American Expat "Moment of Zen"

Originally uploaded by DeeMac
In homage to one of my favourite telly shows, I bring to you today's 'Moment of Zen' as an American Expat living in the UK.

On my flight home from Heathrow tonight, I was sat next to two 20-something Geordie lads who were commuting home from some job they'd just finished abroad. Their conversation meandered around a lot, often touching on funny stories about coworkers, including some of American descent. They were only speaking with eachother... and as far as I could tell, they had no idea it was loud enough that I heard everything they were saying.

At one point, the gents started telling funny but raunchy stories about one of the lads on their last job who watched porn at 3am every night, despite the fact he was room-sharing with other blokes. The jokes they made about this lad were very off-colour and I'm pretty sure not meant for my ears.

Later the conversation meandered back to their American coworkers, who they were earlier speaking of relatively kindly. However during 'Round 2', they started making fun of the American accents and optimistic natures, including impersonations of course.

( Up to this point in the flight, I had not said a word to them so my accent had not given me away, and luckily my clothes and hairstyle no longer serve as a neon 'American Lady' sign like they once used to do. )

Anyway, one of the lads does his best John Wayne impersonation and sings-songs 'Have a Nice Dayyyyy!' with a shit-eating grin on his face. The other guy, who's sat right next to me, starts laughing and says 'HAHAHA and they ALL say that too!'.

This is the point where I lean over to the gent right next to me, look at both of them and say "Actually, not all of us."

Initial reaction was an awkward laugh followed by looking down at their tray tables rather than at me.

Immediately followed by the silent realisation that they've just offended an American lady that they're stuck sitting next to for 30 more minutes.

Eventually the realisation that said American lady probably also overheard the entire porn conversation. (Although, potentially it's just wishing on my part that they'd be uncomfortable speaking about porn in front of me?)

And lastly, a palatable discomfort on their parts for the rest of the plane journey and a huge shit-eating grin on MY face this time.

Oops! :)

And that, my dears, is today's Moment of Zen.


Goodbye Grandpa.

grandpa and the shake
Originally uploaded by julieboddy
My grandpa Jim was never a man of big stature, but in my childhood memories he is a giant. Whenever I think of "home" in the familial core-being sense, it's his house on Critchfield Road which pops into my head, a place that serves as backdrop to most of my truly pleasant childhood memories. Grandpa in the garden picking beans or fussing about rabbits. Grandpa in the kitchen, peeling apples for pies. Grandpa in the living room with a pile of books and classical music on the hi-fi. Grandpa laying face-down on the floor while my sister and I walk up and down his spine in our bare feet. Grandpa loudly cursing at his new-fangled gadgets like the monstrously-sized 1980s microwave or VHS player. Grandpa taking a nap in the recliner despite my protests for him to play with us instead, telling me he's just "catching 60 winks". Grandpa growling at my sister and Dad because they are cheating at cards - again. Grandpa smiling with pride at my mother when she picks us up after classes, treating her as if she was his own child. Grandpa, my real-life Papa Smurf, watching cartoons with me followed by a grisly war movie or Madonna videos on MTV (shh don't tell Grandma!). Grandpa with a glass of sherry in one hand and the other hand petting the dog with love, the smell of his baking pies always in the background. These are the youthful memories I have of the man and the house that define "home" for me at the basest of levels.

As I grew older and more jaded (or maybe realistic?), my understanding of Grandpa Jim began to change, to grow more deep and less naive. I began to see not only his strength and beauty more clearly, but also his vulnerabilities and flaws. His huge dependence upon my grandmother and his nearly-smothering love for her. His ridiculous prejudices and immense secrets, especially those in regards to a distant past he rarely spoke of. Vast holes in him caused by the war, his childhood, the times before his brain tumour. His very complicated relationships with his own children, which contrasted so greatly against the absolutely uncomplicated one he had with me and my sister. His ability to anger too easily and his need to feel at the centre of things at all times - a need which grew greater the more frail he became. But it's not only his failings and frailties that I noticed as I aged...I also grew to appreciate his intelligence, his candour, his dry sarcastic wit, his generosity, and - most selfishly - his ability to love me no matter what ugliness I showed him, whether that be shocking blue hair or a shocking foul mouth.

To use a cliché, life is full of regrets. I regret I didn't spend more time with you before you died Jim. I regret I didn't know you at your end as well as I did at my own beginning. I regret not being home for your funeral, immensely. But please know that I am also grateful. I am grateful for the things you taught me growing up, especially the love of books, swimming, vegetables, cards, and just generally having a good time. I'm also very grateful that the final years of your life brought so many good things back into my own, especially as it relates to my Dad. You were the anchor which tied him to Columbus for the last several years, and his grandchildren are reaping the benefits of having their 'Grandpa Longhair' nearby and loving them so.

Thank you for everything Grandpa. I miss you already.