[Ed.note 2013: D3buck’s S0d Farm does indeed exist in Mid-Michigan and the same sign I saw over 20 years ago still exists, just gets the occasional paint refurbishment. A year or two after this piece was published, I started getting harassing emails from the family demanding I take everything down off the Internets because it was a liability to their business and they were losing tens of thousands of dollars a year and additionally, were threatening to take me to court. I told them to go ahead and start getting the litigation together and to call me when they were ready to proceed, which of course never happened. I had also explained that at the time, the piece was hosted on dozens if not hundreds of servers around the Internet as mirrors for the original F.U.C.K. site, so even if I took my piece down, I could not control the rest of the internet. The original piece at F.U.C.K. removed the text name and replaced it with an image, with no alt title to make it unsearchable. I’m doing something similar here.]
This one is for my grandfather, John Preiss, whom I love and miss dearly.
When thinking about all the poetry, prose, essays, and short stories that I have written, mainly in the last few years, I realized that I have never mentioned my family. Not one instance of my relationships with any of my relatives, save my younger brother. I do believe I mentioned my family’s long history of mental illness in a piece I wrote, but other then that, not one peep about anything. As far as anyone is concerned, I was hatched by aliens, which would work for me.
I am writing this piece about my grandfather because of how much I love him and regret not doing the things I wanted to do with him before he passed on. Sometimes I hate human nature. How we are always rushing around, gotta do this, and we have to do that. And we miss out on smelling the roses, doing the little things like seeing the world around us, and seeing people we haven’t seen in years….
Living only 2 hours from my grandfather in these last few years, I always promised on going to see him. If anyone out of my fucked up family, he would be the one I would want to see. And something always came up: a new job, a new boyfriend, a trip somewhere more exciting then going back home to Port Huron, a pissant little town above Detroit.
If you can’t tell by now, I have absolutely hated where I grew up. For a town of 30,000 people, it was like living in a town of 300 people. Everyone knew each other, their families had all grown up together, all partied together, got in trouble together and fucked together. Even now its the same way. My cousin Kevin is a good example of that. He has become sort of a ‘infamous’ figure in the area (at the tender age of 18) for dealing drugs. He knew the younger brothers and sisters of the people I grew up with, who were the kids of the people our parents grew up with. Rumors flew hot and heavy in the area when I stepped into town, even though I hadn’t lived there for 10 years.
No one has changed, its still white trash, eeking out a life working at taco bell or super-k. The big excitement came when they opened up a mall in the area that had a Mervyns as one of the corner stores. Everyone smokes pot, drinks heavily and pops valium like its going out of style. This is my family. I come from these people?
Growing up, people always said that I was “just like Jack (my grandfather)”. It was considered an insult to have this said to you. I took it as a compliment. Out of my whole family, my grandfather was the only “real” person there. Sure he had a fucked up life, was an alcoholic, did crazy things (like burn 12 cords of wood in the fireplace in ONE weekend). But he was real, he was alive, he did what he wanted, not giving a shit about what others thought of him.
I remember being a little tot, family meetings being held in our main living room. All 7 of my grandfathers children (with appropriate spouses) would convey occasionally to figure out “what to do with him”. You see, my grandmother had died in November of 1972, when I was five months old. My grandmothers death prompted my mother to leave my father, and move us to Port Huron. After my grandmothers death, my grandfather had a nervous breakdown, which ended up with him in a mental hospital for a few years.
After that episode (I had recently found out that he had been in one in the late 50’s to early 60’s after he had caused a death in a drunk driving incident), he had gone “crazy”. My grandfather was the epitome of the typical immigrant in those days. Illiterate, obnoxious, bigoted, loud mouth, heavy drinker. His own children shunned him. Those damn “meetings” were about getting him out of trouble at various senior living places, lawsuits for shoddy work he had done, his temper, and every other fallacy known to man. He was a “disgrace”, he was “dangerous”, and he was “crazy”.
Now despite my fucked up, materialistic family way of seeing things, my grandfather had great charm. He loved all his grandkids. He never forgot any of our birthdays, Christmas’s or special events. His “obnoxious” charm grew on people, and he was forever having people over to our house. He was protective of his own children, even though they seemed to disrespect him. I remember when one of my mothers boyfriends took to stalking her in the early 70’s. My grandfather was like a mother lion with her cub, he threw the guy off our property and told him that if he came back, he would beat the shit out of him. That was the last we ever saw of the ex-boyfriend.
There are so many memories I have of growing up with my grandfather. He lived with us for the better part of younger years, and was essentially the father I never had. Sure my sperm donor lived in Toronto, a mere 3 hour car ride from us, but I never saw him but for the every odd year in the months that end in “y”.
Regardless, the images of what I grew up with what a man should be and obviously, from the looks of it, it wasn’t good. But regardless, I loved my grandfather, as he was more real then the shallow children (including my own mother) he produced.
On December 23, 1996, I got a call from my Aunt Jackie that my grandfather had passed away in his sleep. He was 84 years old. The last time I had seen him (that November), he had shriveled away to almost nothing. He was listless, not eating, and weighed only 140+ pounds on his once 6’4 frame.
He was STILL trying to get out of the nursing home they had him in. He was loudmouth, he had spirit and he was full of life. Nothing could ever get him down.
I left Christmas day for the funeral. There was hardly any snow on the the drive in, though the closer I got to Port Huron, the more nostalgic I got about growing up there. I passed by familiar exits: Flint, Imly City, Capac, Goodles. Got pulled over by an anal retentive cop for speeding. No ticket. Merry Christmas to me.
My aunts all looked like stuffed turkeys: fat and shiny. I felt awkward being with them. I have never gotten along with my family, there has always been some tension between me and a majority of my family, but yet I was the favorite of all the grandkids. Never figured that one out.
A lot of family I hadn’t seen in five years, ten years were there. “You look just like your mother!”. Fuck. Just what I needed. Some of the older relatives actually “thought” I WAS my mother. Shocking, considering I can’t stand my egg donor.
The funeral wasn’t what I would have done, if I was in charge. My grandfather looked fake, and plastic with his stitched up mouth and eyes. The fake smile, the filling in of teeth when he had been toothless for a better part of my life. My aunts and uncles, being the idiots they were, joked about putting a tiny Kroger shopping cart in the casket, symbolizing how he used to walk around with his junk in a shopping cart around the city. He lost his drivers license after the drunk driving accident, and that shopping cart became the mainstay in his life.
I didn’t cry. I couldn’t cry. Family members, old family friends asked me about my brother, the state basketball star or my mother, the superwoman. To them, I was just a waste. The trouble maker. The worthless person who had everything going, and fucked it all up. I was the female version of my grandfather.
My cousins Kevin, Shelly and I went out to Shelly’s car and got high. I heard family gossip about how Shelly’s dad was going over to Kevin’s house, getting high. All the siblings getting together recalling their life with their dad, drinking cheap beer and getting high off the pot my cousin sold.
The stories I wasn’t privileged to hear till then. My mother was miss goody two shoes, the back bone of the family, taking care of her 6 younger brothers and sisters while growing up, and I was her ‘disappointment”.
And the hypocritical thing, was that all the awful things they said about me, were not true. Well, majority of them were true. My cousin shelly related news about ME, regardless of the fact that I had not seen her in over five years. And here was my “family” busily discussing about my coke habit (funny, i never touched coke) while my uncle used to deal coke heavily. A few of my aunts were dealing pot as well, but yet I was the big druggie. Other stories filtered in about acid use, orgies, all the good stuff. The funny thing, that is about their LIFE, and they said it was mine.
At the actual funeral, the man who spoke about my grandfather was a baptist minister. My grandfather was raised catholic, though he hadn’t been to church in years, and more or less was an atheist. Regardless, my grandfathers general comment to the minister when he would come visit him would be “So what do you ‘really’ do for a living?”. har har.
The whole service was short and cheap. The “minister” said about 15 words about my grandfather and spent the rest of his “speech” trying to win converts to his church. I eyed everyone with disgust. They all weeped and hung on to the preachers words. My grandfathers casket was closed and flowers were laid over it. In the funeral possession to the graveyard, I was squashed in the backseat of my aunts car. Three of the aunts were all arguing about my grandfathers watch, which was supposed to be taken off his wrist before the casket was closed. Their voices started escalating higher and higher, till finally i pitched my cigarette out the window, and in a calm but stern voice told them to shut the fuck up. They fell silent.
We left the graveyard and drove to a small church for “brunch” or however they were disguising the buffet they were serving. I didn’t talk to anyone, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I didn’t want to sit on the hard folding chair, pushing my potato salad around. Suddenly what I wanted was to be home, drinking. Heavily.
A blizzard had hit the area hard that weekend. The aunt I was staying with begged me to stay over a few days extra because of the weather. My flight instinct was calling me strong. I drove to her place clear across town, picked up my stuff and drove home that night.
The minute I got back into my hometown, i stopped at the liquor store and bought a fifth of vodka. I didn’t care what brand. Drove to my parents house and got ahold of my brother. One of his best friends deals drugs, so I bought a quarter bag of pot. Drove home, ignored my roommate/fuck toy/love of my life. Got out of my clothes and into something more comfortable, and started drinking.
I didn’t stop till I finished that whole bottle.
I continued in that manner until the bottle was gone. My roommate/fuck toy/love of my life drove and bought another fifth. Together we finished that one, and purchased one more which is still sitting in the freezer today. In between all the drinking, rolling joints and smoking them while sitting on irc blasting people left and right.
And I have never talked about my grandfathers death.
What he meant to me.
How I felt.
I just drank that whole weekend, getting high. And the unusual part is that I had not gotten high since november, and the last time before that was nearly two years before. Drinking, hell, when I turned 21, I drank like a fish, and one night it hit me I was following the patterns for the rest of my oddball family, so I more or less stopped drinking except for when I went to clubs. And I never bought alcohol *ever*. So I “knew” something inside of me, snapping like a spiders web, was having me behave in this manner.
After this binge, I never brought up anything since then nor have I drank but for a few occasional time.
I don’t live in Michigan anymore, but in the sunny state of california. I called various relatives to let them know I had moved. Short, terse conversations with me relaying my new contact information. They didn’t ask how I was, they didn’t ask what I was doing. Did nothing but bitch moan or complain about their lives, their worthlessness. I shivered and I hung up. Received a letter from my egg donor today. She forwarded all my mail not making it through. I haven’t read her letter. Don’t know if I want to.
I miss my grandfather, proud to be like him, proud to be alive and wanting do things differently. Even if it means no acceptance from my family. Fuck ’em and feed ’em fishheads. No rice, no beans.
And what I will always remember, is driving along I-69, passing the green fields, and the big sign that said “DeBucks Sod Farm” painted on a the side of a hay bale. To me, the endless green of new hay growing, the contrast of the earth, the blue sky melting in the back, is the perfect metaphor for my grandfathers life.
I love you grandpa, hope you are okay wherever you are.
June 4, 1997