Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Situation

My mother has (had) two sisters and a brother. One sister, my aunt, died of stomach cancer two years ago. This aunt gave birth to several pointless children. One of them, my cousin, is addicted to crack, among other things. For purposes of discussion, we'll call him "Crackhead Pete."

My mother's older brother died the year before my aunt did. He went into the hospital for a triple bypass and never came out. He had one daughter, who, like "Crackhead Pete," is also my cousin. She's quite nice.

After his death, my uncle's wife began clearing out their house. The place was a fire hazard, and the massive pile of things he'd collected over the years had to go. He was heavily into genealogy, and the office he'd kept in the house was littered with family records, birth and death certificates, copies of marriage licenses, wills and damned near anything else people use to record each other's existence.

My uncle's wife separated his things into two value categories: financial and sentimental. This is what you do when a family member passes away and you don't want their shit around to constantly remind you that we're all due to stop breathing at some point. Imagine drowning. That's what I do when I'm reminded of this. When people I know die, I think about what it must be like to drown. I think about that precise moment when you can't hold your breath any longer and you have to go ahead and swallow the water. When people die, I put their shit in storage so this doesn't occur to me as regularly as it could.

Anything with financial value went to my uncle's daughter. This is what should happen when you have children and you die, unless your children, for whatever reason, can't seem to stop smoking crack. You send them to rehab, over and over again, and still they need to drive into Rockaway to draw from the pipe. Children like that, you leave out of the will.

Lest I confuse everyone, however, "Crackhead Pete" is my mother's sister's son. He's not my mother's brother's son. Keep that straight, because it'll be important later in the story. "Crackhead Pete" wasn't in my uncle's will.

The rest of my uncle's crap -- the things of sentimental value -- were sent to my mother. Boxes and boxes of paperwork. Every single document the man had collected in his nearly fifty years of researching the family. I'm told he developed a concrete line back to a gang-rape by Vikings in some thirteenth century peat bog somewhere in Ireland, but I don't know for sure. I haven't opened any of the boxes yet. They're in my mother's basement, and I don't get down there very often.

There was a baseball in one of the boxes. Someone told "Crackhead Pete" that this baseball was autographed by Babe Ruth. I've seen it. It wasn't. It was a ball my uncle caught in the stands at a Yankee game back in the sixties. This interests me because I caught a ball at a Yankee game once, too. It was a foul ball hit by the immortal Jesse Barfield. I took the ball home, put it in one of those clear plastic baseball holders, and it's been sitting on my shelf ever since. All well and wonderful, but it's not worth shit, and neither is the ball my uncle caught in the sixties.

Tell a crackhead that his aunt is sitting on a baseball autographed by Babe Ruth, however, and all bets are off. He'll be coming around, and there's not much you can do other than get ready for his visit. In other words, you lock the door and you don't let him in. That's how it works when you have a drug addict in the family. Everything stays under lock and key. Some way to live.

Crackheads get emotional when they can't get into your valuables. It's inherently unfair, and if I were a crackhead, I'd rail against this injustice just as loudly as "Crackhead Pete" did when my mother wouldn't unlock the door. I'd toss out the same series of pleadings, invectives and empty threats. When none of this worked, I'd say things like, "This isn't over" and "I'll be back," just like "Crackhead Pete" did to my mother.

And when her two sons -- one a police officer -- later threatened to "take a bat to (my) head," I'd run like a scared little bitch and tell my family how grievously I'd been wronged. Just like "Crackhead Pete."

If you're a crackhead from a family of crackheads, though, you'll get support. Crackheads believe the bullshit of their fellow crackheads, I suppose. The party line -- after "Pete" had been "set straight" -- says my mother won't hand over the boxes because they're filled with valuables she can sell. This, of course, has nothing to do with her not wanting her deceased brother's effects being tossed by a drug addict. A crackhead's desperate desire for instant cash has no bearing on the situation, because reason has never played a role in my family's affairs.

To them, my uncle's wife's course of action should've been obvious. When your husband dies, and you find a valuable -- albeit fictitious -- piece of baseball memorabilia among his remnants, you don't give it to your daughter. Instead, you're supposed to toss it in a cardboard box and UPS it to New York so a gang of no-account jerkoffs can fight over it. That makes perfect sense, no?

"Crackhead Pete" is almost forty, but looks like he's at least sixty. I can't stand the sight of him, and have no sympathy for what his family calls his "disease." I would like to walk him down the street, sending him on his way with a series of backhand slaps and kicks to the ass. I'd propel him down the block with kicks, slaps and punches. This is the same degree of regard in which I hold most members of my family.

Who's your "Crackhead Pete?"