Monday, August 8, 2011

My visits to Heaven and Hades

Well, boys and girls, you may want to sit back and relax on this one. It could take a while. And those with the appropriate access, I advise you to stand down on dispatching ninja penguins, as they would only complicate matters for me.

Early Saturday morning, Becky and I got into the car for the five-hour trip to Long Island to visit Dad. The schedule for the day was to get there, visit for about four hours, possibly discuss important family matters, as Stu would be there, and then head over to my buddy Bryan's house to spend the night. The next day, we would get back in the car and head home, even though home, as far as I'm concerned, is wherever my beloved is.

Becky and I spent the hours of our drive perpetually wondering whether or not we should both partake of the Valium I had with me. It was more than the stress of having to spend time with the family; there was also the ongoing threat of having to drive on the Southern State Parkway on Long Island. If you've never done it, I highly recommend it, especially if you're the kind of thrill-seeker who likes jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. What we did not discuss, although we should have, was visiting a bank to take out a loan to pay the tolls on the NY/NJ bridges. Thankfully, the attendants at the bridges were willing to take one of my kidneys.

Upon our arrival at Dad's place, we found Stu and his family already there. Dad was receiving wound care from a nurse, so greeting him was delayed. But I gave Mom a kiss, and then...Well, quite oddly, Stu attempted to move in for a hug, but I intercepted such foolish with a handshake. If he was expecting brotherly affection after the way he treated me as a would-be ATM, he was sorely mistaken.

And he's put on weight. He's put on a lot of weight. I didn't ask, but I have a suspicion that it's due to medications he's now on. That, or like our father, he's found psychological comfort in food, which never fights with him, always agrees with him, and is always there when he needs it. It could be any one of those, or our family genetics finally caught up to him, dragged him into a back alley, and had their way with him.

I'm somewhat amazed at how little past events weighed on everyone there. I essentially left my anger behind when I moved to KS, but the hurt remains. What would have made everything better was an apology. It would have been nice, and a part of me was hoping for one. Silly, stupid me...I forgot with whom I was dealing. Maybe I should have opened with an apology. "I'm sorry you're a money-hungry, greedy little putz who was trying to squeeze me for all you could get." The problem is that I don't think that would've improved anything. Go figure.

Through conversation, I learned the following:

My nephew Xander, the one actually related by blood, has been deemed autistic by his school system. My brother seems to believe otherwise. So do I. It's not autism. It's that he was reared by a television set and a computer. The kid's mother was barely around, and his father cared only as much as is required by law, in that Stu made sure the kid didn't accidentally kill himself. In the past, Stu once said, "We had to stop watching Family Guy because the little man was starting to catch some of the jokes." That one quote simply left me fretting over my nephew's future. Now my fears have been realized.

My biological mother is now living with Stu and company. I caught on to this fact when "she" was mentioned frequently enough. At one point, I asked if Stu was talking about "Satan's sister," to which he caught the reference instantly. He even played the ring tone he has for her, which is the soundtrack to a horror film.

As with all places where she visits, my biological mother is sucking the life from the very ground where she exists. To put it in terms some of my readers might understand, "One does not simply walk into Stu's House. It's black gates are guarded by more than just Orcs. There is evil there that does not sleep. The Great Eye is ever watchful. 'Tis a barren wasteland, riddle with fire and ash and dust; the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume. Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly." Yeah, it's that bad.

Through casual conversation, Stu also took it upon himself to continue to mark his territory. There was a passing conversation about the family burial plot, in which it was affirmed that Dad, Stu, and two cousins were in control. There was no other way for me to translate it. "You see, Rob? I get to be the important one when it comes to familial politics, while you get dismissed." The upside to this is that I don't want any sort of control over the family plot. My name on it would screw with whatever benefits I currently have. Better it be my brother's problem than mine.

Becky held her own during the useless chat. "All is well. We're doing this. We're doing that. The upcoming semester will be the other thing." And the greatest thing she did: she sat beside me, held my hand, and said via actions, "I love this man!" Just when I think I'm treading onto dangerous ground, I find that I'm actually on a rock with her at my side. =)

During all of this, Xander, the boy reared to be dumb, was off in a side room, playing on my father's computer with the TV playing in the background. It was like he never left home. He responded to nothing but Stu's instructions to behave, demonstrating the peripheral care the kid receives at all times.

Then things got weird. Mom gather up "the women-folk" and they all headed off to play Bingo. This left me, Dad, and Stu to talk for about 45 minutes, with Xander oblivious in the other room.

What followed was a wasting of valuable time. Stu griped about his virtually loveless marriage. I tried to discuss my frightful plans for my toe, but this was dismissed by a wave of my father's hand and the quote, "You don't want to do that." Then we were back onto Stu's marriage woes.

Yes...It's terrible that he and his "mail order bride" are probably heading toward divorce. They acted like this is some kind of shock. All I could do was sit there and be amazed that they responded as such. I mean, he got to know her via mail/e-mail for two months. They spent a week or two in one another's presence...and then they got married. It's as though no one else in my family received the memo on how to properly court a woman. Before Stu even met Nicki, he'd said that he hoped to find a woman of Asian descent because they were docile, and she would simply accept him as the head of the household and take his orders as he gave them.

Meanwhile, back in Hogwarts, the kids were all in Defense Against the dark Arts, when suddenly...

Never mind.

Let's all take a moment to run down Stu's executive decisions in life.

1: Gave up on the family business to move to Las Vegas, where friends and paradise awaited.
2: He ended up working two jobs to make ends meet, as he lacked an education to get any kind of management position. His unique sense of humor and personality quirks meant he would never be permitted to climb the ladder of success.
3: A coworker tells him of a niece that's single and introduces them. It's pretty clear that the niece would like citizenship in the States. Stu just doesn't want to be lonely anymore. They agree to marry as an act of desperation, thinking all the while that it just might be love.
4: Meanwhile, back at Hogwarts...Never mind.
5: They have a kid almost immediately, and it's my belief that Stu thought this would cement their relationship together. Stu and Nicki then prove that they are parents in title only. Neither is truly a mom or a dad.
6: They move from NV to TN to be closer to her family...who then treat them like strangers. Her family couldn't care any less.
7: They communicate so well, *cough*, that when Stu says he needs to see a doctor as soon as possible about his high blood pressure, she fails to mention the reason for setting up that appointment with the doctor. Stu doesn't know she failed to mention it to the doctor's office. It all comes out AFTER he almost dies.
8: In an act of brotherly love and compassion, I rush from AZ to TN to see my dying brother. He accidentally lives, surprising everyone. He decides that, while he stared Death in the eye, he will ignore that fact because it's too emotionally terrifying. He also decides my visit was nice...Not amazing...Just nice.
9: His brother, (me), who could have helped with the finances and perhaps interacted with his child enough to have the kid demonstrate some signs of intellect, is instead treated like an ATM. He opens with a demand for $350 rent, and then starts tacking on the cost for this, that, and the other thing. By my calculations, Stu was asking for over 70% of my income by the time he was done demanding money.
10: When I ask for some kind of compassion with the situation and a definitive reduction in the rent, Stu explodes in an incredible rage that I'm apparently not permitted to call childish...even though that's all it could be called. He states that Nick told him to forget my moving in if I complained about the rent. So much for finding a woman of Asian descent because they were docile, and she would simply accept him as the head of the household and take his orders as he gave them, eh?
11: After experiencing the "thrill" of our biological mother living with them...and eventually kicking her out...they replace the idea of me living there with her living there...again. They are back to having the same fun they had before, with Nicki hating my mother, Stu having to referee, take care of the kid (peripherally, still), and take care of Satan's sister.
12: During all of these adventures, Stu has had one job after another, none of which is a very good. He's trained as a pharmacy tech, licensed and everything, but still can't find that kind of work. His personality is such that he has had others hired for that position, with him being ignored along the way.

This is not to say that I've been some kind of great decision maker, myself. The list of mistakes I've made in life are as long as they are stupid. My teenaged years are rife with poor decisions, and I'm paying for all of those now. It is pure luck, and that's all it is, that I have found a beautiful and spectacular woman to stand at my side...and I've already succeeded on knowing her for longer than two and half months before marrying her.

We good on all that? Did you all take notes? I hope so.

The women come back from playing Bingo, and there is great excitement in the fact that Becky won $2 and Nicki won $4. Talk ensues about retirement into the good life.

While they were away, Mom asked Becky how she does it. "How do you deal with him being so sick all the time?" Becky replied that we simply take it one day at a time. The real answer, the one she should have given, is that she and I do the goofiest thing: we talk TO one another. This activity involves one person speaking and the other LISTENING. But trying to explain that to my family is akin to explaining the science of creating fire to cavemen who firmly believe the flames are made with magic.

Now we're back to useless chat. There's really nothing more to be said. Becky and I were simply killing time until we were to be off to stay with Bryan. Dad would like us to go to dinner with everyone, but that's not going to happen. I've now played witness to how well they'll listen to me and I'm done. Somehow, I'm convinced to come back the next morning for a few more hours.

While we were still there, I decided to use the restroom. While I'm in there, the family decides to start lecturing me on my diabetes care. Well, not so much me, as they're lecturing Becky, but Stu raising his voice enough for me to hear through the bathroom door. Becky explains how much better I'm doing, and I try to as well. But no one is listening...

...and this is proven when I step out for a nicotine fix. It took me longer to make my way outside than it did for me to have just a few puffs to satisfy my addiction. While I'm away, they not only continue lecturing Becky about my diabetes control, but also lecturing Becky about monitoring her hypoglycemia. Everyone is talking AT us, but no one is talking TO us.

By the time Becky and I left, we were regretting our commitment to visit the next morning. If we were lucky, Armageddon would come overnight and we'd be spared visiting again. At minimum, we could hope for spontaneous combustion to take our lives and be done with it.

But then things got much, MUCH, MUCH better. Bryan is a superb host. He always has been. In my youth, the general attitude upon entering his house was, "Welcome. My home is yours. If you need anything, ask, and ye shall receive." So it was at his home last night.

The visit began with his eldest daughter afraid we were going to kidnap her. It had been stated that his kids were cute, and Becky, in particular, wanted to bring them home with us. Once she was assured that she was safe, and that no one would take her from mommy and daddy, she was all about getting attention. "Look at me! I'm adorable! You cannot resist! I will be cute until the time you leave!" And she was.

We didn't spend much time with Bryan's wife, as she has a sensitivity to smoke that is pretty bad. I made it my business to keep my distance. But with Bryan, there were many lengthy conversations, both humorous and serious.

While there were some private conversations that were worth noting, I cannot speak of them. They are, after all, private. But we discussed what had happened back at Dad's place, and Bryan asked, "What were you really expecting when you went there?" His tone was along the lines of, "Are you really that surprised at how it all went?"

Still, I answered. "I dunno. I guess I expected it to be a meeting of the five families to put a cessation to the ongoing war." (Anyone who doesn't get that has to leave now and watch The Godfather.) And I did. I expected dad to get me and Stu alone to discuss family business...and I suppose Stu's possible divorce falls under that category...but to treat me like there was nothing of value to discuss in my life was insulting and hurtful. It's not that I expect anything different from that...it's just that I keep foolishly hoping for something different.

Becky and I were shown to the "guest basement," and then fate lent us a hand. I had an adverse reaction to my antibiotics. Nothing TOO bad; just stomach upset. Becky, in turn, awoke with a toothache. Odd as it may seem, we were saved by physical misery! (As opposed to the emotional misery waiting for us back at dad's.) With a relatively quick goodbye to our gracious host, we called Dad to say we couldn't make it, and then fled NY at the speed of traffic!

Folks, this has been a long one. It's time for me to rest my leg, my brain, or both. If I think of anything else to share, I'll try to do so in the future. Be well, and DFTBA!

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