It was all for nothing
January 12, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
It hit me today: Just like trying to save Mom and Dad, trying to publicize Ghosts and Ballyhoo was a waste of time. It was all for nothing.
Tim and I are doing some cleaning up before we have the houses appraised. We’re having to throw away things that represent so much futility. Neither Mom nor Dad could ever finish anything. Here are some ancient wooden balusters that Mom saved. She was going to do something with them, but since she refused to address her deteriorating hip joints or the vascular disease that she hid from us, she was physically incapable. Mom’s wood is now in the trash.
The balusters are termite eaten almost to dust. Ashes to ashes…
Here are the pavers to Mom’s pergola that Dad put in four years ago. Note the gaps between them.
Dad wouldn’t allow Tim to fill in the gaps with cement. He wanted to do it himself, because Dad used physical labor to distract and exhaust himself and take his mind off the knowledge that someday he’d die. He put off filling the gaps when he had knee surgery, but even after he recovered, he never returned to this unfinished project. Dad always had to have multiple things going at once.
I’m now convinced that people do this because they’re afraid to die. They can’t stand even a second of silent introspection.
On January 16, 2013, I went to see the parents after they came back from the doctor’s office. I found Dad frying a mass of potatoes he’d grated into large, rounded, weirdly silver shreds. It looked like he was cooking a pan of guppies.
“We’ve got cancer,” he said. Then he dumped about two pounds of grated cheddar, Swiss, and jack cheese onto the fried potatoes, gluing it into a circular mass about nine inches in diameter and three inches thick. He cut it in half, put it on two plates, and served Mom. I sat at the table telling them how sorry I was and that we’d be there for them and they’d beat it. They concentrated on their potatoes fried in butter and covered with over an inch of melted cheese.
Mom stopped eating before she went into the hospital for her initial cancer surgery on April 4, 2013. As I began to suspect that she’d kill herself the way Dad did, I tried to entice her with things she hadn’t had before. Dad prepared all the meals, which were Midwestern Stick to Yer Ribs: bacon and eggs, fatty beef roasts, steaks, burgers, baked ham, hot dogs, potatoes, ham and cheese sandwiches on sourdough bread with mayonnaise, mixed frozen vegetables, canned soups, salad drowned in Italian dressing, and ice cream, pie, or cake for dessert.
A couple of days before her surgery, I cooked Mom a meal of lean ground beef with pepper, paprika, and cumin; broccoli and garlic slivers; unsalted cashews; and steamed rice. She loved it. Over the next six months, as Mom starved herself to death, I tried to bribe her to live by telling her how I’d cook her Japanese food, Chinese food, and Thai food. She’d say that she looked forward to it, and then she wouldn’t eat her breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
On January 16, Dad was morose and Mom was cheerful. In less than a month, Dad was insane, and then he went into a panting, restless coma and died. Mom kept up her cheerfulness until the last three days of her life. Her facade broke and she died in fear, crying and thrashing until she entered her own coma and lay there with her eyes half open.
Everything Tim and I did from January 16, 2013, to October 13, 2013, was for nothing. At the hospital the kitchen called Mom’s room to ask her what she wanted. They cooked her special meals, and she wouldn’t eat them. When we’d visit we’d see these forlorn plates covered with condensation, as the hot meals had cooled into inedible mush.
Mom and Dad are dead. Tim and I have no recourse. When they were alive, we couldn’t get them to see that their actions were almost as destructive to us as they were to themselves. We tried everything, including surreptitiously putting them on psychotropic medication, despite both our parents’ violent opposition to such drugs. Our doctors told us that this wasn’t unethical, since our parents were clearly not in their right minds.
But it haunts us, as does the memory of the day we decided which medications to withhold from Dad so he’d die faster. We’re also haunted because we had to violate mom’s advanced-care directive and tell them that if her heart stopped, no chest compressions were to be given. Chest compressions would’ve broken her ribs, punctured her lungs, and made her final moments even more hellish. The doctors agreed.
Doctors and nurses spoke to us every step of the way. After 2013 my conclusion is that everything we’ve been told about the medical industry and the health-insurance industry is a lie. I met nobody eager to keep our parents alive so that they could make money off them. My sincere wish for those who lie to us is that they themselves someday end up in the hospital bed, choking, thrashing, weeping, and terrified. I saw it happen twice. There’s no better punishment for liars with nefarious agendas.
Which brings me to my point. Though publicizing Ghosts was all for nothing, this time I have recourse, unlike the fruitless attempts to save my parents. Mom and Dad chose to end their lives the way they did. However, these were uninformed choices that came from panic and traumatic formative experiences.
The person I’m going to make famous has no excuses. Her’s not old, sick, afraid, or traumatized. Well, he’s not traumatized yet. Also, Mom and Dad’s decisions were ostensibly about their own manner of dying. Yes, the fallout destroyed the lives of their children, but that wasn’t intentional.
In contrast the person I’m going to make famous went out of his way to study me in order to figure out how best to unsettle me, confuse me, trigger my PTSD-SP, and persuade me to make terrible decisions from which he could profit. His actions were entirely intentional.
Now that I’m thinking more clearly, now that I’ve constructed a detailed timeline of my interaction with the person I’m going to make famous, and now that I’ve enlisted some very powerful allies in the upcoming publicity campaign, the fact that Ghosts and Ballyhoo was killed over the past seven months doesn’t bother me. It’s only a book. True, it’s my best writing, and I had high hopes for it, but there’s a concept that makes this loss bearable. This concept has been stigmatized for no reason that I can see.
Vengeance. I will make him pay for not only for the suffering he inflicted on me, but also for what I suffered as my parents died. He gets to be the scapegoat. Why? Because that’s what I want. The Thomas Wictor he met seven months ago no longer exists. That Thomas Wictor died and was reborn as someone who would’ve scared me a while back.
Last night I went over to Tim’s house to return a key. The neighbors across the street have two little dogs that had been barking for about six hours. They get sad and lonely when their swinish owners leave for the day. The owners pulled up right as I was about to open Tim’s gate, so I made a detour and went across the street.
“Excuse me,” I called from the end of the driveway.
“WHO’S THERE?” the woman screamed.
“I live across the street,” I said, trying not to laugh.
“Oh. What can I do for you?”
“Your dogs have been barking all day, and it’s not going to happen anymore. We’re done with this.”
What followed was a litany of frantic excuses, which I cut off.
“Listen, all that matters is that you’re not going to let your dogs bark all day anymore. That’s over.”
Suddenly Tim was beside me.
“WHO ARE YOU?” the woman screamed.
“I live across the street, and I’m his brother. There will be no more barking dogs, do you understand? We’ve had enough of this.”
The excuses became more blubbery.
“Yes-yes,” I interrupted. “The next step is legal action. Your dogs will not bark all day anymore.”
“You should’ve told me before! I didn’t know!”
“And now you know,” Tim said. “Goodnight.”
As we left, the woman called after me, “You two really scared me!”
I said loudly to Tim, “She’s lying. I called her gently from the end of her driveway. She’s using the ‘I’m just a girl! Don’t be mean to me!’ shit that all abusive bitches fall back on when they’re caught.”
“I know,” Tim said.
Behind us, our neighbor gasped.
That was an impromptu performance on my part. Just imagine what I’ll be like after weeks of planning and preparation.
As a hint of things to come, here’s an e-mail from Basecamp, the method the person I’m going to make famous uses to overwhelm you with information and present the appearance of progress. I’ve blacked out the names. For now.
See the black circle? That’s an avatar with a photo of a face. You know what’s really interesting about Basecamp e-mails when they’re copied and pasted into Microsoft Word? The avatars are reproduced at such a large size that the faces are like those on driver licenses. They’re totally recognizable, in high definition.
Now’s the time for you deckhands on that ship of fools to come forward and give me your side of the story. Soon it’ll be too late, because your boss made a lot of really stupid mistakes. You’ll be tied forever to the person I’m going to make famous. Do you really want to be as famous as he’ll be?
Note the date on the e-mail. The person I’m going to make famous read everything I wrote and tailored his campaign—not the book campaign but the Empty Thomas Wictor’s Pockets Campaign—to what was going on inside me. Here’s what I’d written on August 13, 2013.
It was time to hit me up with another bogus progress report. Hey, send me a progress report now, why don’t you? Maybe I’ll believe it and drop my campaign to make you famous, _______.
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