Monday, October 26, 2020
Monday, October 19, 2020
So tonight my sons are getting a little rowdy and the 4-year-old throws a playful punch in the direction of his 1-year-old brother. I was mad at him so I said, "Hey! You don't hit your brother!" He looks me dead in the face and says, "Yeah, and you don't hit your wife." I just laughed and agreed with him. Damn it. He made me laugh with that one and made me break character.
Then he has this habit of whispering way too close in your ear so it tickles like crazy, so he leans in and goes, "And you don't punch Mary."
I said, "You mean like Mother Mary? No. You don't punch her either." He goes to a Catholic pre school even though we aren't religious - so he learns a bible thing or two up there.
Then he goes in for another whisper sesh and lets me know "And you don't punch Jesus." I told him, "Nope. Not him either."
Then this is when I lost it because he softly whispers, "And you don't punch the angels."
Oh man, just imagine running through those clouds socking all the angels you could right in their jaws, their halos flying off. It's hilarious. I wish I could make a video game like that. I would play it all day until I got the all time high score.
Good night, folks. Try not to throw any right crosses at any of your biblical figures.
Saturday, October 17, 2020
We had my Aunt Linda's ashes in the rental car for a few days coming along with us, and it felt kind of weird. It was good feeling waking up that final day in town knowing we were sending them to their final resting place. Aunt Linda lived a good amount of her life in a house she designed with her late husband high up in the mountains of Colorado. My mom got in contact with the people who currently owned that house as well as her neighbor and longtime friend who would be our guide to the stream where the ashes would go. This neighbor's name was Joe, and he gave us the much needed detailed directions, as GPS would wave bye bye as we ascented into the mountains.
The higher we climbed into the mountains we saw why Aunt Linda loved living up there. Sure, UPS and the US Postal Service wouldn't deliver to you. Sure, any time you wanted to buy something you would have wind your way up and down a half hour trip each way, but wow, if you saw this place you would know what they mean when people say the live in God's country. Her husband, Jim, died and for around nine years she lived by herself up there chopping wood and maintaining the place as best she could until the bats took over. The place we ended up cleaning out was the one looking up into the mountains with the strict homeowners association, the one where her heart was never in it, where her gutters grew trees and her grass grew like Vietnam. Her heart was never in it and she was too old to care. It made me understand that where her ashes would be spread by her former property, where she spread her late husband's ashes, that's where she would want to be.
Joe said we would see his white pickup truck, and sure enough there he was. He stepped out smiling, and he looked to be in his 80's. The first thing we noticed is that he had a Norway shirt, and he told us that Linda bought him that shirt when she went on her trip to see her relatives. This broke us all up. Joe led the way in his truck, and our rental car probably didn't have the right all wheel drive setting because we were slipping all over the place. Eventually we got up to Linda's property, and wow. I got it now. All those Christmas cards she sent with photos she took, they were all from that property. It's as gorgeous as you could ever imagine. Joe led us on foot downhill to the stream, and he was slipping and making me nervous because he was so old. I told him that I could go in front and he could just fall into me if need be, and he seemed to take a bit of offense saying something to the effect of, "I've lived here all my life."
We finally got to the stream and Joe gave us a little space to do our ritual. I had the ashes in my hands, so I took the lead with the pouring of the ashes and the speech. My sister filmed, and my mom cried for one of the only 5 times in my life I have seen. There is video of this, and maybe I'll put it up some day - but I'm yet to watch it. I'm not ready.
I only took a few things from her house, but one of them was an envelope of all her Christmas cards over the years labeled "KEEP!" I noticed one of them was a shot of what looked to be that very stream where we dumped the ashes from 2007. I texted my mom that picture and asked what year Jim died and she said "2007" and a sad face emoji. Fuck. I lost it.
Seeing those ashes flow into the river, becoming part of it, to be forever lost in it, the final resting place just absorbing into that stream, it's so permanent. Brutal. We only have so much time on this earth. Shit. I don't have anything else to say, guys.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
Day after day we pulled the rental car up to Aunt Linda's house, with her car parked in the driveway, and went in there to clean up, throw things away, and decide what was worth the sentimental value for the family or of value to anyone else. By the third day in a row driving up there I must admit it felt like punching into a job that I hated. The work was hard physically as well as emotionally. We finished the days drained with our feet aching like we were waiting tables on a double shift, our knees and backs hurting from being on the floor in funny positions going through endless stuff, looking for her will, finding what would need to be shredded, and what would go into the endless trash bags.
The kind of things aunt Linda kept were the kind of things that didn’t make it easy to just throw things away. You had to sort through all of it and then you had to pull out all her little sticky notes that she had in her books because you couldn’t give them away to someone else with your aunt's crazy notes inside. She had so many notes written down on envelopes and kept them long-term. Why?
Prior to living in the house we were cleaning out, her and her husband Jim lived up the the mountaisn of Colorado in a house they planned entirely. But for some reason they had extra everything such as wall outlets and electrical sockets. After her husband died she got to old to maintain the mountain house, she couldn't chop all the wood anymore at her age, and bats of all things took over inside. When she moved out of that place to a nice Colorado community back in civilization, she took all of the extra stuff from when they built the mountain house, all the door hinges, electrical outlets, and everything else to the point it was like an aisle at Home Depot if you wanted one of some shade one just every single type. So someone who wants stuff for their garage to have everything would be nuts about that but if the niche person doesn’t come to an auction then it's all going into a landfill.
My mom said it was definitely a stressful way to spend her birthday but it was an enjoyable day because she spent it with her kids and she has great kids. We for sure had some nice times at night reminiscing. I tried to explain to my sister and my mom what was so sad about my days working in Aunt Linda's home. Her having such a cluttered house forced me to have to sift through her whole world, all her areas of expertise, photography, sewing, alternative medicine, architecture, birds, and motorcycles to name a few. As a result I learned more about who she really was for really the first time, and she was already dead. I was too late. But the process forced me to properly mourn her. Of course I didn't get through trying to explain all this without crying, and I had a hell of a time stopping. I can't remember the last time I did that in front of anyone. You ever notice when people start crying when they hadn't planned on it, it's often when they try to explain why someone or something was so important to them? It's something about that explaining process where you're trying to get it out and just lose it.
Oh, and then on the plane ride home we had one of those giant planes with the rows of two on the sides and a big row of four in the middle - and it was totally full. Very scary thinking about catching Covid on that thing. Then this Asian guy in tinted blue glasses hops on board the plane without a mask. The woman next to him said something about being scared of getting sick, and this asshole says, "We're all going to die some time. We can't live in fear. Then he launches into something about how he has guns and how he pets his gun like an animal, and how he will shoot anyone on his property. He says he lives in California and the governor there is a communist. He's saying this all loudly to make sure people around him hear his nonsense. My sister says to me just as loudly, "This would be a great time to put on some headphones!" I said back even more loudly, "Yes, some loud music. The louder the better!" And then my sister tipped off the flight attendant that this guy wasn't masked up. He put it on, but then since he was in front of me diagonally, I could see that he would let it dangle off his ear for long stretches of the flight. I double masked it. What a festering pile of bat guano this dude was. Like the bat guano that took over my aunt's house so long ago.
Okay, that's all I got. Take care, everyone. And reach out to those relatives you don't talk to enough. If you don't have kids of your own, reach out to those nieces and nephews. Or just make sure you keep a nice circle of friends as you get older. I would hate for any of you to let your circle shrink and shrink to the point where you're just pounding vodka all day and letting all your hobbies and interests sit in tons of Tupperware tubs for your relatives to have to sort through in an emotional weekend like the one I had.
Friday, October 02, 2020
Day one of the trip with my mom and my sister to clean and sort through my Aunt Linda’s belongings is done. But I’m up at 4AM, which is due to equal parts too much coffee, too much emotion, and just being used to waking up every night from my kids even when I’m not with them I did a 3AM workout in the hotel fitness center and even that didn’t knock me out. So I figured I would be productive and post a blog on the phone
The day before I left I told my son, Erik, I was a little sad to go on the trip it will be not fun and because I will miss my family and he says “Yeah but when you don’t want to go somewhere and you have to go, you just have to go.” This kid just turned 4 last month, by the way.
The airplane was the smallest one I’ve ever been on. I hit my head on the roof of the airplane because I kept forgetting how low the ceiling was. Then I’m reading the Bill Wymann biography on my Kindle and just after Brian Jones died the book abruptly ended. What?! He still played and toured off of some of the greatest albums ever through out the entire 1970’s but none of that he wanted to cover? I was only like 20 minutes into the flight and now had nothing to read because you can’t download new books without WiFi. Thanks a lot, Bill. Now I’m reading a cooking magazine, and I hate cooking. My sisters was the across the aisle, tapped me on the shoulder, and while silently laughing impersonated my angry flipping through the pages of complex recipes with a million recipes and procedures that I would never dream of attempting.
My mom’s birthday is tomorrow so will do a nice dinner out. But yeah, we will be sorting through her good friend’s junk during the day on her birthday. Don’t die if you’re reading this. And getting old, losing your loved ones, it’s all hard, but when no one is around to keep you in check, don’t randomly turn to alcohol in you 70’s when you were never a drinker. It’s just been emotionally draining sorting through all this stuff, seeing the places on the floor where she fell and laid there for long stretch of time before getting help, and then the other spot where she had the fall that took her for her final hospital stay.
I saw a box labeled “camping” and I could tell she knew what she was doing because I camp a little. I never knew she camped. So I took a little knife that goes in a sheath that I can put in my camping tub to take with me, and I can think fondly of Linda when I unsheathe it.
Hey this is random, but I heard “Valarie” by Jerry Garcia, and I caught one of those types of lyrics that I love, the ones that are so simple yet so incredibly impactful. “Valarie, what’s your complaint? I try to be everything I ain’t.” I think we all try to do that sometimes. Me, I try to cook. And I hate it. But I try.
Good night, blog friends. I think I can finally get some rest. The workout, burping the worm, the shower - none of that worked. This worked. Thanks.
Friday, September 25, 2020
I lost my aunt Linda recently. And that's a wrap on my extended family. I have a small family. My mother was an only child and my father had one sister - Linda. All my grandparents are dead, so I'm fresh out of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. And what's killing me is she was the extent of my extended family for 30 years and I never bothered to pick up a phone. I'm not saying I could have saved her from drinking herself to death, but I could have called her on her birthday at least.
My mom is the best person and someone who I love talking to, but she never just calls out of the blue. I was on my way to play volleyball with some friends I hadn't seen in a long time when I saw her call. Even though my Aunt Linda, while not in great shape, was not in any immediate known health risk, I knew it was the call saying that my aunt Linda had died. And I ignored it. Instead, I pulled into a liquor store to buy a six pack to drink on the volleyball courts. I grabbed a retro pack of Miller Lites and got in line behind a hardcore alcoholic who was getting a lecture from the man working the register. "Have you eaten anything today, Cleave? You need to eat, man." But he still sold it to him. I found it weird that Cleave should wander into that store with my aunt having just died of late onset alcoholism, and people close to her said she had similar patterns of drinking heavily and hardly eating.
I listened to the voicemail confirming what I already knew and got to the forest preserve where my friends were set up with tents, BBQ, coolers full of beer, and a volleyball net set up in a beautiful clearing of land. My volleyball friends gave me shit for never playing anymore because none of them have kids. They don't get it, but I don't get mad at them for it. They'll see. There's no time once you got kids. Through the course of the day I drained the whole sixer. I sucked for the first few games because I was tight, but believe it or not I got okay as the day went on - and I started hammering spikes. The piss I took in the woods led to those prickly things sticking to my gym shorts, and believe it or not they stuck to the shorts after a wash. What are those damn things?
Now, I may be a shit nephew, but my dad is a terrible brother. He has only been out to Colorado once to see her. My mom was actually friends with Aunt Linda before my dad met my mom - it was a set up. Isn't that nice? My mom is the one that went out to Colorado a couple years ago to help Linda clean out her apartment and try to get her back on her feat. My dad doesn't like traveling, so he didn't go. His wife went out there to help his sister out. My mom met one of Linda's friends out there who was trying to help, but Linda was pushing her away - likely due to the alcoholism. This friend was trying to give Linda some tough love, and I think the demons of alcoholism get threatened by that and push folks like that away aggressively. But the shock of the booze problem was news to my mom and all of us.
And it's weird because I never knew my dad to drink to excess until his 70's either. He started getting worried about his heart, got worried about a heart surgery, and starting hitting the sauce harder than ever. I had seen my dad drunk zero times in the 80's, 90's, and 2000's, and then late in the 2010's he was passing out, trying to order dessert after we just did, and my nephews were laughing at him as he was lying on the floor blind drunk. I can't help but think there was some unresolved stuff in my dad and Linda's upbringing, but who knows.
My mom and sister flew out a couple of weeks ago to clean out Linda's house and figure out what to do with her estate, and it's a total mess. The house is all over the place. She lost faith in U.S. banks and had money in all kinds of European spots, and there is no clear cut will of any kind. I have to go out there now in a couple of weeks and sort through all of the stuff. They need my manpower now to move all the junk around, but I really should have volunteered before they had to ask me to do it. In a lot of ways I'm a lot like my dad. Just trying to avoid problems.
My sister is a little older than me and remembers Linda in her glory days a little better than me. I guess my sister went to Linda's house and spent the night there. It was the first time my sister listened to records with headphones and it sounded amazing. Aunt Linda gave me a bunch of records, and that might be one of the last times I saw her. I catalog all my records in a spreadsheet and put in where I got them. Aunt Linda's records bequeathed (I know she was alive so not the right word- but such a fun word) to me are all in pristine condition, and I still think of her every single time I pull one out. Lots of Willie Nelson. Apparently she was quite an athlete in her day. My dad still boasts about the time the two of them beat me and my neighbor friend in 2-on-2 basketball on the driveway.
So off to Colorado I go. My sister came back a little depressed for a while, thinking about how sad it was for someone to die all alone like that. Her husband died around a dozen years ago or so, and that's when she slowly drifted off into alcoholism. Around a year or so before she died she had an incident where she fell and couldn't get up and was there on the floor for a day or two before getting any help. Jesus, I get sick just thinking about that. Imagine that. When my mom and sister were going through receipts they found that she had bought hundreds of dollars worth of vodka and then would find another receipt for just as much vodka few days later. My two sons are amazing for a lot of reasons, but one really good reason is someone will hopefully give a shit about me when I reach that age and not let me slip into that state. I mean, daughters would be better in that capacity, but I like to think I'm charming enough to keep it going into my twilight years.
To Aunt Linda.
I always enjoyed the cards you would send with your own photography. I have no idea why you wanted to live in the middle of the mountains where you had to have a gun with you at all times in case of bears, but I have to admire the badassery involved with that decision. Jesus, the mailman wouldn't even go up to where you lived. We had to send stuff to a P.O. Box. Anyway, I'm sorry I was a shit nephew and didn't pick up the phone to give you a call. You were probably lonely but too proud to reach out yourself.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
So my kids go to two different locations every morning. The 4-year-old (Erik) is going to a Catholic preschool for in-person masked-up learning, and the 1-year-old (Desi) is goes to his nanny. More often than not I have been picking them up with the bicycle and the little chariot thing that they ride in. Sometimes it's the only time I get outside, and I figure life is going really, really suck when it starts getting cold out soon. Also, there are times where it's my only exercise for the day. It's about 8 miles there and back, and that's no easy task when you're pulling all that weight.
I got some of it down to a science. One thing that has been working out great is using one of those exercise belt/fanny pack deals with the water bottle holsters. I found one that will fit my mammoth phone, my Costanza wallet, my janitor style keys, and a Covid mask or two. I never feel good about stuff in my pockets when I'm biking. And then one trick I figured out is I could get a wire from my phone to a speaker tucked into one of the water bottle holsters, with that water bottle at home. Voila! Except when the 4-year-old wants to tell me about random things along the way so I have to pause the jams - such as jeeps and muscle cars that he has spotted on the road.
There are those days where Erik starts screaming because Desi is pinching him, but then there are other days where they're nice and quiet, I look back there, and Erik is holding Desi's hand. And that's just the best.