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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back. It's Slow, But It's Progress

It’s five in the morning, and I have been awake since 3:30.  I fell asleep at 11:00 and was awake with leg pain at 12:30.  I took half a Lortab and went back to bed but was awake again at 3:30, still hurting.  I didn’t have any Trazadone last night, and that may be the reason I had so much trouble with pain.  I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter.  I took some more pain medicine and now I am comfortable.   

The door to the balcony is open and as I sit here in the living room I can hear the wind rustling the oak trees.  Honey doesn’t like the wind, so I’m going to prop the door open just a little bit a try to find a comfort level for both of us.  (That didn’t work because the wind is swirling from different directions, so I had to close it.)

We just went outside for her to pee, and the feel of thunderstorms is in the air.  The weather man promised these storms yesterday afternoon but they never happened.  I walked to the oyster roast last night and only felt a few drops of rain. 

I like thunderstorms.  I liked them as a child.  There is something about the power of wind and rain that attracts me.  Maybe it’s the fact that I can enjoy unsettled weather while I am sheltered from it and still feel its effects on my soul.  The power of the universe is around us every moment of every day, and for me, the energy of storms infuses me with the knowledge of my own powers as a human being.  It also has the humbling effect of reminding me that I am at the mercy of nature.  

I think I am awake because I need to write.  Write what?  Just write.  When I go for days without spending time at this keyboard, something dies in me.  I feel incomplete, as though I have cheated myself out of one of my greatest pleasures, my most important outlet for self expession.

Yesterday I admitted to myself that I am a little depressed, and I suppose that is true.  This will help.  It will also help when later this morning I bake the cheese straws I have been planning for two days.  The butter is soft and the cheese is room temperature, and I will crank them out with a feeling of accomplishment.

Cooking is good for me.  I love the order of it all, the measuring and mixing, the resulting food that is good and that I can share with the people in my life.  I lost the love of cooking when Clint got sick, and I am just now recovering it.  It feels right.  It feels like moving on and going back at the same time.

A little as a year ago, typing was such a struggle that it wore me out, exhausted my body and my brain.  Now my fingers fly across the keyboard and the words spill off their tips as quickly as they form in my head.  It doesn't matter what I write about.  I need to write things down.

I was in a funk yesterday because I discovered that beer is missing from my pantry and my refrigerator.  Parrish drank it when he was here for Christmas, but I didn’t notice it until yesterday morning.  I was not looking for it.  I thought P was ready to spend some time with me here, but he is not.

When he called me last night, I told him I knew he drank the beer.  I said I was not mad.  I said I was sad for him and for me.  I said I was sorry for pushing him too hard, expecting too much of him so soon.  All the time, though, I was wondering what would have been worse, him spending Christmas alone in his little apartment or being here and anxious and tempted to drink.  My original idea of taking his meal to him was the right one, but I cannot undo what happened.  Neither can he, and I wish he could give himself a break.

He was not defensive but humble and respectful and expressed great shame.  He admitted something I have been telling him for years and that is that being in my house makes him tense and anxious, brings up old feelings of shame and guilt that he is unable to let go.  I pleaded with him to read Buddhist Boot Camp and try to immerse himself in the tenets of being present in the moment, learning to let go of the past.  

Night before last, after he spent a disturbing afternoon with Lawrence, I fetched him from his efficiency and brought him here for supper.  I made some salmon and sweet potatoes out of the freezer, and after we ate, we sat for a couple of hours listening to classic rock music and playing music trivia.  Between us we could name almost every band and most of the singers.  We were both a little stuck on some of the composers, but we learned a lot while Googling.  Neither one of us knew that John Fogarty wrote every one of Creedence’s top ten hits.

He did not drink that night.  We had a wonderful time together.  He kept contrasting his afternoon at the cemetery with Lawrence with sitting in my living room listening to rock and roll with me.  I kept urging him not to compare Lawrence and me, to accept the only kind of love his father can give him.

I have a theory about Lawrence and the cemetery, and I think it is a valid one.  He is incapable of showing love to the people who mean the most to him.  He goes to the cemetery every three weeks and puts flowers on his parents’ graves, trying to make up for his inability to express his love to them while they were alive.  It is very sad.

Parrish found it disturbingly morbid and was unswayed when I tried to tell him that Lawrence’s behavior is understandable, that he is who he is because of where he came from - a family that did not express love.  
Clint used to have a cassette recording of a lecture by a man named Morris Massey, a sociologist.  It is called “What You Are Is Where You Were When.”  I wish I had those tapes.  They explain how we are imprinted with our values and belief systems early in life, and that if they are not healthy, we must work to change them.  Otherwise, we are stuck.  If we never realize that we are stuck, we can never change.  

Lawrence is stuck.  He was an unplanned addition to his family.  His mother spent much of his childhood in a sanatorium for patients with tuberculosis, and he was not allowed in her presence for over five years.  He essentially had no mother figure and because his father’s job kept him away from home most of the time, he was raised by his older brother, a good man but also a product of parents who did not know how to love, to express love.  

I want Parrish to understand something it took me years to internalize, and that is that Lawrence can no more help who he is than he can help being 71 years old.  Parrish wants more; he has always wanted more.  I want him to learn to accept his father, his strengths and his weaknesses.  Will it happen?  It can happen, but will P ever get beyond his father’s emotional unavailability?  
That P and I could have a talk about these things is a major step in our developing a relationship that will work for us.  He must not drink alcohol if we are to move forward.  When he is drunk, he is a man I don’t know.  He was not drunk on Christmas, thank God, but he did drink.  He is stuck just as surely as his father is.  P cannot accept his father back in his life without questioning whether or not he loves him.  It is very difficult for both of them.

And I am in the middle, an unenviable position.  I finally accept Lawrence for who he is but it took 40 years for me come to this point.  Do Lawrence and Parrish have enough time for them to reach this place?  It will take work.  Lawrence does not know how to do the work.  Will Parrish learn?

I cannot fix this.  I cannot guide where it goes.  I can only set my own limits and love both Parrish and Lawrence for who they are today, not for who they might be or for who they were in the past.

© 2013 cj Schlottman

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Dignity and Grace

The old me would be whining and moaning about this, asking myself and The Universe, “Why me?  Why do I have to do this again?”  

I was to spend today visiting with Cuz, my dear friend, in Valdosta.  He called early last night and said he  was going into the hospital.  Tears sprang to my eyes but I forced them back as I heard his painfully weak voice telling me that he was weak and constipated and in terrible pain. 

I knew things were not going well with his chemotherapy for stage four lung cancer because I had an email from him on Wednesday, saying he was in the infusion center for 8 hours that day for his “three hour” chemo treatment.  He is anemic and was held over for a transfusion, and was to return for another on Thursday morning.

When I read the email, I knew I had to go and see him.  I haven’t been back since my visit in late September, and he didn't feel good enough to come for Thanksgiving, even though I offered to drive over and pick him up. 

We talked briefly, agreeing that he would be in touch with me when he felt good enough to talk or email.  He did not want me to come to Valdosta now.  I could hear it in his voice, and I understood.  I will see him when he is home.

At a cerebral level, when Cuz was diagnosed with stage four cancer back in the summer, I knew that his life would be shortened, that without a miracle, he probably wouldn’t live another year.  I have lived through loved ones being diagnosed with cancer and dying.  Mary Ellen, another dear friend, lived only two months after her diagnosis of lung cancer.  My brother John made it for a remarkable six years with renal cell carcinoma, four and a half of those years coming after his first metastatic lesions were found.  I know this road, and at first I resented having to travel it again, so I dove under the cover of denial, telling myself that Cuz would defy all the odds.

Resentment will not make this easier.  It will only make me sick and less capable of being supportive and a positive force in what life Cuz has left.  Statistically, his life expectancy from the time of diagnosis was eight months.  He found the metastatic tumor on his forearm in mid August, four months ago. 

Does that mean he will die while I am in Paris this spring?  The possibility is real, but it never entered my mind while I was making my plans for the trip.  

When Mary Ellen was dying, I could not allow myself the luxury of denial.  By the time she was diagnosed, she had huge tumors in her bones.  I knew she would not live long.  

When John was sick, I actually believed that if I wanted him to live bad enough, he wouldn't die.  I thought I could will him to live.  On the morning of his death, I still had not allowed myself to acknowledge that he was dying.  That strong denial was what kept me from losing my mind at the thought of not having my baby brother in my life.  I could not have borne the burden of mourning for him before he was gone.

Though he did not die of cancer, I did not release my denial about my husband Clint’s terminal illness until five days before he passed away.  Living with his illness and caring for him did not allow any room for the reality of his approaching death.  It would have been too overwhelming, would have paralyzed me.  Again, denial saved me from losing my mind.  As it was, I became so depressed while he was sick that I was hospitalized for major depression eight months before he died.

So, when Cuz got sick, I once more adopted the mantel of denial, believing at my core that he would somehow defy the odds and live a long time.  Last night’s phone call from him stripped it away, and now I am faced with the real truth.  He is going to die and maybe it will happen before he sees another summer.

I haven’t cried yet, not really.  My psychiatrist would advise me to watch a sad movie and let the tears flow, and she would be wise to do so.  I need to cry about this and I need to cry a lot.  But if I do, the reality of this horror will be undeniable.  There.  See?  I’m still clinging to denial, attempting to save myself from the crippling pain of completely acknowledging the inevitable.  If I hang to it, will I be better able to withstand the months to come?  Or, will I be stronger going into this one with my eyes wide open, be a more positive force in Cuz’s life?

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  I need to give myself permission to “not know” for as long as I need to.

This is so hard.  No matter how many times I have to watch a dear one die, it will never be okay.  It will always be horrid, no matter how I decide to process it.

Cuz is handling this better than I am.  Here is a quote from an email he sent me in August:

This cancer may kill me, but it is NOT going to consume the rest of my life. It will be a fact in my life, but it will not BE my life.  I refuse to give it that power over me and I am not praying to be cured, but rather to have the strength to live my life with dignity and grace. I can't stand to be around complainers and I refuse to be one.”

Dignity and grace, words that describe my friend so well.  I will do all I can to live up to the standard he has set.

Happy Anniversary, My Darling

Last night I posted this on Facebook and decided to share it here, too.

39 years ago, on a Saturday night not unlike this one, in my mother’s living room here on Saint Simons, Clint and I were married.  My mother’s dear friend, the Honorable Judge Anthony A. Alaimo, presided over the vows.  His wife, Jean, accompanied him and she joined my mother and my brother John along with Rusty, Kristy and Robert Schlottman to witness our vows.   

Tony was stern and sincere in his delivery of the vows, and when the ceremony was over we felt very married.  A man small in stature, he was huge of spirit.  For the rest of his life, Clint accused me of bringing in “The Feds” to marry us up right.  It worked.

Our love grew over all the years of our time together, and we were more in love on the day Clint passed away than we were when we fell in love at first sight.  

After my years of protracted and complicated grief, I am happy again, feeding off the memories that are the fabric of our life together.  I still miss Clint every day and I expect to for the rest of my life, but I am building a life without his physical presence.

My move back to Saint Simons was the first step in my journey to re-discovering myself.  Today, I made final plans for a two month stay in Paris during April and May.  It is my next step on this road trip back to myself.  I have a plane ticket, and Honey has an airline-approved carrier.  Yes, I’m taking her with me.  I have rented a studio in a good neighborhood.

A year ago, I could hardly walk, had no short term memory and was plagued with stress-driven illnesses.  Today, I made plans to live for two months in a foreign country.  It’s safe to say that this woman has come a long way.

Happy Anniversary, my Darling Clint.  I will love you forever.

© 2013 cj Schlottman

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Six Degrees of Separation

When I began to think about all the “coincidences” in my life of late, and there have been many, I was reminded of the theory of six degrees of separation.  Frigyes Karinthy, an Hungarian author, playwright, poet and journalist, first put forth the theory in a very short story in 1929.  In the story, “Chain-Links,” he hypothesized that that any one person on earth can be connected to any other person on earth through a series of five or fewer acquaintance links.  I found the story on the internet and read it.  The fact that, in 1929, Karinthy predicted the way our world communicates today is more than fascinating.
The theory was popularized in 1994, when a group of college students invented the game, “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” of which the object was to connect Kevin Bacon with any other Hollywood star using five or fewer links.
When I moved home in August, I was reacquainted with The Famous Writer.  Through him, I met the Drury brothers, Bob and Jim, and also Steve Applegate, whom they conscripted into service when they moved The Famous Writer into my flat for a planned visit of about three weeks.  If you follow this blog, you know how that turned out.   
On the day of the move, I offered them refreshments and we sat down for a short visit.  During the course of our getting acquainted, Jim invited us, my roommate Celeste, and The Famous Writer and me, to Music Night at his house any Wednesday night.
The three men are accomplished musicians, and on every Wednesday, they get together at Jim’s house and, well, make music.  Steve, a photographer, can make electric guitar talk, and he plays in a band called Stone Groove.  Jim, a retired art teacher and visual artist, plays keyboards with a great deal of soul and creativity.  Bob, a computer whiz and all-around bon vivant, plays acoustic guitar and electric guitar with contagious energy and flare.  They all sing - really well.
It was a couple of weeks before we made it to Jim’s on a Wednesday.  Celeste was out of town, and it was before The Famous Writer morphed into a cranky old man, so I took him along.  
The energy in Jim’s house and the music that filled the air that night worked on me like a tonic, and I have rarely missed a Wednesday.  These incredible musicians take turns choosing a song, improvising and sharing chord sequences, and each having such different styles, the end result is a melange of eclectic and soulful sounds.  I look forward to it every week and always come away energized and positive and grateful to have been a part of it.  Jim put together a song book, we call it The Hymnal, and from time to time I sing along.  And I dance with the furniture.
The six degrees of separation thing started on about my third visit to Jim’s.  Steve, who is originally from Swainsboro, Georgia, and I were talking about something, I honestly forget what, when I mentioned my brother John’s name, and Steve said he remembered him.  They had a connection through a mutual friend, and though they were not close friends, they were acquainted.  Steve remembered John fondly, and I was pleased to find we had this parallel in our lives, that he had known my incredible brother.
The weeks rocked by, and last week, Steve mentioned that his wife’s nephew, a young man named Kip Moore, is a rising star in the national country music scene.  I said I thought that was cool and jotted down the name so I could Google him.  Then I forgot all about it.  My week was filled with family obligations and aggravations.
I knew Steve was married and that his wife’s name was Janice, but until this Wednesday night, I had not met her.  They came in the door together, and she and I shared a hug.  After getting to know Steve, I was sure I would be crazy about her.  And I was.
When Janice found out I was from here, that I went to Glynn Academy, she asked my maiden name.  When I said “Harmon,” she gasped.
“You’re John Harmon’s sister!”
Surprised, I nodded.
“I loved John.  He was one of the coolest people I ever met.”
We hugged again, a little tearfully, and I felt as though I had known this warm and welcoming woman all my life.  She and John graduated from high school the same year, but she attended Brunswick High while John went to Glynn Academy.  She lived in Brunswick.  We lived on Saint Simons.  They had a circle of mutual friends, John’s best friend, Larry McDonough, and his girlfriend, Emily to name only two.  She also knew John’s girlfriend, Cindy. 
While the men made music, we sat at the table and reminisced about growing up “coastal.”  She asked me who my friends were in high school, and I listed Mary Ellen Coleman and Cecie Cate and Mike Drury and Freddie Tullos and Donnie Livingston and a few more.  
She nodded in recognition.  Steve piped in and said something about her nephew, Kip, the country singer.  
“Oh, yes!  Steve told me about him.  It sounds as though he is on his way to the top.”
“He’s definitely making a splash," Janice replied  "He didn't win a American Country Award this year but he was nominated for Single of the Year by a male artist and for Single of the Year by a new artist.  He’s wonderful, and we are all so proud of him.  He’s a terrific young man.”
I did not make the connection.  I don’t know why, but I didn’t put Kip Moore and Stan Moore together.  Stan was in my class at Glynn Academy.  I could easily have included his name earlier in our conversation.  
My synapses began to activate.
“What’s your connection to Stan?” I asked.
“He was my brother.  Kip is Stan’s child.”
I asked Jim if he had a fainting couch, and he laughingly pointed at the sofa across the room.
“That one will have to do.”
I did feel light-headed but didn’t swoon.  It was sensory overload, connections falling on top of one another as they were.  I met a woman the same age as my brother who called him her friend.  Her brother was the same age as me and I knew him well and was very fond of him.  They are both dead now.  Until that night, Janice and I had never met, but in the course of a couple of hours, we established a strong connection.  To make it all the more sweet, we like each other.  It’s entirely conceivable that we might have met and had bad chemistry, but we didn’t. 
There’s an eerie symmetry to that. 
When in the course of our conversation, I mentioned my friend Mike Drury's name (no relation to Jim and Bob), Janice's face lit up.
"He and Stan were good friends, and I absolutely love Mike!”
“Yes!” I said.  “He was in our class and is one of the funniest men I have ever known.  We are still in touch.”
"I want to talk to that rascal!"
And so it went.  I’m embarrassed to say that our newfound synchronicity kept Janice and me talking through most of the music.  Every now and then, we piped in and sang along, but we were engrossed in how our stories meshed together.  At the end of the evening, I knew I had a new and invaluable friend.  
So, the six degrees of separation thing goes like this:
My link with the Drury brothers is through one person, The Famous Writer.
My connection with Steve is through two links, The Famous Writer and the Drury brothers.  There is another altogether separate connection through his and my brother’s mutual friend.
My tie-in with Janice is through four links: The Famous Writer, the Drury brothers and Steve.  
And I can connect myself to Kip through five links:  The Famous Writer, The Drury brothers, Steve, Janice and Stan.
Then there is the two-way tie-in between Janice and me that involves none of the above.   We are linked through Stan and through John, two separate connections each with only one link.

© cj Schlottman

PS  Check out Kip here

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Famous Writer Runs Away

Readers of older posts will realize that I have changed names of people and places in this post.  I'm not sure it's necessary, but it somehow makes me feel better.

The phone rang at about eight o’clock in the evening on Thursday, a week before Thanksgiving.  It was Librarian from the University, calling to speak to The Famous Writer.  We exchanged pleasantries and after a few minutes, I took the phone to the guest room where he had been holed up for the most part of two weeks.  I knocked, and getting no response, pushed open the door.  The room was dark and empty.

When, in early October, I invited The Famous Writer to stay with us, he was to be here for three weeks while he prepared to move to College Town, where his archives are being installed at the library at the university.  It was a cost cutting move for him because he was living in an expensive assisted living facility.  I was delighted to have him.  I suppose, as Rosemary, my friend and mentor suggested, it was because of my adventurous spirit that I opened my home to him.  I knew there might be a few bumps in the road, but I was unprepared for the events that followed.  The Famous Writer who came to visit morphed into another being  from the gentle man I knew and loved over the years.  

After three weeks, he was still making calls and arrangements and seemed on the verge of nailing down his plans.  Celeste and I offered to take him to College Town to rent a apartment, but when, a day before we were to to leave, he did not have a list of places to see, I said we wouldn't take him until his plans were more fleshed out. 

That’s when he dove into a wine bottle and stayed there.  So, four weeks into his three week stay, he was not only still here but he was drunk and mean and, in general, unacceptable.  He rarely came out of the guest room and when he did, he was rude and sarcastic.  He refused food for the most part, preferring a microwaved corn dog to freshly prepared meals. 

There is a saying that old doctors never retire, and I believe the same is true of old nurses.  I could not help myself.  I was concerned that The Famous Writer was dehydrated, taking in most of his calories in alcohol as he was and refusing to drink water.  When he bristled at the idea of having some blood work done, I told him he would have to find another place to stay if he would not take care of himself.

“I will not preside over you making yourself ill.  You are my guest, and I am worried about you.  Celeste is worried about you.  We all are.”

“And just where did Celeste get her medical degree?”

You can see what I was up against.

“Nice try,” I said.  That kind of manipulative talk won’t work on me.  It’s a great way to deflect energy and attention away from the real problem, which is you, but it won’t work with me.  I survived my mother.”

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Of course you do.  What’s your doctor’s name?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Go and get the box with your medicine in it, and read his name off one of the bottles.”

Silence.  No move to get up.

I should add that Stan and Al, long time friends of The Famous Writer, were here when he and I had this conversation.  They came by to check on him after he refused to join them for their weekly lunch date.  I took advantage of their presence so I would have witnesses to our conversation.  If I know anything about narcissistic personalities it is that they are rarely accurate reporters of events which do not turn out to their satisfaction.

“Don’t be unreasonable,” Stan said.  “Go get the name of your doctor so Claudia can call and make you an appointment.”

“Just, exactly, what does unreasonable mean?”

“Kiss my ass,” I shot back.  “You are not welcome to stay here with me if you continue down this path.  I did not adopt you.  Either let me call the doctor or call another friend to take you in.”

The Famous Writer shuffled to his room and returned and without so much as a glance at me, handed a medicine bottle to Stan.  Stan handed it to me and I went to the phone and made an appointment for Monday morning.

The men, justifiably, fled as quickly as possible.  The Famous Writer, refusing my offer of food and a glass of water, went back into the guest room and closed the door.

I dressed and went to Coastal Kitchen to meet a friend for a drink and something to eat.  When I came home, I brought The Famous Writer a grilled cheese sandwich.  He refused it and did not come out of his room.

Saturday came and went.  I didn't see The Famous Writer except to stick my head in the door and ask if he wanted food or water.

On Sunday evening, when I arrived home from fetching my dog Honey from the groomer, I knocked on his door and asked if he needed anything.

He waved his arm at the boxes on the floor of the guest room.  

“There are some cans of ravioli over there some place.  I’ll just eat some of that.”

“Let me know if you need a can opener.”

I went to the kitchen and prepared supper for myself.  I was finishing my meal when The Famous Writer presented himself in the living room.  He sat down and said we needed to talk to me about his life.  He was weeping.

“My life is like that of a championship fighter.  Boxers have to win 150 fights before anyone takes them seriously.  They are brave warriors who are never appreciated while they are alive.” 

I tried not to shoot wine through my nose.

“I am a man without a home.  I suppose no on will be happy until I am living under a bridge.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic.  You are in charge of your life and can make of it what you will.”

He sat down and began a protracted tale about his mother, Alice, her hard life and her bravery and how she pulled herself up out of poverty and became a school teacher.  

“You know my mother killed my father, don’t you?”

“She did not kill your father.  She had dementia and when your father fell and could not get up, she did’t know who he was and was afraid of him.  He lay on the floor for three days before you checked on them.  I know that he later died in the hospital, but don’t try to tell me Alice killed him.”

He shuffled back to his room.  “I’m not going to the doctor tomorrow,” he said over his shoulder.

“Okay.  When you lapse into a coma from dehydration and malnutrition, I’ll call an ambulance to pick you up and take you to the hospital.  In the meantime, start making arrangements for another place to stay.”

Three days went by without any action on The Famous Writer’s part.  On Wednesday night, when I returned from an evening with friends, The Famous Writer’s light was on and the door was cracked.  I stuck my head in the door and asked how he was doing.

“I’m a man without a home.  I guess I’ll just end up living under a bridge.”

I ignored that remark, having heard it a number of times.  I had stepped into the room and pulled off my sweater, and as I was turning to leave, I saw that there were two empty wine bottles on the floor behind his chair.  I walked over and picked them up and realized they were from my wine rack.  I bought them for special occasions, not for The Famous Writer to drink them out of the bottle while sulking in the guest room.

“Did you take those bottles of wine from my wine rack?”

“What if I did?”

“I’m provoked that you, especially give your behavior of late, would think it okay to help yourself to my wine.”

“So execute me.”

“There is everyday wine in the refrigerator.  Why couldn’t you have walked a few steps and gotten that?”

I stood in the middle of the room and watched as he reached into his leather man-bag and drew out a pistol, a luger, and laid it on the bed.  He did not brandish it at me, and at no time did I feel threatened, but the act itself was so unacceptable, I started shouting at him.

“Leave my stuff the fuck alone!  It would never occur to me to come in here and mess with your things, take things that are not mine.  You are drunk and sloppy and I am tired and angry.  I’m going to bed.  Put that ridiculous gun away.”

I walked out into the kitchen, and a few minutes later, I heard the door to the guest room close.  When I looked around the corner, my purse and sweater were on a pile on the rug in the foyer.  I went to bed.

The next morning, when I needed a phone to return a call, I could not find a hand set.  Realizing that both of them were probably in the room with The Famous Writer, I knocked on the guest room door and pushed it open.  There was resistance, and I realized that he had barricaded himself in the room by pushing his wicker chest against the door.  

“I need a phone, and you need not barricade yourself against me since you are the one with the gun.”  

I let him sleep until 3:30 that afternoon when our mutual friend, David, arrived.  He came to support me in my decision to give The Famous Writer immediate notice.

“Pulling a gun out of your bag in an effort to intimidate me while we were in the middle of a disagreement was beyond any semblance of acceptable behavior.  You may no longer stay here.  Make arrangements to be out of here tomorrow, and in the meantime, give David the gun.”

The negative energy in the house was so toxic that Honey was either hiding in the pantry, in the bottom of Celeste’s closet or behind my toilet.  In spite of The Famous Writer’s behavior, I was not angry.  I was fed up, exhausted with his negativism and his sarcasm and his egomaniacal behavior.

He went back into the guest room and started making phone calls.  David joined him, trying to facilitate some sort of exit for the old bastard.  I went to the door and reiterated my demand that he be out of my house within 24 hours. 

The Famous Writer’s friend, Randy, arrived, saying The Famous Writer called him and asked him to drive him to Susan’s house.  Susan is The Famous Writer’s ex-wife.  Randy was on his way out of town to a recording session and didn’t have time to take anybody anywhere.  David, who is as fed up with The Famous Writer as I am, declared that he would not take him to Susan’s without talking to her first.  When he called her, she said The Famous Writer was not welcome her house.  

Celeste arrived from a trip out of town and immediately inserted herself into the chaos.  She just wanted to help.  There they all were, Celeste and Randy and David, in the room with a drunk and crazy man, trying to do something with him.  Randy left, followed closely by David.

All the while, I was in the living room with my laptop open in front of me, searching for an apartment in Paris, where I intend to spend April and May of 2014.  This is not my first experience with setting limits and distancing myself from toxic people.

Celeste, who has romanticized The Famous Writer from the moment she met him, seeing him as some sort of tragic tortured figure, fixed him a corn dog and took it to him.  Then she joined me on the balcony for a cigarette and a glass of wine.  

About thirty minutes later, the phone call from the librarian came, and I took the phone to the guest room.  

“He’s not here! I shouted.”

“Of course he’s here.”  

Celeste began searching the flat.

“He is not in this apartment,” I said.  

I went down to the garage and out onto the lawn calling The Famous Writer’s name.  No response.  I came back upstairs and sat and thought about what I should do.  I wanted to call the police.  I wanted them to know a drunken and frail old man had walked away from my apartment in the dark of night.  

“He was on the phone with Susan earlier, I’m sure she made arrangements for him to get to her house,” Celeste said.

“But David talked to her and she said he could not come to her house.”

“I heard them talking.  Don’t worry.  He’s on his way over to her house.”

But I did worry.  I called Susan, and without telling her that her ex-husband had flown the coop, asked if she had talked to him in the last thirty minutes or so.  She denied having spoken to him at all.

I worried some more.  Then I called David.  He’s the only person in this whole crazy cast of characters who has been able to maintain civil relationships with both The Famous Writer and Susan.  He agreed with Celeste that they had cooked up some kind of scheme to get The Famous Writer to her house.  I relaxed for a while.

After three hours, though, I phoned the police.  They came right away and got a description of The Famous Writer and said they would notify all the police units on the island to be on the look out for him.  As they were walking out the door, David called to say the runaway was at Susan’s house.  

I grabbed the phone and punched in her number.

“I understand that The Famous Writer is there with you.”

“Yes.  He was starving but now he’s eating some much needed scrambled eggs.”

“Tell him that under no circumstances is he to come back to my apartment.  Good-bye.”

I hung up the phone, feeling as though my erstwhile guest had done me the biggest favor in the world by walking away of his own volition.  It would be several days before I learned that he actually did wander into the darkness of Gascoigne Bluff that night.  Someone picked him up and took him to a store, where he called a cab to take him to Susan’s.  

The next day, Susan sent The Famous Writer packing to a hotel in Brunswick.  The following week, I went to see him and invited him to share our Thanksgiving meal.  He had fallen and was sore and crankier than usual.  Since he didn't have anything for pain, I actually gave him a couple of my pain pills to tide him over until he could get in touch with his doctor.  

I received a muted and muttered, "Thank you."  

On Thanksgiving afternoon, Celeste drove to town and brought him over.  The moment he entered the apartment, I was sorry he was here.  He began to complain of pain, and when I asked if he had been in touch with his doctor, he snarled,

"If I had, would I be in this much pain?”

I walked into the kitchen and started making dressing.

He went into the guest room and after fooling around with his computer for a while, lay down on the bed and went to sleep.  When we woke him to eat, The Famous Writer refused to get up.

Over and hour later, when he finally deigned to grace us and our other guests with his presence, he was critical, snarky and sullen.  

Since then, he has resided in what he refers to as a roach motel.  I have called to check on him several times, and Celeste and David have been to see him on a couple of occasions and taken him food.  He refuses to apologize to me for his dreadful behavior, somehow imagining that he is the wronged party.  

I will miss him like a person misses a toothache when it is gone.

© 2013 cj schlottman

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Words and Birds

Wednesday, 09/25/13

It’s raining.  I think it rained most of the night.  I should know because I was up twice nursing my injured hip and it was coming down pretty hard both times.  It rained most of yesterday and the night before that, too.  Being a pluviophle, I like this weather.
This morning during dorniveglia, I pandiculated and had a strong desire to feed my clinomania.  I’ve been a clinomaniac all my life and never knew it had a name other than laziness.

This business with my hip has me off my game.  When I am comfortable enough do something like write, I soon realize that I am too sleepy to stay awake to do anything.  And I’m crazy.  On Friday Marnie and I went out to do some errands and I put the mailbox key in my purse so I could get the mail on the way back in.  When we got home the key was nowhere to be found.  We went to get my new glasses and then to Harris Teeter.  I don’t think I dropped it at either place, but I suppose I should call and ask.

Well, I just called both places and my keys are at neither.  So, I will have to pay to have another mail box key made.   Shit.  It’s only money.

Update 09/26/13 - Thursday Afternoon

This has been a funky week.  I expected to hear from P in jail by now since I wrote him last Friday and said I opened a special account on the landline for him to call me.  Today, a friend of his, Clay Wilson, called me to say he had spent the weekend with P.  I didn’t ask any questions.  I suppose he got a DUI.  Anyway, he said P is doing well, that he is campaigning to become a trusty so he can get his sentence reduced by 30 days.  
I don’t know how I feel about that.  Life is easier without him around.  I’m holding fast to my resolve to make him live elsewhere when he gets out of jail.  I suppose I should get in touch with Lawrence and Melissa and start making some plans for an apartment or studio.  The idea of once more setting him up in a place makes me want to pull my hair.  The last place he lived was so awful, he was so scared when he moved out that he left his television set in his room.  So we get to start all that over again - a TV, cable, dishes and linen and all that crap.  I hope Lawrence will give him the bike that is at his house.  

I am maybe a little depressed.  I’m tired all the time and nothing seems very funny.  It started with the pain pills I took after I hurt my hip.  I haven’t taken any in two full days but I still feel out of it and lazy.  I can’t walk very far and that’s not helping.  And my hip is still very uncomfortable.  

Around noon today when Honey and I went out for a little while, we walked toward the marina.  I was looking straight ahead, which is the way I do, and Honey was pulling me to the left.  When I glanced over, there stood a Great Egret just as still as a statue, right there in the middle of one of the side roads where people park their boat trailers.  His neck was extended its full length, and I swear he looked closer to four feet tall than the usual three feet or so.  He was as regal as any king.  

Honey, Dumbass that she can be, didn’t notice the bird.  She was all about a dog approaching from the other side.  I could see the dog’s owner in the background, walking slowly and trying to quietly call off his pet, a curly haired terrier sort. 

I knelt down and held on to Honey while we watched that magnificent bird just standing there like he owned the entire bluff.  As the dog approached him, the egret extended his wings to their full expanse and flew off toward the river.  I just stood there with my mouth hanging open and stared after the magnificent bird.

We see Great Egrets every day from our balcony.  There are not only Egrets but Great Blue Herons and the occasional Wood Stork.  In the mornings, they fly over toward Saint Simons Sound, where they feed, and when the sun is down but before it gets dark they return to their roosts farther north on the island.

When we lived on Dunbar Creek, we could look across the marsh with binoculars and watch Great Blue Herons nesting and feeding their young.  Once we saw a Bald Eagle perched there.  We used to watch Wood Storks fly over toward the sound in the mornings.  Amazingly enough and in spite of all the development that has taken place on this island in the last two decades, there is a Wood Stork rookery near the north end.  

The nesting area of those Great Blue Herons we enjoyed so much when we lived on Dunbar Creek, regrettably, is gone.  The marsh hummock on which they nested was rezoned from  "conservation" to "residential" so a rich person could build a house there.  Seems he wanted his own island.  Someone should have told him it was already occupied by the original owners.
I can happily say that I fought hard against the rezoning of that little piece of land.  It was over ten years ago and many of us bird lovers knew it would only be a matter of time before someone went in with bulldozers and cleared some land on that hummock for a house.  I guess the only thing to be glad of today is that it took so long.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Famous Writer

Whatever I did out on that dance floor Saturday night is painful and scary.  The pain is a sharp ache, if there is such a thing, and it is constant.  I think I managed to do significant damage to my hip.  This afternoon in the shower, I noticed a large bruise on that side.  Yes, a bruise.  My hip bled internally and probably is still bleeding some and I didn’t even strike it on anything.  All I did was shake my moneymaker, hard.  Tomorrow I’m going back to urgent care to get a referral to an orthopedist.  The pain pills continue to make me nauseated and I vomited violently yesterday afternoon.  With all the vomiting and itching and fuzziness they cause, the pills don’t stop the pain.    

Wednesday afternoon I fetched The Famous Writer from Bennet House, the assisted living facility where he is living for now, and we went off to do his errands and eat some lunch at a place called The Brewery.  We had a little trouble finding the place because he wasn’t really sure where it was, but we stumbled on it with a little help from Google.  He seems a bit foggy at times and I think it’s because he was treated for Parkinson’s (which he does not have) and for some unidentified psychosis for a while and the drugs messed with his brain.  He’s always been crazy but those drugs were not what he needed.  

We settled in and he had a glass of Guinness and I had some Glenlivet on the rocks while we chatted and caught up.  His life is pretty much in chaos, but he seems resigned to it, at least for the short term.

According to The Famous Writer, his ex-wife, went crazy and divorced him a few months ago and that’s why he’s living at Marsh View.  He says she’s been throwing crazy all up on him via emails and texts and he is pretty aggravated about that.  I expect he's thrown a little crazy her way, too.  She kept the car.  He hasn’t bought himself another one yet but he has a line on a Toyota with only 100,000 miles on it.

Some years ago, The Famous Writer made a deal with the university in College Town to house his considerable archives after his death.  Since his divorce from Susan, he got in touch with the librarian who is in charge of archives at the university and offered his things now.  The librarian is pumped at the idea and is sending a crew to gather up all of his notes and interviews and memorabilia.  Most of the things are in his office at Susan’s house, which used to be his house too, but he has some things in his cell, as he calls it, referring to his tiny room at Marsh View.  He was unclear about the time frame for all this, but he is going to College Town later this month to have dinner with the university president and some dignitaries who will be funding the project. 

It turns out that The Famous Writer is good friends with Colonel Bruce.  He’s the man we went to Coastal Kitchen to hear on Saturday night.  I didn’t know they were friends when, as soon as we arrived, I told Celeste, my roommate, that we should have brought The Famous Writer with us. I'm not surprised, though. He knows a whole lot of people in the music world.  

We went to the bank and the drug store and to a liquor store down at Exit 44 where they keep his favorite sauvignon blanc in stock for him.  He bought a case, which it what he usually does, and when we got back to his assisted living facility, he produced a tote from the leather bag he always carries around and we loaded it with six of the bottles.  He took them inside, and after another trip the whole case was safely in his cell.  He reminded me more than once that it was okay to have that much wine in his room.  I said I didn’t care.  What he drinks is his own damned business.

He needed to go to the drug store to question the amount they charged on his credit card.  Turns out someone else has been using his card number - to the tune of nearly $900.00.  He got all that straightened out and was feeling considerably less poor when we left.

We sat on the porch and rocked in the cool afternoon breeze and talked some more.  He remains in touch with the members of the band he wrote a book about.  He told me he has a new book in the works but that because he has chronic pain, it is difficult to write.  He has an appointment with a pain specialist next week.
In his own words, “I can’t write with all this pain, and if I’m not writing, I’m not me.”

I was reminded of a quote from Franz Kafka, “A 
non- writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

My hip was throbbing so I said I had to come home.  We kissed and said good-bye.  I can’t wait to bring him over here.

God, how Clint would love that I’ve found The Famous Writer after all these years.  He would just love it.

© 2013 cjschlottman

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Fat Man Made Me Do It

I’m blaming it on the fat man.  I mean, the scrawny man with the glasses is not at fault here.  He’s just the reason I ended up on what was making do for a dance floor.   

Colonel Bruce was jamming it up at Coastal Kitchen on Saturday night so Marnie and I went to hear him and his band.  Old Bruce was singing and playing that guitar of his and laying his soul out for all to see and we were hanging out on the porch just dancing with ourselves.

Then I saw the scrawny man with the glasses dancing all alone right in front of the bandstand.  He started pleading with a table of stuck-up women to come out there with him but they didn’t have any time for him.

Okay, I might have been wanting to dance with a live person pretty bad.  So I went down where he was and started shaking my moneymaker.  He was jumping around like a chicken but he would occasionally swing me around.

I guess the fat man didn’t want to miss out on the action because before long he appeared out of nowhere and stepped out there with us and started grinding his rather abundant booty around and waving his arms, kind of like a hippo on speed.  Jesus.  I was dancing in a zoo.   

I swear to God I was not gyrating hard enough to throw anything of joint.  I swear.  The pavement was uneven and when the fat man lost his rhythm while we were doing a sort of bump thing, I stepped on a brick and threw out my right hip.  I felt the crunch.

Embarrassed and not wanting to look like an old lady who couldn’t dance a little while without injuring some body part, I stayed with it for about a minute more.  I have to say the pain pretty much took my heart out of it.  My hip was screaming at me to stop so I did and after a while Marnie and I came on home.  We were both tired and I needed to put some ice on my hip and pray nothing was broken.  I worried that I might be dragging her away from the band but she insisted she was ready to leave.

I didn’t sleep much.  My hip was hurting pretty bad and I couldn’t get comfortable.  Honey was outdone with me for flopping around from side to side all night and she settled at the foot of the bed instead of on the pillow next to me where she usually sleeps.  Who could blame her?  A dog deserves a little peace and quiet in the middle of the night.

Sunday morning finally came and I got up and made some coffee and looked in the phone book for the number of the urgent care place that is so conveniently located about half a block from here.  I called and found out they didn’t open until twelve o’clock and then waited and watched the clock until noon.  I somehow found out I could walk without a lot of pain if I flailed my right leg (the injured one) way out to the side.  It wasn’t pretty, really looked like I had something shoved up my ass, but it worked.  I tried a cane and it helped some but not like the leg flailing thing. 

Marnie took me over to urgent care and while I was waiting she went to the nail salon to fetch my iPad.  I left it the other day when I got a manicure.  That’s the kind of thing I do all the time - leave my important stuff around town.  I have to do business with people I can trust.  I once left my debit card at The Players Club in Macon.  They all just sighed and put it in a safe place for me.

When I got in to see the doctor he ordered an x-ray and I am pleased to report that nothing is broken, which is not to say that nothing hurts.  The doctor explained to me that I have a severe hip sprain, probably some damage to the muscles and tendons.  Hell, I didn’t know a person could sprain a hip.  An ankle, yes.  A hip, no.

So he gave me a prescription for some pain pills and muscle relaxers and said if I were not a whole lot better in four days I should come back and pick up my x-rays and he would send me to an orthopedist.  He said I should rest in bed as much as possible.  It wasn’t hard to follow his instructions.  Every time I took a step I wanted to scream. 

Here it is Tuesday night and I have to say if it weren’t for the pain pills I would have pulled out all of my hair by now.  I can actually walk without the flail and be pretty comfortable but when the drugs wear off, the pain starts up again.  There’s a down side to those pills, though.  They make me nauseated and itchy.  My nose is red from me scratching it.  My skin feels hyper-sensitive and itches too.  I’m foggy in my brain and slow to react.  I can’t think of any reason anyone would want to take Lortab for fun.  

Tomorrow afternoon I’m supposed to go to Brunswick and pick up Stanley and take him off to a pub so we can have a proper visit. I haven't seen him in over ten years and I intend to keep that date.  Ever since I talked to him on the phone the other afternoon, I’ve been excited about seeing him.  

Stanley Booth is a writer of some note, having written Rythm Oil: A Journey Through The Music Of The American South, not to mention The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones, which has been translated into just about every language and remains popular since its release in 1985.  It was re-released last year.  Also last year, he received a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian honoring his work.  There are other books as well and he has written articles for GQ and Rolling Stone just to mention two well respected magazines who have published his work.

He’s about the best story teller I ever knew, and the idea of missing an afternoon with him because of this fucking dancing injury is out of the question.  I will be there.  Stanley will talk and I will listen and forget about my hip for a while.