The Family Writer — October 9, 2021

The one thing I know how to do better than anything else is write. I love it. But it’s also sometimes very difficult.

Because I know how to tell a story, I’m tapped to do so in trying times. I did so when my father-in-law died in January, writing his obituary and helping my beautiful Wifey Poo with the eulogy she so strongly delivered at his funeral. Now, as my last surviving grandparent is in failing health at age 95, I’ve been asked to pen her obituary.

And so I’m doing that. My grandmother did not have an easy childhood, which, as I write those words, I realize is a significant understatement. And she isn’t necessarily the person you read about in other obituaries who are naively pronounced as “loved by everyone.” My grandma is a survivor. An overcomer. She broke the cycle and allowed my mother and her sister to build on a better foundation than she herself had to build upon.

But goddamn it’s hard to write these things.


There’s No Such Thing As Mental Illness

On Friday afternoon, I had a 15-minute conversation with a new person in my life named Arti. He’s my new therapist/counselor/whatever. We talked while he sat on his back deck somewhere in rural Missouri outside Rolla and I sat in my home office outside St. Louis. I had to leave Margaret/Peggy/Candy because Better Help is not on my new insurance and TalkSpace is. I’m not shy about saying I speak to a therapist a few times a month. I’d rather be upfront about it and live than feel like I’m doing something shameful and secretive. And truthfully, you go ahead and live the life I’ve had to live over the past year or so (or 10 years or so) and tell me you wouldn’t benefit from an objective listener a few times a month.

Switching therapists sucks. You have to back up about 20 steps from where you were to lay the foundation for a newbie to understand exactly how you got there. But for so many people, switching isn’t the problem. Finding a good, affordable therapist is. I’m blessed with insurance. Because of it, I’m now spending $50 a month instead of $290 a month with Better Help. But imagine if you can’t even swing the $50 or if that weren’t really even an option for you?

I don’t know who’s going to have to say this or how often it is going to need to be said before it hits home with a wide enough portion of the population to remove the disparity between body health insurance and brain health insurance: The brain is a motherfucking organ inside the body! It is the freaking control center for all those other things that are covered by medical plans at a far better rate and with far less stigma. People aren’t “mentally ill” anymore than they are “heart ill” or “kidney ill.” They’re simply ill. Something is going wrong with a system in the body. The fact that it’s the system that our oh-so-advanced human race understands the least shouldn’t shove such illnesses into an area approaching mysticism.

All feelings are chemical signals sent to cells. Period. Nothing more. Nothing less. S0-called mental illness is a disease of chemical signals in the brain. It’s as scientific as the fact that vaccines are good for you and society (he said tongue-in-cheek). Perhaps if the medical community took it as such and stopped shoving people into a category of folks who just need to talk it out or take some happy pills we would make more rapid progress on treating the diseased organ and actually curing people instead of numbing them.

But there’s not a whole helluva lot of money to be made for Big Pharma by doing that, now is there?


The ‘Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Say It’ of the Day

‘It was a nice break from everything.’

Livae Nanjikana

Now, you might be thinking Livae had a nice spa retreat or turned off all digital devices for the weekend.

No.

Livae and another man from the Solomon Islands were lost at sea for twenty-nine days before being rescued nearly 250 miles away from where they started.

You know the world is in a pretty bad state when being on a small boat with another dude for nearly a month is summed up as “a nice break.”


Weee Wooo

My high school was, in general, not a good place. I have some fantastic memories from those years with people who, though I have lost close touch with basically all, helped mold many of my better traits. But when you say your high school was cliquish and filled with people who weren’t exactly into building up their fellow humans, I’ll simply say: Hold my beer while I tell you about my high school.

That said, there were people who seemed to transcend the cliquishness and actually reach across these pre-determined groups that were based largely on socioeconomic status, athletic ability, perceived attractiveness and ancestry. I’d like to think people saw me as one of those people, because that’s how I saw myself.

When I look back, I think of Charlie as another.

Charlie was uber-talented as an actor even then. I remember the general schoolwide uproar when this kid Josh was cast in the lead of the school play “Grease,” because it was so obviously made for Charlie. I don’t know what he felt inside when that happened because he and I weren’t close, but I do know he went out and nailed the role he had, and besides my high school best friend’s smaller part in the play, it’s what I remember most to this day.

Through the years, I’ve thought about Charlie and kept in touch with him somewhat on Facebook. I’ve often thought that he’s the guy from my high school I would most want to be friends with today. I watched as Charlie went on to play the role of Officer Steve Gusler in Third Watch. And now he’s gone and done a thing. He wrote, directed and produced a short film called Weee Wooo, and when I reached out to ask him about it, he shared it with me with instructions to watch it at night with the lights off and the sound turned up on a TV and not a phone or tablet.

Ho-ly-Shit.

Weee Wooo does in 10 minutes what most modern horror/suspense feature films don’t do in an hour and a half. He manages to ratchet up the tension so slowly and steadily with expert film work and deft use of music and sounds that I found myself holding my breath only to let out a “Goddamnit Charlie!” at a jump-scare about halfway through. Wifey Poo isn’t a huge fan of the genre, but she agreed to watch it with me. How do I know she thought it hit the mark? If something is really good and scary, she’ll watch it buried in a blanket with only her eyes peeking out. That’s exactly how she was with Weee Wooo.

I’m proud of Charlie. His film is making the rounds with a bunch of film festivals and award shows. I hope one of them takes him to St. Louis.


Today’s Reasons to Keep Living

  1. The Chiefs play tomorrow night against the Bills. Methinks the men in red will be 2-3 by the time I wake up in the morning.
  2. One more of these annoyingly hot October days to get through before some semblance of a fall returns. Seriously, people… you and your damn global warming.

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