15 February 2016

A few family memories, etc.

Dear diary,

Cows and chickens. Franchise businesses. Pervasive advertisements.

Computers, gadgets, money, speed, warfare, information, energy.

My dad named his personal philosophy “The What-if Theory.” (I could never figure out how it differed from plain old worrying.)

Tractors and trailers… long-haul trucking… locomotives…

Father was a small business owner; grandfather was a farmer. But, also, father, before starting his business (with money inherited from grandfather’s death) worked as a dispatcher for a freight company: he fielded calls from drivers who were stuck at different locations in the U.S. and guided them to where they needed to go. Sometimes he’d be handling two dilemmas at once, on two phone receivers: “one in each ear.” It was a stressful job.

And, before that, he drove a milk truck.

Grandfather, in addition to farming, worked as a railroad engineer. At least, that’s how I understand it. He drank heavily; and I’ve been told that he’d bring prostitutes into the house, even when his wife was home—and he’d beat his wife, whom we grandchildren know as grandma. By “farming,” I mean that he and grandma cultivated the land surrounding their house: they grew many types of vegetables. And he would purchase cows for meat, to feed the family. He would slaughter each beast himself. He’d also sometimes buy sheep.

My knowledge about my grandfather is incomplete, and often comes from his enemies (his children: my father, uncles and aunt).

My dad once said to me, “I do not like to eat mutton, because those creatures are so cute and gentle.” I never understood this; for I see cows as equally gentle, but my dad loves to eat beef. Maybe cows just aren’t cute enough?

But back to grandfather. Grandfather was always dissatisfied (to put it lightly) with the quality of livestock that the cow dealers had to offer—upon inspecting the trailer that transported them, he would complain about how the beasts were covered in filth.

Jesse (that’s grandfather’s name) was always cussing and swearing. Maxine (grandma) always feared that if she said the wrong thing, “Jesse will start to fuss”—that’s her exact phrasing, I remember it clearly. …Nature can take comfort in the fact that these predilections for cussing, swearing, and fussing were passed on faithfully thru the family’s genes to me, Jesse’s grandchild Bryan.

But I don’t do any of the other awful things that my grandfather did. Those responsibilities must be upheld by my siblings and cousins. I lack the courage to pledge my soul to alcohol.

Yet I’m fed up with modern technology. I’m almost ready to join the Luddites. Not that I’d ever damage anyone’s property; I only mean that I want to move to a desert and live in a hut and grow my own…

My own what? Beetroots? Peas? Radishes?

Why? To avoid starvation? …Yet why not starve: then it’ll all be over!

But it’s painful to starve, just like it’s painful to break the rules, the law, the traditions; to thwart the powers that be… It’s hard to kick against the pricks. (Acts 26:14)

What if there were a clean body of water somewhere, and you could just cast out a net and retrieve seafood. You could feed your family on fresh fish. I wonder how long I could last on this diet before I got tired of it. I think I’d be happy until the day that God reeled me back into heaven. But I’m usually wrong about…

Honestly speaking, I’m usually wrong about most guesses; especially the ones that stem from sentimental optimism.

Last evening I watched a silent movie from the early 1900s. It was about a rich family that went on an ocean cruise; and their boat crashed, so they were forced to live on an unsettled island for a little while. At one point, the rich old father of the family, intending to take a nap, rested his head against what he thought was a large rock, which turned out to be a sea turtle.

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