Inner journey before the flight

When Mom offered to pay my plane fare to Seattle and back for a visit with the family, I said I couldn't come. "Sorry, Mom, but I'm barely above water on income vs expenses. There's no money in the bank or anything, so I gotta stay here and keep working." That was the truth.

When she upped the offer, said she'd pay my rent while I was away from San Francisco, I couldn't think of any good reason to decline. Couldn't bring myself to say, "Sorry, Mom, you get on my nerves too much." I'm almost cold enough to say that, but not quite. And anyway, she doesn't get on my nerves all the time, just… often enough I'm convinced it's on purpose.

Now it's a few months later, today's the day I agreed to come, and I'm looking forward to it. Maybe that means I've been away long enough, or too long, and forgotten that some aspects of the family make me crazy. I do love 'em, though, each of 'em and all of 'em, even the irritating ones. Family is like that, or at least my family is. 

So later this morning I'll buckle my seat belt and the plane will roar down a runway and rise, and then roar toward another runway and drop, and I'll be in Seattle. That's home, technically speaking. The place you can never go again, says Thomas Wolfe. Score it as a grand success if I don't regret it immediately after the first round of hugs.

♦ ♦ ♦

Not since I was a little kid have I spent much time with the family without itching to get away — some place else, something I needed or wanted to do, or some dame I wanted to see or do, after the family obligation. OR maybe instead of the family obligation. I'm kinda shitty at being a family guy.

This will be different, for the most part. I'll be a thousand miles from anything else I might want to do. I'm not bringing a book, not checking my messages, not lugging the typewriter that might let me escape into writing. I'm planning to see Sarah-Katherine, and hope that goes well, hubba hubba, but other than that, there'll be little escape from Mom and the ghost of Dad, and my sisters and brothers and the rest.

I'm hoping for zen to wash over everything, leaving me and the family smiling and at peace. Maybe I'll finally come to terms with the Holland clan's cast of kooky characters, or maybe not, but a good time will be had by me, and maybe even by them.

Will I be honest with them? Probably not. In family, honesty is never the best policy. Ever since I was a kid, if I'm honest with the family, everything becomes be an argument. It's gone from Doug's skipping school and Doug's jacking off to Doug's not a Christian, Doug's not a Republican, not proud to be an American, not working on a career, not looking for a wife, not always "just say no", not even a football fan? Some day they'll discover I sometimes cross against the "Don't walk" sign.

I don't mind disagreeing with them on everything, especially since I'm right about all the above, but I can do without endless arguments that can't be won.

Thus it became a self-written rule, rarely if ever broken: If I spend an hour with one of them, or a week with all of them, we talk about each other, our hobbies, our jobs, our pets, our memories, but we rarely talk about what we believe, what we are, or what matters. That's the rule.

♦ ♦ ♦

Before roaring down the runway, here's one thing I would like to say to my family, in case the plane goes down in flames: The distance between us has always and only been because of me, not because of you. It's my nature. Not much to say, few friends, keeping my distance. That's me.

Rarely, when I'm around the very few people I absolutely trust, I'll open up and let Doug be Doug. But mostly, Doug is only Doug when he's alone. There aren't many people I trust enough to relax around, even in the family. Especially in the family.

And I open up here in the zine, my public diary — but nobody in the family knows about the zine, and let's keep it that way. 

I moved a long ways away to be by myself, and live my life as I choose, with no compromise for the family, no obligatory church events or once-weekly family dinners. Even before moving to California, my brothers and sisters, mother and nieces and nephews, hadn't had much chance to know the real me. They've had almost no chance recently. 

Just want to say that's entirely my fault, not theirs. The distance is what I wanted, and still do, and yet... I'm flying northbound to spend a week with 'em, with no distance at all. The seat belt's buckled.

From Pathetic Life #12
Monday, May 15, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Doug,

    How in the name of a merciful god (just to pick a supreme being at random) are you going to fit your recliner in your car? Are you rigged up like the Clampets with Granny on top rockin' with a shotgun across her torso? (I could be remembering that wrong. It's been many years).


    1. That's a lovely mental image, but my Chevy is an ordinary 4-door sedan and I'm not strapping anything to the roof.

      I'm leaving the recliner. In Seattle I'll type and sleep in a $7 plastic lawn chair until I buy a new recliner.


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