Crazy Heart Road Trip

Pontiac Vibe in Taos, NM

Annointed, as it were

We’re leaving soon for Iowa. A road trip like no other, given the Wild West and the roads I choose. Never an Interstate highway, all mostly empty two-lanes. None of that dances-with-semis bullshit and pulling off to fart and piss in herds. Yes, of course it takes a little longer, but not much, and the tiny little insane towns are so amazing and appalling. We’re going to take a scenic route along a river I’ve never heard of deep in darkest Kansas. I’ll bet no one who doesn’t live there ever takes that road, but there we’ll be with wine and tuna sandwiches. Just before we head up to Nebraska, we’ll pass by a place called Speed. I wonder if we’ll notice? The population was only thirty-two as of the 2010 census. I hope there’s a sign, at least, so I can take a picture. My notion was an ironic tribute to my cancer-ridden meth addict brother Bill. Tuesday morning I heard things I’ll never unhear, just before they rolled him into hospice at the V.A. hospital in Tucson, psycho toward the end and then the morphine. He lasted fifteen hours and died a little before midnight—after I’d already started writing this post!

It’s impossible to overestimate how big this is. The “Bill problem” has been part of my life from the very beginning. For the last thirty years, it was almost all my mother ever talked about. As a guilt-inducing bludgeon, her perception of my obligation to his salvation had no equal. I tried—oh, how I tried… “What to do about Bill” was surely the greatest trial for me after we finally locked her up, as I kept him going with monthly payments from her accounts that I knew would partly go for drugs that only helped to kill him. Even as I protected him, I sometimes wished he’d get arrested so the Pima County sheriff would take over. Together with my parents (both now deceased), he was a major component of the Tucson black hole of despair and grief that exacted such a psychic, emotional, and financial toll over the decades. For my entire life, in fact. And now he’s passed over, on the night of the new moon.

Onward through the West, with miles and miles of prairie and the open sky! And may the Great Unclenching finally begin…

  • Sherry June 17, 2015, 9:11 AM

    Amen to the beginning of the Great Unclenching. Safe travels.

    • JHF June 17, 2015, 9:37 AM

      I thank you very much. And now to pack!

  • James Moore June 17, 2015, 9:45 AM

    Man, John, I’d actually been wondering about your Tucson brother. He seems to have defied the odds. I’ve a sister who’s been an oxy user for decades and she’s in her mid-70s, lost a foot and a leg to diabetes, still takes pills and eats what she wants, and her biological mandate keeps her breathing. Lots of grief for all of us because we love her and can’t help her. Lives alone. Her only son won’t let her spend time with her three grand kids. All pretty sad.
    Hope you celebrate the release and your brother before he became damaged. Have a good trip, amigo. And stay on the blue highways.

    • JHF June 17, 2015, 9:55 AM

      Thanks, Jim. I see from your own story that you have to understand. He was always damaged, though, a middle child with an entire life of tears and crime and fuck-ups. The shadow of the family. You can see it in every childhood photo ever taken, quite remarkable. (It wasn’t just the meth. 🙁 ) But he had a decent heart if you could find it.

  • CK Sandberg June 17, 2015, 10:42 AM

    Losing a sibling is a lonely and heart-wrenching experience, regardless of the specifics of the sibling. We come from the same flesh and mind; no matter how one sibling may have squandered the gifts we share, the roots are always present. All the best for your healing and release.

    • JHF June 17, 2015, 4:28 PM

      Wrenching, yes, but in this case, also a great relief!

  • Mike Walsh June 17, 2015, 2:55 PM

    I commented on a recent post. The “Blessings of the Springs” I think it was. I posted two great links and I was wondering if something like interested you.

    • JHF June 17, 2015, 4:27 PM

      Right, I saw that. Land in Mora County plus a yurt? You buyin’?? 🙂 But seriously, we need more than that. My wife has two pianos! Sounds like a great combo for a writer’s hut, though.

      • Marti Fenton June 17, 2015, 7:22 PM

        You must feel like a chain holding you to the family karma just snapped. Sudden release can cause one to wobble for awhile. But now is your time of freedom from the family curse. Bless Bill and rejoice.

        • JHF June 17, 2015, 9:43 PM

          That’s pretty much right. I even like Tucson better, I swear to God.

  • M.J. June 17, 2015, 7:58 PM

    May your mind find peace and healing. Have a great trip!

    • JHF June 17, 2015, 9:46 PM

      Why, thank you! It’s already a lot more relaxed around here.

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