Frank 1

This is Frank Beard, my maternal grandmother’s father with his first wife. As far as I know, this is not a drawing. The picture was taken in black and white and then colored in after. We removed it from a frame that was as warped and weathered as the picture; a massive, heavy thing, ornately carved.

If I recall correctly, Frank was married 4 times. The woman pictured, his first wife. She bore him 2 sons before she died. His second was my grandmother’s mother who died when my grandmother was quite young. Frank’s 3rd wife treated my grandmother and her brothers very cruelly. The boys were beaten so severely they passed blood. This woman’s 2 daughters tormented my grandmother while the boys were in the field working alongside Frank. These “wicked stepsisters” dictated to my grandmother and her siblings how much they could eat. Consequently, they were underfed. My grandmother told stories of scrounging for scraps in the chicken yard.

Here’s the thing: Frank was evidently oblivious to all of this. It was not until he was alerted by a cousin, a woman who raised the alarm at the poor condition of his children, that he took action. He divorced Wife Number 3 and married a 4th time. Wife Number 4 proved to be a vast improvement.

I used to put off Frank’s neglect of his children to the times in which he lived. Caring for the brood was “women’s work” and none of his concern. He paid no real attention to the physical condition of his children. Made no notice of the interactions between them. Caught no signs of menace between his wife and her stepchildren. He had to attend to his farm. The day to day of his family passed his notice.

What are we allowing to pass our notice? Apparently quite a bit if the latest news is any indication. What does is say about the times in which we live? What is more important to us than addressing neglect and abuse in our very midst?

It’s said that, on her death bed, Wife Number 3 called Frank to her bedside. She claimed to see a finger writing on the wall so fast that she couldn’t read it. It was giving an accounting of her past sins.

No one knows if Frank forgave her.


He’s likely dead now since it was 36 years ago and I’d reckon him in his late 60’s/early 70’s then. I was 19, home from college. I was visiting as a favor to my mom. He’d been bugging her for months for me to stop over when I came home. He started giving me money when I was in high school; $5.00 here, $10.00 there, when our paths crossed. I didn’t make much of it.

My dad died when I was 13. I thought he was being kind.

“I’d kill a motherfucker over you!” he declared after I’d been sitting on the couch a while. “I’m sure that won’t be necessary,” I replied, surprising myself at my calm. Pornographic material covered the coffee table. Not the high glossy Playboy magazines I’d snuck into the house when I lived at home. Rather it was some particularly raunchy, grainy black and white depictions of beastiality. Women in pointy coned bras whipping each other. Orgies.

I was surprised but not overly concerned for my safety. He scooted into the kitchen for cookies and koolaid. The juxtaposition threw me a bit. I passed on the koolaid. I may have taken a bite of a cookie.

Took me a minute but I put it together. “I have to go,” I said calmly, “I have a date.” Which was true. I’d timed the whole thing to give myself an excuse to leave, not knowing that I’d really need to leave.

He made pretext of “showing me something” in his bedroom before he’d unlock the deadbolt. The key was in his pocket. I firmly refused.

He tried to play coy. Cheerfully declaring that I wouldn’t be able to leave until he was “satisfied.” I calmly but firmly informed him that “if he didn’t open that goddam door, I’d put a chair through his front window” to leave. He actually looked hurt as he unlocked the front door. “When are you coming back?” he called as I walked down the porch steps.

I never saw him again. I now wish I’d reported him. But he had some standing in the community and I didn’t want trouble and I had some vague notion of not wanting to embarrass him further.

But what of his next “guest?” Perhaps someone who was not as confident as I was or as physically imposing. I towered over him. What if the next person was intimidated by the old man’s position in the community?

I put the whole episode behind me and moved on. But I’m reminded now as so many people come out to tell their stories of encounters with sexual predators that he could have tried it again. And that he could have been successful.

And that if he did harm someone, I’m complicit.

Tuesday Is The New Thursday…

… at least this week it is. Shouldn’t come as any surprise after a weekend of flailing at work from the paying job. But at least it pays. The news doesn’t help. After day whatever of Judge Roy Moore and a year of the current presidency, time weighs heavier.

I keep waiting to get numbed by the news. For all of the backbiting and mudslinging, the mendacity and the hubris of very stupid people, to build a callous. Surprisingly, and perhaps thankfully, it doesn’t.

And I try to do my part. I need to contact my state representative about the incredibly reckless legislation currently being proffered to expand firearm use in Michigan. And I need to contact my House Rep over the new tax bill.

It lightens the load a bit.


Time well spent organizing the home office today. I’m tired of the dining room table and I need the additional flat screen.

Threw out a lot paper. Too much paper. Sorted some books I forget I had. Old photos. Old tech.

Some dormant projects I might revive. I wish I knew what I was thinking when I started some of it. Barely makes sense now.

No real money found (about 42 cents). But I turned up some interesting artifacts.

Could really use the money.

Home Front

Back to Michigan tomorrow after a brief sojourn home in St. Louis. Much has changed. A lot of people are missing. A few among the living. It’s strange how important it still is after all of these years to reconnect with familiar surroundings.

I wonder if the context will remain after those remaining have passed on or passed out of sight.

And I realize that it is presumptuous of me to assume that I’ll be the last one standing.

Nature Wants Us Dead

On Monday of this week I dropped my car off for service. It was time for regular maintenance – oil change and tire rotation – and my car’s blower motor was making noise. It rattled on the low setting and it sounded like a prop airplane on high. The dealership informed me that a new motor had to be ordered and that I’d have to wait until today, Tuesday, for repairs to be completed.

I received a call this morning that the root cause of the problem was that a rodent, likely a mouse, had built a nest in and around the blower. Fortunately, after a good cleaning, the original blower performed as quietly as always, which is fortunate, as I’d would have had to pay out of pocket for a replacement. Rodent nests are not covered under warranty. This comes about a month after I had to pay to my sewer line cleared, likely due to tree roots. And with the weather turning cold, we’re beset by earwigs … again.

Nature is invasive and assertive. It’s constantly trying to make us ill, grow into our space, nest where we don’t want it, bite us, sting us, flood us out, poison us, kill us. Nature wants us out of the way. Nature wants us dead so that it can feast on our rotting carcass. There’s always a virus, a spore, a rodent, a storm, a predator, an invasive species waiting to take advantage.

And it really doesn’t matter if we care, if we’re paying attention, who is in office or whether we’re getting along with each other. Nature is just waiting for us to slip up, wait too long, take it for granted.

You’d think we’d learned by now after years of fighting malaria and foot rot and bed bugs and fleas, mold and plague and floods. And earwigs.

But no, we continue to undercut one another, jostle for political position and power while all the while the rodents are moving in.


So I’m watching HBO’s Deadwood again for the umpteenth time. I’m a sucker for good dialogue and Deadwood has some of the best. Not only good scripting but some of the cleverest, and unexpected, word usage I’ve ever experienced, utilized in a Western no less.

Ian McShane is a gift as Swearengen. Ruthless, profane, complicated, and the most self aware and  discerning of all the characters. He doesn’t commit sin. He inhabits it. But he doesn’t kid himself about it.

Besides McShane, Brad Dourif’s Doc Cochran is my next favorite character. Like Swearengen, Cochran is self aware, but he has limits on how far he’ll go. He’s a conscience of sorts to Swearengen. And while he isn’t particularly kind, he is the most humane character on the show.

Humanity seems to be in short supply these days. Self awareness has evaporated into the ether.  Our leaders would rather cling to some modern form of Manifest Destiny rather than admit that they don’t have a clue as to what they’re doing. That they’ve steered into a dead end. And that it’s time to admit that we’ve made a grave electoral error.

I’m not particularly hopeful that this ship will right itself any time soon, if ever. No one seems to be willing to take any real risk in the effort.

Meanwhile I’m content to watch McShane and Dourif ply their trade. Nobody in Deadwood ever kids themselves.

Ice Breaker

Meeting new family can be challenging. What do you talk about? There is no shared history. And current events being what they are, no one is really in a hurry to start in on the news. The first black president has moved on to greener pastures and his successor is continually mired in a scandal a week while simultaneously inspiring America’s most racist impulses.

So you’re left with brief periods of small talk – the weather, traffic, the few friends you may have in common (which you really don’t) and then silences punctuated by sighing and staring off into the middle distance.

And then the meal starts. Tongues loosen, shirt sleeves roll up, collars unbutton and the stories flow. By the time the pots and pans are done, everyone is laughing and backslapping and trading phone numbers. Good food has that effect. Raises blood sugar and communal spirit. Puts people at ease. Sets everyone on a common path.

My great aunt had such a meal today with a branch of her family I know little to nothing about. And I’m still not certain of the connection. But who cares? We have now shared food and have hopefully started our own history.

Wallowing In The Quagmire of Ignorance

“Personal attacks have no place in civil discourse” or so I was taught in high school by Mr. McCollister. He labeled it “Wallowing in the quagmire of ignorance.”

According to my grandfather, somewhere in scripture it says “… if you fall, don’t wallow.” His rejoinder was, “but sometimes wallowing just feels good.” I’ve found the highest expression of this philosophy in the blues.

I have yet to find the scripture he quoted but I did find this:

Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance? Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism? Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn?” – Proverbs 1:22 (Message translation)

A less than ringing endorsement of our current level of public discourse. But there it is. Our most striking example being the very public twitter feud between our current sitting president and Senator Bob Corker. President Trump consistently degrades Corker with the appellation “liddle” and Corker famously compared Trumps Whitehouse to “an adult daycare center.”

If we’re honest about it, most of us don’t mind when someone we don’t like is personally attacked. We enjoy seeing our “enemies” brought low. TV talkshow hosts Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers (to name only a couple) do it regularly and they do it well. They make fun of Trump’s tan, Kelly Ann Conway’s hair, Sebastian Gorka’s beard. The humor is  pointed and it’s usually quite clever and it seeks to bring low those who would set themselves over us. It makes powerful people look ridiculous.

But I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve wallowed long enough. Mr. Mac used to caution that slinging barbs at one another makes us “feel good” but does little to enlighten or illuminate discussion and it closes off dialogue.

Not that people like Trump, Conway, or Gorka would be likely to listen. And talk shows are not the proscribed venues for “civic discourse”.

But the rest of us need start listening to each other if we’re going to get anywhere.

Because even though I hate to admit it, as much as I love Colbert’s monologue and as much as I agree with Corker’s assessment, I have neighbors that believe that Donald Trump is telling the God’s truth.