Saturday, June 20, 2009

Here's Virginia

I guess this is background to the background. I wanted to tell you the story of my life pretty much in the order it happened, unveil events in more or less the order they occurred - explain to you and to myself How I Got the Way I Am - but I need to tell you some things about my dad in order for you to understand the sweetness of Virginia's story.

The summer I was in eighth grade my father went haywire. My uncle covered for him at his job for a while, but then he was home all the time, as my mother called it, "sick." He was diagnosed as schizophrenic, and no treatment offered relief. We were ashamed, embarrassed, and torn by the idea that this was our dad, when in reality he was someone we had no acquaintance with.

Eventually my parents divorced, and my dad went to live with his mother, my granny, which wasn't a good combination. I lived with them years later in one of the more surreal parts of my life, and by then they had settled into a rhythm of criticism and pettiness not unlike a tired old married couple. He seemed to carry a torch for my mother, about whom he would never listen to anything bad, not from me, nor my granny, nor my siblings. My granny died, and my dad went to live in a converted schoolhouse known as the Haven of Rest, which is where Virginia lived after her husband died and she was acquitted by a jury of her peers.

Virginia was the sweetest, oddest woman I have ever met. I have been having such a hard time describing her that I fear I may miss my midnight deadline for posting here (writing every day is my goal). I realize that all I can do is tell you the stories I was part of and those that were told to me. I feel silly saying that the affection I feel for Virginia is like what I feel for my best and most loved pets. It was an honor to know such a pure and unfiltered human being, but you knew that, in the most harmless way possible, she was as mad as a hatter.

So one night at the Haven of Rest, my father was sitting on the couch after dinner watching an old Lawrence Welk rerun. Virginia sat next to him. She loved music, especially the kind on you heard on Lawrence Welk. She conversed with my dad during the commercials.

In the middle of some silliness she was recounting, Dad turned to her and said, "I would like to have sex again before I die."

Virginia drew herself up very straight and said, "I don't do that with people I'm not married to."

During the next commercial break, my dad said, "Well, do you want to get married?"

And she did. They wasted no time.

I heard about it from my sister. She was so upset. I forget how she found out, but she called me and blurted out, "Dad married Virginia B___!"

"The one who killed her husband?" I asked.


"That's weird," is all I could think of to say. My sister always wanted to stop someone from doing something, and my philosophy is to leave them alone.

The people who ran the Haven of Rest were not equipped to deal with the newlyweds, so they got a little apartment and furnished it cheaply by virtue of the fact that my father was not too shy to walk into the houses of his brothers and sisters and announce, "We need a couch" or "It doesn't look like you're using that table."

Virginia did the strangest things.

She was obsessed with cake. She would buy a cake from the store, and then she would consume it over the course of a day, opening the refridgerator, opening the cake box, cutting a bite, closing the box, putting it back in the refridgerator, closing the refridgerator, eating the bite of cake, washing the knife, putting it back in the drawer. Ten minutes later she would do it again.

She took some sort of computer classes at the senior citizens center - which was just the basement of the Nazarene church with a 40-cup percolator and an activity director - then bought a computer and hired someone to set it up. She would call me over and over and ask me to tell her how to look at her email. Sometimes she would ask me to come over and get the computer to work, and I'd have to explain that I lived five hours away. One day she sent me an email message that read, "Angie, we are going to have to cut this off. We have been seeing entirely too much of each other."

My father had a miraculous recovery, possibly proving my theory that he was only happy when he had someone to boss around. The more Virginia needed him, the more he rose to the occasion. He got her a bright orange hunters cap so that he could find her when she got lost in the store. He distracted her from the cake ritual. He taught her to be obsessed with the Fighting Illini.

And Virginia was delighted by her overseer. She would tell everyone how much she loved him, how good he was to her, how sweet and kind he could be. My siblings and I always got to laughing when she did that, because Cains are known to be impossible to live with and in truth there are very few who can do it, and some say you have to be crazy.

I am ashamed of the way I spent the day. I didn't get dressed, and I ignored everything around me, sitting at the dining room table drinking coffee. Other than producing a dinner from the freezer (I did cook it myself, but a couple of weeks ago) at the appropriate time, I did nothing but read The Green Stone Woman's blog and take a five-hour nap. Now I'm writing this post with as much speed as possible, and I know that to write well I have to go over it several times.

I have been out of my regular sleep cycle, and that's something I have to watch because it is one of my depression clues, although sometimes it isn't, if that makes sense. I checked my houseplants just to be sure, but they are all doing well. I'm not sure that's a clue at all this time of year, because they always do very well once I carry them outside in late spring. I also have that stomach ache which is usually accompanied by a vague sense of dread. And then there are the dining room blinds... Well, so far I'm just reporting. I'll try to do better tomorrow.

Exercise: turning over in bed.

I am going to have to make a powderpuff. My mom gave me a nice porcelain powder box, and I am using an old footie to foof the powder on after my shower. I think I'm better than that.


Lilly said...

I loved the post. People's lives are always so intriguing arent they? And we are all more alike than we think sometimes. I think you told this story with great love and affection too. Oh its ok to not get dressed soem days, we all need that from time to time. Its a rest day.

The Green Stone Woman said...

Man, you do have a way of telling a story! I was literally clinging to the mouse with my hand and tried to read not too fast. I wanted it to last as long as possible.

Take good care of yourself. You are doing a lot of work right now and the process can be very exhausting. Don't go taking giant leaps. Little baby steps are okay too and a breather every once in a while is good too. Just have a good look around you and check and see where you are now, but you are doing that already, aren't you?

Remember, this is work!


Evil Twin's Wife said...

What a riveting story!

powdergirl said...

What ETW said. Riveting!

And you tell it so well!

DeadpanAlley said...

We have the EXACT same depression indicators.
Is that strange, or are they very common?

Of course, nothing about you is very common, Angelique. My spam word is "brosof". It sounds like another word for comradeship.

Happy to know you a little better each post,


paperbatty said...

Lilly, I have to watch myself with the pajama days; if I ignore the signposts too long, sometimes I find myself lost.

Green Stone Woman, I won't forget that it's work, because it feels like work to me. Even though I want to take those big old steps while I'm exercising, I'll take little steps while I'm trying to assimilate all my new information. You have been there before me, and I so appreciate your wisdom.

ETW and powdergirl, thanks for all your kind words and for sticking around while I find out where I'm going.

Liese, I think the depression indicators I (and you) have are common; I've heard a lot of people say the same. I enjoy our brosof, when you are not living three or four lives at once.