Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Death at a Funeral

"J on condolence leave." The note on the appointment screen drove me into a tiny panic attack. I whipped my chair around and demanded of CF, "What?! Why is J on condolence leave?" CF informed me, a little too casually for my taste, "His father passed last night. He went in for emergency surgery and didn't make it." And, beyond logic, I started crying. "Oh, poor J. I need to call him."
J is one of my favorite co-workers and someone I have always been able to to talk to, at length, about all manner of life's issues. He came out to his parents a million years ago, but their relationship remained strained. J comes from hearty stock - big midwestern boys who hunt and shovel snow and chop firewood. He is the only one of his brood that ventured into the big bad world and he has thrived here in Key West.
CF informed me that J was planning on flying out this morning, so I knew I needed to call him soon, before he got on the plane. I hurried outside, lit a cigarette and dialed. J is not without feelings, but he rarely shows any emotion beyond that of irritation. So, when he answered and it was obvious that he was crying, my heart broke for him and his loss. J and his father weren't exactly "close" but he was still his father. I listened while J told me that his father had had an abdominal aneurysm and during the surgery the doctors discovered that his intestines were already dead and there was nothing that they could do. He told me that he was heading to the airport in an hour and that P, his partner of 10 years, was not going with him, but one of his brothers would be at the airport to pick him up. J and P have had a tenuous relationship for about a year now, but they still share a house and a business and I was shocked that P felt like staying here and running the store is more important than being with J right now. After J finished, I said the obligatory words that, in the end, don't help much at all - "I'm so sorry for your loss," "if there's anything you need, anything I can do...." The words felt so small and ineffectual coming out of my mouth.
In fact, I am shocked that J even answered the phone. If it were me and my mother was gone, I don't think that I would be able to speak, let alone operate a cell phone. So, of course, this set my somber tone for the day and I couldn't help but think about death most of the day. More accurately, I have been thinking about family all day. Thinking I should be kinder to my mother, talk to my sister more often, tell them both that I love them. Chastising myself for not getting my Aunt and Grandpa's birthday cards in the mail on time. Thinking that I really need to make it up north this summer to see my cousins.
Going through life worried that you, or your loved ones, are going to die is not highly recommended. However, we should probably be aware that no one lives forever and you may find yourself unable to say the things you always wanted to say. It's so incredibly cliche, but it is also so incredibly true.
This afternoon, CF told me how her father-in-law had noticed a white van parked on the side of US1 for about a week. Last night, he finally decided to stop and check on the situation. There was a man, dead, in the driver's seat. It is safe to assume that he had been dead, in that van, for a week. It is also safe to assume that no one noticed that he was missing. As much as it pains me to think about the inevitable day when I will have to say goodbye to some of my loved ones, at least I know that they would be missed. And, I hope, they will know how much they are loved before they leave this world.

Monday, December 15, 2008


For the last several years I have refused to make New Year's resolutions. Mostly because I wouldn't stick to them anyway, but also because I find them a little bit annoying. Back in the day when I did make resolutions, I always resolved to lose weight. Even when I was in high school and only thought that I was fat. Oh, if only I could be that "fat" now. This year I have resolved to make some resolutions. First of all, instead of saying that I am going to lose weight, I am going to get back into the habit of going to the gym. I bought an 18 month membership back in July, and I haven't gone in.... well, I don't know, that's how long it's been. One reason that I haven't been is that Bally's went under and I have to go to either Bailey's or Gold's. I am a pretty adaptable person, but I have anxiety about weird things like that. It took me about 2 weeks just to get up the nerve to meet with a personal trainer when I first joined. So, that is my reason (excuse) for not going to the gym in a while.
My other resolution is to quit smoking again. I "quit" earlier this year for about 3 months, but started back up around Halloween. I have no excuse for that.
So, for 2009 I am changing it up a bit and making those resolutions. Maybe this year will be the year that I keep them. I figure if America can elect a black president and, as JB reminded me, put a man on the moon, I think I can keep a few lousy resolutions.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why I think Michigan breeds sluts.

My mother is from Michigan. But that has nothing to do with any of this. On jacksonville.com there is a piece about a girl from Michigan coming to town to "audition" to be in Playboy magazine. Ordinarily, this information would not elicit any response from me whatsoever. In this case, this girl is only 18 and her mother came with her. In the piece you see pictures of her mother helping her put on her skimpy "outfits", smiling and looking at her own daughter like a piece of meat/cashcow. I understand that 18 is the age at which a person is technically an adult. I moved out of my mom's house when I was 17, so I can't say much about what a person chooses to do with their late teen years. However, it is supremely disturbing to me that this girl's mother is so involved in this process. I know that if I had an 18 year old daughter, and she came to me and said, "Mom, I want to audition to be in Playboy" I would say, "That's nice dear, good luck and may God bless your soul when Daddy kills you." I distinctly remember my mother telling me, all throughout my life, that she wanted me to do whatever made me happy. One time I asked her, "Well, what if I want to be a stripper, would you be okay with that?" and she said, "I would rather you do something else, and there are so many dangers involved in that kind of business, but if it made you happy that's all I would care about." Now, I'm not sure that I agree with this kind of parenting. Even if it's true, should you tell your children that they can do whatever they want as long as it makes them happy? Isn't that how I got into the mess that is my life? I dropped out of school because it made me happy. I moved out when I was 17 because it made me happy. I got married at 19 because it made me happy. And up until the marriage part, my mother wanted nothing to do with any of my shenanigans. She wouldn't help me pack to move out, let alone help be get primped to pose in Playboy. But I digress.
This woman accompanying her daughter to our fair city is a sad commentary on the state of the "next generation." Is she so concerned with her daughter making some money that she would be willing to help her pose naked so that millions of men can splooge all over her picture? I mean, let's face it; Playboy is not art for art's sake. It's porn for porn's sake. Don't get me wrong, I am not against Playboy in any way. I used to buy it all the time at the Navy Exchange. Until I came home one day to find a bottle of lube and a pile of Playboys in the middle of the living room floor when I had only been gone for 30 minutes and had made love to my (now ex)husband right before I left. That had really nothing to do with Playboy, so much as my crazy spouse. But again, I digress. There should be no mistake about why men (or women) buy Playboy. Everyone knows what porn is for. So for a woman to so readily and, apparently, joyfully assist her daughter in her lifelong dream to become a 2-dimensional spunk receptacle boggles the mind. I'm sure that you have noticed that I am not ragging too much on the girl, and that is because she is only a product of her environment. If you plant corn, you'll get corn. Maybe it is wrong for me to pass judgement on someone based on some fluff piece on the internet. However, when you allow someone to follow your "Quest for Playboy" you are pretty much opening yourself up (in so many ways) to criticism. So, really, this is all her fault.
On the other hand, my friend D is contemplating posing for Playboy for a blog entry. And you know what, I say do it to it!!!! She is a grown-ass woman who knows exactly what she would be doing. I know for a fact that there are Playboys in her bathroom. She's not some barely legal girl who has to travel with her mommy. And as for these women who say that there parents think their Playboy spreads are "beautiful," "tasteful," "classy," or "artful;" I call bullshit. Old school Playboy centerfolds were classy and artful. Now it's just a mess of skin and the occasional prop that doesn't make any sense. "Oh, how did I end up on this bail of hay wearing nothing but my boots and a tiny half jean jacket? I suppose the only thing to do now is spread my legs as wide as they will go and lick my lips." Once again, I do not fault Playboy or even the women who pose in it. It's a business and a career. But, if you really thought about it, would you help your daughter if she wanted to audition? I don't think I could, but I guess you never know.

** As a side note, I have cousins that are twin girls and they live in Michigan. I would never say that they are sluts, but I don't know them well enough to call them an exception to the rule, either. I honestly believe that there is a true correlation between basements, long winters and Michigan girls turning into sluts. Maybe I'll go into that one at a later date.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Things I never learned.

My mother is an habitual romantic. I use the word "habitual" rather than "hopeless" because it somehow fits better. She has been married, and divorced, three times. She is now with a man that she has known since high school who lives across the country and she only sees him about one week a month. She fell in love with Pappy many moons ago and, it seems, the only time they have not been together was when one or the other was married. Yet, one time my mother asked Pappy why he never tells her he loves her. His response was startling: "Because any time a man says he loves you, you get rid of him." I mention this because it is the only way to sum up my mother without an incredibly detailed biography. And to understand my mother is to understand me. You see, much to my dismay, I have taken on many of my mother's characteristics. Especially in regard to relationships. I don't feel like I've inherited her constant need for attention and companionship. I don't feel like I need to be with a man in order to feel valid as a woman. I do, however, think that I choose men that are totally unavailable in order to avoid a commitment. Or perhaps it's in order to avoid being vulnerable. Either way, it's a little bit insane.
One thing that my mother inadvertently taught me is that men don't stick around. My bio-father was an abusive alcoholic and my mother left him when I was a wee little one. I never saw him again. Then she met the man that I call my Father, they lived together for about 5 years before they were married. When I was in High School, they divorced, and I haven't seen him since I was 18. My mother's third husband told her, on their first anniversary, that he was no longer in love with her. There was never any talk, on my mother's part, that men are all evil and they will all leave you and break your heart. On the contrary, my mother still loves love. She never told me to be careful with my heart or to be prepared for the other shoe to drop. She is the eternal optimist when it comes to matters of the heart. Some would call it foolish. I don't know what I would call it. As a result, I grew up thinking that every boy I liked would marry me one day. When I was 16 I fell in love with a boy and he did, indeed, break my heart. My mother never warned me, in fact when I told her that I had lost my virginity to this boy, her response was, "I'm going to have a bowl of cereal." After she got her cereal, she asked me a series of questions: "Why did you feel like you wanted to have sex with him?" "Were you careful?" "Was he nice to you?" to which I replied: "Because I love him." She was concerned that I had felt pressured into it, when in reality he was a perfect gentleman about the whole thing, regular after-school special material.
Several months later, he and I broke up and my world collapsed around me. My mother never told me that there would be such horrible, horrible pain. Just as my mother has always done, I picked myself up off the bathroom floor and got back out there. Now, a 17 year old girl should never be "out there," she should be out with friends or at home or at the football game watching her boyfriend play (which is how I spent so many Friday nights), but she should not be "out there" drinking and playing truth or dare with sailors that she just met. Especially, she should not move in with one of those sailors after only a month of dating, half of which time he was still engaged to someone else. Ever the optimist, I made excuses and rationalizations for why everything was going to work out perfectly. Eventually, I married that sailor and also divorced him. Since then, I have dated a series of complete losers that really had no future, yet I would try so hard to make it work. Because, in my world, everything will work if you make it work. Ten years after my crushing heartbreak, I am talking to my first love again. We see each other every once in a while. He refuses to date me again, even though he says that I am the only girl that he has ever loved, and it will probably stay that way. He recognizes that we are perfect for one another, but is a pathological bachelor/dater. In the most frustrating turn of events, his total fear of commitment was brought on by me, 10 years ago.
Today, I realized that somewhere in the last 10 years, I lost my optimistic outlook. I have apparently decided that I am only going to fall in love with men that I can't have. The question now is why? Is it because I don't really want to be in a relationship or is it because I am afraid to be in a relationship? The part of my soul that comes from my mother tells me that it must be that I'm afraid, because why would I not want to be in a relationship. The part of my soul that is all me tells me that there's nothing wrong with not wanting to be in a relationship. In a society where everyone is looking for their "better half," is it unacceptable to want to be alone? My best friend is married with 2 kids, and the other day her husband announced that they would start going to bed at 9:00 instead of 10:00, which leaves her with an hour less to get things done every day. My first response to this information was, "I am so glad to be single." Maybe there's really nothing wrong with me, maybe there's just something wrong with what's expected of me.