Thursday, September 3, 2009

How I Spent My Summer

My word, I have been absent for a long while! I probably haven’t a single member of the Shaggerati left, and I guess I deserve it. In my defense, I have begun no less than three entries, and got interrupted before I could finish. And much has happened in la vie Shag since last we spoke, as jeankfl who kind of has an inside track, knows.

First and most gloriously, I am retired. I feel like my life was interrupted for a fifty-year long commercial and I am now returning to our regularly scheduled program. My reverse mortgage went through. I have my Medicare all filled out and took a blind stab at the supplemental insurance, since I can’t for the life of me grasp what the real sum of money to lay aside for medical purposes may be. I am somewhat more sanguine on that front, however, since I have selected as my primary provider, a clinic whose clientele is largely quite poor down in the city. Let me tell you, for medical purposes you always want to go where the poor go. This may be counterintuitive, but believe me the counselors at such venues know every trick in the book for getting the cheapest possible deal for every kind of need. They know the available help for those whose income has dropped precipitously. It looks like my health expenses may be less even than my best-case scenario imagined before I went there.

The weekend around the time of my last post my sister Lucy came to visit and stay at my house for two weeks (three weekends). Lucy and I were very close as children, but she has gone right and I left, and our visits tend to resemble armed truces where firing may break out at any moment. This was a spectacularly successful visit (aided, no doubt, by the fact that I was only home on the weekends). Our battles used to be started by me most of the time, then that got old and I shut up at which point they began to be started by her. This time we circled each other warily, but had a nice time, staying off topics political, religious and historical. Lucy has in her psychological make-up something that baffles me, but which I am beginning to see is present in a lot of women, which is that no wound ever heals, even slightly. She seems to suffer today 60-odd years later exactly the same degrees of shame, pain and so on when recalling a hurt that occurred when she was pre-school. A case in point: she once had - around age three – a pink knit dress that was her good dress and which was worn on such occasions as might arouse relatives to an orgy of picture-taking. Indeed, one perusing the archives might be excused for thinking it was the only dress she ever wore. Among the many pictures of her in said garb, there exists one where she innocently grasped the skirt by its hem and held it in such a way that white panties (or a diaper) were exposed. Naturally we boys mocked her until our throats bled, but eventually Lucy was able to destroy every known copy, and the matter rested there.

Years later, graduated from college, married and mother of two boys, Lucy was moving with her husband to Orange County, CA and all the aunts gathered to give her a farewell party. Aunt Suzanne presented a book of pictures from Mary’s life progress up to that date, which she, kindest of women, had gone to great trouble to find and assemble. And as Lucy smiled and thanked her, she opened the book and there was the three-year-old in the pink dress, showing her panties. Although she managed to remain pleasant, she was stricken just as if she were again three and the object of her brothers’ derision. She was also furious. Everything is like that for her. Every one of the many, many times our dad embarrassed her by his behavior (though this was never aimed at her), is as raw and new and shameful as the day it happened. She forgets nothing; she forgives nothing. It is way more than holding a grudge; she genuinely hurts anew again and again. I simply don’t understand it, but I know it is real. Where my problem comes with Lucy is that I never fully understand the range of things that she finds hurtful or weird or embarrassing. So I, who think nearly everything is funny when people behave foolishly, which is all the time, inadvertently offend her again and again by commenting on things. Her view of ‘normal’ – a concept that is the chief and only deity ensconced on her Olympus, pretty much consists of what she would do in any situation. If she ever had imagination, she has reigned it in and clamped it down and let it die from lack of exercise. She has had a singularly fortunate life – a husband with few vices, none of them humiliating, who has made millions many times over, kids who are healthy, smart, attractive and who have had exactly one brush with the law among them involving a thrown egg when the oldest was in high school. All of this is great; where she veers off the track in my humble opinion, is in thinking that anyone in any other circumstances, is there out of wilfullness, character defect, and quite possibly a malicious desire to annoy her. Anyone who has read more than two of my entries can see why we are as oil and water.

The weekend after Lucy left, my brother Jack stayed with me along with his chére amie, the platinum-haired Eglise. Alone among his brothers, Jack likes girlie-girls, trophies, girls who demand constant attention and generally behave like the fiancée who, in films, ends up getting dumped for Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts, whom the audience has liked all along. Eglise is great for an hour, a very social, chatty sort, but after twenty-four hours during which the chat has not ebbed even slightly, one begins to exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome. There is much else to be said about Eglise, and if I am feeling mean-spirited as I so often do, I shall devote a whole entry to her one day. Suffice it to say that no house in which resides the lovely Eglise will contain anyone able to get away long enough to post any blog entries.

The weekend following the departure of Jack and Eggie, saw the sudden and unexpected arrival of my brother Liam and his wife Phoebe, who just felt like taking a week off from the tourboat job in darkest Utah and flying home. I like both of them enormously, as does everyone who meets them (or him, at least; my brother Luke is not so fond of Phoebe, who is prone to call a spade by its proper name and to brook no nonsense). They stayed at Jonesy’s, who lives on the shores of one of the minor Finger Lakes south of here. So that weekend I was down at Jonesy’s house. Jonesy and his wife are rather amazing people. They live like high school kids. Anybody can come and stay at their house anytime, whether they themselves are home or not. They are always ready to party. Yet both Jonesy and his spouse run businesses – he a local convenience store cum deli which is not part of any chain and which has been successful for years, she a gift shop which provides an increasing share of the family wealth. Jonesy also runs from his convenience store a catering business which tends to provide plain food for a hundred or so at a time for summer picnics, organization festivals and the like. So these are not irresponsible potheads by any measure; they are the most responsible of potheads. They live the life that one dreams of when one is young – their own boss, moderately well off, their real year-round home where everyone else has a vacation rental, and parties anytime anybody they remotely know comes through town.

The week after Liam’s visit, the class of ‘59 at my high school had a three-day series of events for their 50th reunion, to which they invited the classes of ’58 and ’60, the latter of which included me. So I had three fantastic days of seeing folks I really like, including one whose jaw dropped when he saw me and who cried out, “David Shaughnessy?? I heard you were killed in Saudi Arabia!” I assured him that despite the best efforts of the Saudis, such had not been the case. He looked at me several times as if he were still not convinced. Actually it was a four-day event, since I took off work (quaint phrase which I may well never use again, at least in relation to myself) the Monday following and was invited to break my trip back to Smallville by stopping at the home of one of the girls I liked a lot to have a lunch with THE POPULAR KIDS! After fifty years, I am IN! It simply doesn’t get any better than this.

Well yes, it does. Because the remaining weeks that I have been away from ye Blogge, I have been rushing around doing pre-retirement things; including attending a dinner where I was given three books (one on use of the English language, a gift that was intended to reward me for constantly reminding my boss in meetings that events are “between Mary and ME”, not “Mary and I”) and gift certificates to the tune of several hundred dollars – mostly from American Express, but also some for iTunes (they know me well) and a restaurant. And my nephew Josh and I went to the American Idols Tour when it came near us, and I got see Adam from the fourth row, as well as being totally blown away – to my surprise – by the winner, Kris Allen. And Allison, of course. Perhaps a topic for another time.

And now I have to run. We have had three days of sunshine and temps in the high seventies and the seven-day forecast says we have seven more of the same in store. I need to get to my lounge with that thriller I am reading. If there were a deity, one might imagine he was saying, “What took you so long?”


  1. The elusive retiree--I'm so glad to finally see you stop by again. And that you're enjoying your permanent time off. Your portrayal of Lucy--I think she and I are related, or like you say, maybe all women are just like that--cursed with inability to forget anything bad. Maybe it's a by-product of the gene that helps us remember where we left the baby or hid our household allowance. Doesn't go away even though we don't need it anymore. I could use the rich husband though. I've missed reading your right-on target perceptions of people--this post is full of that and it's so interesting. Come back soon.

  2. Flooz - And I am glad to see YOU stop by again.
    I don't think all women are like Lucy and (why am I not surprised?) you. Think of Leona Helmsley. Lots of women are utterly shameless, or completely impervious to insult - they don't even seem to KNOW when it is happening. You and Lucy don't seem to know when it ISN'T happening. And why aren't the joys and triumphs recalled equally deeply? It's a mystery. I TRY to hold on to stuff sometimes - keep the rage, but inevitably it is just too inconvenient, or I can't drum it back up. There are still things I have done - often quite small - things I have said, that I feel real embarrassment recalling, but it really isn't the same as with Lucy - and it is always things I did wrong or cruelly or ignorantly - never things that others did to me. Maybe I am too self-centered? I'm not even mad at my father any more - kind of sad for him, mostly. My weakness (and I do think this is a weakness) is imagining what COULD happen or could have happened so fully that I start feeling like it did happen. It can really stop me, sometimes - and not in a good way. Maybe that is why all my best moves are spur-of-the-moment.

  3. I tend to be the opposite of Lucy. I always forget the bad stuff. I forgive easily, and usually forget as easily! Life is so much more pleasant that way.(and that is what God tells us to do-hehe) I'm much more like you, only without your "weakness". I can remember some embarrassing moments, and my cheeks will go hot. Fortunately, I'm sure I've forgotten a lot of them, as well!
    I'm so glad you're retired.. I expect lots of writing, especially this winter, when you will be snowed in, no doubt, and can write enough to satisfy even me! Sounds like you've had a busy, happy month or so. I'm thrilled to hear you sound so happy.

  4. I am with you, kiddo - no matter how deeply I resolve to hold a grudge, I just tend to forget. I'd LIKE to be less forgiving sometimes - but I am almost homicidal on the first day or two. One reason that I'd never own a gun. I did make a try at shooting me dear old dad once, but my brother had left the gun in a different place than usual, and I didn't feel like looking all over the place.
    I, too, can remember embarrassing moments and get hot cheeks - and not in the good sense. As I said, it is embarrassment at what I did - whereas Lucy's recollections seem mostly to do with what was done TO her. And you know, I think I AM happy...

  5. I have noticed this about women too--myself included, so I have made it a life goal to counter the effect. Perhaps it is a thing in the brain--we tend, at least in this culture, to be the more emotional, and emotions are often hard to let go of. But I am told that men in other cultures, Russian, Italian, to name two, are the more emotional, and have a tendency to rage around about things, to hang on to perceived trespasses. It seems to me to be a trait in humans that we have come here to learn, among other things, to detach from. I wonder what, in your sister's subconscious, is served by hanging on so tenaciously to these things? We humans always want to control whatever we can when life is dreadfully OUT of control--this is human, and I have seen it in both sexes. I hope she can find a way to process whatever it is that has left her so damamged and unwilling to grow.

    And it seems to me that your main thoughts that still cause you to cringe, being ones in which you were doing or saying something that hurt another, are clear evidence of your deep heart (I'll dare to say it: spirit), your ability to be empathetic, not self-centered. Your sister, in comparison, seems to think it IS actually all about her. Dear, unawakened gal.

    The bit about not really feeling like taking the time to go look for the blasted gun so you could shoot your father really had me laughing. Classic American laziness, even when faced with an enraging situation. And thank you for stating that now, in your more learn-ed years, you see what was sad about your Dad. I believe your growth helps him evolve, in a 'generational karma' way, quite literally. You, my friend, are a lover of Humanity, and can see the heart of us, through the obvious faults. We need more like you. Thrive, will you?

  6. Sarah - I fear that you view me thru glasses far more rose in color than I merit. But - hey - keep on believin' - somebody has to.

    I can understand holding a grudge, or recalling an embarrassment, but I just do NOT get being freshly and rawly shamed - especially in something so innocent as a 3-year-old showing her panties - and not even on purpose. That I do NOT get.

  7. It is just as I imagined it to be. You were busy making retirement happen and enjoying your Life. Thanks for going on ahead. I still have a few years but I'll join you for long...