were swift.  My low blood count was not due to low iron.  I had been prescribed iron pills months before, so my iron was now high… yet my blood count was still hovering around the dangerously low levels.  The doctor ordered further testing, and after a positive ANA test and positive anti double stranded DNA test, a positive anti-SM test, low complement levels, and a physical examination which showed joint inflammation and the trademark butterfly rash across my face… I was diagnosed with Lupus.

“What is Lupus?” I asked the doctor who diagnosed me.

She explained that Lupus is an autoimmune disease.  My immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and organs, causing damage.  Cases can range from mild to severe, and there can be any level of organ involvement.  She told me that the vast majority of cases are restricted to the joints and skin, and can be easily managed with daily medication.  She then explained that I would have to see a rheumatologist for all of my care in the future.  Systemic lupus patients are typically managed by a doctor who specializes in internal medicine, and not by a regular family physician.

One week later, I had my first appointment with the rheumatologist.  He explained what lupus was.  His explanation was a reiteration of what the first doctor had said. He scanned through all the pages of my lab work, and then he wrote out requests for about 25 more lab tests.  He said he wanted me to get them done as soon as possible.

On my next appointment, I asked him if he was entirely sure I had lupus.  He looked up at me in surprise and said, “This is one of the clearest, easiest to diagnose cases of lupus I’ve seen.  The college of rheumatology has 11 criteria for diagnosing a patient with SLE; to get a diagnosis you need to meet any 4 of the 11.  According to your labs and medical history you meet most of them.”

He then looked back down at my lab report and started rattling off a number of additional tests I needed to get done.  At this point I was a little overwhelmed.  He told me that I had lots of bad antibodies in my blood…the kind that mean serious organ involvement.  The antibodies found in my blood are an indication of which organs are being attacked by my immune system at a given time.  There are no ambiguities in this type of lab test; if the antibodies are detected that means that the organ is currently being attacked and is in danger of becoming damaged.  I was referred to the kidney doctor, because I had the antibodies in my blood that indicate kidney involvement and a urinalysis had turned up too much protein in my urine…another clear indication of some type of kidney involvement.

After more labs and more blood tests, and an ultrasound of my kidneys, it was determined that I had kidney disease due to the lupus.  For the next year, I took more than 30mg of a corticosteroid called prednisone every day.  This medication got the kidney disease under control, but there were lots of side effects.

My initial bout with kidney disease was just the beginning.  In the years since then, my list of serious complications has grown and changed in some distressing and unexpected ways.  After struggling with knowing what to tell people when I need help or rest, I now have the answer to the question, “Is it serious?”

When someone asks me this, my usual response is general.  I tell them that lupus can be serious for some and not so serious for others.  I guess I don’t want to reward people’s curiosity and good natured concern with the harsh facts of my case.  If I were to be honest I would say that it is serious.  It is very serious.  Based on my lab work and my personal list of complications that I’ve been diagnosed with, it is very serious.  I’m very photo sensitive, so the UV radiation from the sun and even from fluorescent lighting makes me sick.  I spend so much time alone at home because I don’t feel well, and I know my body needs extra rest.  For me, not feeling well encompasses a myriad of things: extreme fatigue, upset stomach due to liver inflammation (vomiting, diarrhea, and lots of pain and discomfort when I eat and/or take my meds), inflammation in my joints that causes so much pain that I limp around like a senior citizen, severe chest pain due to pleurisy, pericarditis, and my disease attacking my pulmonary artery (this is the one that scares me most), headaches and vertigo due to central nervous system involvement, and sometimes plain old sadness.

These are things that I will have to manage for the rest of my life.  Now that I have been told I have heart disease and I’m at elevated risk of a heart attack or stroke because of what this disease is doing, what my own immune system is doing, I can no longer deny the seriousness of my condition.  Lupus is way more real to me now, than it ever was in the past.  It was easy to ignore the kidney disease, because it progresses so slowly and with so few symptoms, but I can no longer ignore everything else that is going on.  I am not in a panic, but I have fully realized the gravity of this disease.  I am in a fight for my life, but this is not the kind of fight that draws out the spectators to cheer you on.  Lupus is not like cancer.

When someone tells their friends and family that they have been diagnosed with cancer, there is immediate support and understanding.  No one asks, “What is Cancer? Is it serious?”  The Cancer patient embarks on a journey that is very much like the Olympic 100 meter sprint.  For a short amount of time, a few months or years at the most, the cancer patient is in an all-out sprint for the finish line, and death is sprinting in the lane next to them.  Their families and communities are on the side lines cheering them on.  If they beat the cancer, there is celebration with everyone watching, and if they do not cross the finish line first, everyone mourns them as a hero.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus is serious in a completely different way from Cancer.  Lupus is more like a marathon one runs alone in the woods.  There is no finish line; there is only the knowledge that you cannot run forever, and eventually the complications will catch up to you.  Few people understand the struggle, the daily grind, and the eventual wearing down of your body and your emotions.  Death is still there running beside you, a constant reminder that the moment you become complacent any number of things will go catastrophically wrong.  Everything that is affecting your stride requires a lengthy explanation, so it’s easier to run this race virtually alone rather than having to explain everything over and over and over again. It is easier not to have your explanations be met with open skepticism.  It is easier not to have to answer the question, “Is it serious?” when to most people it doesn’t look serious at all.

JANET

This post tells the story of my personal, and very limited, involvement in a film about the ballet career of Janet Collins. People of Color are used to being the outsiders, the exoticized, the other, in almost every aspect of life in Western culture. But being classified as other is still better than being shut out altogether. In her career, African-American ballerina Janet Collins was more than just an outsider. She was the outsider who eventually broke the mold of only allowing white bodies to fully participate in ballet.

Janet is a silent ballet film that celebrates her timeless contribution to the world of ballet. As the first African-American prima ballerina to dance full time with a major company, Janet Collins made herself heard by the institutional power that had silenced the voices of PoC for generations. This film was written, directed, and produced by Adam E. Stone.

Note: Featured image by Michelle Greene


The film begins with a very clear depiction of a WoC as an outsider. The actress in the image below is an artist who creates wonderful Rembrandt-style portraits. This image of DeSande R as an outsider appeals to me, because I have felt very much like an outsider throughout my life. My involvement in this film was cathartic for me, so I will begin from my perspective and widen the view from there.

DeSande R Photo by Michelle Greene

DeSande R
Photo by Michelle Greene

Earlier this year, I was approached by an independent filmmaker. Before you ask how I, an introverted writer, could possibly know a filmmaker, let me assure you that it wasn’t my doing. It was one of those things that introverts typically get dragged into by an extroverted friend. My best friend, who is a classically trained Mezzo Soprano, has taught voice and performed at a number of places. She is an excellent performer, and she also happens to know a ton of entertaining, musical, artistic, and theatrical people. Adam Stone, the filmmaker who contacted me, is one of these talented people. When he approached my friend about doing a voice part in a film that was originally supposed to have been a spoken word ballet, she also recommended me for a small part. After I expressed interest in the part, Adam contacted me with the details of the role.

What followed was one of the more interesting endeavors of my life.

Adam mailed me the text for three separate monologues, a CD with the tone, inflection, and tempo he wanted for each monologue, and a contract for me to sign. After practicing the monologues for several weeks, I met with Adam to do the actual voice recording.

Yes…silent, introverted me!

To say that I was incredibly nervous would be the understatement of the year, but Adam understood and helped me overcome the nerves. We sat at his kitchen table and read through each of the monologues several times. Through each reading, he gave me instructions on how to interject more emotion into my voice. Sometimes a line called for a softer, more vulnerable tone, and sometimes it called for a little more force with an edge of attitude—attitude that did not come natural to me. After about an hour of reading at the table, it was time to go to the studio.

Now is the time for me to mention that I am NOTHING like my best friend. She is musical and effervescent and talented. She is not a shy shrinking violet like me. She has a magnificent voice that does not need a microphone to be heard, even with a choir singing in the background. She shines in the way people who were born to be famous performers shine, and when she performs she gives people goose bumps. Her voice is power; her voice is trained; her voice is the bomb…

Mine? Not so much.

So the idea of going into a recording studio, even if it was just to read, had me defeating myself with negative self-talk. Either way, it was too late to back out. I had already agreed to do it, practiced the monologues, signed the contract, and received payment. I was going to record those monologues no matter what. I had to.

Adam and the studio manager explained the basics of studio recording to me. I was shown into a large room with a microphone and a pair of headphones set up for me to use. They explained that, through the headphones, I would be able to hear myself as I spoke into the microphone. I would also be able to hear Adam if he had any pointers to give me during the recording session. Between takes, I was able to exit the recording room and sit in the control room as they played back the recording of my voice and edited each line. The first time I heard my voice over the loud speakers, it felt strange and foreign to me. Did I really sound like that? The voice on the speakers had a higher pitch and sounded younger, more unsure, and more tremulous than the voice that came out in my head. My voice was straight up wimpy, and I didn’t like it.

But I had to listen to it as Adam and the studio manager replayed certain lines of the recording over and over again. I have to go back into the recording room several times between each take to re-record a single line here and there. The entire process took all afternoon, and by the end of it, I was accustomed to the sound of my own voice.

Why is this such a big deal?

Kiara1

Kiara Felder (Atlanta Ballet) Photo by Michelle Greene

Because the voices of People of Color, Women of Color in particular, have been silenced for so long in this society that it never occurred to me that mine matters.

From a very young age, I learned the same lesson that almost every other PoC learns; I don’t matter. My opinions don’t matter, unless all I’m doing is agreeing with the status quo. My experiences with racism and prejudice don’t matter, because no one wants to hear from people who “play the race card.” My feelings don’t matter, because I am not a member of the dominant culture. My humanity doesn’t matter, because people with darker skin are still seen as subhuman in a lot of ways. My self-esteem doesn’t matter, because black girls are ugly anyway—so why should we have good self-esteem? My entire existence has pushed me to the conclusion that my voice doesn’t matter.

Yet, on that day, my voice mattered.

Flash forward to the filming and editing, and the long awaited final product…

Four Edgar Degas paintings come to life in this haunting silent ballet film about alienation, acceptance, and the powerful, enduring legacy of Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina to dance full time with a major company, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in 1951.

Four Edgar Degas paintings come to life in this haunting silent ballet film about alienation, acceptance, and the powerful, enduring legacy of Janet Collins, the first African-American prima ballerina to dance full time with a major company, the Metropolitan Opera Ballet in 1951.

I received a message from Adam, informing me that he had decided to take a very different creative direction. Instead of keeping the film a spoken word ballet, in which the paintings come to life and dance to the sound of our monologues, the film was to be a silent ballet.

After all that personal growth and work for me to come out of my well-constructed introvert shell, my contribution wasn’t to be used after all.

Adam was very gracious about telling me that my part had been cut, and he sent me a link to the finished film. Once I saw the film, I understood why he chose to make the film a silent ballet. It wasn’t that my voice wasn’t good enough; it was that silence was more effective. The film had a far greater impact on me as a silent ballet than it would have if there had been monologues.

The silence invites the audience to enter the experience in a contemplative and quiet state of mind. It tells the story of Janet Collins, the first African American ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera. But, the film tells her story without telling her story. Each dance scene is a moving picture that tells the audience more than a thousand words.

Kiara Felder (Atlanta Ballet) Photo by Michelle Greene

Kiara Felder (Atlanta Ballet)
Photo by Michelle Greene

The image of the Black ballerina dancing on a grassy knoll, after being shunned by her White counterparts, seeps directly into the viewers’ conscious. Emotions awaken without the dramatic swell of music or the theatrical inflection of a voice giving a monologue. Instead, the silence of the film invites the viewer to fill in their own personal music—just how the filmmaker intended.

Janet Collins’s struggle to become a successful ballerina, in a world of racism and White supremacy, is depicted softly, elegantly even, in the changing expressions of the Black ballerinas in the film who hide backstage and watch the White ballerinas perform. We see the hope in their faces as they wait their turn—silently.

Kiara Felder (Atlanta Ballet) and Nayomi Van Brunt (New York Theatre Ballet) Photo by Michelle Greene

When their turn to dance comes, joy is depicted using the fluidity of movement rather than sound.

Kiara Felder (Atlanta Ballet) and Nayomi Van Brunt (New York Theatre Ballet) Photo by Michelle Greene

Black voices and expression were so silenced in Janet Collins’s time that, even though she did enjoy a career as a ballerina, it wasn’t as full bodied and prolific as it would have been had she not been shut out for so long.

Janet celebrates the, often overlooked, contribution of PoC to the arts. In particular, this film celebrates Janet Collins in the most simple, yet impactful way. It allows you to see her story through the silent movements of some of the very women whose ballet careers she helped make possible.

Kiara Felder (Atlanta Ballet) Photo by Michelle Greene

Kiara Felder (Atlanta Ballet)
Photo by Michelle Greene

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT:

My decision to make a completely silent ballet film was influenced not only by the fact that members of non-dominant cultures historically have been, and to some extent continue to be, “silenced” within the world of classical ballet, but also by my desire to connect the film explicitly to the worlds of painting (as exemplified in the film by the four Degas paintings that come to life) and photography (as exemplified by the four ballet photos–of Adeline Genée, Daphne Dale, Harriet Toby, and Janet Collins–that play a key role in the film), worlds in which meaning has traditionally been conveyed without sound, and in which a work of art stands or falls strictly on the basis of whether its meaning, or story, has been successfully expressed by the use of the visual image alone. The film also pays homage to the great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (1881-1931), the dancer who most inspired Janet Collins: Pavlova once told an interviewer that she planned “to try the experiment of a ballet without music some day,” because she thought it “logical to suppose that dancing should call forth a melody in the brain of those who witness it,” and such a ballet would allow every viewer to be “his or her own composer” – a sentiment that adds to and enriches the ideas about “silence” expressed by composer John Cage in his seminal 4’33” and earlier works. My hope is that the film inspires both reflection and action, and above all honors the legacy of Janet Collins and other early ballet dancers of color.


When/Where you can see this film:

More about the filmmaker: http://adamestone.com/wordpress/

How Do You Take Criticism?

This is a great blog post for any author! No matter how seasoned we think we are, there is always the potential for a scathing review to hurt our feelings. I’m still developing a thicker skin.

A Writer's Path

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An author can’t get away from criticism, no matter the level of talent. How do you cope with it? And is there a way for it to be beneficial to you?

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First Page Review Blog Hop: Too Hot to Handle

Too Hot to Handle is a work in progress right now. It’s the story of two people in their twenties who think they are supposed to have it all figured out by now. Alexis is sous-chef at a famous New York restaurant, and Charlie is an undercover food blogger with massive clout in the culinary world. Their lives collide when Charlie decides to make Alexis the subject of his next article. She has no idea that the busboy she’s constantly explaining things to is the secretive blogger who has the power to launch her cooking career to the next level. Once attraction for each other enters the mix, work may become too hot to handle for both of them.


Too Hot to Handle

Copyright (c) 2014 Adrienne D’nelle Ruvalcaba

Now is not the time to be humble, Alexis thought as she looked around the restaurant. The eyes of the staff watched her in anticipation. The entire wait staff, including the servers, bartenders, and busboys, looked bored. They clearly didn’t want to suffer through a speech aimed mostly at the kitchen staff. The manager stood off to the side and allowed her to run this little show. Alexis was the new executive chef—for the time being—in New York’s only French and Russian Fusion restaurant. She had been the sous-chef for three years, and tonight would be her first service as executive chef. It was a temporary change, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t make the most of it.

She took a deep breath and launched into her impromptu speech. “Most of you know Chef Markovic had to fly back to Russia to be with his family. His mother collapsed suddenly and has since been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He’s expected to be out of the country for the next few months, but he wants to keep his absence quiet. He specifically said he doesn’t want any press speculation or tabloid coverage. If there are any leaks about this, heads are going to roll.

“I don’t think I need to remind anybody about all the bad press that Danielle Stacey has been responsible for this year. Chef Marko doesn’t want that woman undercover-blogging about his career as his mother dies, and we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen. If I see one word about Chef Marko or his mother’s illness in the press, I will figure out who’s responsible for the leak and you will pay. Chef Markovic will have your head on a platter, and I’ll be the one serving it up. Y’all know he ruled his kitchen with an iron fist, and in his absence I’ll do the same.”

Alexis turned on her heel and stomped into the kitchen, and the rest of the kitchen staff followed. She felt she was in command of the situation—until she glanced back and saw the sullen looks their faces. They were Markovic’s staff, and they always would be. From the day she’d walked in, she’d been an unwanted outsider. Now she’d just crossed the line from unwanted to downright hated. She was lucky she had both Markovic and the owner on her side.

Charlie watched the little sous-chef as she spoke. She was surrounded by men who were all a head taller than she was. Her voice was surprisingly loud and strong for such a petite person. As he watched her harp about ruling with an iron fist, his amusement melted into respect. She definitely had gumption. When she marched into the kitchen, her back was ramrod straight, and her hands were balled into little fists down by her hips.

He watched as she gave yet another long winded speech filled with all manner of threats and promises of bodily harm. Charlie looked around at the other men in the kitchen; they didn’t even try to hide their disdain from her.

Her dark brown eyes fastened onto each man as she spoke. There was a challenge in her eyes, as if she was daring anyone to voice their contempt to her face. She made a few more references to iron fists, and then she snapped her mouth shut and raised one of her perfectly arched eyebrows.

The first dinner service went perfectly. The dinning room was the picture of New York refined elegance, and it hummed like a finely tuned instrument that night. There was no indication of the absolute, yet tightly controlled, chaos that dominated the kitchen. Charlie was one of five busboys on staff. Every time he ventured back into the kitchen, he was aware of Alexis barking orders at everyone.

“What’s the time on the stroganoff for table five?!”

“Where’s the dill cucumber salad that goes with this order?!”

“Why isn’t this steak medium-rare? This is well done!”

It seemed like every other word out of her mouth was an expletive, but Charlie was accustomed to such behavior. Charlie’s parents owned a diner in Saint Louis, and his first job had been as a dishwasher. As the night wore on, Alexis reminded him more and more of his mother.

Charlie had inherited his tallness from his mother, but, in every other way, he’d taken after his mellow and thoughtful father. His plain, light brown hair would have been described as mousy if he were a woman. His eyes were an average medium brown color—nothing memorable. He had an average looking face and a physique that was just good enough to snag an occasional date. Everything about him was average and forgettable, and that was just the way he liked it. In his line of work, he had to be forgettable.

He ran one of the most followed blogs on the internet, and he was the most popular food blogger for the second year in a row. For the past five years, he’d been blogging about New York’s restaurant scene under the alias Danielle Stacey. His opinion on cuisine now carried more weight than the top food critics who had been the gatekeepers of the culinary world for decades. Part of his blog’s appeal was that nobody had ever seen his face, and there was a great deal of speculation surrounding his identity. His subscribers also loved his no-holds-barred investigative approach when profiling restaurants. He often spent weeks, or months, on staff in a low-profile, high turnover position like busboy or dishwasher.

As tonight’s dinner service went on, Charlie got over his disappointment about Markovic. After one night, it was clear that Alexis was something special. He told himself that his decision to stay had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he found her attractive. Actually, unreasonable, distractingly attractive was more accurate. He had a hard time keeping his eyes off her smooth, dark brown skin, because his eyes involuntarily sought her out.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Please comment with your feedback. Let me know if you would like to know what happens next in the story.

Why They Call me DW

The Dick Whisperer

A good friend of mine, who happens to be male, recently said something about me that could be taken one of two ways. After reading this story, please let me know which way you would take it…

My name is Adrienne, and I am an introvert. This part is important, so don’t forget it! There are plenty of people out there who identify as introverts, but I am firmly on the extremely introverted side of the introvert/extrovert continuum.

Just how introverted am I, you might ask.

Introverted enough to have stopped talking for two months straight while in junior high. Didn’t talk to friends, didn’t talk in school, didn’t talk to my family, didn’t even talk to myself. The only reason I started talking again was because some nosy, but well-meaning, teacher noticed my silence and called a social worker. I was then faced with talking to a child therapist to prove I wasn’t “crazy” or being committed to the regional center for disturbed children. I’m smart, so obviously I talked after that. What were my reasons for shutting down all communications? I won’t say—ever. That’s how introverted I am.

Now, on with the story…

My good friend Robert has been going through some very difficult times in his life. He was the sole caretaker for his 95yr old grandmother until last year when she had to be admitted to a nursing home. During this process, his family has devalued his work in caring for his grandmother. They said some pretty insulting things about him being too “lazy” to get a real job (he works part-time as a massage therapist), but they were totally okay with never being the one who had to change Grandma’s adult diaper, feed her, keep her company, or take her to the doctor. What Robert did for his grandmother was more than a full time job, so his family’s attitude has been hurtful, infuriating, and just plain wrong.

Now, Robert’s mother is on the edge of losing her independence. She’s in her 70’s and has battled a serious case of rheumatoid arthritis. Lately, she has been needing much more outside help to get to the doctor and take her meds properly. At this time, no one in the family has taken direct responsibility for her care, but Robert is often the first one on the scene to help her. If she falls, the life alert calls him first. He picks her up within minutes and gives her whatever care she needs. He is the only one who checks daily, multiple times per day actually, that she is eating properly, feels well, and that her emotional health is still okay. Yes, Robert is a natural at caring for sick people.

The problem with his mother comes in when Robert tells his family that he doesn’t want to go through the same things he went through with Grandma. He doesn’t want to argue about care and constantly have to deal with insults and divisiveness from his brothers, neither of whom know anything about elder care or all the legal affairs that must be “in order” to make a more peaceful transition. He wants the family to be united, so that his mom can have what she needs going forward, whether it be a plan to transition into an assisted living facility, or a plan for a family member (most likely Robert) to be in charge of her care.

This idea has been met with vehement resistance, because the younger brother, the uninformed brother, just doesn’t understand why being prepared and proactive is important. Robert’s suggestion was to set up a meeting with an elder care lawyer, so that the family can hear a professional explain the ins and outs of all the legal paperwork and estate planning that should be done. Robert’s brothers and mother would be present for this meeting, and after they have been informed on all options, Robert’s mom will chose the one most comfortable for her.

Why is this such a problem?

Because the younger brother is uninformed, yet he wants to run the show without having talked to one social worker on the issue. Robert has talked to multiple social workers, lawyers, professionals who work in the nursing homes, and directors of programs geared for elder care. Yet, the uninformed brother expects Robert to just drop the issue and do whatever uninformed thing seems most comfortable to him.

I’ve been present during most of these meetings, because Robert trusts my ability to listen. I take notes for him, and then we talk about the best and most gentle way to discuss the issue with his mother. This is not easy. I have also been present during discussions with his uninformed brother. These discussions are almost always contentious at best, but Robert finds my presence to be soothing, and he thinks I bring balance to difficult situations.

Why?

Because I’m an introvert, and his family are all extroverts. He thinks my calm perspective is valuable.

He asked me to be present during the meeting with the elder care lawyer, his brothers, and his mom, but his uninformed brother balked at having me there. I overheard their entire conversation yesterday. I was sitting in a chair, minding my own introvert business at the time. Besides me and Robert, there were two other people in the room. Robert’s two best friends, Ike and Adam, were there to watch a ball game, but the angry call from the uninformed brother interrupted the game. I should mention that Robert, Ike, and Adam are all men in their mid-forties. All three of them work out, and are what I would describe as fitness buffs. They spend a lot of time talking about working out, building muscle, and sports. They are far from simple minded, but they aren’t as intellectual and introverted as I am. They find my quiet amusing.

Here’s how the conversation with the uninformed brother went:

Look, Bro, I still don’t see why Adrienne has to be there!” Uninformed Brother shouted.

“Dude, it’s because Mom is a girl! Man, mom’s sensitive and this shit might overwhelm her. Adrienne needs to be there because she speaks Mom’s language. She can explain this in a girl way that won’t upset Mom!” Robert responded in a loud angry tone. He was clearly frustrated with his brother.

“Man! This stuff with Grandma is difficult enough. I’m trying to tell you that I don’t think any of this is necessary. Mom’s not going to end up in a nursing home, blah blah blah blah…”

Robert interrupted Uninformed Brother with a, “Look Bro, Mom needs Adrienne to come along, because you keep giving her a hard time. Adrienne can listen to you and me rant about this and then figure out how to word a question perfectly, and I’ll be like, yeah, that’s what I wanted to ask! Bro, Adrienne is like the dick whisperer!”

Wait…! I’m the what??

I looked up and saw Adam, the other extrovert in the room, trying to hold back laughter. He looked like he was choking on his own tongue from trying so hard. Ike, the other introvert, couldn’t hold back his reaction either. Ike actually snickered a little, but he looked very uncomfortable about finding my discomfort funny…typical introvert reaction. They both looked at me as I covered my face.

As soon as the call ended, we all had a good laugh.

Robert realized what he’d said in the heat of the moment, and told me, “That didn’t come out right. What I meant was dick whisperer, like jerk whisperer.”

That didn’t end the laughter of course.

I may now be known as DW within this little circle of friends…sigh.