Closets

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?

Lost Side of Family

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.

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ § ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
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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?

Ethan's Aunt Outta-Here AudieWe 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 & Madame Prudence below

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?

Tiny? Testicles?

Earnest & Gabrielle Cleaver with little Dexter at their Wisteria Lane home

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?

Cousin Dexter Cleaver pre-incarceration

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 busyshe 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:

Neice Dorothy & Toto

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 in NEWLY dry-cleaned prom-wedding dress

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?

Uncle Clyde-Aunt Bonnie

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…

Virginai & Vita WolfenMeow

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.


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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Dream

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Flux

perpetuum mobileIt has been nearly two months since posting last. The other weekend I packed-up…again, and again returned to the DFW metroplex as I’ve done the last three Septembers, to once again substitute-teach in three different school districts while tutoring 3-4 nights a week. I have become a good walking definition of fluid. I’m sure the Lakota Indians, or the Comanche Indians, or any tribes of the Plains which followed the buffalo, would undoubtedly take great admiration in my transience. I know what it means to have mind over matter, but I have learned even more what it means to be a visitor; a grateful visitor.

Continual movement is said to be healthy for the mind and body. Exercise and do it regularly, and you minimize or alleviate many illnesses and recurring ailments. From a purely metabolic, intestinal, or cardiovascular point-of-view, flow is good — very good. In that light, I am doing well. Yet, I miss my time writing and posting here. How then is that good? Why can’t I write and post while driving, moving, teaching for 9 hours then tutoring the last 3 waking hours of the day or while sleeping or eating? Footnote: that was the device of “literary dramatization.” But I hope you catch my point. This will be an update-post, not my usual egocentric cerebral literary stimulation my millions of readers and followers have come to enjoy here — yes, laughing is permitted.

After three summers of moving and fighting to remain determined in my pursuit of full-time teaching-mentoring in one of two fantastic districts, the kinks in my armour are beginning to show. I am questioning whether I should continue pursuing traditional teaching. The pursuit is becoming financially and physically unsustainable. Redirection is inevitable and considering another path and its consequences has been one of many thieves of my blogging time. Though these three years have been mentally and emotionally frustrating, in contrast they have taught me to realize the benefits.

Failure Is Not An Option?

My father raised me to not be a quitter. If you are a regular visitor to this blog, or privileged to know me personally over many years (wink), then you find the previous sentence very ironic. I do. Loyalty, determination, commitment, were all daily lessons; pillars of character that my father lived and taught until July 1990 when he quit. That particular month and year those pillars became further and less defined to me simultaneously. Yes, notice the irony again. Right there is the paradox of life; of how two distinct concepts actually become one harmonious system. If I’ve lost you, bear with me.

drill-sergeant-screamingWhat does it mean to never give up? Go down fighting? Have faith all things workout in the end? The answers are typically admirable noble traits taught through the ages, especially in professional sports, used to motivate underdogs. Those battle cries and speeches are well and good, but I have found them to be incomplete. Admittedly, I am growing weary of knocking and banging on assistant principal’s doors only to be told in the end “Thank you but no thank you.” I can hear my Dad’s voice, “do not give up! Do not quit!” Find more doors to bang on! And after my knuckles become blue or bleeding, the question eventually becomes what do I need to do differently, because this horse has been beaten pretty dead.

Why do I keep doing the same thing repeatedly for the same result merely for the sake of not quitting? I laugh, where is the glory in that? Why am I afraid of giving up or failing? In hindsight, I think what I SHOULD actually be afraid of is paralysis! Paralysis to adapt and change. Be more flexible and much less rigid in a Universe of flux! You see, those dramatic motivational speeches and battle cries are for the moment, like a narrow lens, and do not address or capture our origin of fear. If fear, disguised as failure or quitting, is allowed to become over inflated, it will enslave me and influence, perhaps dictate, my decisions. I would imagine that leads to a life of knee-jerk reactions. Sign around neck reads: This person kicks frequently. Stand close at your own risk!

Ugh, not good. Not for me.

The Illusion of “Complete”

In his theory of special relativity, Albert Einstein proved that time as we perceive it does not exist. Events occurring at the same time for one observer could occur at completely different times for another observer. That implies there is really no beginning or no end, just varying observers and various speeds of movement. A beginning and an end are illusions created by our brains to cope and survive in our self-aware world of experiences. All things emerge and all things decay. But all things will change forms. Over a century of science has shown on a microscopic or atomic level all things are moving, emerging and decaying, but they are at speeds and levels unseen by our naked eye. For example, our Sun is burning out, but in our lifetime it doesn’t seem to be.  The seven continents are surrounded by seas and oceans, but there were not seven before, and there will not be in the future.  Everything is constantly emerging and decaying. Perhaps the above sub-title should not read The Illusion of Complete, but instead The Reality of Incomplete.

Below are some pictures of my current home. Is my life at the moment really that bad?

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At this point I ask myself, what feels better…what gives me more hope and confidence, and less fear? Is it the battle-cry meaning of “Never say die, failure is not an option,” or The Reality of Incomplete? I know exactly what I would choose. One offers potential doom, disappointment, or pain, the other a never-ending story. One is fiction, the other reality. One stressful, the other calming.

In my procession of perspective I have come to realize there is still more, always. My situation is not complete, nor is my development. Is it ever? Is it wise to assume an experience has only a singular interpretation, one ending? Mmm, the paradox and irony continues.

Side-effects of Flux

I did not come from a wealthy family.  However, we certainly did not grow up in poverty. This middle ground has afforded me in my later years a simultaneous appreciation for what is had and what is not had. When one is required to move efficiently and often, you soon wise-up to what you really need to live adequately or comfortably, and what you don’t need. You learn what is fluff or extra weight, and what is truly important. half fullLiving in an RV for nine months then traveling over 300 miles to live for three months in relative luxury, soon teaches these gratitudes. My current life of embraced gratitudes are sometimes challenged or reinforced when others, with a different value-system, try to convince me my way of life is sub-standard or unappealing. I beg to differ. They’ve forgotten that all things change, both quickly and/or very slowly, both with intent, and just as much for them as for me.

My current occupational pursuits coupled with their illusive rewards, do not tell the whole story. I have found enormous amounts of value and gratitude for what I HAVE discovered, what I have gained. What I certainly know is that my story does not have an ending, and no destiny is set, especially mine. I can either work with it, embrace it, understand it, or I can fight it and be perpetually frustrated, angered, and bitter with myself and those around me. No, I have much to be thankful for.

I choose to be flexible, adaptable within my current means and unknown untapped means! Besides, am I not a visitor here? Am I not ultimately just passing through in this form? With that said and a grin, this is how I choose to end this post:

To Be Continued

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