Wednesday, December 24, 2003

holidays etc.

Subject: holidays etc.
Date: December 24, 2003 8:05:52 PM CST

The first Christmas after Mom died we went hunting in Eagle Pass. Though a decently fun trip, with the casino and shooting at rocks in the Rio Grande with my pistol, it could have been one of a hundred fun hunting or fishing trips. Christmas, it was not.

Mom always gave it her all when it came to Christmas. She would shop months in advance. Always careful to get the perfect combination of pragmatic gifts and toys, each carefully wrapped and tagged. Her taste was impeccable. She only wanted the best for us and despite her meager income, she would usually outspend Dad. I still wear one of the Ralph Lauren shirts to this day. It hasn't worn out and it still looks good. Quality. Not that Dad didn't have some home runs. The first Christmas after the divorce (1983) was the year of the Honda Three Wheeler. When you are thirteen, fun beats a full house, toys over pragmatics.

As we got older it became more about the little things. Clothes were usually the mainstay but there were always Hot Wheels. Growing up, Todd and I LOVED Hot Wheels. We would race them, bury them, build bridges for them, set them on fire, put eyes out, pretty much anything you were and were not supposed to do with a small dense projectile, we did. We eventually got too old for them but there they were every Christmas. Mom said, "Just leave them in the package, they'll be worth something someday and that will be your little inheritance."

Buying for Mom was a different story. It was actually pretty easy compared to all the fuss she made over us. Mom wanted Arthur Court ( but not just any Arthur Court. She wanted the Bunny designs. We would save a little and Dad was always really good about giving us money to shop. Foley's and Dillard's carried it but after a few years we had to go to all of the Foley's and Dillard's within a hundred miles to find the right piece or a piece she didn't already own. We learned pretty quick that if we didn't shop early she'd be stuck with porpoise napkin rings and a weird elephant face picture frame. It always felt really good watching her open those gifts. She already kinda knew what she was getting (like we couldn't tell what a wrapped up sweater feels like either) but she really, truly appreciated it, as did we. Mom was not at her happiest in the last years of her life. We took care in wrapping the gifts those years because we were not wrapping a pitcher or serving tray, we were wrapping one guaranteed, solid, joyous moment. and those were rare, and still are.

We always had a tree, even if we had to wait till Christmas Eve to afford one of her beloved Noble Firs. "It's the only kind that will hold my ornaments and the needles on Douglas Firs are too itchy", she would say. I loved decorating that tree (I did not love taking it down, no-one does. Many times Mom did it herself). I'm sure it's the same in most families. You've got little dangly recollections of every Christmas you can remember. Two of my favorites were made for Todd and I by some crotchety ancient baby sitter. The only thing I remember about her is that she would threaten to pop us with the fly swatter if we didn't behave. The funny thing is you could still threaten me with a fly swatter today only I'd be more afraid of the gross than the sting. The ornaments are these two spinster hairballs of beaded perfect. These are the little starburst weapons that Space Grandma's would fight their interstellar battles with. They are ridiculous and perfect at the same time. As I typed that last sentence, I realized that I can trace my entire appreciation for crap back to these little glitter globes.

We always had stockings. Even when Mom didn't have a fireplace, she would put them on the bookshelf. Our stockings are not ordinary by any means. THEY ARE FUCKING MAGICAL. Hand made by Grandma (Dad's mom, not the Space one, although now I have images of Grandma fighting Space Grandma. Space Grandma firing her Christmas Orbs and Grandma bagging them in the Magic Stocking and firing them back at Space Grandma like some weird Yoda on Yoda action). The stockings were and are my favorite decoration. They are also where the Hot Wheels were put.

I never fully appreciated how much I missed Christmas with my mom until we woke up at the butt crack of dawn on Christmas morning 1996 in Eagle Pass to go hunting. No tree, no wrapped presents (although I'm sure Dad had given us money or something), no stockings, just cold. Since then, our Christmas's have been borrowed. They are spent a few hours at a time at close relative's homes around Ft. Worth. It's almost like being punished for loving Christmas. Having to see their tree, their ornaments, their stockings, the scattered bows and bits of paper. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing my relatives and sharing Christmas with them. It's just a perspective thing.

We still do the big family christmas (Dad's side) every year in Temple. I always enjoy this and it's my last bastion of traditional Christmas. Although today, I was informed that I need to pick up my brother to take him down because Dad has to be in Mexico on business.

So how's my violin sounding about now? Just wait, it gets louder.

Not having anything to do one Christmas Day Eve in 2001. Dad, Todd, and myself went to one of Dad's friends homes visit and hang out. I, of course, managed to leech another taste of Christmas punishment. Little did Ray know how cruel the punishment would be. Pretend like I'm saying this in a hushed and serious tone with the appropriate music score. We were there for about five minutes when I wandered into the kitchen. "Those decanters are exactly like my mother's", I thought to myself. "Those decanter's are exactly like my mother's.", I said to our host. There was a pause and her face went a shade lighter. "I bought them at your Dad's sale awhile back." "My Dad's Sale?", I asked. The most awkward of pauses. "Somebody's in trouble aren't they?". "Yes.", I replied. She then went and retrieved the Beatrix Potter Toddler Dish Sets by Wedgewood that my mother bought for Todd's and my respective children. Mom gave them to us two weeks before she died because she knew she would not live to see her grandchildren (her words).

How are the violins treatin' ya?

That's actually the happy part of the story because those items were recovered and my Dad's friend was truly gracious about giving them back (Did you ever give her money back, Dad?) The Arthur Court, the Hot Wheels, Hummels, and countless other of her personal effects, all sold. Garage sale style. Untraceable. I like to go to garage sales, but now I wince every time someone's hold's up something and screeches, "How much is this?". It gives me the fucking chills.

Dad calls it a misunderstanding between himself, Todd and I, and the "friend" of his that organized the sale while he was playing golf. Mom's good stuff was not 'sitting out' either. It was carefully packed and tucked away. This 'friend' was working on commission. It was supposed to be a sale to get rid of Dad's 'junk' (his words). Curiously enough, all the 'junk' is still there to this day, sitting out in the open. Mom's stuff? Rifled through like a dime-store panty hose sale.

Todd and I immediately ran home and assessed our personal damage. We called Dad and commanded him to come home. He obliged, took a verbal beating, apologized, and then pouted, "My grandmother's silver is missing!" This is the silver that is supposed to go to Todd or I depending on who gets married first (at this rate it's not going to matter). This is the same silver that our Mom kept for several years, stashed carefully away, so carefully that it survived a robbery of her apartment. Dad bitched and moaned to get it back from her so he could keep it in the drawer of the china cabinet as bait for his 'maid of the week'. Low and behold, he actually keeps it under some old papers in the living room where I found it 4 weeks ago.

This story is just the tip of the iceberg and happens to only highlight one of Dad's poor decisions. Todd has quite a resume and Dad's house (where Todd is living) is littered with remnants of carelessness and outright disrespect. The coffee table glass sat broken for MONTHS. The cigarette burns on Mama Casey's table, the gun case, mom's chair. Missing knobs...

Where the fuck do knobs go? Do they just disintegrate in your hands when you pull them off? When knobs fall off, stop what you are doing and go get an ashtray to put your cigarette in and then put the knob back on. You have TIVO.

Deck screws and a crap mattress on the guest bed. Skeletons of Mama Casey's chairs in the garage. Broken window in the computer room. My son or daughter will never shoot the guns I killed my first anythings with because Todd was a hoodlum and a latch key kid in high school, DAD. Where's Mom's banjo? Where is the .45 pistol Todd? Why did you destroy the Lightsey's rent house, Todd? Who was it that taught me to leave things better than when I found them, Dad? Dad say's the whole situation is partially my fault because I could've gotten Mom's stuff out of his house anytime. What he really meant was that if I didn't get this stuff out of his house he and Todd would destroy or sell it. I get it now. Everyday at Dad's house is the anti-Christmas. I get part of my soul ripped from me. It's not just the stuff either, it's the entire attitude, the blaming, the hypocrisy, the whole big lumpy mess.

Some of these things I mention are from soooo long ago that they are mentioned only so the whole cycle (which is starting right back up) will be noticed.



I forgive them for everything. But I also hold them accountable for everything. I love my family so much. They had better WAKE UP and make an effort or they will barely see me. I am truly blessed with some of the best friends in the world. I am talking friends that would do anything for me. I am talking anything INCLUDING taking responsibility for their actions or lack of action. I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR PEOPLE THAT HAVE NO RESPECT FOR THEMSELVES OR OTHERS.

Todd called today to say that he sent me a Christmas present and it will get here Friday. Dad called today in a last ditch effort to see if I was coming in for Christmas (I told him a polite "no" a week ago). We then argued for about two minutes about why I was upset and then he found something more important and hung up. He called back later to ask if I would give him some notes on an airplane contract. Todd's present will be returned unopened. Maybe he can get it here on time next year. I do appreciate the fact that he wrapped it this year. I really do.

I know that all of this sounds harsh. I am certainly not without faults. I hope you can forgive me for those. If you have any mud to sling. Sling away. I will answer for anything I do. I will have no regrets. If I have wronged you, I will make it right.

For those of you who may not be able to read between the lines. This is not about material items. They are simply the most tangible ways of demonstrating how people are stumble-fucking their way through life.

If you think I'm being dramatic right now, you should see me cry every time I walk through Dillard's.

I dare you to do something selfless while no one is looking. i'll end with one of my previous scribbles...

i received a gently worn dollar bill in the mail yesterday from David Filipek of Alameda, CA. it's the most valuable dollar i have had the pleasure of spending in many years. i used it to fund some of tomorrow's halloween candy disbursement.

you see, i sold an old pair of button fly jeans on ebay. they meant nothing to me, but were the subject of some denim dreams for David as he shelled out seventeen-fifty plus four-fifty shipping for my forgotten 501s. three days post-auction, a small letter arrived with one of those tiny $7.95 return address ink stamps in the corner and adorned with a 'first flight Wright Brothers' postage stamp, inside, a neatly printed note (same return address stamp in the upper left hand corner) wrapped around a crisp twenty and it's neighbor a series 1995 two dollar bill (well that's nifty). I promptly mailed the jeans off and that was that. happy feedbacks for me and all my good friends!

Yesterday, as i'm shuffling through the rain forest of junk mail that oklahoma crams me with every day, i came across a letter from california. It was not your impersonal #10 size envelope, but another A2, complete with a 'welcome to oklahoma' postage stamp (well that's nifty), David Filipek again. my heart sank. were the jeans defective? was there a napkin from a strip joint in one the pockets? you can't take back positive feedback mother fucker. those jeans were perfect when i sent them off. fucking postal service must have fucking fucked them up in transit. i can't believe i have to deal with this bullshit. i fucking knew that $17.50 for a stupid pair of jeans was too good to be true. i tore open the envelope and readied myself for whatever interstate mail fraud i was going to be blamed for. the note read,

Dear Ray,

I noticed that the jeans I purchased from you cost $5.50 to ship and not $4.50 as you stated in the invoice. Here is another dollar to cover that.

David Filipek

I immediately sent him a free pair of jeans y'all. He found a 'Welcome to Oklahoma' stamp to use on the letter to me. He lives in California. Found an 'Oklahoma' stamp. California. Oklahoma. Dollar Bill. I love David Filipek from Alameda, CA.

I guess that is what this world has come to. I feel I have to give out prizes in response to random kindness. If that is what it takes, then that is what it takes. I will be a politeness prize patrol. So keep up all the good work all of you kind, rare, and wonderful people with manners and common decency. I will now be watchin' and prizin'.

For all you dicks out there. I have in my employ, twelve hundred three dark devil gnomes who will flatten your tires if you don't stop bein' dicks, you dicks. so don't be a dick, be good and win a prize.


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