You’re Living Overtime:
chapters 1 & 2 of
A True Short Story Of Optimism And Its Benefits by Linda Dawkins
Being a Natural Born Optimist, and now residing in Las Vegas, Nevada for four years now, I can genuinely say that, So far, from what I’m observing has been a great joy at every turn. The City of Las Vegas is to those many people who visit here, The Entertainment Capital of the World. It is the place where, Players come to play, winners come to win, risk-takers and gamblers take chances to go all in or nothing at all. Its the place where millions of people visit every year and the place where a person may come to spend money on fine dining and excellent entertainment. Maybe even a rendezvous with a fantasy that one has had to win or lose. “What happens in Vegas, Stays In Vegas.” is what they say.
Where shall I Begin?
Las Vegas is also the place where I choose to begin my story. Las Vegas is a rustling, bustling and hustling Urban City that NEVER sleeps. With a population that’s roughly 200,000 or less people that Actually live here and apparently its still growing. Sin City, as it’s been pinned, isn’t a good title for this beautiful and friendly place, nor does it correctly ‘fit the bill’. The tourism industry is forever on the grind and the social scene, well, there’s plenty of room for growth. In fact, Everything that’s done here in Vegas is done Bigger, Brighter and Better than anyplace else in the world.
Living here has been an amazing adventure and a definite pleasure for my family and I. Besides being separated from my husband and going through some personal crises’ I’m still a very happy person. Let me tell you why.
My Family during our migrating from Montreal, Quebec Canada to Los Angeles, California; The place I have correctly pinned The Real Sin-City, the place where I grew up, had my children and lived for well over 29 years. Then later uprooting my family and moving to Vegas in 2012. Only after many failed attempts at living and ‘staying afloat' in the ever fluctuating economy of that sketchy Los Angeles city life. For me, It became impossible to rise above and compete with growing employment. Competition for jobs became tiresome. Leaving me no choice but to get on Public Assistance. In other words, things just fell on the “hopeless side of help”.
Let me explain a little, my parents migrated to this country from South America and the island of Jamaica. My father, being the Jamaican and my mother the Guyanesse born South American. Both were great parents except for normal human tendencies to make frequent mistakes. Not a good idea in Los Angeles, Also, so prideful and stubborn as to hardly admit when they have made a mistake or to make amends when needed. Which made it difficult for my family to progress financially or even lay a foundation for permanent presidency there in Los Angeles. For years they struggled to support our family of six to no avail. Until they both eventually got sick and passed away at different intervals. My mother passed away at 10:15 pm, on the evening of November 15, 1995 and my dad 12:30pm on the afternoon of July 5th, 2010. I miss them both dearly and wish that they could have been around for much longer. However, it took for my parents to pass away for me to realize that I didn’t have to stay stuck in Los Angeles. I had my choice to travel anywhere I pleased. So I choose Las Vegas. A little less than 500 miles away from The City of Lost Angels or The Real Sin City, I’d prefer to call it.
In 1979, while in Los Angeles, at the age of nine I was forcibly relieved of my public transportation buss pass just before I boarded on my way home after school by some really wicked boys. Out of all the grown people that were on the bus at the time, none offered their assistence. However, the bus driver was nice enough to give me a tranfer so that I can continue my journey homeward. That was my first bad experience there. Its not like I never had bad experiences up until then either. To begin with, My mother always told me that I wasn’t supposed to be born, because she had her fallopian tubes tied or removed after my brother Brian was born. So it should have been impossible for her to have me. Yet there I was! Aslo, being born a preemie, with under developed lungs which caused me an extreme amount of difficulty with breathing over the years. In fact, I Presently cope with the sufferings of asthma. Moreover, missing school and frequent visits to the pediatrician for weekly epinephrine injections. Yet, at the same time still suffering with the same disease the drug was supposed to ease. All the while, I smiled, played and was a very happy, happy girl for some reason. I never thought about dying or anything like that but I can tell by the delicate nature and favouritism that I recieved, that I was a very unique child, sick yet striving. “Gotta watch her constantly, cause she won’t or can’t tell you when she’s in trouble and that she needs help.” “Get her out of here, perhaps to a warmer climate, because I fear that she won’t survive to the age of ten.” Was the advice my parents were given. My then childhood pediatrician, Dr. Farver, in Canada, was my families doctor. A Hindi Physician/Pediatrician that cared for me and many Guyanesse/Canadians with Hindi backgrounds and one who was considered a closely related and well trusted family member. During that time, I developed an interest in music at the early age of four. My mother insisted on me learning to play the piano. My father obliged the idea.
I attended piano lessons for a number of years. Then lost the interest to read music notes. I thought to myself; “Why keep learning the notes when I have more fun playing everything I hear?” I know now that was dumb But, Yeah, thats one of my present skills, ‘playing by ear’ that is. Even while attending piano lessons other children made attempts to detour me with negativity and try to discourage my attendance by acts of bullying. Even to the point of backing me up into a corner, getting in my face and saying cruel things. Me being the protector not the victim that I was, even more so now than before. Having to struggle to breathe for the majority of my life, wasn’t about to let some stupid big kid with stinky breath push me around. My response was “your breath stinks.” In which it made the other children laugh loudly. Now, those who were once participants in the torment were then now suporters by force of nature.
There were other times when my bad experiences were turned bright by my optimism. At one point, before my musical intetests developed, My parents took what would be my families last vacations to the city of Kitty in Georgetown, Guyana. At that time, in 1972 thr country was just entering a modern era of having the benefits of electricity usage. However, many fortunate residents and well to do families had an chance at the convenience early taking advantage of the use of electricity. Which, since my grandfather, my mothers father was the Chief Inspector Of Police at the time and my grandmother, my mothers, mother was a very popular Caterer who made the most delicious Indian meals and deserts. From Black Pudding, to Roti, (Black Pudding is made to resemble sausage but instead of meat inside it has a majority of rice mixture with very small amounts of meat. The mixture is then systematically stuffed to sausage skins and boiled in sizes that are roughly six or seven inches long, then tied off at those size intervals then boiled in the skins… I think…)
I never had an opportunity to become a student of the trade-art, because of my illnesses. I was always kept away from smokey areas and learned to avoid other places that released chemicals, fumes, dust, fur and grass. My parents tried in vain to prevent my asthma attacks from occuring but with no inhalers at the time, their efforts were to no avail. All of this still couldn’t sway my optimism. Think cough and spit, or rub some vicks on my chest and back.
I remember one day my family went swimming by the Sea Wall, in Guyana. I couldn’t swim then.(Still can’t now, but I’m not afraid of the water either.). My big sister Karen, who was nine years old, and five years my senior was a fish when in the water. So I thought to ask her to teach me to swim. Because of the geography, the beach had a pretty long stretch to me before you enter in deeper waters. So my sister picked what she thought was a perfect training ground. My parents were on shore not too far away so as to observe the events and my lesson.
Nevertheless, that wasn’t enough to prevent or delay the inevitable from occurring. My sister told me to lie down on my stomach then she craddle me in her arms, as I attempted to balance myself. She instructed me to paddle with my hands and feet. For a few moments it was fun. But I didn’t here her instruction that she was about to let go, and I am to keep my head up above the water, also Don’t Stop Paddling. Before long, she let go. I sank… I arose quickly realizing that I couldn’t breath under water. While coughing, balling and trying to wipe away salt water from my eyes. I began to walk in what I thought was in the direction towards my parents, trusting that they would be walking towards me, but in fact, It was I who was walking in the opposite direction and into the deeper areas of the water. I didn’t realize that I was disoriented. Then suddenly, as expected, on a beach, a huge wave came crashing into me. I was immediately knocked off my feet and off balance and taken into the ocean under the waves, for what seemed like an eternity. Every time I stood and found the opportunity to regain my footing, I was knocked down again. I became even more disoriented with every pounding. Getting slapped around by Mother Nature was ‘kind of’ fun. However, I didn’t realize how much danger I was in until there was no more land to regain my footing on. I found myself twirling and swirling in a relentless under-current. And remained under the waves for a while. Suddenly, I felt someone grab me. It was my father, who years later told me that he couldn’t swim and the water was just past his neck, as he motioned to his neck. In any case, he was able to hold his head up above the water and feel around for me. Then he told me that I kept saying; “Daddy I was swimming, I swam, I Swam! All the while my mother was hysterical as she watched helplessly on the shore as she wss unable to move as quickly as my father. In which I consoled her by retelling her the same exclamations that I told my dad. Of how I was actually swimming under water. But in actuality I was drowning. An Another example of the strength of optimism.
At the age of seven, I 'technically' began attending regular schooling with other children. Before that, my mother, who was a singer and sang with an operatic voice. She also danced and was a teacher, taught me to read and write at a young age. She gave me a bible to read, which although I didn’t understand it in its entirety at the time, I managed to complete by the age of 12. I also had a Jehovah’s Witness Children’s Bible with very vibrant and colorful photos. In which, I had a field day admiring, as I traced. Moreover, had plenty of fun sketching the pictures throughout the book. On days when I was home sick from school, I’d read and read and read some more.
My father being a dynamic salesman,(thats all he knew), sold everything from pianos to World Book Encyclopedias, to vending machines to weatherization to insurance. The Encyclopedias, I enjoyed very much. I had my own set that included a ‘no longer’ in production ‘Cycle Teacher’. Which by the way kept me quite occupied. When my father decided to get licensed, to sell health insurance, the ball Really began to roll. Working with several groundfloor corporations like Cigna and United Health Plan. Upon becoming a leader in his field and a Regional Manager with UHP and in the late '70’s he was asked to travel to California to instruct new sales reps on the companies new algorithms. He made a lot of money and thought it would be a great idea to move his family out to Los Angeles. Little did he realise then that racism and discrimination were rampant in the late 70’s and 80’s and is just as rampant today
It became very difficult for him to advance further in his career. I guess that he probably didn’t feel those pressures in Canada. (Let me tell you now that I did.).
Or thats what I thought. Perhaps it could’ve been a few cases of bullying which I know is a form of discrimination not directly tied to racism but tied to it nonetheless. Not necessarily a black or white thing however. For instance, my brother, sisters and I were on an elevator going up to the 16th floor where ee lived in s condominium to our home. (At the time, our apartment was in a very tall skyscraper.) On the elevator, there was a teenaged boy who apparently didn’t like the fact that we boarded the same elevator that he was on at the same time. He almost immediately began to say mean and obnoxious obscenities to us. To the likes of; “You stupid kids need to get on another one”, but witjlh racial jargon and other such things. My brother and sisters were silent because the boy was much bigger than we were. However, being the ‘Smart Alice' that I was, I couldn’t resist the urgr to tell that boy a thing or two. One being “Shut-Up you Dummy”. His response was a cold hard slap a cross the face in which he Definitely silenced me. But instead of becoming quiet, I cried loudly…Very Loudly… Then the elevator opened and we got off. It was our floor. Traveling to the 16th floor was usually a fun experience. Except on occasions when one would have to use the bathroom. In any other case, we would have been getting off the elevator laughing, but on this particular day and occasion, and since I was crying, moreover, there was a had print left on my cheek. Along with a slightly bloody mouth and a partial swollen lip. We banged on our door, which was the first door to the right of the elevator. Our mother opened the door then asked what had happened. We told her the events leading up to my receiving the unwarranted slap. She was irrate. My mother was a lioness when it came to protecting her cubs. When it came down to it, she would resort to violence and was never scared of a fight. In fact sometimes struck the first blow. Not being one for too much talk or argument. She would prefer an all out brawl. Well, low and behold, we left our condo in search of this even younger tyrant of a teen who boldly crossed lines treading waters with unforeseeable circumstances. Perhaps he thought that he had seen the last of those annoying black kids. To our surprise he was still on the elevator when the doors opened. What happened next was another surprise to me. But not until after my brother, sisters and I all pointed simultaneously at the boy, with angry accusing fingers and yelled out “He Did It!!!” Thats all my mother needed to hear. The boy backed up as far as he could when he saw my mother. Only to be blocked with no where to retreat but to the back of the elevator. His only options were through my mother, which by the way, wasn’t happening. She quickly walked up to him, grabbed him by the 'butterfly’ collar, (which was the trend at the time), lifted him up what appeared to me to be, up off the elevator floor and into the air using the wall of the elevator as a brace. She looked him straight into his overly frightened eyes and said in a raspy voice that had that unmistakably meaning of serious shit and business, “ If you EVER lay hands on my any of my children, you won’t live to use it again.” Then she dropped him crumpling to the ground. He sat there on the elevator floor as we all turned and left him there to nurse his pride and deal with his fear. When the elevator door closed, he was still sitting there with tears in his eyes. There were few such occasions. Where my optimism was deliberately nursed by my mothers consoling.
Throughout the years, we have had our share of ups and downs. Like most famlies, we could probably say that we’ve been through the worst. Not as bad as when our first house burned down in 1980 and we found ourselves homeless and having to separate and split up. We never again after that lived as a family in the same home after that. We eventually found out that the fire was an arson attempt either to kill us or for some other devious motive. My mother accused my dad and my dad accused my mom. The motive would have been to collect the insurance for the damages that occured. This was the beginning of my parents separation. They stayed married for 17 years after that but never got back together. All the way up until my mother died in '95. During those 17 years I can honestly say that they were the worse time of my life. My mother befriended this family with the surname of Richardson, who I gave the pen-name “The Devils” because of how much evil they were into. Everything that I was taught as a child Not to do, my mother did. From selling drugs to thievery. Even going as far as making and selling Crack Cocaine. To my sister Dina’s demise. As she became an addict at around 19 years of age. I watched her go from a talented young lady with a promising future becoming a star that I admired, to someone I would prefer not answer the phone for if she called. Don’t get me wrong, I love my sister. There are personal events that occured that potentially ruined her life and crippled the possibility of her growing into one with hope and promise. For example, my mother’s seduction of my then 16 year old sisters boyfriend in order to make her stop dating him. He was a 17 year old drug addict. Which I suppose, in my mothers logic, was supposed to free my sister from this bad boy’s influence. This triggered a dramatic series of events that eventually led to a fight along with police intervention, The fire and other crucial events that followed. The result was that my father was made to leave. The boy stayed… which further tormented my sister. For a few years we dealt with his family, and were blinded by certain things pertaining to the Richardsons. Dina never emotionally recovered from those events. She suffers from schizophrenia. In fact she acted as though she had a lot of serious mental issues. Associating with bad men and getting herself pregnant with her first child at 18 years of age. She eventually moved back to Canada with her then five year old daughter. Only to have her daughter removed from her custody, after being left home alone. She went on a three day binge. My niece was escorted back to California under the protection of the Canadian Mounted Police. You know those officers that wear those red and black ranger outfits with the ranger hat and all.
The remaining events were a series of dominoe effects of negativity, poverty and violence. That of course, to me, being the youngest, it fell on to take note of and put to memory… for now. What appeared to me was negativity at every angle and no where to surface for a break for a breather. Besides having to deal with my asthma, I technically didn’t have any parents to guide me through into adulthood. In the 7th grade I entered puberty and was told by mom that I can have babies now so be careful. Without telling me how babies come. Although I believe that I probably already new. But didn’t know how.
At the age of 16, in 1985 I got pregnant with my first daughter Monique who was born in 1986. Approximately 10 years before my mother passed away. I also became an emancipated minor that year. It was ordered by Judge Roosevelt Dorne and the Inglewood Courthouse in Inglwood, California. Also, that I was to furthermore, never associate with my mother. I couldn’t visit or live with her even after she straightened up, until I turned 18. During those two years that I was incarcerated, I hopped from Central Hall Juvenille Detention Center to Los Padrinos Juvenile Detention to Center and Sylmar Juvenille Detention Center and back to Central again while awaiting placement. Always keeping my optimism at a higher level by reading and socializing with the Counselors. I observed the many children held that were held there and had opportunities to discuss with them their reasons for being there and got a glimpse of life as They see it. Six months passed when an appropriate placement was found. The placement was called Florence Crittenden Placement For Teen Mothers in Fullerton Orange County. While there, I was able to get my high school diploma at Wilshire Community College. That Probably would not have happened if I were on the outs and onbioysly would not have occured if I were at home. Moreover, at that time I was pregnant again with my second child Robert. That was evidence that I truly didn’t need my parents because they were unable to properly guide me. Florence Crittenden was to be my home until I turned 18 and no longer a ‘ward of the court’. It was convenient because I was allowed to keep my babies with me. It was also deemed that I was capable to care for my children so no issue was brought up in the courts within regards to my parents behaviour up to that point and my capabilities of being a great parent. My father, was overwhelmingly supportive, especially after my mother died. In fact, he has been my main supporter for long afterwards and up until he passed away. I have even lost my optimism during that time and unwittingly said to my four children that, “We’re Screwed if anything happens to Daddy.” ,(GrandPa to my children.).
A few years after being freed and no longer A Ward of the Court, I began working at LAX as a Parking Lot Attendant. While at that job, I met my youngest two childrens Jasmine and Jamal’s father, James. A 'country boy’, the Son of A Preacher… I Thought that he would be perfect for me since he was the son of a preacherman. He should be a good person, I thought. Boy was I wrong… He was a Control Freak and thought I was a Push-Over that he could just bully. Wasn’t happening... Furthermore, He had Sugar Diabetes and upon doing my research, I began to eventually help him administer his insulin twice a day. We lived together for a few years until I realized his abusive tendencies. During that time I submitted myself, to what I thought was ‘for love’ and I ‘sort of’ trusted him… a little bit… But he did some really cruel things to me. Like take our infant daughter Jasmine and keep her for a week to his cousins house without prior notice to me that he will be gone for a few days. Leaving me with my two children home by ourselves. Only to come back with clothing purchased by members on his side of the family. Only problem was they were only for only 'his’ daughter and never for the other two that were there when we met. Furthermore, h’d tell me that she has a lot more clothing and diapers at his cousins house. Adding to my discomfort. It seemed he planned to run off with her. Or thats how I felt. The worse situation was while I was yet breast feeding my daughter Jasmine. I was fresh into lactating when he took her again but by force. I told him that I was producing a lot of milk for her and that he should let her get the milk while she can. But he took her anyway. Left cursing me and ‘calling me out my name’. Anyhow, after the first few days I became engorged. (over-filled until the milk hardened). A painful experience and it hurts something awful. I called the police after he didn’t bring her back after longer than a week. Thinking that I would be reporting a possible kidnapping. Turns out that, since we have been living together for so long and that there was no evidence of foul play, (his clothes and other belogings were still there.), he would be back and that he has rights as a father. However, all the while, I suffered. Trying to remain calm for the sake of my other two children. If it weren’t for my father, we probably would have starved. Needless to say, I no longer have dealings with him and he hasn’t been in our lives for that matter for well over 19 years. My dad came to stay with us while James was gone.
That was one of many times that I was utilized optimism. I didn’t realize and was capable at the time and that I could have left too. I have contemplated numerous times to migrate back to Canada but never have for some odd reason or the other. When my children grew up, I insisted that we move out of California in general.
Thats how its been for my early years. In Las Vegas, this is where we reside right now and doing quite well for ourselves may I add! Although I experienced a separation from my current husband here, after five years of marriage. Also, it may be my first and only divorce perhaps. We’re still friends and every now and then we do the normal doings that married couples do. Even though we live in separate places and 'say’ we aren’t together. We still find time to frolic around. The events to this experience are another story.
These are but a few instances in my optimistic life. There are numerous others. The life experiences that have occurred were trying but I have embraced them. They will forever be etched in the forefront corners of my mind. As they caution me to make the right choices in life and to encourage my children and grandchildren to do the same. I will save those stories for another time.
When optimism is the only choice and there are many and, at the time, no other options available, remember to trust in your intuition. We all know whats wrong from whats right. As if it’s a part of our DNA. Choosing to do what’s right will always keep you on the optimistic side of life’s ups and downs.
Those 'bad’ days are well in the past for me. I can honestly say that the lessons learned are all in practice and that life is a lot easier to take-in. I am not solely existing or striving but I am thriving. I guess that I actually did learn the art of swimming and metaphorically ‘staying afloat’ with the Grace of God, my intuitions and being optimistic afterall.