I have to pause (again) my current 4-part series, Games of Unknowledging, for this one very important thermometer on life; a happy, thriving, giving life that most doctors, therapists, and altruists would also consider a most important check-up. I promise my next post will be the conclusion. Promise!
∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼
How we define our worth often hinges on what others around us say and do, or don’t say and don’t do, correct? Afterall, how can our own self-perception be accurate, honest, and objective if we have nothing to compare by? What constitutes worth and what exactly are those litmus tests that define it? Are they accurate? How much attention and energy should we give to our worth, its creation and its perpetuation? Peter Gabriel had something to say, or rather sing about self-worth in his 1986 hit “Big Time,” remember?
No matter how we choose to measure our own worth, there are fluctuating degrees of external feedback we seek, consciously or subconsciously, and this can be healthy and/or unhealthy.
In our modern age of booming technology, something seemingly new every month, sporting frantic paces, competition, and only 24-hours in a day to get it, manage it and finish it, sometimes at the expense of restful sleep, the insatiable beast of technological-consumerism demands ever-growing absorption. I’m not sure how aggressive it is in other countries, but in the U.S. it’s not just fierce, it has reached the intrusive levels of addiction. Tristan Harris with web-portal Big Think:
So… how do you define your self-worth? One way? Two, three or four different ways? Share your thoughts about how to define self-worth, I’d like to know them.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always
This past weekend was another weekend of going through Mom’s numerous closets deciding what stays and what goes. Every decision seems monumental. Every forgotten discovery the latest adventure. Discussion, ponder, story, discussion, more pondering, another story. Decision made? I’m not sure. Will this go to another closet or out into the already cluttered garage of second opinions? Her post-storied opinion, for later. Repeat.
See, Mom is sentimental. She collects things, lots of things with personal value or a unique story behind it. Then I picked “the one” up. Peculiar. Heavy without any weight. The latest frame of pictures and portraits below. “Umm, Mom! Who on Earth are these people?” I yelled. “Is there something I don’t know?” in a puzzled curious tone. “What!” she yelled back from down the hall. “Is there something you haven’t told us?“
Unknown family collage from the closet
“I don’t know what you are talking about!” she screamed back. “Right, a perfect answer” whispering under my breath. I decide I should quickly pullout my phone, snap a picture or five, maybe it was eight, and have evidence for any unforeseen future inquiries… like DNA. Any sleuthing closet-cleaner worth his gumption would do the same!
Mom arrives, “What are you yelling about?” I turn the mysterious family photos to her “WHO — are — these — people, and why are they tucked in the back of the closet!?” as I glare at her. Cue the music soundtrack…
Fade camera-shot of Mom, her mind travels back in time. Me asking lots of questions, one or two prying, wrenching, and adding commentary… the story begins.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ § ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ (line break)
“Would this possibly be” I began, eyes squinted… “the lost side of the family?” My mind raced, wondering what else I might find buried in other closets. Things whispered about. Details sketchy. Silence when little ears from younger generations approach. Yep, I’ve seen it all before. As we near our final stage in life, many feel the need to get things off their chest. Finding relief, solace, truth, and a clear conscience often starts with closet doors!
Mom’s breathing became nervous, labored. “I guess now is as good a time as any, huh?” My expression was blank, unsure what to say, what to think. The air was thick, so thick that it was hard to breath thickly, let alone wonder where did I come from. Where am I going?
We started with my son’s aunt, Aunt “Outta-here” Audie. Most friends of the family thought she was highly athletic for a girl her age. She stood out from other girls and boys at school and on the baseball diamond. “Your son gets his baseball talent from him… I MEAN HER!” she quickly corrected. The Ozarks in Tennessee have many renown ball-players from remote hilltop, small-town families, she continued. “But I thought all of our family was either in Texas or Ohio?” She sighed, “Some things from way up in the hills and deep in the woods require… discretionary reframing.“
“Really. Isn’t that like… lying? Or at the very least… Congressional lobbying?“
A bit confused I asked “Okay, then how does Rocky Top, Tennessee fit in to all this?” A grin stretched across her face and out came “Remember I was a flight attendant. Flight attendants get around, meet many fun flyers, and pilots.” Ahh, as the cogs are spinning in my head, “That clears up a lot of things.” I want to know about the woman in the big Kentucky Derby hat.
Aunt “Mata Hari” Pearl (top) and Madame Prudence
“And is this woman of the family a lady of the night or day?” Mom giggles, “No, no, no. That’s Aunt “Mata Hari” Pearl and Madame Prudence below her.” Obviously I was close with my educated guess. Should I ask about them? Why would names like that be the least bit intriguing, right? “So… the two cancel out each other or balance each other?” Mom rolls her eyes, “Stop your accounting methods! They both have their gifted ways of civil duties.” Who was the more popular of the two I asked myself. Experience has taught me when to verbalize questions and thoughts, and when not to. This seemed to be one of those times. But wait, I did have a question!
“Which one was a flight attendant?“
“Depends what airline you flew for.” she answered half-serious. She would know too. In the 1970’s Mom worked for an airline where the stewardesses wore very short shorts, white go-go boots, and snug blouses, under a snug thin vest, and which prided itself on love, because they were based at Dallas Love Field, of course. Or was it “in love”? “In some cases it depended on who you were flying with… on private jets, like with a huge T on the tail.” Oh yes, those jets. “Stands for Trump, right?” She waved her hand at me, “No! Testosterone!” She paused, “Or is it Tonnage?“
Earnest & Gabrielle Cleaver with little Dexter at Wisteria Lane home
We moved to the next hidden-now-found family members, Earnest and Gabrielle Cleaver with their young son Dexter (Morgan?). They seemed like the perfect suburbia couple with a very cheerful boy. “Well, at least they look pretty normal.” I told Mom. But looks can be deceiving as the cliché goes. “Yes, that’s true” she answered in a dejected tone, “until Dexter became a teenager.” I asked her what she meant. “We always thought Dexter’s fondness for knives was a boy being a boy, or the makings of a great chef.” Sure, or maybe a master outdoorsman, hunter, or…
“Then one day Mrs. Cleaver opened Dexter’s toy-trunk. Inside were all his past dolls, but not as whole dolls!” What in the world could she be saying? What she said next would make even Alfred Hitchcock green with envy; or red. “She found in each compartment tray were stacks of legs, arms, torsos” she took a deep breath, “…and heads.” With a horrified grumble I asked with a glimpse of hope “I suppose he didn’t become a mortician?“
Dexter Cleaver pre-incarceration
“Last we heard he eliminated three guards in the kitchen at the Polunsky Max-Security Unit in Livingston.” I waited, and waited some more; she stopped. “Texas?” I asked with a raised voice! She gave me this blank look then nodded. “Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver” she continued, “gave him up for adoption and foster-care we think.” I’m thinking I’m done cleaning closets around here! “Does he know us!? Does he know where anyone lives!?” I’m also thinking where the hell is my phone, car keys, and bank statement. “That’s why the lower-left picture slot is empty. They disappeared in 1977.” Well obviously it is very smart for us to hang-on to this family collage to eliminate any doubt of familial connections. “Have any authorities asked us for tongue-swabs or DNA samples for any unsolved cold cases?” Please, please say no. “Police were able to obtain a match from Uncle Wilbur.” My eyes enlarge, “Who tha hell is Uncle Wilbur!?“
“No one you know.” Well duh! Now I’m stunned. “MOM! I need to know now!” She takes another one of those deep sighs, “They found his body tied to a tree in the Crockett State Forest. That’s where they got the blood sample.” I’m still not comfortable with these answers. Surely they’ve caught him by now, “So cousin Dexter has been caught and returned to Polunsky?“
“No. I think he is still at-large.“
“Since 1977?” She gives me this scowling look, “Now be nice. Our Texas law-enforcement are super busy” she explains in gradual calming, motherly voice, “catching, arresting, and imprisoning thousands and thousands of known criminals and murderers in this state. It’s a full-time job! They’re very busy you know.” After her reassuring loyalty in police matters — where more Texans own multiple weapons of multi-functions and calibers than the National Reserve all combined — I suggest to her:
Niece Dorothy & her puppy Toto
“If you EVER hear or see anything about cousin Dexter, you tell me! Alright?” I revisit my review of the Lost/Hidden Side of the Family menagerie. What’s next? Could there be more?
“Who’s this?” I point to the sweet little blonde girl affectionately holding the small dog. “That’s my niece Dorothy” she smiles warmly “and that is Toto.” Hah! Right. And somewhere in this closet will be flying monkeys with a total bitch from the West. Then Mom’s face turned sad and she added…
“About a year after that photo was taken” she raised her foot, “Toto chewed off three of her toes and the middle-finger of her hand.” I shrugged my shoulders and thought maybe they should give Toe-toes to cousin Dexter and start another toy-trunk collection. TV-Guide reads, “Season Premier! Epic Crime-drama expected from real-life slice ’em, dice ’em, chew ’em up Chef-n-Canine Duo!” Hmm, yeah and Season 2 in next closet!
Cousin Carrie cleaned up and purified
“Who is the Looker in the wedding dress?” Mom grimaced some as she began to answer, “That is your cousin Carrie (White?) and that is her NEWLY dry-cleaned prom dress converted to a wedding dress.” Ahh, of course it is — and is it weird that I’m attracted to my hidden, lost-and-found cousin? It’s just a picture. I must have some genes from Hilly Tops and Deep Woods Tennessee!? Is that even curable? What is wrong with me!? What else should I know (or not) about our family?
Not Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Clyde
“And that is your…” she leans over and points to the other young couple, “Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Clyde.” In a dismayed exhale I drop my head, close my eyes “No way!” Mom begins laughing “Gotcha! Relax. Their real names are G.W. and Madeline Kahn. They live somewhere in Eastern Europe.” She looks up, “Or maybe it’s Mongolia?” I start to put the picture-frame back into the closet. Once it’s out of the closet, can you put it back? Can one not know what has become knowable? Is there a pill for that? Is that what is meant by “I cannot recall” or “I can neither confirm nor deny that statement“?
“Wait! Let me guess these two.” I pick out the other brunette and blonde below her. “These two have to be Virginia and Vita Woolf-… rather Woolfenmeow! Right?” With a curious expression, “Who are they?” Cue the closet-music…
Virginia and Vita Woolfenmeow?
“Obviously our lost or hidden sultry seductresses and the 20th century’s steamiest love affair in verse, and in YOUR closet!“
Mom gave a devious smirk, “Oh? I guess you never quite know what you’ll find snooping around people’s closed doors, do ya?” She pulled down the hat box untying its fastening strings, “We all have our hats and masks we wear I suppose.” Good points. They are closed for a reason and they are worn for equal reasons. What I find curious, exhilarating, telling, shocking, or… smelly(?) IS THAT reason. What tap-dances or lurks behind?
“What’s in that box?” I inquire with hesitant suspicion. “This was Lady Chevalier d’Éon Blake’s judo black-belt she used around the necks of eleven Nazi SS commanders, deceased of course, but strangely as eunuchs, once she had them in highly vulnerable nocturnal postures.” I stared at her to see if I could catch another dubious smirk, but she was chokingly serious! “And this was your Aunt Millie ‘Boom’ Cnockaert’s wiring-kit and motorcycle goggles. They both became closest friends after the war and when…” she paused. “When what!?” I could not determine whether she was struggling to recall events, facts, news, family stories, or whether she was sorting out omissions and disclosures. Oh the things people say… or don’t say.
“When… they returned to France and Chevalier insisted on being a woman, dressing as a woman.” Whoa. Should I be proud or scared of my lost-hidden-now-found family? I want to at least lay claim to this family Believe-it-or-Not picture-collage and hang it over the fireplace mantle, or perhaps somewhere inconspicuous, say on the front or back of the coat-closet door!
“Why didn’t they come to America, the home of the free, home of the brave, civil and personal liberties galore!?” Camera-shot sharpens into focus from our time-traveling. Cue closing music soundtrack. Roll credits.
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Dream
As some of you may have noticed, I have not been around WordPress and my blog as much as before. Lately, finding time to imagine, consider, research, ponder, gather images, then type away in a format and style that is minimally interesting for you and acceptable quality for me has been near non-existent. Well, not true exactly. I could do it late in the evening when I’m fatigued and must nevertheless wake just before sunrise or daybreak whether my mind and body want to or not. And since my last blog-post was June 9th you can see how well that is working. What is going on you ask as you all are banging down my front door? (sarcasm) What has changed?
Life apart from the world-wide-web. Life beyond the internet and technology. Organic life of which sometimes/often affords us little time of our own. The epilogue of one life, the pre-epilogue of another life (my life) and the prime of lives for others, loved ones. This is what has changed.
“The Earlier Revision Needs Revising”
Around 1997 shortly after marrying, Mom and her second older (and quite wealthy) husband found a luscious 2,850-ish sq. ft. Ranchita-home on 10.5 acres on top a big hill overlooking the Guadalupe River. The vistas from inside the house through 34 windows or outside on the large back-patio shaded or semi-shaded, with daily or every other day or evening southerly breezes… are the stuff of epic tranquility and living. For two hard-working retirees, it was a dream come true.
And then as they say, Nothing stays the same.
Mom has been widowed since 2006. For a few years after her late husband’s crippling heart-attack which put him in a wheelchair and months later his decline and death, she took the time to enjoy her life more, travel, and spend more time with good friends and family. She absolutely deserved it! She bought a newly used 32-foot RV or mobile home to travel the U.S. However, while doing these five years of domestic and world touring the home and property they loved so much became increasingly neglected. Meanwhile, one of those good male friends became a “very good friend.” They traveled together everywhere. Very good at first, but whose title gradually changed over the last four years to infrequent companion given later developments. Circumstances for romance and the altar which seemed unimportant then, became very important. Nine years later it can be deduced that Cupid’s Arrow — with attached gold ring — had in the end missed its mark.
Another development of which I have shared and posted about here a number of times is that of my sister and her 35+ years of drug addiction, rehab, relapse, law-enforcement, incarceration, repeat ad nauseam. Over the last six years this has really taken a toll on Mom’s mental and physical health. While I was up in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area teaching Special Ed, the plan for Mom, my sister (who moved to the Texas Hill Country very soon after Mom and her husband moved here), and Mom’s “very good man-friend” was to begin serious preparations from the inside of the house to the outside and all over the property to sell the house soon. Of course, the very good man-friend (living over 2-hours away) was not going to be capable of helping more than 2-times a month or less — he had to maintain his cattle ranch of 1,500 acres that he does all by himself! Therefore, in reality it was up to my perpetually recovering sister and my 76-year old Mom. HAH!
Five years later and after finishing the 2014-2015 school year in DFW, I make my summer return to help out. In complete shock I find my sister has moved in with Mom! Anyone who has dealt with acute drug-alcohol addiction of over 3-decades knows that addicts MUST BE at the very least in a daily and weekly program, routine, and support group! Mom’s hilltop retirement resort is the very last place any addict needs to be living — there has been no consistent structure and set schedule for Mom since, hell… 1995! Furthermore, she is not even close to being a qualified licensed A&D counselor! Simply put my Mom not only cannot handle my sister’s addictive pathology, manipulation, and regular relapses, she’s not mentally or emotionally strong enough or cunning enough to manage an addict! On top of this defective lousy living situation, not hardly anything is getting accomplished toward the sale of the house and property.
I become infuriated.
What soon follows about two months later is my sister’s gradual ump-teenth relapse. Due to the pressing overwhelming work and tasks that must get done first in order to sell the house and property, Mom’s inability to PUSH my sister to stay consistent and accountable to an AA/NA and MHMR (mental health rehabs) program, and her hilltop retirement resort being 4-miles outside of town making Mom her only real transportation anywhere… my sister was doomed to relapse anyway! I find out a few weeks into my return that my sister actually moved-in the previous December! By February 2016 sister has relapsed badly, again, and this time the county sheriff’s department and TDCJ (Texas Dept of Criminal Justice) are done being merciful. She is sentenced to 9-months in their penal drug-rehab program — now the only and last hope for her.
I am now BEYOND infuriated! No wonder the house and property have not been significantly maintained or prepped! I was never told because they both knew how I would react. Funny how we manifest our repeated thoughts and fears.
At the end of June 2016 while at a wine-n-snack get-together with good local friends, Mom unloads to everyone the precise timeline of her absolute move-out: April 2017 or sooner. How did we lose 5-years when she told me in December 2015 — relative to her retirement funds and trust-fund — it would last through 2021? Everything, except Social Security and her small monthly Mobile Oil pension, runs out next April. I thought my entire upper body just dropped into my stomach when she announced her deadline. This was not good at all given how much needed to be done to and inside the house. I’m thinking to myself trying not to appear distraught to everyone… What if the house doesn’t sell for what it’s worth these next 9-10 months!?
Days later I ask Mom if she’s got any better idea and plan as to where she will move and live. She is no closer to those decisions than she was a year ago. Given everything she’s had to deal with concerning my god-damn sister, it’s understandable.
The original revised plan has to be revised again.
My original plans for a continued life up in the DFW area will have to be put on hold. My regular routine to blog, consider, research, write, and comment must also be reduced or postponed.
Aging and the Aged
The end of this life is inevitable. Everyone is approaching it the day we are born and take our first breath. The average American lifespan is around 78-years old; 76 (I believe) for a man, 81-83 for a woman. Therefore, somewhere around our 40’s is the halfway point. In the better scenarios the late 40’s. As those older dear ones and loved ones begin to pass away around you, one cannot help but reevaluate, reflect, and remember what makes us truly alive so that death isn’t so painfully unwelcomed. What should our final decade of life be? Of what should it consist?
Mom, July 2014
These last four years I have noticed how much more my Mom has aged. If this rate continues, she is in her last 5-7 years — and that might be optimistic. And that reality forces me to pause and prepare. It forces me to reevaluate, reflect, and remember what, on a soulful level, is TRULY important. For that single reason… death should not be such a total stranger.
Over the last six years I have gotten to know my Mom in ways and to levels I likely would not have been able living 5-hours and 320-miles away 300-days a year. Many of those days have been fun and hilarious — her senility can be quite entertaining along with her sense of humor that has enjoyably not waned as a result. Though I am increasingly managing and helping her with her weekly and monthly responsibilities, these last couple years have noticeably aged me. For all intents and purposes, I am becoming a one-man team if not already there. And this will probably not change anytime soon, or it could change tomorrow… all things considered. (line break)
Do you have aging or aged parents? What have been or what are your experiences? How does it effect your own life? Why do family members these days live so far apart? I may not be able to quickly reply to your thoughts and comments, but I am curious to read them if you’re inclined to share!
Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always