Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The family cottage, closed up for winter,
Gull Lake, Michigan,
Christmas Day

My parents' house is across the lane from where I stood when I took this photo.

A beautiful snowy day.

My son and his two paternal cousins -- one a little younger, one a little older -- had a grand time.

My dad is doing well. Chemo isn't making him sick and the cancer spots are shrinking. Aside from having lost his hair, he looks better than he has in a year, and says he feels better too. Sometimes he looks glowing.

I'd forgotten how stressful Christmas with family can be. I had blow ups with a couple family members (not my dad) -- funny thing, in my memory, these tiffs weren't due to me being stressed out and edgy. Despite that, it was a good trip. Christmas was a great day. Morning excess and so on, early afternoon walk on the beach and then a nap, then afternoon dinner in Battle Creek with 30-some members of my dad's side of the family, lots of little kids, great to see cousins and uncles and aunts.

An intense conversation with the husband of a cousin, a sweet guy who pursued my cousin for years before she finally joyously realized that she loved him; an intense conversation about the horrors of cosmetic surgery, him not mentioning my scars, me not mentioning his withered arm and his limp caused by nobody-knows-what; nobody, that is, in my branch of the family (his parents are Christian Scientist; he's now Presbyterian). The grown daughter of 50 year old cousin, teasing her dad about coloring his hair; "I don't know what you're talking about," he said, smiling. My son taking digital photos of various relatives and getting taciturn uncles to smile warmly at the preposterousness of being photographed by somebody so small who's standing on his tiptoes. Family lore asked of my dad (the Lore Master) by another cousin's wife -- "How long has the Shaw Christmas party been going on?" -- "Forever. For years my folks hosted it, and all of Mom's sisters and their families would come to Dad and Mom's house, Dad and Lucene's house after Mom died. After Dad died we started rotating who hosted"; I butted in, "Since the conversion of the pagans." Various male relatives sneaking to the den to catch some of the Bears game. Learning that an uncle proposed to an aunt on the way to a Christmas Eve party at this very house, years before they bought it themselves. Noticing that a cousin's daughter looks a lot like the wedding portrait of my grandmother in the hall.

Sad when the party ended.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, my wife had been dealing with a suicide attempt from a former resident of the Transitional Housing Program she manages. A couple days before Christmas, he called to say good-bye, telling her he'd taken 30 anti-depressant pills. She signalled somebody near her to call 9-1-1; she knew his address. The ambulance got there in time. Later he told her that he had wanted her to intervene; that's why he'd called. Before he changed his mind, though, he meant it. He'd recently learned that he was losing his V.A. and disability benefits because of a felony warrant in Florida for "failure to appear" from back in his drugging days; a recent federal law prevents people wanted for a crime from getting benefits. When he learned of the warrant, he turned himself in to the Seattle police, asking to be sent to Florida -- a trip he has no ability to pay for -- the SPD said that it's none of their business. He's still in the hospital, involuntarily committed. We'll figure out a way to get him down there.
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