Tags: family, finances, health, trials and tribulations
It never rains, but it pours.
I got a call from Detroit on my office phone. “Did you get my text?”
Well, no, obviously I didn’t. Because if I did, I would have called right away, or left, or something. She’s in the hospital. Stomach pains and eventually some vomiting.
My fear–aside from the most obvious of things–is that they’ll need to do surgery at some point. My other fear is that she’ll just have to live with it, and be increasingly debilitated as time goes by.
But she said not to worry about leaving right away and coming to the hospital just yet. She’s familiar with the routine. I think she feels if she acts like it’s not a big deal, then it won’t be, and she’ll be okay.
Then I get a call from the ex-wife. Did I get her message the other day about Mitchell? He cut his hair really short, pierced his tongue, and wants to put gauges in his ears. Christ in a side car. Yes, I got that message. Yes, I’m going to have a talk with him.
Well, never mind that. My daughter Miranda fell at school. She’s been having problems with her knee post-surgery. It seems like she can feel a pin coming loose. Her knees are giving out on occasion.
Linda can’t leave to pick her up, because she obviously wants to dump all this on me. I barely have gas money to get home, much less–
“I’ll take care of it.”
I check my bank accounts. One has 9 dollars, one has 8. I’m driving the big truck, which gets phenomenally bad gas mileage. I have a shitty check waiting for me at Pizza Hut, and a check for 9 dollars from ATT, God love em. For what, I have no idea.
Between a dozen phone calls on my ride home–I left work early–I get someone to get her a ride home and leave a message for the doctor to call me back for an appointment.
Once I’m at home, I am informed that the gas is turned off. Outside, the sky is blue and clear; it’s a gorgeous spring day.
The doctor’s office calls back finally, and I make an appointment for Saturday. I did not know they Saturday appointments, but this is a good thing. I can pick her up Friday night, have her spend the night, take her to the doctor in the morning, and then take her home. And then go finish this project at Bunny’s house that she already paid me for.
A few minutes later, the big bad bill collector from the doctor’s office calls me. I owe some money. They had been billing the wrong insurance company–their fault, I’m sure–and I owe 330 dollars. They want me to make a payment on it when I come in. I’ll try. I’ll really, really try.
It’s starting to hail.
Tags: family, funerals, life and death, time travel, weather
And several things may have contributed to why I haven’t written in a while. There, just that one sentence–and now I am off and running. I think.
So much has happened in the last three months, and yet there is so little to tell. In December my Aunt passed away, and right before Christmas Detroit fell on the ice and broke her hip. She has been laid up for the past three months, and is only recently able to start trying to put weight on it.
I…oh, hell–it doesn’t matter. I’m writing this crap for myself anyway. It was (and still is) a fucking lot to deal with. I have to do everything, including shit I’m not good at, like laundry and cleaning. I appreciate more and more what she has done now that I have to do it.
Of course I had a great line for it, because I needed one to get me through. People would ask how she’s doing, and I would explain the whole ordeal, and how the doctor told her not to put any weight on her hip. “And even though he didn’t tell me specifically,” I would add, “I’m sure I’m not supposed to put any weight on it either.” I pause innocently, waiting for my audience to catch on.
But that’s what I had to endure as well: No sex. It’s been very hard to go without. I have these symptoms:
*Cranky and irritable
*No desire to write or do creative work
*Did I mention cranky and irritable?
And I wasn’t sure if it was because of the lack of sex or because of the increase in dosage for my ADD medication. I seem to have leveled out on the crankiness–
Either that, or–like my new sexless life–I’ve come to accept it as part of my life now.
But I really didn’t want the medication to affect my creativity, because other than that this new dose is really working for me, I think. Maybe I was just too focused on all the other tasks at hand to write? I hope so. I never gave up the desire, it just always got pushed to the back burner. Plus, even though I wasn’t getting any, I sure was looking at a large amount of porn.
The specific porn in a guy’s collection sure does say something about his personality–
And let’s leave it at that.
The first weekend of January, our dog picked up a stray dog. Yeah, our dog had a dog. I didn’t have time and Detroit wasn’t able to look for the owners, so we kept her for about three days while it was really cold. Then her son saw a sign in the neighborhood, so we returned her. They were happy to have her back, but it did make us think that another dog is what our dog needs.
We were having a meeting in the living room, the whole house–the whole family. Detroit’s family. I guess they are mine, because they live in my house. But dammit, I don’t want to admit or have to accept the oldest son, The Troll.
I had planned this meeting after the new year to talk about new responsibilities and what I wanted out of the boys, and also some different ways to shop for groceries and plan meals. The meeting got interupted, so I didn’t get to finish and go off on them. Detroit’s mom got a call. Her sister in Michigan was very ill.
She went up to stay with her for several weeks–or stay with another sister and visit the sick one in the hospital. Then she came home, and then spent three or four days with Detroit’s sister while she recovered from lap-band surgery. That’s the thing where they squeeze off part of your stomach when you’re too much of a fat-ass and have no self-control and just keep shoveling food down your throat. They should have installed the lap band about a cubit higher, at her mouth. That would solve several problems: It would keep her from eating, and she wouldn’t be able to talk, either. Fuck, she is annoying.
Shortly after that–about a week ago–Bonnie’s (Detroit’s mom) sister passed away. Away we trek up to Michigan.
I had high hopes of using some of my time off that I tried to accumulate to get some things done around the house. Instead, the three days I built up were used on this, and I have nothing again, until next month. I accrue 11.25 hours per month, which comes to about 17 days per year, or three weeks. This doesn’t include all the holidays we are off and paid for. I have a pretty sweet gig.
We go to Michigan. They pack some bags, and I have to haul them. It’s Detroit, recovering from a broken hip, and using a walker. It’s her sister, recovering from her minor surgery and suffering from a severe personality disorder. And it’s their mother, a short, waddly old sedentary woman with diabetes and other problems. And me, driving the gimp-mobile.
It wasn’t a bad visit, as trips-for-funerals go–for me. Detroit got sick Thursday and couldn’t go to the funeral (she was there for the previous evening for the wake.) She was able to leverage her illness quite cunningly, I thought. Her mother had planned–without consulting us–for us to stay there through Sunday, and leave Sunday morning, driving the ten hours back. Detroit said she would rather be sick at home, and wanted to leave.
And that was fine with me, even though I was meeting more of her family and hopefully endearing myself to them…or at least not creeping them out too much. To be fair, they are her relatives, not mine, so it’s perfectly okay for me to flirt with her hot cousins.
But we didn’t leave Friday, we left Saturday morning instead. Friday I got to taste the star of local cuisine: a steak sammich at Tony’s. But it’s not a steak sammich. It’s a burger, or a hoagie. It’s a large oblong burger on toasted Italian bread with cheese and pizza sauce on it. It’s a pizza burger.
It was purty goddamn awesome.
I also got to see the sights of Saginaw, Michigan: Deteriorating slums, a vacant downtown, and roads that could use some putty, or crack-fill, or rock, or something. Fuck, fill the holes with spaghetti and meatballs for all I care. Just fill them.
Saturday morning we prepared to leave. Meaning, I packed our bags, Detroit’s mom and sister packed theirs, and they sat there and watched me while I loaded up the van in the falling snow. Then I herded their asses out to the van, got them in it, closed the doors, and we left. It snowed all through Michigan, and somewhere in northern Indiana it turned to rain. By Indy it had stopped.
I was glad to have Sunday off and at home; the road was not kind to my body, especially my knees. I did nada but lay on the couch, then nap, then eat, then lay on the couch some more. It was a busy day.
I feel a little out of practice at writing here, and I’m wondering how I’m supposed to make this interesting or funny. Fuck it. Live isn’t always interesting or funny. Sometimes it’s just life.
Tags: family, friends, funerals, life and death
In the middle of December, during one of Detroit’s hospital stays, my Aunt Gloria passed away.
I’m not sure how much I want to go into this. It’s more than just a backdrop to a story. Aunt Gloria is one of my dad’s sisters, and married to Uncle Joe, the coolest of uncles.
About fifteen years ago, Aunt Gloria had got sick, and she had a kidney transplant. Her brother Junior gave her a kidney. Junior is the youngest of the group. He passed away in 2005, due to a stroke or a heart attack. They think it might have been related to medication he was on, but I don’t know the whole story.
Aunt Gloria had been fine for quite a while, but sometime in 2004 she had a stroke, a big one. Uncle Joe had–just recently, I think–retired from his construction job. And now he was on to another difficult job: taking care of his invalid wife.
Aunt Gloria had been a vibrant, active, cheerful and alive woman until this, smart and sarcastic and warm and funny. And now? Now she was a shadow of what she had been.
One whole side of her body did not cooperate well, including her brain. She hallucinated and had bizarre thoughts and speech. Sometimes I swear she was just fine, and acting crazy to fuck with people. I know I would. Hell, I intend to.
Something like this completely changes your life–hers and his. Joe never complained, that I saw. He was strong and…maybe detached. Maybe that helped him deal with getting her up, getting her dressed, getting her to the bathroom, getting her cleaned and fed, and keeping her cigarettes and coffee on her right side, where she could see them.
Maybe you don’t want your friends to see you like this, if it happens to you. But if you have a friend who has known you for over forty years, I don’t think it matters. Maybe a visit from your closest and dearest and bestest friend in the whole fucking world might be all the difference between just existing and having a bit hope left in your life.
So when I found out–and it was just hints and allusions that I had to piece together–that her friend Diane essentially abandoned my aunt, I was kinda fucking mad. For Diane’s purposes, Gloria ceased to exist. Ain’t that some shit?
I got out to see Aunt Gloria when I could, and it wasn’t much. When we lived down the street from them, we saw them fairly often. My daughter would go up to see her and spend time with her both before and after the stroke. My daughter is sweetheart, with a heart of gold. She really cares about people. I’m sure she didn’t get it from me.
Diane had some kids, and one of them was roughly my age, named Bobby. Bobby was friends with my cousins that were about my age, before I moved here. So much so that even though I was family, since I was new in town, I was the outsider, not him. His mom and Gloria were tight–she was like an aunt, and Bobby was like a cousin.
Years go by, and of course this happens. And then Aunt Gloria died. I managed to get both Mitchell and Miranda there to pay there respects. It was a rare thing, my family seeing my son, akin to a Bigfoot sighting and drawing the same gawking looks.
I was walking around, seeing family, and reintroducing my kids to them. Whaddaya know, Diane was there. And her son, Bobby.
Despite the years, he looked the same. Almost as tall as me, with a skinny build. The years had added little to his frame. Same dirty blond hair with a bowl cut.
I had nothing against him, so I engaged him in conversation. Everything he said just bothered me. Some of it made me outright cringe. Some of it made me want to punch the mother-fucker in the face.
“Bobby. What’s up, man?” We shook hands.
“Not much. Living and working.”
“Cool. Married? Kids? What’s the story?” I kids were right behind me.
“Divorced. Happily divorced.”
He didn’t ask about me or mine. This was going no where, then a thought occurred to me. “Hey, I know someone, this girl I work with you might know from back in the day–” I told him her name. It’s this girl Kim–yet another Kim in my life–that I’ve become friends with, and at that time was giving a ride to work until she could get a car.
“Oh, *her*?” He waved his hand dismissively. “What a bitch. She’s a whore.” Again, my kids were right behind me.
“Dude, she’s a friend of mine.”
I don’t remember the exact words or order that he said them. Essentially, his ex-wife is my friend Kim’s sister…so he knows her more than I thought. However, being divorced from her family I’m sure hasn’t tarnished his opinion. Not only that, but his “best friend” is Kim’s ex-husband.
He had heard, too about her different problems–from the prism of her ex-husband, she is obviously all to blame. And he had heard that her fiance John had killed himself in August.
Bobby said, “If I was going to end up marrying her, I’d shoot myself in the face, too.”
Seriously? Can you believe a mother-fucker would say something this callous? What if I knew him? What if, through her, I was acquainted with him? We were planning to get together…until that happened.
I was so mad, but I had to maintain a semblance of decorum. This is my aunt’s goddamn funeral, and here was this fucker, who–honestly, I was hardly more than a passing acquaintance with–was saying the worst kind of horrible shit about someone who is a friend of mine. What the fuck is his problem?
“Dude–look, she’s a friend of mine. I like her.”
He didn’t back off. “Well, you shouldn’t be. Everything she says is a fucking lie. She’s a whore.”
I honestly don’t know how I got out of that conversation. I think I just walked away.
Let’s dissect this a little, shall we? First of all, in a divorce situation, there are always two sides. I don’t know either one, actually. But what do YOU say to someone who happens to bring up in conversation someone that you don’t like?
Unless the person bringing it up is a close friend, I’m going to just casually dust over it with a “Yeah, I don’t really know them,” and change the subject. What I’m not going to do, because I HAVE FUCKING MANNERS, is trash talk someone right to the face of a friend of theirs. In addition to having manners, I’m also not stupid. What if the other person decides to take a swing at me because of it?
Because I almost did. If we weren’t at a funeral, for fuck’s sake, I would have.
Seriously, what does he expect? I’m friends with her and I work with her–hell, I give her a ride to work–and this is the first time I’ve seen his ridiculous ass in over 15 years. On his word I should shun all contact with her? And then what? Become his BFF?
Not bloody likely.
And my friend Kim does have a checkered past–she’s been around. She’s talked about it to me, and perhaps that’s something she shouldn’t do is be so open about her past with EVERYONE–but she is honest about it. And she is trying to change. She had changed, for her fiance, until his death put her life into the shitter. I felt that she needed a friend, and I even told her that: “You could use a friend that isn’t trying to get into your pants.”
I was just a friend to her–am just a friend–someone she can vent to, cry on once in a while, and joke and share emails. And I try to guide her in the right direction, help her make better decisions. I’ve seen her work through some problems and slowly try to get her life in order. Just think of me as a freelance social worker.
Later at the funeral, after my kids and I had made the rounds and ended up in the basement where the food was, we began the process of saying our goodbyes and heading out. Bobby was still there, standing with some other people that I said goodbye to.
I tried to avoid him, but ended up halfheartedly shaking hands with him as he gave me a parting shot. Something about, “Next time bring some pizza for the rest of us; you seem to have had enough.”
Oh, so a jab at me about my career as well as a fat joke. You’re a fucking prize, asshole.
And I can’t help but wonder–what kind of mother raises an asshole like that? Oh, the same kind of mother that abandons her life-long best friend in her time of need. That’s what kind of mother raises an asshole like that.
Tags: family, friends, holidays
Well, we usually get some Halloween decorations up. Carving pumpkins is just messy, honestly.
We used to have a tradition–for three or four years, anyway–of going to Six Flags for their Fright Fest in October, sponsored through work so it was cheaper. Really, though, I feel like I’m getting to old to ride some of the rides…
We never have made it to the apple orchard. I wonder why.
We get the Candy, but I haven’t been home to hand it out. I’m usually working my second job, delivering pizza, and these holidays that everyone gets to enjoy I just can’t take off for. Halloween is one of the busiest nights of the year. I’m working.
This year, Kim was just out of the hospital, so no decorations. Just barely had candy, and I worked.
Thanksgiving usually goes okay. If I can’t get my daughter the night before, I’ve picked her up early that morning. Last year Mike took some of his kids, so we all went together, and Miranda rode back with them. The food thing works out okay–but this year, I was in the middle of a construction project (Hell, I still am) so we decided to go out to eat. Everyone seemed to like the food–but I really didn’t. I did not have a good Thanksgiving.
Besides that, we thought there was going to be a snow and ice storm, and so we cancelled going to the parade. Miranda was disappointed, and I was too. We never got the ice–
But it did rain all day. No, I don’t want to stand and watch a parade in the cold rain.
Usually we get some decorations up, but we decided not to this year because of the construction. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. I do take Miranda shopping and get something for her mom and her brother. And I do usually get something for Kim, even though we didn’t–
I did the gift exchange this year, badly. And I didn’t bring any food in. No Christmas parties this year. Usually not. But we did have a funeral, and I did make a lot of trips to the hospital. Does that count?
We usually do find a way to meet up with my brother’s family, but I’m not sure about this year. Not with Kim in a wheelchair. I wanted to see other friends, too–
I did get to go to Miranda’s Choir Recital. I wish Kim could go to those, but the ex wife is a bit of a bitch about that. This town ain’t big enough–
This damn job is pissing me off. I have to work Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. When and how am I supposed to have any holiday time? When? I’m going to go see my kids the day after Christmas anyway, and then come back and go to work.
New Years’ Eve I work–I usually have. I’ve been off for just a few, and they’ve been nice. In a way it sucks even more to know what I’m missing, versus my younger years when I always worked and remained oblivious.
I like New Year’s Day, or I used to. I would be off, I could sleep late, have no real agenda, get up and eat some leftovers, have a drink, watch a movie–probably not even get completely dressed that day. It was a good day.
I like the idea of Kim’s party, though. I just hope I get to go. I asked off for it–we’ll see if that happens.
This year we had special circumstances that got in the way of the holidays–namely Kim’s four trips to the hospital in as many months. But I still feel that if I wasn’t working a second job, I could have–we could have–had some holiday enjoyment.
This is not a resolution, this is just something I’m contemplating. I wonder if I can make enough and save enough throughout the year that come the middle of October I can take a leave of absense from the delivery job for about 11 or 12 weeks–and then come back in January. I need to figure out how much money I would need, and how much to save, and how it would go when I got close to my goal–
I would take my vacation from my day job as well, in October. So I can enjoy the weather. I could be off on the nights and the weekends, and see people, and shop, and go to parties, and have parties, and make food, and visit, and make with all the traditions–
I think this is one of my traditions, actually, where I bitch about not being able to participate in any of the traditions.
Tags: family, friends, holidays
I realize that nothing lasts forever, and traditions are subject to change without notice, but I like to have some stability in my life. My personal culture.
When you’re life is in order, these are the kind of Holiday traditions you should have. Or–these are they kind I would like to have…
Around the beginning of October, we put up the Halloween decorations, including lights. You don’t put the pumpkins out yet, though.
Some weekend in October, we go to the apple orchard. Get some cider. Pick up some pumpkins. Go on a hayride.
Sometime in October, we go to a haunted house.
There is the fall festival in Old Town Florissant. I like to go to that.
Closer to Halloween, we carve the pumpkins, and buy the candy. We try to watch some scary movies that month as well.
Maybe we get invited to a Halloween Party. We come up with a great couples theme and work on it halfheartedly in our spare time, and then the day before the party we put in several stress-filled hours trying to finish it up.
The party is either before Halloween or Halloween night after trick or treating, so it doesn’t interfere with us giving out candy. We go to the party, have a good time, meet some different people, and have a few drinks. We never seem to win the contest.
For trick-or-treaters, we sit in the driveway with a fire pit and a cooler, and chat with people as they come by. The children I tease, or I quiz them before giving them candy. I hit on the moms.
We always make sure we have some candy left over for ourselves.
By the next weekend, in November, the Halloween decorations come down. A few fall and Thanksgiving-themed items go up. Some day in November is Closet Day, when we pull out the winter coats and other clothes, find the hats and gloves, and arrange the closet so we can use it for the winter.
The week before Thanksgiving is the dreaded Shopping Trip to the grocery store. List in hand, we buy everything, just like everyone else. During the week before Thanksgiving, we make stuff–deserts and side dishes and appetizers and things–and put them in the spare refrigerator. I buy some nice liquor and a few good cigars. The house gets a good cleaning, and the table and chairs are arranged.
Wednesday night, I go get my daughter and maybe a friend, and maybe some grandkids, and they spend the night, sleeping on the floor. Thanksgiving morning, we get up and go to the parade. We bundle up and dress warmly, and get in the van. I stop at the convenience store, and we get donuts and hot chocolate, and I make them all go to the bathroom. At the parade, I take some pictures and buy some trinkets for them as we watch. Once the parade is over, I trek back up to my ex wife’s to drop off the kids, and then come back home.
By then, someone has gone to pick up my fiance’s sister, and my sister shows up as well. Dinner is almost ready. We eat and talk and sit around, and maybe play a game. I take a short nap, and then it’s time for desert. My sister leaves, and we drive Kim’s sister home.
Back at home, it’s time to eat again, some leftovers–this time with a big bourbon and coke. We watch a movie and enjoy the quiet time. Actually–why don’t we go for a walk–at least around the block? Or drive down to St Ferdinand Park and walk around the lake? But then later, yeah, we do enjoy the quiet.
The day after Thanksgiving, we don’t–we probably don’t go shopping. Maybe, unless there’s something we really need to get for someone, in the midst of all the sales. But we do get out the Christmas decorations, because it’s time. It is time. I’m putting up lights on the outside of the house, and a few yard things, while Kim puts up the tree and other things inside.
And we do the holiday thing.
I have a gift exchange at work. Kim bakes cookies. We do some shopping, and wrap presents. We buy little things for friends and co-workers. We have a Christmas slush fund that we get into, just for this. Someone, somewhere, is having an adult holiday get-together. If not, we’ll have one. Just a cocktail party type of affair, holiday themed. With appetizers and alcohol.
Some evening we take a nice drive and just look at houses with Christmas lights.
I go to my daughter’s Christmas choir event. When she grows out of it, I’ll go to my grandkid’s. If not, I’ll go to one locally, with kids in the neighborhood. The Christmas pageant is the true meaning of Christmas.
I take my daughter shopping, so she can buy something for her brother and her mother. I need to find small gifts to give the adults, and then figure out something for the grandkids.
Whenever there is a big office day for food, I bring in my world famous deviled eggs.
Make some calls to some friends and family, and see how they are this holiday season. Be merry and bright with people I meet. Sing Christmas carols.
Closer to Christmas, we always have to figure out what the schedule is going to be. Ideally, for me, it goes like this:
Christmas Eve, we either go to my brother’s or they come up here. Christmas Day, I spend at home. I’d like to get up and make a breakfast on Christmas morning. Later, we do the presents. I guess we go over to see Kim’s sister, or we bring her over. Christmas night, mayhaps we go over to Kim’s house. The Day After Christmas, I go see the kids.
The Christmas Tree stays up through New Years’. It just does. That’s how it is.
Sometime over Christmas is a good time to go to the movies. I also want to go visit some other friends and things–even a short trip out of town.
For New Year’s Eve, we go to either a friend’s house that is having a party, and arrange to stay the night, or go out with friends to a party at a hotel and get a room. Or stay at home and have a few drinks, and some fancy food. It’s supposed to be seafood time. Shrimp, of course. Some king crab would be nice. Even that imitation crabmeat, with melted butter, and then other appetizers and finger foods.
We stay up til after midnight, set off fireworks at the appropriate time, then go to bed.
New Years’ Day, we wake up, and find our way home. It’s a lazy day–eventually we make it to Kim’s house. That’s what she said. Casual hang out and Cajun jambalaya.
The first chance AFTER New Year’s is when the decorations come down.
All year ’round, we should always have candles lit…
Tags: 1970s, animals, family
After my Aunt Gloria’s graveside service at the family plot in Mount Vernon, Illinois, the family gathered at the Eagle’s Lodge. Many family members are members of the Eagles, and they gather there like flies on shit.
So we were there, Detroit and I. We talked to some family–actually talked to my cousin Skinny for some time, something I never really did. He and his brother and my brother are the oldest ones of our generation, so they remember the 70s more vividly than I do. At one point he started to tell a story, but then said, “You know, you really need to hear Uncle Joe tell it. He was there.”
I told you that for me as a young child, it was more than a golden age: I was spoiled. For one or two summers we even had a nanny, in the form of my mom’s Great-Aunt Ermal. Yes, Ermal.
As children, my sister and I even had ponies. Oh yeah. I knew that we had them–I remember that. What I never knew was the story of how we got them. Several of us sat around a table and gave Uncle Joe our full attention as he recounted the tale. Since he told me, and now I’m telling you, a third party, I decided to go with 3rd person. I don’t remember all of what he said or how he said it, and some of the dialog is fictional, but the events–
The events really happened.
It was a regular day in the late summer of 1973. The small, ramshackle farm was quiet. Three cows in the pasture stared at each other and chewed. A few chickens milled around the barn door, and a dog lay on its side sleeping on the porch. There was no sign of people.
Abruptly, a bright orange pickup roared down the gravel road and into center stage, in front of the barn. Four men drunkenly got out of the truck, and two of them fell, one landing on another.
Bud was the driver. “See? Tol’ you I’d fin’ it!”
Joe said, “No, you said you knew where it was. You said you been here before!”
Bud took a draw from the whiskey bottle and wiped his mouth before answering. “I was–”
Jim Andy said, “Bud, we drove past this place about 30 times.”
Jewel was still picking himself up off the ground. “We even pulled in here once. Twice!”
“Yeah, well, we still had whiskey left, so I couldn’t stop.” The two brothers, Jim Andy and Jewel, nodded in agreement.
Joe said, “Do we even know if they’re here?”
“Yeah! Hell, yeah! I recognize the place now,” Bud said, as he walked towards the barn door, stumbling once. The door was wide open, and sunlight lit the interior well enough. “Yup!” he yelled out. “They’re here.” Bud looked around. I don’t see the old farmer. His truck his gone.”
Joe said, ‘Do have to wait for him? Or–”
Jim-Andy smacked Joe on the shoulder as he walked by. “Shit no, Joe. We got this. I worked on a ranch ‘afore. Bud, turn the truck around an’ back up to the barn. Let’s get us some ponies! Yee-haa!”
The other three let out their best cowboy yelps. Bud hopped in the truck and turned it around, knocking over a large errant milk jug. Chickens squawked to get out of the way.
The dog looked up, then lay his head back down.
Jewel looked at Jim Andy and said, “How we gonna do this?”
Jim Andy looked at Joe.
Joe said, “Hey, I’m from the city. Y’all are the country boys here.”
Bud just walked up from the truck and snorted. “Joe, you ain’t from the city. You been in town ten years.”
He looked at the other two, and put out his fist. Rock-paper-scissors–Jewel won.
“Alright.” He rubbed his hands together and walked into the barn. They heard whinnying, and then cussing. Then a crash as Jewel’s body came partially through the wall of the barn. The three stood their ground and watched patiently, handing the last of the bottle around while Jewel got himself out of the wall. He walked out and snatched the bottle from his brother’s lips. “Your turn, asshole.”
A minute later, Jim Andy was pulling himself out of the hole in the wall. It was easier, because the hole was getting bigger. Joe just looked at him. “Rope?”
Jim Andy’s eyes lit up. “Shit yeah! Why didn’ I think of it before? I used to do this all th’ time. I need rope. I need to make a saddle. Or a bridle. Or whatever you call it. The thing.” He motioned inexplicably with his hands.
Bud said, “Fine. You get the rope. I’ll get the horse.”
When the boys had left on this adventure, they weren’t as drunk, and had planned ahead. There was rope in the back of the truck. Jim Andy was trying to tie the rope into something useful, but his hands kept getting in the way. Joe said, “I didn’t know you were a Boy Scout, Jimmy.”
“Piss off. This rope is–”
They were interrupted by the familiar whinnying, but instead of a crash they heard a rhythmic thumping sound. Bud and the pony came out of the barn. Bud had the pony in a headlock. “I got him! I got him!”
It wasn’t clear who had whom, exactly.
Joe said, “Get the rope, get the rope!” Jewel tried to help, and Jim Andy slapped him away.
“I got it, I got it!” He put the rope quickly around the pony’s neck and yanked it tight.
The pony’s eyes bulged, and it let out a shriek and brayed up on its hind legs. Jim Andy flew into Jewel before spiraling to the ground. Bud still had a lock around the animal’s neck and hung on while the he was bounced around. The loose end of the rope whipped around and smacked him, then got under his leg and tripped him. Bud let go and went down.
Bud rolled out of the way and Jewel made a futile grab for the rope. Somehow, they got the pony again, and tried to get its two feet to the tailgate of the truck.
Jim Andy pulled the rope while Jewel and Bud pushed and pulled the pony. Joe was supervising. “Hey, this ain’t right!”
The pony and the scuffling and the banging on the tailgate made him hard to hear. “Something’s wrong! The horse can’t breathe!”
Bud managed to get the pony’s front legs up on the tailgate, and Jim Andy had scrambled up to pull the pony up.
Joe yelled, “He can’t breathe! The rope is too tight!”
“Pony! Wait, what?” Jim Andy looked at the rope in his hand, and followed it with his eyes to the pony’s neck, where it was tightly wrapped. The animal had a look of wide-eyed terror. In a desperate attempt to save itself, it followed and jumped onto the truck. The front wheels bounced off the ground slightly, and the momentum caused the pony to seem to lunge at Jim Andy. Joe would later describe Jim Andy as “screaming like a little bitch.” Bud jumped up onto the truck and–using the only tool he had in his personal toolbox–punched the pony.
The animal collapsed into unconsciousness, and slid backward. Its hindquarters and legs were off the truck. Jewel went to the cab of the truck and quickly found an old, rusty, jagged knife. He handed it up to his brother. “Here, cut the rope!”
After twenty minutes of pushing, they got the unconscious animal all the way into the bed. A new rope, with a little slack in it, was around its neck. The other end was tied to the top post of the side rail. Slowly it started to stir. “Well,” said Bud, sitting on the tailgate to catch his breath, “that’s one.”
That was the signal for the pony to stand up. He started to buck and bray, but he couldn’t go anywhere. He raised up high on his back legs, and planted his front hooves into the roof of the cab, making two perfect hoof-shaped dents. Bud said, “Son of a bitch! I’ma kill that horse!”
Just then, a beat-up old 58 Ford pickup rolled up. The old farmer nodded to them, then got out. Without saying a word, he walked over. He noticed the pony, of course, in the back of the truck having a fit. He saw the four men, tired, dirty, and sweaty, and smelling faintly equine. He saw the used rope on the ground, roughly cut and unraveling, and the rusty knife near it. His eyes strayed upward, and he saw the hole in the barn that was not quite big enough to put a man through.
He spit some tobacco out. In a gentle voice, he said, “You know, them ponies never been anywhere. Never been in a trailer or nothing. Thems was foaled here; this here barn is all they know.”
He hopped up onto the bed and went to the pony, and spoke some soothing words into its ear. It quieted down. The four men watched silently as he did this, then watched as he got down and walked into the barn, and moments later led the other pony out.
But the pony saw the people and the truck and ran back into the barn.
The old farmer said, “Well, this might call for harsher measures.”
He had the men help him get his block and tackle and rig it to the back of his Massey Ferguson, which he had pulled in front of the truck. The long rope was fed from the back of the tractor, over the truck, and into the barn to the pony. The farmer had a bridle and put it on the animal. Then he tied the rope to it.
“Now, just guide the pony in the right direction. We’ll get him on the truck.” Joe and Bud looked at each other. Maybe they were drunk, but this old man was crazy.
However, the plan worked. The tractor pulled forward slowly, and the slack tightened up. The pony had no choice but to go where he was led. Jim Andy and Bud helped the kicking animal get his legs up–he was on his knees–and the tractor drug the pony up. Once up on the bed, the animal stood up. The men looked on in amazement that it worked, and Bud thanked him.
The old man said, “Now you boys take good care of these horses.”
Jewel said, “Ponies.”
“Thank you sir.”
They finished securing the railing, the rigging, and the truck. They now only had one usable piece of rope, so Bud had one end around one pony’s neck, then wrapped it around the top rail, then put it around the other pony’s neck. “That should do it.” And it did, for most of the hour-long drive through unknown country roads. Once they got to the highway, however, one of the ponies started to panic. Quickly they pulled over, but by then, one of them had broken the rope. They didn’t have anymore rope, either.
Bud had an idea sprung from desperation. It was going to be dark soon, and they were nowhere near home–at least it seemed that way. He salvaged what was usable from the rope and tied the horses–
–ponies. He tied the ponies *together*. They were now one Siamese pony, joined at the neck, and tied to the rail. Whether by fear or fatigue, there were no more incidents. The ponies and the people made it back to Bud’s house.
It was almost dark when they arrived at Bud’s. His kids were excited–the ponies were for them. Jim Andy and Jewel were quiet and subdued. Joe had a headache. Bud backed the truck up sideways in the street, and ran it to the tall ditch, making a natural ramp to egress the ponies. The neighbor, Mac, had horses–real horses–and was going to board the ponies until Bud could fence an area for them. Mac came over with leads, and after the appropriate amount of gushing by the kids, he took them to his pasture.
Little Bryan was eight years old, and he had watched the unloading with interest. He saw how his dad had smartly used the terrain to make a ramp. “What took so long, Dad? We’ve been waiting *forever*. How long does it take to get a pony?”
“All day, son. It takes all day.”
Little Bryan didn’t see the expression of the three other dirty, sweaty, hungover men as they got into their car and drove off.
Tags: cars, family, finances, friends, funerals, holidays, life and death, money
2010 has a been a rough, rough year on us here at the homestead. I’m not complaining, I’m just going to enumerate them. I’m not blaming anyone–whose fault would it be? And I’m not looking for sympathy, either. Not for this devil, anyway.
We started off in January–New Year’s weekend, in fact. That was when our beloved dog Mac died. That was hard. The first dog I ever really liked, the one that showed me what it was to have a dog.
Shortly after that–and this ran all the way through the spring–Kim was having a problem with her shoulder. She went to physical therapy, which didn’t work. So she had shoulder surgery, and then more physical therapy after that.
I’d like to say it was an uneventful summer…oh, except I got my car repossessed.
One of my good friends had a death–her fiance committed suicide. Worse for her, I know. But it was a tragedy, and it continues to touch our lives, as I help her cope, give her a ride to work, and hear people talk behind her back about what a whore she is.
In the fall, we were going to go to a memorial service for one of her uncles up in Michigan. However, that was Kim’s first Crohn’s flare-up and her first time in the hospital.
A few weeks later, she was in the hospital again. This time it seemed worse, the flare-up. This was all September-October.
In November, Kim’s boss died in a car accident.
In December, the same night she went into the hospital again, my Aunt Gloria died.
And now this.
Kim fell on the ice yesterday and broker her hip. She had surgery, and she’ll be off her legs for 6-8 weeks.
Of course some little things–I started a part time job and quit, and started another one. Always a little stress there. My oldest granddaughter moved to Texas. At first she thought she was pregnant, but she’s not. She’s still getting married. My oldest grandson is in drug rehab. Another grandson broke his jaw in September.
My daughter was having anxiety problems, and chipped a couple of teeth–we just got those fixed at the dentist.
I have some financial problems and some tax problems–the usual– Hell, I had to make the decision to let the car get repo’d in order to keep the house. I’m trying to get some answers for my sister about a judgment against her and filing for bankruptcy. Et cetera, ad nauseaum, ad infinitum…
On the one hand, there’s not much else that can go wrong this year. On the other hand, there’s still time left…
Tags: 2010s, family, poetry
So when I want to wallow in it
I can, with gusto
But I don’t want to talk it about okay?
Here’s the thing
I don’t want you to tell me its okay
I don’t want you to console me or
Try to make me feel better about it
I don’t want to hear that its not that bad
Or that things will get better
Because maybe they will and maybe they wont
And I don’t want to speak about
The thing I dare not say
My own admission of guilt is mine and mine
And how can I counsel others when I have failed so
How can I listen and empathize
When my own sins are so much worse
What have I done? Oh, God, what have I done?
Maybe it’s not that bad but it feels that way to me
And to the ones I’ve done wrong-
It feels that way to them
I’ve tried, over and again, to make amends
Two steps forward and three steps back
Is such a funny cliche for such a horrible situation
Here I sit, on Father’s Day, alone.
Or surrounded by people other than my children
Which, today, is the same thing.
It’s not fair…it’s not
She has the kids
She has custody
She has their hearts
I have photos and memories, all outdated.
I could wait for a phone call, or
I could take the initiative
Like I haven’t done so many times before
I can place a call, or send a text, or write on Facebook,
Or I could drive the many miles
Or send up smoke signals
Or think happy thoughts
I don’t want any more of this pain
My chest–my heart–I cant take it
I don’t want
I don’t want any more holidays
I just…I surrender. Please, no more.
Tags: 2010s, family, friends, funerals
Following the map directions, I managed to get out of my own neighborhood okay. How did we ever manage before MapQuest? I get on the inner-belt–that’s 170 for you out-of-towners–and we are immediately in a traffic backup.
It’s early enough on a Tuesday morning–just after the morning rush hour–and it’s raining or drizzling lightly. We’re going a direction that shouldn’t be backed up right now. Detroit has that look on her face because she thinks I should have listened to her and went straight down Lindbergh to the Southwest corner of Fuck-All, but I know I’m right here.
There is an accident up ahead, and it actually affects both the north- and south-bound lanes. When we got up to it, it looked like two cars from either side slid down the grassy median and into each other. That was my impression, and I’m sure it’s wrong.
But before we get to that point–that glorious point in the traffic where it opens back up and the stallions can once again run free–we are inching along on our two lanes, all of us together.
Except for the occasional asshole that comes barreling down the shoulder to get around it, because they are special. A couple of cars come down the shoulder, and they get by. A third car comes down, and a big SUV about three cars in front of us pulls out onto the shoulder in front of him.
And stops. And stays there.
The car can’t go around him because next to the shoulder is a rail because we’re on a long viaduct/overpass. After that, there is a steep drop off.
The car honks his horn. The SUV just sits there, inching along with everyone else.
We did notice an Obama bumper sticker on the car, and we laughed. The guy is a typical liberal dipshit fucknut, and this is a perfect metaphor for the liberal elite philosophy: The rules and the lanes are for the masses, they must be kept in line. But I am a special case, so these rules don’t apply to me–
–like the libs in Hollywood who drive around in their Hummers and private jets talking about how we the little people should all conserve energy and save the planet.
–ditto Al Gore
–Obama appointees and other libs in Congress who think we should all pay more taxes but haven’t filed themselves in a few years.
–any other hypocrisy you can think of.
So it was funny to see him get thwarted. The guy in the SUV had nothing to fear, because this Obama supporter is not going to have a concealed-carry–he’s not packing heat. If the SUV had had a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker, that would have been perfect, and awesome. And even more hilarious.
Eventually the grassy side leveled out, and the car got around. In another hundred yards, we were through the accident and we could all get through, so Har-har on him. I know others, like us, wanted to cheer the guy in the SUV.
Later, we arrive at the church for the mass. We’re about the first ones there, and Detroit said that some were at the funeral home this morning, bringing the party here for the mass next, and then on to the cemetery after that, and then everyone goes to someone’s house to eat and drink. A funeral is like an overly somber pub crawl.
When we arrived at the church there was an old couple in front of us. The woman looked thin, but not frail–but on the verge of it–with a classic strength. The man was smiling and friendly, and looked liked he had had a stroke. He slurred his speech and favored one side.
After they talked to the priest for a moment, we introduced ourselves. They are the Donius’s.
If you recall, the former CEO of the bank I work at is a Donius. That is their son. The old man–Walter–was CEO before that. I told them that it’s just not the same without their son around. The culture that Walter created and his son enhanced has made it one of the best places in St Louis to work.
Mrs D–I never did catch her name, and perhaps it was best to be formal with her–thanked me. Detroit had just said that we were friends of Sue’s. Mrs D said she has known Sue since she was this high–and held her hand about two and a half feet above the floor.
We gradually drifted away, having nothing more to talk about. I’m sure they were nice enough people. Walter certainly is. I have trouble hearing, and it’s hard to focus on someone who slurs, especially if I didn’t take my medicine that morning. So, I know–the problem was mine, not his.
Detroit noticed (as women do) the size of the rock on Mrs D’s finger. Well, yeah. These people were money. The bank has been in the family for nigh on 90 years or more, and these people have a tradition of money. The aura of Mrs D said, with understated class, "Old Money."
We took our seats, and the ritual thus began. I’m not Catholic, so following a Catholic Mass is somewhat foreign to me. I recognize some of the words, but that was it. But for Detroit, who is a…
Christ, I’m not sure what she is. Some kinda pagan/heathen/Earth Mother worshipper or something. I’m going to miss her when she goes to Hell.
Anyway, it had to seem odd to her as well, I imagine. But as stylized and ritualized and…odd as it was, there was some comfort in it. Comfort for me in the fact that everyone is grasping at straws as if they think they know the Mind of God and all these odd things are what God wants.
The rituals have a purpose: they give you time to contemplate and a soothing atmosphere and comfort in repetition, and aid with the closure. These things are not for God, and not for the deceased, but for the living.
We tried, Detroit and I, to keep up with the mythos, but it seemed that everyone but us knew the hymns by heart (Where were they? In the hymn book? What numbers? Don’t you even want us to try?–I guess not), and when to stand and when to sit, and when to get a cracker and take a sip of wine and backwash.
She and I agreed that we shouldn’t take the communion, probably for different reasons. She, because she’s not a Christian; and me, because I’m not a Catholic. It’s not as subtle of a difference as you think. For her it was escaping an inconvenience; for me it was avoiding sacrilege.
During one of our up-and-downs, I happened to glance back a few rows, and caught a glimpse of Mrs D. She had a far-away look behind her red eyes, and her face seemed over-whelmed by grief.
I had time to contemplate all of this, and some realizations slowly crept over me.
Mrs D said she had known Sue "since she was this big." Sue is…let’s just say roughly my age. Mrs D and Sue’s mom have been friends for over forty years, then, by a conservative estimate. In the parlance of our times, they were BFF.
And how is it, then, that she is sitting behind me, when she should have been in front row–with the family?
I thought of my friend Bunny, whom I have known for 20 years. I want her to be…right there in the front, with family. She is family to me. Yeah, Detroit can be there too.
But all of that made me think of how important Bunny is too me, and I felt real empathy for Mrs D.
We drove to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, and there is the final service. We don’t go to the burial site there, but instead to a small stone pavilion; the deceased get buried later. They probably don’t want anyone watching when they screw them into the ground vertically. It’s a large place, but space is tight.
After the brief service, we were all clearing out, and I caught up to Mr and Mrs D. I felt compelled, I guess, to let her know.
"Mrs D? I just wanted to tell you–"
"Well, it took me a while, but I put it all together. Like when you said you’ve known Sue since she was this tall, right? You’ve known Sue’s mom a long time–you’ve been friends forever, haven’t you?
A single tear. "Yes."
I choked up a bit too, but forged ahead. "Seeing you reminded me of my good friend I’ve known for 20 years, and how important she is to me. I just can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine how hard it is. So I wanted to say to you, I’m sorry for your loss."
She smiled somberly through her red eyes and gave me a hug. "Thank you. So much. So many–"
And then someone interrupted to talk to her, and she was whisked away. But we had a brief moment. The only evidence was the faint smell of perfume and Old Money lingering in the air.