Saturday, January 24, 2009

When Little Things Pile Up

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Shout-out to bored deities: Come help with my housework! Gone are the days when the economy was humming, and I had good work, and I could stimulate the economy further by hiring a housekeeper! And gone too the housekeeper, may she rest in peace.

Two nights ago I had a dream that contained a portent. I believe my uncle Foggy is soon to go across the divide.

Foggy is his real name. Well, of course it's a nickname, but he got it as a teenager, and it stuck, and he's tall, so it fits.

In October Foggy turned 82. He was the oldest of my dad's two brothers, and is now the longest-lived.

I only sent one Christmas card this year, and it was to Foggy. I didn't hear back. He could be very sick, and my cousins wouldn't tell me. It's complicated.

At one time, years ago, Foggy and I were thick. I adored him. But as I grew into adulthood, his eternally youthful behavior was revealed for what it really was -- childishness unsuitable to an adult.

I began to notice that Foggy would monopolize a conversation. If he took a trip, he would take 1000 photographs, slap them in an album, and then offer a lengthy oratory on each and every one. Well, that's easy enough to forgive. We all have an old uncle who likes to do that.

But when my grandparents fell ill, and Foggy was unemployed and living with them, I finally had to face the fact that my beloved uncle was impulsive, selfish, and stubborn. Once again, it's not easy dealing with an ailing parent, but Foggy didn't suffer the difficulties easily. He complained bitterly. At that time I was living in Detroit. He wrote me long letters detailing the horrors of his life. I saved them. Eventually I gave them back to him.

By and by my grandparents both died, within 10 months of one another. In a sort of gentleman's agreement, the members of my family decided to allow Foggy to live in the family farm we all co-own ... no rent ... just keep the place up. This worked wonderfully for him, as all the money he had was his meagre social security check. And he didn't drive, but even in the remote mountains there are helpful neighbors. He wintered with his family in Cleveland.

Having witnessed Foggy's treatment of my dying granddad, I became mostly estranged from Foggy. He did not bear up under this nicely either. But finally I tried to put all that behind me and go see him again.

One evening I arrived at the farm, and this is what he said: "I can't wait until tomorrow morning. I want you to hear this fellow on the radio. His name is ... Rush Limbaugh." As he said Rush's name, Foggy's eyes gleamed as if he'd said God Almighty.

True to form, Foggy launched into a long diatribe straight out of Rush's playbook, about how America should be conservative, that most of us are conservative by nature, etc. etc. etc. For hours. Big government and its handouts! Down with that! (This from a guy living rent-free on $500 government handout dollars a month.)

At that moment I knew my relationship with Foggy would never be restored, although we have always continued on friendly terms.

When my dad was dying, all he wanted was a visit from Foggy. Foggy was living 60 miles away, on the farm. My cousin was there with Foggy, and they had a working vehicle. But that 60 miles proved too daunting for Foggy. He never came to visit, nor did any of his children. My dad's other brother's son drove all the way up from Norfolk, Virginia to see Dad.

This was the toughest pill to swallow, hearing my gentle dad say, "Gosh, I wish Fog would drop in," as he lay there in his hospital bed.

I even got on the phone and begged Foggy to come. He said he would. But somehow he never traversed that 60 miles.

Some of this has to do with my cousin, who is the kind of person who doesn't want anyone to tell him what to do. (Wonder where he got that trait?)

I know, from hearing the things Foggy's said to me about my sister, that he can back-bite like a hungry skeeter. So I imagine him sitting with his family in Cleveland, complaining about my neglect of him. (He's too ill to live at the farm anymore. Either the house is vacant or my cousin is using it, I don't know which.)

Here comes this dream that warns me he's dying. I still can't pick up that phone. The last time he talked to me, he spent 90 minutes detailing his every ill, barely noticed when I said I was going in for surgery myself, and he failed to ask about my daughters, even after a 30-minute monologue on his granddaughter.

We are supposed to forgive people their faults. I've tried to do that. But every time I speak to Foggy, I have to start all over with the forgiveness. If he's suffering, he has his family, two patient daughters and a son.

When I think of Foggy now, he's a happy part of my childhood. I hope the bad dream doesn't come true. But I'm afraid it will, or has already and I just wasn't informed.


Evn said...

I think, more than anything else, it's important right now to remember how Foggy was a happy part of your childhood.

Rick Loftus, M.D. said...

You know, Anne, I agree with Evn, it's sort of uber-cool that you can at least remember your uncle as a nice part of your childhood.

And the nice part of being crazy Pagans is that we get to live in what Donald Engstrom-Reese calls "the cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight" ( and far away from dark vortices like Rush Limbaugh. Ooo!