Do you know the history of Hickman?
It’s my maiden name, and sometimes people who’ve only ever known me as Faletra chuckle when I tell them.
“Yes,” I say when they ask, “Are you a hick, man?”
I laugh, because yes is an honest answer; we kind of are sometimes.
My name is Faletra now, and I’ve married into a great family who has loved me as their own for the past 8 years. Blessed, I would call myself, to have two great families.
But biology reminds me: my name is Faletra, but my blood is Hickman, down to each cell, red and white. I’ve often wondered where the name came from, from where previous Hickmans hailed, what they did, how they lived. Did they live with the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, like my father? And what of diabetes, like my grandfather? Or cancer, like my grandmother who died before I knew her? Did they know intimately the tumultuous up and down of anxiety and depression, of bipolar disorder, or panic attacks? Did ancestral Hickmans find life to be beautiful and exhausting at the same time, too, as we do? Were they mad at God? Did they trust him anyway?
To be honest, the specifics do not matter. Because whatever our history was or is, it has made the Hickmans full of a kind of soft, unassuming strength that some people just plain miss. We are a redemptive, glimmering, loving people. Yes, we have our shortcomings—and lots of them, but what lies beneath our scars and divots and short tempers? What are the stories behind our fears and anxieties? The paths Hickmans have walked have been full of thorns and bristles, burning coals and frigid terrain.
The Hickmans are tender (yes, even the men, in their own rugged way), but they fight and thrash against the tumult and the crashing waves that try to knock them down. If anyone has raged against the dying of the light, it is my mother and father. If anyone has been knocked down by wave after wave and still managed to stand up against them, strong and sometimes all alone, it is my brother. They are generous and compassionate. They love when it is hard. They give seventy times seven chances. They fight their demons instead of pretending they have none. They do not sweep their troubles under a Jesus-rug, as I like to call it, or pretend that everything’s just a-okay.
The sad thing is, through the years, some people have decided that kind of authenticity and truth is too much.
People have left them behind. Walked away in their time of need. Swept them to the side, out of their path and line of sight, like they are salted snow, a melting and dissolving eye-sore in the midst of an otherwise seemingly sparkling crisp winter.
It’s a pity, I tell you, because underneath everyone else’s sparkling white snow is the same load of shit, and at least my parents have the balls to call it shit when it is actual shit, and then they get their hands dirty cleaning it up.)
But I (profanely) digress.
This is the narrative of Hickman: we greet pain and loss, anxiety and grief, loneliness and confusion, and we tell it to kindly fuck off because there is still life and marrow in our blood cells and bones.
On my toughest days–the ones full of pain, of anxiety, of tears, and “this life is too much,” and doubt and fear, and “Oh, my God, why? I cannot stand!”–I remind myself that I, too, have Hickman blood, and if I have even just one thousandth of the same strength and tenderness it carries with it, then, by God, I am going to be okay.
I love you, Daddy, Mommy, and Bubby, and I am so proud you’re my family.