Friday, March 1, 2013

The Death and Resurrection Show

"I'm not okay and haven't been for awhile"

Over time I've gained an ability to honestly document events from my life, be it in journal/blog format or certain elements liberally sauteed into my fiction, without flinching. Maybe it's because I'm a very direct kind of guy and blowing smoke up people's asses just isn't on my list of kinks -although the list is long enough to cause eye strain and done in a cool font I picked out myself from a catalog. Perhaps it's that I'm all too self-aware of just how good a liar someone who creates fiction for a living can be if they really put their mind to it. Doing this to yourself would be the equivalent of Tony Montana face-down in a heaping pile of his own Colombian marching powder near the end of Scarface. So, before hired assassins scale my art deco palace walls to murder my staff and redecorate the walls with my vital organs, I need to reluctantly spew this out right now or else I never will.

2012 was a schoolyard sociopath that beat me until I was a bloody pulp on the ground, continuing to kick me as the other kids watching did nothing but Instagram the carnage to their Facebook walls. I've developed a real knack for maintaining my composure in a crisis, so I'm a pro at hiding the worst limp and proclaiming that I'm fine with enough credibility to make the head of Julliard's theater department bust a big ropy nut. But, I'm not okay and haven't been for awhile.

My mom, after battling multiple miolomic cancer since the beginning of 2008, began a downward spiral in early Spring of last year when she got admitted to the hospital for surgery to secure a plate & rod along her left femur for support. This was followed by a host of rehab/nursing homes whose stink of incompetence even the Glade plug-in I bought couldn't disguise, the first of whom outright lying that they'd checked my mother for possible blood/urinary tract infections. She had both and a growing level of disorientation that would eventually turn out to be the early stages of dementia. It's something that doesn't just run on her side of the family, but participates in triathlons and has a merchandising deal with Nike.  Along with schizophrenia and several types of cancer, it's what makes me grateful to have been adopted and skipped that hereditary cocktail altogether. But the biggest thing rife throughout her family, which seemed to have skipped my mom and a small handful of other relatives, is a level of apathy not seen since the Bush Administration or Nazi-occupied Germany.

My mom was especially nurturing toward her siblings, several of whom even stayed with she and my dad off-and-on as well as helping out with their children. But it's all fun and games until you develop cancer, then folks go missing faster than blonde coeds in Aruba. Life-threatening illnesses induce a silent panic because it reminds people that maybe that little black spec on their last chest x-ray the doctor dismissed as dirt from the lens wasn't dirt. One uncle of mine, who my mother helped during his own brush with the disease, frequently drove up from North Carolina for cookouts with his in-laws and would then return home without so much as visiting his oldest sister or even calling her.

Were the short ribs that good? Let me guess: it was the dry rub marinade, huh?

When not dealing with my mom's rapidly declining physical/mental health, I began getting harassed by the third nursing home she stayed in (it ended up being four in total) about applying for Medicade long term care now that her Medicare had run out (which they didn't bother mentioning until a month afterward). I would've been willing to have done this except that they wanted to begin garnishing her entire monthly pension check, which was what was paying the rent for the apartment we shared. I'd been her full-time caregiver since she'd gotten sick, so I'd been able to snag a part-time banquet server gig on weekends that summer and it was only enough to pay my cell phone bill and groceries. One local cousin's idea of being helpful was to accuse me of not making my mother my priority, to let the nursing home have whatever they wanted, and that I should stop thinking of that monthly check as mine. But, wait, how would I be able to afford random sex with trade and buy crack without that whole whopping remaining $65 once rent and Geico got paid? This same relative was that sort that shows up as frequently as cicada infestations and total lunar eclipses, compensating for their absence by being as loud and as clueless as possible. While playing musical nursing homes and mostly absent relatives, I also was having bouts of severe depression and regular panic attacks that resembled a mother in labor practicing lamas breathing. I highly recommend having them while your car's head gasket is going up as you're driving. (there's probably a clip of me doing this someone in the next car took with their phone and uploaded to YouTube somewhere.)

My mom's death came on October 8th right while in the middle of being without the car (it was in the shop and I'd get it back the day before the funeral), battling the DMV over a flag they'd mistakenly placed on the tags/title, being plagued by insomnia/nightmares, and the majority of my mom's family doing their impression of hide-and-seek as played by The Baltimore School of the Blind. Although a handful of relatives on her side contacted me to express their condolences and get info about funeral arrangements, this didn't include any of my four uncles. Granted, two get a pass since one is a severe paranoid schizophrenic stroke victim on oxygen and the other is currently serving a paragraph in a Kentucky prison (there's a Country Western tune waiting to be written in there somewhere).  I'm not going to list every last gut-wrenching detail of the funeral, since that would be like holding an AA meeting in the liquor aisle at Kroger's. But, I will say that there are probably still indentations of my fingers in the second pew armrest after learning that her church forgot to print up the programs.

What is it about some Black churches that insists on getting the one person that can barely get through the instructions on a bottle of Advil without help to read the obituary? Would you like to know the level of restraint required to not flip off the pastor during his fiery eulogy, the very same one who only visited your mother once during that year nor sent deacons to give her communion at any of the various nursing homes she resided in? Was there someone present who knew the Heimlich maneuver for the senior -and mostly tone deaf- ladies choir who all sounded like they were choking on grape nuts?

With the exception of a call from one of my aunts that felt labored enough for an epidural, my mom's family discarded me faster than Hollywood did Michael Richards. You know you've been tossed beneath the bus enough times when you can make out who the muffler manufacturer is. The sparse life insurance was just enough to cover a few months rent and I received a small monthly amount from social services that helped with food. But I still wasn't all right and a few friends of mine were able to help me through a primary adult care service so I could see a therapist. She was surprisingly down-to-Earth and took a more holistic/spiritual route, but there always seemed to be this big gaping emotional pit waiting for me whenever I got home.

There were no calls from her family during holidays, something which I'd grown to not be the least shocked by. Communicating with me was a reminder of the painfully slow demise of their sister, which is something about as welcome as fruitcake. When the unpaid rent escalated into an upcoming eviction, I almost laughed when a few folks even suggested contacting my aunts or uncles. That was passive-aggressive backpedaling I could avoid and there aren't that many things more horrible than someone doing their damnedest to hurry you off the phone. I was wounded and angry as fuck, frightened that I'd be out on the street along with my abnormally large collection of books before I could even appear on Hoarders.  A number of people that I'd considered friends redistributed into the indifferent acquaintances that they were really all along.

But, one of the other things that I have a talent for is to persevere even when life's Huggie is especially shitty. And, with numerous negative elements waving their johnsons in my face, I realize that there's something the universe has recently made available to me which will afford me the restart button I've been frantically searching my keyboard for all along.

I can just leave.

Honestly, this place hasn't felt like home in a long time and, thanks to a recent offer from a friend of mine, I'm going to toss a match on to the dilapidated remains and walk off as it all burns. As scary as the unknown is, it's gotta be a hell of lot less frightening than waiting for the next participant in the massive gang bang. There isn't anything so imperative here that I can't find it someplace on a far better plateau where I'm going. One of the biggest problems is that people are too busy convincing themselves they're in a jail they can't escape, the key the guard forgot sitting right in the lock the whole time. I'm heading off to make good on every promise I've made since I was in high school, and you're more than welcome to come watch my taillights disappear into the night. Wish me well if you please or whisper an embittered curse in my general direction; you're entitled to your opinion no matter how great or how seething it may be. But, don't even think about trying to stop me in any way.

I will mow you down.

Male Media Mind