Rotten Hamburger

Eject, Emit, Expel, Gag, Heave, Hurl, Nasty, Puke

 

Hey Gang!

My aunt’s birthday was Monday. The family got together, which rarely happens, and we all went out to dinner. It was a great day. The End.

Kidding.

It was a fantastic day, but I couldn’t help but realize how different I act around my family. I’ve been to college and I consider myself a somewhat douche-y intellectual. However, above all, I consider myself a good dude. It takes family to remind you just how awful you really are.

My family has always been a pretty dark humored bunch. Dark humor tends to come about from dark circumstances. My family is no different. We yell and we cry and we laugh through the dark times, of which there seem to be many. Usually, I am silly and goofy and joke about fun things but when I get together with my family, I can tell how much I change. Normal things I find taboo tend to  come front and center for cracking jokes about.

I drove down a few back roads on our way to lunch. The cool air ripped around us while we remained toasty inside, to my lament. I always enjoy things between 65-67 degrees. My aunt likes her temps between 73-hell fire degrees. It was her birthday so I said, “Well, I suppose it’s okay that I have back sweat for a little while.”

“Turn down that road over there,” Josh said pointing left. As we’ve gotten older and dealt with our own demons, I notice our bond growing. Pain knowing pain. He points down an old road leading to town.

“I thought you were hungry? Eyes on the prize,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” Josh said as he sat back into the passenger seat. He looked the smallest bit defeated. I would have felt bad had I not been hungry enough to literally eat a person (not the whole person, just, like, a leg or something).

“Well, we should go by there after dinner. There’s a creeper* van back there for sale. Who the hell would buy that?” he shook his head.

“I mean, maybe it’s meant for kidnapping,” I said. “You know, long windows and all that. Pretty easy stuff.”

We laughed. What follows from there is a conversation only meant for those in the car. However, I will tell you that, by the end, Josh had a Haram and massive house where they stayed in a particular wing and cleaned or made love to him. I, on the other hand, was madly rich because I “procured” people. Basically I was like the other side of Taken but for high class individuals. No garbage, drug-laden prostitute dens. Sultans only!

We grabbed dinner and hopped back in the car. There was a lot of heavy breathing and burps, as usually follows a trip to Golden Corral.

Josh mentioned he felt like he was about to throw up. I told him he should just let loose as it wasn’t my car.

“Must’ve been all that ROTTENNNN HAMBURGERRRR,” Josh said in a gravelly voice and glass shattered in my mind.

Isn’t it funny how things in our childhood drift away? We say or do something that is funny or terrible in the moment and then time happens. You fall in and out of love, go through school, and live your life. All the while, this one event gets pushed further and further back until someone casts their line out, hook it, and reel it to the surface.

All I needed to hear was “Rotten Hamburger” and that old memories wriggled on the hook like an angry bass.

I was seven or eight; Josh would have been twelve or thirteen. We spent most of the day together and had McDonald’s. He started feeling nauseated and we went home. He started throwing up and I was an asshole. I decided to peek my chubby brown face around the corner and lightly taunt him.

“Oh, not feeling so well?”

*blargghhhh*

*huffing*

“You know what it probably was? That hamburger. Didn’t it taste funky?”

*wretch*

*heavy breathing*

“Chris, shut the hell up and go sit down,” my mom yelled to me as she rubbed my cousin’s back.

“That’s it. It must have been that ROTTENNN HAMBURGERRR”

*violent barfing*

“It was so brown. I bet the cook didn’t even wash his hands when he served it up. I can smell all that ROTTENNN HAMBURGERRR.”

*coughing*
*brown puke*

I repeated it in differing ways, each time met with a concert of burping, puking, gagging, and farting.

I finally weaseled my way between my mom and aunt to continue my verbal assault but I stopped in my tracks.

It was the combination, really. The mixture of the sour bile smell mixed with a big mac all swirled up with half-digested fries hung in the air while the toilet in front of me bled brown, chunky liquid. The high pressure of vomit smell and the low pressure of disgusting brown chunks everywhere met and created a tornado in my stomach.

I felt dizzy and stumbled backward. To the kitchen, threw my head into the sink and through up so hard my back popped. It was one of those vomit sessions where it just keeps coming and when you finally feel like you have nothing left in you, it comes again.

My cousin walked in watery eyed behind me. I turned for a moment to see him smiling.

“Must’ve been that ROTTENNN HAMBURGERRR,” he smirked.

My stomach convulsed and a symphony of terrible noises came from my body as I hurled everything I had into the sink.

A split second later, I was back in my car’s driver’s seat.

I nearly crashed laughing. I apologized profusely.

“It’s okay. It’s funny now,” Josh said.

It is funny now. All of it. When you’ve known someone your whole life, you’re watching their life movie while living yours. My movie left that scene on the cutting room floor but for his movie, it made the cut.

I realized how much of an asshole I was as a kid. Doing anything for a laugh. Then I thought about who I was just hours before when talking about the creeper van. I’ve come to realize, for better or worse, we are our truest selves when around those who hold a mirror up to us and show us who we were.

-Chris

 

The Ass In The Field

Pinwheel, Mallorca, Metal, Wheel, Wind, Wind Energy

Hey Gang!

I was driving home and listening to music at an unreasonably high volume this weekend. I saw multiple things around me that caught my attention: I saw a woman picking her nose, a flock of geese narrowly miss a semi, and the poor mangled body of an old deer. I saw these things and really took no notice expect if they were funny, sad, or cringe-worthy but there was one thing that stood out so strangely to me that I have been holding on to it for the past few days.

I looked to my right and there was this small farm. A large, gated pasture was on the hill as it sloped down beyond the horizon. The sun was setting and it gave the verdant grass a shimmer that was breathtaking. Patched with white and brown, cows grazed looking in different areas. They all had their backs turned towards one central character: an ass, or donkey for the lay person. The ass stood there completely still. His statuesque nature bewildered me. What was he doing there? Among the sea of cows where they took no notice, what was he to gain from being there?

I went home and began helping my mother with moving. Unfortunately, she fell and broke her arm. I called 911 and they took her to the hospital, which brings me back to the days when hospital visits were an everyday occurrence for me. That same sterile smell, the back hall conversations nurses have that you overhear, the way nurses chew their gum like rabbits chew their cud. It was all so similar, yet different.

I sat with my aunt while my mother wept from pain. I tried to be there for her but she has become so different from the woman who told me not to cry when I get hurt, to be tough. Now she is so fragile and I realize that maybe we are who we pretend to be to others but in our depths that surface when pain and pleasure are at stake are the realities.

I wonder when I will break as my aunt yammers on about her issues. It is a repetitive damning thing to visit with her. It is hell at its finest as she repeats the same story over the past five years: My cousin is in treatment for another breakdown, he has tried [insert highly addictive drug of choice here] and is now unable to control his bipolar, she is having a nervous breakdown because he doesn’t think about her and her feelings, her body aches, she is a godsend, she helps everyone, she is a martyr, she is going to have a seizure, she forgets to have a seizure, she lies, she cons, she is.

Afterwards we come back to the city where I currently am and it is a major ordeal. My mother is high on pain meds and wants to drive, my aunt is upset because I won’t chauffer her around the middle of the state to get my cousin as well as drive her to my mother’s new house. My aunt becomes huffy. My mother cries out in pain, my aunt somehow becomes ill as well. She has an asthma attack and begins to dry heave because a breeze blew, or something of that nature.

I finally get home and Eleanor Rigby, my puppy, has violently chewed on my shoes, Blu-ray of “Funny People” and “Where The Wild Things Are”, and somehow managed to turn the house into a disaster area. I believe I saw a guy from FEMA in my back room but I can’t be sure.

The funny thing about “Funny People” is that it was about people who were funny not being funny. People that are supposed to be one thing but violate our expectations and act like someone other than whom we thought they were: funny people.

I get my mother to lay down and she drifts to sleep. I go to my room as well and begin to drift, but I have a realization. I am an ass, probably in more sense than I mean here. I am not an ass, I am THE ass. The one in the field. I get why he was unnoticed by the cows and didn’t do as the cows do. It was because he realized that they do cow things and he was an ass. However, what is an ass to do when there are no other asses around. What happens when an ass is surrounded by cows?

You stand still.

You stand alone.

You think.

You drift.

You lament.

You realize that you completely and wholly exist but outside of this fenced in yard with all the cows that graze.

You just are.

In the middle of the weres and going-to-bes, you just are.

-Chris

The Importance of Oatmeal

 

 

 

Hey Gang!

Long time no talk. Oh grad school and all of that. I have been working on a few papers and it has unfortunately taken up most of my time; however, I sneaked away to write this post!

I have been playing video games online with friends for quite some time. It is a brilliant way to keep in touch and I must admit that I truly enjoy playing some of those crazy games with my friends. I was gaming not too long ago with a friend and we were talking about him getting a Playstation 4, which I have, so that we could play some newer games. I told him I would give him some money to buy it and he said it was too much.

“You gave me oatmeal,” I exclaimed.

“It was just oatmeal not money,” he replied.

We continued to play and I basically said ‘deal with it’. The game ended, we said our goodbye’s and signed off. My brain was swimming with my reaction to him saying it was just oatmeal. I believe I had mentioned it before, but I was dead broke. There were times when honey on a butter knife was the extent of lunch and ramen noodles were a regular meal. All three meals. I was having blinding migraines from hunger for a while. Post-college and without a decent job as I waited for grad school to start, I could not afford the luxury of food (for more on this, read The Best Of All Possible Worlds).

My friend was employed but only in marginally a better place financially. He saw what I was going through and he gave me all of his oatmeal. I cannot tell you how amazing that felt. I have never been that happy in my life. It was such a humbling experience to know that at any moment you could run out of food. To know that every dime you had was already spent. Some ethereal clock that ticked down until it reached zero and everything you had was gone. I ate that oatmeal like it was four-course four star meal. Strawberries and Cream, Apple Cinnamon, Dates and Raisins, and Vanilla Swirl were among the favorites of flavors. Sometimes I would only eat a bowl of beans but I knew that I had a sweet treat for dinner as well. I had oatmeal.

There is something that truly clarifies life’s meaning when you are that poor. I know there are individuals who have been worse off. There are people starving all over the world and yet, when it comes to you, you look at yourself. The world becomes so much smaller. So much simpler than it was. It is about finding your next meal and being creative. A sleeve of crackers with butter on top becomes lunch and dinner. Water no longer quenches thirst but satiates hunger for a brief amount of time. The only worry is if you are able to make it until the next time you eat.

My mother helped as much as she could but she was no better off. Part time work was scarce and temp work was mainly for industrial individuals. I only tell you this because I think it is important for myself to reflect. I have been doing so since he said it was “just oatmeal.” Now, from a place of comfort financially I look back and I must say…i miss it. Do not get me wrong, it was terrible but there was a primal simplicity to it; something deep in that chaos that gave me strength. I was able to see something in myself then that I had never seen. When you know where the bottom is, when you find your personal limit, it changes you. You are able to see how far you had fallen and recognize the true beauty of life. No more wanting. It is about being content. Then, when you have a meal or you open the fridge on those hard days and see food or look at your gas tank and see half a tank of gas, life is beautiful.

Now, I am in an okay place financially but I never stray too far from the me that existed before September. My circumstances changed but I did not. I do not regret that it happened because I was able to see myself break; literally and metaphorically. My body was pushed to limits and my mind as well. You realize that just because something breaks does not mean you are not able to mend it. I always said that my body would break before my spirit but they both eventually succumbed. When they were mended, they came back stronger.

I look at all of this around me and I am thankful. My mother is healthier, I am getting healthier, I have so much and yet I am bored. My life is on pause. I am working towards a goal but when you know your primal self, that id that speaks “food, water, sleep”, it becomes so enlightening that you miss it. The kindness of people just as down on their luck as you was beautiful. I have met individuals that are the smartest scholars I have ever met and make 100k+ but 10 of them are not worth one of the beautiful, hard-working people I met. That showed me kindness. That took a chance on helping me and kept me encouraged. That gave me oatmeal or gave me words of wisdom. These things are lessons I learned and it shaped my ideologies on what it means to live in this world and to being a human being. You realize how important money is and how loathsome is that truth.

You learn about this world.

You learn about yourself.

I would have never understood any of this; not to this degree as we were not very well off when I was younger.

I remember these things because of a friends kindness.

I remember it whenever I see a smiling Quaker on a cylindrical box.

The memory is what brings me back to the importance of oatmeal.

– Chris

And Sweetest in the Gale, Part Two: I Thought I Saw a Cape

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the on less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost

Hey Gang!

Round Two! Ding, Ding!

So, I spoke about a hero of mine. My cousin. He died but is not dead. He was but still is. The man he was is not the man he is. Time and addiction are corrosive to our very being. It is the erosion of our foundation by hit after bump after tablet after drink until we are the husk of what it was that we were. Shadows cast larger than our frame show the greatness that these small bodies once held.

I tell this tale objectively as I am able. This is but an observation. It began a few days after the incident of part one. I was looking forward to meeting with him as it had been months since I had seen him last. It was a beautiful day. The sun shone bright through the skeleton-like trees and a bit of nip in the air was present as he walked up our sidewalk with his mother. This man that is before me looks like my hero. Take a photo and compare them a few years ago and it seems like it is him but I know the truth.

They come in and sit down. He begins to talk about government conspiracies and hacking groups that are monitoring him. He discusses legal issues. You never have a discussion with him when he is like this. You sit back and hold on. You try to keep up with him as his mind unleashes these thoughts and streams of consciousness that are inconsistent. Expletives fly as there is an idealization of crime and objectification of women along with the paranoia of government involvement. Reason is not there any longer and I must admit that I do not shatter this narrative fantasy in which he lives. I listen and try to accommodate. I try to be part of the reality that mental illness and prolonged drug use has helped him construct. Why do I do this? What would happen when the reality you escape to is better than it is and what would happen if that was shattered? I would rather not know.

This time to pretend is sobering to me. How did this happen? The man I looked up to, saw as a father figure in lieu of my own is now a  memory. Our lives are too similar for this disparity.

He is five years older than me and our mothers are the oldest, my mother, and the youngest girl, his mother. We were inseperable as kids. they would come over and we would play for hours. Well, he would play and I would try but I did not “play right’. So, I would watch him play with my G.I. Joes in the Ghostbuster house and watch him unfold these elaborate tales. When they left i would do the same.

Beneath his collar, I thought I saw a cape.

A tragedy happened and they came to live with us for a year or so. He taught me about everything. We talked about girls, video games, and music. He is the reason I got into music. We would lay next to one another on the floor of my small apartment and watch MTV. Hours and Hours of music television. We would sing along to it and began talking about the beauty of Nirvana. The genius of Blues Traveler. The insight of Weird Al Yankovic. The poignant nature of Garbage. These beautiful realities we discussed. He told me facts about the bands and he knew so much more than me about science and math. I would go to school and tell my teachers facts that he taught to me. They would be shocked that I knew such “advanced” things. Five years advanced, maybe?

At the tale of his shirt, I thought I saw a cape.

We got older and he began getting in trouble. So, he moved in with my grandmother and helped her. We would go out and visited them every weekend. It was the highlight of every week. He eventually got to be in high school and should have been too cool to hang out with his 13-year-old cousin, but he did not. We still were close. He began drawing these incredibly elaborate pictures. Beautifully detailed. Talent that was natural. He had the detail that artists study at specialty schools for but he never had a lesson. They were dark and comical, much like our humor. However, cracks began to show. He eventually began getting in even more trouble and decided to extract himself by going into the Navy. I cried as he left the train station. My best friend was leaving.

Beneath his white, long sleeved uniform with a flag on it, I thought I saw a cape.

Years pass and we grow apart as distance filled the gap. I talked with my aunt the whole time but I went into a phase where I started putting distance between myself and my family. I grew up. I started drawing. Music was life. I was training to go into the Navy. I made friends and we started hanging out. My cousin stayed in the Navy. He became a man. I think I began to do the same. He leaves the Navy and eventually marries. They move away and our lives begin to go different ways. I went to college where as he tried to be the family man. He tried.

I see him again, I did not see a cape.

We come back to the present. His talks about conspiracy and delusions of grandeur. I look hard for my hero. His cape fell somewhere far down the line. My hero died sometime ago. I miss him. The person who always took a step up the mountain of life just ahead of me. Now, the only steps I have are my own and it frightens me. He tells me he may go to the local community college. he tells me he wants to get his degree in information technology. I do not know if he is being truthful or if it will come to fruition but for a moment, I thought I saw a glimpse of an old, tattered cape.

When he came back, we hung out quite a bit. He would regale me with all of his life stories. Tall tales that were not tall to me. He looked at me one day as he exhaled smoke from his lungs and said, “Chris, I want to write a book one day. I’m going to tell you stuff and you write it down. Like my biography. You can be my ghostwriter.”

So, with this post, I am no ghostwriter. I have written about a ghost.

-Chris

And Sweetest in the Gale, Part One: Anatomy of a Sword

Hey Gang!

I am back! Unfortunately for you… Now you must once again listen to the ramblings of a 27-year-old that enjoys Hemingway and Fitzgerald all while having “Adventure Time” playing in the background.

Holidays are my time of year. I think once you shed that childish skin of naivety about Christmas and the existence of the man with flying reindeer, it becomes something more. It is an exalted ideology  of hope and kindness that I find to be intoxicating. I love giving in every form. It is much easier to do so during Christmas time as charities abound at your favorite markets and consumer hotspots for you to donate. I also love doing charity work, however, as I spoke of in an earlier post, individuals are not always about helping when it comes to working with a charitable organization.

Along with the holidays come family. I really do not have a close family. So, this year it was mainly communication via phone with friends and hanging out back in my home town with my mother and Sofie, of course! I felt strange at one point a few days ago. I was at a local steak joint with my mother. We had went out into the bitter cold evening air to meet with my best friends mother for dinner. She and I are pretty close as well and she is a great woman. I was excited to get to speak with her again. She had been an integral part of helping with my mother while she had her heart surgery recently (hence my absence).

So, my mother and I sit in the cold entryway of the southern-esque steakhouse. Hard wood seats line the area and young ladies put on their best fake accents with far too many “y’alls” in the mix. I sit next to my mother in a long section off to the side; it is only us and the only light comes from two large, neon signs that illuminate the darkened hall. It is incredibly loud as fake southern accents welcome person after person that enters. I am perpetually early and this occasion was no different as we were about 45 minutes early. Accross from me, illuminated by blue and red light from the Bud Light sign, is a large barrel of peanuts in the shell. I oblige myself with quite a few as a large group of individuals come in and begin sitting in the voided benches around me.

I sit down and count them: 8

They talk jovially and laugh frequently. My mother doesn’t speak as she finds conversation in public awkward. I decide Candy Crush Saga is the best alternative as I follow suit of discarding the peanut shells on the floor. It felt like, in doing so, I was doing something wrong. I imagined a man in a large hat and overalls holding a broom would come around the corner just as I dumped them in the floor. We would make eye contact just as a tear rolled down his face and I would feel the ultimate “a-hole” shame. Luckily it didn’t happen but the guilt was there. More begin to pour in as I fail once again to pass the level.

I count them: 13

There was an older woman there who was quite beautiful. The kind of beauty that you can tell was timeless. She was beautiful when she was young, she was beautiful in her twenties. Maybe she met her husband then and had two daughters. Then she was a mother in her thirties and still beautiful. Years pass and she ages, as does her beauty. Her face and kind brown eyes give one a view to a past of good things. She looks beautiful and pleasant. Her looks simply changed as we all do but there beneath the lines of worry and laughter that grow over time, you are able to see the beauty of a woman that once was and somehow still is. Somehow she shows beauty from her whole life in each facial expression. A laugh. A smile. A frown. She was someone whom Vermeer would have painted. Placid beauty. My assumption that she seemed to to have been a good person was solidified by a scream.

I count them: 15

Two women come in and scream as they run over to the older woman and hug her, yelling, “Grandma!” I see two women that identify as her daughters and the plague of grandchildren that abounded. They began chattering so loudly I could not help but laugh. They all talked at once and their individual voice became a loud hum as they joined together. They finally got a place to sit and left but I could not help but admire them. At the same time, however, I found their ways quite strange. I never felt like that to see my family. The joy and excitement I heard felt disingenuous to me but it seemed true. How foreign and strange it was.

I count them: 2

I sit and think about my family. Countries divided. Truces not truths. Swords sheathed but hand on the grip. Always one sharpened blade away from war. One comment. One thought expressed wrongly. This is what it means to be related to one another. We are at odds. We are rivals. Progeny fight the fight of those that begot them. I have decided, as expressed in other posts, to lay my sword down with this family. This is their fight, not mine.  This is family to me.

However, there was once a man that lived and died a long time ago whom I admired. Biologically he was my cousin but he was more like my brother. He was family. He was my hero.

We eventually meet with my friend’s mother and have a great time but I was plagued by the family that I saw. It made me realize how much I want that but also how much I do not understand what family is.

This is how it was until I saw what was left of my hero.

 

END OF PART ONE

 

21 Grams

Hey Gang!

It was a hot and humid day. I walked inside and sat down in the funeral parlor. People all went to visit the casket and turned away with watery eyes. People came up to me and gave me condolences for my loss.

One by one they filed through and shook my hand. These unfamiliar face who never knew me. Some even show their prejudice towards me openly as they don’t acknowledge me unless I were to shove my hand into their space. For about an hour this goes on and then I sit down in the front row of the parlor, just a few feet from the casket.

My grandfather was dead.

This means that I officially have no grandparents on either side. It only consists of uncles and aunts. That is as high as it goes.

I remember sitting there looking at the closed wooden box. The funeral parlor was packed full of people and I remember thinking, “I hope half this many people come to mine.”

The services went on. People who knew him in life spoke and cried. I paid attention to a lot of it but I couldn’t help but think about the situation period. I wasn’t saddened because I hardly knew him, unfortunately. I think that’s what did sadden me a bit, though. That feeling of a forever lost connection. Maybe we could have been friends. Maybe we could have talked. From what everyone said, he seemed like a great man but his past transgressions haunted my mother and my uncle whom remember those well.

I stared at the grain in the wood and remembered everything about the class I took on death dying and bereavement. I remembered it well. The funeral home and all the services. The business of death.

I also thought about the fact that it has been three deaths in a year and five months. It was just too much for me. Too much to carry. I felt this huge weight on myself that was suffocating. It is hard to describe. That much death kind of feels like an infection in your life. It filters into your happiest moments. You look at the shirt you wore that day or you remember something from that day.

It constantly reminds you of your own mortality. You try to talk to people about it and yet you can’t because it feels like you are bringing them down. You are burdening them with your unburdening.

This situation always reminds me of what I want after death. I remember touching the past two deaths and they were stiff and hard as oak. This makes me vocalize that I want a green burial. A shroud over me and stick me in the earth. Dust to dust kind of stuff. I reiterate this at every funeral. Three of them in a year and a half.

This weight reminds me of a story I heard in that class and it begs the question: what is the soul and what are its limitations?

I don’t like to put my personal beliefs into this blog because I feel like it is a personal thing and this blog is not about my beliefs but it has crept into this post a bit.

I do believe there is a soul or an energy within all of us. Within me. Even Einstein postulated that the body dies before the batteries do, if you will pardon the simplicity in which I used the metaphor.

There was this doctor, I believe this occurred in the late 19th or early 20th century, and this doctor wanted to find out scientifically if there was a soul. So, he took a person who was near death and then weighed him. They checked his vitals and sat near him until the moment of death and weighed him again. What they found was at that moment when the man died his body lost 21 grams of weight. This, he proclaimed, is the evidence that a soul has left the man’s body and that is the weight of the soul within a physical and tangible reality.

The soul had weight to it.

How much can a soul carry? How  much can it be burdened with?

Mine has a lot right now but I am a big guy and I think it can take more. I thought that my soul was hardened for a while but after my mother went for surgery just two days after my grandfather was placed in the earth, I cried like a little girl who skinned her knee.

So, who knows how much a soul can bare but it makes me happy that I am not a robot devoid of emotion. That my soul has room on its shoulders to carry more of this burden of emotion that plagues me lately.

It makes me happy that my body and my soul are not broken.

-Chris

Bloodletting

bloodletting

Hey Gang!

I guess this is kind of my finale in the family series of blogs that I have been doing. The topic of my opinion on family and my journey to understand the meaning of the word. In this final post on the topic I must look back. In a year I have dealt with the death of two close family members and the fallout from their deaths. Dealing with these people, these family members, has been enlightening to say the least.

Ask me to define the word Family and all I can say is what books say. What I have read on Wikipedia and saw on “The Brady Bunch”. Those ideologies of Atomic Families are such an after thought these days. Some sort of thing we all try to achieve but most find it far from our grasp but that is what I thought…until recently.

Have you ever heard of bloodletting?

I like the older practice of it. Today’s common illness symptoms were misinterpreted and viewed as your humors being out of wack and so, as in common practice, leeches would be attached to a person and blood would be sucked out of the ailing individual. This bloodletting was thought to help rid the body of toxins and other misconceptions of common illnesses.

I watched the body of my family crumble due to some of these creatures that were in the midst and now I look at what is left. Fractures lay in our foundation and I believe they are unable to be repaired. I saw the squabbling of people over money and I came to detest it. When asked what I wanted, I declined everything except a brown blanket that my grandmother made years ago. It was because of all this that I reevaluated it all. I couldn’t watch as all of these people sneered at one another. I watched some show their grief in front of others on a grandiose scale and then act like nothing was wrong behind closed doors. I understand grief is different for everyone but this was not grief. This was a performance.

So, I stepped out of the picture. My mother filled people in on what was going on in my life but I wanted to get a wider view of it all.

Statistically, the most common family in America is the blended family. That family in which individuals bring in children from past relationships and get married.

I needed to get out of town a week or so ago. I went up north and visited my brother, who is now my roommate. I will move back in a little less than a month but he was alone; I knew it would be a good time to just hang out. We saw “World War Z” and decided that “Man of Steel” should be on the table as well but there was a two hour gap between the two. To kill time, we went and grabbed dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. It was funny. We sat there and devoured our burritos, mine being vegetarian and his being hamburger. This was the first time in a long time where there was no television or video games on. It was he and I and a couple massive burritos. We talked for a while about how great the movie was and about how excited we were for “Man of Steel”.

Then we played a game called, “Top 5”. We talked about the top 5 things that we loved. Movies, songs and the like.

This was a lot of fun because it was hilarious to hear each others’ “guilty pleasure” movies. His was “Maid In Manhattan” and mine was “Little Shop of Horrors” (the musical starring Rick Moranis). Laugh, but it is still a great film!

We saw the movie and took the bus home but it stuck with me. As well as my father’s visit to bring him an air conditioner. I had never seen him so jovial and animated…and surprisingly funny!

I came home and was happy because I finally got it. I finally understood the definition of Family.

It’s subjective.

Here’s mine: Your family is the one you choose.

Even though you may have blood coursing through your veins that has a genetic code similar to another does not mean they are family. I was in that funeral parlor and looked around at these people and I felt no connection to them. They were just people. They weren’t family at all. My brother is my brother and I love the little dude but we don’t know each other that well. That’s why I loved that mini-vacation, because we got closer. We talked about a lot of things in our past. We got talked about how our lives diverted before now; before this convergence.

Family.

My family are my two best friends from high school. They are my brothers. My mother. My best friend from where I worked before, my sister. They are the people whom I feel closer to than most of my relatives and, in the end, family isn’t about blood. It’s about closeness. It’s about being in another person’s gravity and feeling like it is home. Say anything and they don’t care. Family are the people whom you can truly be yourself around and accept you.

With this last post on my family, or at least my recent revelations about them, I let go. I let go of the anger that held on to me tighter than any embrace. I let go of all of those other feelings that corrupted my trust in people’s motivations.

I have been bled and watch the leeches fall.

My time of bloodletting is done.

-Chris

The Best of All Possible Worlds

 

Evolution

Hey Gang!

Thanks to everyone for your words of encouragement. It meant the world and it once again reaffirmed that I have the greatest bunch of bloggers on earth as part of my “gang”. You guys are awesome and artists and wonderful people whom I am honored to have bumped into in this world wide web of disconnection!

I was walking Sofie not too long ago, enjoying the warm afternoon sun. We have a decent sized backyard and I like to walk around in the grass with bare feet. So, we walked around for a moment. She laid down and basked in the yellow light until a car door slammed. She jumped up and ran behind me. I was looking at the trees, oblivious to most everything except their creaking sound as their branches swayed in the breeze. Her hard tug made me turn and I saw my Dad paying us an unexpected visit.

He sauntered up as he always has since I can remember. He pulled up his jeans and cleared his throat.

“Hey Pops, what’s up,” I asked as we met half way.

“Christopher, what happened to your job,” he asked. His tone was more of inquiry than anger.

The first thing I thought was, “Oh, sh**, here it comes.”

My father and I never really had a relationship, most of you know a bit about that from the blog ‘Jogging My Mind’. I am not really used to the idea of a father. Not in a traditional sense. It almost seems comical in a way because it is such a foreign notion. Like watching Ward and the Beaver. So, when this happened I was a bit surprised. I could probably count how many times I have seen my father in my life and I will admit that I was bitter. If I were honest, I would say I still am.

You have this kid inside of you that is always there. The kid is you. Your base. Your root. “Youer than You” to quote Dr.Suess.

This kid in my head is still asking questions that I, as an adult, can’t answer and probably doesn’t want to know. The questions of ‘why’ this or ‘where were you’ that, have faded for a long while. Those left when I got older. My evolution faded most of those thoughts that plagued me as a child. That shaped me as a man.

I sometimes imagine myself walking down a long corridor in a dimly lit school. I walk to the end and open up a door. The room is lit by a single light overhead; people sit in a circle. The rest of the room is not visible because of the darkness. Only the center where the people are is visible. I see there is an open chair and I sit. I imagine looking around and they are me. All of them. I see my root, leading the discussion. I see the grade school kid who played with G.I. Joes a little too long but loved life. He sits playing with a Hot Wheels car. Not a care in the world.

Then, I see the middle school version of me. By his own definition, a “Curly Haired Slacker”. A victim of sloth and apathy.

I see the high school me. He sits, angry at so much more than what he believes. He says his mother smothers him but he is angry about the world and how he doesn’t fit in. He sits with green hair and a black hoodie, like he always wore.

Finally, I see the college version of me. The ambitious journalist who loved to have fun. Bettering himself. He would volunteer at places and then go downtown and drink a bit too much. Maybe wind up on an interstate but that is a different blog post.

Then, sit I. I look at all of these people and I see conflicting people. I realize that these are the past versions of a person looking for something he hasn’t found. I look at my root and he watches the door and I notice an empty chair next to me. The me that wears these black glasses and watches trees creaking. The me that has somehow become defeated but still optimistic. The me that doesn’t take my mortality for granted. The me, now.

The me that is waiting in that room for the next version to take his place beside him.

I suppose I divulge this bit of inner thought because I wanted to show an evolution of someone who became independent at a young age. I had to become a man in theory. I feel as if I turned out okay, probably better than if I had had a father but there is always that unknowing. The haunting question that plagues my base: What If?

I had to learn to be the man that was my mother’s idea of what it meant to be a good man.. So, I carry a lot of values of an older generation. Seems nice but you would be surprised how hard those old ideologies conflict with modern day women.

***

I tell my father everything that happened. I tell him about the loss of my job and my lack of luck now. I remember his face as he heard all of this. He just looked at the ground and nodded his head along with it.

I told him I had gotten a decent offer from a large business in Chicago but I couldn’t travel all the way out there when my Master’s starts in August. It would be pointless.

I tell him that I feel like I am stuck in limbo.

Then he says:

“Christopher, if it didn’t work for you, then it didn’t work. You did your best so… I don’t mind helping my kids as long as they are doing better. As long as they are trying to better themselves.”

I tell him, “thanks.” Then I mention how I feel like maybe I should have just went into the job market and skipped my Master’s. Maybe I should just stay home.

“Christopher, you are single. You ain’t got no kids. You can go wherever you want. You don’t have nothing tying you down. When I was your age, I had already had two kids. Man, if I had been in your position, no telling where I’d be.”

He said that with a longing gaze as he rocked in the swing glider. I didn’t say anything. What can you say to a man’s lifelong lament?

I just looked at him and saw that look of regret in his face and it reminded me of Voltaire’s Candide and how it harkened to the philosophical nature when it said, “…the best of all possible worlds”.

For a moment, my father was lost in that other life. That other world.

So, for my father, this isn’t the best of all possible worlds. Not in his mind.

I listened to him and took that advice (and all of yours!) and I feel happier now. I feel like I am doing what’s right for me.

My father and I stayed there for a few more moments and then he said goodbye. He called a few days later and asked about the job search. We talked for a few minutes and for the first time I made my father laugh.

In my evolution, I have been very angry about the absence of a father and then felt apathetic about it. Ambivalent. Now, I feel open to the idea of a relationship with my father.

The best of all possible worlds, in my opinion, is the one you shape. Not the one that is shaped for you. I may not have been born into the best of all possible worlds but I live in a world where I can make it that way.

-Chris

(If you made it this far, you get a superstar badge!)

On Ghosts and Other Things

 

Image

Hey Gang,

My time at home has come to an end. My exodus impending. It has been a journey, coming back to this place for a relatively long time but it rasa’d my tabula if you will. It was enlightening because of my humbling experience but also because of pictures.

If you are a regular reader, then you read my blog entitled Our Glue, and I thank you for that! If not, it was about my grandmother who passed away and how I saw her, as well as my reflections on her. It was cathartic to say the least but it wasn’t the end. I had trouble dealing with it but made my piece.

Coming home from being away for so long has been interesting. I come back to where my family still lives. I felt like an outsider or as if I was intruding. It took seeing how everything is the same here to see how much I have changed, or so I thought. It all culminated when I went along with my mother to go to an aunt’s house and go through my grandmother’s belongings where they divided up her valuables.

This was such an amazing experience. You never truly know someone until you see their “valuables”. For my grandmother, it was old trinkets and costume jewelry. She loved topaz and opal stoned jewelry; the larger the better. In life, I never saw her go outside of her house much. She would mostly stick to sweaters and these powder blue slacks that she would use to gauge how much weight she gained or lost by how tight they were on her thighs. I never got to see this side of her. The glamorous side. The softer side.

She also was in to quilting. I remember she used to crochet when I was a child but it waned as her memory did. The quilts are small and dense, and incredibly warm may I add. I was given one and it made me happy to have a piece of something she made by hand. Every stitch deliberate.

I found it to be somewhat trivial how my family said what belonged to them in a squabble. I am the youngest of the cousins and the youngest in the room of my family as they debated what was to be divided. At one point I exclaimed, “This isn’t about money and this isn’t about who gets what. She was everyone’s mother here. This is her stuff. Enjoy it while it’s all in front of you.”

Bold, I know. Maybe even out of place but it needed to be said and the air was lighter. We started looking, not at what was to be claimed but what was in front of us. What our grandmother loved.

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I have told you the portions of what she liked as in quilting and jewelry but I found her true treasure. Photos. Thousands of photos. They went back to the late 19th century. I saw my great grandfather and many other extended family through the generations and it was truly amazing.

There is this song by The Cure called “Pictures of You” that really put the whole situation in perspective and played on loop in my head.

How these pictures are snapshots of moments. It was about seeing my grandmother in a light that was different than what I knew. She was a teenager. She was happy. She was in love. My grandfather was a handsome devil and looked like trouble.

 

I look at all of these pictures and then move forward. I see pictures of my mother when she was in grade school and all the way through when she had me.  There were myriad pictures of these people whom I never knew but knew. My grandmother was cooky and goofy but also a very stern woman. In those pictures, I saw what she was like before life happened.

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There were pictures of me as a youngster; some I had seen, others were new.

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These pictures made me realize that as far apart as we are, those pictures taking place in 1949, we both share the commonality of youth. I have always seen her as “Grandma” and not Violet. It was such a long day but by the end I felt as if I knew her much better than I ever had. She took a lot of these photos and to some it may be just a picture but for me it was getting to see through her eyes for one frame in a long life. One window into a life that is a mystery to me. Like some mythological figure of someone. Some ghost.

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It is her way of immortality I suppose and I revere these pictures. It makes me want to take more pictures and to be young. Be free. I want to look back at those pictures and think about those people in it. The person I was and built upon. My own ghost.

Ghosts. A city of ghosts. That’s what I realized in that room we all stood in, which seemed so much bigger fifteen years ago. I thought I had changed and they all stayed the same but that isn’t true. That’s impossible. We all shed our personalities like snakes shed their skin. What I saw was only the depth of what I know of them. I hadn’t seen them in years and even then it was fairly superficial. I didn’t know them like I had, I now only see what I knew of them and not what they are. I only see their ghosts.

So, in forty years, I’ll look back and remember these days when I was this and not what I will be and when we were.

-Chris

Our Glue

Hey Gang!

Well, I guess it’s been a crazy week. Unfortunately my grandmother passed away due to complications of Alzheimer’s Disease, something that is truly terrible. I am sure most of you know what the disease is because I have the smartest and best looking readers on wordpress but in case you don’t, here is the technical definition:

“Alzheimer’s Disease
Senile dementia – Alzheimer’s type (SDAT); SDAT

Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.”- Via PubMed Health

It’s crazy because she was my last grandparent, so now I only have aunts and uncles. Strange to know the matriarch of my family is now gone. She was somewhat the element that kept our family together.

Our Glue.

She’s gone now and I find myself reminiscing about her.

She was nowhere near the cookies and baked goods grandmother but she was definitely part of our family. My family is feast and famine with one another. When we are together, it’s leave it to beaver but when we are apart, it’s like Dallas. They fight and squabble and all of us cousins are stuck in the middle. We hardly ever talk, but when we all came together at her funeral, it was great. It seemed like things quieted down with age.

My grandmother was crass, politically incorrect, sometimes volatile, darkly comical, hateful, nosy, embellishing and I loved every bit about her.

I used to laugh at all the crazy things she did and said. In remembrance of my grandmother, who angered me as much as made me laugh, I give you some of my favorite highlights of her:

Grandma’s Surprise

My grandmother enjoyed the company of men. Not a Jezebel but she enjoyed their company. My grandfather died in 1990 and a man named Sam was courting her. So, I was visiting her with my mother and aunt when I was around 15. I was sitting in the front room reading “Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark” for the umpteenth time, when my interest is piqued as I hear my grandmother say, “Oh yes, he comes down here all the time saying ‘baby this’ and ‘honey’ that.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I put my book down and looked at her in shock. My 71 year old grandmother was talking about her suitor! Then, she mentions that they were celebrating their 6 month anniversary and she got him a present.

“Oh really? What did you get him mom?” my aunt said.

“You should get him a money clip mom,” my mom offered.

My grandma gave them both a devilish grin and held up her small, crooked index finger as she stood up out of her old warn out recliner and shuffled into her bedroom. The three of us look bewildered and I finally ask my mom, “What do you think she got him?”

Just then, my mom looked over my shoulder and gasped. My aunt yelled, “Oh, Jesus, Violet!”

I turned around and saw my grandmother, 71 years old, wrinkles, wispy white hair, liver spots and all, holding up a black see-through teddy. I would have like to have said my eyes burned out but they didn’t.

My reaction? I did what any 15-year-old boy would do. I threw my book down and ran out of the room screaming “ewwwww!” I then hear her scream, “Oh grow up Godd**it! I think it’s cute!”

No Grandma, That’s My Top Ramen!

My cousin Josh was living with my grandma at this time and I was around 13. I was in the front room with my mom and aunt once again in my grandmother’s old, country home; the interior lined with wood paneled walls and worn down green carpet.

Josh was in the kitchen making some delicious Top Ramen noodles and he makes them extremely specific:

Josh’s Top Ramen Delight

1 package chicken flavored top ramen

chili flakes

1. boil water and add top ramen for 3 minutes

2. take off stove and drain most of the water, THEN add flavor packet

3. add chili flakes and enjoy!

So, he was in the process of step 2, just about to pour the water out when my tiny grandmother hobbles in, pulling her stretchy purple pants up to just under her armpits, having just come from the restroom. I see and hear the following exchange from the front room:

“Josh, just what in the hell are you doing,” my grandmother asked as she thrust her hands on her hips.

“Making ramen noodles grandma,” he said, laughing at her anger.

“Why are you pouring the water out? You gotta put in the flavor sh** first,” she said.

“No, I don’t like it like that. I like to put it on without water.”

“Joshua, just put the flavor sh** in there and eat it.”

Josh gave her a wide grin and poured out the water.

My grandmother threw her hands into the air and screamed, “Well f**k you then!”

I have literally never laughed that hard in my life and it is one of the funniest things my grandmother ever did.

The Little Things

These are the little things i loved about her

-She made the best tea in the world. She would steep it on the back porch and it would have just the right amount of sugar. She would make one jar for the family and then, knowing I loved it more than air, she would make one just for me.

-She always kept hard candies for me.

-There are pictures of her feeding me my first bottle of milk when I was still in the nursery. I treasure that nursery.

-She took care of me and my mother whenever we got in a car accident and I was in a wheelchair for a year.

-Finally, My grandfather loved me a lot but he died before I really got to know him. He passed when I was 5. I do have myriad pictures with him though and my grandmother gave me the hat he wore for over 30 years everyday he went to work. That hat was so old the bill broke into bits but I still have it at home.

My grandmother was complicated but she was my grandmother. We may not have been on the same level all the time but I hope she knew how much I cared for her and that she was the glue that held us together; through bad and good, she united us.

I love you Grandma,

Chris “Mop Top”