The Sins of the Father

Dustin stood in the middle of my bedroom, shaking. Sure, there had been an unpleasant incident with my father a minute ago, but that had been directed at me, not him, and I was confused as to why he was upset. I was not only used to it by now, but I gave as good as I got.
“You told me once your dad was kind of a prick, but I didn’t really get it until now. No one should speak to you that way.”
He was angry – angry that someone would be disrespectful to me, and he resolved then and there that he was going to get me out of that situation, no matter what the cost.

It cost us everything, as it turned out.

I should have written this post last night, when the anger and the disappointment were still fresh, but I didn’t, and had nightmares all night instead. Okay, lesson learned.

I was laid off from my job in 2009, while I was still involved with Neal. As I struggled to find work, Neal continually ran me down until I could hardly function. My savings dwindled, then ran out as Congress played chicken with my unemployment benefits. Eventually, the twin realities of being unemployed and trying to unload an abusive boyfriend who would not leave me alone drove me to give up my apartment and leave the city I loved so much. I went back to my parents’, to try to rebuild my life.

I finally got a job a few months later, and although I have a great employer, my job doesn’t pay a living wage. Subtract the money I give my parents to help them make ends meet and the money I spend on the bills left over from being unemployed for nearly two full years, I don’t have much left over, and it tends to go into my gas tank. Then my car blew up, and life is life, and I’m still here. Unhappily.

Of course I’m not happy with it. I’m too old for this, but I am working to make a better life for myself, to make a living wage. And that’s partly where the rub comes in. My mom works full-time, but my dad is essentially unemployed. He does odd jobs and restoration projects, but it isn’t steady or reliable. Between work and school, I am out of the house more than both my parents combined.

My life is difficult. I am perpetually sleep-deprived and studying constantly, trying to find a moment here and there to create the art that helps keep me going in the first place. I don’t have the time or the money to even hang out with friends back in the city I left. I am a good student and I am doing well so far, but I’m still stressed, and all of this is encompassed by the loss of the one person who would have understood.

Dustin was always loving and supportive. A champion cheerleader, he would always tell me how proud he was of me. So when I come home tired and cold and wrung out, I look for the arms that would have made everything better, reminded me that this is all worth it. I look for the chest to rest my aching head upon, I listen for the words of encouragement, the offers of help and support. I look, I listen, but there’s nothing to see, nothing to hear.

I have cheerleaders among my friends and Inspire Art who are beautifully and enthusiastically supportive. I get notes and messages of encouragement, and they help keep me going. But here…there is very little of that.

My mom is supportive as she can be, considering. She is not emotionally expressive and never was, but she asks how my classes are going, how my grades look. She doesn’t ask me how I’m holding up, however. And Dad…well. Dad just does not care. It doesn’t benefit him in any way, so he got off the Give-A-Shit Bus.

I missed my first class Monday morning due to an alarm clock mishap. I was still going to be able to make my second class and my lab, but that first class wasn’t going to happen. My dad’s response? He called me a ‘fuck-up.’ Pot and kettle, Dad, pot and kettle.

These last few days have been constant grousing about the things around the house I haven’t been able to keep up with thanks to my crazy schedule. I don’t feel bad or guilty about it-I don’t waste time feeling guilty for things I don’t deserve to feel guilty for. What I do feel is angry that he’s being so selfish and insensitive.

I don’t know why it still comes as a surprise. He’s always been this way. Always. He isn’t suddenly going to wake up one day and realize he’s been a jackass for well over 30 years and change his ways. He isn’t going to suddenly understand why it takes me so long to find a Father’s Day card that doesn’t praise him for being the good father he never was. In fact, his selfishness and anger drove me to move to Michigan in 2000, which frankly was not the wisest choice I’d ever made. He had come home drunk, and came over to where I was doing the dishes and poked me rudely in the arm.

“Everyone in this house hates me, and it’s all your fault,” he said.

I moved two months later.

I don’t seek his approval anymore; I really don’t value his opinion. It’s probably much too late for him to become a good father or to ever really repair this relationship. What I really want from him now is to at least get out of the way, because I don’t need any more obstacles. What I really want is Dustin back, to hold me and tell me it’s going to be okay.

As for Dad, he can wash his own damn dishes.


Winter of Discontent

What in the hell is this stuff?

What in the hell is this stuff?

“Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.”
~Willa Cather

I have come down with a nasty case of what I like to call the ‘awfuckits.’

I’m tired. I have a long list of things to do, and I’m bored, and a little overwhelmed. I just can’t be bothered to do the routine things, like take my makeup off at night and take my contacts out to soak overnight in the cleaning solution. I am eating poorly, even though I know even the small amounts sugar I ingest will kick off a vicious cycle of cravings and hypoglycemic sugar crashes that really make me feel terrible.

I just don’t care.

Not good. We all know where this leads; one day, I don’t wash off my makeup, then I stop taking care of myself as I should, and the next, I can’t get out of bed.

I have to get out of bed.

Jan. 14 I start going to school part time. The hospital system I work for is putting me through school, paying for my tuition and books, to become a radiology technician. It’s an amazing opportunity; it will come close to tripling my current pay and vastly improve my life situation. I can’t afford to screw that up because I’ve got the blahs. But if I don’t have the energy for my life now, how will I cope when I’m out of the house from 8:30 in the morning to 11:30 at night three days out of five?

I know a large part of the problem – outside of Dustin’s loss, which of course rules them all – is the sharply cold weather and the snow. I can’t stand the cold and never could; at least one of my ex-boyfriends referred to me as a human popsicle because my skin is cold to the touch more often than it’s not. So now that it’s cold and grey and icy and wet outside, everything seems like an awful lot of work. I dread going outside, I dread crawling into an icy cold car at the end of the night, I dread trying to shower in a cold bathroom. The cold reaches in deep, curls around the bone, makes my fingers and toes ache, and triggers violent shivers that aggravate a chronic back injury.

It doesn’t help that shortly after my birthday, my car died of a cracked engine block. So now I have the added stress of trying to save for a car (I can’t afford a car note right now, not even close) while relying on the eroding patience of my parents and brother to get back and forth to work via a 104-mile round trip commute.

I just need something to be easy for once, or at least not so excruciatingly painful, but somewhere along the line, that seems to have become an awful lot to ask for.

Light A Candle

I don’t know if there are enough words to express the horror, the pain, the outrage over what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Children, gone before they had a chance to live, cherished by their families, gone.

Adults, brave in the face of horror, trying to protect the tiny lives entrusted to them.

Mothers, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers. Loved and cherished, every one of them.

Last May, I spoke to Dustin by phone. I told him I loved him, and how much. The next morning, he was gone.

Now is not the time to be afraid to express your feelings. Now is not the time to put off saying “I love you.” No one is promised tomorrow, so make the most of Now. You may not get another chance.

Hug your loved ones tighter. Be honest about how you feel. When faced with the ultimate horror, all other fears pale.

“People are like stained glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Go, and glow for someone today.

Candle hands, copyright Wolf C. Stock photo.

Candle hands, copyright Wolf C.

Quick Updates

I am sorry for my long absence-my modem blew up, and I am not yet able to replace it, but I’m working on it. I’m currently sneaking under the radar at work-here’s hoping I don’t get busted doing it.

Seth has made great strides, all things considered. He had to have surgery to remove a portion of  his skull due to the brain swelling, and surgeons put in a drain tube. They got the bleeding under control, and he was able to have the drainage tube removed after a few days. He was in a partial coma for a week. Vistors’ voices made him agitated, so most of us have not yet been able to see him. His motor skills were good enough to pull out his breathing tube and ivs, which is pretty in keeping with his temperament. He has never been an amiable patient.

He was recently transferred out of the ICU and into a long-term inpatient rehabilitation facility. The skull piece will not be able to be replaced for a month or two, so he will have to wear a helmet. He is not able, at this point, to care for himself.

I can’t seem to get anyone to accurately describe the motor, cognitive and personality challenges he faces, and I am getting very frustrated by that. With any luck, I’ll be able to visit him this weekend, and finally get some answers.

Now back to our regular programming….

Not Again

Last night as I was leaving work, I sat on the interstate for 30 minutes trying to cross the Mississippi River. There, on the bridge, the Missouri Highway Patrol was clearing up the remains of an accident. The car was gone, but the semi was still being removed from the scene. I was tired and impatient, and I just wanted to get home.

This morning I discovered my cousin Seth had been in the car. Not wearing a seatbelt, he had been ejected from the car.

While I was fussing over the wait, he was fighting for his life in one of the best trauma units in the country.

Seth has suffered a traumatic brain injury and is in a medically induced coma in the ICU. His skull is fractured, his brain swollen. He spent the afternoon in surgery to stem the bleeding and reduce the swelling. It will be days, perhaps weeks, before we know the full extent of the damage, before we know if there is anyone even left in there anymore.

Frantic phone calls and text messages and Facebook posts don’t address how dire the situation is. We don’t talk about the possibility that he’s already gone for all intents and purposes, or that he may require heavy care for the rest of his life. We fight to stay positive, to gather good thoughts and prayers, to organize fundraisers for his expenses and caravans to visit him.

But I’m afraid. For him, for his daughter, for his endless collections of aunts and uncles and cousins. For his mother, and his brother. His nephew.

And I am afraid of what another loss would do to me. I need him to be okay, because my emotional resilience is all but non-existent at this point.

Get better, Seth. Please.