Extremely Bad Advice – He Ain’t No Fortunate Son

Dear SJ:

My son is 34 years old. Recently he quit his job and moved in with his girlfriend. Now, I’m not certain, but I think they do a lot of drugs. Pot at least. There are a lot of pictures of them on Facebook with these dopey smiles and their eyes are half-closed. I’m not a prudish, naïve mom. I got drunk and smoked a few times in college. I recognize that there are people who have a legitimate need for release from the stress of life.

But if he’s not working, what kind of stress might he have? I think they’re getting by on her trust fund payouts – grandpa was loaded. So if it’s not about needing to work for money, and they don’t have any kids making them want to pull their hair out, what’s the deal? And how do I go about getting him on the right track? That trust fund won’t last forever, and when it’s gone they’re going to have no career, no prospects, and no way to pass a drug test. Which means they’ll probably want to move back in with me. And I absolutely REFUSE to take care of children again in my sixties. What should I do? – DISAPPOINTED BY DARREN

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: Well, what do you know? Something I’m familiar with. No, not the pot-headed loser or his equally worthless girlfriend. But the feeling of failure on your part when your children don’t measure up to your standards.

I get it. I’ve been there. Can you imagine my shame when my daughter almost brought home a B last semester in World History? And my son struck out thrice in last week’s double-header. If that isn’t enough for me to want to save the world from my seed by a couple of selective late-late-term abortions, I don’t know what is.

So I can sympathize with wanting better out of your progeny, because, like any self-serving modern American, you’ve completely abandoned the notion that people’s decisions reflect their own choices in life. Instead, you’ve bought into the perspective that if your kid screws up, it looks bad ON YOU.

Let’s be honest. You don’t give a flip about whether or not you’re going to have to support them if they move back in. You would in a heartbeat, because he is your son, after all. You’re really worried about your image if that happens – and rightly so. All the rest of us would judge you mercilessly behind your back while putting on a sympathetic mask when agreeing to your face that “sometimes they just need a little help.” And rightly so.

Therefore, what you need to do is to convince your son of the error of his ways. He’s over 30, so it really is time for him to grow up. But since he’s acting like a juvenile again, arguments and logic won’t work. They didn’t the first time around, why would they now? This time, you need to show him what it would be like in a few years if everyone pretended to be young and dumb and did young and dumb things.

And what are the things most young and dumb kids like to do most of all? Yep – pot and sex.

Now, since pot is mostly illegal, I’m not going to advise you to do that. You could live in one of the 40-plus states which haven’t gotten their acts together just yet. But sex? That’s all right, all right, all right in every jurisdiction.

I’m telling you, there’s quite a fetish industry for Grandma Porn. GILFs really are a thing. Google it and you’ll have at least half a dozen sites where you can submit your own amateur video. [If you need a partner, there’s this really cool new site called CraigsList Casual Encounters, check it out.] After you’ve made the cut, send your son a link with the subject line “You Want To Be Young And Stupid? So Do I”, and no other text. He’ll get the message.

While you’re at it, send that link over to me. I need a little more fodder for the spank bank 😉

Extremely Bad Advice – How to Deal with Sentimentality

Stealing from Abby once again – ’cause I’m too lazy today to write a new question.

DEAR ABBY: My adult son passed away two years ago at a young age. We were very close while he was growing up. He married young, and I maintained a great relationship with both him and his wife. They gave me the most precious grandchildren any woman could ask for, and I am extremely active in their little lives.

My daughter-in-law has moved on. She met a nice young man, and they are planning to be married in the near future. Do you think I would be out of line to request to have my son’s ashes back home with me? We live near each other, I love her very much, and we still have a great relationship. I don’t want to damage it by asking this if it’s not appropriate.

I would pass his ashes on to his children when they grow up, of course, but for now, I’d love to have my son back home with me and his dad because she has started her new life. My husband is noncommittal about the subject. When I broach it, he says he “doesn’t want to talk about it.” I really have no one to ask or confide in about this. Your thoughts would be most appreciated. — STILL BROKENHEARTED IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR BROKENHEARTED,

Well, what can I say? I would say I’m sorry for your loss, but I’m not. I think “sorry for your loss” is about as meaningful as “the sky is really blue today”. If I was saddened by your loss, I’d tell you that, and perhaps that would do something. If I was interested in showing how much I care about you, I’d ask, “Oh, that must be hard. What do you miss most about him?” But, again, I don’t care, because your sorrow and misery really don’t affect me on the daily. Other than to provide fodder for my advice column, for which I will gladly say, “Next victim!”

Okay, here we go. The classic dilemma – who gets to keep the crispy bacon that used to be your son’s body? Because, let’s all agree, your “son” is no longer there any more, just like the dream I used to have of being an Abercrombie & Fitch model has blown off into the wind with that first hit of the mind-altering substance known on the street as Jif Extra Crunchy. Your son disappeared from the shell that held him the moment his cranial electro-activity ceased. What he left behind was the meatbag for DNA that did its job incredibly well by providing “the most precious grandchildren” [hold on – just threw up in my mouth a little].

And in order to do that, he had to procreate with his wife, your daughter-in-law (DIL). Who is now his widow. So, for that you should be grateful to her, not jealous.

What’s left is sentimentality. I get it. People have good memories of the past, and it’s hard to move on. It’s hard to imagine that your progeny wouldn’t love you as much as you loved him. How could he? You’re a mother, and everyone knows a “mother’s love knows no bounds”. He couldn’t reciprocate your devotion to him. And he proved this by not pulling an Oedipus and fucking you! He shagged the DIL, knocked her up a couple of times, gave her good memories, and now his burnt ends occupy a silver chalice on the mantle. Good for him and her.

But – you’re a selfish hag who has nothing left in her life, and you’re trying to fill your own void by commandeering what should be left to her in order to appease your own shortcomings. As evidenced by your question to me! Don’t do this. Would you be out of line? Absolutely. Don’t do it! Leave well enough alone. Your husband “doesn’t want to talk about it” not from an ethical or emotional perspective, but simply because you’re looney-tunes and he recognizes a bear trap when he sees it.

However, because I suspect you won’t take my advice above, being as reasonable as it is, I’m going to give you a bonus recommendation of some Extremely Bad Advice. This you’ll probably do with gusto. Have fun!

Step one: Offer to babysit the grandkids for a night. Give the DIL and her new guy a chance to go out and have fun.

Step two: Prepare for the switch. Get a plastic bag, about a gallon, clear (not white), full of ashes from your backyard barbecue pit. Take along a second, empty bag for holding.

Step three: Once the kids are in bed, make the transfer. Go full Indiana Jones. Play dramatic music, sweat profusely, look over your shoulder for booby-traps.

Step four: Revel in your glory. You now have your son’s actual remains, and she, the grandkids, and your husband are none the wiser. Dare I say they might view you as a hero for how magnanimously you deal with the situation? Visit a bar and order a glass of Chablis to celebrate. Send me the bill – I’ll gladly treat you for that job well done!

Lose Control

During writing practice for today, I lost control. My prompt was “I smell…”

>>I smell potato soup and antiseptic. The soup was in the now-empty bowl on my table, and is now inside my stomach. I smell its remnants as I belch.>>

Simple enough. Just getting started. Not really invested, or passionate. Nothing to write home about, really. 

>> I smell friendship, in the form of multiple people at multiple tables, sitting and sipping coffee, as they pass a few more inconsequential moments of their lives. Once again they have nothing meaningful to occupy their time, so they while away their hours in this deli, bitching about missed opportunities,a bout poor decisions their children and grandchildren are making, about how their soup is a little too spicy today – “>>

I critique the tables of older patrons near me. I criticize their simplicity, their familiarity, their unwillingness to take risks, and I realize I am projecting those fears I currently hold onto them.

And then I start to let go. To lose control. To feel like I’m not writing about them any longer, but I’m writing about myself. I’ve stopped thinking, I’ve stopped being logical. 

>> I smell jealousy and condemnation and judgment rising from my breast as I impute my own failed life goals onto them, twenty years on. Failed – projecting – that’s what I’m doing. If I am still here in that time, will I consider it failure? How could I not?”

After another page of self-pity, I stop concentrating on staying on the lines or in the margins. 

>> What do I lose by staying? Me.

What do I lose by moving on? Moving forward? Stretching myself? Nothing. Nothing. I lose NOTHING.

AND I GAIN.>>

Here something snaps. Something breaks free, and I loose the bounds controlling my mind, my pen, my heart. And it flows.

>> AND I GAIN
AND I GAIN OPPORTUNITY.


Reading back, I cannot tell what was written there. And that is a good thing. That is losing control. That is going for the jugular. That is intensity. That is passion. That is how the best experiences, the most satisfying writing sessions, develop and complete. This is what continues to bring me back time and again, searching for this release, this high, this uncontrollable flow.


In the end, I was completely powerless over what happened. I wrote, but it was not conscious. I was aware of a drawing force, something inside that I had released. A base, animal instinct to pursue, to hunt down this feeling and capture it, that I tapped into. It drew my hand faster and faster across the page, to the bottom and back to the top, three or four or ten times, I don’t remember.

But when I reached the end, I felt a release, an emission, an eruption of energy from from my body, like a sexual climax, like a void-filling expansion, an explosion of power and quarks and nuclear energy, and I dropped my pen, the electricity resonating through my shoulders, my fingers, inside the cavern of my mind, and I gasped, filling my lungs for the first time in what felt like an hour, recovering in just a moment that control I had so willingly given up, consciousness returning, awareness of my surroundings slowly oozing back into my senses.

I stared at my creation, incomprehensible, unfathomable even to myself, and I thought, That, right there, is why I write.

Writing Practice – 6/8/2017

Not all of my writing practice turns out great. This one wasn’t so hot. I’m sharing it because, well, that’s a much more real picture of what goes into writing than just showing you the refined, selected parts that “looks good”.

tell about putting your mother in a home

On an otherwise beautiful day we approach the shelter. Not so much a castle as a fortress. A virtually impenetrable waste of space that, instead of making a place for caring, for help, for hope, for nurture, has become in my mind, in her mind, a burden. It has transformed from the unlikely to the inevitable, and with the change there is no reason to think that it will be welcoming and comforting when we take mother there and move in. She would rather stay with us, I know. Even more, she would like to stay at her own place. But, realistically, she is not safe there. And while her physical health is somewhat deteriorating (it wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t, obviously), but the greater issue is my own, and my wife’s mental health. We spend far too much time and effort thinking of what she’s doing, and how she’s being, and whether she has had lunch or fallen or perhaps forgotten to take her diabetes medication after all those reminders you put up on the post-it notes all over anywhere.

So, what else is there? Hatred, distrust; fear of the staff. Disappointment at me, true; but she hasn’t said that. She probably won’t say it  – she’s a mom, after all, and moms generally don’t like to harm their sons, so I expect she’ll keep it bottled up and not say anything at all. She’ll just sit in her chair, shoulders slumping, hand shakily waving in the way she has had in the last year or so, and she’ll tell me “oh, no, it’s all right, I understand. Besides, it’s been hard with Jim gone, I barely know what to do with myself during the days anyway. This could be good for me, and I can learn how to play a couple of board games. You know, I think they’ve even got a trip planned to the Chicago Pier next month. I think I’ll see if I can sign up for that.” She’s putting on a reasonable show, but I know it hurts her.

It hurts that she’s getting old. It hurts that she’s forgetting. and it hurts that she doesn’t see the impact she has on us. She says she sees it – but because she doesn’t see those quiet moments, when my wife cries in the shower, or I go and punch the beanbag in the closet, or when the kids start to beg off going to visit grandma because they think her house stinks, I just can’t bring myself to tell her the truth. That it’s okay for her to go live there. That even more, even more morbid I would be okay for her to just die. Wow, that sounds harsh. “Die”. Pass away, move on, depart. Those are all softer, gentler. Aren’t they also deceptive? Aren’t they also ignoring the reality of what death is?

Aren’t they papering over the harshness, the suddenness of death? Die – a barking syllable – so quiet, so abrupt, like the act itself. Die.

So, you see it?

————————————
Commentary: why didn’t I like this writing exercise? I guess, looking back, I never felt in a flow. I felt like I was trying. Like I was working at it, rather than letting it happen. I had some images in my mind, about the abruptness of death and how we contrast that with the soft words we use to describe it, about the cognitive dissonance we actively create by using such pretty language to describe the dying process. But I didn’t get there. I didn’t lose control. I didn’t go for the jugular. I simply stopped, not even when I was satisfied, but I just…Stopped. So I think the dissatisfaction of the exercise was that I never really felt like it completed. Like sex that approaches orgasm, but never quite gets to the top of the mountain, so to speak. I could see the end: I had a bit of a vision in sight. I just gave up.

So that’s why it wasn’t a great experience. But it’s real to tell you that not all writing is great. More often than not it’s not great. It’s not polished. It doesn’t flow.

But that’s why I write. I write the bad days to get to the good days. I write the shit work to get to the gravy wall [ask my dad about that one]. I haul hundred-pound loads nine-tenths of the way up a mountain, with the end in sight, just to give up and turn around more often than I complete the journey. But when I do– Damn, nothing feels quite like that.