extended families


Secret Bunker

Image by marcmo via Flickr

Banality thy name is blogging. At least sometimes. Though it may seem like my life is naught but husband, hearth and homey-ness, a lot goes on behind the veil virtual reality allows me to shroud my actual life with when I choose to.

There are certain dramas that don’t receive exemptions. My immediate family once removed has suffered more than one outing here, a victim of my knife-edged keyboarding skills.

However, I do keep some secrets and I don’t always blab about the goings on around here. Sometimes for discretion’s own sake. Most times because I haven’t quite worked out a way to say what I want to say but seem as though I am talking about something else all together.

And sometimes, I just would rather not comment.

Suffice to say that life is interesting – not Chinese curse interesting – but, the game is afoot and outcomes are uncertain in several familial arenas.


"It's YOUR time to SHINE in 2009!"

Image by eyewash via Flickr

And at the risk of sounding shrill as I repeat myself, “unless someone is dead or nearly so, don’t call me!” Really. I mean it.

The latest non-life threatening emergency that presented itself for my immediate attention is the ongoing drama surrounding my older nephew’s premature entry into the adult world.

I am standing in the check out at Safeway yesterday and the phone ringles. It’s the oddest ring tone but the least annoying of the generic options available to me as I don’t (yet) possess a smart phone with all its sci-fi tone upgrading capabilities.

Snatching it up as quickly as the confounding zip locks on my purse will allow, I am expecting a request from Rob. I’d spoken to him a bit earlier, so he knew I was shopping and I thought perhaps he remembered something he wanted me to pick up while I was still in town.

It was Mom.

Since day one of cell phone ownership, Mom’s treated my cell as a homing device. I knew she would. In fact my chief objection to getting a phone was Mom.

“She will see this as permission to track me like an endangered animal on the plains of the Serengeti,” I told my late husband, Will.

He wanted me to have one so that I would “be safe”, but the truth was that he just liked having the same type of instant access to me that I didn’t want to hand over to Mom.

“You can screen her calls with the caller ID,” he said.

“Because having her call me over and over until I picked up would be better than just picking up,” I replied.

I still lost on the issue of carrying a cell phone and Mom went from her habit of leaving me multiple messages on the answering machine to simply stalking me by cell phone if I didn’t answer the home line. The cell phone thing has worked out nicely for everyone but me no matter how one looks at it.

Because it’s the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I know right away that Mom isn’t calling to ask me how my day is going. Like DNOS, weekday calls mean that something is wrong.

“I need to talk to you,” she began.

“I’m standing in the check out at the grocery. Can I call you when I get out to the truck?”

“Okay,” and she hangs up on me before I can even say “good-bye”.

Naturally, I am in the lane of the cashier who least loves her job. She is a dour woman, who moves at the speed of drying paint, so by the time I get to the truck, I have run through a dozen desperate scenarios – which all involve dead or near so relations.

“I’m so worried about N1,” she tells me. “He was up here yesterday for a visit. I made him his favorite lasagna and he couldn’t even eat.”

Mentally, I note that the drama queen gene is overly represented in my nephew, but say,

“Why is he upset this time?”

I’m expecting that he’s made another pitch for a car or asked her to co-sign a lease on an apartment for him because he and his dad are continually at odds, but she tells me that she thinks it’s about his wanting to go to community college and study mechanics.

It’s about no such thing, of course. N1 launched a campaign over the summer to be allowed to move back to D-port, where he went to high school. His dad moved them there a couple of years ago. N1 fell in with a group of older kids – drop-outs to varying degrees – lost interest in school and then quit himself when his dad moved them back to DBQ last winter. He’s moped about ever since, plotting to move back and get a place with some of them and work at a fast food place that someone’s grandmother owns.

It’s a seventeen year old plan and that about sums up the long, short and every which way of it. There is no merit to it. It won’t further his life in any meaningful way because at the end of the experiment (which is where he loses the job, can’t pay his share of the rent or make up the difference his friends won’t be paying either and Mom is stuck with the bill), nothing is gained by way of N1 being even marginally closer to the “contributing adult” status that is fervently wished for by all.

“I think he might be severely depressed,” Mom went on. “Who knows what he might do?”

And I’m thinking now? What the fuck? And why couldn’t she have burdened DNOS with this nonsense after she got off work?

But my wiser younger sis, DNOS, refuses to have anything to do with the half-assed attempts to first aid our nephew’s life. As far as she is concerned, when N1 gets tired of lying in the lumpy mess of a bed he’s made for himself, he will do something related to “constructive” and until he makes a move in a positive direction without help or coercion, he is best left to flounder.

Good point on the “he needs to do this himself” front but it overlooks the fact that N1 is a kid who has mostly been raising himself, and┬ábadly, since he was 13. Even before that, parenting isn’t something he’s had too much of.

After fifteen minutes and much reassurance, I talked Mom back off the ledge she tearfully teetered on and promised to talk to N1.

Who wouldn’t give me his damn phone number when I messaged him on Facebook for it.

I’d had it, couldn’t find it and asked him to send it to me. Little monster would only talk to me via “chat”.

Grrrrr.

And no, I didn’t tell him how much like his mother he was behaving though I was sorely tempted. Baby won’t talk to me in real time either.

Back and forth over the course of the afternoon and evening led me to the conclusion that N1 was playing the drama card for a bit of sympathy from Grandma. In fairness, she is as close to a mother figure as he’s got. It didn’t have to be that way, but I failed time and time again to get custody of N1 while he was growing up. My last attempt came just before he entered middle school and I warned my parents then that it was unlikely that I would be able to take him once he hit his teens for real and they would rue the day they turned me down.*

As per her request, I called Mom back that evening to let her know how N1 was. We discussed again my brother CB’s offer to have N1 come out and live with him in Cali.

DNOS is adamant that N1 not go, but she is hopelessly biased. Baby really hasn’t said how she feels about it except to reiterate her inability to foot his room/board in any way. I don’t know how his dad feels. At the moment, his father seems to be wallowing in regret over his own wasted life**, so he isn’t much use.

For all his faults, CB has been a pretty good father and N1 needs a father. CB was also once a 17-year-old high school drop-out with nothing but more ideas than capital and a GED. He certainly has the right credentials for understanding just what N1 is up against in the real world that the kid hasn’t clue one about navigating.

N1 admitted to “thinking about calling Uncle”. We went back and forth and then he stopped responding.

What he will do now, I haven’t the slightest idea. He’s a lot like his mother. He hates the unknown and invents all sorts of worst case scenarios to justify avoiding change, and while he makes friends easily in new situations, he loses them just as quickly. Partly because he trusts where he shouldn’t and distrusts where he should be more open. It’s a gift he inherited from Baby, who has only rarely lucked into good friends and never into a good relationship.

The last meddling I did was at Mom’s behest. I contacted CB and asked him to talk to N1.

And now, let’s all remember – dead or nearly so – anything else really needs to be referred to someone who actually lives south of the Canadian border.

*And I get no pleasure out of this particular “I told you so” because N1 needed a parent. I can only guess where he’d be today if Baby would have given in and let me raise him the first time I asked when he was two, and there is no sense crying over the spilled milk, but few things make me as angry as adults who waste the little lives that life puts in their care. A wasted child is one of the saddest sights. I encountered so many children as a teacher who were ruined by crappy and/or indifferent parenting.

**He was a 19 year old high school drop-out when Baby got pregnant. She was 25 or 26. N1’s dad was a foil. She used him to try and make the real objective of her attention – a mutual friend of theirs – jealous. This guy, though a royal sleeze, was wise enough to realize that Baby was looking for a baby-daddy. She missed being on welfare.


So yesterday was a banner day for views. Between my YouTube version of a Hallmark greeting in honor of my handymanly husband and taking part in nursemyra’s T-Shirt Friday, I nearly topped out at 150. Woo-hoo, eh?

The week was packed with errands and reno and school preparations and family melodrama.

BabyD has been having tiny bouts of anxiety about her upcoming induction into grade one and all day school. To the point where she has been making Rob and I a bit peeved with “growing pain” episodes and tears at the drop of a hat about – nothing as far as we can ascertain.

We dropped by her school on Thursday as the teachers were finally back in the building and a visit to the grade one classrooms and a chat with her kindergarten teacher – in addition to picking up her supplies – has calmed her a bit. I will be taking her in on Tuesday but Wednesday we start with the bus back and forth. Fortunately, the little boy behind us (renters – it won’t last) is going to be riding the bus with her and with luck they will be in the same class.

Tee is a nice kid though Rob doesn’t think he is too bright (he thinks that about the boys ElderD and MidKid bring around too) and today BabyD and Tee played princess and My Little Ponies happily for over an hour. I have high hopes for this friendship*.

Most major activities for the fall are now booked. Ballet on Monday night for BabyD. Yoga twice a week from 10 AM to 11:30AM (me). I found a yoga strength training drop in class on Friday mornings too, and I am signed up now for the writing course at U of A. It’s being taught by a local journalist and writer and is designed for immigrants to tell the story of what brought them to the area. She is going to put together a book in which some of the stories might be included and there is a public reading after the class is over. Very cool opportunity.

Thursday being my dad’s birthday, I gave him a call around lunch because it is better to talk to him early in the day anymore. He is in bed most of the time and is not really eating again. Our talk was brief. He was not very responsive and sounded worn out and very old. Sometimes he is lively and witty but more often than not now he is sounding far away.

CB tried to call dad too a few hours later but got our mother instead and was told to call later as dad was asleep again. His call to dad was really about him – he needs help escaping his situation in San Francisco and wants to go home. To Iowa. That’s desperate folks.

Thwarted, he called me but got the answering machine. His tone told me I needed to call him right away and my instinct was right. He was zoned on his anti-anxiety meds and he talked – mostly at me – for an hour and a half. Basically he wanted me to convince the folks to bring him back to Dubuque.

And that’s what I have done.

But first I told him that it was time to really put the past in the past and take his relationship with our parents from now forward. No more looking back.

I told my mother the same thing when she tried to bring up CB’s long ago hell raising of his teens. I pointed out that he was a kid and they were the adults. They didn’t know he had mental health issues even as a small child but they had made mistakes and some of them were wrong no matter how the spin played.

I talked to my brother again on Friday. He sounded much better and I told him to call home and hash details out with the folks. Later DNOS called to wish Rob a happy birthday**, and when I told her about urging our parents to bring CB home for a bit, I got her pat reply,

“Oh really.”

Our mom uses the exact same expression and tone. DNOS sounds just like her sometimes – and would be horrified to know it.

Anyway, it means “WTF are you up to” or “Thanks so fucking much but I don’t think so”.

I noted but ignored. I am tired of some of the older family dynamics.

Dealing with CB is upsetting. It reminds me of Will in the earliest days of his illness – before we knew anything really – when he would get anxious or angry and plaintively tell me he had no idea why he felt as he did but that sometimes he felt like he was losing his mind. Sadly, he was and no one believed him or me.

CB’s quest to find mental help or help period has been fruitless with most doctors and other professionals telling him (or accusing him – take your pick) that he is actively choosing to live an effed up life. My folks and DNOS still believe this to some extent too. I don’t.

But I have no magic wand (or excess cash lying around) to help him, so I remind my parents that CB is their son and they have amends still to make. Unfair? Perhaps. But that is what big sisters are for.

Today Rob is off to the city to help ElderD move in with her friend who is a boy whom she loves and who loves her. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. Our massage therapist thinks BoySheLoves is gay***. We’ll see.

BabyD and I are off to shop for school clothes.

Next up is cleaning for a garage sale (good freaking god help me) and to put our new fall schedule to a serious road test.

Life in the Great White North.

* Like that the family doesn’t move soon. They are acreage crazy and it’s not looking good.

** My family worships my husband like aboriginals with a Coke bottle*.

*** Okay, we wondered about that too but ElderD says “no” because she wondered also and asked.

* nursemyra rightly reminds me that Australians might take offense at the coke bottle reference. I was thinking about that movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, when I made the comparison. My family acts as though Rob dropped from the sky like a god in Greek Mythology and it irritates me to no end as it seems to me they are happier with him than they ever were with my late husband. I meant no offense but realize now that some people were offended and I am sorry.