Heartache, Hope, and Headache

Lord have mercy.

When life changes, it certainly changes. Back in early November, I matched with someone on Tinder. I know. Tinder. Gag. I’d matched with a few people before, met with one, nothing worked out. I decided to delete the app and start over with it. I wasn’t sure what that was going to accomplish, but I digress.

I swiped right on a few guys and then came across this guy named Andrew. His instagram was in his bio, so I creeped. I really appreciated being able to do that because I got a sense of his personality and humor. He seemed sarcastic and into puns, quite like myself. Then I accidentally double-tapped one of his photos. Fuck.

Now, I could have unliked it, deleted tinder, and crawled under a rock, but that would have been a ridiculous overreaction. I went back into the tinder app and swiped right.

Shortly thereafter, he swiped right for me, creating a match. Ta-da.

I decided to be brave and send the first message. His bio said something about dad jokes, of which I am a master, so I messaged him some dumb comment about the aforementioned. It took a day or so (cue me biting my nails) and then he responded.

Within a very short time, he’d impressed the pants off of me. Well, okay, conversationally, anyway. We had several things in common, he seemed very gentlemanly and genuine – even over a tinder chat. He ended up asking for my number.

We texted a bit every day – good conversation, no small talk. Then a couple days later, I got a not-so-great message.

My mom called me and said that my Nana had taken a turn for the worse and likely had about two-to-three weeks left. She’d just been given her Last Rites since it’s getting to be about that time. I’d wavered on whether or not I wanted to go see her one last time. She’d had Alzheimer’s for years now and looked right through me when I saw her last Christmas. Selfishly, it wasn’t something I wanted to go through again.

Then Friday, 14th of November, mom called in the afternoon to say that Nana’s prognosis had moved from two-to-three weeks to two-to-three days. I wavered again about whether to run down to the home and see her, but the thought seeing her in her current state just about paralyzed me. She wouldn’t recognize me, she’s probably in pain, she’s sleeping anyway, etc. I decided to stay home, but I would talk to my brother about potentially going to see her the next day.

That visit never came, because around 11pm that night, mom’s name showed up on my phone. I knew right away what had happened, and my instincts were confirmed when she said, “this is the call.”

My beloved Nana had died. Those words are bitter in my mouth.

Sweet Nana is finally in Heaven and out of pain.

I needed to go for a drive.

I drove to Nana’s old house. There are new owners now and they were home, looking out the window for whatever reason, so I couldn’t stay. I wanted to sit in the driveway and look at it. I wanted to sit and imagine all the million times we walked or biked down the road to her house for frosted ginger cookies and milk. All the Halloweens we’d trick-or-treated and gotten loads of candy from her at the front door. All the Christmases we’d helped trim her tree with ancient ornaments and strands of tinsel that we got all over the floor. I wanted to imagine sitting on her dusty rose-colored couch and glanced over to her in her rocking chair – seeing her knitting a new scarf or blanket.

I wanted to get out of the car and walk around back to the garden. I wanted to picture her kneeling, in her skirt, on one of those foam knee-protectors and digging holes for new bulbs or annuals or perennials. I wanted to help pull weeds and put soil in behind the flowers she’d relocate. I wanted to say, “look, Nana!” and hear, “Isn’t that nice” in her way, where it isn’t a question, actually.

I thought about all the times we’d gone in her light blue Oldsmobile, and later her pearlescent Geo Metro, to the library. The only reason I had a library card was because of her. I thought about the walks up to Ponca, the jumping in puddles, the blowing bubbles, the reading; the painstaking time she would spend putting my hair up in curlers and wrapping a silk scarf around so I can walk home, the way she answered the phone (“erm, hello”) in her way, where it really isn’t a question, again, actually.

Nana was one of those people who I pictured having in my life until I was old and grey. She’d just always be there somehow. And now she’s gone.

When my parents first hired her, I was about six months old. She came looking slightly like a 1940s war nurse and told them that she would be addressed as Mrs Meyer. It wasn’t long before she was Nana; my Nana.

I drove back to my neighborhood that night and sat in my car for ages listening to music. I had been texting Andrew sporadically due to it being the middle of the night, the news, and the drive. I suddenly felt very strongly that I should just be honest with him about what had happened. We’d been talking such a short time and we didn’t even know each other, but I needed to see right then and there how this was going to go.

Either he would say no, we barely know each other, I don’t need this right now, I’m out with friends (he was out at the bar with friends, I knew); or he wouldn’t say any of those things. Somehow I knew he wouldn’t react like the former. And he didn’t. he said he was so sorry and he wished there was something he could do; if he wasn’t drinking, he’d drive out to see me.

We talked about sad music and how happy music doesn’t actually help when you’re sad because you can’t relate to it in the moment. He sent me a youtube link and said it always helped him. I thought, great, what is this shit going to be. I clicked on the link and as soon as the title popped up, my heart skipped a beat: Morning in May by Ludo.

No one knows Ludo. And anyone who might have heard Ludo certainly hasn’t heard the Broken Bride album. But here this stranger was, sending me the song from Broken Bride that never fails to bring me to tears.

This discovery turned into a conversation lasting until 3am, even though he had to work early. He made me smile and even laugh that night, one of the worst nights in my life. I couldn’t help but think that God had all of this planned from the start. Hell, I’m pretty sure Nana had a hand in this. If I hadn’t been texting him that night, I’d have been alone in my thoughts and feelings. Everyone else was asleep or out of town. Nana took care of that. She was a caregiver til the end.

A couple days later, Andrew and I had our first date planned. I hadn’t had those butterflies in a long time. I didn’t want to spend too much time getting ready or coming up with any speeches or whatever. I was gonna be me and that was it. Furthermore, I wanted to be myself, not ‘better.’ I finally had hope again.

The date went amazingly. I knew I was in trouble from the get-go. And the best part was that he felt the same way. He asked to see me a few days later and did I say I was in trouble? Because I was in big, fucking trouble. Wow.

I’m being quite vague, I know. I just- well, this is very precious to me.

It hasn’t yet been two months, but I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt happier, more comfortable, and more like myself.

And then since it can’t be all sunshine and roses, the continued car accident stress..

I’ve been seeing a chiropractor three times a week. My body was working 42% harder than it should have been. (Not sure if I ever talked about the scans). My nerves had practically shut down. It’s getting a bit better; it’s changing anyway. I had an MRI on my right foot, come to find out that I have two fractured toes. That explains a lot. I have patella baja (shortened patella) in both knees thanks to the trauma. My wrists (left much more so than right) are still weak. Some bones in my chest pop if I stretch. Oh yeah, and I’ll need to start physical therapy now that the holidays are over.

The court date for the driver-at-fault drunk to enter his plea is in a week. I wonder how the past four-almost-five months have been for him. I see, via public record, that he’s just bought a house. Can’t be going too badly then.

Meanwhile, I’m just broken. Sure, it didn’t kill me. It could have, but it didn’t. It still could, but I won’t let it. What it did was make me weaker. Angrier. Cynical. It made me scared. It made me paranoid. It has taken so much from me and continues to take more.

Meanwhile, I’m the one who’s been in prison.

Is There a Civil War Re-enactment I Didn’t Know About?

Is There a Civil War Re-enactment I Didn’t Know About?

And why wasn’t I invited?

Is it the Fourth of Jul- no. It’s only the second.

And yet, I hear artillery shells and blackcats. 

Come to think of it, I’ve been hearing and seeing loads of fireworks for… hmm, going on two weeks now. 

My phone, calendar, laptop, and any bank with a marquee can’t all be wrong. 

I mean, it’s still not Independence Day.

It just isn’t.

I’m sure a lot of Americans (who am I kidding, no one reads this tripe) are rolling up their sleeves, revealing bald eagle tattoos right about now, but hear me out:

IT JUST ISN’T THE FUCKING FOURTH OF JULY YET.

I have video on my phone of a brilliant fireworks display that I could see from the comfort of my apartment. Know what the date is on that video? JUNE FUCKING TWENTIETH.

Like… seriously. That’s jumping the gun QUITE a bit. 

And I know, I know. There are family get-togethers and timing isn’t always the best where everyone can be around and there are folks who can shell out $100k on some boomers for their summer block party and there are kids who found the sparklers and smoke bombs in the garage and Lord knows those aren’t enough to appease, so mom and dad said, yeah, let’s just get our shit out of the way early and just a plethora of ‘reasons’ and reasons one might decide to not wait until the actual Fourth of July.

Which is a Friday this year, by the way.

It falls perfectly for the first time since 2008 (I checked). You likely don’t have work the next day, you get the whole goddamn weekend to leave burns on the driveway and make sure there won’t be a mosquito for ten square miles. 

AND YET. 

Sigh.

Look, I know this sounds very unpatriotic and bah humbug and commie, but lend me your imaginations for a second:

Think back to when you were a kid, or even probably last year when people actually were patient enough to wait until the Fourth. Okay, just think back to when you were a kid: 

If you were like me and my family, and most families in our neighborhood, and most families in Omaha, I’d reckon, we would drive to Fort Calhoun or wherever, stock up on blackcats and roman candles and those fucking snakes that make a mess and those little tanks that shoot fire out of their asses and what mom would call ‘screaming mee-mees’ and just all sorts of shit. My brother and I would see them in the mud room or the garage, just waiting to be used. Usually, we’d talk dad into letting us light all the pointless smoke bombs and probably most of the bottle rockets in the days leading up to the Fourth, but the Fourth was when it all went down. 

We’d have some family over and set up lawn chairs and when the kids were old enough, we’d get to light the fireworks, hearing everyone shouting “run, run, run!” as soon as they saw the sparks from the fuse, airing as much confidence as possible while still having that bit of panic in the back of your mind like, what if I don’t get away in time, what if it looks like a dud and I go up to try to re-light it and it blows up in my face?

The smell of sulfur or whatever so strongly in the air (which I secretly love) and knowing that bug spray would not be necessary that night and probably the night after. 

Most importantly: hearing the booms and seeing the flashes of light from down the street and across the ravine and even across the highway, because those people shelled out for theirs. Just knowing that tonight was the night of magic and oohing and ahhing. 

This year, and I swear it’s not because I’m a curmudgeonly quarter-lifer, I find myself getting more and more frustrated when every. single. night. there are at least fifteen families within eyesight lighting off their fireworks. 

I love fireworks. I think they’re a marvel. I think they’re beautiful. Fireworks shows (especially those set to music) make me cry. I love the blue ones and I love the gold ones that pop open and then the ends fizzle and crack and look like glitter. I always wish I could stand under one as it rains down beauty upon me, but I know I’ll catch flame. 

Would you open all your Christmas gifts on December 1st? Do you have Thanksgiving dinner on some random ass Tuesday? How about for Halloween: Do you go trick-or-treating on the 26th? Which is my birthday, by the way, so don’t do that.

And I know, I know, like I said, family things and timing and getting everyone together when you can is tough – especially when we get older and have our own schedules and whatever. I get it. I really do.

It’s just that I want it all at once. And I want everyone to wait so that it’s that much bigger, that much better, that much louder, that much brighter. I want to stand on my porch this Friday and see the night sky completely filled with color. I want the bursts to reflect off of my tear-soaked cheeks. I want to be breathless with the sheer enormity of celebration. 

Because that’s what the Fourth of July is all about, to me. Being overwhelmed. We’re proud to be American every day of the year, but on Independence Day, it’s all five senses. 

When I Think of Home

I had a dream the other night that I was traveling to London. 

For whatever reason, I had upwards of six hours between flights and was apparently close enough to home that I could go there on my layover.

As in all dreams where I’m ‘home,’ I’m home. On North Post Road. Where I grew up. Where I spent twenty-two years of my life. 

My room was in a bit of disarray, so I decided to rearrange it. I had two loveseats to put in there now, God knows why. I moved my bed over by my windowseat so the couches could fit on the adjacent wall. That must have worn me out, because I laid down to take a nap.

Yep. In my dream, a dream I had while I was sleeping, I laid down to take a nap. And I slept. 

This is how interesting my dream-life is, folks – I fucking sleep. In my dreams. 

Upon awaking from my nap, I look at my watch and it’s 915pm. My flight left at 908pm. Fuck. I’d missed my flight to London. I rushed out into mom’s office and had her get on the computer to look up other flights. She was very lackadaisical about it and really pissed me off. 

What she found were flights with about three or four stops, which would take days to get me to London. (I guess air travel in my dreams is only just worse than it actually is).

I went into the kitchen where dad and Conor were and mom followed me. She and dad stood arm-in-arm as we said goodbye to Conor; he was going on some trip, I guess.

This is what jarred me maybe the most: mom and dad are still married in my dreams, or so it seems.

I woke with a start (in real life, not from my dream-nap). I was stressed out over the missed dream-flight to London and confused because my parents were still married in dream-life. I wondered why, having lived on my own for three years now, why ‘home’ is always home in my dreams.

And it’s always home. 

It’s not like I wake up and think I should be there, confused by my surroundings and all that. It’s more a sense of sadness and loss. It’d be like dreaming of Grammy Fran or my dog, Frisbee, which I did recently. Must have been the Redbeard feels. 

To me, the reason behind it is fairly clear. (Heavy psychoanalysis aside). Home will always be my home. It’s the most engrained in my mind as home and I haven’t felt that sense of ‘being home’ since I moved out. Sure, I’m comfortable in my apartment and I even felt scarily comfortable in London, but… I guess I’m just clinging to the last time I felt whole. And that would be when I was at home and we were all together. 

I can’t remember if I wrote about this in here, or if it was in my physical journal (probably there, because that’s where I keep my more weepy entries), but I was going through old photos and came across all the ones I took of home. I realized how much I miss being there.

How familiar it was. I could walk it in the dark, know exactly where I am or what piece of furniture I was approaching. I thought about being downstairs and wanting the light off – walking over to the doorway and swinging my arm around the corner to hit the switch. Doing the same thing going out the door to the garage – my right arm naturally crossing my body and hitting the garage door opener. There are still so many things.. It’s almost like I can feel my muscles twitching at the chance to perform the memorized motions. 

Then there’s all the times we sat at the table together. I’ll never have another breakfast at that table in that house. Being the last one to make it to the table and sit in my chair on the east side, Conor to my right, mom to my left, and dad across from me. A bowl on the lazy susan, scrambled eggs in it. Toast in the oven on a plate to keep it warm. A plate of bacon to one corner. Frisbee nudging mom’s elbow to get a scrap or to clean the plate. Conor getting up for more milk and dad asking for just ‘half a glass’ more. 

All of it. I can still see all of it. and I ache for it. 

I guess I won’t know that again until I have my own house and family, will I? 

I wonder when I’ll dream of ‘home’ and it will no longer be the home in which I grew up. 

I wonder how I’ll feel when that day comes. 

Twenty-two years is a long time to overwrite. Will it take another twenty-two? 

Part of me hopes so. Part of me never wants to stop dreaming of ‘home’ as home.  

How Many Cops Does It Take to Arrest a 68-year-old Man in His Pajamas, by Clay Friis

As aforementioned, my dad decided to write up a ‘blog’ while he was on the inside. Without further ado, I present said blog:

 

March 4th, 2014. 6:00 am… zero:dark:thirty!  Loud knock on my front door. Still thirty minutes before my alarm! WTF? Five times: Bam, bam, bam. Bam, bam! I stumbled sleepily to the front door and turned on the outside light. Hmm, police in swat gear. I opened the door and said in my most hospitable voice, “come in, officer!”

In the door came six deputies dressed in full swat gear. The first one asked me my name. He then pulled out a folded piece of paper and waved it in front of me. “We have a warrant for your arrest! Please step back, turn around, and put your hands behind your back! Is there anyone else here?” He slapped the cuffs on me; I asked him, “do they have to be that tight?” It felt like the metal was slicing through my skin. He told me he could get a finger between my wrist and the cuff, “so it is okay.” He told me that I wasn’t acting very surprised to see them. 

The other cops walked through the house to see if someone was hiding anywhere. They came back after a while and gave the all-clear. Another cop asked me if I did the woodwork in the kitchen. “It is beautiful!”  Good cop-bad cop, or something to take my mind off the arrest, I imagined. The butch cop asked me where my shoes were. I told him he was standing on them. I also told him I needed to pee. He said, “wait until we get downtown!”  Then he asked where the house keys were. I told him they’re behind him on the key rack… the one with about one hundred keys on it.

I was standing in my pajama pants and a thin, long-sleeved shirt. Once outside, I remembered my glasses. I needed my glasses. The cop went back to the house to get them and set the house alarm off. He had to ask me my code – now I really feel safe. Once he’d retrieved the glasses, he went to put them on my face. He said he would try to be gentle and not poke me in the eye. Finally, some compassion.

The cop led me through the frigid cold and down the street to the plain car. He opened up the front passenger door and helped me in. The handcuffs really hurt now, as there wasn’t room for my arms behind me. He tried to adjust the seat to help, but just made it worse. He fumbled with the seat belt and then we were on the road.

While we were driving, I had to push my elbows against the seatback to take the pressure off of my wrists. The cuffs were certainly digging into my flesh then. To make some conversation, I brought up his statement about me not being surprised to see them. I told him that it was six in the morning and they woke me from a deep sleep – it’s difficult to be anything but tired; plus, I’d been a convicted felon for the past ten years, a random visit from the police is to be expected.

When we got downtown, we drove into a garage where he fiddled with the seatbelt again. Inside, he removed the cuffs and pointed me in the direction of a restroom. Relief at last! When I came back out, I was asked a ton of medical questions for a form he was filling out. After that, I had to talk to someone behind a window who asked the same questions.

Questions finished, I was seated on the male side of the room. A lady called me up for fingerprinting: finger tips, all fingers at once, fingers separately, thumb prints, palm prints, roll each finger separately, whole hand. I was then led to the nurse who checked my weight, pulse, and blood pressure. Medical questions were asked for the third time.

Then it was out to the waiting cell: a long, narrow room with a bench on one wall and toilet at one end. The door was half-glass. While I sat there, I wondered about laying down on the bench, but then they opened the door and gave me a tray with “breakfast” on it: oatmeal, dry whole grain bread, thin slice of fake ham, apple sauce, and a carton of milk. I ate half a piece of bread with the “ham.”

I felt like I had to go to the bathroom again. I thought, ‘I will be sitting there and someone will walk by and look in or open the door – the toilet is totally exposed.’ Then I thought, ‘who cares? There is no modesty in jail!’ I walked over to the stool and dropped a load! Of course I only realized afterward that there was no toilet paper. I looked around the room before deciding on using the rest of the dry bread. Needless to say, that was a first!

Soon, I was taken to another room where a plain-clothes officer told me that he had notified the highway patrol that I now had a temporary change of address! He asked me if I was worried about abusing someone or being abused in jail. I said, no. That prompted me to ask him if there was a threat of that happening. He told me he had been there seventeen years and never had it happen yet! I talked to him a while about church and his family.

Then I had to give up my pajamas for my prison-issues: orange pants, orange shirt, brown boxers, brown t-shirt., and orange flip flops. I also got a bag of toiletries, a change of fresh oranges, a drinking cup, a roll of blankets, and some sheets. I found some paper and something to write with when I got to my room.

I wrote: “I am in my room. Cell number 5. My cell room: 9X13. Two bunk beds attached to the wall. One bed about 12 inches off the floor. The other tall enough to sit on the lower bunk and not hit your head. They are steel plates welded to a plate in the block wall for support. There is a step in the wall about 3 blocks up to step on and climb into the top bunk. There is a cement sink vanity. Stool, no lids or seat flap. Light on far wall above the sink. Everything covered by steel plates and screen. Short steel shelf on wall opposite the beds with two hooks on swivels on which you can hang a towel. If you put pressure on them with your hand, they give away and keep you from hanging yourself on them! There is a 12×15 inch mirror encased in steel.

The door has no handle on the inside. If it is closed, you need to press a button and the guard will remotely unlock the door! There is no handle on the outside, just a pull slot. You are not allowed to enter another inmate’s cell, only stand in the doorway. The wall next to the door is floor-to-ceiling glass. There is also a narrow window in the door.”

I was on the bottom bunk. The guard brought an older black guy to my room. He was pleasant and I liked him at once. He had a great laugh.  He was 53 years old. I told him I hoped I wouldn’t keep him awake with my snoring! He said the same about himself.

During lockdown, we all went to our cells and closed the doors. We stayed there until the guard unlocked them. This happened when there was a shift change, and also when they brought meals. There was a bank of five phones in a circle around a pole. To use the phones, you entered a code on your wristband and a four digit security pin. When we checked in, we repeated a phrase three times and this was our voice-activated password. The phrase was: “With Global Tel-Link, my voice is my password.” My wristband had my name, photo, inmate ID number, and my date of birth.

My roommate snored while I wrote. He was stopped for speeding, at which time, the officer discovered that he’d been driving on a suspended license for ten years. He was given the option to plead not guilty and have a fine of $500/six months in jail, OR plead guilty and have a fine of $50/ten days in jail. What a hard choice!

Supper, day one: Diced carrots, unknown meat and noodles, bread and butter, cookie; cabbage slaw, sweet tea.

“I like my cellmate. I got the right one! I might take him to lunch when he gets out! The pen I use to write this is the insert of an ink pen. Flops all over the place.

The guy next to us is in 24-hour lockdown. He was freaking out last night. Started yelling under the door and stomping around his room. Most of the guys ignored him. He was screaming, ‘fuck the cops; fuck the police; fuck this place; fuck four; fuck fuck fuck.’ On and on for hours… The guard finally came over to his door and tried to calm him down. I heard him say, ‘listen to me. I am not a cop. I am a family man and I am just working to support my family! Look in my eyes!’”

I remember praying as I was being handcuffed. I prayed all the way downtown. The cop who cuffed me did his job with great zeal. I told a sheriff that he treated me like I had just shot his fellow cop! What did he have to fear from a 68-year-old man in pajamas without his glasses?

Breakfast, day two: apple sauce, malt-o-meal, butter and very dry biscuit, strange cold sausage patty, and milk. 

I got my cellmate’s phone number and told him I would call him when he was out of jail. Lunch together!

“I go to the court room for my bond hearing in one hour. My former wife and my daughter will be there. My former wife has been very helpful throughout this process. I will pay her for the collect phone calls I made to her. I will also pay her a bonus for all her time. My wife is still in China and waiting for her visa.”

I had almost no sleep my first night. I slept during the day of the arrest and at night, my back hurt. There was no way to lie where the pain went away. Most of the inmates are Hispanic, then black, then white. I sat with a Hispanic guy who had words tattooed over his eyes where his eyebrows should be!

The last day, I also met a guy who wrote a story for World of Warcraft. He is an artist and author. I saw him drawing Powerball Z drawings. Then he told me all about his WOW story. Said he is working on another story, but needs a map for reference. I told him I could try to print off a map and send it to him. I did this yesterday and put it in the mail today. There are a lot of great people in jail if you take the time to know them!

 

So. That’s how I spent my Tuesday and half of Wednesday. How were your two days?

When Shit Goes to Hell In a Handbasket But Just Fucking Survives Anyhow

Image

That is absolutely accurate.

I think I left off last time with Jo’s flight being delayed until who knows when. Or 620pm. I then proceeded to have too much Moscato on an empty stomach and just stay up late. I figured I’d wake up at 2pm, I’d have an hour to get ready and get a Starbucks and hit the road. Awesome.

Then I woke up. I grabbed my phone and the first thing I did was pull up the United Airlines app to check Jo’s flight. Before I could do anything, mom was calling. I answered and in a very strange voice, she told me that something happened and it was going to upset me. Or could. I can’t remember. It did. But whatever.

Dad had been arrested at 630am. So, probably, shortly after I actually went to sleep. All I really said was, ‘WHAT?’ and then listened to how my mom’s day had gone from about 830am until then. Apparently, there was a warrant out for his arrest because he left the country a year ago and wasn’t supposed to. Awesome. What, did the warrant fall behind the new guy’s desk or something? A year ago? Jesus.

She said that we would be doing court at 9am the next morning and Conor was going to get money for bail today while I drive to Kansas City to pick up Jo. I honestly don’t remember the rest of the conversation, but I do remember mom telling me that she needed a hug before I went. I got up, got ready, went to Starbucks for both of us, and also brought her some Advil before I took off.

Once in the car, and once before I’d left, actually, I had a mini-breakdown. Or in any case, a what-the-actual-fuck-is-going-on-and-I’m-really-goddamn-sick-of-2014-already-if-I’m-entirely-honest moment. Well, two moments.

I turned my music up and did as Paul McCartney told me to do: ‘step on the gas and wipe that tear away.’

The drive was uneventful. Got to KC unscathed and I will say that MCI is a super easy airport to get to, as well as maneuver parking-wise. I parked right across from the door and as I walked in, I saw a Canadian-English-looking gal with a pink bag and called out to the Canuck. Of course, it was like no time had passed since London/Bristol.

She had had a hell of a day already, too – been up since midnight CST and at the airport sitting around for hours and hours while her canceled/cancelled (ahem) flight turned into one now flying into Cleveland and then finally into KC. Thank God for beer and Starbucks and all that good stuff.

I lightheartedly told Jo that we’d have to spend a bit of her first night running to Conor’s to get the bail money (and dad’s clothes, since they didn’t let him change out of his pajamas or grab a coat.. um, it’s fucking winter) and then to mom’s to introduce Jo and work out a plan for morning. Oh yeah, then we’d have to spend her first morning here with her sleeping in and putzing around my apartment while mom and I went to court, posted bail, and waited for dad to be released.

I was pissed. I mean, the timing seemed obnoxious and totally against me/us. It would have been very easy to say that this trip never should have happened due to all the hangups, but very quickly, we realized that Jo was totally meant to be here through all of this because, well, A: I would need a Brit around to make sure my upper lip remained stiff and B: I’d just need a distraction.

Luckily, Jo was totally knackered, so she passed out and I got into bed with my laptop. I really couldn’t sleep. I really didn’t want to sleep. I just couldn’t believe this shit was sort of happening… again. I mean, sure, it’s been over ten years. It was literally laughable that we could say, ‘well, at least we know what we’re doing this time.’

You know, I’ve always been a bit afraid of it. Talking about it. Being asked about it (which never happens, but I’m para). So what? I have a convicted felon in the family. Yep. And he’s my dad and I love him. End of.

Well, not really; I’m nowhere near done with this bitch.

Anyway. Thankfully, my buddy Nicole was online and has similar sleeping habits. Since I didn’t want to go to sleep (I had to be up early and I’m always nervous I’ll sleep through my alarm when there’s important shit to do), we watched the last couple Sherlock episodes that we’d left off a while back. But mainly, and most helpfully, I was offered another distraction. (Thank you, Nicole).

After some Sherlock, a tub of hummus, and some baby carrots, I figured I should try to get at least a couple hours of sleep. It was past 5am at this point and I had to be up at 7am so that we could get to the correctional facility downtown which I had no idea even existed by 830am. I think I fell asleep singing the guitar solo from ‘Let It Be’ in my head because nothing says ‘it’ll be alright’ like George Harrison’s masterful licks in ‘Let It Be.’

I wish I could say I woke up to the sound of music, but actually, I woke up hot and sweaty, what seemed like, every twenty minutes. And then to my three or four alarms that I’d set. (Told you, para).

I took a bit longer than planned trying to get ready. What does one wear to her dad’s bond announcement, amIrite?

Was supposed to meet mom at her apartment so we could follow each other downtown. Of course, there was a disabled vehicle in the middle goddamn lane of Dodge Street about right where I needed to make a move to get Starbucks. I texted mom and asked if she could just put some coffee in a thermos for me before I FTFO. She said, yes.

Of course, due to the car in the middle of the road, traffic had slowed to about 10mph. Finally, after everyone behind me got to move into another lane (what the hell is with that, by the way? That is not courteous), I was able to take the 144th Street exit and head toward mom’s. Then that traffic was shitty. So I took Blondo. Mom said, and I will swear in court that she said, meet me at the HyVee on 132nd and Blondo.

There is no HyVee on 132nd and Blondo.

I thought, well, maybe it’s like, just past the intersection. Nope. 120th and Blondo? Nope. Shit. I pulled into some random business parking lot on 117th and Blondo before I got any further and called mom. She told me to go back to 132nd and DODGE where the HYVEE is. FFS. At this point, I had just about lost it.

FINALLY, we met up at the HyVee. On 132nd and Dodge. And I got a coffee and a protein bar. We figured Dodge Expressway to I-80 was the way to go, and we slowly made it onto Dodge. Miraculously, traffic had totally opened up because I think at this point it was just past 8am. I-80 was also totally fine and we stumbled upon the correctional facility with ten minutes to spare.

Somehow.

We even had parking spots right across from the door.

Somehow.

We get inside and this woman is kind of waiting in the vestibule where some lockers are. She said that we’d need to put all of our stuff in the lockers, except for our IDs. She was there to visit an inmate and she was very helpful. We checked in and a very nice officer told us that she’d take us up about five minutes to 9am.

We each nervously used the restroom – not nervously, as in, we were nervous to use it.. but.. you know, nerves – and then it was time to go. There were only a few of us that were led back. We passed a few banks of computer screens hooked up to telephones. Apparently, when you visit an inmate, you don’t sit with glass between you – you essentially Skype while he or she remains on some other floor entirely. Super strange, but surprisingly high-tech, I think; and film/tv needs to get with the times. Nebraska has. 

(Speaking of Nebraska – WHAT A FILM).

We’re led to this room that has three rows of seats facing a wall with plexiglass windows. The windows look into the court room. The courtroom was normal-looking, but had bulky-ass plastic benches for the inmates. The judge looked jovial, so I took that as a good sign.

They switched on a speaker so that we could hear what was going on in the room, and much to our surprise, dad was called up first. Mom grabbed my hand.

I was leaning forward in the seat, like I was waiting for Jeremy Clarkson to tell me my lap time. I was trying so hard not to be nervous, and it was strangely easy in the end, because I didn’t even feel like I was watching reality happening in front of my eyes. It was almost like cognitive dissonance. I shouldn’t be here. What am I doing here? This isn’t where I’d spend my morning. Shouldn’t I be watching Law and Order to see a courtroom?

Oh, we were told not to wave at the inmates. Like, how inappropriate would that have been.

I think dad was up in front of the judge for sixty seconds or fewer. It reminded me of when I went to small-claims and had to plead guilty to speeding and get a lecture from the State of Nebraska representative. Yeah, yeah, okay, cool, just tell me what to pay and where to pay and let me get the hell out of this weirdness.

The judge said his bond was $25-sharp intake of breath-hundred, which meant his bail was $250. I actually had to stifle a laugh. Chump change, fool. (I’ll just say, we were incredibly over-prepared).

The very nice officer told us that we could go back to the lobby and meet with dad’s attorney. We were shocked that it was over already, not that we really cared to stick around, and ran down the hall back to the lobby. The attorney said that there’s a hearing in a few weeks and it’ll hopefully just get the kibosh. So incredibly stupid, the whole thing. Even the acting prosecutor fumbled around with what to do with the whole thing.

The other nice cop at the desk told us that we could pay the bond in about an hour, so we set off for Starbucks. (Holy shit, I think I really need to take stock in this company). I impressed some guy by doing the Omaha World Herald crossword in about three minutes. Maybe shorter than that, who knows. ‘Omaha’ was one of the answers. Also, mom’s and my horoscopes were creepily fitting.

Dad called mom while we were there. I got to talk to him and asked him if he was trying to show me up after my stint as an international fugitive. He said he was and that he was even going to start a blog about it. I was like, are you fucking kidding me? You’re going to show me up by blogging, too? He said he’d probably write his book before me, too. But I could be his ghostwriter. Sigh. Yeah, whatever.

We went back and found the cashier desk. Super nice dude working it. Mom asked him very politely if he had any idea about when we could expect to pick dad up after we’d paid. He said, anywhere from two to four hours usually. He left the desk to make a copy and then upon returning, he said, ‘you know, it’s lunch time, I wouldn’t be surprised if they came back and just took care of it and he was out by 1230pm.’ It was about 1015am at the time and I thought that was pretty damn good.

Mom had to go back to work, so I decided to stick around the downtown area, or at least eastern half of Omaha. I met Conor and got dad’s house key (I wasn’t sure if he was allowed to take anything, so I didn’t know if he had a key to get back into his place after Conor made sure it was secure the day before), I stopped by QT and got dad some Lipton peach tea, a Snickers, and two Salted Nut Rolls (his fav). I figured the food was similar to what I had in the detention center in London: not bad; not good, though.

I needed to stop by the bank for Conor and there happened to be one on 35th and Farnam, which would keep me in the general vicinity just in case. As soon as I parked, mom called and said dad was being processed and would be out soon. I quickly did my banking, or Conor’s rather, and headed back for the correctional facility.

I found a parking spot right across from the door, grabbed dad’s coat, and headed inside. I sat down on the bench in the vestibule, and soon a couple women came in. They started to walk into the main lobby and I said, ladies, you’ll actually have to put everything in these lockers, but keep your IDs out. They asked me if I worked there and I said, no, just had to deal with this shit once already, so I figured I’d save them the trouble of going back and forth or setting off the metal detector. Once they were sorted, dad appeared in the lobby.

As he came through the doors, one of the ladies said, well, thanks for the help, otherwise I’d have totally screwed this up. Dad said, hey, now, don’t say that – you are a smart person and you will do great. Again, trying to show me up. For God’s sake, already.

I felt like I was just picking him up from school or something. We just immediately started talking about what had gone on and the people he met and how nice everyone was (besides the asshole half of the good-cop-bad-cop routine he got the morning before), and then I gave him his goody bag and we set off for his house.

He seriously had written down about two pages worth of thoughts. He was totes serious about writing a blog. Actually, wait, I think he was more talking about journaling because then when I said, well, I could set you up a WordPress, he was like, ‘oh I think I’ll just use Word.’ What? That’s not online, dad. But I think he might actually post it. I’ll link it, if he does.

The funniest bit was that I did exactly the same thing while I was holed up in London. It was comforting to write. It was also something to do. Scarily alike, we two.

I would hope that this is wickedly obvious, but I had to introduce a note of levity. This whole situation was completely unexpected, totally jarring, wildly frustrating, and hilariously simple to handle. God wasn’t just on our side, He seemed to be hovering and bumping into us. I can’t really explain the calm I felt after a while. Sure, I might have slipped into a bit of bargaining with the big guy at one point, but it just had to be alright. That was it. It just had to be.

Without further ado: the emotions.

I recently wrote about a quote that I repeat constantly or that holds a lot of meaning to me, and I wrote about ‘everything happens for a reason.’ There were so many reasons for the past two days’ events, I couldn’t even begin to list them. The lessons I learned, we learned; the faith, the trust, the total surrender of the whole thing. It was completely out of our control, like everything else, and we knew that. Jo was here to help me and distract me; hell, I think to help mom and dad, too. She’s been a total babe about everything. Welcome to Nebraska.

Another thing that demands discussion is the love between my divorced-and-happily-engaged/married-to-other-people parents. And no, I don’t mean the in-love kind.

It took extreme courage and trust for my dad to call my mom at a time like this. He didn’t want to call either of us and burden us, and although he’ll say he could have probably called his mentor, there really wasn’t anyone else he could have called. She dealt with it before and she had no responsibility or obligation to deal with it now, but dad knew that he could ask her and that she would handle everything. She could have easily hung up and said, sorry, I can’t; just like she could have walked away over ten years ago and said the same thing. That wouldn’t have been the easy way out either time, because that’s not the person she is. She stands up and fights for what she believes and she will take care of us and protect us until the end. She’ll even do the same for her ex-husband. Which speaks really fucking loudly about her character.

And dad, even in a confusing and likely very frightening time, was able to turn to his ex-wife. She and dad had a good marriage for 25 years. Sure, there was shit, and sure, it ended in a civil, mutually-decided divorce. But there is an understanding and love between the two of them that completely floors me. It has been such a lesson for me. I don’t know if I’ve ever been more touched by an expression of compassion.

I’m unequivocally proud to be their daughter.

It’s odd, it’s still on the day (to me, anyway), and it feels like none of it really happened. I was struggling last night and tonight I’m not. Things really upset in the blink of an eye, but I tell you what, that feeling of serenity isn’t gone. It was with me from the moment we stepped into the correctional facility this morning. I pray that it stays with me. Because, I really can’t be bothered right now. And it’s wonderful.

A Bit Close to Home

I’ve just seen August: Osage County – and if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. And if you haven’t, I highly warn you against spoilers in this post. 

-> I repeat, there are spoilers in this post <-

For someone who likes to avoid spoilers and be surprised upon first viewing, I like to make it quite clear.

Anyway. I went to the 1015pm showing tonight, as in Sunday night, although it’s technically Monday now, and because it was 1015pm on a Sunday, I was the only one in the theatre. Thankfully.

Last time I was the only one in the theatre, I’d just seen About Time – again, thankfully, as I think I cried through the entire film. Bloody good film.

But this is about August: Osage County: Screenplay written by Tracy Letts, directed by John Wells; starring the banging cast of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, and so on. 

Meryl plays the matriarch, Violet, of course, who else would she play, Sam [Beverly] being her husband. Julia, the oldest daughter, Barbara; Julianne, the middle daughter, Ivy; Juliette, the youngest daughter, Karen. (Interesting how all the daughters are played by a variation of Juli-). Margo plays Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae; Chris Cooper plays her husband, Charlie. Ewan plays Barbara’s separated husband; and Abigail, their child, Jean. Dermot plays Karen’s fiancé. Benedict plays Little Charles, Mattie Fae’s and Charlie’s son, for all intents and purposes

Got it?

So. I knew it would be a good film going in, just because of the cast and all the praise it was winning for itself. What I didn’t know was that it was going to be incredible and hit devastatingly, eerily close to home. And not just because they filmed part of it in Nebraska. (Out in the plains where the buffalo roam, but Nebraska nonetheless).

And when I say ‘close to home’ – and here’s where major spoilers come in – I mean, really fucking close to home.

I think I’ve given ample warning now.

Phew. Okay. Violet has cancer, we learn that in the beginning. Bev has just hired someone to take care of things around the house. The next thing we know, he’s gone. Barbara gets called home because her father is missing, or at least went away without warning. It’s very clear that there are some family issues going on that seem to weave their way into every branch of the family. Soon the sheriff shows up to the house and delivers the news that they’d found Bev’s body and it appears as though he fell out of his boat and drowned. It is also ruled a suicide.

It hadn’t hit me yet, even with the dysfunction and the dead of the patriarch.

Before, during, and after the funeral, when all of the family begin to arrive, it’s tense and argumentative. Violet is popping pills left and right, and serving up judgements just as thoroughly. Any time the daughters try to bring up how difficult their lives have become, Violet explodes into a tirade about how bad her life was, and no one’s life is anywhere near as difficult as hers has been. There’s no need to even talk about it because it doesn’t compare to mine, essentially.

Barbara, naturally, as the big sister, tries to take the role of, not so much caretaker, but the one attempting to take care of everything and everyone. She certainly isn’t happy about doing it, either. Ivy has dreams of running off to greener pastures, and Karen has already done so.

But everything is about Violet, especially now that Bev is gone.

And I’ve digressed. 

So before I get bogged down by plot, because I truly don’t want to spoil everything.

I kept thinking that I couldn’t believe how tragic and dramatic everything was in this family. How could someone’s family be that dysfunctional. I mean, I know my family is dysfunction as, well, as fuck, but it couldn’t be this…

And then it hit me. I can’t even recall a portion of the film because I was kind of stunned, to be honest.

My mom has two sisters; she’s the oldest. Their mother, while she doesn’t have cancer, has a flair for the dramatics and things have usually ended up being about her. (I love my grandmother, so I’ll be as delicate as possible).

Growing up, from what my mom’s told me, it wasn’t the easiest time. In good old Iowa. Her dad was an alcoholic. He beat her and her sister with a belt if they misbehaved, and likely even when they didn’t. Mom hates basements because of it, because that’s where it would happen. She used to have to protect her little sister from it, too. I have a feeling my grandmother couldn’t do anything about it. Plus, with it being “that time” – as in, the sixties, what could be done.

When my mom was twelve years old, her dad either went out in a boat, or went out into the water somehow, and drowned. They never found his body. I don’t think mom has ever said specifically, but it likely could have been suicide. He couldn’t swim. 

A year later, my grandmother remarried and had a baby girl, mom’s youngest sister. They moved to another town in Iowa, so my mom and her sister had to start over at a new school, as well as become mother to their new baby sister. Gotta grow up fast in a situation like that.

Which meant that when mom turned 18, she found the one boy who wasn’t staying in Iowa to be a farmer, got married, and moved to Omaha. Her youngest sister had aspirations to be a model and got to move far away from Iowa for school, but eventually moved back. Her middle sister moved away and stayed away.

When I came around, it was after mom divorced the non-farmer and married my dad. Any time mom was on the phone in our house, she was fighting with her mom. Or her middle sister. Or her younger sister. Or her mom again because her younger sister called her after she fought with mom. Or her middle sister again because her mom called her after her fight with the youngest. It always ended the same way, mom being the one everyone came to and mom being the one who had to solve everything.

Now, they didn’t show any of that in August: Osage County, but they might as well have done. 

Barbara/mom, having to be the one with the heaviest load on her shoulders – sometimes asking for it, usually it being given to her. Losing their father. Violet/grandma losing her husband. And in such a way. 

I couldn’t imagine a family so dysfunctional until I thought of my own.

In the end, Violet is left alone. All of her daughters and family leave her in the house with the woman hired to cook for her.

Fortunately, that’s where the main similarities stop.

It doesn’t end like AOC. Even with all the shit, it won’t be that bad. It might have been close once, but I’m the daughter of the oldest daughter and I won’t let it happen. 

And as daughter of the oldest daughter, I’m not sure I want her to see this film. If it hurt me to watch, I’m not sure what it would do to her. It might be something she could watch in private, in the comfort of her own home, but the thought of her potentially having to suppress sobs in a populated theatre kills me. I’ll have to warn her of the triggers so she doesn’t walk into it blindly. 

Sure, mom’s divorced (and recently engaged), the middle sister is divorced, the youngest one might soon be; grandma’s got her long-term boyfriend; I never really see my cousins, and let’s face it – we’re all over the goddamn place. However, I can’t help but think that this might be the best my family’s ever been. 

 

Bahstan

Well, I’ve graduated graduate school and I have homework tomorrow.
The past few days, wait, the past few weeks have been a complete whirlwind. Planning this trip – booking tickets to Boston separately for me and then for my family, booking the hotel room the same way, booking the flat in London, booking the flight to London, getting all the documents together for customs – as well as making sure everything is taken care of – buying adapters, cleaning my apartment, packing, repacking, packing again, paying bills, etc – has worn me out.
I only got about three hours of sleep Friday night. I was anxious about traveling and it wasn’t just leaving for a week, so I had to prep my apartment in ways I hadn’t had to before – emptying the fridge and cupboards or canceling Dish Network. Then the flights were super turbulent, but that was okay. Mom and dad traveling together was hilarious and comforting. They’re completely civil and friendly, but I thanked them both, with a tear or two, for being able to do this with me. I realize how lucky I am to have divorced parents who are able to travel together, and travel well together, for my sake.
We got into Boston and after a short rest, we headed to Dirk’s for the class BBQ. Our Chinese cabbie taught us American history and accidentally drove us through the not-so-great part of Boston. We needed to be in Cambridge and how the hell were we supposed to know? We get to Dirk’s in one piece, even having driven past a crime scene, and right away I get a big hug from Deb. We get to the garden and I recognize Kim immediately. She jumps up and gives me an even bigger hug. (Earlier, she had said she felt the ground shake when I stepped foot in Boston. I apologize for anyone who might have felt the tremor and mistook it for a minute earthquake.)
Beers were enjoyed, we laughed our asses off. I met Brett, and then later Matthias showed up, fresh off the plane from San Fran. I must say, my classmates are the fucking shit. An outsider would not have been able to tell that we’d never met. We’ve been communicating academically since October, but are from all over the country and, in Matthias’s case until recently, the globe.
Dad took over the grill and later borrowed Dirk’s guitar to entertain us with some AC/DC, Deep Purple, Led Zep, and Beatles: acoustic-style. I could have stayed forever. I even got to bust out some Deutsch and impress the Krauts.

Today, I walked across stage to a mispronounced last name (let’s be honest, if ii sounds like E in “skiing” and “Wii,” then it sure as hell follows the same rule in Friis, damnit) and received a big ass sheet of cardstock: my conferred degree. It is post-dated for August 31st, so I guess that means I actually need to finish the program, eh. It was Matthias’s first graduation ceremony, and the fourth of his degrees. They don’t do grad celebrations in Germany, so it was heartwarming to see him experience it all; his wife and two terribly adorable sons were there, as well as his folks from Germany. As we walked across stage, the president of the school put the regalia over our heads. It was like so official. We are the first media psychology class to graduate from MSPP, and one of the first in the world. Nay, in history. I’ll try not to let that go to my head. Much.

But, really, the first. I mean, come on.

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