My mom loves Macklemore, but she likes Bruno Mars more.
If given the choice to hang out with white folks or black folks she’d pick black people any day of the week. They are her people. They are who she grew up with as the youngest of three in a German immigrant family that landed smack dab in the middle of the hood. Maybe that made her family an early gentrifier, having bought their home from a black family - who knows. But what I know is that MY life wouldn’t have been as colorful had hers not been so.
She’s a steadfast Christian, she cusses, and she believes gays and lesbians, and anyone of any color should be treated with the same rights.
Her morals are unwavering. Like Cookie Lyon she’s not afraid to tell you when you’re wrong or smack you upside the head to turn you right. She’s also fiercely protective of her babies - daughters and grandkids alike.
I feared as she aged (with all the TV she tends to watch) that she might fall prey to the stereotypes of the thinking that often befalls those that are Perennials, a moniker Madeline Albright recently bestowed upon her age group. Nope. Not my mom. Her stubbornness is as unwavering as her morals. It’s why I am able to sit next to her today in my parents living room, on their matching lazy boy’s, watching The View with her. “Meghan McCain is a twit,” she remarks. Sitting in the same chairs months ago she shushed me, grabbed the remote, and turned up the volume when Bruno Mars made an appearance on 20/20. “I LOVE him” she said. Me too mom. Me too.
As she sits beside me, blood clots surrounding her lungs having suffered a minor heart attack only two days ago, she has no idea how close to death she was. Already having walked to the park yesterday she’d understandably grown tired of being stuck in her hospital bed.
My grandpa, her dad, was racist - as many people his age were, and in his last days, his best friend became the black lesbian neighbor that lived next door. I was ecstatic when I went to visit my ailing grandpa and found him sitting in his living room chatting up a Leslie Jones lookalike.
I thought it was an Urban Legend that gramps had sledded across the Canadian border by way of Germany to illegally get into the US. Turns out it’s a true story. He showed me that anything is possible.
My Great Great Grandpa Zelinka was not only turned away at Ellis Island but then in Texas as well. The US had enough Russians he was told. So he too finagled a way in. His son, my grandpa, would go on to storm the beaches of Normandy; destined to never walk again when his leg was hit with shrapnel. His purple heart now has one of those post-it notes that parents will put on keepsakes ‘just in case’. It’s been claimed by me.
Turns out days before landing in the hospital and roaming the streets of France with no food in sight, he found, killed, fried up and ate a rodent to sustain him. He used his helmet as a bowl. Days after he entered the hospital, his leg still filled with shrapnel, his entire infantry was killed. His injury saved his life. He was told he’d never walk again. He showed them otherwise.
On my hardest days, I think of that story, I pull my shit together, and I carry on.
Grandpa Zelinka would give me twenty dollars for every home run I hit during my softball career starting as young as seventh grade. My goal was to bankrupt him. I’m sure I nearly did.
So many immigrants. So little time.
I entrepreneur the way I do because of who I am. I’m a stubborn German, a tenacious Russian, a sexually deviant Czechoslovakian, with the orderliness and creativity of an English Grandma coupled with the common sense of her Norwegian side.
I’m a lot of things. So are you.
Embrace those things, use them for good, and be unapologetically you. The world can never have too many Superheros.