Monday, June 22, 2015

Chapter Twelve

Several days later I was still trying to get my head on straight and deal with how quickly things had gotten out of control again.  Despite having tried to keep the two incidences separate the attack at the butcher’s shop brought back some of the old nightmares from what happened to me at school.  Most of the time I did a pretty good job of not making everything about me but it was harder than I care to admit.  And then there was Aunt Rachel.  She wasn’t in the hospital long but it was obvious to anyone with eyes that she was a lot worse off than when we’d left that morning to get thick sliced bologna. 

I was sitting on a stump watching Cliff and he asked, “How’s your hand?” 

“Good enough if you need a break.” 

“Huh?  No.  That’s not what I mean.  I just saw you rubbing it earlier.” 

“Oh.  Uh … I wracked it carrying the laundry basket out the door.”  I stopped then rushed on.  “Thanks … for … for all you did, are doing.  You … uh …” 

Cliff looked at me then grinned.  “Stop trying so hard Gypsy.  You’re gonna break something.” 

Not the least amused I almost stomped my foot and walked away.  Instead I told him, “You don’t get it.  This is my job.  All of this is supposed to be my job.  What good am I doing if you are doing it?  Why even have me around?” 

“You do enough … you do the laundry and cook.” 

“Yeah right.  You can’t cook, Aunt Rachel isn’t safe in the kitchen right now, and I’d have to be on my death bed to let you do the laundry and handle my … er …” 

He chuckled, “What’s the difference?  You handle my ‘er’.” 

“Not funny Cliff.  And definitely NOT the same thing.” 

“Whatever you say Gypsy.”  He continued to smile like … well like he never had in my memory.  It was weird.  I wasn’t sure that I cared for why he was smiling but at the same time I didn’t want to break whatever new mood he was in. 

“Yeah … anyway … thanks.” 


“No buts.  I’m just glad that I’m not completely useless on top of everything else.  And … and thanks for not rubbing my face in stuff.” 

“I thought you were getting over that.  The reporters are off on some new story since they can’t get one out of you.  I thought it was pretty cool that that Wilhelm guy started that new farm road making it so you need a 4x4 to get back this far off the county road.  That’s one way to slow down the traffic.”  At the look on my face he shook his head.  “C’mon Gypsy, you aren’t …” 

“A pariah?  Oh sure.  I’m totally over all of the crap they’ve been saying about me.  Just like that,” I told him with a snap of the fingers on my hand that wasn’t still the color of moldy grapes. 

Changing the subject Cliff asked, “Talked to your uncle today?  I did.  He said everyone has been cool and asking how you were doing.” 

“Knock it off already.” 

“No.  ‘Cause it’s getting old watching you feel sorry for yourself.  Face it.  Some people are just going to go to the dark side.  Sometimes helping them … enabling them … only gives them a mode of transportation to get there faster.  I think what you said to that last reporter set a few people straight on where you stand.” 

“So?  It’s true.  It’s not about the color of your skin or the contents of your wallet but about the content of your character.  That’s not exactly a new concept and I’m sure as heck not the only one to have ever said it.” 

“Probably one of the reason some of them went looking for a new drama to report on.  Although there has been some good arguments from the other side.” 


“You gotta admit culture and community play a role in how people turn out.” 

“Sure but that still isn’t what some dumb people try to turn it into.  And I’m honestly just ready for it to be over with so we can all get back to normal.  I’m so tired of the fighting and everyone justifying it one way or the other.” 

As nonchalant as if we were discussing the weather Cliff said, “And you complain about Christine wearing rose colored glasses; you're as bad as she is."  He shook his head slinging sweat droplets every which direction.  "For better or worse the cat’s out of the bag if it was ever really in there all the way.  Too many people on both sides are making money off the race baiting and law suits.  Sure, most people still have their heads on straight and know it’s all just stupid-in-motion but the scale is tipping the wrong direction as more and more act like they’ve got liquid heat in their jock strap.  Now let’s get this to the spring house so we can get inside.  Dad said I should keep up with the news.  It isn’t just our little corner of the world that can’t keep their heads out of their butts.” 

“Charming Cliff.  Really, really charming.”  I rolled my eyes when he grinned unrepentantly.  “I’m not against keeping up with the worldwide crazy but can you listen to it upstairs?  I don’t want Aunt Rachel to get as agitated as she was earlier today.  She got so fired up over something that she used her new cane to knock one of her radios off the table.  I’ve never seen her get like that.  Threaten to yes, actually do it, no.  And I can’t figure out why.  When I tried to ask her it was like … well she … oh you’ve seen her.” 

Cliff nodded in understanding.  “Might be one of her meds.  Mom’s get out of whack when her weight changes too much and according to you your aunt has dropped several pounds.” 

As we put the fresh milk into the separating pans, and I turned the cheeses we were keeping on the shelves until Cliff could finish some of the renovations to the basement pantry that Uncle Carmichael had ordered, I asked carefully, “When you talked to your dad this morning did he mention your mom?” 

“Yeah, he keeps me up.”  He glanced at me then looked away.  “She’s still refusing to go back to the treatment facility.” 

“I’m … I’m sorry.” 

Cliff shook his head.  “Don’t be.  She’s gonna bring it on herself.  She’s not so bad she can’t make better decisions.  She’s just … just making selfish choices, choices that she knows are going to hurt other people.” 

“But if she loses her job …” 

“The shape she is in she shouldn’t be teaching.  I’m just glad that Cev is out of the house.  All she used to do is point out the things he couldn’t do or would never do.  I thought when I moved out that would stop but it didn’t and it was really starting to hurt his progress.  Cev feels things deeper than most people give him credit for.” 

“I … look I know you know your mom isn’t well … healthy … geez, you know what I’m trying to say.” 

“Of course I do but I also know she doesn’t want to do what she needs to do to get well and stay healthy.” 

“But …” 

“No buts Gypsy.  Let me see if I can explain it so you don’t get sucked into it the way the rest of us used to.  See it used to be that even though Mom and I … couldn’t connect … she was still invested in staying well as she could stay.  She exercised, watched her diet, took her meds the way she was supposed to, saw her counselor regular.  When she got out of whack it wasn’t because she meant to or wasn’t trying.  But about the time I started high school she .. well she stopped trying so hard.  To get back at Dad or Carl she’d stop taking her meds, kinda have a pity party like no one wanted to understand how hard it was on her.  When Con didn’t get perfect scores she’d get mad and go into a spin – sometimes real, sometimes not.  When Cev started going to the high school instead of going to a special school like she planned you would have thought she’d be happy but it was just the opposite.  Chris has it worse in a way ‘cause he can’t do anything wrong and by extension neither can Christine because Christine feels the same way about Chris that Mom does.” 

“And … um … you?” 

He snorted but it sounded like something had changed in how he was dealing with things.  “You know how it is but Mom has pretty much started treating me like I don’t exist since the school fire.  She's stopped even bothering to act like she is willing to hold out a bone to me if I will just be something or do something.  But that’s separate from what I’m talking about and it’s stopped bothering me unless it’s in my face for days on end.”  He shook his head.  “It … look … Mom … I don’t know all the terms a counselor would use but boiled down to a few words it’s that Mom has gotten addicted to the drama-high.” 


“Drama, stress, whatever, triggers the release of … of these hormone/chemical things in your brain.  It makes your heart pump, head spin, etc.  It kinda gives your brain a … a sort of chemical high.  Mom’s meds are supposed to, you know, help her stay balanced … no spikes, no drops … this way she can manage her depression and anxiety.  Only …” 

“Only what?” 

“Only Mom has started to think – or has talked herself into thinking – that staying balanced is a bad side effect rather than the purpose of her meds.  She’s convinced herself she feels better when she isn’t on her meds ‘cause she thinks the meds make her foggy, colorless, and that life is boring.  She’s got it backwards, not taking her meds right is what is causing the problems and then she self-medicates with drama.  That’s a lot of up and down.  Mom’s psychiatrist – and the treatment team for her case – think she’s developed some kind of personality disorder and is trying to talk her into seeing a behavioral therapist.” 

“Is she worse than the few times I’ve seen her since the school fire?” 

“Yeah and it is starting to really wear Dad down though he won’t come right out and say it that way.  He needs some back up with Mom.  I’d give it to him but … we all agree that might not be the best thing as it would confirm to Mom that … that the … things … she thinks are the truth instead of … well, it just wouldn’t be the best thing.” 

“Your dad is in a rough spot.” 

“To say the least but from what I heard from Chris and Connor both, Mom took her latest hissy fit out into the yard and there was a big blow up.  Carl got in Mom’s face the other day and basically told her that she was either going to take her meds like she is supposed to and start going back to counseling or he’d do what it took to get her admitted to a residential facility whether it was against her will or not.” 

“Uh … how big a blow up?”

“Big enough that some people that hadn’t known about Mom’s history do now and big enough that Mom embarrassed herself and realizes she went too far in front of the wrong people.  She’s trying … for now.  We’ll have to see how long it lasts this time.” 

“Cliff … isn’t … isn’t that cynical?  I know she hasn’t treated you right but your mom isn’t totally useless.  I mean if nothing else you can’t fake the love she has for your dad.” 

“Or my brothers.  Or my grandparents.  I just … I have to be realistic.  I know she’s my mom and all that, I just can’t feed into the drama anymore.   I’ve got to pick my battles and the one with Mom is one I’m never going to win.  I don’t even care whose fault it is anymore, I just … I just know I don’t want to keep living like … like … I just don’t want to wind up like Mom.  Dad and I really don’t fight much but during one of the biggest ones he said … he said he worried that … that …”  He stopped and shuddered.  “It was like a turning point or whatever kind of crap you want to call it.  It made me look at things.  And then moving out gave me a chance to … think about stuff.  Mom … she makes things harder than they have to be and hurts herself and other people.  I was making things harder than they needed to be and was hurting me too.  One of us had to stop.  Mom can’t.  I can … and that’s what I’m doing.  And that’s what you need to do too.” 

“Excuse me?!” 

“Don’t turn into a porcupine Gypsy.  I just mean you can’t control other people and the things they do that hurt you … and you know good and well it hurts your feelings for those people to think you are some kind of a racist a-hole.  So since you can’t control what they think you have to learn to control how you react to it.  Neither one of us is ever going to figure out what we are going to do with our lives if we are always dancing to someone else’s tune.” 

Easy for Cliff to say.  Or maybe not.  Guess we both have issues.  It kept us from being friends for a long time and now I can’t imagine not being friends with him.  Life is way too complicated.  Why do people have to make it so complicated?


  1. Yes it is hard when other people act upon you and you have to determine not to act back. Thank you Kathy.

  2. I have fond memories of the counselor who helped me figure out how to respond to my father - as a result we have a great relationship... but it was a lot of work.

  3. Thanks Kathy for more.