Thomas Wictor

The pain of cashews and broccoli

The pain of cashews and broccoli

About two weeks before Mom had her cancer surgery on April 4, 2013, she began to starve herself. I’ve written before why she did it. The law of unintended consequences bit us all in the ass: Mom, her parents, the nuns, Tim, me—everybody. Collectively, we were screwed. There’s no recourse. It happened, and it can’t be undone.

In fundamental ways nobody’s to blame, because there was no malice involved. Obliviousness, yes. But nobody intended five-year-old CeeCee to commit suicide eighty years later.

Dad died February 23, 2013, after starving himself for a month. When Mom replicated Dad’s refusal to cooperate, I let her go immediately. Don’t get me wrong; I tried very hard to save her. But in April I already knew she’d die, and I was prepared for it. By then it was self-defense.

As kind of desperate experiment before she went into the hospital, I cooked her a dinner of ground beef, stir-fried broccoli, cashews, garlic, curry powder, paprika, and steamed rice. She loved it and ate every bite. That was one of the last meals she finished in her life.

Now, when I see cashews and broccoli, it’s very painful. I relive Mom’s stubbornness, the resentment I felt, the subsequent guilt, the horror, and the shock of learning that Mike Albee and Lura Dold scammed me by using my parents’ terrible deaths to their advantage. All of those emotions careen through my head in a flash.

At least once a day, I see or hear about something and think, “I have to tell Mom.”

Then it hits me again: She’s dead. Not only that, she killed herself over a nine-month period, if you count her refusal to even begin her dealing with her cancer until Dad went through his aborted treatment first.

My doctor tells me that of all the things that make physical illnesses worse, a death in the family tops the list. Two deaths in the family—both protracted suicides—is an almost incalculably destructive burden to bear.

But when my doctor gave me a month to improve myself, I did. I’m on the mend. Some of it is medication, some of it is a complete change of diet, some of it is exercise, and some of it is my belief that we all get multiple chances at life. That goes against what a lot of people think; it used to go against what I thought. But now I’ve convinced that it’s true.

I believe that my parents will have more cycles in which to learn and improve. In my own completely subjective opinion, their difficult, sad, painful lives were not the only bite at the apple they’ll get. I reject the notion that you only live once. This isn’t whistling past the graveyard. It took me twenty years of study and rumination to make up my mind that all of us are gifted with multiple lifetimes.

To me, this isn’t strange, supernatural, or fantasy. It’s just part of the system. Nature itself is cyclical. Also, the more you learn about a subject, the more you understand. You begin to have insights, and pieces slip into place. Everything I ever questioned is answered by the notion that we come back and live again, over and over.

It’s not necessary for you to agree with me, but this is one of the reasons I can cook cashews and broccoli without losing my mind. Also, I believe that if we’re open to receiving messages, they’ll come. Mom died October 13, 2013, and on October 16, I had the following dream.

Mom and I were on a tour bus trip. She was only about twenty-five, and when we stopped to eat at a restaurant, she said she had to wash her hands. There was a huge Catholic holy water font right inside the front door; it was made of red granite and had a white-tiled interior. Mom climbed in and submerged herself up to her neck, vigorously rubbing her hands together. There was algae at the bottom of the font, beautiful bright green tendrils swaying gently as though in a cold mountain stream.

The water purified Mom. When she got out, she was instantly dry. A waiter seated us, and we ordered mackerel tempura, which she ate with gusto. I was ecstatically thankful.

That’s the only dream I’ve had about Mom since she died. I’ve dreamed about Dad several times. Each dream has been sad or downright awful. In one he cut off my hand with a reciprocating saw. Others are too private to reveal.

After Mom died, Tim received what I think is a message from her. Other than that and my dream, she’s left no trace. I believe that she went on to the next phase. My theory is that there’s a debriefing period before you’re reborn. Mom would’ve aced that, I think. She refused to cooperate with Tim and me because we were her sons. There was too much emotional baggage, especially in my case.

A stranger would’ve been able to help Mom see the light, so I think that’s what happened.

Dad, on the other hand…

Something is still here. I think the way the debriefing works is that it’s voluntary. You can get up and leave any time you want. But you can’t move forward. The only place you can go is back. Either Dad or the part of him that made ghastly choices his whole life is still hanging out here. Lots of really weird, annoying stuff is happening.

In Tim’s house the lamp we’d had for over forty years suddenly broke in three places. One moment it was fine, and the next it was ruined.

I threw away two empty milk jugs over a period of a week, and when I came out to the recyclable bin to toss in some cardboard, the jugs were arranged like this at the bottom.

We didn’t run or clean Dad’s Crown Victoria for months, since we were trying to save Mom. Dad was fanatical about keeping that car spic and span. One day we found all this…mayhem in the dirt on the trunk and rear window of the vehicle, which was behind a locked gate.

My writing chair broke in three places simultaneously: the seat, the swivel joint, and the arm. I was dumped on the floor, landing on my head.

When I got out of the shower, I suddenly spun like a top, and my feet flew out from under me. I managed to avoid splitting my skull on the toilet, but I kicked the lower edge of the bathroom cabinet and folded two toenails in half.

My belief is that people who stay instead of making a complete transition are in a confused dream state, which would explain the sheer bizarreness of what’s going on. I don’t think it’s Dad per se, malevolently choosing to do this really demented crap. He was the most rigid, inflexible person I’ve ever met; I think the debriefing sessions are so hard on him that he runs out of the room and finds himself back home, where he looks for distractions.

“I know! I’ll clean the car! That’s the ticket!”

Then he swipes at it with whatever is in his mind at the time: a fifth of scotch, a rabbit, and a ham sandwich.

Tim and I don’t take it personally. We think this is simply part of the natural process. If he follows us to Texas, though, we’re going to have to have him exorcised.

Seriously, Dad. We’re not kidding. If we’re in our new digs in Austin, and I start spinning, or we hear any more of the Morse code inside the walls, we’re calling in a priest. Okay?

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