Rotten Kool-Aid

Probably not one of the best nights of my sixteenth year.  My oldest sister, S, was twenty-five, divorced and always up for fun as she tested the waters of freedom.  Even with her two younger sisters. 

From our point of view?  She was thin, pretty, had a car and was old enough to buy beer and liquor.  At fifteen years old?  That is sometimes the definition of a good time.

For the life of me, i can’t remember how it came to pass, but S hosted a sleep-over at her “swinging single gal” apartment.  Me, sister, T, two neighborhood friends, TB & JB, and the token man-boy, J.  He was my gorgeous best friend, and first love.  Unrequited, of course.  

It was just a Saturday night, with pizza, junk food and music.  And booze.  First beer, then we started raiding S’s liquor shelf for the grocery store vodka. 

Oh, wait.  Almost forgot… my niece, DQ, was there.  She was five years old.  We kinda almost forgot that night, too, because she was pretty quiet, and went to bed by 11:00 pm or so… before we got really drunk and stupid. 

Memories of the evening are a bit fuzzy, but the one i really haven’t been able to shake – despite a few decades of effort – is that somewhere during the evening, i saw my 25 year old sister making out with my 15 year old best friend*.  That was as far as it went, but i remember thinking “C’mon, S… you’ve got enough men chasing you!”

Needless to say, the next morning was grim.  We were all passed out on couches, chairs and sprawled on the floor.  Slowly there was human movement within the apartment as we scratched our bits, held our heads and said “what the fuck?” while shaking off the stupor…

Young  DQ was up early, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and headed to the kitchen to forage for breakfast.  Her small voice from around the corner – “Mommy, this kool-aid tastes rotten”.  S got to the kitchen in short order, and retrieved the “vodka kool-aid cocktail” from her child’s hand, replacing it with milk. 

Trailer parks are full of rotten kool-aid, kid.  Never forget it…

* He was gorgeous, and an absolute chick magnet for older girls/women.  This was before he was out of the closet and contentedly gay.

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Why i don’t write fiction…

Mercifully, Dad had been dead for almost a year when DQ’s first husband, LC, was sent to prison for four years.  Dad would have been pretty upset with the circumstances that sent him away…. as well as the subsequent festivities at DQ’s ‘trailer’ next door.

DQ was in her early 30’s, and their daughter, DQ, Jr. was about 7 years old.  Claiming post-traumatic distress as an excuse, DQ went a bit wild on the dating scene after divorcing her jailed husband.  During one of my weekly phone calls, Mom informed me that DQ had moved her current boyfriend into her house.  Seemed sudden to me, but i was willing to spot her some degree of trauma from the events of the prior few months.

Josh, this new live in boyfriend, was 18 years old.  And still in high-school. 

DQ was also in the midst of a huge financial mess.  She and her husband had been in debt up to their eye sockets, including a second mortgage at an obscene interest rate.  This had created a situation where her house was worth less than she owed on it.  My sister, T (the Business Professor) and i were consulted by Mom and DQ’s mother (my oldest sister, S) as to how best to resolve DQ’s finances.

Running the numbers, T and i were in complete agreement.  Bankruptcy.  The court would be sympathetic, due to the jailing of her husband, and this was also prior to changes in bankruptcy laws that were to become more favorable to the creditors.  It was a no-brainer.  Which, of course, means the suggestion was dismissed (DQ: “I don’t wanna give up my stuff!”) and Mom and S decided they’d take over DQ’s finances and throw their own money at the problem to help her dig out.

This brilliant financial solution amounted to S handling all bill paying, at a personal cost of $1000/month.  Mom kicked in for food, which was costing her about $500/month.  DQ was living on unemployment at the time – again, claiming trauma had prevented her from working, she was eventually laid off. 

i had divorced myself from this mess after being asked for advice, providing the requested advice, and that advice was rejected.  This was, in fact, the first time i told them – “i will not bail you all out of this mess if your plan fails”. 

My sister, T, came to town for a week to stay with Mom.  It was her “play by play” account of the situation at DQ’s that did it.  i finally realized just what a Redneck Freak Show it had become.  She called me her first day in town to unload:

T:  Holy shit!  Have you been over to DQ’s in the last month?

daisyfae:  Nope.  Been avoiding it.  Weak stomach…

T:  I walked over there with Mom, and there are these people huddled on the couch in the family room.  It’s a pregnant girl, her boyfriend and a toddler.  I asked Mom “who are all these people? Since when can DQ afford to be taking in the homeless?”

daisyfae:  What?  There are other people living there?

T:  Oh, and this 300 pound ape-man comes walking out of the kitchen, eating an entire Domino’s pizza.  A fucking large!  That’s Josh.  I told Mom “You wonder how she’s spending $500 a month on food?  Look at how big that bastard is?  Can’t she find a skinny briar for a boyfriend?”

According to Mom, T said this in front of everyone there… and no one reacted.   T has a refreshing habit of calling ’em like she sees ’em… 

Within a couple months, however, there was trouble in trailer park paradise.  One afternoon, DQ Jr. shows up on Mom’s porch, frantically knocking…

DQ Jr:  Granny!  You’ve got to come over!  Josh is beating up my Mom!

So, my mother, in her late 70’s, follows the 8 year old child next door.  Swinging her cane in front of this 300 pound caveman, she said “If you ever hit my granddaughter again, I’m going to club you, buddy!”

Within a few days, Josh moved out, graduated high school, and was supposed to be getting a football scholarship to a local university.  DQ later met up with BJ, who was also about 18 at the time, and they eventually married.  And they lived happily ever after… 

Oh.  Wait.  Trailer park stories never end that way…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Mom and S continued to dump their cash into the black hole of DQ’s debt for 18 months.  It became a sore point between S and her husband, J, and almost broke up their marriage.  $27,000 later, DQ was still in debt up to her eye sockets, was unemployed and was not going to be able to stay in her house much longer.  Yep.  That’d be about the time they threw in the towel and had her declare bankruptcy.  After the laws were changed, becoming much more rigorous for debt repayment, of course.  (sigh)

Nurture or Nature

For Christmas this year, Mom bought my children Chia Pets.  My children and i have always held cheap and crappy gifts in rather high regard, so these were met with genuine glee!  This week, amidst frantic preparations for final exams and her unexpected graduation*, The Girl called to let me know that the two presents had sprouted fine plumage…
Donkey, with nose goblins, and Scooby Doo

Donkey, with nose goblins, and Scooby Doo

Chia Mullets
Chia Mullets

And with unexpected delight, she shared that these fine works of botanical art both sprouted mullets.  Proving once and for all that you can take the redneck clay pot out of the Trailer Park, but can never truly shed Trailer Park roots… 

My life.  Modeled in clay and bean sprouts…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Given her international studies, The Girl fully expected that some of her credits earned abroad wouldn’t transfer, and that she’d be slaving away for another term.  Meeting with a guidance counselor, she was a bit surprised to learn that not only will she have enough credits to graduate this term, but she’ll have earned DUAL DEGREES in Arabic and International Studies (rather than the dual major she expected).  And with an Honors grade point average.  Her mother is bustin’ with pride!  As if i actually had anything to do with it…

Finding my groove

It was a gorgeous spring day on my last trip to The Park to take Mom to visit the surgeon – a momentary break in the monsoon allowed the sun to appear, bringing overdue warmth.  As part of our “doctors appointment” ritual, i always walk through the house when i drop her off, performing an assortment of tasks that need doing* – everything from changing light bulbs, to taking out the trash, to reviewing insurance paperwork and writing down the medical info du jour. 

Last week, she asked if i could take a look on the back porch to see what needed doing to get it ready for summer.  A concrete patio, with a small raised deck for flowers, all covered by a corrugated aluminum awning, it’s not a “Home and Garden” showplace.  Just a place for fresh air – away from the stale, “three pack a day” air inside the house.

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Eyewitness Report: Redneck Wedding

In 2006, our Trailer Park family got to experience one of those magical adventures known as ‘The Wedding’.  DQ and BJ tied the knot in a hoedown to end all  marital hoedowns.  Striking just the right balance between “glamour” and “comfort”, they pulled together a wedding in their own style – and worked hard to keep costs down, doing much of the legwork on their own. 

The bridesmaids gowns were made from about a thousand yards* of brown satin.  They wore matching sequined flip flop sandals.  Brown.  “Why Brown?” you ask?  Well, that was the only color that could be coordinated with the “Mossy Oak” tuxedo vests. 

mossyoak.jpg

 

Since i was meeting The Girl halfway around the world, i was unable to attend.  But, thanks to the wonders of technology, my sister, T, was able to give me an electronic summary while i lounged poolside at a 4-star hotel in Bangkok.  Here, gently modified to protect me from the innocent, is her “Scores and Highlights” from the reception.  It was held in a “party barn” and was a “bring your own booze” event…
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The genetic connection

“We were born of the same parents, raised in the same environment, but if you put us in the same room, we simply couldn’t be any more different…”

A paraphrased comment about four siblings, uttered by a friend as we drank some beer, plotted organizational anarchy, and reflected on The Trailer Park Experience*. 

I’ve occasionally wondered how my three siblings and i could have been from the same genes, let alone species.  There is one obvious variable – my oldest sister and brother have different paternal genes.  Although i didn’t know this for many years, Mom had been married before, and the older siblings were, in fact, my half-brother and half-sister.

To apply controls to my observations, i should only look at my sister with the full compliment of shared genetics.  She is two years older, and left town after earning her PhD in Business – escaping to not only a warmer climate, but one that is about 2 hours by commercial air travel away from our hometown.  Smart.  She always was very smart…

T, my sister and fellow Trailer Park Refugee, is of my genes, but different.  She is accomplished – being a senior professional at a major university in the U.S. She demonstrated good instincts with her move 1,000 miles away to “escape the long arms of The Park”.  A diagnosed bipolar lesbian**, she is generally level for 75% of the time, but about once every 4 years, i am called upon to “deal with” nonlinear issues***.

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Two conversations with my father…

On the drive back from The Park last Friday, i was tired.  I’d been up late the night before at an awkward dinner event, then up before dawn in order to pick up Mom in time to make an 8:45 am appointment with the cardiologist.  Events of the morning were exhausting, but i was still facing an afternoon in the office after an hour-long drive.

After leaving Mom’s house, i had a powerful urge to visit my father’s grave – but i had an afternoon meeting, and couldn’t take the time.  Instead, i just had a chat with him in the car.  Something i’ve done before…  Typically the conversations start with “I’m trying… ” or “I’m really sorry…”.

Last Friday it was “Holy Fucking Shit!”*

A little background is in order.  While Dad was dying, we had time to talk.  No, not the actual “moment of death”**, but the four months leading up to his death.  There were several lengthy hospitalizations, and i spent many hours in his room, reading the paper while he slept, providing basic care, talking to doctors and nurses, or chatting when he was in the mood to talk.

During one of these conversations, we discussed his concerns about the inhabitants of The Park after he died.  When i was about 30 years old, prior to a trip to Europe, my parents made me executor of their estate.  I’m the youngest of four, but it had become clear that i was the only one with sufficient stability (not to mention CRZY MATH SKILZ) to handle the task.  During this particular conversation, Dad was pointing out that it was going to fall to me to look after the family when he was gone.

daisyfae:  But i’m the youngest!  It was in my contract that i’m supposed to skip through life responsibility-free!  i’m the carefree hippie…. the baby!

Dad:  Sorry.  You’re “Number One Son”.  You’re it…

daisyfae:  [sigh] Ok.  i promise i’ll look out for them…

And i have.  Well, at least i’ve tried.  Dad died in 2001.  The past 7 years have contained multiple moments of “you can’t be serious?” sprinkled with way too much “i could not possibly make this shit up”.  i haven’t even scratched the surface yet in my posts…

i have followed Kipling’s advice – “If you can keep your wits about you while all others are losing theirs, and blaming you” – to the best of my ability…

There is, however, a perfect storm brewing, and it’s testing the limits of my patience.  And my ability to keep the promise i made my Father.  As i spiral into menopause, no prospect of hormonal supplements because of that pesky breast cancer nugget last year, i have the potential to become highly nonlinear.  As the family faces “end of life” issues with Mom***, they have the potential to become highly nonlinear, not to mention, increasingly stupid.  Not a scenario for peace and harmony, that’s for sure….

Conjuring my Dad in the car that afternoon, i simply asked for a bit of clarification…

daisyfae:  Let’s take a look at that promise, shall we?  i said i’d “look out” for them.  Could that be interpreted as “Look out!  Here they come!”?

Dad:  [….]

__________

* It was Good Friday and all…

** Generally recognized as poor taste to talk about “stuff” when doctors are disconnecting life support, religious officials are attempting to officiate and the like.

*** Reference: The Lion King, Walt Disney Feature Animation, Mecchi & Roberts, 1994.

Park Logic

Yet another day in The Park taking Mom to her cardiologist, the lovely Dr. M.  Prior to determining next steps – double bypass or not – Mom will need additional tests done over the next couple weeks before meeting with a surgeon in April.

When we last left The Park, the heart catheterization revealed that Mom has a substantial blockage in her left main artery.  Although it wasn’t immediately life threatening, the doctor recommended that we move quickly to clear the blockage.  Mom is at a higher risk of heart attack, and due to the location of the blockage, the likelihood of fatality from a cardiac event is high.

Do the people who (in theory) share my genetics understand that this means Mom does not need additional stress or trauma?  Apparently not…

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Calling Uncle Walt…

When i was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, i asked my sister, S – a 6 year breast cancer survivor – to help break the news to Mom.  Her reaction set the world record for self-absorption.  In fact, i wondered if she would simply implode*….

Earlier this week, i encountered it again.  This time, because i was pretty sure she was jacked up on anti-anxiety drugs**, and because i’ve simply crossed my tolerance threshold, i decided to be a bit more direct with her about this behavior…

Stepping out of the cath lab to allow the nursing staff to do icky medical things to Mom’s incisions, she and i sat in a waiting area.  We’d just learned that Mom will need double bypass.

S (shaking, on the verge of tears):  I can’t take this.  I don’t know what I’m going to do without her!  I’m not ready to let her go!

daisyfae: You really need to think about what Mom needs.  This isn’t about you right now.

S (working up some angry tears): You just don’t understand.  I need her.  None of you need her as much as I do.  You’ll never understand.

daisyfae: Look, we’re all circling the drain!  We can’t change the outcome, we can only affect the path.  Freaking out is not doing anything good for the path…

S: I don’t want to talk about this!  She’s not going to die!

daisyfae: Do me a favor.  Rent The Lion King.  Study the part about “the circle of life”.  Let me know what you think.

_____

* oh, if it could only happen this way!

** clearly, an insufficient dosage….

The Clampett’s Take Granny To The Hospital

You’ve seen the episode.  Granny needs a routine medical procedure, but the Clampett’s don’t trust them smarty-pants doctors and them new-fangled doctorin’ machines.  With a show of force that could have changed the outcome at Normandy, the Clampett clan descends upon a poor, unsuspecting hospital staff, unleashing their homespun brand of hillbilly hijinks, and much hilarity ensues.

clampett_clan.jpg

 

 “Hilarity” is one word for it.  My word for it is “shoot – me – the – fuck – now – i – cannot – POSSIBLY – be – related – to – these – sociopathic – mutant – hillbilly – fucktards”.  For the purists out there, yes – i can count.  i tried the thesaurus.  There was no single word that captured the complete sentiment.

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