Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Nothing to See, Lots to Write

The water is running in the bathroom and kitchen and the water bill will be higher than usual because of it. I don't care. I can't, not when the alternative is frozen pipes and no water for a few days. I went through that at the beginning of the year and I don't want to go back there again. No toilet, no water, and bitter cold. So I'll pay the extra because of the subzero weather and be grateful for the water.

It's amazing what makes me grateful these days. Running water and heat. Being able to buy a book or indulge myself with a pizza instead of the usual round of frozen and shelf stable dinners. Being without a paycheck for six weeks will do that. I'm back and the paychecks have started up again and I'm doing all right, except that I can't figure out what OASDI is on my paycheck and why it's deducted from my pay, so a quick check was in order. It's the new name for Social Security: Old Age Survivors and Disabilities Insurance. Okay, so it's descriptive, but what was wrong with Social Security? More useless labels, just what everyone needs, and I can do without.

Nothing like reminding me that I am getting older and should be closer to the end than the beginning, and I would be if I weren't going to live another 96 years. Yes, I plan to live to a ripe old 150. I can dream, can't I? It's where it all begins -- dreams.

I still have dreams about writing lots of books and getting paid for them, of people talking about my books and getting what I put into them, of living a life different than the one I live now where I'm grateful for breezes around the windows and doors because it keeps out the specter of carbon monoxide and running the water all night, and all day if necessary, keeps the pipes from freezing. I don't like having to rely on other people and, as long as I rent, that's what I'll have to do. I'm at the mercy of a landlord who doesn't care enough about keeping this house up, like making sure it's insulated, everything works, and the roof doesn't leak like a sieve. He's too busy on building his other properties while this one deteriorates at an increasily rapid rate. I'd buy it, except he wouldn't sell and I can't afford it right now, not until my books sell more than they have.

That's the way it always is, dreaming about what you don't have so you don't enjoy what you have. I get that way sometimes, but only when the weather is below freezing and the water is running. It's the way of things, the need to focus on the bad and forget about the good, like reading there could be a cure for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's in the lichen used to create the red dye so prevalent in junk food. No wonder my mother is still around. She eats nothing but junk food. She forgets things sometimes, but that's just atrophy in a brain that's used for little more than arguing and demanding her children (that would be me and my siblings) see she's right when we all know she's wrong. She has no good memory of things but she insists that she remembers. It's the usual dichotomy of someone who spent all of her life controlling the people around her, mostly Dad, and is suddenly cast adrift because her favorite focus of abuse is now dead, and we all deal with her in various ways.

My brother, the Mushroom, stays away from her and keeps his life and himself to himself. Beanie avoids her, except at the beginning of the month when she has to give Mom her B12 shot and whenever she blows up Beanie's phone while she's at work. Hoity-Toity lives with her, but spends all her time at work so she doesn't have to deal with her too much. Well, that and because she doesn't have a man in her life for a change. He got tired of Hoity-Toity's controlling ways and constant niggling about how cheap he is and gave her the gate on Valentime's Day over a year ago. I heard he's come back with a motorcycle and plans to take her out again. He's either addicted to the nagging and belittling or he is a classic masochist missing his daily dose of sadistic treatment -- probably a bit of both. And then there's me.

I keep my contact with Mom brief and usually talk to her on Thursdays, unless she calls me to ask who this actor or that author is because she can't remember. Like Tom Wingo, I am her memory -- on everything but my own life, about which I cannot be trusted to remember. I used to argue with her about that, but gave it up when I realized that was mostly the reason she started the argument in the first place. She knows my buttons and she pushes them with gusto and unholy glee. I've learned to just tell her she's right (not very often) or say I have to go to the bathroom, which gets me off the phone and gives me time to realize she's pushing my buttons again. She lives for confrontation, which is why all of us, my siblings and I, have an aversion to confrontation . . . in varying degrees. I, less so, because I have had to fend for myself by myself a long time. Mom lives to argue and I have been her favorite opponent even before Dad died. It took me a long time to figure that one out, and that is one thing I had that I do not miss now that I don't have it -- or at least avoid it most of the time.

But, without Mom and my estranged siblings (except for Beanie) and my lack of luck with man-woman relationships, I'd have nothing to write about. It would be all sunshine and flowers, sweetness and light, and who wants to read about that? It does get boring after a while, which is why I write what I do. Oh, well, life's a mixed bag of tricks and each comes with its own warning -- most of which we don't understand until they land on us full force -- like the water bill when it comes. I'll have at least nine months to recoup. Meanwhile, I'm thankful for budgets on utilities that take the financial kinks out of what could be a disaster, but a small disaster compared to replacing pipes and hiring plumbers when the pipes freeze from the lack of insulation, old works, and absentee landlord, except when the rent is late 5 minutes. That's life in the big city.

And, yes, I still miss the cabin. I do not miss the owners of said cabin who dropped in whenever they liked without a phone call or the balloon payments on propane and paying twice for something that was on the budgets. Yes, more stories, and stories upon stories, from the highway pile-up that sometimes resembles my life.

There are shining moments when a helping hand reached down to me or I was able to reach down for someone else, but those are best left untold. In that at least I prefer to remain anonymous.

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