Monday, August 14, 2006

Enter The Curmudgeon's siblings

The Curmudgeon has a sister, Betty, and a brother, Bob.

Betty's a schoolteacher, a divorced mother of three. Two of the children take medication to control their attention deficit problems. Betty's ex-husband probably had these problems as a child; he's since been diagnosed as bipolar. And he now lives in Betty's basement.

Betty explains it this way: Her ex-husband can afford either rent or child support, but not both. And Betty needs the child support money so she can send her daughter to the Catholic high school. She agrees that these arrangements may not be conventional, but insists they are practical.

Betty is more or less normal.

At least compared to Bob.

Bob lived with The Curmudgeon's parents well into his 30's, moving out shortly before, or maybe shortly after, their parents became ill with the his and her cancers that would, eventually, kill them.

Bob didn't move out until later in life, but he moved out farther than either of his siblings, going all the way to Texas, where he lived until the last couple of weeks.

Bob came back to Chicago infrequently during this interval. He made it to his father's wake, but stiff as a hinge, according to The Curmudgeon's Long Suffering Spouse. Had he noticed his brother's condition at the time, The Curmudgeon might have been slightly envious -- but if The Curmudgeon noticed at all, he promptly forgot about it.

Bob never married. He may have owned a house once; he said he did -- but he lost it somewhere along the line. He lost every item he brought down from his parents' house. He lost every dollar he obtained from his parents' estates. Most of his stories ended with the police becoming involved, and some species of burglary. Then there were the stories about living with strippers, one in particular apparently, who had a daughter. The daughter was in her late teens. The story ended badly. The Curmudgeon wasn't much interested in these stories, but he heard about them second-hand from some of his cousins, with whom Bob would also, occasionally, communicate. When Bob spoke with The Curmudgeon he talked about his various business ventures. These always ended badly, too.

Bob never talked about his drinking. But The Curmudgeon was always convinced that Bob drank. A lot. And for a long time. The Curmudgeon knew of one incident, when Bob was still in high school, when their father noticed a ceiling tile askew in the basement.

The basement of the house in which Bob, Betty, and The Curmudgeon passed their adolescence was "finished" with wood paneling on the walls, tile on the floor, and a suspended ceiling -- acoustic tiles suspended in a light metal grill. There was no reason for the tile to be askew, not any that Bob's father could puzzle out, looking at it. So he reached up to move it back into place -- and was nearly smothered in the ensuing avalanche of empty beer cans. Bob had stored his empties there.

Bob called Betty about three weeks ago and admitted his drinking. He was out of options. Eviction proceedings were underway to kick him out of his apartment. He wanted to come home.

1 comment:

Heather said...

I very much enjoy your writing.