September 25, 2009
A few days ago, my daughter called. Mama (my daughter) and Mommy (birth mother of Random Granddaughter) have tickets to a concert or play or something.
“Will you babysit for us?” she asked. “We thought we could save some money as you don’t charge us anything.”
It’s nice to know Mrs. Random and I are loved for our loveable selves and not just because we provide free babysitting.
“How does RG like kindergarten?” I asked.
“She is having a great time. She loves it.”
I thought about how great it is that our little genius of a granddaughter gets to be around other small children almost as smart as she is at the private School for Very Smart Children.
The other little smart-ass children will keep her in her place. Or she will organize them into a conspiracy to take over the world by the time they have reached second grade.
“She has gone out for cross country running,” my daughter continued.
“When kindergarteners run cross country, how far do they run?” I asked in amazement.
“I think they go 1/2 mile.”
I listened in amazement and awe. I keep forgetting to measure the exact distance, but it’s about a quarter of a mile along the private road from our driveway to the mailbox on the country road. It was not very long ago when RG would whine and asked to be picked up and carried if we made her walk all the way to the mailbox with us.
The next time she comes to visit us, I will insist that she run all the way to the mailbox and run all the way back to our little house in the medium sized woods, or no dessert at lunch for her!
September 21, 2009
My sister, as with all my siblings, is very intelligent (if quite eccentric). After a slow start, she eventually went to college a couple of times, relatively late in her life. In her forties, she went to the University of Wisconsin and studied Greek Philosophy and Ancient Greek (the language) because she felt like it. Later she got a degree in Library Science (I am not sure where) and became the director of a small library in Vermont, so she could live near her daughter and her two grandchildren, where she lives now.
I suspect that if my niece and her husband lived near us, my barely extended family and my sister’s barely extended family would hit it off well. But it’s impossible to know these things for sure.
In any case, a few years ago, I thought again about that meeting at Beelzebub’s apartment with with his “niece” (if indeed she was a relative of his), Lucille. I had completely forgotten Lucille for many years, and had not even made a connection with what happened to my sister. (I had only met Lucille for a few minutes and at that time in my life, constantly moving from high school to high school in different states, my childish mind was in confusion and turmoil.)
Strange as it seems, it only dawned on me suddenly at the age of 60, that Beelzebub was a a serial sexual predator who preyed on young girls such as my sister. Whether Lucille really was his niece
I don’t know. Although I sensed something was wrong by Lucille’s tense, agitated manner, I was far too immature and naive to understand that she was trying to communicate, Help, I am being held prisoner by a rapist!
In retrospect, Beelzebub’s comment to 14-year-old Random about how people would not understand his “unconventional life style” now strikes me with horror.
Obviously, my parents had no grasp of this as well. Fairly or unfairly, I hold them responsible for what happened to my sister, However, life is very strange. In this case, a terrible event, the rape of my sister, turned into the birth and blossoming of a wonderful person, my niece J.
Recently, there have been several shocking news items about young woman being held prisoner for long periods of time by an older man who raped the victim over a long period of time, undetected by other people who encountered the victim but did not realize what was happening. The story I tell is slightly different, but not that much.
When I was in high school, my life was a bit in tumult, as we moved frequently and as I attended six different schools, and as I was in immature introvert. I only met Lucille for a few minutes, and forgot about her completely, until my brief encounter with her popped into my mind a few years ago.
Life is very strange. Sometimes something good emerges from something awful.
(There is a little more to this story, but I am not willing to put it in my blog. I will send it to a few friends by email, who usually get communication from me by tat method. If you are a reader and want to be on the list, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the moment, I am planning to email David, woo, pandemonic, and Pete. That covers most of my regular readers, I think. If I left you out, don’t be insulted; just drop me a line.)
September 19, 2009
I remember J (my niece) visiting us when she was about 12. My wife and I compared her to our daughter, a year or two older, very unfavorably, and predicted that J would be a very messed up adult as she grew older. We lost all contact with my sister and my niece for a number of years.
When we were living in Oregon a number of years ago, J called us one day and told us that she was going to college in California and working in a conservation program for youth. She asked if she could visit us. At the time, my daughter was attending college at Oberlin in Ohio.
When J came to visit us, my wife and I, expecting a very messed up young adult, were surprised to meet a pleasant, mature, self-possessed young woman. We took her out to dinner and had a lovely time. She came to visit us a couple more times, eventually bringing along a boy friend, S, she had met at college. He also proved to be an intelligent, courteous, and delightful young man. Both niece J and boy friend S graduated together with degrees in environmental engineering of some sort. They moved to the east coast of the United States and got married. A few years ago, I attended a couple of family reunions on the East Coast, organized by my Aunt Naomi and financed by her millionaire daughter, my cousin Joanna. Now living in Vermont, both niece J and her now husband S attended. They not only attended, they served as brilliant organizers and facilitators, taking people on hikes through Vermont and later New Hampshire wilderness and invariably being kind, patient and endearing to everyone at the reunion, ranging from little babies to aunts in their seventies.
Being a rude person, I said to my sister, “I am surprised at how well your daughter turned out. When she was a teenager, I thought you were a terrible mother and your daughter would be ruined for life.”
My sister’s answer was, “I was indeed a terrible mother. I have no explanation of how well she has turned out except that she had a lot of strength of character and she attended a Waldorf School.”
[I am a little skeptical of that explanation. My youngest brother and youngest sister attended a Waldorf School and they are both seriously messed up individuals.]
Unfortunately, as my daughter and her partner live here on the West Coast, and J and her husband S live in Vermont, they have never had a chance to meet as adults, nor have their children had a chance to encounter each other. My daughter and her partner, of course, are parents to the inimitable Random Granddaughter, now attending kindergarten at the School for Very Bright Children.
J and S have two children. My sister, very close to my Aunt Rose, like her became a follower of the weird semi-cult of Anthropacifism, based on the teaching of the German nut philosopher Rudolf Steiner. The Anthropacifists are best known in the United States for the Waldorf Schools and for biodynamic farming. My niece’s two children go to a Waldorf school. Although I consider them to be nutty overall, the Waldorf schools have some good points going for them, and bio-dynamic farmers have some success with their method of agriculture, which includes some peculiarities such as planting by phases of the moon.
September 18, 2009
The significance of Lucille’s behavior only popped into my consciousness a couple of years ago, though it should have been apparent to me about 45 years ago, as I shall explain in part three of this post.
About six years after the Rockland County episode with Beelzebub, I was living in Los Angeles, after flunking out of college and going out with Mrs. Random to be. One day I learned that my parents were having great difficulties with my sister D. They decided that she needed to get away from home.
There was a precedent in that they had sent me to live with my aunt Rose (mother’s sister) for a year when I was four years old. I suspect the year with Aunt Rose saved my youthful sanity.
However, my parents told me that my sister was going to stay with Beelzebub for a while, which struck me as very strange. Also, my sister was about 16 years old at the time, instead of four years old as I had been when sent to live with my aunt.
A while later, after I had been married for a little while and our own daughter had been born, I learned that my sister was pregnant, and that Beelzebub was the father. My sister came home, had the baby, raised her daughter as a single mother and never married.
Beelzebub never suffered any consequences for this statutory rape (as it should be described as my sister was underage when she became pregnant) and never paid any child support. As far as I could tell, my parents never took any action to hold Beelzebub to account.
As a young, immature married person I thought of my parents, What were they thinking? but mostly I thought about my my own marriage and my own child. “
September 17, 2009
Sometimes one does not realize the significance of a situation until a long time afterward.
When I was about 14 years old, my father, a very intelligent (and very unpleasant) person who had never had a job worthy of his talents, finally was hired for a good job by a defense contractor to help usher in the computer age and to help protect the United States from nuclear attack by Soviet bombers. It took a while for his security clearance to be approved because two doctors had delivered him and each doctor thought the other doctor had signed his birth certificate.
When it came time for the FBI to approve his security clearance, the lack of a birth certificate and the fact that his ancestors came from countries behind the Iron Curtain caused the defenders of our national security some concern. Eventually, however, they decided he was not a Manchurian Candidate and he was assigned to a job in New York state. He moved to the East Coast by himself for a while for training, leaving us behind in California for a while.
Eventually, he summoned my mother to leave Orange County, California and join him, and bring the rest of us (my four younger siblings and I) along, though I suspect my father would not have wept if she had mislaid us before leaving.
Anyway, after a few weeks in Paterson, New Jersey (aka the armpit of America), we rented a house in Suffern, a town in Rockland County. Rockland County bears a relationship to New York City rather like Orange County, California bears to Los Angeles.
My father had a friend in Rockland, County. I don’t remember exactly the basis of the friendship (though most of my parents’ friends were very weird). Perhaps they played chess (as my father was a brilliant chess player), or bridge (which my father came to prefer to chess). As usual I don’t remember the gentleman’s name. I’ll call him Beelzebub for reasons that will eventually become apparent.
I’m not sure how old Beezy was. When I was 14, everyone over 21 seemed very old to me. I suspect now that he was in his 40s.
One day my father asked me to go to Beelzebub’s apartment for a bit. My dad explained that Beelzebub’s niece was visiting him and my dad thought she might like some company of a person her own age.
Beelzebub chatted with me for a few minutes before he introduced me to his niece. He explained that he worked independently doing title searches for real estate companies. “It is indeed fortunate that I have a way to make a living where I can work by myself. As I live a very unconventional lifestyle, it is a good thing I can make a living without having to work for anybody else, because most people would not understand,” he said to me.
His statement didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but just as my parents were obsessed with alternative health, organic food, and obscure mystical beliefs, most of their friends were rather strange as well, so I just attributed Beelzebub’s odd statement to the peculiar milieu in which my parents circulated.
In fact, my parents, apparently concerned that as a teenager I was a bookish introvert with no young lady friends, from time to time thrust me into the company of daughters and nieces of friends in the hope that I would come out of my shell and perhaps get a young lady into “trouble” (I guess).
This stratagem never succeeded. The young lady and I would stare awkwardly at each other, unable to think of anything to say. At the time, my conclusion was that she was thinking of me What a boring dork. Now, I suspect the young lady (perhaps as introverted as I) was thinking, He probably thinks I am a boring dorkette. It’s hard to know. It was a long time ago and the truth is lost in the mists of time.
In any case, my father dropped me off at Beelzebub’s apartment and Beezy introduced me to his niece. Even in comparison to my usual awkward encounters with young ladies of my own age, this meeting was especially awkward. I’ll call her Lucille. Lucille seemed tense and agitated. Naturally, I attributed her distressed manner to repulsion with me.
When my father eventually showed up to take me back home, I was glad to get out of there. On the drive home, my father asked me about how my conversation with Lucille went. I said something articulate such as, “Mumble, mumble.”
This all took place about fifty years ago.
September 13, 2009
Some time back, I wrote about hosting a party at the mommies’ house for my two favorite volunteers: Mary (not Maria) from Peru and S from Romania.
My wife was quite taken with Mary. I think because they are much alike. Each is very intelligent but does not think she is. Each does exactly as she pleases regardless of what other people think they “ought” to do. Of course, they are different as well. Mary has a Master’s Degree in Industrial Engineering. My wife took one college class.
In any case, I asked my wife, “Do you want to invite Mary to visit us?” My wife seldom wants people to visit us unless she had decided to invite them. However, in this case, she said, “Yes.”
Mary said she has bought a condo and that things are going well at her job for a utility company and that she will visit us next month.
My wife said, “Be sure to tell her we will pay for her ferry ticket.”
I let the mommies know about the visit, but their lives are so busy and complicated I don’t know if they will join us. Perhaps Random Granddaughter can invite her entire kindergarten class from the school for very bright children. On the way, they could stop and visit the used car dealer that sells used fire trucks and as a project they could take a fire engine apart and put it back together.
September 12, 2009
Pete, you suggested I read Gold Coast, by Nelson DeMille. I just finished reading it. The book was very stimulating, entertaining, thoughtful, and well-written, and I plan to read the sequel. I thank you for the suggestion.
The main lesson I drew from reading it was not to get involved in a ménage à trois with a Mafia don and my wife, not a kink I am likely to pursue. (My wife has made it clear to me that if I am not faithful to her, I am not likely to live for a long time. I don’t think she would bother to hire someone from the Mafia to help her hit me.)
I presume you are adhering to the same sensible policy in regard to your lovely bride.
Pete, in turn I will suggest two possible books for you to read. They are not exactly like Gold Coast and I don’t know if you will like either book, so please don’t put out a contract on me if you read either and find you don’t like them.
One is called Vertical Run, by Joseph Garber.
The other is Vanishing Act by Thomas Perry.
David, on more than one occasion, you have suggested I read The Road to Wellville by T. Coraghessan Boyle. I just checked it out of the library and I have started reading it.
It does indeed seem to relate in a deep way to my family’s history. (My paternal grandfather was a big fan of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.) Although I have only started reading the book, I do already sense a connection and it does bring back moving memories.
September 4, 2009
My wife tells me that I am a very negative and pessimistic person. She is just as negative and pessimistic as I am, but she refuses to admit it. Every morning when she gets up, she grimly says to herself, I will be positive and optimistic.
It takes her a couple of hours and several glasses of tea for her determination to take effect.
I meant to write this story about five years ago, when our house was being built. I was optimistic, but I am finally getting around to it now.
My wife is a person with a highly developed aesthetic sense. It is very important to her to be surrounded by things she finds beautiful. For example, our garden is full of many nutritious food plants, but it is also full of beautiful flowers. It took four years for the garden to reach its full flowering. We are now harvesting our fruits and vegetables, which have been abundant, and sniffing the flowers, which are beautiful and provide beautiful scents.
When we were working with Tom, the contractor we hired to build our house, my wife said, “We will purchase the front door and bring it out to the construction site.” She said this because she didn’t want any old door. She wanted a door that represented us and our values and aesthetics.
Tom, the contractor, a very nice guy who did a good job for us in building the house, explained that we should purchase two doors: the permanent door and a temporary door. The contractor would use the temporary door during construction because it might accidentally get damaged. He would only install the permanent door near the end of the job.
We found a “door store” near where we lived on the mainland.. The large showroom includes racks and racks of doors in various sizes and designs. Many of the doors have glass or plexiglass decorative insets.
My wife, as is typical of her, spent hours studying different doors and beautiful decorative insets until she found just the right ones; a combination that would create a front door that would say “Us” to the world. We also picked out a cheap temporary door. Both doors were very heavy. Two strong employees helped load them into the back of my wife’s pickup truck.
We took the doors home, to the duplex we owned at that time with daughter and her partner on the mainland. Again, they were too heavy for us to lift by ourselves. Fortunately, some teenagers were playing football in an empty lot across the street. We asked them if they would lift the doors and put them in our garage for us. Welcoming the opportunity to show off their youthful strength, they cheerfully lifted the doors and put them in the garage. It took two of the husky young men to carry the main door.
We delivered the doors to the work site. We got our next door neighbor at the time, Tim, to help us get the doors into the truck. My wife has a bad back; it was not very safe for her to help me lift the door. I could not do it by myself.
The contractor said to take the “real door” back as he could not store it safely at the work site. It was a little irritating to drive the door back to the duplex where we lived and get my neighbor to help me unload it again.
The contractor typically worked on three houses at a time. At the time, his business was going well and he had a fairly large work crew. One Saturday morning we arranged to deliver the “real” door to the island. Terry the foreman, was supposed to meet us at the work site at 9 am.. To get there on time, we had to get up at 5 am in the morning. I arranged with Tim, our next door neighbor, to help me load the door in the truck, even though it meant he had to get up at 5 am on a Saturday morning. My wife had taken a dislike to Tim before she ever talked to him because he always had a dozen cars sitting on his front lawn, most of them in various states of assembly, dis-assembly, and repair. My wife thought Tim’s constant auto repair projects made our neighborhood look like a white trash headquarters. But, in fact, Tim proved to be a very pleasant neighbor in various ways, not least when he cheerfully agreed to get up at 5 am on a Saturday morning to help me load the door into our truck.
We loaded the door at 5 am, caught a ferry, and arrived at the work site about 9 am. The not quite finished house stood empty. There was no sign of Terry. We knew Tom, the contractor, was off island on other business. We did not have a phone number for Terry, the foreman. We sat around the work site in our truck for about an hour, extremely frustrated and irritated.
In the early days of his blog, David Rochester would write little stories about the irritations and frustrations of his life I called “Rochesterisms.” This was clearly a Rochesterism; not really a disaster, but certainly maddening.
We debated what to do. We were irritated at the prospect of making the long trip back to the mainland, unloading the door, and doing it all over again another day.
We drove the five miles back into the nearest town on the island. We stopped at a pleasant coffee shop and had some tea and pastries to console ourselves in our irritation and frustration. Having a house built is a stressful and anxiety producing activity. My wife and I stared at each other in gloom. We wondered if we should drive the five miles out to the work site just in case Terry the foreman had arrived. We decided to take the trouble.
In gloom we drive the five miles in silence. We drove down the gravel private road to the site where our house was being constructed. There was no sign of Terry the foreman.
We trudged up the driveway to our truck. Just as we got up to the truck, we saw Terry’s truck pull up.
He got out, explained that an problem had occurred at one of the other work sites. Apparently a building inspector had decided the other house did not meet code, and Terry had been forced to rush to the site and deal with the problem while his boss, Tom, was out of town.
We drove our truck back down the driveway.
Terry, the foreman, is a man of average height and build, as am I. I prepared to help him lift the door. Terry lifted the door by himself and carried it to the house by himself and propped it against the wall next to the construction door and my wife and I stared in amazement and admiration.
“There,” he said. “I’ll have the crew install it on Monday.”
My wife and I thanked him effusively, got back in our truck, and drove back toward the ferry dock, our load lighter and our hearts singing.
September 2, 2009
My wife and I live on a very fertile island in Puget Sound, a kind of temperate zone jungle. Berries grow very well on our island.
We grow and pick quite a few kinds of berries. For example, we grow strawberries. Strawberries are very well behaved. They have no thorns and grow well. I can envision strawberries sitting in neat rows at church on Sunday.
We also grow boysenberries. Boysenberries are a California crop more than a Pacific Northwest crop. Growing boysenberries brings back memories of her youth in California to my wife. Her family didn’t grow them, but they went into the countryside to buy them.
They grow quite happily here in Washington. They seem vigorous, but they tend to be “sickly.” They also are rather thorny.
Two years ago, they produced a lot of fruit, but then the vines looked very sickly.
At the end of the season, my wife cut them back to the ground. This year they are growing well, but it takes two years for them to produce fruit, so they are just practicing this year with lush vines and no fruit. Boysenberries go to church, but their attendance is a little spotty.
We grow raspberries. Raspberries are a little rambunctious. They produce well, and have a few thorns. They go to church, but argue with other church members when they serve on church committees.
The pastor would just as well the raspberries would pass on joining the committees, but they always do. In our garden, little raspberries side sprouts are always popping up.
We grow blueberries. Blueberries sit quietly in the pews. They don’t stand out much, but the pastor knows he can depend on the blueberries.
We grew tayberries. Tayberries go an odd church on the outskirts of town. If they drop into your church, the pastor would be just as happy if they went back to their odd sect. Pete, a fine and long-time reader of my blog, sent me some bushes. My wife was very suspicious of them and wouldn’t let me plant them in the garden for a couple of years. After they grew in the garden for a while, my wife said, “I don’t like the berries very much. The roots are stealing nutrients from the currents and the potatoes. I want to get rid of them.”
I asked Pete’s permission. It seemed rude to me to dig up a gift plant by the roots. Pete, kindly and patient as always, said, “Sure. Good luck.”
At my wife’s request, I dug up the tayberries. However, they are difficult to eradicate. They will keep popping into the church from time to time, just to be difficult. The pastor may have to spray these congregants with Round Up.
We also pick berries that grow wild. For example, we pick salmon berries. Salmon berries taste rather bland. Salmon berries are kind of like slum children from the “working poor.” They are harmless, but there are always a lot of them wandering around on the streets and playing pickup football and baseball games. If they come to church, they are restless, and sit in the back.
Then there are the blackberries. There are two kinds of blackberries. The native blackberries are very small. They are hardly worth the trouble of trying to pick and eat.
They native black berries send their children to school, and they don’t go to church very often, but they don’t cause much trouble.
The Himalayan Blackberries are troublemakers. They ride loud motorcycles or drive souped up cars with no mufflers and play their radios very loudly as they drive by. Himalayan Blackberries hang out in bars. When they bartender sees a Himalayan Blackberry come into the bar, he makes such his blackjack is handy under the counter and the phone is within easy reach so he can call the sheriff’s deputies in a hurry.
So far I’ve been mostly using feminine metaphors describing berries, and mostly describing them in terms of members of a church congregation. I’ve always had a weakness for mixed metaphors in my writing and my Himalayan Blackberry metaphors are hopelessly out of control, as are the vines and the berries themselves.
Blackberry vines are guys. The kind of guy who looks like Marlan Brando when he was young. The kind of guy who has no trouble attracting women.
If you marry a blackberry guy you will have to call the cops because he will beat you.
The berries themselves are girls, the kind of female known as “jail bait.” They look ripe and luscious before they are of legal age. They are surrounded by vicious stickers that will sting for a long time after they rip into your clothes and your arms as you try and pick them and even your legs as you try to get to them. The stickers are the brothers of the Himalayan girls, and they’re always looking for a fight to defend their sisters’ “honor.”
If you get a blackberry when it is really ripe–a period that last for about two days–they are incredibly sweet. A ripe blackberry comes off in your hand easily, and tastes delightful. After about two days, they start to dry up and they are not so good anymore.
Neither the blackberry guys nor the blackberry girls age very well (just as Marlan Brando did not age very well). You probably don’t want to marry a blackberry. It’s probably a good idea to wear protection, such as gloves, when you go out to pick blackberries. I picked a bowl of blackberries today. When I held up my hands to my wife, they were stained with juice, and they were stained with blood.
Good luck in getting a Himalayan Blackberry to go to church.