"Your head, man."

Everyone in the family is invited, but attendance at the once-weekly family breakfast is usually three — just me, Mom, and my sister Katrina. Yesterday's get-together was more crowded, with the regulars plus my nephew George the stoner, his wife I barely know, and my friend Leon.

Sept. 25, 2022

It started awkwardly, with George being George. He's usually high, and always says or does something strange.

He and his wife were already at a table with the others, and when I walked into the restaurant he stood up, lifted his arms, and shouted my name. Not an 'inside shout', either. This was full volume, as if the Seahawks had scored a touchdown.

Turning right around tempted me, but it usually takes only one scolding to get through to George, and Katrina, his mother, was already scolding him. "George," she said, "we're in a restaurant! You can't shout!"

George is 54 years old.

I sat at the table, scolded him too, and he apologized, and breakfast was underway.

In large gatherings, I don't do well. A few times there've been eight eaters at these breakfasts, and I couldn't keep up with the conversations, and wanted to be elsewhere. Six at the table yesterday was maybe my max, and felt OK. There were often two conversations going on at the same time, and I was able to pop between them like changing channels on TV. 

Mom was seated across the table from me, and with all the others talking she had lots less to say than she usually does. Her quietness was not unpleasant, since what she says tends to be annoying or disparaging. She and I talked a little, but mostly smiled at each other from across the table. It was a terrific breakfast, Momwise.

George was the star of the show, as he often is — he's a nice guy, but kinda too loud, too many interruptions, too many odd tangents. It's sad, but his many years of marijuana have often left him shrouded behind a fog. During the meal his clouds lifted, and it was definitely a reminder that he's family, all right.

I had mentioned what I said above, about six people being maybe my max, because I don't like people, even people I love, when there are too many of them.

To that, George helpfully asked, "Have you seen a psychiatrist about that? I mean, your difficulty with people?"

That's a borderline rude question to ask at the breakfast table, but not for the Hollands, so I mulled it over and answered, "Yeah, I saw a shrink when I was much younger, when I sorta gave a damn."

"Maybe you should see a shrink again," he said.

"Nah," I said. "He was helpful, straightened out my head on a few things, but I'm not going back to some shrink, same as you don't go to a mechanic when your car is running fine."

He leaned over at me, awkwardly close to my face like we were gonna kiss, and he said, "Is your car running fine, though? Metaphysically?"

And I laughed and laughed, until the laughter was out of me, and then I said, "No, my car's not running at all."

"I mean metaphysically," he said very earnestly, but meaning metaphorically. "The car is your head, not your car. Is your head running fine, man?"

I already knew what he'd meant, and knew why. It started with my battle with Mom over Uncle Kyle's memorial service. After she'd told me too many times in too many texts that I had to go, she'd asked me if I was mentally ill, and I'd answered, "Probably."

It was a text message between her and me, but she issued a press release or something; I'd already heard about it from my brother, and now I was hearing it from my nephew.

I changed the channel to talk to Leon about the Mariners, but George interrupted. "Your head, man," he said, so I said a few more sentences to Leon, finishing up, then turned back to George.

"What's your interest in my head, George?" I asked.

"I care, man, that's all. Why won't you see a psychiatrist?"

George was irritating me, but also intriguing me. I've seen him several times since moving back to Seattle, and he reliably steers every conversation toward something nuts. He talks about sports or politics or whatever, but it stops making sense after a sentence or two. I attribute it to the drugs. He's notorious as the family's leading toker.

This, though — his insistence that I should see a psychiatrist — was the deepest conversation we'd had in decades, and the longest where he'd made sense, so OK, if he wanted to talk about my mental health, I was up for it.

"I'm not normal in some ways," I said, underselling myself. 

"A psychiatrist," he insisted.

"Nah, I'm happy being not normal," I said. "The key to sanity is, do the things you want to do, and avoid the things you don't, unless they're required by law. And even then..." 

Leaving that sentence incomplete, I turned instead to Leon's conversation with my sister. He's 70, she's 68, and he's been hitting on her for 55 years.

The unintentionally funniest part of breakfast came a few minutes later. Someone mentioned some celebrity's many trips to rehab, and George volunteered that he's not addicted to marijuana.

Nobody had said he was, though of course he is. And not five minutes after that, he excused himself to step outside and vape a quick hit.

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The End

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Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited. 

Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks. 

Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always Stephanie...

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