June 12, 2018

let's bond by talking about cleaning toilets

My mother wrote again.  She did this before, after I came out and just before she cut me off for five years; there was a season of chatty e-mails peppered with requests to keep writing, keep in touch, write back, please.  She knows when the wire has been stretched too thin.  She knows when I hold the power and she's opened a gulf.

What do I even do with this?


"Hi.  Hope things are going well for you both and that you're dealing with the loss of Chester as best you can.  It's never easy.

"Your sister has asked me to keep her dog the last week in June while they are at the beach on vacation.  I'm looking forward to it, as she is a very sweet golden retriever/chow mix.  And she has been to obedience classes, which is very nice.  Only problem is that I have to give her back when they return home (Rats!!).

"I'm so glad to see the rain go away for a while and these past few days have been so beautiful and just make me want to stay outdoors as much as I can.  Mowed and trimmed today and picked up sticks and pinecones from the yard......then got right back to painting.  It keeps me very busy.  I have to try and fit everything else that needs doing wherever I can.  Sometimes, when what I've painted needs to dry for 20 minutes or so, then I go for a quick walk, or clean the toilets, or whatever...........

Please write.

My first thought about this e-mail was:  Pine cones is two words, not one.  And stop shouting in all-caps.

As an aside, the birthday card she mailed me this year made me literally shake with anger.  The shaking was short-lived but I cried for hours.  It put me in a very bad place.  It was saccharine and full of things that have nothing whatsoever to do with her and me.  The only thing worse than thinking she didn't even look at it twice before throwing it onto the counter at the register and paying for it is thinking that she did look at it and consider it to be appropriate.  I'd prefer the quick whatever-this-one-will-do scenario, the one where no thought was involved.  That one's comfortable.  That one's customary.

P.J. came into the room while I was crying and saw me holding the card out with one corner between the tips of two fingers.  The phrase that comes to mind is from Adams:  " ... like a fish that had three weeks earlier winged its way to the Land Where Fish Are Eternally Blessed."  I wanted to burn it.  It so happens that last night (before the e-mail arrived) I was filing away papers and bills and such, and this card and my daddy's birthday card were together in the pile.  I decided to keep them both for the sake of contrast.  My daddy might be stubborn, infuriating, incorrigible, bone-headed, and impenetrable, but I can call him up any old god-damned time and be myself.  And he really does write the best cards.  His cards act as a window into his real mind.

Seriously ... toilets?

Who the hell actually wants to be outdoors in the summer?  The spiders can just find you faster that way.


Update:  I sat on this e-mail for a number of days because I really didn't know what to do and I did not want anyone's advice, even P.J.'s, even that of friends, so that I could have mental space to consider all angles.  And in the end, I did decide to write her back instead of ghosting her.  I took the third path:

Please forgive the delay in my writing.  I've had a lot to process.

We're doing okay re Chester - it gets easier every day.  I'm glad you'll be getting some dog time soon.

I've started lithium so it is going to take me a while to get used to it.

She responded:

I understand.  Please don't hesitate to write when you're feeling better.

No, lady, I don't think you understand.  You missed the first line entirely, and your response sounds like it was drafted by an attorney.  (The Patrician of Ankh-Morpork ... "Don't let me detain you.")

I opted to play the mental illness card, and decided that my contact with her will become less and less frequent, a sort of slow-motion, time-release capsule approach.  She won't like it, but hey, I'm mentally unbalanced, so she can and will blame it on that.  She holds the nigh-universal opinion that lithium is big-guns crazy medicine and now thinks my condition is way more serious than she realized.  And it's deteriorating.  Oh, terribly, yes.  Another god-damned shame.

Even if I get better and the lithium works wonders ... well, she doesn't need to know that, either, does she?  I'll just let her know that my toilets are shiny and clean.

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