Category Archives: inheritance
“Why do you carry a chair around if you prefer to sit on the ground?” Read the rest of this entry
I have lived inside for more than five years. In rooms that are four walls or at least some kind of four wall concept, most with doors that shut. These rooms are in houses with bathrooms that have big ole water wasting flush toilets where I do the vast majority of my business. There are ceilings on these houses that keep out rain for the most part. There are mattresses in my rooms, now there is even a bedframe, a head and a footboard. There are rooms with stoves and working refrigerators and when we say we are out of food we are not counting the pantry full of the food bank cans we prefer the least. Read the rest of this entry
I was 13 or 14 and just barely out of the house. I was visiting my grandparents on my Dad’s side. I was taking my niece, who was my brothers’ baby, to meet them for the first time.
I was on the floor in the front room with her while my Dad and his wife sat looking on in the company of my Grandma and Grandpa.
That floor was lovely; I grew up on it sometimes. And those laps, the laps of my Grandma and Grandpa, I grew up on them too. Read the rest of this entry
I had tried to put it behind me. I loved her so much, she was untouchable, she was perfect to me. She was never reachable even when we shared a bed or a car or 15 states. She was the taste of port and cigarettes and late nights. She was the color of every red and green and yellow pencil in her case when they blended over faceless figures dancing on the beach.
I couldn’t be touched either. I couldn’t stop drinking, I couldn’t stop panicking, I couldn’t stop naming my days after her moods.
I had finally left her. I was in Portland where I had been four months. My lover was upstairs in her room getting ready for the party. I was in a tutu and boom boom shorts putting an abundance of snack trays out. I heard the door behind me, I turned around double fisting dumpstered cheese and there she was, next to another friend I had left behind.
We all started laughing. Had she seen me in anything but carharts and flannels? The cheese was melting into my tattered elbow length gloves before anyone said anything.
The next day she came again. She said she loved me and that she had been a fool. She told me to move back with her, she told me we would start again. At least I swear this is what I heard.
I told her to pick me up the next day. I walked inside and up the stairs and with no notice and no empathy told the person who loved me, who had fed and housed and nursed me, the one who kept the wine coming, the one whose kids were very used to me, that I was leaving the next day.
I was surprised she was upset. I thought it was unreasonable.
She picked me up at the planned time, I thought that was a sign of how things had changed. She picked me up in a ¾ ton diesel van, navy blue called Boxcar Bertha.
Two weeks later she told me she was leaving. She had trained me to take over her job in the office without me realizing that’s what she was doing. No one would have willingly signed on for that job and this was the way she could get out. She moved to the town she had picked me up from.
She left the apartment paid up for a few months to soften the blow.
The blow was not softened.
I drank alone in that apartment, tried to fuck other girls in that bed but could not do it. I did all the work I needed too and nothing more. I listened to one leonard cohen song and one cat power album on repeat for hours. The cake she had bought me for my birthday molded in the kitchen.
At some point she left the west coast all together. Before she did she gave me Boxcar Bertha. I had no license or address or means of switching the title. In those first months it was still in her name and I drove around collecting parking tickets hoping that parking enforcement would find her in the Carolinas and she would think of me.
Bertha had a good long run with me, many parking related accidents, many miraculously close calls with bigger problems. So many people lived in her, traveled in her. All across the country and back through new paint and break downs.
She was built by a company who, in an attempt to compete with other vans of the time, had quickly converted a gasoline car engine into diesel and shoved it in a van body. To touch the alternator with my fingertips I had to have my arm in the engine up to the shoulder. She had a dog house between the front seats that was good for graffiti or for people from the back of the van to sit on during brief visits to the driver.
This is where all of her times with me began….
When I was 13 my world was changing. I was touched by a divine insight. I knew rather suddenly that the world of my parents and teachers was make believe, that all of my dreams would come true but not if I stayed, barely surviving the daily brutality of lonesome hallways and violent rooms.
Somehow, though I had never seen it done, I knew I could just go. I knew I could just stop everything. I knew I couldn’t say no but I could run from what I would have said no to.
After my first leap of faith, out of clean sheets and into dirty streets, I was handed out of a police station into my Dads car and out of my Dads car onto my sisters’ couch.
The year before, when I had still lived with my mom, my toe had ached every night. It was the big toe on my left foot. Every night it would ache so badly it woke me up.
In the daytime it never hurt.
I knew something magical had to be occurring.
It was the year in the South Puget Sound when it rained for 93 days straight. A constant drip, sometimes a drizzle, sometimes a downpour, but it never quit completely in those months.
I finally figured that my toe was weather predicting. Every night it hurt and every day it was still raining.
When the spring came and the rain stopped, I made my break for it. I was on a lot of adrenaline, a couple of drugs, and a lot of Wow! What was that? Wow! Where am I? Wow! Who is that? I don’t think I noticed my toe hurting, which fit my theory.
No rain? Well than, no aching weather predicting toe.
It was on my sisters’ couch some months later that the pain came back. But it was summer and there was no rain, I did not understand. The pain persisted, now into the days and my toe started to change. It grew and turned purple and green and excreted the foulest smelling liquid any part of my body ever has. It made the couch I lived on reek the same way. One drop of the stuff and you would have to replace the carpet or just set fire to the car.
My brother came over one day as I was being told I would have to go to the doctor. I was still convinced this was a spiritual problem. He sat me down with a cigarette on the front porch and said, “Look kid. This toe of yours is a lot like the punk rock life style. It is smelly. It is pustulent. And sooner or later it is going to need a lot of therapy.”
As it turned out the bone in my toe had got fed up like the rest of me. We were both tired of living in the constraint we were given. I had run off. My toe bone, however, had started to grow. It was growing and growing at an incredible rate, pushing up my toenail and stretching everything around it. It would not have stopped until it made it out of my foot.
Doctors removed a full half-inch of new bone. I was a minor so they didn’t have to listen to me when I told them I wanted to keep it. It is in a jar somewhere getting taken to all kinds of conferences for doctors who specialize in osteochlondromas because no one had ever seen one grow like that, or that fast, or that big. If, in your many travels, you come across my toebone in a jar, please grab it for me.
Still kinda seems like a spiritual problem.
When I met her I was two years old. She let me know immediately that I had been a mistake. I was made wrong and that the way for her to love me and to protect the world would be for her to train me to be good, in spite of my wicked nature. It was going to be a hard job because even at two years old I was ripe with manipulation and greed and disrespect. She was a hero and certainly God brought us together so that she could help divert the pain that I was already bringing to the world by existing.
It was not easy for her, long hours, wooden spoons, burning water and diligence. She kept a constant watch. Even when I was in the relative safety of my mothers house during the rest of the week I could feel her with me. I could feel her watching, I could cry thinking she might find out that I wore baggy shirts she didn’t like and still rocked back and forth when I was expected to sit still. I listened to rock and roll, I masturbated.
I knew she was going to kill me. I knew it wouldn’t work. She could not get me to stop making mistakes because I WAS the mistake. Eventually she would give up, I wondered if they would find my body and if she would get in trouble or win a Peace prize.
I tried so hard. I memorized every rule she ever made and I followed them to the letter. But the rules would change and I would be in trouble again. A lot of times I was in trouble because other people loved me. Clearly I had manipulated them because they were otherwise reasonable people and I was unlovable.
Every tiny thing I did that was not to her liking was devastating. My stomach would sink when she looked at me, fire in her eyes. When she would flick me in the forehead for being the stupidest person she knew I would feel knives in every inch of my skin.
Where I was raised there was no such thing as an accident.
Where I was raised there was no forgiveness.
Whether I did not finish dinner quickly enough, or cried when shampoo got in my eyes or came inside too early because I was cold or shut the car door the wrong way… I was a criminal. It was all evidence of a larger more dangerous disease: Me.
If the stove broke we moved. If the neighbors were loud we moved. If the walls were flat we moved. If the sun came up again we moved. If her boss said she needed to work longer hours we moved. If the furniture company found us we moved. If she met a man we moved. If she left a man we moved.
If her sister snapped at me for getting finger prints on the microwave door we didn’t speak to her for five years. If her brother got bailed out by her mom again we didn’t see them for five years. If one sister owed another sister money or if one sister was caught sleeping with another woman or if one sister said the wrong thing at the wrong moment we didn’t speak to them anymore. They didn’t exist except as a cold story of how we had been done wrong.
Where I was raised, if you were uncomfortable, you ran and when you got a safe distance away, you only looked back to decide whose fault it was.
My No House
I didn’t run because of anything, I just kept a steady pace. I was the blur you saw sweeping through your living room, I was a hand in your back pocket helping myself on an Austin sidewalk. I was the beer you thought you had left in the fridge but couldn’t find when you got home. I was a warm place you lay down with in every cheap motel on I-80. I was a shadow, a deep feeling, longing, praying, wondering if anything would ever be different, shadow. I was the shine on the back of a rainbow fish that is already disappearing the split second you thought you had seen it.
I could not subject myself to people and I could not be subjected to them. Mistakes were inevitable and fatal to all the good feelings I wanted. Every relationship beginning, friend, lover, sibling, every one began with a timer being started. I was always wondering, who would fall down first? Who would we blame later when we were both alone again? Everyone would always be alone again.
Again and forever and always.
Where I raised myself you never held on and you never let go.
My New Olde House
I am tired.
I am tired of being loneliness. I just want it to be a passing feeling like the rest.
I am tired of the world I was given, where no one loves each other past and for their frailties.
I am tired of holding on so hard to what I think might make people love me.
A seed will not sprout in a freezer.
The soil is damp and warm under the surface.
All that running made a good strong heart. The beat is the sound of all those years of living when it didn’t make sense that I was.
A heart made of running….now meant for what takes more strength.
Strong enough to forgive and to see and to let go and to hold on.
The world is a lonely place when people are not allowed to make mistakes, and I am not alone anymore.
half finished quilts
Collogue starring rhododendrons
post cards from friends in Esperanto
soft white undershirts
my pink plastic suitcase full of construction paper turtles and 8 yr. olde vignettes
handmade jewelry box
boy scout silver beaver award
a collection of pictures taken of people when they first woke up
Santa carved in a pencil
set of kids table and chairs made from one piece of plywood 50 years ago
Calvin and Hobbes comics
English to Spanish dictionary
English to German dictionary
English to Turkish dictionary
Highlighted bibles and books of Mormon
John Candy VHS tapes
Drawers and drawers and drawers of pens
The true story of what happened to my grandparents and their siblings was not inside of the piano that everyone wanted or the engagement ring that forced brothers to stop speaking to one another. The true story was in the piles leftover for Goodwill and the Dump. The piles the scavenger took when the predators had dispersed.
7 years old.
Bush senior had begun to bomb Iraq for the first time…that time.
My grandmother, my mom’s mom, spent her days watching television evangelists in her crowded trailer. In the early years of their marriage, she almost bankrupted her and her husband by sending money to Pat and the purple haired woman. Her children hated him for cutting her off from the bank accounts. They did not like having one more person to go through if they needed bail money. They also didn’t like how she got a little edgier when she couldn’t guarantee her place in heaven with a cash donation. She also missed receiving cards from (she imagined) them personally, thanking her for her generosity.
They were the only two people in the world that considered her generous. They were the two whom she gifted and never called later to remind them.
It was from these voices of her God that she learned about the prophecies of the bible. When Papa Bush began a public slaughter of the already devastated Iraqi peoples she had it on good authority that it was a definite sign of the end times.
She immediately set about gathering her 6 children and all their children in her trailer. The trailer sat on a nice wooded hill surrounded by her husbands beautiful tomatoes. Whenever I remember him it is on a little riding tractor lawn mower weaving his way through the trees. His work was never done though I was never quite sure what it was he was working on. He was a kind quiet man. My grandma had never stayed put after leaving my grandpa until that overall wearing potbellied sweetie came along.
She gathered them all; myself included and began a prayer meeting. She talked about the hell that was about to be seen on Earth. It was her intention that we all stay there together to await our certain death. It was her contention that a nuclear holocaust could be expected momentarily.
I learned in my adult life that this was the last time all her children ever did anything together to appease her. It was actually the last time that all 6 at once would be willing to be in a room with each other. No one else believed her idea; they just figured they would stay with her a few days until she settle down.
The trouble for me was that none of the adults present told me that it was Grandma and not Western Washington that was exploding. Everyone was playing along so well that I believed, with what capacity I had, everything I heard her saying. Most of my cousins were playing in the woods, beating each other up or trying to have sex or whatever other brutal shit they were learning at home. I was, however, glued to my Mom’s lap crying and shaking for what was years to a child body.
This is a memory of mine that I didn’t have until I was grown up and told about it by a kid who at the time was old enough to remember how devastated I was.
A 7-year-old child can barely understand why people can’t see through them if they block the television. I was trying to understand the end of everything and wrestling with the magnitude of heaven.
15 years old
I was living in a small room on the top floor of a haunted punk house where knives flew offs counters into walls and mice ran choreographed circles in the living room.
I sat rocking facing a wall for months. I felt everything falling from under me, I jumped at any loud noise, and I drank to quiet my nerves. When planes flew overhead I cried. My feelings were so big that they had the same authority as the purple haired woman had for Grandma. The end was upon me.
If I heard a plane noise while I was out I would search the sky desperately until I discovered which kind of plane it was and decided whether it was likely to drop a bomb. If it was likely I would run to the nearest public restroom, lock myself inside. My eyes and jaw and fists would be clenched shut.
When the noise passed I would slowly open one eye to see if I was still alive.
Most kids my age were worried about what to wear to school or whether they would have to be chaperoned at prom. Maybe they had not heard it was the End of the World or maybe they coped with rhinestones and extracurricular activities.
My Dad just recently found out that things are not going so well in the World of Humans. He started to be very worried about food and energy and water and weather and money. He found out from Facebook, who had the same authority for him as the purple haired lady had for Grandma or my fear had for me, that it is likely that the military will rise against Obama, taking over the government and holding the country hostage in a brutal and indefinite marshal law.
He has begun to collect canned food when it’s on sale and inquire with friends about food preservation. He goes fishing more often.
He started growing squash. The first year they were as big as my head, then from those seed, the next year they were as big as my head and shoulders and this year they are as big as my torso. Also this year, zucchini the size of my thigh surround the torso squash. Everything flavorless and everything gigantic. The larger the vegetable the greater comfort he takes.
I have been making zucchini bread and making zucchini bread.
My sweet brother from a different mother has gallons of water in the basement and the main floor of his home. Both, so that if one part of the house is inaccessible She may be retrieved in the other part.
He feels the little earthquakes. The ones that only science tools usually notice. He feels them and he waits. They are calling something bigger.
He raises his sweet baby and loves his sweetest sweetheart and goes to school to learn how to use all his personal experience as a homeless youth to help homeless youth. He sings and grows the only orange cosmos anyone has ever seen. If, by now, you have seen orange cosmos you can be sure they are a direct descendant of the ones in his yard.
He tends to what needs tending as if everything might have a chance to keep going. He does this even and especially as he feels the plates under his feet make little big shifts. Every couple of years he waters the cosmos with the jugs from the basement and the main floor and refills them with fresh water.
My mom keeps a bible on her bedside table and keeps the world at a distance.
Friends run away to the woods and make houses and grow food and keep the world at a distance.
Kids break windows or carry signs.
Today, it is cold outside. The porch was frosty until mid morning. I pray for more snow, especially in the places where the spring waters depend on it. I hear stories and I see them in everything all around me. On the corner a group of young men are having a good time being pissed off at each other. My dog is having a good time letting them know they should keep moving.
I have eaten today and I have drunk. My hands are cold, my shoulder is sore, my piano is longing to be played.
The Rules were mysterious when I was little. They were not stated, not written aloud, not static or really set in any way.
They were planted, little seeds that were experiences and observations. They grew into a wide system of logic meant to shade, to shield me, preemptively from the multi-layered violence on each side of tiny me.
No one told me that I would be killed (or worse) if I did not fall in line, as soon as or before it was laid down. But I knew just like my siblings and my cousins. We all knew. We each made are own way, mine was diligent and earnest.
I became attentive to a certain kind of detail that was coupled with an inherited belief system whose motivators were distrust, scarcity and defense. Back then it was protection, today it is a liability. The tree is so great that I can’t see the Sun. At least, I think that is true, but then how long has it been since I looked up?
In retrospect I was not hurt less because of this growing compulsion. Instead I found relief when I could put my own frame around some kind of devastation. I would make it appear to my heart that I had made the horrible thing happen and that meant I could control whether it ever happened again.
The halls of my past are covered in these sad scared pictures.
The frames are old.
They are falling apart.
And it seems unfair, all that work I did….just to have these aweful things free floating again. floating with no story that makes it alright.
No frame that makes it tolerable how some babies panic as they try to clean their own sheets, and some don’t know that anyone loves them and some babies don’t learn slowly how to not be babies anymore, and some have to keep going back over and over again looking for something and not knowing what it is.
He was the oldest man alive as far as I knew. Since I was an infant until the last time I saw him at 12 years old he always wore sweatpants and the same sagging stocking cap. If he was not eating, he was asleep. But if he was eating then HE WAS EATING, clearing his plate and then anyones within reach. He would kindly mumble from underneath sagging eyebrows, “Are you planning to finish that?….Oh are you done with that? Excuse me could you pass the…and the….”
He was brilliant.
A nationally acclaimed bird watcher, he flew all over the country and sometimes the world. It was common for him to get all the way to the gate before he exclaimed , “Oh blast I haven’t got a ticket.” He would say it as though he had forgotten a dollar for the bus and just as casually he would turn to whomever he was traveling with and ask if they wouldn’t mind to buy him a ticket. If they wouldn’t mind to buy him a ticket as though it were a quarter for the phone.
What were they to do? They certainly were not going to leave Uncle Dave in Texas or Alaska or Japan.
The same thing happened to people who agreed to take him grocery shopping (he never drove). They would end up paying at the last minute when he ‘realized’ he had not brought his money.
He was never married, never had children. And yet, when he died two hundred people filled a memorial room with wailing. I have never been to a funeral like that. A lot of people did not know one another.
They had one thing in common, all of them. Every single person longed for one more opportunity to buy Dave McNett a plane ticket or a loaf of bread and eggs. Everyone wished he was there, to eat the turkey breast they were not through with or insist they run an errand for him.
In life he had been no more apologetic for his nature than a swan, finch or jay is. That is refreshing because it is human.
Everyone needs something most of the time.
The trick is to remember how to do it so well that it is wept after when it is gone.
While William and Grandpa Core chased off the hoodlums who were trying to kill half of their cattle, my mothers grandma was hatching a plan a few states away. Her home was humble, it was not in a city and not in the country but rather in the kind of in between place that is common to Western Washington.
The children were growing and so were her tomatoes. More could not really be asked for but that didn’t seem to stop the debt collectors.
She had married as a teen to a man with fiery hair, who everyone called Red. Her parents were gentle storeowners with several daughters. They disapproved of him. His grand children describe him as stern and proud and a great lover. Paulines’ parents described him as cold and cruel and too hard on the children.
He had many rules about how things were to be in his home. His children sat quietly if he was anywhere nearby. His wife wore skirts and dresses only (he preferred the ones that showed off the legs he loved) unless they were camping. And his wife was under no condition to learn to drive or work outside the home. There was plenty of work inside after all.
She would go to bed with him each night, like he wanted, and once he was asleep sneak out of bed to complete her days work. Every member of her family had one set of clothes that needed to be washed and pressed every day. All the cleaning of the house, the making of the food, the preserving of the garden…. she slept less than 3 hours a night for 40 years.
Though Red alone worked for the income, it was Pauline who managed all the money once it got home. It became clear during the hard years of that depression that the ends were drawing farther and farther apart.
She went around the neighborhood one day, after the kids were off to school and he was off to work and found a blueberry bog looking for extra help. So it was from that day on, for as long as they needed it, she would wake up in the middle of the night to prepare for the next day. Then she would crawl back into bed and pretend to wake up with her husband. After she sent everyone off, she herself went to her secret berry-picking job.
She would work as many hours as she could before rushing home to miraculously complete an entire days worth of work in only a couple of hours. It was in this way that she kept her family from ever suspecting that their income was supplemented. Dinner was always on the table, the children never looked as poor as the world thought they were. That is how I know that stories of kidnapped women spinning barns full of golden flax in only one night are true. If she had needed too, my great grandma could have done it.
At 4 am I would stir from the couch in the trailer that Pauline had moved into to be closer to her daughter. This was years after Red and her only son were gone. I could smell the coffee and hear the birds that my mom and her grandmother had been waking up with. In the dim light I could make out the many afghans and crocheted doilies around her house.
When I was seven, my Mom taught me to crochet as Pauline had taught her. When I took the yarn and hook, it came very naturally but looked very different from the way my mother had shown me to hold my hands. She began to cry and said that the only person she had every seen who held the yarn and hook just like I did, was Pauline.
The house was much cleaner that it had been in recent years. My Dad had found a good deal of time for vacuuming and stacking since his most recent wife had run off to pursue the empty promise of an 18 dollar an hour paycheck in the deep south. The dogs were down to two and he was debating selling his truck. Read the rest of this entry