The Tale of Sir Big Dad

blog-post-apr-1-2015-coat-of-arms

Nobility is often born, but it does not always happen the way you might think. Certainly one can be born into a noble house (One can have nobility conferred upon oneself, but that’s not really being born is it)  As I discovered this last week, however, there is another way nobility is created, and as in tales of old, mine involves cunning, dedication, and even a dragon.

Once upon a time a few years ago, the Big Guy and I opened our oil bill and, after finding out no one wanted to buy our used body parts, designed a house that didn’t need oil or propane.  We ended up building a cave – a house buried on three sides, powered mostly by sun and heated by our Kitchen Queen.

To the casual observer, Kitchen Queen may look like an ordinary cast-iron wood cookstove, but she is really a dragon.  Now, you may not know this because dragons get a bad rap in a lot of books and movies, but most of them – such as Kitchen Queen’s black and chrome variety – are actually quite friendly.  Kitchen Queen, for example, keeps a fire burning in her belly, usually using it to heat our water and bake goodies.

Once in a while, however, the gremlins that live in our utility room get restless, and the water in Kitchen Queen’s heating box fails to circulate.  She builds up steam, and then (she’s a very lady-like dragon) she’ll blow off the steam in a long low squeal (she swears its a burp).

Last weekend the gremlins got restless.

The sun was setting when a few bubbly burps escaped KitchenQueen.  We figured she would blow off a little steam and then the water would circulate again and all would be well, so we went back to cartoons.  KitchenQueen burped again and then fell to grumbling about something.  Suddenly she roared and blasted the wall with steam from her backside.

The Big Guy rose from the recliner, trying to soothe KitchenQueen for moment before arming himself with a screwdriver and charging into the utility room. An accomplished DIY-er, the Big Guy fearlessly flipped switches and pushed buttons on the machinery that converts sun to electricity and the gadgets that pull water from the well to the house.

Back he went to Kitchen Queen to see what was causing her to alternately circulate water and then hold it to convert to steam, but his close inspection offended her sensibilities, and instead of a burp, this time she wet her pants.  All over the kitchen floor.  Seriously. There was a two-inch deep puddle from one end of the kitchen to the other.

 

blog-post-apr-1-2015-there-be-dragons-web

Ironically, the gremlins had rendered us not powerless but waterless. Thus began a series of labours so terrifying even Heracles would have thought twice (the Big Guy even had to get out the owner’s manuals).  The pump in our well was disabled, but, the Big Guy soon realized the real test would be keeping toilets flushing and family mentally sound as we waited for the parts for the repair to arrive.

For the better part of a week, he hauled wood with fourteen-year-old Thing1 and water from a neighbor’s with the aid of eight-year-old Thing2 (still hobbling with a cane, I offered little but financial support).  Without complaint and surviving on rations of oatmeal and microwaved dinners on paper plates, the Big Guy nurtured the family spirits while navigating the logistics of waterlessness and getting up for work at the usual time.

It was near nightfall when the part arrived a week later, and the Big Guy and the plumber pulled out the well pump for a repair that took less than a couple hours.  The plumber left, and the Big Guy pushed buttons and flipped switches until the gremlins were thoroughly vanquished.  We fed and watered Kitchen Queen and celebrated victory with scalding showers.

In honor of Big Guy’s pluck last week, I created (birthed, if you will) a new noble but ‘Unholy Order of the Eternal Missing Sock’.  I immediately indulged in a bit of nepotism and conferred the knightly (that’s a word, right?) title of ‘Sir Big Dad’ on the Big Guy.  Now as we happily take hot showers for granted again, I’m more sure than ever that there is courage – and even nobility – in laughing through the everyday battles that keep a family going when they’re ready to tear out their very dirty hair.

As a great philosopher once said, “You might think I’m a nutcase, but I’m not the only one.”  And, if your family, like a good candy bar, has one or two nuts in it that have kept you going through a domestic disaster, you might be ready to join us.  Mismatched socks optional.

Ironically, the gremlins had rendered us not powerless but waterless. Thus began a series of labours so terrifying even Heracles would have thought twice (the Big Guy even had to get out the owner’s manuals).  The pump in our well was disabled, but, the Big Guy soon realized the real test would be keeping toilets flushing and family mentally sound as we waited for the parts for the repair to arrive.

For the better part of a week, he hauled wood with fourteen-year-old Thing1 and water from a neighbor’s with the aid of eight-year-old Thing2 (still hobbling with a cane, I offered little but financial support).  Without complaint and surviving on rations of oatmeal and microwaved dinners on paper plates, the Big Guy nurtured the family spirits while navigating the logistics of waterlessness and getting up for work at the usual time.

It was near nightfall when the part arrived a week later, and the Big Guy and the plumber pulled out the well pump for a repair that took less than a couple hours.  The plumber left, and the Big Guy pushed buttons and flipped switches until the gremlins were thoroughly vanquished.  We fed and watered Kitchen Queen and celebrated victory with scalding showers.

In honor of Big Guy’s pluck last week, I created (birthed, if you will) a new noble but ‘Unholy Order of the Eternal Missing Sock’.  I immediately indulged in a bit of nepotism and conferred the knightly (that’s a word, right?) title of ‘Sir Big Dad’ on the Big Guy.  Now as we happily take hot showers for granted again, I’m more sure than ever that there is courage – and even nobility – in laughing through the everyday battles that keep a family going when they’re ready to tear out their very dirty hair.

As a great philosopher once said, “You might think I’m a nutcase, but I’m not the only one.”  And, if your family, like a good candy bar, has one or two nuts in it that have kept you going through a domestic disaster, you might be ready to join us.  Mismatched socks optional.

 

Overheard

cartoon---criminally-insane

 

 I about 15 or 16 the first time I realized that everyone else in the world did not walk around thinking about suicide at least once a day. The revelation came after a school assembly on the subject when our class was herded into separate rooms where intimate groups of 50 or so giggling, super-sensitive teenagers were invited to play a quiet game of True Confession.

The assembly leaders asked us if any of us had ever contemplated taking her own life, and I raised my hand. I was only one dumb enough to do it.  My candor earned me a private session with one of the leaders who assured me I wasn’t normal and offered me a pamphlet to a nearby church. I decided not to tell him about the coupon for the box of sleeping pills that I carried in my backpack every day. I decided not to tell anyone because I already had a few labels at that school – ugly, strange – and I wasn’t excited about adding loony tunes to the list.

A few years and suicide attempts later a shrink helped me pin the manic-depressive (as bi-polar disorder was more commonly called back then) label on myself, but it wasn’t something I wore around in public.  I was worried about being able to get a job. I was worried if I ever had kids, I wouldn’t be allowed to keep them. And I worried I’d be put on some kind of government list.

Now the State of Vermont is getting ready to do just that to people with mental illness.  Under the guise of gun safety and protecting people from themselves, they have pushed a law through the senate that will put people with mental illness who have been deemed (by a court) to be a danger to themselves or others on a special FBI ‘pre-crime’ watch list of people who are not allowed to own guns , even though mentally ill people are rarely violent and many may never actually go to buy a gun.

I got a little nervous when I read this.

I’ve been out about my bi-polar situation for many years. It was harder to hide it than be honest about it, but as anyone whose stood at the kitchen counter, gripping a knife during a manic episode and seeing visions of their own amputated wrist can tell you, being a danger to oneself kind of goes with the manic-depressive territory.  I called a shrink the last time that happened, knowing I would find help and a medication adjustment.  I do know that one thing, however, that would keep me from walking into his office and talking openly about an urge to hurt anyone (myself or anyone else) is the fear of getting on some government list.  It might keep me from going at all.

Now, I’m not saying that if I walk into my shrink’s office next week and tell him that voices from the planet Crapulon have told me to kill everybody whose name ends in ’s’ that he shouldn’t report me and take steps to prevent a clear and present danger to someone else (which, by the way is already the law).  He should probably help me get into an institution at that point which would certainly keep me from getting a gun.

I don’t think, however, someone who has never actually committed a crime should be put into some national pre-crime database simply because they are mentally ill and because they might one day buy a gun.

You can call me paranoid to worry about a government that has never passed a law  data to prevent crime or terrorism that ended up drag-netting the private communications and records of thousands of innocent citizens into databases that kept them from getting on planes or had them erroneously detained without counsel before, if they want off the government watch list, requiring them to prove their innocence (and nobody is innocent) because they’ve been assumed guilty, but in my addle-pated mind, nothing says stigma like putting a mentally ill person into a national FBI database.

Never mind that this doesn’t keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people living with mentally healthy people – unless we want to add them to the list. It also doesn’t keep hands out of the hands of mentally ill people who don’t seek help because they don’t trust shrinks – unless we just want to add a random 5.3 million people to the list to be on the safe side (Do you feel safer?).  But it does do something.  By creating a special database just for mentally ill people at the nation’s largest crime investigation organization, it is taking the first step toward classifying them (us) as criminals.   Excuse me, pre-criminals.  I’m not sure if that’s much better.