Reincarnation

My Uncle B. is fascinated by stories of reincarnation–where little kids are all “Oh, hey, Mom, remember when I died?” and then it turns out they have all these memories of being World War II fighter pilots.

I’m also fascinated by them, but not for the same reasons. I’m struck by how the memories of a kid’s old life fade. How you might be left with this sense that there was someone you used to be, but you’ve forgotten the specifics.

My dad makes fun of reincarnation, because everyone imagines they were Cleopatra and no one was the guy building the Pyramids who died of, I don’t know, scurvy. But those aren’t the kinds of stories that are compelling to Uncle B. and me. We like, I think, the suggestion that, if you got some kind of raw deal–died of cancer when you were 4 or in a plane crash when you were 20–you can get another shot.

I don’t think Uncle B. and I are waiting around to see if Grandma is going to be reincarnated. It’s hard to imagine she’d want to, after living a whole, long life. But the idea that you can cheat the kinds of death that cheat you? Oh, I like that.

But I also like how that kind of reincarnation turns your old self into a kind of ghost that haunts your current self. Perhaps turns your own body into a haunted house.

My Riders in the Sky Pull is Non-Existant

My dad called to ask me to get him backstage at the Riders in the Sky concert my parents are going to, so he can have dinner with the band. I am not able to make that happen. But I guess I’m flattered that he thought I would be?

He also called to tell me all about how they’re getting to take a tour of their local public radio station and how they may even volunteer to take phone calls during their next pledge drive.

The Butcher is so tickled by this he vows to call them both up randomly to make sure their phone-answering game is strong.

I think I’m in the long, boring part of the stripey afghan, but I’m really loving how it looks. I’m just a little sad to be through with the color changes.

Battle Creek

Four generations of Phillipses rot in the ground in Battle Creek, Michigan. I dream so deeply and frequently about my grandma’s house there on Bradley I worry I haunt it.

Battle Creek has always been a kind of mythic place for me, where all the stories my dad told about his childhood took place.

So, I’m excited that “Battle Creek” is supposed to be good. I can’t wait to watch it.

Research, Smesearch

I got the marriage certificate for Belle Phillips. It claims she didn’t list her parents. I paid $13 for the privilege of suspecting someone doesn’t know how to read an old handwritten book.

Trouble with Geneology in a Recalcitrant Family

My Great-Grandpa Frank had some brothers and sisters–Caribel, Barlow, Ralph, and Clyde (because I guess my great-great-grandfather and mother were trying to start an Old West Town, singlehandedly). My dad knew some of Ralph’s children. Not well, but he remembers my grandpa going to visit them and some of them coming to visit the him. Barlow’s grandson is the old man in Marshall I talked to a few years ago. His son is down in Memphis. Clyde, as far as I know, didn’t have any kids.

Which left Caribel. At some point in the census records, she became “Belle” but she may have also been called Carrie. There is no dead Belle Phillips or Carrie Phillips or Caribel Phillips who fits her (born in 1869, lived in Eaton County, Michigan). But it seemed to me that she should be easy enough to find, with enough patience, because her dad was born in Michigan and her mom was born in Ohio.

So, armed with a potential first name (or three), a set of facts that must be true about her parents, and a birth year and knowing that the Phillipses, though ostensibly not close, tended not to stray too far from each other, I looked for a married woman with those names, that birth year and those kinds of parents whose husband was also from Eaton County Michigan.

I found Carrie Cole, married to William T. Cole. They lived in Grand Rapids which, though not Eaton County, is not very far from it. And it looks like I can order a marriage certificate, which would tell me for sure who Carrie’s parents were. Score!

But wouldn’t it be easier to just ask my dad and his siblings if they remember any facts about their great-aunt that might lead to confirming if this was her?

So, of course, my aunt insists that her dad never talked about the Phillipses and that they were not close, not even the siblings. She doesn’t know. Which, okay, fine. Obviously, there’s a lot of bad blood (for good reasons) on the Phillips side, but the Phillipses weren’t dead to each other. Like I said, my dad met Ralph’s kids. My uncle knows Barlow’s grandson–he put me in touch with him. And I just Facebook messaged the grandson of my dad’s Aunt Vi (my grandpa’s sister), a guy I’ve known my whole life and who sits with us at all family events, and asked him if he’d ask his mom.

If the Phillipses never talked and were not at all close, how do I know the grandson of my grandpa’s sister?

My dad just rolled his eyes when I told him that my forays into asking my aunt about things. He said I should know by now that I’m only going to get decent information from his brother, not his sister.

You are what you are and you make it hard

The Butcher is in his room puking. The dog is…. I don’t even know. Possibly trying to lick his face. Or at least look with interest at the garbage can he’s puking in.

A one-eyed dog, limping and deaf, has been wandering around the back yard (and other places. Say what you will about out here. There are a lot of other places.). Saying it like that makes it sound quaint. The dog is dying. I tried going up to it, to see if it had a collar, but its behavior was so unnerving that I backed away.

In a story, that dog symbolizes something or is The Old Man come to launch himself over the line one more time.

In real life, that’s just a dog someone should have taken care of, but didn’t, and now it’s not safe to approach.

Here’s the thing. I considered feeding that dog. And I know what I’m about to say is going to seem fucked up, but I decided against it. Because having that dog in my back yard more consistently isn’t safe for the people and animals who regularly are in my back yard because I want the to be.

It’s not less valuable than Sonnyboy or less worthy of a full belly than the cats.

And I know it’s hanging around back there because our neighbor tosses table scraps into his back yard and because our back yard smells like a place where a dog can find some food and water.

I’m just choosing the animals I like and know over it. Even knowing what it means for that dog.

Now we’re in a metaphor. I feel like I should announce that.

But here’s the thing. Over the past couple of months, an unnatural amount of people have told me how nice I am and I never know quite how to take it. I don’t really perceive of myself as being nice nor is nice a trait I’m particularly worried about having. I worry about being mistaken for being nice, because I feel like that leads people to inadvertent and unnecessary hurt when they discover that I’m not. But I don’t really have much interest in being nice. It seems terrifying and unsafe and to put the people you care about at risk.

A nice person would find a way to make that dog more comfortable. Feed it, at least.

I’m choosing the well-being of my household over the well-being of the strange dog lurking about. If it’s still around on Monday, I’m going to call animal control. I figure the death they give it, if they can find it, will be better than whatever’s waiting for it out here.

I don’t speak to my sister-in-law. She still managed to massively disrupt my holiday. My dad tries very hard to be nice and kind to her.

I don’t really see the payoff.

So, I hope she’s praying for his long and continued good health.

Every Damn Year

I feel so low right about now and every damn year I’m surprised by it. I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. This week has been so long. I’m having lunch with a friend of my mom’s tomorrow. I don’t know why. I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. She knew my mom in grade school.

But I guess she’s in town for some medical tests and who wants to come to a strange city alone for medial tests and have no one to have lunch with? I sure as fuck wouldn’t.

So, that’s why I said yes.

I just feel like this time of year is the time of year when the things we want from each other and the things we’re capable of actually doing for each other stand in stark contrast, bleak contrast, to each other and it makes me sad.

I am So Tired

I did one thing on Saturday and one thing on Sunday and I could have slept like the dog. I just need to make it through these two weeks and I’ll have some semblance of a vacation around Christmas.

My parents are concocting some plan for us all to go down to my brother’s house for Christmas so that his girlfriend can cook Christmas dinner for us. We’ll have to talk more about it this week, but I’m of the opinion that this simply is not going to happen. They can’t afford those kinds of groceries and it seems really grossly unfair to expect someone–again who is not related to us or legally tied to us–to make us dinner, especially without asking.

I will say, though, that I find it more interesting to watch at 40 than to live through at her age. They really, truly, do expect that some woman is just going to fucking do all the shit and that the person who has to do all the shit is a woman and is the woman least capable of telling them to go pound sand.

I felt like that when I was going through it, but I didn’t have the perspective to know if it was true.

But man, I’ll make Christmas dinner, at my house, where people who have a small child can watch that child and relax and not work any harder than they have to. And by “they” I mean “she” because that’s the truth of it.

I don’t know, I mean, I guess we’re all bags of dicks in our own ways, but my parents want something from my brother’s girlfriend (which I find irritating and uncool) which will then make them feel like they’re getting something from my brother (again, uncool, but poignant) which they are never going to get. I mean, even if she were up for it (and it’s impossible to be up for. It’s soul-crushing.), getting your emotional needs met by one person doesn’t make you feel whole with the other person.

What they want from my brother, he can’t give them.

Happy Thanksgiving

We’re leaving here in an hour or so to go to Hooters in Chattanooga to have lunch as a family with our brother and his girlfriend and our niece and maybe a nephew.

I am excited, but on my walk this morning, I cried a little. I don’t want to make new traditions. And as nuts as they make me, I love my parents and am sad we’re not going to be together.

But anyway, I am grateful to spend Thanksgiving with these yahoos. Even at Hooters.

Life is Funny

The Butcher ran for Senate. I don’t remember if I mentioned that or not, but he did. I wrote about it for Pith. I invite you to read the comments.

Then I invite you to listen quietly. That noise is me rolling my eyes so far out of my head that they fall on the ground. Plop, plop. That’s the noise I make.

It’s unfair to hate the mother of a kid you love. Unfair to that kid, who loves his mother and who doesn’t need his aunt publicly fighting her or listing out her multitude of sins. The things she’s done to my nephew, I will never forgive, though I will keep them private for his sake.

But she threatened to kill my dog. And she knows I hate her. So, why she’s kissing my ass in public, I just don’t know. I half suspect it’s to be a giant bitch to my brother’s girlfriend, to try to insinuate that she’s close to the Butcher and me. Bwah ha ha ha ha.

But, you know, it’s hard to be close to people who don’t allow anyone to tell you where they live.

Curses

When I think about my family, I’m struck by what a haunted house it is. Scary things go on in every room, but the noises from the other rooms make you afraid to venture out, for fear there’s worse than what’s happening to you.

It’s apparent to me now how these things go on for generations, how people get shaped into things as children and then shape others as they get older. How many fingers on how many arms would I need to point to everyone who bears some responsibility for yesterday’s debacle? And that’s not counting the people, I’m afraid like me, who sit back and do nothing.

I mean the almost nursery-rhyme level of if my father had not scared that girl and my grandpa had not beaten my dad and if my great-grandmother had not terrorized my grandfather and if whoever did whatever to her… on and on.

It feels like a curse, like a terrible thing that just comes with our family like blue eyes and curly hair. You might be a monster. If you aren’t, you might not know how to love anything but a monster.

Here’s the other thing that I can’t quite let go of. I love my Grandma A., rest her soul, with my whole heart. My dad’s mom. Every memory I have of her and me is one I cherish. I loved going to her house. I loved being spoiled by her. One of the hardest times of my life was watching her waste away but not being able to die, thinking that God had abandoned her.

And my dad also adores his mom. Doesn’t have a bad thing to say about her. Frames himself as a kind of protector of her from his dad. That gibes with my memories of her.

One of the things my brother’s girlfriend said on the phone is that it really bugs her and makes her feel like my dad is constantly comparing the two of them the way he goes on about how wonderful my sister-in-law is. My sister-in-law. A woman so vile I can’t even get into it because, if I get started, I won’t be able to make it through the day–the cigarette burn on my nephew’s forehead, the taking him to the fucking strip clubs when he was a baby, the time she threatened to kill my dog, the shitty things she does to my nephew now, and how much he loves her anyway, because that’s what kids do, the refusal to divorce my brother, etc. etc. etc.–a woman who is not allowed to know where I live and who I will probably end up assaulting at my father’s funeral, because I know she will come and try to sit with the family. Just like she tried to take my dead grandmother’s stuff after her funeral, a woman she did not know, because she was “part of the family now.”

And yes, my dad does talk about her like she farts sunshine. And he sends her money whenever she asks for it. And it is completely insane. She is objectively terrible.

It taints my opinion of my grandmother–that my dad so adores this terrible person. It makes me worried that my grandmother was terrible in some way I don’t know about because I was too young to see it when she was alive and he’s successfully rewritten history now that she’s dead.

And that kind of pisses me off. That I can’t even be sure that I really knew the people I love most.

It Continues to Go Well

My brother called to say that his girlfriend–the mother of his youngest child–is upset because she thinks my dad doesn’t like her, because he’s being so mean and nitpicky and keeps saying nice things about my youngest nephew’s mother, in a way that makes her feel like he likes the middle kid’s mother better than her..

So, I called her. She was crying. I don’t know what happened. I didn’t have that long to talk because I was at work. But I assured her that he’s just a jerk to everyone and that he likes her fine and that she’s not doing anything wrong and that his love for the middle child’s mother is inexplicable.

I told her she was doing fine. I told her I was going to call him and tell him to shape the fuck up. She asked me not to. So, I guess I’m not.

The Professor advises I just wait until I see him acting like a jerk to her and then call him on it. So she’s not “tattling” and he shapes up.

It’s making me feel so heartsick and almost dizzy. My brother brought this young stranger into our house and exposed her to this?!

And I’m mortified that my dad would behave this way. It’s bad enough he pulls this shit on the family. But some poor gal who’s not related to us? What in the ever-loving fuck?

I want to cry, too.

I had hoped he would mellow as he aged.

But here we are. He’s always so angry at what a mean-ass motherfucker his brother is. And yet, here we are.

History Holiday

On Saturday, I took the Lipscomb Civil War tour. It was incredible and they gave us a shit-ton of flyers and maps and a book. They could easily get $25 to $30 a head for that and it was free! I learned a ton.

Then that night we went over to the Madison train station and took their living history tour. I basically learned that Jane Addams is literally my old boss and that my dad and mom have hobo stories.

Then yesterday, we went over to Bledsoe’s Station and Mom and I wandered around the inside of the fort, while Dad and the Butcher yelled facts to us from the observation deck. Then we tried to drive over to where the Renfroe massacre had been, but you can’t get that close. It’s weird, though, how close that was to Clarksville but the remnants of the Renfroe party were driven down into Cooperstown (or what is now, anyway) and a bunch more of them killed at what is now Battle Creek (hence the name). Why didn’t they run to Clarksville?

All I can figure is that they must have been being attacked from the north and driven south, intentionally herded away from Clarksville.

But we know that eventually Mrs. Refroe and Black Bobb at the least ended up in Nashville.

Let Me Tell You a Story My Dad Told Me About a Girl Who’s a Bird and a Dad Who’s a Tree

Oh, you guys, a while back my dad brought me a faded print-out of a story he had written for me when I was a little girl. As far as I know, it’s the only copy. He wanted me to have it because of Flock. And it’s the story of a little girl who’s a bird who goes around to an alligator, a toad, and a tree and asks if they’re her father.

I can’t be sure, but I feel fairly confident this is the kind of story a man writes after about the 24th time through Are You My Mother? and he decides it’s not nearly weird or charming enough, so he’s going to write something better.

And I kind of love that all the things my dad imagines himself to be in the story have similar coloring.

Anyway, he brought me this story and I was just blown away. And then I lost it! I couldn’t find it anywhere in the house and I was just heartsick about it.

But last night, as I was brushing my teeth, I began to wonder if I was smart enough to have stuck it in my closet “for safe keeping.”

And thank the gods, there it was.

Cats are Weird as Hell

So, here’s where things stand on the Kool-aid afghan: I have three seams and a border left. I have the skein of yarn I need to finish it, but I need to pre-shrink the skein like I did all the others or it bodes trouble in the future, which means the Butcher needs to do the dishes so that I have a clean sink in which to soak my yarn. So, I thought I’d whoop some of the last bits of yarn together into a square which could, with what was left of the white yarn when I’m done with it, become a baby blanket for my cousin A. and her pending son.

The orange cat has adopted that afghan. He is, right now, squeezed down as small as he can get so that all his paws and tail fit onto that tiny half-done project and he’s sleeping on it. You’ll remember that the dog tried to adopt three red squares from the big afghan, so apparently, Kool-aid and wool is just irresistible to my pets. And that baby blanket is… probably not going to be sent to an actual baby.

But the other baby blanket! So, you know how I talked about doing the Kool-aid afghan with different amounts of color? Maybe not. But anyway, I’ve decided to try it with the baby blanket. I got two different purples and each square has a different amount of each purple. I’ll show you pictures when I get more squares done. But I think it’s going to be super neat.

Also, I got flowers yesterday from “Mina.” I had thought maybe it was just nm, misunderstood, but then I got to thinking, perhaps Mina Harker? Or someone here who needs to be thanked. I don’t know that I know any Minas but, if I do, thank you.

Also, my dad is convinced that all of my health problems are caused by my dirty bathroom. Which I find hilarious, considering that my health problems include–PCOS, sleep apnea, that fungus shit in my eyeball, that infected lymph node, and now this. Four out of which started before we moved here. Which I suppose goes to show you just how powerful and dangerous my dirty bathroom is–it can go back in time and bite me in the ass.

Raise your hand if you’ll be surprised that my Phillipses and H.P. Lovecraft’s Phillipses turn out to be the same. Me, neither.

And yes, I somehow ended up apologizing to my mother so that she would stop being upset that she upset me. And yes, I know that this is ridiculous. And yes, I am going to outsource most of my talking to them to the Butcher for the next little bit. But I also want to say that a hard, weird part of this has been just how traumatic it is on them. I just feel like I’m letting everyone down. Not just them, which I know is bullshit, but I feel so bad about putting this on the other people in my department, making them pick up my slack when one of them, especially, is so new.  I just hate that I can’t be more definitive–that I need her to do x on these dates and y on these other dates. I don’t know what will come up because I don’t yet know when I’ll be gone.

Which is the other thing that’s kind of stressful–they talked to my doctor on Monday and she was like “Yes, do the biopsy!” and then they faxed her all the paperwork she needed to fill out and she hasn’t gotten it back to them. So, no biopsy scheduled yet. I just want to have a plan and institute it. The waiting around for everything to fall into place is really stressful. But in that regard, it was good to talk to my dad because he’s really familiar with hospitals and he was all “Well, if they sent the fax to her office Tuesday morning, but this is her hospital day, then she’s not going to get to the office to fill it all out until late today, if not until Wednesday morning. I don’t think she’s dropping the ball at this point. It’s more likely that it’s just bad timing.”

This Dog

Last night was the first time he met the nephews and he was in heaven. He sat on them and then lounged around while they shot the bb gun. But my favorite thing, beyond all favorite things, is how, even though my dad has no lap to speak of that is not covered with belly when he sits, this giant dog will spend fifteen minutes every visit trying to figure out how to climb up into my dad’s lap.

Say what you want about my dad, and I do, dogs immediately love him.

Father’s Day

My parents came through town yesterday on their way down to Georgia to pick up my nephews for some days at their house. It was good to see them. I’ll never get over how much dogs love my dad. But their arrival did prove to me that Sonnyboy would be the most terrible guard dog. They came in the back door and he very quietly got up and went into the kitchen and we didn’t even know they were here until they came into the living room. Even though they’d been loving on him in the kitchen for a minute or two.

They’re upset with my brother for not making the arrangements for the nephews to go to their house for the summer and not telling them that he wasn’t doing it, thus leaving it to them to try to arrange from the road. My mom says my dad is having a really hard time coming to terms with the fact that my brother’s world and my parents’ world are just so very, very different. I guess that’s one way to think of it. My mom is also worried that I’m giving my brother money. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. No. I’m not claiming to not be a dumbass, but I’m not that kind of dumbass.

Our neighbor is dogsitting a puppy for the week. The puppy is very excited by the prospect of being able to bark at a whole wide world of things. Sonnyboy seems mostly perplexed as to what all the fuss is about. Kids today. Don’t they know barking at the whole world should be done from the car?

My dad also laughed at our claim that the dog weighs 100 lbs. He insists 100 lbs wouldn’t even begin to be a healthy weight for the dog–he’d be all skin and bones. He’s putting him up near 125, maybe bigger.

Because we got a friendly couch, not a dog, apparently.

Ha ha ha. You can see that I’m torn. I want to fret over my brother’s ridiculousness, but then I think of something cute the dog did and I’m all “eh, let’s talk about the dog instead, since he’s made of big-hearted stupidity.” He doesn’t really understand playing. But he and I went out in the far back yesterday and he ran toward me when I called him and it was beautiful and non-awkward looking and sometimes, when I didn’t call him, he would zoom past me and then circle back around with this smile on his face, as if to say, “Whew, did you see how fast I was going? Wasn’t it awesome?” And then, a couple of times, he would sniff at something and then look back at me as if to say, “Yeah, I don’t like that this smells like this.” And I don’t really know how to explain it, but I thought “oh, coyote.” Possibly because of the way he stood a little straighter and seemed to sniff really intently, like he was trying to decide if the danger was nearby or gone.

I need a dog of the past like that. Someone who could sniff out all my memories, then put his nose to the air, and decide for me if the danger was gone.

Dads

When you get to be the age you can remember your dad being–I’m only five years younger than my dad was when I was stalked–things become easier to understand. Not necessarily to forgive, but to understand.

Possibly I Have Slipped into Another Universe

I asked my parents for something sentimental–since it’s my 40th birthday–and they actually came through. I got a lovely card and the ring that belonged to the woman that was a surrogate grandmother to my dad and who sheltered him from as much abuse from his father as people could back in those days. And he wrote me a letter explaining the whole history of the ring and offered to have the stone reset for me.

This may be the most thoughtful gift they’ve every given me. I’m kind of blown away. I know it’s the most meaningful gift. I want to cry every time I even think about it.

And Further

I think the thing is that I resent that I feel like a terrible person when it comes to my brother. Why can’t I just listen and be supportive and, if he needs help and I can give it, give it? People have been so kind and generous to me. Who am I to not pay it forward to my brother?

This isn’t a question you can answer. It’s not that kind of question. It’s the question that nags at me. It’s the question I have to answer, every day, in order to keep living this life. And every day, I choose being a terrible person, by my own standards, over not being.

I think it’s the right thing to do. For a lot of reasons. But mostly because I don’t think that jumping up to help my brother with every little thing is what he wants (I think), but just want I’ve been conditioned to think of as my role, and I don’t think it would help. My ideas about what would help involve me telling everyone what to do and then accompanying them everywhere they need to go in order to make sure they do it.

This is one of the stupidest things about my life–how I’m constantly teased for being “too bossy” (the sin second to fatness that makes me unlovable) when what at least half the people in this family want is a boss. Someone they can hate and resent who will make them do all the things they need to do in order to have a functioning life.

It’s a weird thing, to feel like you’re being continually asked to be the monster you’ve been shamed out of being.

But I also just feel like I don’t want to do it. I’d like to not want to do it and not feel bad about not wanting to do it. But, if I can’t get that, I’ll take just not wanting to do it.

But mainly I’d like to figure out a way in my own head to short-circuit this dynamic. Usually, stressful terrible things happen to people and you help them and things get resolved. Even if they hit a bad patch, it’s months (or a few bad years) and then shit gets together. Your help actually helps.

But I feel like, if I read back through the annals of TCP, I’d find something with my brother–something along these lines–once a month, once every other month at the most. Something happens. I get brought into it. I feel like how it’s being handled is a stressful clusterfuck, but I say nothing  and just make supportive noises because otherwise, I risk getting pulled deeper into the mess. No matter what’s going on in my life, there’s some bigger drama in his.

I’m so tired of it. And I don’t really understand how he’s not also tired of it. I don’t understand how he doesn’t take measures to save himself. Let alone his kids.

Working for What?

I keep meaning to say that I saw someone the other day comparing blogs to phonographs–this ancient technology no one but weirdos still uses–and it made me laugh. And it stuck with me. A decade I’ve been writing here (at least come this fall) and so many good things have come of it. It’s weird to think of that wonderfulness, shoot, just the opportunity for that wonderfulness fading away.

Anyway, our brother wanted me to look over his resume yesterday because he dislikes his job. And I spent much of the afternoon being irately angry at him. Like just who does he think he is that he gets to have three kids and a girlfriend who’s staying at home to take care of them and a wife who needs divorcing and he gets to decide that he’s working “too much.” Like, aren’t those the kinds of life decisions that generally result in people having to work really hard at things they don’t like in order to finance the whole thing? And, if he decides he’s going to quit this job in a pique, isn’t he basically just then relying on my parents to support his family? And you know I worry that the stress of dealing with our brother is going to kill my dad.

But then last night I was struggling with this story, my second one of the year, the second one I’ve struggled with like a motherfucker, and I wondered if it was too hard for no payoff. And it gave me some sympathy for our brother.

I read a post yesterday (man, I guess I should have emailed all these things to myself so that I can link to them, but it’s a guy whose being published by Angry Robot) and he was talking about the number of novels that (Oh, here it is!) he’s written that sucked and how his short stories sucked until he went to Clarion and so one and then he got good and now he has a publisher. And he says,

I’d been struggling to get a novel published for twenty-four years now, clawing at the walls of the Word Mines, and I had no hope of anything but oh God I couldn’t stop and I realized that I wasn’t going to stop, that the breath in my body would run out before I stopped writing tales and who the hell cared if I got published or not I was locked in.  I had to create.  I had to.

And boy do I know that feeling! But I also know our brother’s feeling–of doing something and being okay at it and just not seeing how it’s going to go anywhere. Or, in my own situation, frankly, not being sure what “anywhere” looks like.

I’m very lucky. I realize that. But I want to be good. No, I want to be great. And I don’t know how to be.

Ha ha ha ha ha. Lord, I’m sure you were like “Oh, Betsy has a new job she really likes. I’m sure her days of fretting and longing are over.” Wrong, buckoos. Fretting and longing are my default settings.

Here We Go Oh-oh-oh

Tomorrow is my official first day, but my boss said she’d see me about eleven today, so… yeah…. I think today is it. The new me doesn’t start until May 1, so there will just be a lot to do. And I don’t know if or how I’ll get it all done. I tell everyone I’m excited because it seems so ungrateful to just be stressed. But, honestly, I’m just stressed. I think I’ll feel excited later. But this month? I’m expecting long hours and just feeling like crying most of the time.

So, my dad wants us all to go down to my brother’s for Easter because my brother doesn’t yet feel like traveling with the baby–which I think really means that the car seat only fits in his girlfriend’s car and his girlfriend’s car isn’t sound enough to make the trip to our house. Which is fine. Except that this somehow translates from Mom and Dad going to my brother’s for Easter to my dad trying to figure out how we can all go. And I’m feeling a little unheard. Like all my talk about how busy and stressed I am must just be bullshit. Can’t we drive down there after work on Friday and drive back late Sunday and the Butcher and I could still get to work? And these questions come up and I just feel this kind of split reality where my brain is rushing ahead thinking “You haven’t listened to or taken seriously a damn thing either I or the Butcher has said to you about how crazy this month is for me.” and my mouth is just exasperatedly saying “And what about the dog?” which is supposed to mean, “Have you at all considered the logistics of this from our end?” Because, frankly, I feel like he hasn’t. The only logistics to be considered, always and forever, are my brother’s. He’s the one constantly in crisis, so let’s all constantly rearrange our lives to meet his needs.

I mean, for sure, let’s go down on Friday so that he can ignore us all of Saturday like he did at Thanksgiving.

Anyway, I finished David Cantwells Merle Haggard: The Running Kind, which is pretty breathtaking on quite a few levels. But the thing that stuck with me and seems of a theme to this post is how Haggard would find these really talented women singers and then marry them and then hoist himself up on top of their talent and they would find their careers as anything other than duet partners with him stalling out. And then we find out that he’s in hot pursuit of Dolly Parton and I swear, it’s just about as harrowing as anything in a thriller. Will he get her and thus stall her career out?

And it’s not like he’s purposefully doing that. He’s not some intentional career serial killer. It just seems like he has an idea about how the world works–that he should get to have a great career and a great partner both singing and romantic and that he should also get to do whatever the fuck he wants while they raise kids and tolerate it–which is an idea about how the world works that the record companies are glad to go along with. And there’s no point at which Haggard seems to step back and say “Wow, the way I am in the world really curtails the lives of these artists I really admire. In fact, I couldn’t be how I am in the world without curtailing these artists I admire.”

Which is understandable. Holy shit. Who wants to look in the mirror and wonder if they’re some inadvertent Madame Bathory career-wise to the women you love?

What was my point? Oh, right. I sometimes think that my family expects from me a certain stalling out. Like I’m cheating the family if I have a job or ambitions that take me away from whatever drama we’re all supposed to be giving a shit about at the moment. But what can I do except feel hurt and keep on keeping on?

Which, ha ha, also, joke’s on them. Because I am terrified of stalling out. Afraid I have. Afraid all the writer I’ll ever be is “Frank.” But stalling out in that way doesn’t benefit them in the least.

But man, Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard.

There are many couplings I like to imagine (not in a lewd way, but…). I mean, my god, when you read about Loretta Lynn’s life with her shit-stain husband, don’t you hope that she and Conway Twitty were getting it on? And looking at Merle Haggard in his prime? Shoot, I hope Parton took him for a couple of test drives before deciding he wasn’t right for her.

Wasted

I’m weepy and emotional in general this week. But sometimes I feel like all this interesting stuff is wasted on me. I can’t tell you how, while I’ve been so excited and it’s so neat, it just hurts my heart so much that my Uncle B. is not here to share it with. He’s been dead twenty years, but these past couple of weeks, it’s just been like a dagger in my heart. Grief is so fucking weird. It comes fresh when it comes, no matter how long it’s been.

But even today, I had this thought that I should call Uncle B. and tell him about all the stuff I’m finding out about. I mean, he would have so loved it.

It makes me sad, but also it makes me feel close to him, still, which is nice.

State of My To Do List

I think I’m down to Keep doing Think Progress posts; Finish the Afghan; Finalize Demonbreun talk. And I need to remember to finish my taxes, now that I found the pile of papers I put “in a safe place.”

The book I’m going to be talking about at Think Progress today just utterly fucking blew my mind. But I have to say, it made me understand why scholarship in the past takes the attitude that Native Americans were savages who needed conquering. Because when you read scholarship that isn’t racist (or isn’t racist in that way; let’s leave the door open for our descendants to see in us uglinesses we can’t see in ourselves), the magnitude of the American Project and what was lost, or what we attempted to make lost, is kind of hard to look straight at.

But anyway, there’s something weird about going out into the night after finishing a book like that and looking up knowing that the people who looked up at that sky 200 years ago, many of them, had this rich utterly different cosmology. I always look for Orion in the night sky. It’s familiar to me. But, when standing on this ground, looking up at those stars from this spot, to know that I’m looking at a hole where the souls come in… That those stars had this utterly different meaning and may still. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.

We’re supposed to be comforted by a coherent world-view. It grants surety to know that we all agree this or this. But I’m more and more wondering about what I’m not hearing. Though, I should say, honestly, that hearing these stories was hard.

I’m rambling here but to come at this from another direction, being St. Paddy’s day, I’ve been thinking about my mom’s grandmother, Marie Corcoran, and the ongoing shittiness she experienced from my mom’s grandfather’s whole family because she was Irish and Catholic. About how my own grandfather, who was one of the most awesome people I know, sent the Butcher a letter right before he died insisting we were Orange Irish, if the Butcher ever heard anything about us being Irish.

God, how that must have stabbed his mom right in the gut, to know her own son lied about his ancestry, about her identity.

And yet, I’m not less Clayton Rich of the shitty bigots than I am Marie Corcoran, Clayton’s wife and victim of said shitty bigots. Where shall I stand?

In discomfort. More and more.