A Busy October

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and writing for another project that has deadlines, so haven’t had as much time to spare for what my wife calls “joy-reading” or, for that matter, free written expression. I’ve also been attempting to research long-term vocational and other life outcomes for child sufferers of post-traumatic stress syndrome – but have found little of use in the journals usually devoted to this sort of thing.

Sometime during the month of October, 2009, fell the anniversary of my 25th year of sobriety. By no means have I lived all of the past 25 years responsibly or even in the way that made best sense to my thought processes that were occasionally impaired by rigidly held conceits and residue of a less than idyllic childhood. To the good, however, I never did go all Heathcliff, criminal; nor did I continue to actively seek my own destruction. I can only credit the faith of Christ for this.

In the Orwellian Year, in the cool early afternoon of a sunny October day, I dressed in my best clothes and made my way, I do not recall how, to a restaurant called El Paso Cantina located at one end of Ports O’Call Village in San Pedro, which is the port of Los Angeles. I had a bout five cigarettes in a shiny metal case, a Zippo lighter, and maybe five or six dollars. I was an underage drinker, but was rarely carded. I ordered some kind of mixed drink. The waitress, a young woman named Vlasta or Vlosta, of Yugoslavian ancestry, brought me my drink and gave me her telephone number. It must have been the next day that I checked myself in at San Pedro Peninsula Hospital’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit, thinking that I would there learn to control my drinking as a preliminary means to regaining some self-control and self-direction. I had become a sort of monster. I was about two months shy of my 21st birthday.

The recidivism rate for programs of that sort are high, and I do not know whether any of those in-patient with me , or even any of the program’s counseling staff, have remained clean and/or sober during the intervening years. During the course of my life I have, for the most part, turned my back on the acquaintances or ‘friends’ of my time as a drunkard. The people with whom I have kept in touch are the people who, for a number of reasons, matter to me. Along the way, I have met and both befriended and been befriended by other people who matter, and I wish I could have kept in touch with all of them. Even among those who matter, I have found it best to distinguish between those experience has taught me are best kept at arm’s length and those who generally tend to live and speak out of a truth that imbues them with a greater value.

I recall a dream I had sometime shortly before my 30th birthday. I was on a paved-over embankment sitting with my back against a chain-link fence feeling the warmth radiating up from the asphalt covered ground and metal of the fence, looking at the playground and buildings of Crestwood Street Elementary School – another of many places of unhappy memory for me – and was aware in that instant that everybody I loved knew that I loved them, whether I’d been in touch with them or not. When I awoke, I accepted the dream-world knowledge as fact, and went on.

My family and I had a good Halloween. My wife dressed our little boy as the cartoon dog, Blue, and we took him to visit family and friends. As we were leaving our neighborhood, I was incensed at the fact that people who appeared to be of the tax-consumer class were bringing their children in carloads. I thought that it is bad enough the government steals my money to pay their rent, buy their groceries, pay their utility bills, and now buy them cellular telephones and “minutes,” now I am supposed to give their children candy? Of course, none of that’s the fault of the children, and I normally have some charitable feeling for children regardless of their class. We ate supper at my mom’s house in another neighborhood, and our son was frightened by the orange Scream mask worn by a polite child who came to the door seeking candy. Seventy-Six ran off crying, and later, during the meal, seated in a place where he could see the front door, kept looking apprehensively over there saying, “Door?” We didn’t let him have any candy, but I think we did let him have some frozen yogurt.

My work has required me to travel to a county I’m not usually tasked with visiting, and the driving involved has been tiring.

Our house is situated among a number of mature trees, and a million leaves have fallen on our yard. Another million or so are poised to fall over the next couple of weeks. I have discovered raking. My other strategy for coping with fallen leaves is even more primitive and ignorant, although it involves the use of an internal combustion engine and moving mechanical parts: I drive the lawn mower over the leaves repeatedly until they are ground up to the point where my conscience isn’t bothered by leaving (har) them where they lie. Even if that’s not correct, it is euphonious. Three of my nephews recently came over and, in exchange for a few dollars, helped move the piles of leaves to the curb. The youngest of the boys worked the most diligently. The older two combined their work with squirrel-like silliness.

We got a contract on our old house with a buyer more qualified and more committed to its purchase who is using a realtor and a mortgage company capable of performing the functions necessary to complete their assigned tasks.

That’s all I know good, right now. My great adventure is living the ordinary life in an ordinary way.

Shopping Trip

I’d planned to drive to the university at Murfreesboro to use the library Saturday, and Caution-Lady said she wanted to go along to do some shopping – Halloween treats for the kids in her class, and a costume for Seventy-Six, use a gift card at Target. Turned out I was able to find the resources I needed online and full-text, so I decided I wouldn’t make the drive. Caution-Lady received the news with a distant, angry, sad look on her face. She’d been looking forward to the trip, prefers to shop distant locales with company, and for some reason really likes it when I go shopping with her. We ate an early lunch and hit the road.

At Toys-R-Us we looked for the costume Caution-Lady had decided Seventy-Six should wear for Halloween, but were unable to find it. She bought some Pixie-Stix candy treats for her classroom, and I picked out cylume sticks for Seventy-Six to play with. Brightly colored and graphics-rich packaged toys appealed to him. A large toy truck in a case that transforms, moves about, and speaks at the touch of a button was one of his favorites. Each time after it completed its routine, the little guy emphatically pointed his finger at it by way of saying, “Again!” We also got him a child-sized toy broom that’s still a little too big for him. He likes to help sweep the house, and we want to encourage him to spend time while he’s under our roof to help carry out the chores necessary to maintain a home. I keep thinking he’ll accidently stick the real broom’s handle through the glass on a hutch, or into a ceiling light-fixture, or knock the photos off the piano. I’ve taught him already to hit toy balls across the floor with his small broom – like golf or polo.

At Target we were likewise unable to find the costume Caution-Lady wanted. Instead, we spent our gift-card on one of those umbrella strollers. Seventy-Six is still too young to walk everywhere with us, so it’ll be a handy addition to Whitecar’s trunk.

Finally, the Cautious One wanted to visit The Avenue, a sort of outdoor mall near Manson Pike Trailhead on the Stones River.  A row of stores specializing in clothing and accessories for babies and toddlers might have the right Halloween costume for Seventy-Six.  Alas, no joy.  I waited in the car with Seventy-Six giving him a snack of Kix cereal.  He didn’t seem to care that we hadn’t been able to find anything for him to wear Halloween.  We played with a hard plastic ball his aunt, Jennifer, had given him at Christmastime or for his birthday.  We counted individual pieces of cereal.  Eventually my wife returned to the car having found nothing suitable.

“(Another teacher whose name I’ve forgotten) said there’s a Halloween costume store here, but I don’t see it,” Caution-Lady said with a hint of distress in her voice.

“I’ll drive out this way, and maybe we’ll see it,” I said, “You look out for it, and I’ll try to make sure I don’t hit (any pedestrians with Whitecar).”

We found the store – a semi-big-box retail space that had evidently been sitting vacant until rented temporarily to house the “Spirit Halloweeen” store.  Adults young and middle-aged, families with elementary and older age children were walking into the store from the parking lot with facial expressions set to denote happy expectation.  We parked the car and went in, carrying Seventy-Six.  The decor was pretty much a Zombie/Satanic motif with red-eyed monsters and graveyard sets that included dead toddlers and babies clambering about in rotting green tones.  Caution-Lady tried to distract Seventy-Six, who didn’t seem to notice the store’s preoccupation with the filth of decay and the one-night-a-year hope of a devilish and horribly incomplete resurrection of the dead.  It struck me that said preoccupation is about as wholesome as and a lot like playing with feces – the waste products left behind when life departs.

Anyway, that store didn’t have anything suitable either, and we left it pretty quickly.  Apparently we’re not as big on the Halloween spirit-thing as a lot of other people in Middle Tennessee.  A pity I’d left my camera at home – this post should have some illustrations.

Back at the house, Caution-Lady bid on some costumes on Ebay, and eventually bought one.  We’ll see whether it arrives in time.