A smaller group than usual, as both wisdom_seeker and myself are rather single these days, the younger of my brothers (M) had taken his wife (Ca) and sons (Ju and Jo) to join her sister's dinner (to preserve that side of the family's domestic peace)... So it was me, wisdom_seeker, our parents, father's brother (P), and... the elder of my brothers (Cr), his spousal-equivalent (K), and their son (T). (I'm the eldest child, followed by Cr, M, and wisdom_seeker.)
Having enjoyed a very late (after midnight) Korean dinner in Chinatown Wednesday night, with concrete and entrope, I woke much later than planned on Turkey Day, about 3pm, just in time to answer a desperate phone call from wisdom_seeker, asking if I had any Worcestershire Sauce, a key ingredient for the traditional clam dip, in my apartment. I didn't, but I promised to seek some out on the way.
I got lucky, and the first open convenience store I came to, having passed several large and small stores with big CLOSED signs, had one bottle left, tucked in among several A1 and similar sauces, much to the clerk's surprise.
I arrived at about 4pm, to an even emptier house than expected, as Cr, K, and T, were away to the local hospital's pediatric clinic, as nephew T had been spiking fevers and having coughing fits for days, and it had been particularly bad that morning... They got back as we were almost finished preparing dinner stuffs, and Cr had much ranting about how unhelpful and useless and troublesome the hospital staff had been, largely because they weren't able to look at T and say `oh, he has this problem, and here's the magic solution`, and partly because what they *had* said and done hadn't been instantaneous, which most likely meant that they had other, sicker, patients to deal with -- but that never matters to Cr, because the universe revolves around *him* dammit.
This ranting, cycling round and round about how worthless all medicos are, was coupled with anger and frustration that he had to go back to the hospital (about 30 minutes away) to get a bag which had apparently been forgotten... Cr has fairly strong psychic (or whatever you want to label such) gifts, and his agitation was radiating at full strength, turning what had been a calm and pleasant environment into an instant pool of chaos and nastiness, and *everyone*'s energies were rapidly jangling and getting nasty.
After about 15 minutes of this ranting and nonsense, and after Cr checked the van three times for the missing bag, P went with Cr for the drive. 30 minutes or so later, they called from the hospital, where they could find no sign of the missing bag, which the medicos had no knowledge of... Cr searched their car once more -- and this time he found the bag -- because this time he looked not only where *he* would have put it if he'd carried it to the car and forgotten doing so, but looked also where K might have put it -- and there it was... (K was also coming down with whatever T had, and her brain was not firing on all cylinders.)
Another 30 minutes or so, and all the food was finally ready and on the table. T had just fallen asleep on the couch, while watching Spongebob Squarepants, and the rest of us sat down at the table. We started on one of the traditional appetizers (baked oysters, a magical butter-and-crumbs-and-oysters delight), to stave off starvation, and then P and Cr returned, and the full dinner was begun.
Dinner-proper (roast turkey, bread stuffing, Acadian "créton" pork stuffing, candied sweet potatoes [no marshmallows!], mashed potatoes, mashed butternut squash, baby carrots; no peas or corn, as they were forgotten in the freezer...) was generally civil and calm -- almost miraculously so -- until the break between the main courses and dessert...
As the break began, T woke with a coughing fit, so Cr went to tend to him, and Ca, M, Jo and Ju returned from their other dinner ... Conversation went in several directions, as K asked Ca for some advice about K & Cr's sick cat (Ca worked for a vet for 6 years), who was out in their car with a portable heater, staying in the car so there was no change of infecting the resident cats...
In the same conversational mix, Ca wondered aloud about the cough medicine T had been given, as he sounded *awful*... Much back and forth, and comparing of notes, and conversation about what helped with Jo and Ju when they were younger, and Ca offered to take K to a nearby 24/7 drugstore to get the stuff she'd found had worked with her kids. Along about this time, more bits and pieces about T's condition came out -- like that the x-rays showed a definite pneumonia, rather than the possible which had been mentioned in the earlier ranting.
I had pneumonia when I was in 3rd grade, and missed school for a month or so -- I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Knowing as I do now, that catching and treating the infection early can make a significant difference in the sufferer's experience, and more, knowing what can be the effect of *not* treating it quickly, I have rather strong feelings on the subject. My parents' medical knowledge is also rather significant, and dwarves that of Cr and K and everyone else in the house...
Cr had a couple of bad experiences with the medical community when he was a kid, including an allergic reaction to a dye used for some scanning tests, and these tainted every experience he had since. Now it's tainting the experiences of his child, and his partner, and worse, it's potentially endangering their lives.
Neither Cr nor K could give clear accounts of what was said or done while they were at the hospital. They said they had no paperwork from their time there, no records of what was tested or otherwise. Except that they *did* have a prescription for an antibiotic which would be appropriate if the pneumonia were bacterial and not appropriate -- but not harmful -- if it were viral... which can't be easily determined.
Apparently, the medicos they dealt with committed the cardinal sin of saying `we don't know` about more than one thing, and this shut down everything else for Cr -- if they don't KNOW what's wrong, then nothing they suggest is worth hearing. and even if they THINK they know what's wrong, they've been wrong so many times that this knowing is suspect, and must be treated as a conspiracy against them....
And this set things off again.
First, because my mother was talking to someone in the kitchen, and Cr heard her from the next room (where he was sitting with T), and she said something about what Cr had said to her, which apparently wasn't exactly a direct quote. He freaked out, and screamed `That's Not True!` and things went rapidly downhill....
Three or four people in each of three rooms, two of those rooms talking quietly among themselves, the one I was in trying to figure out how best to get the right stuff to help the sick T... and one of those rooms talking more loudly, about the misquote and my mother's wanting to know all the details about T's trip to the hospital, so that she could provide useful translation and advice to Cr and K who really don't understand much about medicine or biology, which I say based on their own admission in calmer conversations, not because I assume them to be stupid or uneducated or anything else....
Cr is ranting and raving, and I can't stay silent at one point. He's just told my mother to quit asking questions, because it doesn't involve her. I step into the other room, tell him he's gone too far, and that this doesn't just involve him, nor just he and my mother, nor just he and his partner. The central focus here is T, his son, my nephew, who is sick, and needs some assistance to get past that -- at *least* to ease the coughing fits which are exhausting him physically and keeping him from sleeping which further exhausts and traumatizes him -- but more, as he's already weakened by the illness to date, the infection probably needs medicinal treatment to beat it back -- and if it turns out to be viral rather than bacterial, there are other paths of treatment which effectiveness will not be lessened by the antibiotic.
I spend a few minutes reeling off this stuff, mostly that the central point of concern is helping the sick T get better -- and Cr cycles it back to being all about himself... I walk out. I walk around the block, breathing deeply, trying to get my shields into some useful shape...
(I don't usually go to my parents' house with my own psychic shields up -- I hate doing that around family or friends -- and I haven't found a useful way to block Cr's radiation without blocking everyone else as well.)
I get back 5 or 10 minutes later, and discover that the doorlatch had locked behind me, and my key's inside with my coat. So I ring the bell, and M comes to open the door (getting there first), as does my father, who immediately backs out of the entry... I come in, and stay in the entry hall/stairway, having some conversation with M and Ca and Jo about the general insanity of Cr. Ca worries that everything is going to cycle back to being her fault, because she dared to offer to drive K to get the different cough medicine. M and I try to reassure her, that this is not about her, that none will feel that way, that we all know Cr was scarred by his childhood experiences, and we all agree that he needs to get over it, that it's not about *him* any more -- that it's now about his son.
Our conversation shifts gradually... and somewhere in there I'm reminded that I need to show them some fabulous Flash animations on the Intarweb -- Salad Fingers, and Muffins, and Making Fiends, and Big Bunny, and We Like The Moon, and Viking Kittens... and so I do, on my dad's computer, in the room adjoining that where Cr and K and my mother are still working on coming to some level ground...
After melting their brains a bit, but in a good way, we all moved to the kitchen, where wisdom_seeker and Uncle P and my father were having something of dessert. So we joined in on that -- Apple Crisp (without oatmeal in the crisp), and Indian Pudding, and Lemony (Lemon Meringue Pie without the crust), and Chocolate Pudding Pie, and Pumpkin Pie.... with vanilla ice cream and/or heavy cream to taste.
Eventually, Cr and K and my mother also come to the kitchen, and gradually people peel off and go to bed. Of the crew, I'm the only one not planning to stay overnight.
Some civil conversation ensues, about nothing important... and then the stupidity returns. Cr starts skyhooking about things about which he knows too little, and I know too much, and I say that the things he is talking about (things like setting up a corporate entity `like an LLC` which entire purpose is the upkeep and maintenance of a single person, such that all of the basic expenses of that single person would be tax deductible, which I tell him is essentially a Trust) aren't worth the work they would take to achieve, until the individual has a rather substantial net worth. His example was Michael Jackson, based on something he heard on talk radio somewhere.
Now... I've got a degree in Management, concentration in Accounting (I can hear some of you gasping in surprise, how did this *freak* survive business school? well, I flunked out twice, thanks to undiagnosed ADHD, with a cum of 0.7 or so for those first couple of years, but after getting that dealt with, I carried a 3.9 for the next 3 years to my BS... and I can tell you, many big money business people are freakier than I, by far.)
So -- I know a bit about things like tax dodging, and legitimate business practices, and accounting rules, and stuff like that. I'm not an expert about everything -- but I know a fair bit. I know that it costs money to make most avoidance schemes work -- and it costs more than it saves, unless you're working with *big* money, and if you try it without professional expertise and assistance, you won't get it right -- and that will cost you more than never having made the attempt.
And I say as much.
But this makes me an asshole, and a condescending bastard, because I know this stuff, and I answer his questions, and I tell him that the people on the radio talking about Michael Jackson's ability to deduct basic life expenses are full of shit, and ignoring a great many details... more to the point, that deducting such basic maintenance isn't remotely legitimate until you've achieved MJ's scale of public personality, and even then, it's debatable at best...
But he HEARD IT ON THE RADIO! IT MUST BE TRUE!
Oh wait, except that it's really hypothetical.
Except that he really wants to do it, because that's what he does, is find all the loopholes and take maximal advantage of them.
But he'd never really do this, because it's just skyhooking.
twist and turn and twist and turn.
And at some point, K says that the problem is that I'm speaking from a place of power over Cr.
And at another point, she says that the problem is that I'm taller.
And that I'm a year older.
and similar stuff, which probably all *does* play a part, but which Cr took pains to discount and brush off.
But at one of these points, he told me that *I'd* brought up the age thing, or the height thing, or I don't remember what. And I said, no, K brought that up. Even as K said, no, I brought that up.
And I suggested he might want to pay attention, if he was going to flip back to things that had been said earlier, like that.
And he flew off his chair, slamming his hands together, and leapt to within a couple feet of me, and I thought he was actually going to hit me.
And I told him I was sick of that crap. As K told me that he was just trying to communicate with me, to have a conversation....
I have lost track of some of this -- I kept a VERY tight rein on myself, as usual, even as I raised my voice and got right in his face and told him to back the fuck off... I didn't raise a hand to strike, nor even to defend. The largest gesture I made was *after* moving more than six feet away, when I raised a finger and told him I'd hit him ONCE in my life, but if he came at me again like that...
and it all went crazy.
At this point, it was just me, Cr, K, and my mother in the kitchen. But when the voices raised, my father surfaced, and issued his unfortunately typical judgement that everyone was out of control and equally at fault and showing no respect for him or his house, etc., etc.
Things got stupid and uglier very quickly.
My coat was in the kitchen, but I'd left that room. I went to get it, and was blocked by several bodies in succession, most who moved when I said, pointedly and fiercely, `excuse me, I need my coat`. K didn't move. She blocked me physically.
I took her arms and attempted to move her aside.
And Cr decided that this was an attack, and suddenly there were four people trying to get involved in the physical nonsense. Cr and K wound up deeper in the kitchen, my mother in the shallow part, and my father still in the next room, as I took my coat, and started getting wrapped up to leave.
wisdom_seeker came downstairs about then, and I wound up hovering a bit, dithering back and forth between a couple rooms in the front of the house, giving my father a capsule summary of the few minutes before he noticed there was something happening -- that in fact I was very much *NOT* out of control, as loud as I was being, there was very much more I could have and would have been doing, were I out of control, as he had worded it. That there had in fact been a great deal of effort to keep things civil and calm and happy-ish, as he had requested some time back, but a number of things had come together to make that impossible -- and it was not at my prodding, not my instigation, and that I'd worked rather hard to avoid where things had come to.
I could be self-deluded, I could be utterly insane, it is possible that I have been the source and cause of all this ugliness. But I truly do not believe this to be the case, and with the exception of Cr (and possibly K), no-one who has watched interactions of this crew for long has ever suggested that I was incorrect in my assessment and belief...
At this point it's 1:15 or so. I've been reduced to tears of frustration; wisdom_seeker has given a very needed hug, and offered to accompany me away; I *think* my father has heard me and taken note of the fact that my mother didn't contradict a single word of what I said (which she has no hesitation to do, when warranted), and we've also clinched for a minute.
He asked that I sit for a few minutes before driving off, as my agitation could easily have put me into a hot-rodder's driving style, very unsuited for the van I drive... I had to shuffle cars in the driveway anyway, as M & Ca's car was blocking me in, so this wasn't a major likelihood. I went out, did the shuffle, and after re-parking their car, I found my mother on the stoop, with a take-away container of baked oysters and turkey chunks...
She collected her hug, and heard me once again say that if there were anything about this situation that *I* could change, I would try, but that it seems to me that Cr is suffering from short-man's syndrome (even as he's actually 6'2" or so, he was slow to achieve that, and he's always been shorter than me, now at 6'8"+), and he continues to measure himself against me and find himself inferior -- not because I'm saying so or putting up the yardsticks or anything else -- but because he just can't let whatever it is go, he's *got* to be smarter or stronger or bigger or *something* than I am, but he can't seem to settle for being superior in a way he is (he's a much better mechanic than I, among other things) -- he has to bring conversations around to something that I know more about, and then get upset because I *do* know more about it....
and again, I wasn't contradicted.
So I feel OK about that, anyway.
But I'm sick of this stupidity.
I'm heartsick, because Cr can't put down whatever happened 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 years ago, or maybe even more. K's smart, and sweet, and communicative, and able to learn and teach and all, without being upset about the parts she doesn't know, and without needing to be Ms Superior about the parts she does now. T's smart, and sweet, and sensitive, and bears an incredible resemblance to Cr. And I'm afraid he's going to be *more* like him, as time goes on, which would be good if Cr could get over some things, and learn how to keep his radiance under some control... but as it stands... I fear and weep for the future.
and that was my Thanksgiving. I hope yours was better.
Today, Friday, I woke around 11am, had a leisurely day around the apartment. Thought about, and then failed to do, laundry. Did do a bit more unpacking, sorting, putting away, and that sort of thing. Did vacuum the entire apartment, so I'm no longer in danger from the dust rhinos. Still need to figure out some proper window treatments, as the south-facing windows in my living room and bedroom make sleep, computer work, and teevee indulgence rather a challenge for much of the day....
It's now about 7:20, Sign o' the Times is just wrapping up on the teevee, and I'm about to jump in the shower. Something like an interesting outfit will be assembled, and I'll be off to the show, where I will probably indulge in some fine raw bar offerings, along with some very nice wet bar offerings (check out their scotch, bourbon, port, and others!), and likely do some dancing and other carousing, in an effort to get past last night's ugliness.
Call me, join me, or just think good thoughts...