Statement of C.Y.A.:
First off, everything you are about to read is untrue, and for entertainment purposes only. If you were to meet someone on the street who knows me personally and they told you it was true, I’m telling you now they’re a liar. It’s made up. Y’know… fictitious. It’s a… whaddayacallit… performance piece. Not a word of truth in it. Lies. Fabrications. If it were true, I could get sued. So it isn’t. I am writing a comedy blog.
This is parody.
A long time ago I promised to tell you all about something sort of important that had been going on in my life. As long as you are willing to accept 9 months or so as “soon” then we’re still right on track. But in order to put this event in perspective, we need to go back a bit.
When my mom (let’s call her Katy!) was but 18 years old, her parents went for a much-needed vacation and left her in charge of the house.
Now Katy was in her first semester at the University of Florida and home on break. I’m not certain how long her parents were gone, but they arrived back home at just after two in the afternoon. (The timing isn’t specifically relevant, but it helps set the mood.) Anyway, they walked to the back of the house and through Katy’s opened door only to find her in bed with some kid they’d never met before. Granddad hit the roof, but mom deftly defended herself by telling him, “No, wait, it’s okay… we’re married!”
The marriage lasted about another twenty minutes and then Katy was just another unwed mother living with her parents. (College only lasted five.) She went to the local stenotype school in the hopes of becoming a court reporter and landing a lawyer to pay for herself and her new baby. (That’s me!) It took three years but she was finally able to catch one — and when she did she wasn’t all that picky about it. If he (we’ll call him Bruce) was willing to take on a wife and a son at the same time, that was more than good enough for her.
Bruce’s dad owned a large and successful car dealership and was a millionaire, which certainly sweetened the pot. For his part he eventually married the woman he had been cheating on his wife with and left his millions entirely to her and her family. (Sad confession here. Though Bruce and Katy never cottoned to it, no one else expected anything other than him leaving his estate entirely to his wife, and she entirely to her family. It just seemed pretty obvious. When B & K wailed about it in anguished righteousness, the rest of us just sort of shook our heads and laughed. But I’m getting wayahead of myself.) I know that the affair had lasted for least twelve years before he left his wife because of conversations I had with the mistress’ grandkids, but it could have been even longer than that. I stopped having anything to do with them when I was fourteen. Crazy people.
Bruce was very sweet to Little Me right up until the moment he and Katy said “I do,” at which point he morphed into a gigantic horse’s ass. He either screamed or was caustic every time I walked into the room, and because he was so intensely jealous of my mother’s affections towards me, he completely disallowed her to display any form of tenderness or love to me in his presence, or he would make life miserable for her as well. It was kind of like growing up under the thumb of a deranged and dangerously large two year old. Everything is about placation, and anything else is met with violence and hatred.
Obviously, I responded in kind.
As a kid, I learned how to mash his buttons to both make him as angry as possible and appear to be completely innocent. This I did as often as possible, and eventually it became a game. I kept a scorecard and was always trying to beat my weekly totals. It wasn’t all that hard.
Eventually I turned eighteen and moved the hell out. Bruce and Katy were moving the family to an upscale new home in a ritzy part of the Beaches. I would have gone with them, but on the night before we were to move Bruce decided to make my new room in the house my younger brother’s (and his natural son’s) second room and to give me, the oldest child, the smallest room in the house. Whereas any person might find this a bit insulting, at eighteen it was insufferable. As the family moved all their belongings into the new home, I just moved mine somewhere else. It was almost a week before anyone noticed I was neither there nor coming back.
Within a few years I moved away completely to Gainesville, where something wonderful happened. As a child I had begun to accumulate weight. (Those in the audience with experience in the therapist’s chair are already nodding their heads.) By the time I moved out of town, I was over three hundred pounds. I had dieted before, but it never stuck. There was a lot I didn’t understand about life back then.
Out of sight, Bruce and Katy began to fall out of mind. There was a girl, and a dumping. I decided to lose weight and go out with better looking women than her in order to get some kind of revenge. (Noble cause, hunh?) Suddenly I found I was able to lose weight like mad. Within the first 3 months I had lost 90 pounds. I started putting on muscle and at the end of six months I was an 180 pound, lean, mean, dating machine. “Slutty” would have been an accurate description for what came next.
I moved to Las Vegas for a year with my job, and spent a lot of time out in the desert alone with my books. I read tons of philosophy, religious works, even new age stuff, and came to the conclusion that I didn’t really care for the person I had become. I was deceitful, angry, and manipulative. It was time to grow up.
I moved back to Gainesville to be closer to my friends, and settled into a happier place in my life. I met Lena, and we were married. My happiness became even more profound.
Now Lena had just lost her mother, and was hoping to find a replacement in Katy. My new wife was a little frustrated with me that I didn’t seem to want to be with my family and insisted we should go get reacquainted. At the time my feelings towards them were a bit muddled and I couldn’t really defend my decisions, so that’s what we did.
Imagine yourself going to the refrigerator and taking a swig out of the milk jug, only to discover it has gone bad. You screw the plastic cap down tight and put the jug back in the fridge. Then, thirteen years later you go back and have another drink to see if things have improved.
Lena got a great job in Jacksonville (home town — hello Bruce and Katy!) and we moved there. I almost immediately began gaining weight again. I was trying to both bury the hatchet and begin a new, adult relationship with Bruce. I emailed, telephoned, tried to share his interests, for almost two years. It didn’t work. Every time we were together he was bitter and mean-spirited, and deliberately cruel to me and anyone with whom I showed favor. It was not a great time. Thinking back on it now he reminds me of a Killer Klowns from Outer Space version of Yosemite Sam. Evil, creepy, and utterly two-dimensional.
Anyway, all of this drove me eventually into therapy and self-education about the way a dysfunctional family works and affects it’s members. I learned that although Bruce was the active abuser, he couldn’t have done the things he had without Katy’s blessings and help. I learned about the roles the children of dysfunction are forced into and how these interrupt growth and inhibit them as adults. (My sister is hyper-responsible and mothers the whole family, and can’t develop the trust in others necessary to maintain a relationship of any real length or quality. My brother is an alcoholic and drug abuser who knows nothing of responsibility or self-confidence. And I am a fat web-comic artist with serious authority issues)
And then my grandfather died.
Granddad (Katy’s side) had been as much of a father to me as he could have been, and the only positive male role-model I had. By the time he finally left us, he was well and truly ready to be gone. He committed suicide by insulin overdose (he forgot to take the Xanax though — as ways to die go, I don’t recommend it) after having been in horrible pain for 13 years and at the end, watching his organs begin to shut down on their own. I’d rather be Rosanne Barr’s diaphragm.
But his death opened my eyes a bit. A lot of hostility I was holding kind of melted away at this point. I realized my anger was an anchor, holding me down to a situation that was extremely bad for me. So I started letting go of it. Though I resolved not to let myself become enmeshed in their affairs again and become vulnerable to their influences, I forgave Bruce and Katy their hurts against me. Both of them were simply products of their upbringings, and my anger only hurt me. I decided to move instead towards apathy, to hopefully put them behind me where, if not forgotten, they would at least become irrelevant.
To further my departure (this is the thing I promised you!) I changed my last name from Shore to Pettway, the name of my Granddad and the person I most respected. I tried to explain things to Bruce but for him it was easier to hate me than to try and understand. Yosemite Sam was never exactly long on thoughtful compassion.
Katy tries to manipulate me emotionally and pull me back into their toxic pool, but now that I know what to look for, her intrigues and machinations seem ham-fisted and klutzy. I kind of feel like an idiot looking back and realizing how long I fell for that stuff.
Looking forward though my life keeps getting brighter and brighter. It’s as if I were shedding a heavy and dusty coat that I wore over my head that kept me hunched over and out of the sun. I am exercising, eating better, and have become more productive at home and at work. (Well, I work at home, but you know what I mean.) I am happier and so excited about the future. I want to move somewhere cool where the leaves change and it snows in the winter and isn’t so muggy in the summer you feel as if you have to swim to the mailbox. I guess I feel free.
For those of you who were wondering where the comedy is in all this and if I sold them a bill of sale I offer this.
The President, wanting to earn some extra money, decided to hire himself out as a handyman-type and started canvassing a wealthy neighborhood. He went to the front door of the first house and asked the owner if he had any jobs for him to do.
“Well, you can paint my porch. How much will you charge?”
The President said, “How about 50 dollars?” The man agreed and told him that the paint and ladders that he might need were in the garage. The man’s wife, inside the house, heard the conversation and said to her husband, “Does he realize that the porch goes all the way around the house?”
The man replied, “He should. He was standing on the porch.”
A short time later, the President came to the door to collect his money.
“You’re finished already?” he asked. “Yes,” the President answered, “and I had paint left over, so I gave it two coats. “Impressed, the man reached in his pocket for the $50. “And by the way,” the President added, “that’s not a Porch, it’s a Ferrari.”
See? That’s quality parody.