I've been living in Bastrop, TX since September 2016 and I haven't written much about that experience. It's pretty routine in that everyday I get up sometime before 8:00 am have my coffee and smoke my cigarette out on the porch and then check out what's going on at Our Salon. Sometime between 10:00 in the morning and 3:00 in the afternoon I get in the car and take my older brother Bill out for breakfast or lunch and make sure he takes his pills.
He's still living on his own in the same trailer park where he's been for the last decade and I've been renting a room in an old farmhouse about six miles out of town. My landlord Tim is an autistic dude alien conspiracy addict around forty five who shares his digs with me and a redneck ex-con named Terry who is a text book Bi-polar and like most redneck ex-cons refuses to even consider taking his meds.
Of the four of us, Terry is the only actual father and grandfather and this is the story of how I gave him $40 for Fathers Day. Aside from his untreated Bi-polar and institutionalized PTSD what you need to know about Terry is that he's a profoundly honest man. He grew up in and around Beaumont, TX in his grandmother's house and various foster homes and he had a few early but largely inconsequential brushes with the law before he got into dealing meth. I'm not clear on the details but sometime in his mid-twenties he was busted by the Feds and went to trial where his untreated Bi-polar and unfiltered honesty got him into serious trouble. Apparently he went off on the judge and threatened his life and this outburst got him charged, convicted and sentenced to some long hard time that turned out to be most of his adult life.
It was late 2015 when Terry was released on parole, and since then he's been mostly on the straight and narrow. Aside from the usual problems that ex-cons face in the world outside, Terry's Bi-polar brain takes him on a day to day roller coaster shaped out of anxiety, which loads into catastrophic thinking which loads into out of proportion rage which is all complicated by his arrested adolescent problems with impulse control. He reminds me a whole lot of myself when I was in my twenties and early thirties and that's why I've naturally taken it upon myself to try to help him out. It takes one to know one.
Terry works a lot of temporary construction jobs and tries to fill in the gaps with a part time, sometimes full time, job cleaning out wrecked cars for the local auction yard that contracts with auto insurance companies to dispose of vehicles that have been totaled. It's hard work that doesn't pay much but that's pretty much the lot of ex-cons on parole and Terry doesn't complain except when things go sideways. In the nine months since we've been housemates Terry has got wrapped up around the axle and walked off one job or another at least a half dozen times. More often than not he gets rehired which also reminds me a whole lot of me when I was in my twenties. The only way I got through those years was with a lot of help from friends; so as my kind of karmic paying forward, I've helped Terry out with loans to cover his bills more than once, and that brings us to how I gave him $40 as a Fathers Day present.
Over these past nine months Terry and I have talked about work and life nearly every evening while we smoked cigarettes and drank beer on the front porch at the end of the day. It was about six months ago that Terry's daughter tracked him down on Facebook and they got together in Tomball, TX with his son for a long delayed family reunion. He was totally nervous about meeting his kids for the first time since they were babies, because their mother had given them up for adoption and he'd never met with them while he was in prison. The reunion went well and Terry got to meet his uber-wealthy son-in-law and his two year old granddaughter. Since then he's been back to his daughter's home several times for holiday dinners, birthdays and such, and this relationship with the family he'd never known has become his primary emotional anchor.
This Sunday will be Terry's first real Father's Day out in the world, but he's reticent to impose on his daughter and her husband so he decided to stay in Bastrop and work over the weekend. That was his choice for his reasons and it seemed reasonable to me, but on Monday the shit hit the fan. Texas State Troopers showed up at his boss's house to serve a felony fugitive warrant on his wife for a fifteen year old burglary charge in Uvalde that she didn't even know about. They cuffed her and hauled her off to county jail. Before her husband could arrange bail, she'd been transported to Uvalde. Since she was the brains of the auto wreck auction business and handled all the money and paperwork, her husband didn't have a clue. His brother-in-law tried to fill in at the office but he screwed up the payroll and on Friday Terry and everybody else got shorted half a week's pay.
When he came home, he was surprising calm about the situation and so I asked him if he'd taken my advice counted and asked the stress questions to filter out the small shit. He grinned and said, "Yep, are they trying to screw me? No. Is there anything I can do about it? No. Will it make much difference next week. Only if they don't fix it. Will I even remember it next year?" Then he laughed and said, "I just told Tim what went down and that he was gonna have to wait for my rent money. Right now I got half a tank of gas, a pack of cigarettes and a pile of change that should buy me a twelve pack of beer. I should be able to make it through til we get paid next week."
I had some twenties in my wallet and offer two of them to him, but Terry wasn't having it, "No man, I already owe you over two grand, I can get by."
"Well," I said, "there's plenty of money just sitting in the bank doing nobody any particular good, so let me know if you get backed up against the wall."
Terry laughed and said, "When they handed me that short check I started to get pissed, then I remembered to count to ten and ask the questions. Believe it or not, I've been listening and it's sinking in."
We finished our cigarettes and beer and I followed Terry back into the house where I tossed the empty cans into the trashcan in the kitchen. I was half way down the hall when it occurred to me how I could help Terry out. I took the twenties out of my wallet, knocked on his bedroom door and when he answered I said, "Happy Fathers Day," and handed him the money. It was a gift so there was no way he could turn me down, instead he said, "Thanks Mac," and gave me a big bro hug.
Half the time my life in Bastrop seems like some dumbass macho scene out of Deadwood, less the gold and mud, whiskey and whores, fist fights and gun play; but sometimes things work out and I can get through another day without thinking it's all just a waste of time.
So to all you Dads and Grandpas out in the land of Our Salon,