Monday, October 02, 2006

Civil Disobedience & Near Life Experiences

I went to my first World Can't Wait meet Sunday up in balmy Ballard. We met in this monstrous, three story Methodist church that towered over all the hippie houses in Ballard. Afterwards, I walked home putting up fliers for the big protest on October 5th as I went.

Also on Sunday, I got somefreak out news. My older (not oldest) brother, Dana, apparently hit a deer while riding his motorcycle. My sister-in-law said he basically stove in one side of his rib cage, collapsed a lung and broke both clavicles. Most serious, he 'tore' a section of his heart. He's had three open-heart procedures in the last 72 hours to stop the bleeding.

I've been musing on the number of times I've received batshit emergency news concerning my brothers. One of the earliest was when I was nine and Dana went off a cliff with two of his buddies the night before their graduation from Carmel High. They were driving in a 60's VW Bug and it rolled down an embankment. The friend who was driving (they were all shitfaced) died on impact. My brother, all 6'1" of him, was stuffed in the backseat. He kicked his way out of the VW and wandered with a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage several miles before collapsing in the backyard of some rich lady's estate.

My Mom drove white-knuckled from Reno to California and we stalked the gleaming hallways of posh Monterey General for several days until Dana woke up from his coma. A few weeks later, he was back home and brooding, agitated and driving my Dad insane with his California boy lifestyle. I remember him cutting the cast off his arm with a hand saw stealing two six-packs of beer and then disappearing with one of his friends on the back of a dirt bike for some macho mourning over their slain partner in crime.

We rarely saw Dana when I was growing up. He turned up twice in Reno after the accident, both times in a yellow Corvette Stingray that had come from settlement money after the accident.

The last visit he paid to Mom and me was a few months before the voices in my Mom's head told her to pack everything up and relocate us to Battle Mountain, Nevada before the giant California earthquake hit and caused all the water in Lake Tahoe to slop over like a giant teacup and drown all of Reno.

The visit did not go well. We fought constantly, mostly over Cap'n Crunch cereal, the TV (which monotonously aired the Watergate hearings) and what to do on those boring Nevada afternoons.

After Mom relocated us to the Armpit of America, I saw much less of Dana. I can only remember one very brief visit he paid while I was in junior high school. As we cruised that desiccated, gray-beige hamlet of nothingness, he said to me: "If the world had an asshole, this is right where they'd put it." It was an astute comment.

As relations with my emotionally abusive Dad grew worse, my contact with Dana withered down to a birthday card literally once every ten years usually included with a stern admonishment to "straigten up and fly right" or maybe "strive to perform at your potential". His comments weren't just ridiculing, they read like a fucking pamphlet from the local Army recruiters office. Meanwhile, Mom was reduced to having me phone my well-off Dad every single month for the measly $150 child support so we could pay the electric bill.

In 1985, at my Dad's relentless request, I left the tiny community college in Elko, Nevada where I was on scholarship and moved to Sacramento for a temporary custodial job Dana had lined up for me. It was union and $7 something an hour, big pay for 1985. I think my Dad erroneously believed that some of Dana's talent for making money would rub off on me. It didn't happen.

Dana was a changed person in Sacramento. He was impatient, a devout fitness fanatic and elitist thanks to his youth spent in Monterey. He lived in a gated condo complex off one of the busiest intersections in THE blandest of all California 'burbs. He drove a BMW, wore polo shirts and hunted perky aerobics instructors when he wasn't making his first million. In the six months I lasted in Sacramento, sharing an apartment with three trust funded assholes in one of the poorest neighborhoods, I saw him three times. Once was while at work, cleaning the bathrooms at Cal Expo and he was working as a state cop cum Cal Expo security guard. He even had those cop mirror sunglasses to complete his stoic image.

Dana avoided me like the plague. He eventually sold his start-up business and hit the rare air of the upper class. He had time shares in Mexico, a cabin in Lake Tahoe and several vacations to Europe, Hawaii and Australia. Once every six years my mother got a card from Cancun or Amsterdam. Even less frequently, he would show up on Mom's doorstep with a meek girlfriend in tow, always at least ten years younger than him.

In 1993 when our Mom died, Dana flew me and my Dad up to Washington state to meet my oldest brother, Glenn. We went up in Dana's antique Cessna, another toy gotten from his admission into the Upper Class. September 1993 was a black, ugly time in our already tenuously-shared history and Mom's death seemed to accentuate the ugliness in everyone.

After we had her body shipped back to Reno, everyone left all the funeral arrangements up to me. Dana paid for all of it but I had to do the phone work, the leg work and the numbing job of finding a casket. It wasn't Six Feet Under, it sucked. I remember Dad admonishing Dana for crying at the funeral. Yep, Daddy was that dysfunctional.

Post 1993 I chose, wisely, to avoid my brothers. I did this mostly out of self preservation and also out of the deep need for a mental health vacation from their relentlessly manipulative, misogynistic ways. I didn't need anyone telling me not to swear, what to eat (or not eat) or what to wear. I was an adult -- had been for some time -- and I just couldn't get either of these men to grasp that concept. Their inability to 'get it' -- that I'm an adult, a multifaceted individual with my own valid opinions, beliefs and experiences and someone whom in many ways they've never really met, isn't a roadblock to our relationships, it's the fucking Grand Canyon.

Dana lying in a hospital has me remembering something that happened around the time of his first accident. I think it was a few years after. I was staying at my Dad's in Carmel Valley that summer.

It was hot. There was another drought on. My step-mother was growing more and more resentful of my existence. I'd gotten thrown from a neighbor friend's horse but not seriously hurt. I'd then gotten into an argument with the neighbor friend's younger sister. She'd dragged some other neighborhood teens into it. They were all older than me and more cunning in the ways of ostracizing mouthy, hyperactive twelve year olds like me. To show that I was officially 'out of the club' for the remainder of my summer vacation, they'd thrown my denim jacket up into one of those massive California oaks, like twenty feet up.

The thing about the jacket was Dana had given it to me a few weeks before. He said he'd found it while fishing along the river. I'd seized on the idea of wearing it because it looked exactly like the one he wore. It was cool and my big brother had declared it cool. He knew all about cool. He rode surf boards and drove sports cars too fast.

One afternoon, I dragged him up the road to where the jacket was suspended high in the branches of an oak and pleaded with him to get it down for me. Gaping up at that ridiculously high tree, he kicked at the trunk and said 'hell no'. He said there was no way he was climbing that thing and, besides, he had a party to get to.

He left me standing under that giant tree with the horrible new idea that there were things in this world my brothers were incapable of doing, great dark expanses that they could not cross either by motorbike or Corvette. This is where I first fumbled with the idea that there are lengths too great to go for love.

Right now -- more than anything else in life -- I just want my big brother to get out of his hospital bed, go back in time and climb that oak. And get that stupid denim jacket back for me.

-- Mz M.


saramosa said...

what a touching story. your honesty is so admirable, and the whole piece is really well written.

Willow1972 said...

I'm so sorry..I hope he makes it through, and it really touches on all the mixed feelings involved in family.

karrie said...

I'm sorry that your brother is in such rough shape, even if he is an ass.

This post, however, is beautifully written and I enjoyed reading it.(And learning more about you.)

Askinstoo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mz M. said...

Thanks, always appreciate the comments.