Easter Weekend, 2004

The daytime temperature has not been more than a few degrees above freezing since last Wednesday or Thursday.
On Thursday I met with n.’s worker to give him my sense of how I have let n. down and why n. found life on the street more satisfying and exciting than life at home. In the end, there was a great deal about me, but nothing concrete about n. The system is not going to do much for a kid who threatens to run away when if anybody tries to tell him that he has to live within some rules and take responsibility for his life. The worker has a large caseload and doesn’t seem to have any real contact with n. I learned that the worker admires Robert Bly and the other Jungian poet-gurus of the mens’s movement. He was curious about my bowel habits and he suggested I might want to join a men’s group to let my feelings out. He has a point about dealing with my emotions.
In the evening Claire and I watched 21 Grams which is a very good movie. Sean Penn is a great actor and Naomi Watts gave a powerful performance. The non-linear unfolding of the story created a building sense of doom and an almost unbearable sense of tension and anxiety.
Mike, Steve and I decided to ride to Grant’s Mill again on Friday. It was a day for tights or sweat pants, fleece tops and shells. The river and the creeks have not subsided, so the spring thaw and the run-off must be continuing. There are still small ice flows in the river. Steve’s pictures for April 9/04 show the grey sky and they show us with balaclavas and hoods, and our jacket collars turned up.
One of the pictures shows a building, the Pavilion in Assiniboine Park. It was originally an uninsulated building with concessions and lavatories, and it has been renovated over the years. It is a landmark of sorts, an easily identified meeting place. I was remembering that when I was in high school, I would ride a bicycle from St. James to my high school on Grant Avenue, fall and spring, using the footbridge in Assiniboine Park as the more quiet way to cross the Assiniboine River. I used to cycle past the Pavilion twice a day.
I was up early on Saturday, restless and sleepless. After reading for a while, after sunrise, I took the talk for a walk into the West Broadway area to drop a couple of video rentals at Blockbuster. I blogged and surfed for a while, and shopped for the week’s groceries.
Later in the morning, I visited my parents. My youngest sister Teresa was visiting, as it is part of her routine to take our mother shopping. I have started to visit regularly since early March. My visits have been much less frequent for many years. I stayed at home through University and even after graduation for a couple of years, paying some room and board. I visited regularly until I met Jan and got married. I used to think I was just busy with my job and taking care of my own family and home, but I think depression played a part in my discomfort with my parents and brothers and sisters and allowed me to become isolated and disconnected.
My mother has a progressive dementia. She is comfortable in her home with my dad’s support. She recognizes people and converses well about past events but can’t recall if she has taken her many medications or had a cup of coffee in the last few minutes. My dad is quite deaf. He doesn’t find his hearing aids help much because he can’t filter out the background noises to follow a conversation.
There is a warm feeling when I sit with my parents, in the house where I was raised, hearing the familiar tones of their voices and telling stories about family, neighbours and friends. It is also unhappy to realize that I cut myself off from that, regardless of what blame I can place on my parents for my less happy and more frightening childhood memories, and regardless of my old insights and beliefs about how those events have influenced my character.
After visiting my parents, I dropped in on n. We had short talk about plans for the next week, and what my might do around my time commitments around work and around Claire’s finishing exams. I said I thought I would like to promise to do things with him instead of just dropping by, and then fighting over extra money for his little habits. I told him that his uncle Frank would be calling and taking him out for some outdoor adventure and ATV riding, and he seems to be excited about that.
He would like to come home if we could just accept him as he is, let him play metal music as loud as he liked when he liked, and have his friends over. All he wanted, he said, was to be able to put a towel under the door and have a bong in his room. I asked him how he thought I felt when he and his friends were literally robbing us. I mentioned his raids on his mother’s wallet and purse last August while Claire and I were in Edmonton, and while I was in hospital. He couldn’t remember that I had surgery last summer. I asked him what he remembered about last summer and fall and he couldn’t think of too much.
I left it there. I listened. I gave him some new information to consider. I offered to come back often and to be present for him.
On Sunday, again, I was sleepless and awake early. There was an Easter sunrise service at St. Margaret’s Anglican, which is just a block away. I spent the later part of the morning tinkering with bike, and in the afternoon we rode to the Red River floodway gates.
Sunday evening, Easter dinner at Frank’s with my daughter Claire, my parents, my sister Teresa and her husband. Frank’s kids and Teresa’s kids had dinner in front of the TV in the rec room. Claire stayed with the adults. Frank was about an hour late. He had picked n. up and they had gone to ride an ATV near Grand Beach. Frank’s wife Jan was a good hostess, and she teased Frank about being late.
There has been some distance between Frank and me for many years. He has been struggling with anger and depression, and I have been depressed. He reached out a few weeks ago and is trying to help n. and to help me with n. I reached back and we have talked and done things together. I think this was the first time in many years that Frank has invited family – certainly me – for any family function.
There was friendly sense to the teasing and banter, and I had a good time. I thought I was a part of it, and I hope that Claire has started to find a different sense about my parents and brothers and sisters.
My mother was enjoying herself, but with her mind slipping she was more on the edge of the conversations. I guess if I am honest about it, she doesn’t have the resources to be threatening and manipulative, and this makes it easier to be with her. Dad couldn’t follow the conversation. He had his hearing aids off and he wanted to go home soon after dinner.
Monday was a slow day at work. Many people working in government or in jobs that interact with government had a holiday and downtown was quiet. I called home to talk to Claire but she didn’t answer the phone. I became anxious and I went home for a short visit, and then went back to work to try to move ahead with some pressing projects.
In the evening I went to meet n. to go to a movie but he wasn’t there. He had gone out with friends. He called me later, and I visited him and bought him a burger, and we talked for a while. He had gone out and gained access to an abandoned factory and spent his day exploring, chasing pigeons, breaking things. I told him about my bike rides, and about dinner at Frank’s. He told me about his Sunday outing and ATV riding with Frank. He wants me to buy some Warhammer 40,000 models for him, and we wants me to arrange for him to have voice lessons so he can become a metal singer. I said could contribute if I could afford it, after paying for his care with CFS. I thought it would be easier if he stayed in in his placement and got a job to cover some of his own needs. His reply was that he could go to his lessons even if he lived on the street, and then I would have more money for the lessons and for him. I said I would not be letting him decide how to spend the money I set aside for his support.
He started to accuse me of not caring for him, not understanding him, not understanding drugs, not respecting him. I said I didn’t agree. He began to throw lines at me – I had to ask if they were song lyrics or personal poetry. He said I wasn’t listening. I repeated several phrases back verbatim and asked him what he was trying to tell me. I said I felt I had failed as a parent and let him down, and left him on the street with no skills or resources to take care of himself.
I felt the communication was starting to break down. I said I had to go. I talked about calling him to make plans for later in the week.

4 thoughts on “Easter Weekend, 2004”

  1. Hi Tony. A lot of information in this post, much to process. I think you are taking the right path with Dave, you are reaching out and making a heartfelt attempt at understanding him. I appreciate the note about your relationship with Frank, especially given the strain in my own family.
    I don’t understand the caseworker’s reference to your bowel habits. How does this relate to the men’s movement?

  2. Garth Danielson

    I was especially interested in your comments on Dave and his problems. As someone who had been on Dave’s side of the fence for many years and have meet some of the worst of it all, you have my sympathy, not that it’s going to do much good.
    I still find the drug culture very fascinating, and certainly understand the destructiveness of it much better than I did when I started in the late 70’s. I don’t begrudge anything I saw or took back then.
    The many interesting and amazing things I saw or felt far outweighted the bad feelings and realatively rare times of terror I had. Of course I was always timid and smart enough to stay away from the real trouble drugs…heroin, coke, crack, etc. I lot of pot, some acid and a few beers were my mainstays…now I would rather play with LEGO and watch it all on tv.
    Dave’s pretty selfish right now. Imagine wanting Warhammer models to decorate his squat. It’s almost cute, and an admission he doesn’t want to completely disconnect from his past interests. I have to admit to liking the Warhammer stuff from a sculpture POV but I haven’t ever bought any of them. They had some nice dragons in one of the catalogs that used to sit in DreamHaven (a local sf book and comic shop that used to have gaming stuff…I work there part time to get the 35% discount on books and stuff).
    Dave probably wants to come home but can’t get over his self interest even to compromise with any sorts of rules or regs. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have seen this sort of thing…it’s amazing…when I was young I used to rail against all sorts of things, thinking they were original thoughts and as I get older(50) it’s almost funny how it happens to each new generalion of youngsters. I read part of Claire’s blog and though how much like things I wrote in the 70’s when I was doing fanzine’s and writing stuff on a personal level.
    Dave probably thinks that nobody in our generation can understand what he is are going through, and admittedly many can not. Unless you were in the drug culture you can’t know everything about it but any mostly intelligent person can extrapolate from information available. There certainly are many ex-junkies available to fill you in on every detail you can’t even imagine.
    The problem with drugs are they are so great they are hard to put down. It doesn’t matter what problems you have, drugs are your friend. Plus there is that whole clouding your mind thing. That’s cool, and certainly needed by many. Hell, some days I could use that after an particularily hard or annoying day slaving for the man, and I work for a mostly nice corporation that makes filters that clean the water and air.
    I don’t have any answers for you but as they say in many of those Japanese samuri films, “Buck Up.”
    Perhaps I’ll see ya this summer I am visiting mom in the later part of july unless things change.
    Garth

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