Happy Families are All Alike

The thing that weighs most heavily on me (no pun intended) is that the safest thing we can do about the ceilings is to get them replaced. That is literally the only way to insure they won’t fall off the joists and potentially injure or kill someone. Every creak or groan the house makes, every bird or insect flopping against the window, every pop the computer or tv makes as it cools off sends me almost into a blind panic. And the second safest thing we can do is… nothing. Any efforts to shore them up would only be risking creating perforations along which the ceilings could crack. One of the guys I had bid on the ceilings told me, even knowing this, that he’d screw the ceilings in if that’s what I wanted. The other two told me flat out that they would not touch the other ceilings except to remove them, because they thought anything else would bring the ceilings down and they didn’t want the liability.

It’s literally the most menacing feeling. Every night I lay down under a ceiling that “looks fine for its age.” I play cards in a dining room with a ceiling that looks beautiful. I let my brother sleep in a room with a ceiling that looks beautiful as well. And the cats shit in a room filled with my dad’s beloved drum set and paintings my great grandma made and a ceiling that “needs” to come out as soon as possible. “Needs” being in quotes not because it’s ironic but because every one said that to me. It needs to come out. Until then, we need to not make it angry, I guess.

I say this as a preface to explain–no, justify–why I lost my damn mind when my other brother called me up to tell me that none of his friends would recommend trying to shore them up and I just needed to go ahead and replace them all as soon as I can, before they kill someone. As if I hadn’t heard that already. As if I’m not sick with worry about it. As if I was just sitting around waiting for him to tell me what to do before I was all “Oh, well, let me just take all these thousands of dollars out of my mattress where I’ve been hording it and use it to put up new, solid gold ceilings or ceilings made of balsa wood and angel tears. Ceilings so soft and light you nail them to the joists not to keep them from falling down, but to keep them from floating away. I’ve just been too stupid to do it up until now. Thank you so much for your helpful advice!!!”

I mean, that’s not an accurate transcription of what I said, but if you imagine something along those snotty, angry lines, but not as clever, that’s where I was.

And then I tried to complain to the Butcher but I was so incoherent with rage that I literally said, “He’s all ‘your ceilings’ ‘death’ blah blah blah. I can’t even… who is he? Does he think? I’m not argh.” And the Butcher had to say to me, “I can’t even understand what you’re trying to say.”

This is a man who can sit quietly in a room with me for three hours and then I’ll say something like “Where did Grandma get…?” and he’ll say “I think Keebler used to make those tiny pie shells.” If a man that on my wavelength can’t understand why I’m incoherently raging, then it must be very incoherent.

So I texted my other brother and apologized. And then we had a long conversation this morning. I was glad we had it. He’s really stressed about my parents’ financial situation and concerned that they’re doing too much for him and his kids’ mothers. And yet, he feels stuck, since he’s been out of work for so long, not being able to get by without their help.

Which I really, really needed to hear. I was trying to explain to nm that I feel like my dad’s compulsion to give my brother money is deeply fucked and something I don’t understand. Something that frightens me.

The thing I suspect is that it’s not so much about what my brother needs or what would be good for him, but about something terrible that drives my dad. He will exorcise his demons by giving my brother every last drop of something that is symbolized by money.

And the thing is that my brother could use the money. But that something? It’s not good for him and he knows it, but he doesn’t see a way to get away from it.

I just need to get myself into a financial place where I’m not sucked into this nonsense myself. But, unless I win the lottery or sell a book or something, I’m still a few years away from a time when something like “Oh, the ceiling just fell in” isn’t a cascading nightmare. But what’s clear in all of this–aside from the fact that I know the best people ever and I love them–is that I have to get myself in a position where my worst case scenario is not “Well, I can just borrow the money from Dad.” Because I can’t stand the something even in small doses.

I don’t know how my brother does it.

And I worry that it will kill my dad and I don’t know how to stop him from doing it, either.

So, that’s depressing.

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