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Updated on August 12, 2013



Some two years later, following mom's "Psalms Thirty-Four, Eighteen" episode (reference previous Hub, "A Mom's Dementia" published 4/19/08) much had changed but, Lord, was I unraveling into a mess.

Within the space of two years, too many negative events collided simultaneously in too brief a time... I had had my psychological cage rattled by a terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia, I'd been deployed into an active combat zone during the Bosnian war, where killing fields and snipers were all the rage. My drinking, always denied, had become ridiculous and severe. A selfish extra-marital affair, which at the time some how was supposed to bring my emptiness comfort, instead brought pain to innumerable victims, most notably my then-wife and our infant son. Dangerous sexual forays, bankruptcy, unemployment; the list was unrelenting in it's reluctance to end and continued down ridiculous avenues and boulevards.

I didn't know how to settle myself. I didn't know how, or even what would be the point, of simply sitting down, exhaling, and saying, "relax, Reid." I too had ultimately become strung-out upon my own chaos; a chaos which I both fed and fueled, conversely. I had no concept of being ‘settled', and yet with the less I had mentally, emotionally, spiritually and financially the more and more I desired.

I owned the thought-process in which nobody else mattered at all. Moreso, anyone with whom I came into contact either owed me a living, or should have been thankful to be in my presence. I took my military discharge and, with no place really to go, settled in Colorado. An old friend lived there and took me in, welcoming me warmly. Looking back, it's inconsequential that the old friend was the very same woman with whom I had my marriage-ending affair. What is of consequence is that, at that point in my life I was so emotionally ill equipped that I repaid her generosity with lies and half-truths.

And, thus, I severely wounded my old friend's heart.

Somehow I landed an engineering position in what would soon be recognized as a failed telecommunications giant immersed in both high-profile debt and tabloid-worthy scandal. Ironically, that company was a corporate reflection of my own private life; we were perfect for each other.

After only four months in which a nervous national economy systematically assassinated dot-com leaders and high-tech masters, somehow I was able to convince the deeply pocketed senior managers above me to authorize my trans-state transfer to a small satellite location out in Fresno, California.

Whereas the fresh start would be appreciated, no matter how much I masqueraded, I was still a complete mess as a human being. I was simply too immature to be an adult, yet by that point too old to hide behind youthful ignorance anymore.

Yeah, leaving Colorado was bittersweet. And, no, never once did I ever simply breathe.

My first Thanksgiving back in California was the last Thanksgiving that mom would spend alive. She was riddled with cancer and soon would be dead, though nobody knew.

She'd been evicted several months previously and was now residing in whatever provided her shelter, no matter how temporary; an abandoned trailer, a dried out drainage pipe, a field on warm summer nights, beneath an overpass on the cold or rainy ones. Mom contended that it was a "good score" if she remained in a single place for a week without the hassle of "negative, creepy people" or the cops, whom, she considered her "secret street friends." Mom insisted that the frequent moves were inconvenient but reasoned that the police had a job and ‘secretly' supported her. I never knew if she was serious, or just attempting to make light of a horrible situation; you know, laughter being the best medicine and all. Still though, she never faltered, even while the police were escorting her (usually under threat of trespassing charges) from whichever spot she, her feline fan club, and that tattered old handbag had been momentarily squatting as home (what she could not carry in her bag, she stuffed into her nearby storage unit.)

Eventually, mom managed the art of street networking and survival. She became skilled at somehow puppeteering complete strangers into donating enough cash so that she could feed her collection of strays. She rarely fed herself and on top of it all, whatever money remained she usually mailed off to some fat, slick-talking radio evangelist(a tiny battery-powered a.m. transistor radio was one of her few luxuries.)

In the end she had only herself, as do we all. Hence, she had no choice but to be strong. She maintained as tight a grip on her faith as possible, but towards the end even that faltered a bit. I remember when she accidentally slipped out of character and sidelined God. Rather acknowledging all events as having been pre-ordained, as was her custom, she instead spoke candidly about her plight:

"Homeless survival is a pretty predictable science; just a game of odds and chance."

This was the most honest statement I remember her making while living on the streets; everything else was either religious fluff or paranoid conspiracies. Yet, even amidst the depression and the dementia, she knew that her precious cats would ‘love' whomever fed them, and that God was apparently not answering all prayer requests submitted.

"Praise the Lord!" she mumbled as a sort of disenchanted after thought. "Praise God."

After almost a year of homeless, could she have actually adapted to her circumstances? After losing nearly all of what little she possessed in the first place, could she have actually been evolving into one of those vagabonds who regarded disassociation from conventional nuclear living with a sense of emancipated liberation?

After almost a year of homeless, where had all of her tears gone?

While my acceptance of her reality could only be likened to an ostrich with its head plunged into the sand, she drew upon strengths I came to appreciate only after her passing.

I still remember the collect telephone calls, one after the other in rapid-fire secession, filled with ranting and frenzied tears, terrified howls and pleading throughout the days after her initial transition into homelessness. I was in shock, as was she.

Unbelievably, I turned my back and pretended that nothing was happening on eviction day. I choose to do nothing because it was all so surreal and completely unbelievable to me.

My lack of action was soon reconstituted into resentment and anger. Rather than being angry at myself for my own cowardice in having turned away, for some reason I redirected my anger off onto her; boy, talk about kicking someone when they are down.

When mom telephoned on Thanksgiving Day, collect as usual, I don't know why I was so cruel. I don't know what I intended to prove, or how I stood to gain anything by choosing words so poisonous and so contemptuous as to reduce an old woman who had absolutely nothing to an isolated weeping wreck. However, I did and it took only about a minute.

No matter what I'd previously assumed, up until that day, somewhere in my early thirties, clearly I was not a man, nor had I ever been. That day was my lowest low-point and it was apparent that within me there existed very little, if any, humanity whatsoever.

I had finally become a monster.


/ / / / END OF PART FIFTEEN / / / /


© 2007 - R. MARTIN BASSO


Part 16 - A Little More Time Could Easily Have Been Stolen.


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