Sunday, October 23, 2005

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. An awful lot of life changing events have happened upon me this year. The most recent being the death of my grandmother who I had cared for on and off for the past 21 years since she had her stroke.

She had fought a long and hard battle of paralysis, being unable to speak, and losing her ability to write since the stroke. These past 4-5 years I had been taking care of her intently along with my brother in the old farmhouse we share and grew up in. It was a very unconventional upbringing with both of my paternal grandparents, parents, 4 children, and an uncle all living under the same roof. Our cousins were just a mile down the road. We raised beef cattle and dairy cows, chickens, occassionally pigs, planted huge gardens every year and the adults worked regular jobs besides. The farming was to supplement what we would not otherwise have been able to afford as we did not have the means to make a living from it.

Every year, shortly after school would start in the fall, my grandparents would slaughter a cow raised specifically for that purpose. I learned to dread that time of year because we were already unconventional, so many of us living in a big old brick house. There were still some people who farmed in the neighborhood but the numbers were dwindling. Riding the school bus home every night I'd sit on the left hand side as we drew closer to home. I'd look intently out the window to the oak tree in the front yard just off the road near the mailbox. Even though some folks around still raised beef cattle, no one slaughtered like my grandparents. Every afternoon I looked to see if this was the day. And eventually it would be and I'd be mortified. From a distance I could see a large figure hanging from the lowest branch of the oak tree. As we drew closer it would take shape. Hoisted into the tree by the spreadeagle hindquarters the carcass would be hanging upside down. Sometimes already skinned, innards in a large heap on the ground, my grandparents both standing there, covered in cows blood, knives drawn, waving as the bus came to a stop, air brakes hissing and door opening. I couldn't hide and I had to get off the bus after all I was home. I looked at no one as I rushed out the door, bangs hanging over eyes intent on the rubber laiden aisle. If a semi-truck had come barrelling my way I never would have noticed. Hell, I might have welcomed it's impact at that point.

Honestly, I'd give anything to do that all again. Relive those moments just to see my grandparents, my dad, my uncle, all together with family working hard to makes ends meet. It wasn't such a bad thing as I recall it. I can't help but wonder if those days are passed or if similaar days will cycle by again.

My grandmother passed about two months ago. I'm still dealing with the loss. I'm not sure these are things you should just get over and move on though. Of course one doesn't want to dwell to the point that one is incapacitated by it, but reverence and memory are good things.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In January I hit a milestone birthday. I've never understood that term because I've felt basically unaffected by any previous years. This year was no exception for the first 6 months.

My '95 Geo was giving me problems and though I had decided to keep it until it finally just quit too many things started to go wrong plus I was tiring of adding a quart of oil every week. I did my research, figured out what I could afford, and set out to find that car. The excuse that I was another year older also played a factor. I had only owned two cars in my life to this point (I don't count the '73 Eldorado though it's a joy to float down the road in it. It's never been practical, sensible, cost efficient and so it sits in the yard with less than 5oK original miles on the engine. I'm sure this vehicle will come up some other time in the future so enough of it for now.). A Festiva which I loved, got tons of mileage out of and if I hadn't moved to Detroit with it I'd likely STILL be driving it today, and the Metro which replaced the Festiva and I've never had any affinity for. It was simply a necessary replacement after the car munching streets and intoxicated drivers of Detroit made mincemeat out of the Festiva. I was more than happy to have an excuse to replace the Metro.

After crunching figures, assuring that I keep the new vehicle to bare bones, nothing extra, and deciding on a color I just had to wait for the car to arrive on the lot. About a week's worth of worrying if the Metro was going to get me to and from work another day the car arrived and I went in to sign the paper work. I sat down with my dealer, who it turns out my mother's best friend knew from her hometown where he was considered the town drunk and local attempted carouser (she was glad to see he'd finally made something of himself), signed the papers and then went to finalize the finances.

A woman not much younger than I sat across her desk from me going over the numbers, explaining things quickly, having me sign this and that. There came a point when she turned a paper for me to sign and that's when it hit me. This year had been a milestone birthday. There it was, six months after the date, IN WRITING...."40". I hadn't seen it in print before. I'd said it to myself, but this was different and my first instinct was to correct her and explain that I was only 36 and how did she ever come up with "40"? I got a little dizzy for a moment and when she asked me what was wrong I explained to her that it was taking me a second to comprehend just how disorienting it was to see my new age in print and that until that point it had been meaningless to me, just another birthday. She seemed uninterested and just wanted the papers signed when I was having a small crisis. I slowly signed the paper and as I slid it back across the desk to her she commented, "So is that what I have to look forward too?".

I only hope that she does and that it hits her like it did me. At that moment I realized I should be doing a lot things, new things. Not immediately but I had to do something to mark this year and effect the years to come. Something more than purchasing a new car anyway. So I finally started the 401K, and I made an appointment with my doctor for a physical, I started making better efforts to keep in touch with people from my past that I wanted to and starting purging those who I had been clinging to for years that have been unhealthy for me.

The 401K still kind of freaks me out. It feels SO old and SO responsible and SO wrong for some reason but it's relatively harmless.

The physical revealed some things that were good and it was so recent that I'm still waiting for other results. My blood pressure is good, 122/70. I need to lose weight though my doctor never once said that. He did however say that discomfort I've been feeling below each of my nipples is likely a result of all the weight I've put on recently. The fact that the discomfort and the two bumps below the skin are symmetrical he said is promising and not likely breast cancer. I mentioned moodiness, crankiness, and a constant slight underlying sense of sadness and he suggested perhaps that's just me and it's alright to feel that way. It's the first I've felt normalized in ages. He is runnning tests for andropause (male menopause) and breast cancer just to be sure. He's also checking for diabetes. It turns out, as much as I was dreading the physical I'm glad I scheduled it and followed through.

As for keeping in touch, I'm doing alright with that. Could be better and it's sometimes disappointing when I don't hear back but everyone's busy and changing. That's to be expected.

The purging has been the most difficult. It's not easy for me to admit perhaps some of these people in my past haven't been the best influences. The real question is why would I hold on so tightly to them knowing it isn't good for me? I suppose that remains to be answered as change continues and I have to remind myself there's time to figure it out if need be.

I don't know what other changes are coming. The above changes are just so ordinary/practical. Living a single gay rural life is not the norm I suppose but that's what I've chosen for now and the dogs like it. I'm hoping as I mature I'll meet some new people along the way, travel a bit, continue to romanticize the future and mostly not lose hope for the experiences that lie ahead.