It was probably spring of 1969, or early summer. I was three, and, yes, I can remember stuff from when I was three. Two even.
My aunt JoAnn died yesterday. She was 90.
I don’t feel much. I should. I might later, but I don’t feel much now. When my uncle Bill died a few months ago I didn’t feel anything – I never liked Bill, honestly – but then 4 or 5 days later, the horror of our last conversation hit me full in the heart, and I was haunted for a day or two by imaginings of the terror he must have been facing. And whereas I used to tell funny, insulting stories about Bill’s bizarre life, now I find I can’t really talk about him at all without feeling guilty about besmirching his memory.
Not that there’s much of a memory. He died friendless and alone.
JoAnn died alone, but not friendless. She still died badly, though.
JoAnn had the constitution of a rhinoceros. She got cervical cancer in 1957, which was a death sentence. She survived it. She’s since had kidney and bladder cancer, both of which she survived. There was another one in there in the ’60s, I think. She also had several strokes. Her resilience was nothing short of astounding. You could hit her with a truck, and she’d shake it off and go home and have a wine cooler or something, then watch the news and be fine the next day.
Ultimately this worked against her. Her one remaining kidney needed a stint in order to function, so stuff could get to her bladder. It caused her constant pain, sometimes bad. She had to have it surgically changed every 3 months for several years.
She got an infection, and had to go into the hospital, where she got very sick, and became too weak to walk. We didn’t expect she’d survive, but she recovered and went into a rehab facility so she could go home. While she was there she lost her home, effectively. She got sick again, and went back into the hospital. She recovered, and they put her in an ALF. She got sick, and they put her in the hospital, then back to another ALF. This was her life: getting a disease that should have killed her, her remarkable constitution saving her life, only to be tortured by yet another diseases, survive, disease, survive. The poor thing went through this for more than a year, and she was just tortured. Tortured by her own body which refused to give up.
Finally it did. Yesterday I was talking to her Physician’s Assistant and her POA and her ex-daughter-in-law and the nice lady who’s been taking care of her for no money or recognition, just because she’s a nice Christian lady. I was trying to get some stuff resolved. Then the call came in that she’d died.
I felt nothing, except maybe relief. I’d prayed for her to die on a couple of occasions. She was saved, so she and I believe that the afterlife is better than this life, and she was in so much pain for such a long time, and she lost everything at the end: Her home, her money. She couldn’t even float the costs of the ACLF. They kept her on as a charity case. She was a pauper.
JoAnn had a pretty horrible life. Working class family with seven kids. Her mom had a nervous breakdown when she was eight, and abandoned the family. Half a century later, JoAnn would get stuck with the job of caring for her mother. They went homeless in the Great Depression, and her and her sister moved in with relatives while the boys lived in a coal cellar.
Eventually she married Bill, though all the family told her not to. Their life was not happy. They had a son. he died about 7 years ago. They had a nice house, but lost it, and moved into a condo 30 years ago. They lost the condo as I already said. She worked hard for most of her life, until she was too old to work, and ended up with nothing to show for it: Broke and in a room all by herself in pain.
I don’t believe there’s any real reason people suffer or succeed in this life. Jesus says I’m right in the Bible. If there were any such thing as divine retribution or some hokey concept of “Karma,” then that would mean everyone who has bad stuff happen to them deserves it. Trump is rich because he deserves it? All those kids who die of cancer deserve it? How horrible would that kind of universe be? My aunt JoAnn certainly didn’t deserve it. She was a kind, and often oblivious soul who never hurt anyone. this is why I take great comfort in the inherent unfairness of the universe.
It is a disturbing thing to pray for someone to die. You do it for the most noble of reasons, but it takes a piece of your soul, I think. It goes against every instinct.
So that’s it. I don’t have a moral, or a conclusion, just that my Aunt is dead, and I’m glad for her sake, and not nearly as messed up by it as I should be.
I think today marks a negative turning point in my life.
I’m bright, I’m witting, I’m charming, I’m creative, I’m articulate, I’m a damn good writer, I’m musical, I’m honest enough, I’m caring, I’m honorable, I’m loyal to a fault, and I’m also pretty self-loathing and riddled with guilt for no good reason. I’m also possessed of a couple learning disabilities. The most pronounced of which is my well-documented Dyscalcula (How many numbers between 0 and 10? Is it 10 or 11? I don’t know without looking it up, and I’ll forget it nearly instantly, and I won’t understand why the answer is whatever it is) Then there’s the manic depression thing, the dysgraphia, you name it. Then there’s the technophobia thing, which I’ve likened to “Being locked in the reptile house overnight with the nights out.”
Fortunately I have a lot of engineer friends, and they help me out. Without them I wouldn’t even be able to put this online. Lately, the last year or 18 months, I’ve been trying to be more self-reliant in this regard, trying to do more stuff for myself. As most people who know me well know, this regularly puts me in situations where I have to spend a week psyching myself up to call customer service. When I finally do, I explain my anxieties – which they never take seriously – or I just tell them I got hit in the head with a baseball as a kid, and have trouble understanding stuff – which they generally take a little more seriously. Then the problem is either resolved instantly (“Just plug it in to recharge the battery, and you’ll be fine”) or the don’t work instantly, in which case it takes me days or weeks to resolve the problem (“I’d like to update my website, please.”)
There’s been an assumption on my part and on the part of my friends that I probably could conquer this, or at least work around it like I do with my other disabilities if I really put my mind to it and tried, but after today, I think I just have to admit to myself that I really am honest-to-God disabled unto the point of not being able to function in this regard. It’s not going to change. It’s like teaching a man with no hands to play piano: It’s not gonna get any better.
And I just don’t really care anymore. I’m done. I give up. I don’t mean like, “I give up for now, but I’ll be plugging away at it again once I calm down, ‘cuz I’m a scrappy guy!” No. I mean I AM done, I’m deeply depressed, and I’m never going to bother to try again.
I’m a guy who can’t hook up a Nintendo to a TV, who held off getting a modern TV for a decade because I can’t understand how the new ones work, who has to have his kid do stuff because I can’t understand it, who can not operate a smartphone, who was scared to take an Ipod out of the box because I knew I’d never be able to use it and its mere existence made me sad. I have a long history of this. Let’s call it “Cyberphobia” because I’m not afraid of technology. I could probably build you a steam engine if you gave me enough time and money. I can work a VCR. I know how machines work. I understand rockets and orbits and things quite well, thanks. It’s just when you throw computers in the mix that I start to get squishy round the edges.
Anyway, today is the day I stopped caring, and here’s what happened:
My kid needs to take a french course over the summer. I set him up with Florida Virtual Schools, an online dealie. Now, this is something that a normal person – a human – could do in ten minutes, no fuss no muss. For me, it took a week, three hours-long phone calls, and a couple IM help sessions that lasted for hours. Whatever species I am, it ain’t human. Perhaps some kind of amphibian.
So after that it should be easy, right? Nope. Nope. Nope. Actually finding the website presented a problem. Kept losing the URL, or google-searching and ending up on useless side pages (“Get a job at FLVS”) that I couldn’t surf back to a useful page. So more tech support and IM chats. then I couldn’t find the class on the website. More calls and IMs. Then I’m told my kid has to have mic headphones, so that’s a nightmare, and no one would explain how they worked with the class. Then getting into the class once I’d found the page was a nightmare. (“Click the nondescript three lines in the upper left hand corner, and that will take you to a screen that looks nothing like what I’m going to describe to you. Next, I’ll give you incomprehensible instructions while you punch things”) This went on and on for THREE WEEKS. THREE WEEKS, and I still don’t know what I did or didn’t do, and can’t do it again, and even though I took notes, I don’t understand them.
So for three days now I’ve been trying to find out when my kid’s first class period is. Three days of IMs, Emails, Phone calls, etc. When I finally found out today, around noon, it turned out the class started at 10. I should also mention that the time was clearly posted on a page I’d looked at at least 20 times. I could not comprehend it.
Well, at any point, after three weeks of this, three weeks that it’d take a human ten minutes to do, and that they’d understand intuitively, I just snapped. All that to miss the class. My hands physically started shaking with rage, which has never happened in my life. I tried understand what they told me after that, but it was like a dog shown a yo-yo trick: It just means nothing. I am literally too stupid to understand, and I have always been, and I will always be and I finally just gave up and went to my room and started crying uncontrollably. Which is maybe the third time I’ve cried since my dad died five years ago. And I just gave up.
I just give up. I don’t care anymore. This entire experience – in which people attempted to be helpful for three weeks – came across as nothing short of abusive. Even trying to understand hurts and I finally reached my breaking point, and I just give up.
I just give up. I give up. I give up. I give up.
I find it hard to care, hard to get worked up about much of anything. I wanted to be a writer, and I am, though not a professional one. I’ve written four full books, co-written a novel with my son, I’ve got a greatest hits book, and a book of poetry/lyrics. Apart from the poetry/lyrics book, which sucks, everything is pretty good. I’ve been told my professionals and amateurs alike that I’m pretty good. I’m halfway through a novel, I’m collaborating with a friend on some short stories (In theory. I haven’t actually done anything) I’ve gotten two of my stories in a webzine, though with diddly-spit readership, and no pay for me. Writing is effortless for me. I could easily crank out at least one book a year for the rest of my life.
I don’t want to.
Well, that’s not true. It’s not that I’m opposed to it, it’s just hard for me to get worked up about it. I can’t force myself to sit down and do it. I dunno if it’s anxiety or depression or laziness or pushing fifty, or just a feeling of pressure for the other projects I’m supposed to be doing, but am not.
What other projects? Well, I’ve been putting off finishing my solo album for a couple years now. I’ve let a couple other musical projects with friends die on the vine. I’m supposed to be making videos. I’m not. I’m not doing shit. I’m also supposed to be doing more important stuff, like helping my kid with Florida Virtual Schools, which I…ugh. Computer stuff. I can never do shit with computer stuff. It alternately enrages me or makes me cry. I just got Bey enrolled in French 1 over the summer on FLVS, and they told me how to do it. It took half a day, conversations with three different people, and explicit instructions on how to do it. Now, less than a week later, I can’t figure it out, remember it, or anything. I can’t do anything.
Not being able to do anything technical is nothing new. That’s pretty much my life. Not being able to do anything at all is new, though, and I don’t know what the cause is.
I suspect, however, that it’s a case of having one thing on my plate block the other things. I’m trying to do three, four, five things, when I can really only do one at a time. In which case I should pick one and work on it, but even deciding which one to pick is super-hard.
There’s also the feeling that it just doesn’t matter. When I was younger, even 10 years ago, all this stuff seemed relevant. Now, after having done a lot of it for a decade, I realize no one gives a shit, which makes it hard for me to give one as well.
Take music: I was in one band in college. Many of my friends were in bands before that, after that, etc. My great regret is that my one band from back then, “Technicolor Yawn,” (Which sucked) never recorded anything, either live or in the studio. This is probably for the best, since we super-de-duper-de sucked, but it’s still a regret. My bandmates Whit and Brian went on to a zillion cover bands, which is cool. My bandmate Mark more-or-less gave up music after college. My remaining bandmate claims to have been in another band (The guys in that band deny it ever existed, it’s just one of I__’s delusions).
The bands I’ve been in since then were for the fun and creativity of being in a band, but a large driving part of it was so I could show off to people I knew 25-30 years ago. “Hey, look what I can do!” and “I wasn’t shit back in the day, but I’m pretty good now, or at least interesting.” I’ve never done that, though. I mean, I’m not friends with Whit, or Brian, or I__ or Clive, or Don, or really anyone from those days. What do they care? Other friends that I am still (Infrequently) in touch don’t care either. Fact is: Garage bands are for kids. If you’re not done with them by your mid-30s, you’re either pathetic, or playing “Mustang Sally” over and over and over at Bar Mitzvahs and barbeques for like $50 a gig, which is slightly less pathetic. But only slightly. Everyone but me has put off childish things.
My other endevors are the same to a greater or lesser extent. I should give it up, I should focus on important things, like getting my kids’ damn French class running, but….grr.
I guess I’ll keep on doing what I’ve always done, which is being creative for no audience, and keep deluding myself by saying it’s the act itself that matters, not the attention of others. But that’s a lie, and it’s always been a lie, and I’ve always known it. I don’t need to be a superstar in anything. I would like to be kind of like Hearty White, though: to do something cool, and have people appreciate it and follow it, and look forward to it. Not a huge throng , but just a stable audience of a few thousand who like what you do, and care if you live or die.
Failing that, I’d be happy as a clam with one or two hundred people who at least check in on my shit with some regularity.
I’d also like to lose 30 pounds.
Neither of those things are going to happen.
I dunno. I suppose I’ll just continue doing what I’ve always done, though I suppose I have to prioritize it somehow, assuming my current lack of motivation is simply a log jam.