Wednesday, August 17, 2011

If the lawd is willing, and the creek don't rise ...

Writing something down is like a conversation with an old friend – a friend who listens and has the good sense to raise an eyebrow, sip a cocktail, and shut the hell up until I’m done talkin’. Those kinds of friends are hard to come by these days, especially here in the South – where one is generally expected to say things like, “oh, sugar …”, “Honey, no …”, and the all-purpose, ever-versatile, and inimitable put-down “Bless her heart …”

That said, I had more than my fair share of bless her heart moments these past few weeks, and those are to blame for my mysterious absence from the Internet and/or the lives of my nearest, my dearest, my cousins, and the Frenemy. It started with the Old Black Man – who is 87 years young, and who I yesterday declared senile and poor – as a means of getting a free window unit air conditioner from the City of San Antonio, or the County of Bexar; frankly, I forget who it was I was calling, but somebody at least halfway believes my father’s plum crazy – and that is almost all the validation I need right about now.

My father is dying – although he seems to be doing it very slowly. He is not all there, but he’s not all gone – and I am not entirely sure how there he was to begin with, so it’s especially difficult to figure out how gone he is now. As I told the lady on the phone yesterday, “He’s 87 years old, dropped out of a one-room school-house, where they still used slate tablets, in the 7th grade, and has had two heart attacks in the past year and a car accident in the past month. Isn’t mentally impaired a given?” We decided he’s mildly losing his mind – for the record.

Between the car accident, which left him unable to work – and made me the primary breadwinner, the brief fear that he had Pancreatic Cancer, the peptic ulcer that went undiagnosed until after the 2400 mg. Ibuprofen prescription nearly killed him, the gout, the edema, the hypertension, and the fact that – despite 32 years of barely uttering a word to me, and damned skippy never saying ‘I love you,’ now he won’t shut up. He talks constantly about how much pain he’s in, how bad the pain is, and what a failure I am – how I will never amount to anything, and how I am going to somehow screw up and lose the house, after I inherit it, after his eventual death.

It’s a gay old time at the ancestral home, let me tell you.

Thank the good Lord I have a job that takes me away from home for 10 – 14 hours per day; I include happy hour as part of my commute. I work within three blocks of a gay bar that employs two men I once slept with, and sells a mean rib-eye, with a baked potato, for $3.

Did I mention that this is Texas, and there is no AC in my aforementioned ancestral home? It was 94 in my bedroom last night, and I am beginning to feel like something from a Tennessee Williams production – not one of the sultry, interesting, preternaturally complex, hot leads … not Stella, or Stanley, or Maggie on a ‘Hot, Tin Roof’ … no, just one of those dirty, sweaty, hot, unhappy darkies – too tired to sing (and dance in the background), who just leads a worn-out ol’ horse off into the distance, to get shot, and made into glue and bars of laundry soap.

The window unit in the den stopped blowing a few days ago, and it was sadly so hot that I didn’t even notice. It had been so hot for so long that I considered the window unit a white noise machine that led to a $180 CPS bill but didn’t do a damned thing to make lying in bed any less wet.

But I did meet my mother – the biological one, who had me at 13, popped up at my high school graduation, and then disappeared for 14 years? Uh-huh, that one … she friended me on facebook, and once the shock and awe wore off, we met up. We had barbecue and talked about our childhoods – well, my childhood and those of the children she actually raised. It was not nearly as bitter an occasion as that might sound. Actually, it went quite well. I found her glamorous and interesting, witty and well-dressed – and then, like a long unseen grandmother, dropping a $5 bill into your birthday card – my mother slipped me some money as we were hugging goodbye outside Bill Miller. I questioned the quagmire that that money represented, for about five minutes or so … and then I remembered I had bills to pay and went on about my day.

Until I hit the wall … literally. One of the problems with driving my father’s car – a late-model Cavalier, with peeling paint and bald tires – is that my father is of that generation that believes it is a sign of how well-made a car is that it never requires maintenance, and so – in the 5 years he owned it – the Cavalier had none. No new tires, no brake job, no maintenance of any kind – save an oddly regular oil change. And when I slid into a wall, while slamming on my brakes to avoid a rush hour accident – two months ago, he blamed my being a bad driver. When I nearly slid into the back of an Escalade that stopped short on the highway, I blamed my answering a phone call on my iPhone, and even when one of the tires blew, and the guy at the tire shop suggested replacing all of the tires, because they were all “about as bad as the one that blew out,” I still had a general sense that it was my fault.

But on Saturday, having seen my mother, having had drinks with friends, and having had a veritable feast of really good food, I was in no mood for self-loathing. I was in no mood to go home either, which was why I was en route to Wal-Mart when someone cut in front of me, stopped short for a right turn and I hit the brakes and felt the car go out from under me. I hopped a curb, bounced across a small expanse of asphalt, slammed into a building, and came to a stop facing the wrong direction and with the engine, the AC, and Trinity’s jazz station still going at full steam. Somehow, it made sense for me to drive home – dragging my ass, the bumper, and a rear tire turned completely sideways.

I could go on … well, who am I kidding, I will go on … honey, have another cocktail; this is going to take a minute ...