Adventures in Grannysitting

Zohrbak: “So how’s your grandmother doing?”

Dorquemada: “Oh, she’s fine. She’s enjoying her time being spoiled. I’m just exhausted from sleeping with one eye open and jumping up every time I hear a bump at night.”

Zohrbak: “That’s cute. That’s parenthood in a nutshell, but ours lasts 18 #$%@ing years.”

Dorquemada: “Trust me, I thought about that. Yeesh.”

My grandmother tore her meniscus and had surgery last week. As per doctor’s orders, she has to keep her weight off her left knee for five more weeks. Until then, I’m in charge of all housekeeping details. So far, so good. The general state of cleanliness hasn’t slipped much. I’m nothing, if not a hygienic caveman.

Home security has actually improved. I perched boiling pots of tar atop our fence posts to deter marauding bands of Mongols, Huns, and door-to-door salesmen. I’ll occasionally patrol the premises and scream, “You barbarians can sack the rest of the neighborhood, but you’ll keep your perverted, pillaging paws off our property! And no one buys encyclopedias anymore, so buzz off!” Then I shake my fist angrily, lovingly kiss my tactical shotgun barrel, and shake my fist some more. I go back inside when I see my neighbor’s horrified faces.

No one’s been hospitalized with food poisoning. Yet. Actually, I’m a tad insulted when friends and family members express surprise over my culinary skills. For example, take today’s phone conversation with my dad, who lives in New Jersey. “I didn’t know you cooked,” he huffed suspiciously.

“Well yeah, Dad. I lived by myself for about 10 years after I got out of the service. I know how to fend for myself. Geez.”

“Well, I figured you can take care of yourself,” he said. “But I can’t cook. I never could. My food preparation isn’t much more than survival cooking.”

“Yeah, I remember those days. You didn’t eat much more than a bowl of boiled noodles. That’s why I learned how to cook. Because I would have hung myself if I ate like you every day.”

“That’s cute. You know what else you can do by yourself, right?!”

After the initial round of barbs was out of the way, we commiserated on our respective grannysitting ordeals. I’ve had a few struggles with my grandmother so far, but nothing major. She’s supposed to stay on her walker and not use her left leg at all. Nevertheless, there have been several instances where I’ve caught her bending over to dig in the pantry or haul stuff around the house.

My immediate response is to growl at her like Edward G. Robinson. “Meh, see?!? Look here, dollface! If I catch ya trying to stretch those stems, it’ll be curtains for ya! Curtains, ya see?!? Mehhh!”

She’ll just stare at me blankly. I’m used to it.

Then I’ll holler, “Cease and desist with the gymnastics, woman! And if I catch you trying to do another pirouette in front of the cupboard, I’m gonna brain you with this cast iron skillet!” To drive the point home, I‘ll wave the frying pan menacingly.

She complies 90% of the time. She’s relinquished all control over cooking, laundry, and housecleaning. If she has any complaints, she hasn’t expressed them…yet. She promises to behave when I leave the house for my morning workout, as well the occasional shopping trip or an evening visit with friends. So far, so good. But I have to stay alert for those moments when she gets bored or agitated and starts wandering around the house. And that’s when I brandish the skillet again.

Mercifully, our collective ordeal is temporary. My troubles aren’t nearly as arduous as Dad’s. His mother (my step-grandmother, for those you keeping score) is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, which means Dad has to keep her under constant surveillance. She already got lost driving, roamed outside in the middle of the night, obliviously walked away from a smoldering stove, etc.

So there’s that. Plus, he works nights. On average, he gets about 3 or 4 hours of sleep before she wakes up and putters around the house. The lack of sleep and constant worry has left him physically and emotionally exhausted. But he’s stubbornly clinging onto his hopes that he can ride this out until he retires next year, so what I can possibly say or do to change the situation?

Then there’s my friend Hot Lips. She told me she’s had her fair share of grannysitting mishaps. “My great aunt hates to drink liquids,” she sighed. “She ended up in the hospital several times due to dehydration, and I have to constantly remind her to take a couple of sips of water or cranberry juice. She crumples up her face as if I were making her take a nasty spoonful of medicine. I explain to her that our bodies need water to be healthy, and she’ll say ‘you sound like the rest of them!’”

“Holey moley!”

Hot Lips continued. “She also hates taking a bath. It makes her grumpy.”

“What’s up with that? Is she is a geriatric hippie?”

“Well, she was born in 1916 so I don’t think ‘hippie’ would apply. I think she is part of that ‘30s mindset that once a day is excessive. Also, she is French.”

You have no idea how hard it was for me to bite my tongue and refrain from a barrage of French hygiene jokes. Then again, if you knew how achingly cute Hot Lips is, you’d understand. But there’s also a decent chance she’s plotting my doom after reading this post. Alas.

“So, she’s 95,” I muttered. “Wow. Well, maybe she’s one of those protohippies who hung out with Alice B. Toklas.”

“Doubt that. You’re so cheeky.”

“I am an incurable wiseass. But I’m sure you figured that out many moons ago.”

“Yup.”

“But alongside the bad girl things she does, there are 8000 cute, sweet things that make me love her.”

“Yup,” I nodded. “Same here.”

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a diatribe against suicide

Sometimes, I wonder who’s actually reading this silly blog. I’m frequently amused by my blog’s search engine results. I’ve had at least a hundred unique hits from people searching out info about monkeys riding on pigs. Even more have stumbled across my self-absorbed gibberish while looking for racy pictures of Alison Kosik.

There’s an ever-so-remote possibility that she’ll notice me if I keep waxing ecstatic about her in this blog. Of course, the only attention she’d probably bestow is a restraining order. Alas.

But it’s not all nonsense. My posts about my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s got me a fair number of readers. I hope I helped someone who was in a similar predicament, or at least made them laugh at some of the absurdity that came with the illness.

So I’m aware that there a fair number of random folks who were tooling around on Google. Somehow a bizarre search term led them to this silly place. Or maybe you’re violently depressed and you just typed in “how to commit suicide” or “suicide methods.” I put those words in quotes in hopes that an exact word match sent you here. Because I really don’t want you to hurt yourself.

Why am I on this soapbox? Well, I just returned from my cousin’s wake. He committed suicide in front of his wife and his son. They will be traumatized for the rest of their lives.  Watching my aunt and my cousins when the body was first presented was truly gut-wrenching, because I noticed three distinct realizations sweep through the room in a matter of seconds. The first one was “yeah, he’s really gone.” The second one was “oh my god, that doesn’t even look like him.” And the third one was “there’s no solace or comfort that we can derive from this. None.”  After the family made their initial viewing, no one objected to a closed casket. And I have no idea what type of religious service will be offered tomorrow. I’ve met both of the pastors before, and I really like both of them. But they’ve been playing a game of theological hot potato. Good luck trying to suss this one out, fellas.

Those are some of the things you need to think about if you’re contemplating suicide. Maybe you don’t intend such a dramatic or violent end, but someone will discover your remains. And chances are good that it will be someone who loves you. And that loved one is going to be heartbroken and disturbed for a very long time. So think about that. Do you really want your parent/spouse/sibling/child to endure that? That’s pretty selfish, isn’t it?

So don’t do it. Talk to someone. Anyone. Maybe you have a chemical imbalance and you need medication and/or therapy. That’s not shameful. That’s just your physical makeup. Or maybe you need to talk to a relationship or financial counselor, if those concerns are applicable. Or seek out a family member, friend, teacher, or clergyman. Or what the heck, if you’re really paranoid about confidentiality, find one of those maniacs shuffling around lower Florida St. in Baton Rouge or a gutter punk in the French Quarter. You can vent about anything to those derelicts. Who’s going to believe what comes out of their mouths anyway? One guy outside the bus station tried to tell me that his string of bad luck all stemmed from a backgammon game against Spiro T. Agnew that went horribly awry. He also told me that the best gumbo file came from crumbled moss and ground Xanax. So they’re a mixed bag at best. But if you need a carbon-based lifeform to hear you out, they’ll work in a pinch. Then again, you could always get a cat. Or try some new hobbies. Even backgammon.

But whatever you do, don’t hurt yourself. Not only will you devastate your family and friends, but you’ll never again enjoy the great pleasures that are out there, like family, friends, football, ice cream, Alison Kosik, and monkeys riding on pigs. Because isn’t that what life’s all about?


Those long last moments

My grandfather’s encounters with coherence are increasingly sporadic and short-lived.  During his last fit of lucidity, he ordered my family to remove his feeding tube. He was moved to a hospital in Natchitoches last night so that process could begin. His physicians then rushed him to ICU because he’s so infected and time is short. I was about to dash up I-49 to see him, but then my mother told me that the doctors might release him back to the nursing home once the tube is out. My brother and I are sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. From there, we’ll figure out where we’re supposed to go.

So here we are. We’re down to the last  days. There might be a few hours left. Is it awful for me to wish that it’s quick? I just want the old man’s suffering to end. I made my peace with his eventual death weeks ago. I got one last good day with him. https://dorquemada.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/a-better-day/ Since then, it’s diminishing returns. I know he didn’t want to die an invalid. He was insistent about that. But we very well couldn’t just sit there and let him starve to death during those first few days. There was still a chance he’d recover…a slight one, but a chance all the same. But he made the call to end all of this, so we have to respect that.

These final moments will be tough. Like I noted earlier, I hope it’s a swift passage. It’s such a helpless feeling to watch someone you love suffer, especially when there’s very little you can do to comfort them. I’m reminded of one of my favorite Lucinda Williams songs, “Lake Charles.” When I heard her sing it Tuesday night, I thought about my grandfather. I broke down and bawled, because the chorus encapsulates my remaining hopes for him:

“Did an angel whisper in your ear
And hold you close and take away your fear
In those long last moments”


a better day

I hadn’t visited my grandfather in a couple of days. I woke up feeling really guilty about that, so I darted up to Winnfield first thing this morning. Last night I got a couple of secondhand accounts about his improvement, but I didn’t put a lot of stock in them. I previously received a couple of phone calls from family members who were excitedly jabbering about seemingly miraculously progress, only to discover that there was no change when I’d see him. I braced myself for another heartbreaking day. That way, I wouldn’t be disappointed.

When I walked into his room, it looked like nothing had changed. He was in his bed. Eyes shut. He moaned and frantically flapped away at his gown, tubes, and restraining net. He has to wear mittens that look like mesh sleeved ping-pong paddles whenever he’s unattended. It was either that or slap on wrist restraints in order to keep him from yanking out his feeding tube and catheter. We decided the ping-pong mittens were more humane.

Isn’t dementia just lovely?

“Hey, old man,” I said. “You’re tearing yourself to pieces. I thought that was the hot blonde nurse’s job.”

My grandfather and I always traded sarcastic and ribald barbs when he was healthy. Even if it’s just a one-sided conversation these days, why should I stop now?

He responded with “…ehhhhhhh…” and more flapping.

Sigh. It looked it was going to be another one of those days.

“Hey, it’s Wayne. I love you. Do you want me to sit you up? Do you want some water?” If I ask him simple questions, I’ll usually get a grunting affirmative or a whine that means “no.”

“Get me out of here!” he moaned. Clear as day.

Come again?! I asked him if he wanted to get out of bed and sit up for a while.

“Yes, Wayne. Get me out of this bed now!”

“You got it.” I raced to the nurse’s station and asked for some help getting him out of bed. A few minutes later, I wheeled him out of the room. I asked him if he wanted to go sit out on the front porch, even though it was drizzling and windy.

“Yeah. Maybe I’ll catch pneumonia and die soon.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help myself.

“I’m serious! I’m tired of all of this!”

“So am I,” I replied. “I’m tired of seeing you helpless and unresponsive. I’m tired of seeing you with a bunch of tubes hooked in to keep you alive. But if you get yourself sick, I’m going to drive up here and punch you in the nose.”

That made him laugh. The only other time I was able to make him laugh since he got sick was when he grunted for some ice a couple of weeks ago. I told him I’d bring him back a blonde and a popsicle. That way he could have something hot and something cold. I know that’s hacky, but hey, it worked for my audience at the time.

I pushed him out onto the porch. He sighed with pleasure when a cool breeze hit us.

“Well, where have you been?” he asked.

“I’ve been around. You’ve just been asleep or out of it every time I come up here.”

We made small talk about my brother’s new job. Then he asked me when I had to go back to Iraq. I told him that I wasn’t going anywhere as long as he’s in this place.

“Please don’t go back there,” he pleaded. He opened his eyes and stared at me for a few seconds. Then he closed his eyes and sighed. “Please.”

“I’m never going back to Iraq. Stop worrying.”

“Alright! Now what time does our flight leave?” He slapped his chair’s clip-on tray. “The plane can’t take off if this is still down!”

He was dead serious. He thought he was strapped into an airplane seat. Then he asked me for the numbers.

The numbers? What did he mean? The lottery results? The imaginary flight number? The time? The date? I told him the time and date.

“Ah, good,” he said. “I never know the numbers anymore. They took my watch away, you know.”

The rainfall picked up, so I wheeled him back to his room. The nurse hooked in his feeding tube. Then she brought in a food tray for his roommate. He was not happy about that arrangement.

“I want some dinner!”

“I can assure that you’re eating right now.”

“I want what he’s having,” he muttered, as he waved a thumb towards his roommate’s plate.

“Well, I don’t think the doctor has signed off on solid foods yet. You’re getting lunch in a bag.”

“Well, what’s in the bag?”

“Uhhhh…looks like chocolate milk or brown gravy. Maybe it’s chocolate gravy. How does it taste?” Then I tapped his belly for emphasis.

He laughed again. Two laughs in one day. Alright, this day was already golden.

Once he started to “eat,” he got tired and spacey. My great-aunt’s pastor came in to visit for a few minutes. My grandfather smiled and told him that he was glad that he came to visit, especially since he had to walk all the way from Bunkie to Winnfield. The preacher and I both shrugged at that one. After he left, my grandfather asked me who the second in command was.

“Who are we talking about?”

“That man has a long walk back to Bunkie. Who did he leave in charge while he was gone?”

“I wouldn’t worry about it. I’m sure the folks in Bunkie are just fine.”

“Okay, good. What are the numbers again?”

So I told him the time and date. They did take his watch away, after all.

Then he started to doze off. I asked him if he wanted to get back in his bed. He said no. I told him that I’d let him take a nap in his chair, but I would have to put his ping-pong mittens back on before I left. He agreed to that, but he asked me to not strap them on so tight. Then he stuck his thumbs out whenever I tried to slip the mittens back on.

“Are you doing that on purpose, old man?”

“You know me. I’m a stubborn old man. I’m just sick of this situation.”

“Yep, I know.”

I don’t know how many more good days that I’ll get with him. In the meantime, I’ll savor days like this. I’ll try to dump the bad ones from the memory banks once he’s gone. And I’ll just try to keep myself together in the meantime.

 


hellbound

We’re a week away from commemorating the death and resurrection of everyone’s favorite Jewish cosmic zombie (and all-around swell guy). I loves me some Jesus, but I’ve spent most of my life at odds with organized religion. I didn’t deliberately seek an obstinate path, but I’m forever cracked when it comes to any sort of routine approach to worship. I go numb whenever anyone tries to talk me into any sort of regimen that involves putting on a suit, awkwardly congregating with a bunch of strangers, and listening to a listless and intellectually bankrupt sermon/money hustle. My eyes glaze over and my mind wanders off to topics that make cavemen happy (like fire, nubile women, explosions, picking up heavy things and putting them back down and picking them back up again, more fire, and beef jerky). So please do yourself a favor and count me out of your forthcoming Easter festivities. We’ll all avoid undue awkwardness and heartache.

Why the resistance? I suppose that requires a bit of exposition.

For the first five years of my life, I didn’t receive much exposure to religion. I don’t think my biological father was too keen on any activity that forced Mom to leave the house, so we didn’t go to church often. Instead, we were supposed to hang around the house and serve as his hand servants. For Mom, that meant cooking, cleaning, and plopping out a kid every 1.5 years. My brother and I served as beer gophers. My sister was a baby, so her cries for food and diaper changes merely served as a nuisance for him. Then we all took turns as his tackling dummies once he got sufficiently drunk and angry.

Shortly before my fifth birthday, Mom decided that we had endured enough. She told me that her breaking point was when I started crying around 5:00 PM, because I knew that my father was coming home from work. Mom called my grandfather, who sprinted from Louisiana to Oklahoma, beat the snot out of my father, scooped Mom and three little kids into his car, and drove us back to Alexandria. While I’ve always admired my grandfather for being the tough old goat who finally gave my father the severe beating that he so richly deserved (and rendering him a nonentity for the remainder of my life, save a handful of unwelcome visits over the past 30 years), I’ve always walked around with at least a twinge of guilt because I was the one who forced Mom’s hand when it came to ending her marriage. I realize that it’s not altogether rational, but there you have it.

ANYWAY, Mom decided that her kiddies needed some religion once we got back to Alexandria. She was raised Pentecostal and rebelled against it during her teenage years, hence her marriage at 17 and hightailing it out of Alexandria ASAP.  But six years later, she decided that her kids needed to go through the same indoctrination that she had fought against heretofore. So we started attending Sunday services at the First United Pentecostal Church. I always described that first encounter as an experience akin to James Brown’s evangelical church in The Blues Brothers, except it was entirely white. The congregation jumped, shouted, ran all over the assembly hall, and spoke in tongues. G.A. Mangum’s sermon was chockfull of fire, brimstone, and eternal damnation. I had never experienced anything like this before, and I was terrified.

Well, so much for guidance and reassurance. When I explained my confusion with people flopping, jumping, and screaming to my Sunday school teacher the following week, she explained to me in a sugary sweet voice that those people were simply experiencing the wonders of the Holy Ghost. Furthermore, I was going to straight to hell because I refused to let the Holy Spirit into my blasphemous little heart. Because you see, I was already hellbound. She and several of the kids in my class had already told me that my whole family was damned because Mom was divorced. I guess she would have redeemed us all if we had just stuck around, remained punching bags for an ill-tempered addict, and dug through the trash for food scraps because my father drank up the whole week’s paycheck.

Great. Not only had I already been pegged as hardscrabble white trash at school when my kindergarten teacher made all of the free lunch kids get in a separate meal line, but I was also destined for the fiery pits of hell. I was reminded of this every Sunday. The only time I caught a break from harassment was when I got to spend Friday nights and Saturdays with my grandparents. But the rest of the time, I was already persona non grata and I was five. I believed all of this shit, because I didn’t know any better. I’m amazed that I didn’t become a juvenile delinquent, addict, or attempt suicide at some point, but I think part of the reason why I stayed on the straight and narrow was because I didn’t want to give those bastards the satisfaction. But I’ll argue with anyone that our weekly dose of religious nonsense helped screw up the rest of my siblings and partially contributed to their subsequent issues with drugs and the law.

I spent the next ten years or so dealing with this crap on a weekly basis. There was a clique of kids whose parents were well-established within the church, and one of their hobbies was making me miserable on Sundays. Being a shy, awkward kid, I sat there like a pussy and took it for the most part. Kids are mean, vicious little bastards in general, but this particular batch of little bastards also got to incorporate the threats of damnation when they ganged up on me. Every little thing that I did at that church was scrutinized and nitpicked. I rode the bus to the church. The little bastards decreed that was because my mother was too busy wallowing in whoredom to bother to drive us herself. Maybe she just didn’t want to deal with a room full of judgmental assholes. But that didn’t matter; I was damned. We were too poor to wear suits to church, but the little bastards twisted our cheapness into me being disrespectful and irreverent.  So I was damned. If I wore shorts to an outdoor function, I was damned. Unless it was a swimming party, where I was damned because I stripped off my t-shirt before diving into the water. I was also damned because I had a TV and listened to secular music. I was actually honest about that, unlike most Pentecostal families that kept their TVs in the closets when company came over.  But I was damned.

Lessee, what else? The adult services continued to scare the shit out of me, and the spirit never compelled me to holler gibberish or flop around like a headless chicken. So I was damned. And then a few of the really vicious little bastards took to pelting me with spitballs or slapping me in the back of the head with hymnals, Bibles, or fists. The Sunday School teachers would let their antics slide (these were the golden boys after all), but I was the one who would get yanked up by the ear, dragged into the hallway, slammed against the wall, and screamed at if I dared to whip my head around or roll my eyes when I got harassed. And yes, my inability to sit there like Christ and take a beating without complaint meant I was damned. So I eventually learned to go into zombie mode while the little bastards tortured me. It actually turned into a valuable skill to utilize later when dealing with sadistic football coaches, boot camp, crappy jobs, Iraq, crazy girlfriends, etc. So thanks, little bastards! You were my preseason workout for the miseries of adulthood!

I finally put my foot down once I started high school. Football and weight lifting gave me just enough self-confidence to deal with the little bastards. I was still pretty small compared to my teammates, but I was more than capable of throttling the twerps at church. I brutalized a few of those guys, and I loved every second of it! I figured since I was hellbound anyway, I might exact some reciprocity on the way! Once I got bored with thuggery, I just started cutting Sunday School class. Then I told Mom I was done with it. When that didn’t work, I told her I didn’t believe in God. And when that didn’t work, I told her that the next time she forced me to go, I’d leave in handcuffs.  She finally fell for that ruse.

I’ve had my struggles ever since. Anytime I showed even a passing interest in another church, the POA pamphlets and videos about the cultish nature of every other stinking denomination made their way home. Alright, fine. Y’all want it to be a zero sum game for my soul? You got it. I’m hellbound, so I won’t play ball with anyone. Happy? And every time I went back to church to placate Mom or the grandparents, someone would come up to me and make a dig about damnation before the Sunday service was done, which effectively ruined the day for me and swore me off religion for another couple of years. So it got to where I only went to that church for the Christmas concerts, the “Messiah” play, and Easter (which is when the congregation was on their best behavior, lest they scare off some potential new members with deep pockets).

And then I just settled into a period for most of my 20s where I was agnostic, bordering on atheistic. I was so angry that I relished every attack made on Christian fundamentalists, regardless of its merit. That’s why I listened to a lot of Norwegian black metal in the ‘90s. That’s why I jumped out of my chair and roared like a maniac when Marilyn Manson screamed “Who wants to go to Heaven with all those asshole angels?” He might be a schlocky cornball, but he struck a nerve for a lot of kids who were fed up with religious browbeating.

I guess my wakeup call was when my grandfather died of cancer in 2001. That moment for me wasn’t a spiritual reawakening out of fear (after all, I’m hellbound, right?). It was just a realization that if there is an afterlife for good and decent people, then he had to be one of the people who got to punch that ticket. And if he couldn’t pass the pearly gates, what chance did the rest of us have? Anyway, I just had a feeling of peace when we were burying him. I knew he had to be somewhere better than here. And that began my stumbling, fumbling path towards where I am now. I wasn’t even deterred by old G.A. recycling the same old fire and brimstone riff during my grandfather’s eulogy. What used to terrify me now just sounded like a CC DeVille guitar solo: a bunch of screeching and no substance. It was almost quaint. Almost.

I try not to go down the rabbit hole with wacky religious demagogues anymore. There have been a few exceptions over the past 10 years. I loved screwing around with the crazy, homeschooled fundamentalists camped out in LSU’s Free Speech Alley. These wacky creeps look just like some of the miserable lot that hounded me during my youth, and they follow the same playbook as the Westboro Baptist idiots – verbally berate all passersby and try to get some sap to engage in an argument with them. They’re probably praying for a physical altercation and the ensuing lawsuit, because I couldn’t figure out how these people ate, unless they got a “love offering” from the rest of their cult. I always took the road less traveled when it came to these boobs. Instead of screaming in protest or just ignoring them altogther, I would wait until they accosted some hapless student and then I’d holler, “No, wait! You convinced me! Take me home with you!” When they’d screw their faces in confusion and mumble, “huh?”, I’d screech “Only kidding, assholes! I heart Satan!” or something equally obnoxious.

These days, the only time things get awkward is when I have to deal with family members who want to argue that the Earth is 6,000 years old. I never understood why faith and science had to be mutually exclusive, but progress is the devil for a lot of folks around here. And why does it matter if I view most of the Old Testament as allegory instead of literal interpretation? I’m damned anyway, right? And I’ve given up trying to discuss the subtleties and nuances of Muslims I met overseas, because we all know that they’re just a bunch of barbaric savages who want to enslave and kill the rest of us, right? Why the hell should I have the audacity to offer eyewitness accounts of people who fly in the face of that preconceived notion? Based off my experiences, the only differences between an Islamic vigilance squad and the people who made my childhood utterly miserable is a lack of state sponsorship, a hesitance to throw stones (have some conviction, you pansies!), and whole lot of denim and hairspray. But what do I have to go by other than my lying eyes? I’m damned anyway, right?

So there you have it. Y’all enjoy your Easter. I’ll celebrate mine alone. It’s for the best.


Gimme, gimme, gimme

A couple of weeks ago, my brother, his girlfriend, and I took a short trip with Mom through LaSalle Parish. She showed off an estate sitting right off Highway 84 that recently went on the market. It consists of a picturesque two story house, a shop building, and a massive garage. All of that is perched atop a fairly steep hill, which overlooks several acres of oak and pine. It’s quite lovely. I never pry Mom about her finances but I hope she and her husband can acquire it, provided that the price is reasonable.

After taking a look at the property, we drove into Jena and had lunch. We passed by the estate as we drove back to Mom’s home in Whitehall. Mom interrupted her conversation with the rest of us and said a quick prayer out loud, which I will roughly paraphrase as, “Lord, please deliver us this home if it is according to Your will. Amen.”

“Geez, Mom! Isn’t that kind of selfish?” I asked. I was only halfway teasing.

“Hey! I made sure to ask for only something that He will deliver by His will! Besides, our house is tiny and our yard floods every time it rains! It will be nice to have a bigger house and a hill that lets the water run off!”

“But that still seems like a copout,” I retorted. “If I follow your logic, I can pray for anything as long as I drop in the ‘by Your will be done’ disclaimer. Doesn’t that add a lot of clutter to God’s day planner?”

“This sounds like one of your oddball thoughts. I don’t follow you,” Mom sighed.

“Check it out. I’ll give you a slightly more exaggerated example. ‘Dear Lord, please allow me to marry a Playboy Playmate with more curves than Horseshoe Drive and legs longer than the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway. But don’t deliver me just any bubble-headed blonde bimbo. Give me one with brains, personality, and a soul. By Your will be done. Amen.’”

“Okay, that’s just silly,” she muttered.

My brother piped in. “Is it? Maybe there is a girl just like that who’s waiting for Wayne. He’s smart. He’s been around the world. He’s not like most of those cheesy guys who usually marry those broads.”

At this point, I turned around in my seat and told him, “You and I rarely agree on anything, but that is a damn good point. It might be the most salient point you’ve ever made.”

“Thanks!” he gushed.

“You two boys are just silly,” Mom snapped. “I can’t believe you’re making light of this.”

“C’mon, Mom,” I pleaded. “That’s all I know!”

Well, not really. But I figured that wasn’t the time or place to argue about it. And Mom is (somewhat) justified in praying for this deal to come to fruition. Her home is small and the yard does flood every time there’s a heavy rain. It would be nice if they could acquire that big house on 84. I just know that I’d be uneasy about requesting divine intervention when it comes to real estate transactions. Like I noted earlier, on a good day I tend to view God as a deity with a pretty full plate. On a bad day, I feel like we’re an abandoned science project. This planet is chockfull of ugly and selfish people who won’t stop hurting themselves and each other, and we use the flimsiest pretexts to justify our awfulness. Tell me how we’re any nobler than a terrarium that went neglected during Spring Break.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jesus and Buddha and Shakespeare and Einstein and Hulk Hogan and all of that jazz. Nevertheless, most of us stink.

ANYWAY, I do know that I rarely pray for myself these days. Whenever I do, it’s pretty brief. My most fervent praying/begging/bargaining with God has always been for other people, like when my best friend was deployed to Iraq in ’04, which was an absolutely bloody and terrible time over there. Then there were my dealings with a soldier in Iraq last year. He was standing right next to his battle buddy, who was vaporized by a mortar. He looked like he was about to become unhinged, possibly suicidal. I didn’t eat for a week; I was so scared for that kid’s soul. As far as I know, he’s okay now…as much as one can be when you deal that type of horror.

And then there are my recent petitions for my grandfather, which most of y’all are well aware of by now. They’re putting a feeding tube in him today. I’m highly ambivalent about that, but it’s not my call and I’m not fighting the people who made that decision. More than anything, I just want an end to his agony.

Now that’s not to say I haven’t made exceptions. When I first got to Iraq, I prayed for strength to endure whatever came my way. I guess those were answered. And I did last week when I was vomiting with the force and speed of a shotgun blast, and then when I had a nasty blackened funk hanging over me.  I’m much better now, so thank you Tiny Baby Jeebus.

Most people are surprised when I tell them that I didn’t do a lot of praying in the bunkers, when I had a scary near-miss with a mortar out in the open, or when I was in a chopper taking incoming fire. It was too late for absolution when those types of things happened.

You never knew when it was coming. If it was your time, then your ticket would get punched JUST. LIKE. THAT. At least that’s what I hoped for. I didn’t want to bleed out while I tried to cram my guts back in. That would have been the worst. But you couldn’t spend every waking minute worrying about it, so I just pushed it to the back of my mind. I honestly spent more time worrying about how KBR would screw us over on a daily basis and if LSU would ever get a competent quarterback than I did worrying about death and damnation.

So I’m not holding my breath waiting for God to answer my latest smartassed prayer request. And besides, I have a general rule of thumb when it comes to meeting hot babes. If she’s an 8.5 or higher, I’m probably not even going to bother. She’s either already taken or she’s heard it all before. And most babes who are considered to be “most beautiful” have no personality or humor whatsoever. They never needed to develop it. Their whole identity and worldview hinges on their physical beauty, which is ephemeral. And most women are already insane for the most part, so reality doesn’t matter to them most of the time. So why in God’s name would I want to deal with some hot neurotic mess?

Then again…

Hmmmm…..

Tiffany, I think we shared “a moment” at Comic-Con. Have your people contact my people and we’ll do lunch.


Black cloud fading

Yesterday I felt lower than I have in a long time. One of my oldest friends must have sensed it, and he reached out to me. I hung out with him and his family last night. As always, our conversation ricocheted between weighty and inane topics. We compared our respective ordeals with dying family members. We had a lengthy debate about God and scriptural interpretation. He took potshots at my pathetic love life, all of them richly deserved. His wife tore apart my manuscript (again, an ordeal that was richly deserved). I made fun of his recent hand injury, which resulted from errant swordplay. Then we argued about the artistic merits of the newest Iron Maiden album, Christopher Moore’s Lamb, and Garth Ennis’s revision of The Punisher. I drove home with a lighter heart.

Today was a bit better. I destroyed myself in the gym this morning. That’s always a great stress relief. This afternoon, I sat outside and basked in this glorious spring weather. I listened to Lucinda Williams, went through my daily readings in the Bible, and read a chunk of Confederacy of Dunces. I’m almost feeling normal again.

Praying definitely helped. I rarely pray for myself, but I made an exception today. I just asked for some understanding and patience amidst the chaos and sadness that’s hanging over my family right now. Then I made sure to give my mom and grandmother crushing bear hugs and tell them that I loved them, because I don’t do that nearly as often as I should. And I’ll probably do that to all of my friends and family going forward, so don’t be alarmed. While I get angry and disillusioned with a lot of people and situations on a daily basis, there’s one thing about every single stinkin’ one of you that I love – you’re alive. I love all of your lives. We only get one, and no one knows when it could be taken away.  I know that’s probably just some vacuous truism, but my year in Iraq and the past two weeks really brought that point home.

And there you have it. Today was pretty good. Hopefully tomorrow is a little better. And so on.