Past Incarnations

I’ve been blogging and creating websites, off and on, for more than a decade. The following posts have been gathered from those now abandoned sites. Some of them have been truncated, all of them have been at least a little re-edited … because I couldn’t help myself.
 ***
I guess I’ll have to make my fortune with the writing.
Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 — Originally posted in Rude Writing at Blogger.
I didn’t post last night because I was venting to a friend. Though the elder-care quagmire continues to suck at me, this particular freak-out came from an unexpected direction.     
Yesterday evening, I found a message on my answering machine from a woman who wanted to inform me that I am heir to some mineral rights in North Dakota, via my paternal family. As I’ve always pretty much considered myself an orphan on that side, the news came as a shock. Up until that moment, I had been sure that all I still had from my father were a few fragmented memories, some photographs and the name that I intend to publish under: Rude. Everything else that had come from him–a record player, a bike that could be folded at the middle to fit into a trunk, a velour shirt, my mother’s wedding band, (which matched his)–I had carelessly broken, lost or outgrown. I had even squandered the financial inheritance my paternal grandmother had sent after the funeral–a one-thousand dollar check she had deemed my share of his estate. Because my mother tucked it into a savings account, I couldn’t blow that until seven years later, when I turned sixteen. As soon as I gained access to the money, though, I bought a used muscle car … which my boyfriend promptly totaled. 
Last night–when all I could do was leave the woman a return message, then wait until morning–I barely resisted the urge to dig out the forbidden photos of my father–the ones that I don’t display or keep in an album–the ones that the coroner snapped at his accident scene. Instead, I called my girlfriend who invited me over, gave me beer and listened to me marvel that my father had left something secret for me. I worked up a nice glow, then caught a ride home. I slept well, but woke early, impatient to hear about the land that my father had owned.
Turns out, of course, that there is no land.Even worse, my father had nothing to do with obtaining the mineral rights. The reason the woman had searched for me was that my father–the true heir–was deceased, and the law requires that she exhibit due diligence in seeking all the inheritors.

Whatever this windfall is, it comes to me due to actions taken by my great-grandfather–a man who probably died before I lived. (And if he was still alive in 1967, it’s unlikely my grandmother would have shared my birth as good news.) Thus my fanciful sense of connection to my dad fluttered away.
The woman said she would send some papers for me to sign. Before she hung up, it occurred to me to ask about the monetary value of these mineral rights. She said there’s no guarantee that the drilling would be successful, but that these things sometimes do pay out quite well. She cautioned me that my share is quite small. If there is a strike, I will be sharing its proceeds with, apparently, dozens of unknown cousins, from multiple generations, all of whom signed these papers years ago, when she’d first been assigned the case. I wonder if any of them would be willing to tell me a bit about my dad.

***
‘Round we go again, my friends.
January 3rd, 2008 — Originally posted in Renae Rude at Live Journal.
We have come back to that place in my mood cycle where EVERYTHING sucks, NOTHING is getting DONE and ALL of it must be MY FAULT. Though, sometimes, SOMEBODY ELSE is to blame because NO ONE finishes a task THE RIGHT WAY. 
Deep breath. 
If I allow this pattern to repeat, a great deal will get organized, sorted and, ultimately, discarded in the next little bit. I will be far too hard on everyone in sight … including myself. I will figure out how to make things somewhat better. I will eventually wear out, and things will slowly begin to go wrong. I will forget that I don’t want any more damn stuff. I will ignore troublesome little signs. I will tuck things into places that make sense at the time. And in a few weeks, or months, I will explode all over again. 
So. How do I make this the last time? 
I’ve been paying close attention to the homes of other people lately–in particular those of my mother- and sister-in-law. I’ve also studied homes on television shows. In comparison, my house is too cluttered. When it’s reasonably clean, however, people think it’s cozy and cute and comfortable. They like to be here. They say it has a nice “feel” to it. The homes I’ve been observing would be a dream to keep clean. They have very few decorations, toys, books, blankets or nibblies. (The sorts of things that make my house too cluttered.) And they have no animals. (Not even a goldfish.) To me, though, those houses feel cold and sterile when they are immaculate, and sort of lonely and sad when there are a few personal items scattered around. (The idea of my mother- and father-in-law–just the two of them–wandering about a house that’s twice the size of ours just creeps me out.)

***
Denial is getting me nowhere.
December 6th, 2007 — Originally posted in Renae Rude at Live Journal.
I’ve tried hard not to succumb to the dark, but I’m afraid my depression has returned. No wonder, really. It is five minutes after three o’clock and it’s getting awfully gray outside. We’ve had several inches of snow in the last week, and more is coming. Even more is forecast after that. Nothing deep. No blizzards. Just stuffy indoor air, unrelieved chills, wet feet, bad roads, shoveling … and murkiness that alternates with blinding glare.
Until this year, I didn’t realize just how much I despise winter. Maybe it was my birth family connections keeping me here all along. I used to say that the season was, at least, pretty. That I wouldn’t like a Christmas without snow. That I needed dramatic seasonal changes to avoid boredom. 
I don’t believe those things anymore. I want to get the hell out of this godforsaken wasteland. I want to see rain, grass, flowers, lightening, moving water and people who don’t look like frostbitten zombies. And I want to stop seeing my own, vacant, dead-looking, sallow, pinched face when I accidentally glance in a mirror. 
I’m not writing of course. I’m not teaching either. There’s no time. When the “day” consists of six or seven hours of mostly leaden skies, there aren’t any hours left for it; not after doing the absolute have-tos and the sulking. Feeling this lousy takes hours out of every day.  Today I am trying–again –to put the house to rights. Like everything else, it’s not horrible, just not “good”. I know I need music, light, exercise, hot baths, a fire in the stove, knitting, sex, romance, comedy–all that stuff. But first, I need to get the goddamn rug to stop curling at the corners; the patio door shrink-wrapped; the catpans changed; the fridge cleaned out and restocked; the dishes done; the chickens fed and watered; the garbage and recycling out; the laundry rebooted; sundry misplaced items put away; the floors swept or vacuumed; the toilets cleaned; and the patio re-shoveled. 

Better get to it. It’s even darker now. 
***
I looked into the mirror this morning. Bad call.
December 8th, 2005 — Originally posted in Moderately Mad at Live Journal.
I write about how depression adversely affects the condition of my home – often in excruciating detail. I publicly appraise the severity of my addictions to television and alcohol. I acknowledge that many–if not all–of my discomforts and ailments are psychosomatic. But, I don’t usually write about my appearance when I’m depressed. I don’t want to admit how bad it can get. 
Four days ago, my mother complimented me on the powder blue shirt I wore. She said, “It looks so clean and fresh.” I’m still wearing that shirt. When she saw me, I was also wearing snug jeans. That evening, I simply kicked those jeans into a corner before crawling under the covers. When I awoke, I pulled on some comfortable, rat-gray sweatpants to get me through the day. When night came around again, I removed the bra I’d been wearing for two days–because it was starting to pinch. (As most women know, I did not have to take off my top to free myself from the bra.) I was bone-cold, though, so I wore the sweats to bed. Yesterday, I spilled the chicken waterer on myself, so I had to switch from the sweatpants into something dry. I found a pair of pajama bottoms, which I am now wearing. They match the powder blue shirt.
I don’t smell very good.
Throughout the summer and much of autumn, I showered or bathed daily. I applied a little mascara each morning, and checked my manicure each night. A few days after the weather turned wintery, while I was picking the last of the Sunset Peach polish off my nails, I realized that the days of such elaborate self-care were past. I promised myself that, this year, I would at least shower a couple of times each week, wash my face in the mornings, and brush my teeth twice a day … no matter what. 
Within a week of making the resolution, I was too tired for the evening tooth brushing. As winter settled in, the stretch of days between my showers grew longer. I started to skip all the grooming on some days.  I don’t know why or when – it may have been more than a week ago or it may have been only a couple of days – I stopped looking into the mirror. Until today when I accidentally glanced up as I washed my hands.
When I finish here, I will force myself up the stairs and into the shower. I will be amazed at how good the water feels on my skin. I will hungrily inhale the scents of shampoo and toothpaste. I will think to myself that I can’t let this happen again. 
I will feel renewed … which will likely encourage me to finish the housekeeping I’ve been trudging through. I might even feel well enough to start entering the mountain of receipts that are screaming at me from the spindle on the desk. Such things need doing, both for the sake of my family and for my own sanity. One part of me knows that these tasks will not be as difficult or time-consuming as I fear. Another part of me, though, knows that they are all futile. Our finances need so much more than sporadic accounting. The house needs so much more than to be tidied. And I need so much more than a shower.
***
A grim, stubborn little son-of-a- … oh, wait.
December 12th, 2005 Originally posted in Moderately Mad at Live Journal.     
My nine year old son forgot his backpack this morning, so I started the day by visiting the school. Near the door to his classroom, I noticed a display of student-made certificates under a banner that read: Classroom Record Holders. At first I couldn’t find my son’s project among the thirty-three on the wall. I saw studies of  Barbie and Lego collections, sketches of stick-figure athletes, and self-portraits which exaggerated certain features–the length of a girl’s hair, the relative height of a boy. Then a rendering of a tombstone jumped out at me. 
In sky blue block letters, my son had inscribed the headstone KEEPER, the name of our deceased boxer dog. He’d also sketched a detailed beta bowl, complete with decorative seaweed, a tiny treasure chest, and an upside-down floater-fish with an X-ed out eye. On the bottom third of the page, he had drawn our meadow, dotted with red-orange flowers. Using artistic license, though, he had decorated the landscape with six crude, tilted crosses. He had labeled this section of his project with the words Our Chickens. The “record” he had claimed was “most dead pets.” 
As I write this, I realize it sounds grim, but I couldn’t help giggling. From a distance his project had appeared to be the most cheery, colorful of them all. 
Just now, when he got home from school, I asked him about it. He said that another boy had taken the record he wanted: most pets. Then he said, “Besides, it was different from the others.”
What must his teacher think of us?
That reminds me, I forgot to record my last encounter with the school. On the day my husband played hooky and took me to the cities to see Capote, we returned home to find a phone message from our son’s teacher. She said that she needed to speak to me as soon as possible. She assured me that my son was fine, but it was urgent that we talk. The next message on the machine was from my mother, who wanted to know why the school was trying to reach me. (The teacher had phoned my mother’s house because it’s listed as my work number.) Because it was well after dismissal by the time we got home, I couldn’t return the call.
We turned to our son who seemed mystified. After much questioning he said, “Oh. Wait. Maybe it’s about the Pledge.”
The muscles in my neck tightened; my stomach rolled. I said, “Tell me don’t have a problem with Pledge of Allegiance.”
He pointed at his sister, who had been listening to the conversation, thinking she was an innocent bystander. “But she refused to say it!” His voice squeaked in indignation.
“I never told him about that!” My nineteen year old daughter blustered, when I turned to glare at her. 
When she was fourteen or fifteen, a zealous recruiter had been granted permission to visit her social studies class. His enthusiastic description of military life, and his promises of potential glory, stirred up her male friends, who happily provided their contact information when he asked for it. It shocked my daughter that the recruiter was mining for soldiers in a class of middle-schoolers. At the end of the presentation, she protested by refusing to stand to say the pledge. When the recruiter confronted her, she told him that she was offended. He accepted that she objected to his methods, told her that her personal feelings about his actions should not effect her patriotism,and challenged her to give him one good reason to not say the Pledge. 
In front of her conservative classmates, she told him that she did not feel comfortable swearing her allegiance to “the Republic for which it stands” because she emphatically did NOT support the government that was in power at that time. (Yes, it was George W. and his cronies.)
“Well, if you didn’t brag about it, who did?”
“You did, Mom,” my son piped helpfully. “You said you were proud that she stood up for herself.”
“But she had a reason,” I protested. “Why didn’t you say the Pledge?”
“I was going to. But then I thought about it. It’s silly to promise my loyalty to a piece of cloth.”
He’s at a very literal age.

***



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