Another Memorial Day weekend has come and gone

This weekend is a big deal for my family. We have a family get together every year, at the same lake, all renting the same cabins that we have for decades. I haven’t missed one of these since 1986. My grandmother has been going since 1947. So again, it’s a big deal.

I always come back feeling very contemplative for a few days. I think being around so much family, and being reminded of so many childhood memories, and being disconnected from technology and the relentless onslaught of information twenty-four hours a day, gives my mind a much needed break.

Regardless of how restful it is, we always come back feeling exhausted. There is lots of packing and planning involved, particularly in regards to meals because Laure has celiac disease. She can’t eat what the rest of us are eating, so she has to plan everything out ahead of time, we do the shopping, and cook/prepare it all the day before we leave. She also deals with depression and a tremendous amount of anxiety, which of course is aggravated by the anticipation of the trip, and every year she spends the entire week prior feeling overwhelmed, and we have repeated conversations where she tells me she doesn’t want to go, and I assure her that she always enjoys it while we’re there, and she just needs to power through this hump. And she always does enjoy it, and looks forward to it the rest of the year.

Then there is the challenge of getting a teenager with Asperger’s to properly pack and prepare to leave. He too insists that it’s miserable there, he hates it and hates going, and there are lots of dirty looks and attitude, and double and triple checking to make sure he packed everything I printed out on the list we prepared for him. Then of course we get there and we barely see him for three days because he’s off playing with other kids and having a ridiculous amount of fun.

I have a saved checklist that I print off every year, and it takes a few hours to get everything together and pack it all into our van. And on Monday morning, it all has to be packed back into the van, the cabin cleaned, we drive the hour and a half back home, unpack and put it all away, start laundry, shower, and spend the afternoon napping.

As much fun as we have every year, it’s exhausting.

We’d planned to take Laure off into the woods and do another nude shoot, but the mosquitoes were so bad this year that Laure probably would not have survived it. So here is a photo of her from one of Memorial Day weekends past.

 

I’ve never posted, or talked much at all, about my mother’s death

I know that sounds sad, it’s not. The truth is that when my mother died, three years ago, we were basically strangers. Over the previous twenty-two years, we’d had maybe four or five conversations face to face, most of which did not go well. We occasionally exchanged email and snail-mail, which were mostly just arguments.

My mom was mentally ill. She was originally diagnosed as schizophrenic, but that was later changed to bipolar disorder. However, all of the reading I’ve done, and based off of my own experiences with others with these illnesses, and remembering certain behaviors growing up, I’m still inclined to believe that the first diagnosis was the correct one.

Growing up with her was no picnic, but as children, years before she was officially diagnosed, we had no idea that anything was wrong with her. The way she behaved was all we knew, so we thought it was normal, and never gave it a second thought.

It wasn’t until after her second fake suicide attempt that she was finally diagnosed, but only because a judge ordered that she do a stint in the state mental hospital because she was a danger to herself. I say they were fake suicide attempts, because she always arranged things so that someone would find her. People tell me it was a cry for help, but if you knew my mom, you’d know how far she was willing to go to recenter the attention on her, and get people talking to her again that she’d burned bridges with for the umpteenth time.

On the subject of help, I credit my mother’s relentless, fanatical faith for her failure to get proper help until she was well into middle age. She preferred prayer, faith healing, so-called “christian counselors”, and even the occasional attempted home exorcism by friends, over any actual, qualified, legitimate care. Even after her stay at the mental hospital, which lasted several months, she abandoned it all when she came home. The meds, the therapy, all of it, going right back to the old faith-based methods that had failed her over and over again, all of her life.

I have friends, and have had friends, even dated one girl, that was bipolar, and several friends that are schizophrenic. I’ve seen that people with these illnesses can lead relatively normal, happy, productive lives, even though they do struggle and have to work harder at it. With proper care, it can be done.

My mother actively fought proper care, and I recognized this at the age of eighteen. I had a bit of a “coming to” episode while I was in basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. A drill sergeant knew something wasn’t right based off of some of my behaviors, and the lack of mail coming to me with my  last name on it. I was pulled into his office one day, and told to temporarily drop the military formalities that were normally so strict and unforgiving during boot camp, and talk. And boy, did I fucking talk. I had never, in my life, ever discussed the details of my childhood with anyone. I owe a great deal to Drill Sergeant Luscowski. That conversation changed my life.

I left Fort Knox feeling in control of my life for the first time. I knew that I had some difficult changes to make, but I made them, and I stuck to them. I took some time away from my mother. I didn’t speak to her for about a year. Not a peep. This wasn’t a punishment, or a silent treatment, it was just me understanding that my mother clouds things. She was a whirlwind of destruction, and I needed to clear my head to get my life figured out, and decide how to deal with her.

During my first year of college, I finally made contact with my mother. I sent her a letter and laid down some rules. Things like, don’t drag me into your arguments, don’t preach at me, don’t constantly rehash the past (which she loved to do, she couldn’t just move on from anything). Basically, if we were going to talk, let’s talk about our day, let’s talk about how we’re doing, what our plans are. It wasn’t a lot of rules, four or five, and simply laid out.

I told her that if she couldn’t abide by those rules, I could not be a part of her life. I had been walking on egg shells around her my entire life, constantly worried about what might upset her, always trying to calm what ever storm she was at the center of, doing anything and everything to avoid conflict. Again, I grew up with that. So I had no idea that it wasn’t normal. It left me with my own issues, for which I still periodically go see a therapist about, and for which I have had to develop tools and coping mechanisms to deal with.

Her response was what I expected. It was nine pages of bible verses, rebukes, demands that I not dictate to her how things are going to be, and on and on about my disrespect. I wrote her back, and responded with a single line.

“You’re not listening, and I’m not going to play this game with you.”

That was it. I folded it up, stuck it in an envelope and mailed it back to her, and didn’t speak to her again for seven years. This was all in the late 1990’s, right when the internet was beginning to take off, and email had not yet been widely adopted. Letters would come from her, and I wouldn’t even open them. I’d put the unopened letter back into another envelope, and send it back to her. She would try to relay messages through friends, and family, usually my brother. I would usually say nothing in response, and tell them to say nothing.

I had learned from experience that my mother’s illness went in cycles, which completed about every three years. She would be fine, making friends, being social, etc, but then pretty soon she’d get paranoid. She’d over react to something someone said or did, or flat out fabricate a lie about someone having said or did something. The thing was though, that in the instances when nothing actually happened and she flat out made some bullshit up, she actually believed it. It wasn’t quite lying because she was fully convinced that it was real, and no one could change her mind. I watched this in action just through our few exchanges over the years. I would write her a letter or an email, and she would respond and say that I said something that was exactly the opposite of what I had actually said to her, or that I had said something that I had not said at all, and that I could prove by simply referring to our email or to my letter.

She would continue in this manner for months, slowly working friends and family against one another until everyone had their fill and quit talking to her, which she would see as more persecution, and eventually she would have a major break down, beg for forgiveness and for the opportunity to make amends. Then the process would start all over again. About three years was how long this all took.

I could tell where she was in the cycle by the messages that came either through others, or through email.

At around the seven year mark, when the internet was basically what it is today, and she’d tracked me down and blasted me with messages through various electronic means, I finally decided to write her back and just feel things out. It was like no time had passed since that last letter from her. She took the opportunity to send more bible verses, more rebukes, more threats of hell and damnation for my sins against her and against god, tell me how terrible I was to her… on and on.

This time I had a bit of a back and forth with her for a week or so, but ultimately I’d had my fill and told her not to write me anymore. I had to get creative about it this time though. I wrote bits of code into my blog that would tag her browser when she commented on my blog, and then from that point on whenever she’d try to visit my site, my blog would see the cookie and redirect her somewhere else.

I created a black hole in my email account that would immediately delete her email without ever notifying me, so I would never know she sent it. I blocked her on various social media sites, and had to repeatedly ask friends and family NOT to give her my contact information.

For the most part, this succeeded for a few more years, until grandma got cancer. My mother’s adoptive mother came down with breast cancer, but by the time they caught it, it was everywhere, in every organ, every part of her body. There was no avoiding mom throughout this, try as I might. Even grandma and grampa were no longer speaking to her at this point. In true mom form, she was absolutely awful to them and her older brother right up until the day grandma died. It really was terrible to watch.

Then of course, mom told all of her friends and family that she and grandma had had this touching, tearful, mother-daughter re-union before grandma died, which was yet another of mom’s total fabrications. As usual, mom was incapable of distinguishing her lie from the truth, and actually believed that’s how it went down. I know differently, because I was there, through all of it.

It happened again when my Uncle Mike died. Mike was mom’s older brother. I was fortunate enough to rekindle a great friendship with Uncle Mike in the years before he died, and he ended up being a tremendous source of support during my late twenties. Again, same behavior with mom. It was terrible.

Then Grandpa died a few years later, and this whole process repeated. Interaction with mom was unavoidable, so we had a few conversations here and there, only one of which that I can recall actually being amicable. The rest were all accusations of having poisoned him against her, and other such nonsense. She tried to get the sheriff involved but mom had earned herself a reputation with the sheriff’s departments in two counties, and any call from her usually resulted in them calling grampa to see if he was okay.

My cousin Tammy (Uncle Mike’s oldest daughter), myself, and Laure cared for Grampa at home, as he’d opted for in-home hospice care. We fed him until he stopped eating. We bathed him and helped him go to the bathroom. We changed his catheter bag. We sat and talked to him when he would wake up angry to still be alive. We played his favorite records for him, and helped him finish his puzzles. Grampa died in his sleep, as I held is left hand and Tammy held his right. He was 90 years old.

My mother was absolutely awful throughout the whole ordeal. It really was terrible, and we all felt terrible for Grampa, having to see his daughter behave like that in his final days.

I didn’t speak to her again until just before she died.

Mom died on May 18th, 2015, of pancreatic cancer. At her request, I did drive up to visit her one last time, just a few days before she died. Oddly enough, the visit went fine. We just sat on her porch and talked about what I was up to, plans she’d made for after she died, we talked about my kids and about Laure. It was calm, yet a little awkward because we were both actively avoiding certain subjects.

As I got in my car to leave, her christian counselor approached me in the drive way. I forget her name, mostly because I couldn’t take her seriously enough to bother committing it to memory.

“You need to forgive her, and you need to explain to her why you quit talking to her.” She said to me, both hands on the door of my van, and looking at me with this look of sorrow that seemed to be for me.

I put my hands on the wheel, and stared at her through my sunglasses for a moment.

“She has you completely fooled.” I said to her. “You’ve bought into her bullshit, hook, line and sinker… haven’t you.”

She stepped back, her facial expression having completely changed to one of shock.

“I’ve told her, in writing, on the phone, and in person, why I left.” I continued. “She knows why, she just chooses not to accept it. And I forgave her twenty years ago, but forgiving her doesn’t mean giving her license to trample through my life, and the lives of my family, with her bullshit.”

This woman still said nothing. She just stood there with her mouth open, turning her head a few times as though trying to form a response.

“And you’re a fucking fraud, who’s done untold amounts of damage to who knows how many sick people. You should be in prison.” I said, before starting the van and driving away.

I’ve been a bit sullen off and on lately, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my childhood and listening to a lot of the music I loved as a kid, growing up in the 80’s. It occurred to me a few days ago that we’re creeping up on the anniversary of mom’s death, and I surmised that that is why I’ve been feeling this way.

It feels good to articulate it all.

Are you sure you want to follow me?

Because I keep getting followed by christians and right wing whack-jobs on twitter, that clearly haven’t bothered to go through my feed, this post is primarily aimed at you, just so you understand who you’ve added. This may also be helpful for people that followed me because they agreed with some of my political tweets, but you may not want me showing up in your feed.

1) I swear. A lot. I follow porn actors, alt models, and often re-tweet what they post. So if you follow me, you’re going to see boobs in your feed.

2) I am not a christian. I was, for twenty-five years. I grew up with it. I’ve seen christianity for what it really is. I’ll never go back. I’m not going to get on you about being a christian, or call you names or accuse you of anything, but if you start pushing it on me directly, I’ll tell you to kindly keep your religious bullshit to yourself. I’m not interested.

3) I am not a republican or a democrat, and comparing those two parties is like comparing two bowls of steaming dog shit. On most issues I’m pretty far on the left, on some I’m on the right, on others I’m middle of the road. I’m best described as “unaffiliated”. C’mon, what are our alternatives? The tea party is just a more extreme, bat shit fucking crazy version of the republican party. Personally, I make no distinction between the two. The green party… yeah, right. As far as the libertarian party… we already have a great example of a libertarian nation in the world. No gun control, not much in the way of taxes, very little government, everyone is responsible for themselves, the weak get eaten alive by the strong… it’s called Somalia. Feel free to vacation there and see what you think.

Face it folks, the only parties that matter in this country are the democrats and the republicans, because they’ve engineered the system to be that way. It isn’t a theory, it isn’t a secret, they haven’t even tried to hide it. Most people just aren’t paying enough attention to notice how the system has been rigged right out in the open.

Our two party system is a complete joke, and has been one continuous train wreck for more than half a century.

4) The GOP has firmly convinced me that they are predominately corrupt, hate filled, racist, sexist, elitist bigots, trying to shove corporate America’s cock firmly up the ass of the average American citizen, all the while convincing them that they’re getting the better end of the deal. Sadly, they’re succeeding and somehow finding ways to blame the economic state of this country on the very citizens they’re fucking in the ass. The Democrats are ultimately just as owned by corporate America as the GOP, and most of those that aren’t are too spineless to try and do anything about it.

UPDATE 02/22/2018: If you’re still a Trump supporter at this stage in the game, just what in the almighty blue fuck is wrong with you?

5) I believe “the gays” should have all the same rights and privileges as any other US citizen. THEY ARE U.S. CITIZENS. Why the hell are their rights even a debate?

6) I seem to be one of the few people in this country that understands that capitalism is an economic system, not a form of government. The general public seems to be very confused about this fact. Capitalism does not equal democracy and it certainly does not equal freedom. What the US refers to as capitalism is a perverted, lobotomized version of a system that used to work for the American people. Now it’s just a tool to exploit them.

7) Gun violence is much, MUCH more than simply a gun problem. It is a mental health problem, an education problem, and an economic problem. I’m a gun owner myself, but that being said, I do believe in sensible gun control. The rash of gun violence in this country is a symptom of so many other things that are horribly, horribly wrong with America. There is no one silver bullet that’s going to fix it. Fixing it will require many changes that a lot of Americans are too selfish, or just too fucking ignorant to want to make.

8) I believe socialized medicine is the way to go. Yes, I’m fully aware that it’s not “free”, our taxes might go up to pay for it, unless we get the wealthy to pay their fair share, and we close a lot of other tax loop holes. Even if my taxes do go up in such a case, this doesn’t bother me because I can do basic math. As a family of four, we normally fork out between two and three thousand dollars a year in insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles and shit that insurance companies find ways to weasel out of paying. That’s just a normal year of colds, flu season, dental work, glasses and all the usual shit. I don’t believe for a second that under a single payer system, my taxes would go up to anywhere close to what I normally pay out every year.

The US pays more for it’s health care than any other developed nation in the world, and of all of those nations, we have the least healthy population. I’ve taken the time to get the facts from the US government board of education web site, the world health organization website, numerous medical journals, and NOT from Fox news. Our health care system is an industry, designed to make money. As a money making industry, it’s an astounding success. As a health care system, it’s a colossal failure.

I have a college degree, a reasonably well paying job, great insurance, I’m a home owner, I’m a veteran, and I’m pointing all of this out so that you understand that I’m not looking for what the right sees as a “hand out”. We will go a hell of a lot farther working together and helping each other, than we will being a nation of selfish assholes.

9) Donald Fucking Trump is the same stupid, childish, narcissistic, lying, corporate elitist sack of shit he was before the election. I see so many people posting about how they regret having voted for him, and while I’m grateful that you people have come around, I have a really difficult time understanding how you didn’t see him for what he was when you filled in that little oval. I do understand though, that there was no good outcome to this election, there was just a slightly less messy and fucked up one, which I would have gladly taken. But who knows, as I’ve said in other posts, President Trump might actually be just the kick in the balls that this country needed to get it’s shit together, if it isn’t already too late for that.

So then.

If you listen to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly, you probably quit reading this a long time ago because you decided that I’m an evil, fascist, communist, anti-american, terrorist sympathizing nazi that wants to turn your children gay and euthanize your parents when they turn sixty-five.

In any case, if you’ve made it this far, you now have enough information to make an educated decision about whether following me on twitter was the prudent thing to do. I’m a grown up, I won’t be upset if you unfollow me.

Sincerely,

@deadtom