A cool front passed through today. It’s a hell of a nice day today outside. Fall is arriving and with it my usual melancholy mood. I got it bad today.
When my dad died, on the day I knew he would, I went to the liquor store and stocked up. Before I left him to make the trip to the liquor store, on the way out the door of his hospital room, he looked at me with that look of his, kind and loving, and said, “I love you twice!” My cousins thought it was a weird thing to say but it was classic Dad and it meant the world. He drifted away a couple hours later. I went straight for the bottles. My best friend was gone. I was so pissed at god and the world and even him for just giving up.
Some time in the early morning before sunrise, after I’d been lying in bed a few hours totally fucked up and trying to figure out how I would live any longer, I thought of my little hydroponics garden attached to the side of our cabin. Tomato vines were growing very well, and blooming. I built the thing as much for Dad’s appreciation than for tomatoes. Suddenly I rose up, went down the stairs, outside, and tore that thing all to hell. What was the fucking use, Dad was gone? My wife and brother who was staying with us thought I had gone stark raving nuts. They tried to stop me but I shoved them all away and demolished the whole thing. I had to.
For the next few days I stayed totally fucked up. I was drunk at the planning of the funeral and pretty smashed at the funeral itself. We dressed the old fart in overalls and a white shirt, the clothes he wore all the time. Somebody stuck a pen in his bib pocket to make it all the way it should be.
When they put that box in the ground I went with it. I have never been the same. My life has always been one of confusion. I’m weird, different, fucked up, screwy, strange, you insert the adjectives. I was, and am, that to every fucking person on the planet, even the rest of my family and my wife. My mom loved me but my dad was there, always there, and I was too goddamn busy in the world to be there when I should have been. I will never forgive myself for not sending him something for the last father’s day. I was such a goddamn dick. But he was there, always, loving me without question. He actually turned to me for advice and information. There’s been nobody like him in my life. Not ever.
Today, with the fall wind blowing through my shop I’ve been wandering around, lost, looking at stuff I have. We, my Dad, brother and I, used to dream about a real shop, a place with every tool we need at hand. I have it. A lot of the tools I have were his or my brother’s. I have so much shit of his here. Up on the wall are his hand saws, a tube checker for old electron tubes, his soldering iron. It still pisses me off I can’t show it off to him. He’d have been here with me building something, just anything, fucking around with wood or whatever.
My family limped along without him for years. We were never the same. I live a couple miles from where Mom lived. I saw her often. She visited and I could show her the shit I was working on. I saw my siblings now and then though they never visited. I visited them sometimes. Then Mom got really sick. She got cancer. When she was reaching the end and was all totally fucked up from what the idiotic doctors did to her they flaked out. I stayed with her, kept her company, was there ’till she was gone too. When she died I knew in my guts that we buried our family with her. The last time we were ever all together was at her house after she died.
Dad died what, some thirteen years ago. Mom died three years ago. Now I am totally fucking alone. Yeah, my wife and kids are here but it’s not the same. My family are all wrapped up in their religious bullshit. I’m the reprobate. My wife loves me and my kids adore me but I’m lousy to them because it’s just not in me to be happy. Happy won’t come. Happy got cancer when Dad died and it died with Mom.
I picked up my old hard hat I wore when I was hauling sand and put it on my head today. Got sawdust and dirt in my hair. It’s been hanging on the wall of this shop. This shop is so Dad. It’s so yesterday. It’s my refuge but it’s a melancholy refuge where purpose does not have a home. Sometimes I make shit. I tinker. The other day I made a 12 volt power supply from a scrap tranformer and rectifier. Dad taught me how to do that shit. He taught me all the skills I use out here. He was the ultimate tinkerer. But what the fuck, why make anything if it’s just going to sit in the goddamn shop and he don’t see it? Nobody else is interested. Nothing I make is pretty. Sometimes it don’t work but sometimes it does. What difference does it make?
Religion. Goddamn religion has cut away my family. Their fucking god is all they see or know. I am a reminder to them that it’s all bullshit. I don’t even know why I’m writing this shit. It’s do this or lay in the floor and scream or just sit here and cry. Everything is so fucked up.
Now I’ve run out of words. I’d really rather be fucked up but I have to go get the kids and besides, I ain’t got much to drink. I lit my pipe but I can never keep that goddamn thing lit. I gave up and got another cigar.
I have a shelf with Dad’s stuff on it in the house. I call it my shrine. He was a “radio man,” an engineer who worked for radio stations for fifty years or so. I have his ancient headphones and a tube out of an old RCA transmitter. When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with him at the radio station, the transmitter building where huge AM transmitters hummed and buzzed, massive 303’s in the RCA glowed like candles. I have one of those 303’s. I’ve held on to it since I was a kid, over forty years. It’s a most prized possession. I have the Scotch bottle that I emptied the day he died, too. Sure wish I had a new one! Full.
Fall always fucks me up. Always has. The forties music on the player probably doesn’t help. I love everything about the forties. And my dad lived through them. I miss his stories. He used to tell such great stories. Once I recorded him and wrote them down. I’ve lost the tapes and most of the writing. That sucks. I remember some of them. I wish my memory wasn’t so fucked up.
Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey is playing now. “Polkadots and Moonbeams.” Just a slow tune with smooth a vocal and lots of brass. And now it ends. Another Frankie tune, “My One and Only.” Sinatra was such a selfish prick but he knew how to croon. I miss those sixties variety shows with the crooners, fading into the past by then. KTRE radio, dad’s station for eighteen years… well not his but where he worked… played this stuff. Hamp and Eggs, that was the morning show. Hampton Kiethly. I remember the studio, the smell of smoke and hot tubes. Massive turn tables and a board with huge knobs. …
All my yesterdays. Song now is “Pennies from Heaven.” That is a great song.
Shit, my cigar is done. I need to pee. Guess I’ll go.
There are people who faithfully write on their blog day after day even though like this one the words are rarely viewed by other souls. Bless them for their perseverance. At times I loose enthusiasm for the daily keyboard calamity of this blog and sometimes even life itself. But I always recover.
August. What is it? The end of summer? The last hurah? It’s just one more event, a record of passing time, thirty-one days when everything in the universe passes away and is renewed. And having let it go by without writing anything on this blog I’m trying to hard so I’ll quit.
There are no excuses anyway. I don’t believe in excuses. There may be reasons but there are never excuses. If we make the right choices soon enough everything works well. Sometimes the choices are blind choices and we should not be faulted for making the wrong decision at those times but still the option of choice renders excuses invalid.
So there is no excuse for my not being as diligent as those who write every day. I just didn’t. That is it. I was tired of thinking. I am still tired of thinking but thinking is what I do whether I like it or not. Now that I have endured the month of August, moved one more step towards oblivion, raised the number of years on this planet to 52 and counting, I shall return to writing for a time.
I have been busy. I’ve worked around the house, done all my housework, watched over the kids, and built a few things. I installed a new washer/dryer combo… a stack set with a front load washer, very nice and going to cost us. I also moved my writing desk to my enclosed back porch. Just yesterday I made screens for the windows so I can let the fresh air in this fall. Before the cold gets here I’ll have a wood heater of some kind beside me. The brick hearth has been down since last fall.
September is going to be another busy month. I have all kinds of projects on my agenda. We’re remodeling the kids’ bathroom, I have a patio out back to create from blocks, I’m fixing up a garden area out front, and we have a good deal of cleanup that needs tending to. This is besides my daily chores that every good housekeeper has to do: washing clothes, floors, fixing dinner, etc.. So if I’m not here everyday you’ll just have to deal with it.
Now I’m off to get my kids lunch. Starting tomorrow they’ll be in school. The birds will chirp, the sky will be blue, life will move on but Daddy will be sad because the constant companionship of my little people will not be available any longer.
Time to go, now. I have work to do. Don’t stay gone too long because sooner or later I’ll be back!
This morning I’m finishing up a few things I started yesterday morning while my wife slept in. The post just below was part of what I needed to finish. Down the hall my two little kids are working on their vocabulary. My wife is off to work and my oldest is in summer school. It’s quiet now.
Last night after my wife and I went to bed she turned over to go to sleep while I did a little reading. I turned to her and said, “It’s a joy to sleep beside you!”
My world is a small world. Through the years I’ve been a home parent I’ve become more and more isolated from the world. I look out through a little window and what I see horrifies me so much that I write these blogs and work on the peace website and try to be a voice for change. But the world I live in, day to day, is tiny.
Since my mom died my world has shrunk even smaller. My siblings are not much interested in anything beyond their own big circle of friends so they are not a part of my little world. I see my wife’s parents sometimes. My life is four people who come and go as I spend my days in this little tin can house.
Once I was very bored and lonely. For years after I became a home parent I sought outlets, wrote online friends, searched all over for “somebody to be a friend.” I used to take off on weekends just to get out of the house. I don’t do that much any more, I do not like being away from my kids.
There’s little chance of finding friendly faces around this neighborhood, though, since I cannot accept the religion and politics of people here. I don’t look for anyone “out there” any more. I have no need for them.
I can say the teachings of Buddha have been a wonderful help. They have taught me to accept life as it is. I love Buddha and his teaching.
My world is not a religious world, though. I do not believe in the Christian concept of God. I doubt any kind of “god” exists. I do not pray nor believe it is a useful habit except for those who get psychological benefit from it.
I do not spend my day in front of the TV. I do spend too much time on the computer. I’m a little neglectful of my household chores–make that quite neglectful. My time online is spent searching for truth, learning what is happening in the world outside, trying to figure out how to make the world better for my kids.
I live in a little world. But you know what? My world is just fine. Each night I go to sleep thinking how much my family means to me. Many nights I drift off to sleep thinking simple thoughts about how much I love each of my children and my wife.
There’s not much I want. There’s little I need. I don’t dream of riches or fancy cars. I would like to travel but even that is not all that important any more. In fact, I have all I need and far more. I love my family with my whole, whole heart. They love me back! I lack nothing and life could not be better.
It has taken a few days for me to get around to this post. I’ve been thinking about how to write it. No luck yet.
Last Thursday my three siblings and I were together for the last act we’ll ever do as a family. It’s likely I’ll never see my oldest sister again. I will see my brother and youngest sister very little. We finished the task of dealing with mom’s stuff by signing the papers to sell the house. It’s over.
All these years that house has been “over there,” the anchor of a family separated by different attitudes, lifestyles, and religions. We all have a few happy memories but in all none of us had a happy childhood. Mom was not always easy to get along with. We loved her, though, at least three of us did. Not to sure about my younger sister. Anyway, the house was the anchor. Now that it is gone there’s nothing holding the family together at all.
Mom and dad would be very sad, probably, about the disolution of their little family. I’m a little sad too. All that is left of mom and dad is a stone in a cemetary where their remains rest. That and an assortment of stuff scattered among our things. There’s memories, of course, plenty of those.
What is a family? In some cultures family is everything. In most cultures family is important. It seems less important in this country. Families don’t get along very well here. In our case it’s not so much getting along as it is that we’re so different we don’t have anything but a few memories in common. I, especially, am the odd person out (as usual). Christianity is a big part of my brother and younger sister’s life. I am Buddhist. Where do we find a meeting of minds? We don’t. They dance around subjects, avoiding anything that might lead back to a discussion of beliefs or point of view. I miss all of my family. I’ve never really been a part of it, though, for a very long time. When mom died I lost my last best friend outside my own family. When mom died, too, she took with her the reason we’ve all had to act like a family.
Maybe it’s more difficult for me because I do not have a circle of friends like my three siblings do. My oldest sister has fewer but she has her family. My brother and sister have a huge circle of friends, all of them tied to their church or their spouse’s family.
Thursday morning I walked through the house one last time, taking pictures, trying to stuff memories on the camera along with digital images. My brother could not walk through the house. He struggled with just being at it that last morning it was in our family. Neither of my sisters made it by to say goodbye.
My oldest sister and I were talking before the signing. She said, “it’s just like mom died all over again.” I had been thinking the same thing for a day or so. It wasn’t mom dying, it was the family she raised. We killed it with the stroke of a pen. Each of us walked away with a check that represented the final vestiges of all that had kept us together: that old house.
I don’t really know what to say now. It’s just over. The anchor is gone. What do we do now?
Not long after my mom died I concluded I had to write something with the title “Life After Mom.” I had to explain the before and after of my life, my beliefs, my direction. I let my mind ponder through the holidays.
Totally without any planning today I wrote what needed to be written. The following essay began as a response to an email to a new friend telling about my history and beliefs and morphed into what it is now. I re-wrote the letter to the friend and revised the rest into this work. (And I’ve revised it again having read it out loud and found some terrible writing!)
I will at some point expound further on these thoughts but for now this is what I want to say about….
Life After Mom
There are storms like Ike, natural phenomena churning in the Gulf, no malevolent intent (no intent at all) but feared and dreaded for the havoc it can wreak. Then there are storms like the one which crashed into our home yesterday, unwanted, maybe not totally unexpected (though I had hoped against its arrival), bringing a kind of destruction that can’t be measured and will linger long after the unfortunate town on the Texas coast that gets a visit from Ike has rebuilt and moved on.
Hard to get here lately. Went to the lake with my boy over the weekend. Had a little job yesterday. Today I started tearing out our bathroom to remodel it. Only have a few minutes before I crash for the evening.
The weekend at the lake was way past due. My wife left my boy and I at a little place called Ratcliff. If you’re ever in East Texas looking for a nice place to visit, this is it. I’ve been going there on and off since I was my boy’s age.
Back then there was more going on there. On weekends in the summer there were ranger programs, shows, things like that. People were wall to wall, too. These days it’s almost deserted even on really good Summer days. The camping area only has a few brave souls.
Well, for a while, anyway. We got back in town Sunday PM, late. Yesterday my wife was off, her last vacation day, so she slept late and then we went to a movie and ate at Cici’s. Saw the Narnia movie. It was ok. Kids loved it. Today it’s back to the bump and grind.
When I was a kid, Sunday had mythical, mystical meaning. Sunday was “The LORD’s Day.” Not supposed to work, no fishing, just go to church and/or lay around all day. Church, when we went, was boring. Laying around was boring. Of course, weekends we went fishing we were double guilty. Boy was I shocked when I figured out the Sabbath is SATURDAY! And, it was a Jewish day. Hmm.
Guess you had to be there. Thought I’d throw that in.
Sunday is another day. Another day means routine. Routine is good.
Wasn’t so bad in our home. We worked outside a little, kids finished their bit of work, played some. Grilled Cheese sandwiches for lunch. Pan-fried chicken, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas. This day was nice.
This day my mom sits at home in pain and fretting over surgery to remove a cancerous, non-functioning kidney. Surgery is Monday… our 30th anniversary.
This day thousands of people up in the midwest had no homes, towns are washed away, flooding promises to wreck many thousands of people’s lives and destroy food crops.
This day the Environmental News Network carried a story that said over four and a half million people are hungry.
This day people on Cowtippers are trying to figure out the details of Biblical stories, particularly what “dying” meant when God said Adam and Eve shall certainly die. Serious stuff.