Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Perception, Reality and Assholes

I didn't grow up in the Taj Mahal my any means, but I didn't live in squalor. I premise this because since my father's death, and even in the few years leading up to it people who had been in my life growing up, moreover people my parent's considered among their best friends, seemed to fall into the background, and after his death disappear all together. Leaving my mother alone, neglected.

I blame it all on perception and on the abundant shallow nature of other people, and I don't care who disagrees. Read on.

When I was growing up, we lived well. Not over the top mind you, but let's just say nary a Christmas went by where Santa "forgot" anything we had asked him for. Holidays were filled with family and friends. The house was constantly full of people dropping by to say hello, to visit, and phones rang off the hook. That's right phones, plural. We had multiple lines, always someone calling. For business, for pleasure. And often those who went to my father for business became fast friends, that's how he was.

My dad, albeit he had his pitfalls like the rest of us, was a likeable guy. He was small in stature, but larger than life. Big in belly and boisterous. His laugh was contagious and he had one of the firmest handshakes I knew. He always kept his word and he was one of the few honest tradesmen left alive. "Measure twice, cut once", wasn't just his woodworking mantra, he took it to heart in everything he did.

He built my mother her dream home, and we lived in it most of my life. A large Garrison colonial style house with 5 massive bedrooms, giant country kitchen, laundry room, den/office, family room, living room, 3 bathrooms, finished basement, the like. We had it all. Not only were my parents friends around in abundance, my brothers and mine were too. It was the "house" to be at. Even if we kids weren't home. It was welcoming to all, and all were welcome.

And soon the decline of civilization, or civility rather. My parents hit a bumpy road and finances grew tighter and tighter. My older sister and I no longer at home, the house seemed large and expensive. My father's weakening health in spurts was no help in keeping him bread winner a vast majority of the time, so thoughts of selling the house came up, to avoid the doom of foreseeable foreclosure.

And so, two different relatives of "friends" expressed interest in the house, and rightly so as it was beautiful. An amazing neighborhood were your kids could grow up happy, and your pets could wander freely. People smiled and waved at each other, it was one of the few actual "neighborhoods" left. It went from bad to worse.

As bickering bids on the house began, a decline in the outings my parents had also began to happen. The phone rang less from friends, and more from the bank and bill collectors. Maybe they thought debt was contagious, maybe they couldn't bear the stigma that went with having poorer friends, who knows.

So the legal battle waged. These supposed "friends" sat back and watched their relatives put my family through hell. Wage war legally and through real estate agents and lawyers and through a series of liens and holds, eventually not allowing them to even be able to sell their house, forcing the bank to take it. Leaving them with nothing. Leaving them all with nothing. My parents were faced with impending homelessness, and these shallow moguls on to their next kill, ready to wage another war over another property while my family lay in the wake trying to pick up the pieces of what used to be their lives.

Forced from their dream home into a 4 room apartment, their friendships flailed, but my father still somehow held on to a few. They would never come to this house though, no. No more surprise visits to my mom and dad. They went to other's houses, to homes other than their own. But at least at that point, they were still being invited.

The phone would ring and there would be the shared talk of both my parents. My dad often started a call, and then they would gab with my mother for 45 minutes or so. Not just a quick how-do-you-do. They would still call my mother, still gossip about kids and in-laws, and what was for dinner.

Then dad died. Suddenly and horribly. In that wretched 4 room apartment. Battling depression and a bad heart, it finally beat him. It beat all of us and we were lost. My poor mother, now alone. Widowed. Left with nothing but her children, her grandson, her family and her friends. Her friends....right?

The outpouring at his wake and funeral was unbelievable. My father had been a well known man. "The Mayor" they called him. He was what I became, The Kevin Bacon of our community, he somehow knew or was connected to everyone.

And then it was over. The flowers withered, the cards stopped coming. And then phones ceased to ring at my mother’s house. Silence. Lonliness.

All those "friends", those people who so loved my parents, who called and dropped by when things were great for them, they stopped calling. Stopped caring it seemed to me. Not only had my mother the financial stigma of losing it all, she was now a widow. Oh for shame.

As time went on, and my mother's depression got worse and she was more withdrawn, I would get angry. Where were they?? How could they have called themselves friends?? HUMANS for that matter??

I was friendly with their children, who would ask me, ME how she was and I would snap at them. Tell them they should call her to see, that she would have appreciated that, perhaps. Their response?

"It's just too hard to call and not hear your father answer the phone...."


Did they not think it was harder for my poor mother who had been with the man for over 30 years to no longer have him in her life? Did they not think it was harder for her to wake up every morning in the bed he essentially took his last breathe in? Did they not think that telling ME, his daughter, that it would not be harder to think I would never have my father to give me away if I ever got married? That he would never see his grandson grow up?

Did they honestly think that anyone would have sympathy for THEM for not calling my mother in 3 years to see how she was because they felt awkward for my father now answering the phone?

I have tried to reach out certain olive branches, even tried "friending" some of these former people on Facebook and the like, letting it all be water under the bridge. We had all been so close once, and you know what they do? They deny the request. Deny it!

Perception is reality, and the reality is people are self-centered shallow assholes.

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