Psychotic Relations

Straitjacket

Some families are a little more tightly wrapped than others.  Even the best of families though, have a member or two who aren’t let out in public without a leash, or a minder.  Jimmy Carter had beer-drinking Billy.  George W. makes Jeb Bush seem like Mensa material.  These are the folks that we can look at (and snicker) and think of Jeff Foxworthy’s line.  “Compared to them, why, we’s dang near royalty.”

The recent publication of my Sunny Disposition Flash Fiction reminded me of the couple who inspired it.  In my family, it was my sister – half-sister actually.  My Our Mom moved to Detroit, and got married and gave birth.  Mom’s husband cheated on her, and when his daughter was born, abandoned them both.

I never met the man, so it’s hard to judge the nature/nurture ratio of her psychoses, but the totals were impressive.  They started when Mom took a divorce settlement, moved 200 miles back to small-town Ontario, and bought a house for them to live in.

By age 8 and 9, she was accusing Mom of “hiding her away from her Father,” despite the fact that her ‘loving father ‘ stood outside the house one day while she was at school, after his most recent girlfriend had dumped him, but didn’t have the nerve to knock on the door.  He knew where she was, but didn’t care.

It was strange that, when Mom remarried, she didn’t resent the new husband.  In fact she treated her stepfather better all her life than she did her real mother.  Then Mom gave birth to me, and three years later, my brother.  Soon the oft-repeated line was, “Wasn’t I enough?!  Why’d you have to have them?”

After my brother’s birth, a sickly child, requiring a lot of care and personal time, the new mantra became, “Those damned boys!  Those damned boys!”  Interesting language for a 13-year-old girl, in the 1940s.

Always headstrong, and constantly craving attention, she acquired a 21-year-old boyfriend and told Mom that, if she wasn’t allowed to marry, she’d just get pregnant and elope.  As the least of several evils, she was allowed to say “I do” a month before her 16th birthday.

She pumped out five children and a miscarriage in eight years.  The last, a 13 pound, 8 ounce Butterball baby boy fortunately sterilized her.  Children having children??!  She was far too immature, insecure and needy to raise kids.  She was manic/depressive back before ‘bipolar’ became the politically-correct description, and her co-dependent husband wasn’t much better.

“Up”, and drinking and having fun, and then, sometimes within an hour, one or both of them would crash, and they’d be fighting like two cats in a sack.  Both of them often sported bruises, cuts or scrapes.  She had to put four brands of Lite beer in the beer-fridge.  They were having too many ‘lost’ weekends.  She failed one suicide attempt.  After about 12 years of a WWE marriage, they moved into a house directly across the street from my parents – a blessing, and a curse.

One or another of the children would run across the road and yell,  “Grandma, come quick, Daddy’s killing Mommy!”  (Or Mommy’s killing Daddy – however the wind happened to be blowing that day.)  Mother would trudge across, and separate the combatants.

One night, the seven all sat down to dinner.  One of the adults(?) said, “The sky is blue,” the other said, “Fuck you,” and the screaming and yelling started.  He said something objectionable, and she tossed the contents of a water glass at him.

He threw a plate of meatloaf and potatoes at her.  She threw the gravy boat at him.   He threw the bread basket at her.  She threw….he threw….she threw….  The kids wisely scattered.  The oldest daughter came running across for the referee.  “Grandma, they’re wrecking the house!”

Mom said that, by the time she got there, the tornado had blown itself out.  He was sulking in the living room.  She was leaning against the dining room wall, trying to catch her breath, and surveying the wreckage.

There was ketchup on the 10-foot, white ceiling.  There was mustard on the hardwood floor.  There was bread tangled in the chandelier.  There was butter on the outside wall, and peanut butter on the inside wall.  Pickled beets were in the floor vent, and broken glass and dishes were everywhere.

As often happens with tornadoes, there was an undamaged jar of Cheeze-Whiz, inexplicably still sitting on the table.  My half(wit)-sister dourly looked at it, and surveyed the chaos.  “Well, you might as well join the rest of them,” and threw it against the kitchen door-frame.  “Now, we can clean up!”

And so, a 100 word Flash Fiction was born unto me – the normal one.  Don’t you feel superior now?

#461

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Frankenstorm

We’re fine!  Thanks for asking.  The whole East side of North America went through the storm of the century, and all I got was this lousy, wet tee-shirt.  One woman in Toronto was struck and killed by wind-blown debris.  A guy in our northern twin city was slightly injured when a large tree crashed down on his house.  A family in town had a large evergreen tree uprooted and neatly deposited lengthways down their in-ground pool.

In the last year, we have had a new roof installed; that was timely.  And we had all new windows and doors put in.  There was a lot of wind and rain out there, but, out there was where it stayed.  While the dregs of the storm may linger for a day or two, it appears the worst is over and the water is starting to drain off, all except my rain-water collection barrels.

I had been using watering cans to take water from the barrels, and pour it around our Mulberry bush (where our weasel pops), the Magnolia bush, and four Rose of Sharon bushes.  It’s been such a dry summer that the wife suggested deep watering, soaking the ground, for better growth next spring.  I had emptied the two single barrels, but, even before this big storm hit, we had had rain about every second day.

The three ganged barrels beside the house just kept refilling.  I finally gave up.  The soil around the bushes is as soaked as it will ever get.  I have a faucet installed on one barrel, so I just hooked up a garden hose, ran the end down near the front sidewalk, and turned the tap.  They refill faster than the hose can drain them, but eventually I will get to disassemble them and invert them for the winter so that ice formation doesn’t damage them.

One that I had inverted blew around between the houses, but nowhere I couldn’t find it.  The young father in the other half of our semi had assembled an eight-foot high wooden *castle tower* play set for his two young daughters.  It had another two-foot high nylon parasol on top, for sun protection.  It’s now lying in his yard.  I may have to volunteer to help him right it.

The son was just thinking of getting ready to leave for his Monday, midnight shift, when his supervisor called to say it had been cancelled.  Day shift worked.  Afternoon shift might have been sent home early, but they worried about overnight.  The winds and rain were picking up.  If they had a power outage, there would be no buses or taxis for workers to get home in the middle of the night.

The gal next door can telecommute for some of her job, so she stayed home Tuesday.  I met her outside, and she gave us a 12-pack of new pint canning jars that someone had given her.  We’re the only people she knows who can anymore.

The area of Southern Ontario between my home town and my current address is one of the most stable, fortunate pieces of real estate to live in, in the whole world.  We don’t get hurricanes, we don’t get tornadoes, we don’t get earthquakes, and we don’t get floods….usually.

Earthquakes occur five hundred miles away, near Montreal, or south of the Great Lake, in Ohio.  We sometimes feel a little edge of a tremblor, but no shaking houses down, or even rattling dishes.  If we hear of two tornadoes in a season, it’s unusual.  They mostly occur a hundred miles south and west, and only knock down small trees, or the occasional cow.

We were driving north several years ago, to visit my parents for the weekend, when we ran into a fierce storm.  Rain so hard I could barely see the road, then we got pounded with hail so big I worried about damage to the car finish.  The wind was howling like a freight-train.  The wife peered out her window and said, “I think I see a funnel cloud.”  I told her, don’t be silly, it couldn’t be, we don’t get tornadoes up here!

When we reached the parents’ place, there was Dad, watching his TV on the weather channel.  He informed us that Live Weather had just reported a small tornado where we had just driven through.  Had we seen anything?  Yikes!  Yes!  My ass getting blown into some farmer’s barn.

The last time I saw a perfect storm this bad, in this area, was back in 1954, when Hurricane Hazel came to visit.  She brought lots of wind, and tons of water.  One of my uncles lived out on the edge of town.  You turned off the highway and crossed the railroad tracks that paralleled the road, to access his property.  Back then, we still had train service.  In fact, that far back, the engines were steam-driven.

A hundred yards past his house there was a large steel culvert under the highway, for rainwater to flow down to the lake.  It just emptied into an earthen ditch.  Years before, there had been a wooden trestle over the large ditch, but it had been replaced by a concrete version, solidly planted on both banks.  With the amount of water flowing, the bridge was still solid, but the two banks had been badly undermined.  When the afternoon train slowly rolled into town, the trestle looked good, but the weight of the engine crushed it, dumping it into the creek.  The engineer and the stoker both died of steam burns, a horrible way to go.

Even as I write this, the clouds to the west, behind me, have broken, and sun is streaming in the window, making it difficult to see the computer screen.  I’m going to go look out the back windows.  If I see a rainbow, I’ll know the worst is over.  The storm really didn’t bring us much trouble.  We are very fortunate.  I just hope that all my good blog-friends were as safe and lucky.