Science Fiction, American-Style

Have you ever pondered the possibility of time travel? Are the fantastically portrayed ideas of alternate realities and parallel timelines something you enjoy reading about or watching at movies and on TV? Is Dr. Who and his timey-wimey stuff something you could imagine happening? I dunno how it happens: you are given a tiny, little green pill to swallow, which will send you to a future not of your choosing, or HG Wells will have built a working time machine somewhere and you’ll get to take a ride; possibly there’s a real-life T.A R D.I S. with your name on it. Maybe there’s a rip in the time continuum and you fall through the hole. I am clearly just riffing, and completely unknowledgeable about time travel. That’s not the point, though. The how of getting to this future isn’t important. For the purpose of this exercise, let’s just say you were able to.

I did. It was altogether alarming, and I almost hesitated to write it, lest it become an actual possibility. Some might read it and think, “Oh, come on! This can never happen here!” I may be told, point-blank, that I’ve got one fucked-up imagination. (I do not deny this, by the way.) I would then invite them to have an honest look at the state of the union today. Take a good look, if you have, thus far, been able to fracture your world from that which is happening all around you and affecting people you know. As an aside, if you have been able to separate your life from the dumpster fire that is the United States throughout the last 3 or more years, please: tell us your secret. We beseech you.

Really examine just the events of the past six months, if the whole Trump presidency is too much for you to rehash. Then, tell me that this scenario I offer below doesn’t at least stand a very real chance of becoming true as things stand today.

This is not for the faint of heart. Continue……

I wake up. My bed is the same soft, cozy surface. The room is the same. Everything around me is normal, the house, the cats, and, I assume, the humans. Let’s say that I forego the morning routine of looking at social media and checking out the news. That’s not likely to happen, but since this is my little work of science fiction, let’s say it does. I suddenly have a craving for a breakfast burrito, and I walk down to a place where I would normally get a breakfast burrito. Names aren’t important here. Context, people. Use your imagination.

When I get to the entrance, I don my face mask. There’s a sort of big, red, symbol on the door that closely resembles an elephant. I pay it no mind; I’m hungry, and my stomach is growling like a fucking angry bear. I get to the counter, standing the usual 6 feet away; the associate’s eyes go up, and she gestures to my face. “We don’t do that here, and you don’t have to, either,” she says. I shake my head and say, “Better to be safe.”  Then I peer back into the kitchen area. There’s one guy back there, wearing gloves and a hairnet, but neither he nor this girl have a face mask on. Pick your battles, I say to myself. “I would appreciate you wearing a mask to make my food,” I say, and she rolls her eyes. She asks me if she can help me. I order what I usually do: a breakfast burrito with sausage, cheese, peppers, onions, and tomato, with salsa and sour cream on the side.  Oh, and a large, black coffee. We cannot forget that most important item. She places the order and begins ringing it up, after asking “For here or to go?”  Obviously to go, lady. Then, it gets strange.

“I need to see your card,” she says.

“Oh! I’m using cash. Besides, I could just use the swiper you have here,” I answer, not troubled by her assumption that I would be using a debit card. Most people do, these days. She purses her lips tightly and says, “No, not your debit card. Your card.” I look at her, not comprehending. My ID? My library card? Do people still have those? My {insert restaurant’s corporate name} points card? Seeing my confusion, she rolls her eyes again and calls back to her manager. “Hey Frank? Can you come here a minute? We might have a situation.”

A “situation”? What is the situation? Why am I a situation? Is there suddenly a ban on cash, or green peppers, or sour cream? I mean, I know coins are becoming scarce, but I want to give you cash, which will help with the national shortage, at least. Clearly, I should have checked the news this morning.

The guy who is all hair netted-up strips off his gloves and walks up to her. “Again?” he asks? She gives him a look and he regards me with a sort of bland, slightly disinterested gaze.

“Ma’am,” he begins pleasantly, “she has to see your card. With the mask on and all, it’s a red flag.  It’s necessary.” 

What? Just……what?

“You mean, since you can’t see my face, you need an ID for a burrito and coffee?” I sputter, completely exasperated. What he says next in reply sends my head spinning.

“No, not your photo ID. Your voter ID.” He seems perfectly serious about this. He does not seem batshit crazy. He seems to think that am batshit crazy, though. When he sees my eyes widen in a way that must make me resemble a Bratz doll, he elaborates in a sort of bored, I’ve-memorized-this-spiel-before monotone.

“This is a Republican-owned restaurant. We must see your United States Voter Identification and Party Affiliation Card in order to serve you. Come on…. you know that. Why do you people have to be so difficult, with your masks and your shields and your outrage? I mean, we have 331,000,000 Americans in this country and only 14 million have died of the ‘Rona so far. It’s a big, fake story.” The associate next to him nods like a bobble head as he says this to me. I remain standing there, incredulous, wondering just what the hell happened while I was sleeping or if maybe I am still sleeping, and this is all a jacked-up nightmare. I take a deep, shuddering breath. Easy, my inner voice warns. Don’t lose your shit.

The manager holds his hand up swiftly. “I need to warn you that I will call the authorities. The Federal Karen Act of 2021 makes it unlawful for you to express any so-called “outrage” about any and all regulations. So please, don’t make me have to call them. No card? No service. If you’re a Democrat or an Independent, go to their restaurants. You know who they are.”  He shakes his head, clearly exasperated with me. Bobble head just keeps bobbling. Turning to her, he asks, “You got this? I have to step out for about 15 minutes to run my mom to the doctor for her test. She’s had the ‘Rona 3 times now and they keep saying they don’t know why. I mean, my uncle only had it once before he got it that last time and died. I think there’s some secret stuff going on. That Dr. Fauci might really be the descendent of the Nazi doctors.” Bobble head replies. “I hear they’re giving you the test so they can inject a time-release capsule up in there, so you keep getting sick and the numbers stay high.” He shrugs, then nods his head nervously. “I mean, I don’t want my mom having the test again, but her insurance company is owned by  Democrats.” 

I back out of that restaurant slowly but steadily, not trusting them and not really trusting myself. Outside the restaurant, I pull my phone out of my pocket. The news is easily accessed; I search words on Google. I don’t even realize that I’ve sunk to the grass in front of the store until I look up from my haze. 

Somehow, I lost 2 years of my life and somehow, I woke up in an alternate reality where Donald Trump is still President, having declared martial law back in 2020 when Joe Biden won a decisive victory over him in the election.  Biden was assassinated on December 18th, 2020, before he could ever take the oath of office. The date was horrifying: it was the same day his wife and daughter had died in a car accident in 1972. The nation had become gripped in what was nearly a civil war, and Trump had declared that it “wasn’t safe” to have another election. The borders remained closed and we were at war with China now. The United States was being funded by Russia, with Vladimir Putin having his own office in the White House for his frequent visits to “advise”. Somehow, the US was trying to function in a way that allowed citizens their simple freedoms, but also allowed racism, prejudice, and bigotry to run free.  

I learned that my assigned “times” to be able to shop at Walmart and most big box, “bipartisan” stores were from 12pm-5pm. Republicans shopped from 6am – 11am.  Independents got 6pm-11pm. The store closed from 11am to 12pm, and again from 5pm to 6pm, to restock. Small, local businesses were permitted to choose how they wanted to do business. A red elephant symbol appeared on Republican-owned and operated stores, and a blue donkey symbol appeared on ones owned and operated by Democrats. The Independents had an eagle with an “I” symbol affixed at their locations. The government refused to address the needs of Libertarians, and there was a lot of civil unrest because of that. They were lumped in with the Independents, a fact that irked both parties.

There were federal troops in every large city now, dispatched to try and stifle protests. There had been one defining protest during a week in July of 2020, in Portland, Oregon. Some women who called themselves “The Wall of Mothers” had formed in response to Federal interference and occupation of that city.

They had appeared in front of a federal building, locked arms, and stood, chanting. Suddenly, strangely camouflaged soldiers had appeared out of nowhere and mowed them all down, using rubber bullets. One pregnant woman had been hit by three bullets and had gone into premature labor, losing her baby.

Another was shot in the face and lost an eye. One had been trampled in the ensuing chaos and died at the hospital later. The rest were loaded into vans and driven away. Three were still missing “in custody”, despite pleas from their families and demands for transparency by the Oregon Attorney General and many other officials. It was said that they had been taken “where the Mexicans go.” Tear gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets were the rule of thumb, but there were lots of class-action suits being brought against the companies who manufactured these things. Apparently scores of Americans had been gravely injured or died as a result of peacefully protesting and being shot or sprayed by these federal troops. Trump didn’t care how the suits went; he was a big supporter of “a person’s right to sue.”

As I read the absolute chaos the country has descended into, I begin to cry.

We had lost one Supreme Court Justice in 2021, and another conservative had been named. When calls for a fair and balanced Supreme Court were vociferously voiced by both Democrats and Independents, Trump had merely answered, in a two-word tweet:

”Make me.”

The ”Great Pandemic of 2020” was called, simply, that. Most news outlets had simple, stark tickers at the top or bottoms of their pages and channels that continued to keep track of the numbers of those infected with COVID-19 and those who had died: state by state and national totals. Apparently, there was a vaccine, but it was only 45-52% effective, and a full one-third of the country refused to get it, because Trump had stated, “It’s not for me, I don’t think.” He continued to refuse to wear a mask, and only went out to golf, having completely given up on rallies and appearances over a fear that “some Left Wing Nutjob” would target him, “and very unfairly.”  At his last appearance on Fox National Television, interviewed by Tucker Carlson, he had appeared to weigh an estimated 390 lbs. He drooled from one side of his mouth and slurred his words. It was said he could not walk unassisted. He refused to address his immobility, insisting, instead, that he never be seen attempting to walk. Sources at the White House refused to comment on his appearance or health, declaring Trump to be “as fit as a 30-year-old.”

I rise to my feet. I cannot read any more. I need to get home and to make sure everyone I love is okay. The incredible reality – that I was somehow caught up in an alternate universe – has settled deep within the pit of my stomach, where it pours black terror into my veins. The how and the why don’t matter right now.  I stumble up the hill as quickly as I can, aware that I am running on no caffeine or food. It doesn’t matter; I am functioning on pure adrenaline.

 As I near the front of my house, a white ATA van pulls in front of it. The driver smiles and waves to me as the door slides open. I hear the sound of a lift, and suddenly, a figure pushing a walker slowly makes his way off the lift and out onto the sidewalk.

It is The Male Sibling Unit.

He grins tiredly at me and shuffles slowly to the front door. The bus driver calls out to me.

“He had a really good day at work! He’ll be tired. He’s really getting around good with that walker now!” The look on my face must startle her, because she turns off the van. “Hey,” she says, compassionately, “Chin up! I know how hard it has to be to see him have to fight so hard every time he’s gotten the virus. You do all you can to keep him safe. No one could have known he’d have a stroke this last time. But look at him! He’s such a fighter! He never gets down! I’ll bet he could get it a fourth time, and a fifth. He’s a strong guy. I admire how he just says that life’s too short and you gotta live.” Winking at me, she turns the key in the ignition. “I’ll see you Wednesday! I have to go pick up a crew at the Elm Street group home for testing.” With a short beep of the horn, she pulls slowly away.

The next thing I remember, I am coming to on a gurney in an ambulance. A figure, clad head to toe in blue and with a full-face shield and mask works over me. A neighbor found me on the pavement. I had passed out. “Hey, no worries,” he says to me as I jump at the sight of him. ”Your husband gave us all your info. He’ll follow in your car. Just relax for now. We’ll be at D-UPMC Erie before you know it.”

“E-Erie? Am I that sick?” I stammer. “What’s the matter with Bradford Hospital?” He rubs my shoulder softly. “You really did hit your head, didn’t you, Dear? Remember, Bradford closed a year ago. Budget cuts on the federal level. Insurance costs skyrocketed. Everyone goes to Erie or Buffalo now, depending on their party affiliations. It’s okay – let me give you something to help you sleep. It’s just a little, green pill.”

No.

It is not okay.

*******************************

I know, I know. It can’t happen here. The thing is, we said that about a whole host of things that did, indeed, happen. Here’s a great article on how the Trump Administration is corrupting government. And here’s a Trump timeline of shame, in case you need one.

We have less than 4 months to neutralize the batshit crazy and inject some sanity into this country’s leadership. If we allow what is happening to continue unchecked, my fear is that my science fiction will become less the musings of a writer who drank too much caffeine and allowed some of her darkest thoughts to make it onto the page and more of a prediction and a premonition.

No, it’s not reality. Let’s keep it that way.

Summertime memories

When I was a little girl, the park was right across the street from where I lived. Every ward (precinct) had a playground, as well as an elementary school. Our park was huge and had a big baseball field adjacent. At the southern end of the park, running east to west, there was a creek (“crick” if you grew up in these parts) that provided homes for many forms of life: minnows, frogs, a few snakes, beetles, and the ever-present crayfish (“crabs” if you grew up in these parts) that could grow to be as big as a little girl’s whole hand. Those crabs were the ultimate “get” for a lot of kids. They hid under rocks, like alien creatures with bodies that could be muddy green, brown, or the occasional darkest blue. Their antennae wiggled intelligently and their claws were always at the ready for some unfortunate, foolish child who dared to try and touch them from the front.

5th Ward School, where I attended from 1972-1978. This photo was from many decades before I was born. Those trees on the left and right were mammoths by the time I walked up that sidewalk. The school was at one end of the block of Rochester Street. The park was at the other end.

We would spend hours on the banks and in the silty waters of that creek during the summer, overturning rocks and catching crabs. They were deceptively adept at evading capture; you’d think you had them, only to see them effortlessly piston themselves backwards, floating through the water with their tails tucked underneath. If you timed it right, and grabbed them behind their pincers and just squeezed gently, you could pick them up and plop them into whatever container you had at the ready: a coffee can, a bowl, a big, glass jar. I never kept mine for long or surrendered them to the boys, who would cruelly poke them with sticks to see them attack the wood with their great claws or try to have the crayfish version of WFF on the hot pavement of the basketball court.

No, I would always feel sorry for them, fancying myself as a sort of facilitator of TNR for crabs. At the advanced age of 7 or 8, this was my life’s work during the summer. The idea that I was “saving” them by catching them is an irony not lost on me today, but back then, I thought I was doing noble work. You see, if you creeped eastward along the banks of the creek and then through some dense trees and brush, you entered a sort of secret spot, an emerald Shangri-La where the trees and brush were so tall, the area was completely canopied. A mammoth pipe – at least 6 feet in circumference – emerged horizontally from the ground, like a giant, rusty black hole. It ran underneath High Street, which was just east, starting up in the back yard of house #237. (When I grew up, I would become the owner of #237 and raise my kids there. That underground pipe was the bane of our existence when it would become too backed-up with debris and the creek would spill into our yard.)

Not my oasis of childhood, but similar. The creek at Droney Road, 2020.

But as a child, it was a mysterious opening that none of us ever even contemplated investigating, because we knew that within these drain pipes and dark places, there were certainly monsters. The water was pretty deep, about 2 feet, where the pipe yawned, and I would take my rescued crabs and assorted minnows to the edge near that deeper water, where I would give them an urgent, stern talking-to about staying safe and not getting caught by the boys, and then release them into that calm, cool pool of water. My hope was that they’d stay there, preferring its shady depths to the perilously low waters and dangerous terrain that exposed them to capture down below.

Then, I would sit, sometimes for hours, in that canopied, shadowy green place that was alive with flying insects and trickling water. My mother didn’t like it when I would disappear into this oasis of vegetation, rock, water, and wriggling, swimming life; I think she feared that I would travel up through the drain pipe. She didn’t need to worry about that; though I have never been afraid of the dark, I am also a true Taurus, relishing places that feed my preference for beauty and comfort. This little piece of Pennsylvania paradise suited me just fine. It was a place of solace and needed solitude; a place where a handful of us would go to enjoy the calm that even a child needs once in a while. It was the destination for two of us, when we needed to talk, or plan, or even scheme.

The sun would peek through the little holes between the leaves of the tree limbs that sheltered us overhead, making prism-like light on the water in the creek. It was like being in a diamond-encrusted cave. Sometimes, I’d rearrange rocks and look for little, round, white river rocks and hunks, thick ropes, and tendrils of green glass; remnants left behind by a glass factory that had stood not far from the creek during a bygone era when Bradford was growing by leaps and bounds and people predicted that it was going to be a booming metropolis, like New York. Even back when I sat under the shelter of those trees, in 1974, it was declining, populated primarily by blue collar workers and a handful of extremely well-off families who wouldn’t even contemplate allowing their child to play in a hill runoff creek. They took their kids to the country club or paid the money for them to spend the day at Callahan Pool, where the lifeguards served as defacto babysitters.

Me?

My babysitter was that creek, and that park, and the hills surrounding us. It was old, abandoned oil derrick shacks up in the woods and piles of junk in the junk yard, where we’d find boards and old buggy wheels and all manner of parts with which to build go-carts to race down Grove Street. It was hot, dusty afternoons playing kickball and hide-and-seek and games of chase at twilight on magical, summer nights, frolicking while our mothers bellowed our names and threatened “the paddle” if we didn’t get inside right this instant.

We didn’t fear the paddle, and we knew that, aside from some irritated shouts and maybe a swat on the behind – if they could catch us as we scurried past them for the front door – the little smiles that played on their lips that clamped down on cigarettes meant that they’d enjoyed standing at the corner, gossiping about this one and that one while they waited for us to exhaust that final, burst of energy that fueled the day.

Once inside, it was bath time, because I was almost always a filthy mess, my feet covered in dust, grass stains on my perpetually scabbed knees, dried mud underneath my fingernails from making mud pies and overturning creek rocks to save the crabs, grime caught between the folds of skin where my neck joined my shoulders.

I’d sink into the tub of water and let it run until it covered me, fascinated by the rivulets of brownish muck that would color the water quickly and mingle with the bubbles from the bubble bath. I’d sink down, underneath the water, where it was a different kind of quiet than my green canopied hideaway, and stay there until my lungs signaled an urgent return to the above. Then, I’d get to the business of washing (“worshing” if you grew up in these parts) my limbs and hair and usually behind my ears. Once that was out of the way, I could just lay back in the water and pretend I was in the ocean, letting my limbs relax and go slack. I’d examine my tan lines, marveling at how golden brown I was on my face, arms, legs, upper chest, and belly, while my other parts were a shockingly pale color. I preferred the sun-braised look of my skin to that white; somehow, it seemed to be proof of my youth and vitality. I feel the same way even today; I think that I will always feel young, as long as I am tan.

When much time had passed and my mother and grandmother had decided enough is enough, one of them would call up the stairs and tell me it was time to get out. Begrudgingly, I’d towel myself off and put on fresh panties and a summer nightgown or filmy, nylon pjs that were usually some pale, washed-out color, threadbare at the knees. I’d run a brush through my hair and then meander downstairs in my bare feet to eat a snack and watch some tv. Occasionally, there’d be an inspection of my efficiency in the bath, and nails – fingers and toes – would be clipped. “Look at you! Shriveled up like a prune! You were in too long,” I’d be told. Silently, I’d disagree. My ears would be cleaned with Qtips. “You could have potatoes growing in these ears!” I’d be told. Silently, I’d disagree again.

At bedtime, I would crawl underneath a sheet because it was still too hot, and listen to the droning of the tv downstairs and the crickets and peepers outside my window. The faint aroma of my mother’s cigarette would waft up the staircase, and I would feel that heavy, exhausted weight of a day played well and hard carry me into the depths of sleep.

Wash, rinse, repeat, until 1975, and the arrival of The Male Sibling Unit. Life changed then, and was not so carefree. Instead of crabs, there was a younger sibling to save, who needed my protection and vigilance. This was truly when childhood ended for me, but I am so glad to have the memories of what came before. What came after made me the tough nut with scarred shell that I am today, but what came before reminds me of who I would like to be: the sweet, soft, unmarked flesh inside of that nut.

It’s encouraging to know that she still lives within.

Glass EVERYWHERE

Look, I’m jaded af, okay? Very little surprises me, because I think humans are, well, human, and many of them have no business living in glass houses.

But today….color me whatever color “Holy fuck, I had no idea just how many skeletons could fall out of a closet” is.

I had a big family of great-aunts and uncles. My grandma had 9 siblings. One great-aunt, in particular, was perfect. I mean, she portrayed herself as such. Perfect home, perfect job, well-respected. Churchgoing. Educated. My great-uncle (my grandmother’s older brother) was cut from the same cloth. These were the people you “had to behave yourself” around. Their home was pristine, and beautiful. My grandma called her “uppity” and “a goddamned snob.”

They came to blows once, when my aunt and uncle were newlyweds and my aunt got a little too snarky with my grandma. At least, the blows came from my Scots Irish Gram, while my aunt cowered and whimpered. Grandma – she of the strawberry-blonde hair, fierce temper, and no-nonsense countenance, who would go on to attempt to murder my grandfather (you can read about that Here) with a butcher knife before leaving his deadbeat ass to support herself and two children and then marrying another dumbass who was mean to her kids so she had to take the piss out of him before leaving and deciding to use men as playtoys henceforth – did not take kindly to being poked with a stick. My aunt picked the wrong person, on the wrong day. She learned, quickly, but their bickering back and forth was the stuff of family legends. I’d never seen two women love/hate each other quite like them.

I was my aunt and uncle’s chosen favorite. I was showered with gifts, they babysat me, doted on me, and let me do things no one else could. I could go into their guest bedroom and touch all the pretty things no one else could touch, like all my aunt’s dolls and stuffed animals from childhood and her crystal decanters and fragile, porcelain figures. I was my uncle’s designated “train assistant” because their basement was a model train wonderland. They purchased special occasion dresses and shoes for me – expensive clothing my mother could never afford. They let me drink pink catawba at Christmas. My uncle adored me, but he smoked a pipe, and it both comforted/scared me, so it was rare that I even sat on his lap. My aunt spoiled the shit out of me, so much so that my mother was very jealous. She told people that “She has her sights set on my daughter. She would take her away from me if she could.” My grandmother agreed.

I wondered why such a loving couple, who obviously could have given children anything in the world, had never had kids of their own. I asked, and was told that they never had kids because they “couldn’t.”

Well, today, I know that answer to be false; at least partially. My aunt was actually able to have kids; so able, in fact, that she had a daughter in 1944, who was given up for adoption.

My aunt lived in a house absolutely filled with precious glass.

I received a letter, with proof, from that daughter today. She is 75 years old now, and wants to know her mother. She found me courtesy of my family tree on Ancestry. One of her relatives had contacted me about the possibility through Ancestry many months ago, but they were sort of vague so I forgot. She has since done her homework.  She sent me a photo of when she was younger. She looked very much like my aunt. She also sent her pre-adoption birth certificate, unsealed by the state of New York. I will, of course, gather my wits about me and provide her with everything I can; remaining relatives are far-flung and may not have the info that I do. And much info, I have. And photos.

My cousin, left. My aunt, right.

I feel conflicted, of course, given my close relationship with my aunt. Will it hurt my newfound cousin’s feelings to know that my aunt lavished so much attention on me, born when my cousin was 22 years old? Or will she realize what I did, almost immediately, after reading her letter: I was a surrogate daughter, given all the love and affection that she could not give to her own child, who she named “Becky,” a name very similar to her own. In any event, I will dig out every photo I can find, and I have a lot of writing to do. I would prefer to give her all the stories I have accumulated, all the memories, in person, but she is 75 years old now, and COVID-19 has effectively fucked up a heartwarming meeting with her.

It’s really depressing to know that I have this information now, when the cousins are scattered to the four winds and all the old people are long gone. I am about 99.9% confident that this was not something anybody, except possibly my uncle, knew about. She was living and working in Buffalo, New York, which was 100 miles away and a major trip back then. She worked in a Defense plant during the war, so her family may not have known, either. She either met soon after, or already knew my uncle (who was also stationed in New York State) because they were married 11 months later. I don’t think he was the father, because why wouldn’t they have married then? Given that we both did DNA tests and do not link as blood relations, he simply could not have been.

If this skeleton had been known, I would have already known this and not have been completely smacked upside the head with this information. This is the stuff that tenuous and volatile relationships, like my Gram’s and my aunt’s, feed upon. Would she have been looked down upon by our family? Certainly not; my mother, uncle, and I learned, the day of her funeral, that Gram herself had given birth to a stillborn daughter at age 16. The birth was attended by my great-grandma at home. I can only guess that the baby was buried, with no real ceremony, by my great-grandfather, who oversaw the cemetary grounds in those days.

However, my aunt’s family put on a lot of airs; they weren’t rich, but they did well. She tended to look down upon her sisters-in-law; she worked in offices, while they were housekeepers, factory workers, homemakers, and farmers. She had the grand, ranch-style home; they lived in apartments, trailers, or worse: still at home with great-grandma.

Still, my uncle was the salt of the earth and devoted to his family; he and my Gram were particularly close. Another family legend had them fighting, as teenagers, in the back yard. The next door neighbor was having a church-type meeting, and the attending minister was leading the guests in prayer. Suddenly, my Gram shouted, “GOD DAMN YOU, Forrie!” and my uncle shouted back, “God Damn YOU, Rhea!” At that point, the minister said “Amen.”

Funny stuff.

My aunt assimilated. She was a Rose. She, therefore, belonged. She was ensconced within a sacred trust. Even when a Rose daughter married, she did not become a Smith or a Covert or a Barr or a McKinney; her husband was now a part of the Rose clan. As Mando would say, this is the way.

My aunt and uncle in the late 40s or early 50s

No, if this was knowledge shared within the family, it would have been imparted to me to illustrate that “no one in this family gets to put on airs.” They didn’t know. That was her right. But now, everything about her genuine devotion to me makes so much sense.

I want to impart the fact that she was capable of such love to her daughter, my newfound cousin.

My aunt lived in a really thick, glass house. It did shatter, but at the right time: without anyone of importance knowing about it. I find that I respect her courage and her ability to keep such a big secret. In these days where everybody knows every fucking thing about every fucking body, right down to the ingrown hair on their butt cheek, it’s refreshing to know that I come from a family that knows how to really keep a secret. I’ve learned from the best.

I am looking forward to knowing my new cousin.