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A Grotesquerie of Family

Throughout my 20s and 30s I averaged 100-hour work weeks, across multiple jobs. I drank a lot in that time, particularly in my mid to late 20s. But never on the job, and I never lost a job or home or relationship from the rot gut. I have always been more creative than that in how I fuck things up for myself, normally by natural responses to the social circus pervading all around while my dead big sister remains dead and time being little better than salt in old wounds. Bourbon, sour mash whiskey or cheap red wine would numb me enough to go and clock back in, forgetting I never had enough time to sleep at all between overlapping shifts at assorted work places. And nonetheless was I absolutely always the star employee. It was necessary to dumb my senses enough so that pride could accept the rain check. Lessons in humility never end, no matter how many layers deep you’ve thus far gone. One winter I went entirely without electricity, only because I could not afford both my own and the power bill for the mom of the girl I was seeing at the time, and they weren’t even living together. Although evidently it is illegal in the USA to reside within city limits and not be a paying customer for utility companies, and so after 3 or 4 months of this I was served an eviction notice by the sheriff. I never even had sex with that girl, although after the fact I learned she was quite active with not one or two or three but 11 others in that same window of time. Every city has a portlandia, and this was that, the highlands of Louisville. Everything unavoidably face value and nothing more.

On a different occasion, a friend and I were renting a small house from a lesbian police officer, who eventually wanted to offer up a free place for her latest girlfriend. When a second month went by with an uncashed, returned rent check, I feared the worst and began packing. Days later, the landlord arrived with 7 of her brothers in blue from the Jefferson County police department, working on the clock to physically remove myself and all of our possessions to the alley out back. This, regardless of the fact that we had the full rent monies for both months in hand, and always did. The roommate was at the time stuck several counties over, paying for his lady’s unrelated day in traffic court. My cat, born on my 25th birthday meaning we were both ill-fated for endless tribulations offered by the Ides of March, was picked up by animal control during the cacophony of a shit-storm, and they immediately declawed her, which I did not want, placed a tracking chip inside her, which I did not want, and “fixed” her, which I did not want. It took me a week, while homeless myself, to raise the thousand+ in funds to pay the fines, and for the procedures that neither I nor my cat wanted, before they would release her back to me. I had her back for less than 48 hours before she literally died in my arms, learning from a vet friend that one of those procedures was botched enough to have sealed off her kidneys and liver. She’d lost half her weight in the short time away. I buried her beneath an oncoming onslaught of thunder and lightning, balling my eyes out like someone had just stomped my child to death. All because some twat wanted to score a kept woman. And after I fixed the goddamn wiring in the house at my own expense because I foolishly found one free afternoon in all the months I lived there and I cannot ever stop working. I was friendly with the editor of the local alternative newspaper and pitched him the story of this illegal eviction, but he instead opted to use that as a last straw of an excuse to quit his job and relocate to one of the bigger cities in Tennessee for a comparable gig. I couldn’t blame him.

At 40 years old, I can honestly say that I have never in my life been in debt. I have absolutely never been given any chances to save anything, of course. Breaking even is the best I have managed, in spite of employers who without exception have paid late and/or less than agreed or just weaseled out of payment altogether. More often than not over that 20-year period I worked while homeless, because my employers of the time were so far behind in the never to be fully recovered pay. Yet I’ve never paid any of my modest bills late, regardless of my being left with no money for food for however many days. I’d just sell my possessions, down to the blood in my veins. I have never drawn unemployment even when qualified. because I would tell myself that others needed those resources more. I’ve never possessed a credit card of any sort and only ever held a bank account when stuck with jobs that insisted on direct deposits. I’ve smoked many times my weight in pot, but never remotely considered any needle drugs or pharmaceuticals. I have no out of wedlock, bastard offspring. Never even came close to contracting any STD or VD. My only criminal record was the felony for attempted suicide at 17, because in the USA we do not technically, legally, own our own lives.

All of which is to say that I take great personal offense toward all those who go out of their way to create problems for others. And I am bothered all the more by those who willfully pretend that everything’s peachy.

My family tree is larger than the average picnic basket, with over a hundred living relatives altogether. Room aplenty for multiple black sheep, but as tragedy follows my immediate family and myself in particular, then I am the blackest goat in the woods. I am not saying my life is the all-time, ultimate worst ever, but I am saying that the bloodlines I’m supposed to feel connected to are just that pathetic. The paternal Caldwells, not one of whom can name any 3 of their current relatives because they remain bitter over losing their riches in the Great Depression, but much worse are the maternal Lawrences, and the extended families of Krimms (descended from the Brothers Grimm) and Hilberts. Some of these people have actually been guests on the Jerry Springer show. Not one living relative of mine can make all the claims that I have in the opener of this article. To varying degrees are they one and all liars, junkies and thieves, including the aunt who worked as a campaign organizer for Mitch McConnell and the cousin who worked as an interior decorator for the Creation Museum. Largely professed Christians, they browbeat and back-stab and connive their blubbery ways from one melodrama to another, ripping off everybody along the way, including each other. I am the blackest of sheep primarily because I stayed as removed as possible for the better parts of two decades, neither wishing to inconvenience anybody or to be inconvenienced by anybody.

I’m to be insane for not bragging about things I’ve done right, and I am to be demonized for not permitting any of their number to milk my efforts for their own behalf. I’ve afforded myself no roots anywhere, strictly because I do not wish to carry on their genes or namesake, no matter how much I want to be a father. Relationships have ended over my prospective children being too good for this world or their extended family tree, not because I could down a fifth without drowning any obligations in the doing. More than half the Lawrences alive today cannot say the same, and that’s just in regards to the piles of empty beer cans they pollute every field in Nelson County with week after week.

When my mom, sisters and I first moved back up to Kentucky from Texas, I was barely 14. We had to split up to stay with different relatives for some months til my mom could make a home for us. I’d already tested out of school but was too young for the GED equivalency, too young to legally work most jobs, and so the aunt and uncle I stayed with put me to work in their construction business, where I pulled 60 hours a week framing houses unpaid, holding my own against any of the white trash cousins or brothers in law on the payroll. They treated me like a dog for weeks and months, not even permitting me to sit at their family supper table and demanding I sleep on the floor in spite of an open fucking guest room. Today, they are glorified slumlords, who haven’t even met most of their own grandkids, because their son married a younger version of his own mom in every sense but biological.

My mom’s youngest sibling (of 15 total) is my uncle Bruce, a notorious crackhead who has never performed an honest day’s work in his life. My grandparents, his parents, had to mortgage and remortgage their last home to pay his years of court costs, legal fees and bail money. He would infamously permit his own son to disappear for hours, even days on end, as collateral until Bruce could break into more homes to payback his dealers. Seeing the abuse his boy was undergoing, my big sis and I took him under our wings, bringing him up and away for a weekend here and there to show him that life could hold much more than that. When my sister was killed, I couldn’t carry it on myself with ever-diminishing time, energy and resources. Today, this cousin has completely demolished three brand-new vehicles in less than a year, because he himself stays so gone on coke, crank and meth. I voiced concerns over his driving his daughter, my goddaughter, anywhere in light of this. I have also found reason to believe that my goddaughter, just like her dad before her thanks to her granddad Bruce, has been molested, also thanks to her granddad Bruce.

Bruce, the mother of his son and her husband have an inventive scheme years in the running now, where the husband’s security camera installation business provides cover for the trafficking of massive quantities of narcotics across state lines. I actually reached out to the field office for the FBI in Louisville a few years ago, with ample evidence to this end, but met with deaf ears because what they are involved in has its connections to the multiple unsolved murders in this part of Kentucky, which in turn is intrinsically connected to local, state and some federal law enforcement and oodles of local judges who all asserted themselves atop the cornbread mafia food chain in the 90s. I can’t talk to any higher authority about what’s obvious to so many residents of the area, just as I cannot talk to anyone in my family about what my precious, super-wise goddaughter is going through. Some would deny it no matter the evidence, while others would make excuses for it. Many more could just never be bothered to care (after all, they turned out alright).

I alone spoke up about all of this, at least I tried to, which prompted a Facebook DM tangent between my mom and her twin sister earlier this year, who confessed that for over 20 years she had been collecting money from family and friends and especially a number of churches for my family’s behalf, but that she withheld every penny, likely thousands of dollars in light of the venture’s longevity, because my family are trash and I am ” a crazy drunk”. I screen-grabbed the whole conversation, my decrepit mom was so floored with grief and hurt. There’s large elements of the family tree that refuse to believe she had conned so many for so long, being the childless though pro-life sort of lady who literally tape-records the radio show of Rush Limbaugh in case her applause drowns out any good parts. There’s other elements who believe she is validated, because my parents were apparently so bad with money, unable to make the connection that they could not possibly misspend what they never had. But the larger mass of the church-goers just don’t care at all. As long as they were not the ones victimized then they will just keep on doing whatever their Jesus would have done. Out-living her husband and firstborn, both lost to ends so gruesome that neither could be removed from their respective body-bags for the burials, my mom has been disowned by her own. Worse, she’s only recently learned that the disconnect happened a long, long time ago, irregardless of the troubles which god and society would drop in our paths from one exasperating day to the next. Faith and family were all my mom had, all her life. I came back from the oblivion of drinking my way through shitty neighbors and landlords, shitty co-workers and employers, when my mom could no longer care for herself.

I do not even love her, mind you. She’s given me numerous reasons every year of my life to not feel welcome, or even human. But I stepped up because not one other person in all her Facebook friends-list of family and acquaintances is willing or able to assist her. It has been several years since I last had the chance to sleep for more than 3 consecutive hours, because of what she needs done to stay alive. College professors, attorneys, doctors and property-holders aplenty, none can be bothered to so much as call once per year just to say hello to the poor woman. A woman who has done for many others regardless of never giving me jack or shit but bloodied whelps from belts and shoes and coat-hangers so bad I missed entire weeks of school so she and my dad could avoid incriminating embarrassment. The relative she’s wronged the most, maybe the only one she’s wronged, is the only person helping her. Unamerican, unchristian me. If others have need then my needs don’t rate. This is incomprehensible for the money-worshiping filth of my family. I could never even afford to be a true alcoholic, but they have to blame me for something, anything, being the outsider scapegoat who is a better person than every last one of them, minus my goddaughter. Who I am no longer allowed to communicate with, even though for her first birthday I wrote up a will which I still keep in my wallet leaving all that I own to her, because Imma craaazy drunk.

They will all continue to be strangers to me, I have never asked for any measure of help from any of them and want nothing to do with any of them, but seeing my mom’s foundations falter when she is completely bed-ridden from too many diverse, life-threatening health troubles which she never asked for and which no one deserves, I find myself beginning to understand what makes serial killers tick(-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock).