Our check-ins remind me of those scenes in war movies, where a couple of guys from different units, in the middle of a battle, flop into a foxhole and catch their breath, talk a second, and then jump up heading in different directions, guns blazing.
From two nights ago, I went in to Dad’s room to check on him:
Me: Dad, you’re not wearing your oxygen. Would you put it on please?
Dad: It crumbles, it does it, goes down, crochunka crochunka, it goes, it goes, no. No, and what I mean is it’s not.
Me: Dad, if you don’t wear your oxygen you’ll end up in the hospital.
Dad: Fuck it.
How’s things out there with you?
Ever wonder how to keep score? Like, are we winning here? If we get judged someday, what are the columns in the spreadsheet, the metrics and levers that we need to keep mindful of so we don’t get run off? Is being okay to good at most phases of life really better than being great at a couple and a disaster at a few others? Is this as good as it gets? Is it realistic to expect things to get better someday, or is it going to be like this with a strong possibility of worse, as time goes on?
Wish I had magic words to help you here in the suck. Best I can do is to tell you honestly that I still care, and still understand, and I’m willing to keep going through the suck with you, as long as you are. Survival is the goal. The alternative is unacceptable. While I fly tonight, I’ll listen to some Otis Taylor blues, and pray for you and your family.
I was in Battle Mountain, cleaning out my dad’s trailer and sorting through his trash. I was sad. I kept thinking about that essay Robert published on GMP awhile back, about cleaning out his dad’s apartment after he died. My dad isn’t dead and gone, he’s dead and still here. At least that’s how it felt yesterday. My oldest and I got up at 5 am, drove to Winnemucca NV to get a U-Haul truck, then on to Battle Mountain, and spent several hours sorting through the horde of crap my father had amassed the last few years, putting some of it in storage (a 6′x10′ storage locker, which we didn’t find enough valuables to fill), then driving back to Winnemucca to drop off the Uhaul, and home. It was an 18 hour, 500 miles of driving, chewing tobacco and eating McRibs and lifting heavy stuff that smelled like cat piss day.
It was hard to get my mind around how little he truly had, that a man’s total worthwhile possessions for a lifetime to come up to a few boxes of pictures, some tools, a bunch of trinkets and knick-knacks, and a weed eater. The rest, the hundreds of books he can’t read anymore and the hundreds of records he can’t listen to anymore and thousands of vhs tapes and DVDs he can’t watch anymore and the silversmithing equipment he can’t use anymore, and the piles of papers and half-written poems and ledgers he kept to try to remember how to do his finances and stuff like that… we hauled to the dump or left in place with instructions to take to the dump, with the help of his old friend Andy. The dump that my dad used to work at.
All of my dad’s valuable things, like southwestern squash-blossom necklaces that were worth well over $5000 a piece, and jewelry and art and compressors and lapidary tools and silver and stuff were gone, given away over the last year or two before he moved here, to people who would take thousands of dollars in goods and cash from a man who could no longer make decent decisions for himself. Nobody’s evil, it’s just the way things go in a place like Battle Mountain. I struggle with resentments against myself, but moreover against my family and his friends there. They did nothing to protect him. Or at least not enough. They took his possessions in exchange for noticing he was still alive.
It wasn’t even cathartic. The benefit *may* be that I’m done with that place, beyond going back to take dad to visit some family occasionally. When he finds out he has to stay in a hotel, I don’t think he’s going to want to go back often. He has a 1994 pickup, an atv and a trailer left as assets, which I’m going to bring back another time and sell so he can start saving money up for whatever is to come, which is probably big medical bills if not huge nursing home bills.
So when the news came in that the Steelers had managed to pull it off yesterday, it actually brought a tear to my eye. It reminded me that there was still moments of joy to be had, and that not everything was tainted with my family’s collective failures.
Well, the attempt to get off lozenges lead me back to tobacco, which i’m trying to scale back to lozenges again…. This is why I’ll never have another drink. I can’t imagine it working out any better than having “a little nicotine” has, with much more profound effects on those around me. I just gotta keep trying. And now my back is fucked up, I can’t barely sit and play music and work my little drum-stompy pedal. Advil is about the hardest drug I can take for it.
So yeah, I think I agree with you, that people who are ONLY rich suck. Then again, that’s what’s up. That’s how they got there and that’s how they’ll stay there. I often tell my Objectivist friends, the Ayn Randers (I have a really diverse group of friends as you know), seems like the rich folk’s philosophy can be summed up as “devil fuck the hindmost” with a good bit of do-goodism to try to plaster that particular shit cupcake with delicious frosting. Then again, I know a lot of po folk who suck too. The fact is, man, the HARD fact is… it’s us. It’s humans. We’re fucking this all up. Lead-pipe capitalism works for everybody the same way fucking ANARCHY works for everybody: only in a perfect world where everybody really cares about everybody else.
The middle way is a change in the human heart, it seems to me. We got to love people more than ANYTHING. Somehow.
Pax, brother Thomas. I would really like to talk to you someday in person. My fire pit is awesome. I got it a Lowes for $40. I have solar Christmas lights out there too, and some plastic chairs. And a guitar.
—photo by Cara Photography/flickr