Rest In Peace Marshall Johnson

My paternal cousin Marshall Johnson died this past week. It was way too soon. He was way too young. This picture, from much happier days, shows him with his mother at our cousin’s wedding.

He’s with his mom again now and his father. Along with many aunts and uncles, including my father. And some other cousins who died even younger.

When my father died and my mom and I went to the hospital right after, Marshall was there with us. He was there for all of us in my immediate family many times before and many times after. How do I describe such a big presence?

It’s Valentine’s Day, so maybe the best way to talk about him starts there. With love. The day usually focuses on romantic love, but it’s also about love for family and friends. Marshall had a big heart.

He was always one for big celebrations with family and friends. The bigger the celebration the better. He was someone who extended himself to his immediate family, extended family, friends and co-workers. But he wouldn’t stop there. Then he’d also welcome the family, extended family and friends of the first group!

I mean he would go big with invitations and bring everyone into the fold. There would be lots of food, music and an atmosphere of fun and joy. Big gatherings were his thing – backyard barbecues, picnics at a Boston area parks, Super Bowl parties, birthday parties. All kinds of parties. He loved to party!

I have to admit, as an introvert, sometimes the sheer number of people that could be anticipated would be overwhelming to me. I attended many of the gatherings, but not all of them.

Something that I learned and especially appreciated about him over more recent years was that he would truly see and celebrate you as an individual. It didn’t always have to be a big event.

When I got a food writing gig with WGBH, I was so excited! And so was Marshall! He was genuinely happy for me and wanted to celebrate my win by treating me to dinner. I chose Myers + Chang and we had a lovely time.

I thought there would be more time with him. It’s a small circle of people who’ll celebrate your wins and be there at times of extreme loss too. My father was one. Marshall was one. My heart hurts losing both of them so recently. It’s hard to process it all. Writing through it is a start.

Marshall had a lot of extreme health challenges over the last several years. But he beat so many and came back. He was so strong. His most recent health struggles were just too much. I hope he is at peace now. He can finally rest.

I hope he knows how much he will be missed and how much he was loved.

2021 So Far

In the last days of 2020, I took a walk by the beach. It was cold, but pleasant. And as always, I enjoyed watching the moon rise.

Now it’s nine days into 2021 and this is my first post of the year. It’s impossible for me to write a regular post right now. To a certain extent, I thought I adjusted to the pandemic. Thanksgiving alone was difficult, but Christmas was far worse.

And now as I feared, Trump is pulling all manner of shenanigans and we’re in the midst of a coup. He has always called for violence in this country. Going back to 1989, he called for the deaths of five Black and Latino teens in the Central Park jogger case. They were wrongly accused, but he didn’t care.

Not truly conceding that he lost the election to Joe Biden, Trump riled up his supporters to seek justice for him. Through treason. They violently took over the Capitol resulting in five deaths. Just noticing the number five playing out repeatedly here. He wanted five people killed back then and five died recently. That’s odd….

Anyway, now he’s permanently banned from Twitter and most social media platforms because he continues to incite violence. We only have eleven days before the inauguration of Biden and Harris. So much can happen in that time and has already in just a few days.

One really good thing that happened was that Democrats will take control of the Senate after the wins of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. That was such wonderful news to hear early Wednesday. Then within hours the Capitol was taken over. It’s too much to process. There wasn’t time to enjoy the win.

Trump hasn’t been impeached again yet. But that may happen on Monday. He has not resigned, even though there are calls for it. Pence refuses to use the 25th Amendment to remove Trump, even though the insurrectionists appear to have planned to lynch Pence for following the constitution and not overturning the electoral college vote.

The country is in limbo waiting to see what happens next. I hate this movie!

That’s all I got right now. 2021. Please get better.

The Reunion Project

The Reunion Project

With only days left of 2020, I’m certainly happy to see it end. But there were some bright spots during the year too. At the end of January, my mother turned 80 years old. We gathered with extended family and had a nice dinner at a favorite restaurant. It was the last family gathering before the pandemic, so I’m especially grateful that we were able to celebrate.

Turning 80 is a big deal for anyone. But it was an even bigger milestone for her, because she is a breast cancer survivor of nearly 35 years. Things could have gone very differently. I’m so glad to still have her.

As January turned to February and March, it was clear that this year would require a great deal of isolation. But luckily, my mother became part of The Reunion Project through her involvement with the Bridgewater Senior Center. The project was created by Lora Brody, who is an Affiliated Scholar at the Women’s Study Research Center at Brandeis University. Since I went to Brandeis for undergrad, it was quite a coincidence when they met and discovered the shared connection!

My mom is a very enthusiastic person and dove into the project full steam ahead. Based on questions given to her, she wrote about her experiences and thoughts about life from when she was very young compared to what she knows now as an elder. She was interviewed by a college student and then had her portrait taken by Lora.

Preparation took months, so by the time she was interviewed and sitting for her portrait, the weather was warm and they were able to meet socially distanced outside.

The exhibit took place outside on Bridgewater Common for the month of November. When I visited, it was so interesting seeing the pictures of all the participants from when they were young and their portraits now. The answers that people gave showed the joys and hardships in life that we all face, but then there were many differences in perspective too.

The Enterprise wrote an extensive article about the exhibit. They photographed and interviewed my mom too! I’m so proud of her!

2020, you weren’t all bad. But I’m looking forward to 2021!