Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Picking at Scabs

It would be so nice to feel sleepy around 10 pm, before even taking any medication, then just lay down in bed and fall asleep. I'm told that's what normal people do and what I will eventually do when I'm healthy. I think it's all bullshit. Tonight I started feeling sleepy, drop dead tired at around 10:30, after eating, but I made the mistake of playing around on my phone, then journalling my day, which led to me thinking about what day it was by that time, since it was by then after midnight, and, well, I fell apart.

I sent this email to Moneypenny, typed on my phone, so sorry about the really poor grammar.

There's an episode of House in which House & his friend Wilon are on the outs but Wilson & their boss conspire to, basically, drug & kidnap Houe to make him attend his father's funeral, at the request of his mother, who knows House has much anomysity towards his father that he won't go on his own. During the ride to the funeral, House tells Wilson that part of his feelings are that the man wasn't really his biological father, which he figured out at 13 because of recessive genetic traits and that the man was a marine, shipped out at the crucial time, but House felt that it was himself who was decieved. At the funeral, House even goes so far as to get a tissue sample by pretending to kiss the deceased, so he can prove it later. Wilson ends up fighting with him and getting so angry that he throws a bottle of booze, at what he assumes is the wall but is really a stained glass window, which he breaks.

In the last scene, Wilson brings House the results of the dna test,which he'd intercepted before they got to House. Wilson also came to tell House that he'd been right about something he'd said earlier, that for all the insanity House had gotten him into that day, it was the mostfun he'd had in a long time, since what paused their friendship. Of course, the test results confirm House's lifelong hypothesis about hi parentage. Wilson tells him that this must make him feel a bit better, because it proved he was that smart and right at 13. House doesn't look more pleased. "Wilson, [beat] my dad is dead." Wilson looks genuinely sad for him. "My condolencses. Let me buy you dinner." He opens the door and waits for his friend.

Being the Wilson to my House doesn't mean you get the shitty character.

My grandpa died today. Around 6 am. I'm so sad.

I started crying and decided I'd rather watch the episode of House, if I owned it, than lay in bed and cry. Somehow I don't have season 4, but I do have season 5, and this episode is the fourth episode of season 5. I'm not sure if I'm lucky or not.

Around 6 am, December 28th, 2007, so about four years less five hours from right about now, I watched my grandfather die.

As I stood in the kitchen, crying, trying to find something to drink that didn't have caffeine to go with my pistachio pudding, things started flooding back to me. You know, it's strange how things run together. All the deaths. All the regrets. All the things you didn't do. All the things you did do. Four years is the blink of an eye when you're watching your child grow up, when you're pushing your way through high school, when it's the last four years you get with someone. Four years is forever when you're watching people die. Four minutes is forever when you're lost and alone and can't figure out where you're going.

I drive Moneypenny crazy with late night phone calls and text messages. The text messages he, rightly, ignores. When it used to be phone calls, he'd feint interest and try to get me off the phone as soon as he could so he could go back to sleep. I don't fault him for this feeling. But, even before this recent extended dance with the Reaper, I've had this fear that I wouldn't say what needed to be said before someone was gone from my life. Maybe it was because I didn't know that the last time I saw my biological father would be the last time I saw my biological father. The anxiety most people felt when they wanted to tell someone that they had a crush on them was doubled by my own worry that this might be my last chance that I ever got to tell them that I had a crush on them, because they might move the next day or get hit by a bus. There was so much I told my uncle, about my life, about my feelings, about my crushes, about my friendships, on our long drives. But there were also times I'd sit outside his door while he was asleep, when I couldn't sleep, when I fought the urge to wake him up and tell him how bad it hurt, inside, all the time. When he was still living with my grandparents and my parents and I would visit from the Very Large Midwestern City, he'd give up his bedroom to my parents. He and I would have to share a bedroom, which was wonderfully awkward for a 9 year old girl and a 20 year old young man, though I slept on a day bed and he slept on a pull-out bed which only sometimes stayed propped up through the whole night. (That was funny, in a Three Stooges kinda way.) I'd lay in my bed, listening to him sleep, wishing I had the balls to wake him up and tell him that I was sad and desperate and maybe even suicidal, though I had no way to express that except reading all the horror novels I could get my hands on. I wish I had told him and yet I'm glad I didn't. It's hard enough dealing with my mental illness as an adult, when the doctors and pharmacists have a sort of kind of solid hold on what the illnesses look like and how the medications probably effect a person, much less children when it's all fucked up and topsy turvy. If my family is worried about me now, I can't even imagine the eggshells they would have felt they needed to walk on then. But I don't think I've ever told this to anyone. Not even Moneypenny. I wonder if my uncle knew. Even more than my mother, he seemed to know everything. While he didn't get to punish me for things I had no idea how he knew, he did get the burden of whether or not to share it with my mother, so she could decide what to do with it. On the other hand, it seems unimaginably cruel to let me sit outside his door for hours and cry and not do anything about it. If there's one thing he wasn't to me, it was cruel.

And why am I talking about my uncle when it's the anniversary of my grandfather's death? Because they all run together. Because I wasn't as close to my grandfather. Because it was easier to accept my grandfather's death. Because it's been longer. Because I could justify it by saying that my grandfather had done all, or almost all, of what he was going to do with his life. And why am I telling you? Putting all these personal issues on blast? Maybe just so I don't feel the need to wake up my poor good friend who is probably sleeping peacefully next to his lovely girlfriend and who definitely has to be at work at 8 in the morning tomorrow (or today.) Sigh.

But I still miss my grandfather. MGD and fritos. Steel guitars and lottery tickets. Ashes and strong coffee. Those steaks my grandmother made for him that I never could figure out how he could chew through without his dentures. A man who never said "I love you," but who never did anything to make me doubt that he did. I care him with me wherever I go and try to let his example lead me, try to be as good of a man and a person as he was. I miss you Grandpa.

[Oh, but I got the details of the episode wrong. Wilson goes to see House because House's patient pulls through. House is drinking in celebration of the test results which proved him right, but he's still depressed because he feels nothing at all at the news. But their final exchange is still the same. Your real friends are the ones who understand, or maybe just accept, that you can be righteous while being pissed off that you're right while still being sad that this person that you had such a strange and complex relationship with is dead. And while they might not show the textbook perfect response, their response is still... well, it's still something. Sometimes, something is all you really need. Your friends will never have the perfect response for you and you'll never have the perfect response for them. But being there is a big step in the right direction.]

[And I'm still the same person. I'm just blogging under an account that's tied to my Google. When I started the blog, google didn't own blogger and/or I didn't have a google account, so I used the email I'd been using for years. Now I rely on google for tons of stuff and I'm too lazy to log out of all my google stuff just so I can blog. So there's two of me blogging on here: Ava and AvaAlso. I think my gentle readers are intelligent enough for this not to cause a large problem.]

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Moneypenny, the Repseudonyming of Sir

Even though almost all people who read this blog are my personal friends who probably have some idea as to who the pseudonyms correspond to, I still like using the pseudonyms in my blog. This post, from 3 years ago, is the last post in which I updated the pseudonyms I use and my current relationship to those people: In it, I wrote this:

Sir- Sir is my most recent ex-boyfriend. We were together 5 years. His
pseudonym of Sir is one that he came up with because, whenever he is out with
male friends at restaurants, the waitresses always call his friends "sweetie"
and "honey" but they always call him "Sir." We broke up February 2005 and have
remained good friends since. **Update: I sabotaged that friendship by revealing
what I felt was his hypocrisy on my blog. But I also revealed a secret that I
shouldn't have, largely out of spite and anger that I felt towards any and all
men who cheat.

Now, when I started this blog, when the above person and I were both in our mid-20s, it was pretty humorous that everyone treated him like a much older man. It was also particularly humorous to me because I felt like he was a stick in the mud who never did anything fun (read: crazy, risky) and I've never tired of pointing that out. In fact, I still don't tire of pointing it out, but I guess it now seems cruel to poke fun at his old-ness, now that he's starting to get laugh lines around his eyes, though few people see them because they only show up when he smiles and he doesn't really smile all that much.

As last year turned into the current one, I wrote a post on my lingering regrets about the ending of our relationship, which managed to reel him back into my life. Though it's been a rocky road back, I think we're finally managing to get on steady ground in our friendship. Which means, of course, that, if I'm writing, he's going to show up in it, even though he probably hates that. And "Sir" just didn't seem to fit anymore, so I started thinking about repseudonyming him.

At the time I was contemplating the repseudonyming, I was watching a BBC show called The Hour, about a fictionalized newsmagazine starting up in 1956. The reckless and headstrong reporter Freddy Lyon often jokingly refers to his bestfriend, and now boss, Bel Rowley as Moneypenny, after the levelheaded secretary to James Bond's boss M. Bel usually then points out that it is she who is the boss now, but, throughout the show, the stubborn reporter often makes the tail wag the dog. Now, though the gender is switched, I thought this a great comparison for Sir and I. In a me-centered world, he's the girl-friday in my crazy, wacky adventures, the strictly logical reasonable has-it-all-together homebody to my emotional living-on-the-edge wanderer. He's the Moneypenny to my James, at least relatively speaking.

So there's your newest pseudonym. Sir has been rechristened Moneypenny.

Bitter, Sad, or Funny Christmas Songs

Well, gentle readers, it's that time of year again. Though it probably isn't true, I remember hearing on tv shows and movies the whole time I was growing up that suicide rates are noticeably higher than the rest of the year. If you're alone, you feel lonely. Even if you have friends or family, but are the kind of person who often feels lonely around people, you're probably going to feel even lonelier around even more people. And though it's supposed to be the celebration of a birth, since it coincides with the beginning of winter and the end of the calendar year, it seems to make people dwell on those that have died, instead of those born or living.

I'm no different, on all those fronts. They say that the first holidays without a loved one are the hardest, especially when that loved one played a large role in that holiday. One of the reasons that the first Christmas without Grandpa was particularly hard was because he loved the holiday so much. Recent Facebook posts from my uncle's friends have highlighted the ways in which their holiday season is much different without him. I'd tried to just push it away, but today it came crashing down. For the past few years, I've done the shopping for the gifts that my family donates to a local charity. I really do like doing it. But I didn't make it past getting my shower. I started crying while in there and couldn't stop. My uncle is what made Christmas special for me at a time when I really needed to reconnect with my family. Even before that, he was what made it all come alive for me.

While I remember bits and pieces of my early Christmases, it's sometimes difficult to tell what is memory and what is from pictures. The first holidays I really remember started after I moved with my mom and my step-dad to Really Big Midwestern City from Medium Sized But Larger than where I currently live Midwestern City, where my grandparents and my uncle resided, where I was born and raised until then. Moving was a huge culture shock for me and I was severely homesick, as I always considered my grandparents' house HOME. With that move started the tradition of me spending my school breaks with my grandparents at their home. Though we celebrated Christmas in Really Big Midwestern City, my maternal grandparents and my uncle always came up and spent it with us and the rest of the family on my step-father's side. Then, I'd go back home with them. My parents would fetch me after the New Year. As I wasn't much of a kid as a kid, when with the extended family, I felt more comfortable with the adults than I did with my cousins, who were 2 and 4 years younger than me. My uncle, who was smack dab in between my mom's generation of people and my generation of people, was my closest ally. He was also amazing at defusing our family spats, which inevitably rose as we all spent more time together. He was amazing at picking gifts. Always knew just the right thing to get a person. He really liked putting gifts in those shirt boxes. My family has a ton of them that we've reused throughout the years, some with old Famous Barr and Dillard logos. But he wanted to make sure they stayed closed and together, so he'd put strips of tape on all four sides and it was a bitch to get them open. My grandpa would bring his pocket knife out to open his presents.

In an effort to exorcise, or at least air out, my current demons, I wanted to write about all the stuff that I remembered about spending time with my uncle around Christmas. It's fragmented and not really in any order, but I'm hoping it helps me.

Crystal Pepsi. My family has a soda obsession and my uncle was the main driver of this obsession. For as long as I can remember, he loved Diet Coke. His favorite excuse to get out of my grandparents' house, go for a drive, was that he was going to fill up his soda cup. While he always stuck with Diet Coke, I liked trying most new and different beverages. One year, because of the way the Christmas and New Year's holidays fell, my school break started almost a week before Christmas Eve, so I got to go out to my grandparents' house for several days before. I rode back to Really Big Midwest City with my uncle. It was more fun to make the 6 hour trip with him than with my grandparents, who flooded the car with cigarette smoke, stopped every half hour to use the restroom and get a cup of coffee, drove the 55 mph speed limit on the highway, and only listened to 60s and 70s country classics, most of which I didn't know the words to so I couldn't sing along. My uncle always had really cool cars, listened to really cool music, didn't care that I sung at the top of my lungs off-key, would talk with me, and only needed to stop once to go pee on the trip. I believe that trip was also the same year that Crystal Pepsi came out. Like any good American consumer, I had seen all the commercials and I was frothing at the mouth to taste this new sensation. It wasn't yet in the stores in my grandparents' hometown and it wasn't in the gas station we'd stopped at on the way back to Really Big Midwest City. The car was pretty low on gas by the time we reached the house of my step-dad's parents, where the rest of the family had already gathered, but my uncle didn't stop on the way to the house. I wonder if that wasn't intentional, so he'd have an excuse for him or us to go for a drive when he got tired of being there. Either way, several hours later, we were driving around the snowy, small suburb, looking for any gas station that was open on Christmas Eve and trying to find any radio station that wasn't playing Christmas songs. Both were quite a challenge, but the gas station that was open had Crystal Pepsi. I was so happy and, of course, my uncle bought me a bottle. At the time, I loved it. I wish it was still on the market, though I'm obviously a minority. But, yeah, I remember Crystal Pepsi.

And the SNL Christmas special that used to air over and over again on Comedy Central. Which that year included a Crystal Gravy parody commercial. That year, my parents and I were living in a house with a third bedroom and we set up a camping cot in that room for my uncle to sleep on. My grandparents got my bedroom and I got the couch. The year before, without the cot, my uncle had to sleep in my step-dad's armchair, which kept un-reclining throughout the night. My parents have never believed in having televisions in the bedroom so our household's second tv was in the third bedroom. My uncle and I used the cot like a couch to watch the SNL Christmas special and any other Christmas specials that weren't all happy-happy-joy-joy. I was kinda a cynical pessimistic depressed kid. But that was our time together and it saved me from getting into even more arguments with my step-dad, who is unbelievably grumpy around Christmas time for no discernible reason.

As I became a teenager, I fought more with my step-dad, and everyone else, all year round, though Christmas was especially bad. Despite the fact that my step-dad doesn't like the holiday and isn't a particularly social person, it seems like most of our fights during the holidays revolved around me not being social enough with our whole family. Oddly enough, the fighting didn't motivate me to be more social, but made me withdraw more. Finally, one year in my late teens, I pessimistically asserted to my uncle that I thought the holidays were all bullshit and just something to suffer through as best you could. My uncle tried to refute this, but I was so stubborn. Finally, he walked out. Not just of the room, but the house. Got in his vehicle and drove off. This was shocking to me. Though he and I had picked on each other and fought when I was really young, and I'd seen him argue with my grandmother/his mother, he was one of the most level-headed, best able to debate another person and/or defuse tense situations, people I'd ever known. I don't think I'd ever seen him walk out of a room angry from an argument in progress, much less a whole house. He came back about a half hour later and calmly told me that he valued the holidays so much because they gave him a chance to spend extended amounts of time with people he loved but might not get to see this much all year long. He was very sad for me that I couldn't see it like that and worried that he hadn't done a good enough job of showing me what the holidays should really be about. That conversation really stuck with me. I can't say I've always been successful at avoiding the melancholy of the season, but I try to be thankful for the loved ones I have and enjoy their company. For as long as I can possibly stand it at least.

My uncle was my partner in crime and comedy from the time I was young. We were always getting in trouble with our respective parents for laughing, giggling, and making jokes at inopportune times, like dinner prayers and graduation ceremonies. Though I'm now aware that comedic holiday songs are nothing new, the year that "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" came out, my uncle and I had it memorized. I think it was by far our favorite Christmas song of all time. My mom couldn't find it in cassette format, but did manage to find the album. That might have been how I learned to move the needle to certain songs, because we only cared about that one song and listened to it endlessly. Though my mom has a massive collection of Christmas music on vinyl, cassette, and CD, that song, along with the Muppets and John Denver's Christmas Together, will always be my childhood Christmas soundtrack. Our shared love of that song has fueled my love of slightly less than classic Christmas songs, or classic Christmas songs in a less than classic or classy style. Some of my favorites are Merry Christmas from the Family, which has been done by Toby Keith as well as Jill Sobule; I'll Be Hating You for Christmas by Everclear; Fairytale of New York by the Pogues and Kristy MacCollum; and the Ben Fold's song about Santa getting stuck in the chimney and Mrs. Clause suing his ass, which my grandfather also thought was hilarious. Please feel free to share your favorite bitter, sad, or funny Christmas songs in the comments. One of my recent faves is at the end of this post.

That isn't all my memories of holidays with my uncle, but that's what sticks in my head right now. In contrast to my pessimistic, cynical childhood and teenage days, in my advancing age, I find that, more and more, I want warm loving holidays. I think my younger self would be much better at this Christmas, as it would give me a good excuse to be a Scrooge. But this year is made harder by the fact that I don't want to be that, but it's really hard to be happy when half of your family has died in the last four years and you're one of the few un-coupled people you know. I want to be happy this holiday so badly, for my grandpa who loved the holiday, for my grandma who made it all come together, for my uncle who taught me how to love it too, and for my mom who's lost just as much, if not more, than I have. I just don't know how to do that.

Huh. You know, for the past week or so, since right after Thanksgiving, this song has been in my head and I had associated it with someone else, a former love if you will. But now I think maybe it is for my mom and I. Enjoy.

Heartache Can Wait - Brandi Carlile

You're talking about leaving
It's right about Christmas time
Thinking about moving on
I think I might die inside
I'm thinking about years gone by
I'm thinking about church at midnight
I'm thinking about letting go
I think that might finally be alright
But this is where we shine

Silver bells and open fire
And songs we used to sing
One more chance to be inspired
Is what I'm offering, if love is not enough
Then stay with me because
The heartache can wait

It's not about hanging on
It's making my deal with God
If I could call one last truce
We've given it all we've got
Then I'm gonna catch my breath
And make it a long December
If we've got nothing left
This could be worth remembering
With a smile upon my face

Silver bells and open fire
And songs we used to sing
One more chance to be inspired
Is what I'm offering, if love is not enough
Then stay with me because

Silver bells and open fire
And songs we used to sing
One more chance to be inspired
Is what I'm offering, if love is not enough
Then stay with me because
The heartache can wait