Thursday, May 31, 2012

Leave It

My hatred for Baltimore, Maryland, is a classic case of displacement in the worst kind of way- and as I've written before, my Catholic ancestors arrived from Scotland and fanned out from Maryland toward Kentucky. Lord Baltimore's ambition to provide a safe haven in the New World for British Catholics brought them there, and for that I am grateful. It's just what happened during my senior year of high school that I'm not prepared to forgive...and for the record, I'm not entirely clear on the more sordid details. Some things, I think, are better left in the past.

Most of us have a locale of some kind embedded in memory that evokes something profoundly unpleasant, almost wrenchingly so. For me, it's Baltimore. Although I've flown over it many, many times aboard a plane, I will never willingly visit there if it can possibly be avoided- I've actually paid more for airline tickets to be routed elsewhere, rather than literally set foot in Baltimore. Perhaps I could tolerate the city, but believe me when I say that on pain of death I will not visit the campus of Johns Hopkins. Ever.

I really detest Johns Hopkins because of the negative association, although late last fall semester I swallowed that gall and prepared to correspond with their archivist for in order to obtain the physics course descriptions from their 1986 catalog. For one reason, and one alone, would I do it...because I'm on a mission to right the wrong, to repair the damage that was done by one arrogant boy delivering his farewell speech to a very foolish girl on a foggy, muggy morning in early June, 1986.

In short, I'd do it to mend my own heart.

Someone I know dropped a casual remark this week about not going to a certain city to dig up bones while he was in another state on business. I know the rest of the story...and I understood more of the backstory than was really good for my relationship with him back when we were an item. My reply this time was simple: "I feel the same way about Baltimore."

A couple of days later, he posted a nostalgic photo of himself with the lady in question. That's a rabbit hole from which it's impossible to emerge unscathed. Inasmuch as it would be clear to a blind person that he'll always be in love with her, it's also clear to me that he'll always torture himself with the 'coulda, shoulda, woulda' of it.

We had a lot in common, but the lingering personal relationship ghosts on both sides proved a bit of a wedge. There were other things, too, but I don't feel like beating him or me up about it. I just wish we'd both had enough sense to learn one of the first basic commands that I taught my female Airedale, Sister: leave it.

Sometimes you have to drop it on the ground and just leave it. Your sanity will thank you later.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Random Axe(s) of Unkindness

So, The Boyfriend hit the door last night having worked all weekend and then been asked to cover an additional three hours ( thus giving up the last bit of the holiday) so that "people who have children" could enjoy Memorial Day "with their families". That was bad enough, but you can imagine my surprise when he came through the door and informed me, "He was running through the woods, chasing me with an axe."

He was a little...upset...and you would be, too, if you'd just spent a couple of hours being chased around the woods in ninety-five degree heat by a hatchet-wielding mentally challenged man with whom you have to work one-on-one every day.

The Boyfriend works for a residential caregiving agency that deals with mentally challenged adults. This particular client's behavior has been ramping up for a couple of weeks, culminating in this horror-movie outtake in the woods of rural Kentucky. Basically, the client decided that he wanted to 'go hiking' and was armed with a small hatchet (I use a machete, myself) to clear underbrush as he hiked. An hour or so out in the middle of nowhere, he wheeled around on The Boyfriend, brandishing the hatchet, and announced that he knew that they were lost, The Boyfriend would do whatever he (the client) wanted, or ELSE.

Did I mention that The Boyfriend is a blackbelt? It was a deliberate attempt to provoke him into striking the client, who knows that this would result in criminal charges, not to mention termination. His life would've been immediately and permanently destroyed if he'd been forced to disarm the client.  This guy is a squirrel; he's ruined several lives and gotten a number of employees fired from this organization using these wiles. He's also toured almost all of these agencies in the state...he never stays long, because either he demands to leave or they kick him loose to spread the joy of his presence to other care agencies. He is not Mister Popularity. He's dangerous, not just in the physical sense.

The Boyfriend is also a social worker by trade and education, so his response to the threat was to say, "No," and walk away. When he got home, it was a different story: he was supposed to return to that client's residence for an overnight shift. He called his supervisor and told him,"You need to find somebody else. I am really too angry to discuss it right now, and I will explain when I turn in my timesheet tomorrow...but I am not working with that client tonight." Strangely, and fortunately, his boss did find someone else to take the shift. He was still sort of wound up when he finally went to bed a hot bath, dinner, and a couple of beers later.

They did have a little chat this morning about it, during which The Boyfriend brought up the matter of the hatchet. After his boss collected his jaw off the floor, plans were made to address the situation. I don't know about you all, but I'm relieved that the client didn't plant that hatchet in The Boyfriend's skull- especially since he's paid minimum wage without benefits to work for this outfit. It's making fast food look like a really great career choice by comparison.




Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let's Get Physical (Or Not, If It Can Be Avoided)

So with enrollment at Western Kentucky University comes the physical education requirement.

Yes, that's right: you have to take PE. In my case, had my parents ever relented, I would've transferred and happily fulfilled that requirement with marching band. My sister passed Western's bowling class with flying colors. There's a wide variety of stuff that you can take to knock this out, but...most of these courses are not designed for middle-aged folk like me.

I've been doing a little armchair quarterbacking per Hopkins' enrollment down there and the latest thing is the PE class. I suggested, tongue-so-in-cheek that it was practically coming out my ear, that he take "organized drowning", a.k.a. swimming. Among the great many things that I know- and wish that I could forget in order to make room for important stuff- is that he can't swim. He reminded me of that, along with the fact that he found the prospect of donning swim apparel rather daunting, if not unkind to others who might be in that class (he said it, I didn't).

As I read it, I let out a quickly muffled whoop of laughter, because I know something y'all don't know: while I am pale, pasty, sunburns-immediately, descended-from-redheads fair, he makes me look like JLo by comparison. He's one of those brunettes whom Goths emulate with black hair dye and pale foundation. Anyone who gets within twenty yards of him at the pool will be summarily blinded by the glare. I'll give him credit; his self-deprecation and our combined sarcasm painted a Speedo joke that is never going to see the light of day.

Try to remember that this is someone about whom I care very deeply, but there are some things so obvious that you just can't give them a pass. Hopkins, quite frankly, glows in the dark.

So, swimming is out and we've been casting about for a class. The two that have really caught his eye are shockingly martial: archery, which is in conflict with a class offered at only one time and which he has to have for his major, and marksmanship. He grew up on a farm and although it has never been directly discussed, I'm fairly secure in the assumption that he's used a firearm before...although probably not a handgun. What evolved out of this was a little friendly competition: I was trained to use a handgun before my age reached double digits, and I have a concealed deadly weapons permit. I gathered from the roughly ten e-mails we exchanged on this score that he's certain that if I can learn to shoot, so can he. Anything you can do/I can do better/I can do anything/better than you...

The other thing that came out in the course of this is his sense of humor. His sister believes that he doesn't have one, but I've apparently witnessed a few things about him that others have missed (for example, I also know that he can and will, if motivated, sing). He imparted at one point that the only fencing at Western is in the Ag department...to which I replied, "And we all know that you're not going within two hundred yards of the Ag department on pain of death." He was seriously over farming and livestock well before he was able to escape from it.

It'll be interesting to see what he chooses. He thought Tai Chi looked a bit interesting, but put the kibosh on it when he found out that it crosslisted as a theatre class. Anyway, there are all kinds of options- just not really very many that appeal to him. I guess if he can't make up his mind, there's always online walking!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Down to the Wire and Close to the Bone

Hopkins and I have been having a bit of a difference of opinion about the relevance of taking humanities and social sciences courses. Now that he's back in school, he seems to have a real fire under his butt about getting out as fast as possible- and in his milieu (programmers of the world, UNITE!) math is *it* and everything else is superfluous. Well, almost everything. He still reads space operas, something that I find oddly comforting after so many years...including a series that features a protagonist who, in his words, is a 'deadly librarian'. The resident deadly librarian appreciates that, but, nonetheless, I really wanted him to take a literature class. Or a history class. Or something, anything, that pushed him out of his comfort zone, and that he didn't necessarily know from rote.

Let me interject here that it also annoys me that he has such a disdain for the humanities and social sciences- particularly since yours truly has two history degrees and I'm preparing to work on a third. You can't make someone value things that they don't care about, in the same vein that you can't make somebody love you who doesn't; however, I find this mildly intractable attitude indicative of an education that is somewhat lacking. I've made the point that he is attending a university, albeit a regional state school and not the elite competitive East Coast school at which he originally matriculated, ergo there are expectations that he will take courses outside his major so that he emerges on the other side a more well-rounded (yes, dare I say it, educated) person. I've lost the argument thus far, and concluded my most recent statements in the matter with a threat that I'll come down there and personally kick his tail if he blows the Western Civ II CLEP.

The other side of this is that yes, at this juncture, time is rather of the essence. We are no longer as young as we once were...the whole 'earning a living' thing is sort of important. Be careful what you wish for, because this blew up as a nasty exchange over whose fault it was that he didn't have the credentials necessary to advance in his field (his, having been sent down in 1987). The faster he acquires the credentials, the faster he can get a better job, and in some ways, I think, feel a lot less insecure about a great many things. I don't begrudge him that and it's also partly my fault.

If his credit-by-examination plan succeeds, he will graduate this December. It's been a long and circuitous route, but at least he'll have his bachelors' degree. Whatever will I do when he finally flies the nest at last? Survive. Exist. Continue...as I have done these many years in between.