Thursday, November 22, 2007

Self-Pity Corner: Don Logan Home Alone on Thanksgiving All By Himself

"The people you work with really do become your family. Like your brother and your sister-in-law, or that cousin you have funny feelings for. And the crazy, angry uncle everyone sort of hopes isn't coming this year." Scrubs (Thanksgiving episode, season 1)

I am that angry uncle. I didn't come this year. And I think they were happy.

I'm the one who comes home from The Big City to visit the Country Mice on major holidays. I need to be picked up at the train station a solid 45 minutes away. And then dropped off back there the next day. Just another stop on my whirlwind tour, I'm sure they think. I'm a pain in the ass. I moved away from home to The Big City and now they have to Deal With Me.

When my mother had cats I would come home and sneeze. And scratch. And gasp for breath. It makes everyone uncomfortable and they all, especially my mother, stare and want to help, but they know they can't and I just ruin everything. I remember one Christmas dinner sitting there at the head of the table and blasting sneezes like machine gun fire, loud and piercing ones that just wouldn't fucking stop. Between sneezes no one talks. They just stare. Or they look down at their plates, hoping it will stop, waiting for normalcy.

And inevitably my mother, sitting at the other end of the table directly across from me, with a look of pity and anguish on her face, says,
"Mark, do you think it's the cats?"

And I try with all my might not to scream,


Instead I just hold it in. I know she feels bad, I know she's just trying to help. If lopping off one of her fingers would make it all go away, the woman would gladly do so. This is not an assumption. She's told me many times. I look at my plate and blow my nose over and over and over and over, hoping my brain will pop and it will all end.

I had become Don Logan, the Ben Kingsley character from
Sexy Beast: an unwanted, oppressive presence. Someone that elicited discomfort and fear. Someone you had to tiptoe around.

For a while I had no reason to come home anymore. Home was a threat. I became sick when I went home, and what's the point of even showing up if you're gonna bring yourself and everyone else down? It's not like I was earning frequent flier miles. I wasn't having any kind of fun. Neither were they, I'm sure. So my trips home became confined to my mother's birthday and Christmas.

My nephew was born on October 27, 2004 (go Sox) and I've been trying to make it home more often, and now he's kind of remembering who I am and calling me by name. I showed him my ipod and he says "Music!" and then I hook the earphones on and let him listen to the Beatles and The Go! Team and The Kinks, and he loves it even if his rubbery little ears won't allow the earphones to stay on more than ten seconds at a time. It's actually the first thing I've been able to do with him that didn't confuse me or reinforce the notion that kids are just Not My Thing. I mean all they do is cry and bitch and whine and pout until they get what they want and--
Breathe deep....repeat until anxiety fades...

I am not a man-child, I am not a man-child, I am not a man-child, I am not a man-child, I am not a man-child, I am not a man-child, I am not a man-child, I am not a man-child....

I just had to reevaluate my existence for a moment. Unlike a child, I can hold down a job and I know enough not to stick forks into light sockets. I can drive a car and I have a basic understanding of how the stock market works. I don't poop my pants and I don't get to take naps five times a day. I earn more money than the average six year old. I also have been laid. So kids are dumb and useless, and I'm taller and not as dumb. There. I feel better.

That was a close one.

Anyway, I have been spending the last few Thanksgivings in New York City, away from Home. My sister and her husband usually go to upstate New York and spend it with his dad, and my mom goes to have dinner with her brothers. This year, for some reason, everyone decided to stay in Massachusetts, but nobody told me until the last minute. In the meantime, my friend Panic Attack had invited me to a Straggler's Feast and I felt weird about canceling. They told me it was fine, no big deal if I stayed in the Big City, and that was that.

This is where Self-Pity Corner really turns up the heat: I then told Panic Attack that I was going home to have dinner with my family in Massachusetts and canceled. I thanked her and she understood. I chose to be alone. I don't know why I did that. Some reasons pop into mind: I didn't want to travel to Massachusetts during the Thanksgiving rush; I didn't want to be at Panic Attack's house because they have a cat; I just wanted to sit alone and not speak to anyone.

No one REALLY wanted Don Logan at their dinner table, anyhow.

So here it is, Thanksgiving Day, and I'm alone in my apartment. In the oven is my Grandma Sadie's Super-Secret Meat Stuffingpalooza, which is coming out pretty good judging by the aroma. I've never made it before, no one really has since she died. Before she was dragged down into the whirlpool of dementia, she jotted down the recipe for me. I've kept it tucked away in a book ever since.

I called my sister's house, where Grandma Sadie used to live, where my mother grew up, where her father died, where I can't be EVER because they have two dogs and a cat. There were lots of voices: my nephew running around making noise, my sister barking out orders to her husband, my mother calling to her grandson. Turns out my father was there also. He had made Other Plans, but changed them at the last minute to be with the last family he has left. Everyone sounded like they were having Busy Fun.

The only one missing was Don Logan, and I think everyone--my family, Panic Attack and Don himself were okay with that.

Turns out Don Logan makes great stuffing. Thank you, Sadie.

(And, yeah, Don Logan quoted
Scrubs. You know why? Cuz he likes it. It makes him laugh.)

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