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. 




LL Cool Joe said...

I'm really sorry to hear about your Aunt Linda, both her death and her life.

I don't mean to be a party pooper but I wouldn't be totally convinced your sons will be with you in old age either. Seems to me you give the best of your life bringing up your kids up, but that's still no guarantee they'll be with you when you are alone in old age.

Kono said...

I had two alcoholic grandfathers, a lot of people worried i was going to follow in their footsteps when i was younger, i didn't want to tell them i've always liked drugs better :) Oddly, i now talk to my uncle on a regular basis since my dad passed, it's his older brother and though it's not my dad we still cover a lot of the same topics... it's actually pretty cool.

And somewhere on the lounge is a story about a ranking smack dealer i used to sell high end weed to back in the day, we were sitting in a bar one day so he could buy weed off me, a bar where he sold stamp bags out of during the day, this kid came in from his hood and he proceeded to lecture the kid about the evils of heroin and how this shit could kill you and he needed to kick. He then sold his a few bags and went back to drinking and talking about how good the weed was... it's a fucked up business now innit?

Aunt Linda lived how she wanted, it's tough to see or hear about people who suffer from addiction (something i'm well acquainted with) but there's nothing anyone can do except try and even then the only person who can change the pattern is the addict themselves. She did hook you up with records though so she was alright in my book. (and check out, a great resource and way to catalog records and see what they're worth.)

Jonathan said...

I'm sorry to hear about your Aunt Linda, Kenneth. I can understand why you feel bad about not calling, but also I don't think you should be too hard on yourself. You're for sure not alone in reflecting too late that you wished to have stayed more in touch with someone who has passed. You were busy working and bringing kids up a lot of that time, right? That's no small commitment and so easy to let other things which could/should be priorities slide. I know I've been guilty of similar.

It may also be a comfort to you to remember that your Aunt did have those glory years that your sister saw a little more of. I imagine she was quite the force to be reckoned with, in her day. Clearly the bears of Colorado chose not to mess with her, which says something.

Oh.. and I also wanted to say thank you for your lovely comment to my last post, like four months ago now. I just went to reply but seems comments have closed on it- barred by my own blog would you believe it! So I came here to find what you were up to, and glad I did.

I'll be posting again next few days btw so if you did want to pop over..

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

LL: I just assume my kids will outlive me. It's terrible thinking about the other way around, but yeah, I guess it's a possibility. Sheesh. Hahahhaha.

Kono: That's so awesome that you keep in touch with your dad's brother. That's exactly what some people need. Even if they act like they don't want people around, they need it. Didn't find any more records in her house. I cherish the ones she gave me though. So much Willie Nelson, speaking of pot. Actually, she had some edible pot in her fridge that I would munch on through out the days. Maybe that got me so in touch with my feelings.

Jonathan: Very thoughtful words, my man. You sound like good people. I'm coming by your page and adding you to the blogroll.