Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's funny. For once, I don't feel like writing. This is the last thing I want to be doing right now.

Okay, not the last thing.

The last thing I would want to me doing right now would be being eating alive by sharks or gang-raped by a pack of Down Syndrome kids.

Actually, I think I would prefer the sharks.

...Yeah, thinking on that, definitely the sharks.

Took off from work a little after noon, drove down to C's place to grab my stuff, hit Hot Java for their Mocha Blast, skated by the non-official student bookstore to grab my texts for this semester, and then headed home.

$230 for textbooks, though I've knocked that down with aid of Amazon, and am going to be trolling used bookstores tomorrow with my mother to see if I can find the other items, get it below $150.

Speaking of Amazon, yeah, me on that site is not a good thing. I think a sort of subconscious financial preservation has kept from from using it in the past.

Well, I used it for the first time. And overshopped, picked up some things that I did not need, that were not on my required reading material list.

Ah well.

Got home, my mother and sister were at the grocery store, so I did what I do when I'm sitting at home and have no idea when I'm going to be put in motion: watch whatever channel is marathoning America's Next Top Model.

No, that isn't sarcasm. I love that show. It's my weakness. I'm fascinated by the photoshoots and the make-up and fashion and the photography itself... drool.

They got home, a couple hours(!) later. By then, I had vaccuumed and cleaned up the kitchen, returned things to their proper places so my mother would not walk in and drop her shoulders like she does when the house is messy and she's feeling overwhelmed.

We ran an errand involving one of the cats, talked and planned out the next few days, about the relatives that are coming into town and the sleeping/bathroom arrangements.

Let me do some backstory here, father's side of the family.

My grandfather was raised on a farm in South Dakota with his sister. I do not remember the reason behind it, but he decided to move to Los Angeles and started working for SCE.

My grandmother was raised on a farm in Arkansas with her two sisters, one of which died fairly recently, the other of which committed suicide in her 40s. She went to a school for typists and decided that, once she graduated, she was going to move to Los Angeles to find work.

So she and her best friend packed up their steamer trunks (which I still have hers with her name engraved on it) and hopped on a bus heading west.

They moved into a house that was renting rooms to women, headed by an older married couple, and worked at whatever jobs they gained of which I do not know the details of.

My grandfather was friends with the owner of this house, and he happened by one day while the girls were out in the front yard and demanded an introduction to the woman that would become his wife.

They began dating, my grandfather constantly taking her out to shows at the Hollywood Bowl (the programs from some of which I still have), but she decided to move back to Arkansas.

They wrote. They wrote and wrote and wrote and we have so many letters, even recorded records my grandfather made.

And she came back, bringing with her a cake.

My grandfather used to say as soon as she stepped off that train with that cake, he knew that she was the one for him.

So they married.

Eventually, she had their first child, my father's older sister. My grandfather doted on her, though not as much as he doted on his wife. She was spoiled and fixated on, loved deeply.

Then my father was born.

Something wasn't right, though. Theory has it that my grandfather became jealous of the amount of attention his wife was spending on their son. She was his world, his everything, children were a secondary matter, and any attention she was not spending on him... no, he didn't like it at all.

My father was raised with this hostility, to the point of where, in high school, my grandfather ceased to acknowledge his existence. Mail would be thrown away, callers would be told they had the wrong number, that no one by that name lived there. The breaking point, I believe, was when my father was offered a full scholarship to the school of his choice- any school would take him- and my grandfather, still not acknowledging him, refused to sign any papers that would allow this to take place.

So he moved out.

Couch-surfing and living in his car, attending Pasenda City College, where he met my mother. Where she continually refused him and his advances because he was such a known player. A "man about town" she called him.

The first time he proposed, she informed him that she wouldn't marry him on a stack of Bibles.

He wore her down eventually.

Then there was a car accident, one that nearly killed him. Between the near-loss of his son, and my mother's influence, the gap between father and son started to mend, though it would never fully heal.

During this, though, my aunt continued to be raised as the golden child, protected, loved, nutured. She had depression issues, but we all did, and still the only two people in my family that imbalance has skipped was my grandmother and my sister.

But something was wrong with my aunt.

And she married.

She married a small-time actor, they traveled the world, lived in Asia for a few years, until she was finally able to escape him. You see, he had anger issues. Abuse, isolation, beating, I do not know how bad it was, but we do not talk about it much.

She escaped and they divorced.

Years later, she met her second husband. I was born by then, as was my sister. The wedding was held in Big Bear and I still remember the awful flowery dress I wore, the silverware against the glasses and the speeches.

They married and moved to Arkansas to be with the rest of the family, the few of us that did not end up in Los Angeles.

And things were good.

Until the accident.

Until the day that her husband, a construction worker, had a beam break under him and he fell six stories, paralyzing himself from the chest down.

It has been many years since that has happened, I was still a child, not even in my teens, remembering seeing him again, that tall, strong, and tanned man, weathered face, kind eyes, large beaked nose, constant button-up shirts, though not the business kind, but more of a western look with those bolo ties that my grandfather also favored. I remember the wheelchair, the novelty of it.

Physical therapy, surgeries, legal battles, more surgeries and more surgeries.

They would travel in their motorhome, going from Arkansas to Los Angeles, then up north, camping and seeing the country, a motorhome full of dogs and cats that they would park in my grandmother's large backyard for a few months, spending time with the family, my parents driving us up to visit, me staying for weeks in the summer with my aunt feeding my book habit, coasting along Main Street to the library that she would occasionally volunteer at, and I would return back to my grandmother's with stacks and stacks of books, maxing out the limit allowed, searching for hours for those that interested me, browsing the ancient computers for topics and ideas, hunting for perfect pages and information.

My uncle's back got worse, so they stopped traveling and bought a large property in Arkansas, and a mobile home to place beside their catfish pond. I never did visit.

To deal with her constant depression, my aunt decided to try an experimental surgery, having a device implanted in her skull that would send electrical shocks through her brain in the theory that it would stimulate serotonin production. It didn't seem to work, would just send her into coughing spasms when it went off on its set schedule.

When I was 13, my grandfather, my father's father had a series of strokes. Combined with his diabetes, he passed away. This was an interesting time for me, as it solidified the role I continue(d) to play. My mother still tells the story of how, when I went up to visit my grandfather one weekend, and saw how wrecked my family was over it, over his inability to remember where he was, what was going on, and the look on his face when he would glance at his wrist and see that hospital band and know that something was horribly, horribly wrong and the last few days, weeks, months, that he had would be spent in this haze of not knowing, of not truly being with his wife, his everything, and this great silent man would tear up, look at us, look at me with those eyes overwhelming in their desperation, in their knowledge...

I kicked everyone out.

I saw this and told everyone to leave. To go get food, to nap, to get out of the hospital and regroup and take as long as they needed because I was there and I would take care of it.

And they did leave.

At 23, my grandmother started going south. She lived ten years past her husband's death, and we all assumed to our core that once one of them went, the other would be behind them in months.

But she did not.

She stayed up in the High Desert, in Hesperia, in the house that they designed together, the house that they built together, their dream house, with the stray cat that her husband charmed, a calico that went from sleek to chubby with the food they gave it.

Ten years in that house.

Ten years alone, sleeping a bed built for two, in a bathroom with two sinks, with the record player that would fill their days and nights with the music that they loved, that they danced to, a closet full of his clothes, a dresser unused, a table set for one, a connected pair of recliners that they raised due to her bad hip, where they would lean back and watch westerns together on TMC and AMC.

They moved to the High Desert because of her lungs. Because the Los Angeles air was so bad for her, was doing such damage to her already weak lungs, that they had to go somewhere cleaner, somewhere drier. So they moved from their house on Ivar Avenue in Temple City, a house on the same block where my parents purchased their first house so they were close, and moved an hour away from life, from family.

When I was 24, she died.

We pulled the tube out of her throat that was working her lungs for her, the family gathered around, I watched the blood on the end of that plastic pipe catch on the corner of her mouth, and she died.

My aunt went further downhill.

In my grandmother's will, it was determined that everything was to be left to my father, because my grandmother knew that her daughter would be unable to take care of herself and was relying on my father to do it. This included the house, her dream house, because she was afraid that her daughter would wreck it in the way that she does.

My father was unwilling to sell this house.

Not because it was his parents' house, something that was built for love, a physical representation of their goals realized, but because he knew that his brother-in-law would not outlive his sister, and he needed a place, a house, where she could live because she would be unable to fend for herself when that time came.

Almost two years later, his sister shot herself in the head.

I'm stuck between two places.

The feelings of my father, of his assigned role, not just as an adult, but as a child, to protect his older sister, his mentally frail and emotionally unstable sister, and then having her kill herself, having her not talk to him, to have that bond of life experience shared not reach across the miles, that she could not pick up the phone, that he did not catch on when he talked to her... not just that, but to have the last person of his original family die, someone he assumed would be there with him until the end, someone that he would continue to age with, to care for, to celebrate with... and she left.

The feelings of my aunt.

The point at which one is either so unstable that, without forethought, takes a gun and ends their lives, or the alternative. The planning. Picking out a weapon. Spending days, weeks, months, eyeing this gun as your exit out. Picking your location, daydreaming, hoping, being so lost in the idea that you need to leave, that there is nothing worth living for, that people would be better off if you would just go ahead and do it already. Imagining your funeral. Imagining the crime scene team scrubbing the blood and brains out of the woodpanelled walls or white paint on the inside of your trailer, knowing that your husband will not be able to enter that room, will not be able to look at that wall that pieces of your skull flew across, that splatter, knowing that he would have to be the one to find you, that there was no other option, and the damage that would do to him was so outweighed by your own pain you no longer cared, that he would spend the next several days, several weeks, sleepless, phone ringing off the hook, social pressures coming down, the constant questionings of okay, and he's wondering if he is okay, what he's going to do, why the woman he promised himself to love and cherish and protect left him voluntarily, that everything should have been able to be worked through and did he do something wrong, was there anything he could have done, did he say something to you that set you off, what were his last words to you, when did he tell you that he loved you, and he combs over the memories of the last time he talked to you, wondering if his missed those signs, wondering if the way you ran your fingers through your hair, touched his arm, hugged him, kissed him, eyed the drawer or closet where the gun was stashed and if only he had noticed, if only he had been paying attention.

When the gun went off, did he hear it?

Did he rush to you in his wheelchair or with his cane or crutches, wondering if you were okay, wondering what had happened? Was he asleep, woken by the noise, not hearing when you left the bed? Was he out fishing, or out in town? What was the last thing you said to him, and how long did you stare at the gun before you finally lifted it to your head? How long did you wait, how many breaths did you take before you determined that you had breathed enough that this one, this one was the last one? How many times prior to this had you lifted that gun and put it back down? How many times had you told yourself you would not do such a thing, that you would get help, that people loved you, people needed you, and you weren't done or you were just too afraid of what would happen once that bullet entered your skull, weren't ready to know, and then the pain and depression outweighed that fear, lifted that gun, weightless and you knew it was time.

Did you close your eyes? Were you crying? Was it a mechanical movement, or were you sobbing, hunched over in the dark, in the light? In one of your shirts, usually with cats on it, and the wooden animal earrings, big brown framed glasses- were they on or off? Did you not want to see? Did you set them on a table? Did you have a drink, or many, to dull the nerves?

Or did you just dive right in?

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