Who Am I and Why Am I Here?

LQ and Uncle Tom Blog

For anyone long enough in tooth to remember that phrase when first it came to light….. Well, we’re oldish, aren’t we? Lest I get past the opportunity to enlighten what rest of you there might be, let it be said that some political parties, (maybe some or both, and then there are some more), do incredibly well at selecting dubious running mates for the highest office in the land. Witness those many years ago, way back in 1992 when then third party candidate Ross Perot  – (Yes, once upon a time there actually appeared a Third Party, or something that called itself that, but pretty much ended up as For Entertainment Only material) – offered us James Stockdale for his second in command. Said Mr. Stockdale uttered those immortal words at but the very beginning of the Vice Presidential Debate, trying to legitimately explain the makings of his being and character, and that was the beginning of the end of that little venture. To get the “rest of the story,” Google him and see what pitiful chains of events led to his caricaturing, and how he as candidate never quite rebounded from it. (Also reference the Howard Dean scream.) Once Saturday Night Live got ahold of it, he was done, and another American icon of miss-speakery was borned, not to mention a prime example of “out of context.” But perhaps I digress too far.

In my own little corner of the world, I seem to be living my own version of those questions. I am way slow in coming out of my voluntarily imposed hibernation after the intensity of fall and winter show season, and I feel like Punxsatawny Phil wanting to run from the lights and cameras. Already? Again? People? Appearances? Fie. I’ve dipped a few toes slowly into the stream of real life, (again, not sure there is such a thing), with a couple of movies and lunches and the like, and a few art deliveries which are welcomed and appreciated. Still, I am feeling like a mole not wanting yet to come out into the sun, and afraid of my own shadow. But February and Ground Hog Day are fast approaching, and I need to get with the program. Many programs. If I don’t move I may seize, and if I’m going to seize up I’d rather do it in action mode, elsewise have folks think that I just went to bed and never got up again.

Besides the overwhelm that accompanies weeks of exposure and on-ness of show season and the physical demands therein, the next season to appear was one of loss. People – people around me both closely or connected to those I care about, and some celebrities who had some impact on my life, started dying. I know this dying thing happens every day, but if we were affected by the whole of it in addition to the connected ones, I don’t think we could get up in the morning. I suppose that’s why we, or should I just say I and not assume anything about the rest of my fellow planet dwellers, have to filter the news and the never-ending barrage of mind and psyche numbing events both close and far. The calamities of animal cruelty and mass shootings and wars upon anything and everything sap my dwindling levels of well being, and I withdraw and hope to renew.

First a favorite artist friend went to hike in Big Bend – my (and his) beloved Big Bend. He sat down on the trail and never got up again. In the midst of the big Christmas show a brother in my used-to-be family died on Christmas Eve. Then the brother-in-law of a new and good friend. Then the Queen Mum’s favorite cat. And now one of the best cowboys in West Texas, a fairly new but stellar acquisition on the friend list, good as gold, special as the sky….gone. I think I’m gobsmacked.

Somehow I’ve lost track of myself in the last few months. I’m nursing a stubborn injury that won’t quite go away, and that’s frustrating and worrisome. Lately I’m not even comfortable picking up my guitars and using my voice, and yesterday one just sitting innocently in its stand just popped a string and gave it up. I’m quiet and seeking solace under the covers. Mind you I’ve had some magical and wonderful moments – the Queen Mum turned 90 and friends came! – lots of laughter and love, but these big losses have made their mark and taken their toll. They’ve rekindled the memories and feelings of being crushed down with the weight of them, and the need to shake off the misery and hold on to the sweetness is necessary. None of us can deny the weight, but sometimes we just have to put it down, or we will end up under it, smashed and exhausted. I believe buried might be a good word, and if we’re still alive, it’s not a good state to be in.

Particularly, the ex-family experience with death hit hard. Well, not quite hard, but I’ve yet to figure out exactly how it is it did hit. The drama, pain and intensity of it was over the top, and I was grateful to be removed from it, yet somehow ill at ease for not being there, but saying No to some siren call of something that would have taken me to the funeral. Yet the still connected closeness of it ragged at me, blurring the lines of reality and chick movie. It seemed like the horrible horror movie where you scream DON’T OPEN THE DOOR to the hapless un-heroine or dumb of ass guy, right before they…open the door. I didn’t open the door. No phone calls came. All is as it was… except for the dreams that returned, (see post from March a year ago), but I think they may have eased off now.

The picture at the top there is of me and my incredible uncle, Tom. He was my mother’s brother, and he was something. Really something – a gift to the planet and those around him. I mean just look at him – if I had a dream guy, there he is. He was intelligent, a fabulous writer – witty and soulful – and he died when he was 33. Hodgkin’s disease, maybe even treatable now. He saw combat in Korea – the forgotten war – and he came home, diagnosed, and was hospitalized for a time in San Francisco. In true chick movie fashion, he and his nurse fell in love and married, settled in San Francisco, agreeing not to have children because they knew his time was limited. I had probably my first real road trip back in 1958, driving cross country from Texas to California with my grandfather and mother across all those lands I would come to love so much, going to see him in that storied city so far from my ken… going to see him one more time before he died. He was in the hospital then, never to leave again as a conscious being. I remember their apartment, filled with Oriental furniture, and her distinct China Doll haircut. She was exquisite, and Italian. We were all home grown Texas. Her parents didn’t speak that much English and lived up north somewhere. He died. They brought him back to Texas and buried him with the family in generations old plots. Scraggly land, sure not like San Francisco. She sent flowers with a heart in them to the cemetery every year on the anniversary of his death.

Life went back to what it was. Time passed. We heard that his wife was going to remarry. Well good for her. She could go on. Next thing we heard, she was dead. They found her in a hotel in Florida, where she was supposed to be boarding a cruise ship with her new husband. But she never made the boat, and maybe they were to be married on it. Whatever the details, it didn’t matter. She wasn’t healed, and she couldn’t heal. I believe there was a note saying she couldn’t be with anyone else after Tom. She just couldn’t do it. She couldn’t even just be. She took her own life. Wow. She asked to be buried next to her husband in Texas – she of the China Doll face and foreign heritage. Her parents wouldn’t hear of it. They made a big stink and demanded she be brought “home” with them. I suppose my fractured family had nothing to fight with, and her family took her back, denying her dying wish. Now there’s the real chick movie, albeit a sad one. No happy ending. Only – and here’s the kicker – it’s all real. Family story. Happened. At least these are my memories, and I’ve told this story for years.

My own story is not so over the top, but it’s full of dysfunction and stupid stories and everyone looking for love in all the wrong places. It’s no wonder chick movies have such an appeal to me, especially since most of them have very happy, if insipid, endings. Oh gawd we all love a happy ending. Even a sappy wappy happy ending. They’re all over television, (when not competing with the Woman in Jeopardy genre, which I won’t watch), and even real Hollywood movies pop one out once in a while. But life as a bona fide chick movie really doesn’t come around to call. The phone doesn’t ring. Or if it does it’s very likely a wrong number. The letter doesn’t come. The bills still do, and every once in a while, a pretty card from a real friend.

And yet I still believe in Happy Endings, that Hope Springs Eternal thing. I know, in all the new TruthSpeak, that I have to make my own, and here I’m remembering a very good line from a chick movie, (that would be Tootsie), but I shall refrain from quoting it, and you should thank me. I’ve been off my own rails for a bit now, but not too far off, and I guess that’s why they call it sidetracked. I’m writing myself notes about what I’ve been ignoring or short shrifting, trying to get my own attention.

I want that little girl back, and don’t even know if that’s possible. I want to be looking up in wonder at endless possibilities, but it’s a hard sell. I’m making my peace with enjoying wonder on my own, but I remain skeptical. I’m not sure where I’m going, or when. I don’t have a plan, and I’m sure that is a very bad thing. However, I look at my friends or the stories of strangers who had every plan in the world, only for it to go SPLAT, so what’s the bottom line here? Is that the old Expect the Best but Prepare for the Worst scenario? I know all about Living in the Moment, but have to get a bit more involved or start looking at real estate under the bridge. It’s just time to… DO.

And there you go, I’ve gone and done a good thing and written a piece. I’ve been missing that. I hope someone’s been missing me. I know I have. So I will return to real life as I know it and come out into the sunshine. I’m heading back to Big Bend next month to fill up my creative coffers, and celebrate the sky. I will enjoy the road and my friends, and come back to myself. And oh yes, new guitar strings on the list.

Peace.

Happy Belated New Year, feeling like the New Year is a pair of stone-washed, faded and well worn (out) jeans, supposed to be in fashion, being passed off as new and shiny, and charged at full price.

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3 Responses to “Who Am I and Why Am I Here?”

  1. I can tell by looking at the photo that Uncle Tom is one of those rare freaks of nature–the perfect man. I love how engaged you both are in the moment captured on film. Your paths will cross again. I just know it.

  2. I believe you are right. Not many meet that “perfect” criteria, but he probably would be the one to shake it off. The older I became, the more aware I was that I missed what could’ve been one of the most significant and meaningful relationships in my life. I think we would’ve been soul buddies, and I would’ve had the coolest uncle on the planet. Why him? Why any of the really good guys, taken all too soon. My but he was special. And thanks for your words. I hope they are true.

  3. Mary Margaret Says:

    thank you for your thoughts on Gary. As you know, our hearts are broken and nothing will ever be the same. But Gary reminds me every day….”it’s all water off a duck’s back.” As I am approaching the one year mark of his death….significant that it was Christmas Eve, reminding me once again that Christmas Day is not about presents under the tree but rather a celebration of a new Light in the world, I am just now barely able to celebrate my precious brother’s life/Light and the gifts that he gave to our family and his friends. Thank you for your sweet thoughts and as I told you a long time ago….you are still part of us. Love to you, Alexa.

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