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Too damn bloody good

Tuesday 10/17/23

I've been putting up a number of things from this story, "Dot," which keeps getting longer, but it should be done today or tomorrow, because it's so amazing and I want this in the record. I want to be as plain as possible: This is what people in publishing don't want you to see, because it is so much better than everything else.

This record is many things. It's a case, in a sense. It's for legal purposes. This is real, what is happening to me, and all you have to do is read something like what is below, and compare it with this story put forward by bigots like Speer Morgan and Evelyn Rogers at The Missouri Review, which you are meant to believe is better and better than anything I have ever written, and it is impossible to believe that.

There is nothing that is less believable. This is unadulterated bigotry. For what? Why? What is this person's offense beyond the reality that they can do what all of these others cannot? This person has done nothing to anyone here. This person is a good person. This person has an unmatchable track record, without anything ever being given to them, and achieving every last thing they've achieved against great odds and people with their arms locked together to keep that individual out, and they write like no one can write.

Every day of their life, they produce amazing work like what follows below. There is no comparison, and nothing is plainer.


Age—even though this wasn’t that long ago in terms of the narrative arc of humans on the earth—seemed to be less malleable as a concept then. You didn’t start over at seventy, like you can now. You didn’t really start over at fifty-five. People were older at the time, if you know what I mean. Aunt Dot sunk into an even lonelier existence for the rest of her life, which would be a good, extended stretch, because the members of that family tended to make a run on the century mark. She mounted what defense mechanisms she could, and she adopted attitudes as if playing a part in the temporization of her very self.

Crude jokes were made by uncles who had had one too many pops at a cookout that she was a virgin and had never really had a life, on account of how fussy she was, and proper. That life, now, was going in the opposite direction of Grammie’s, who was free to be the amazing grandmother that many grandkids such as myself came to know her as, thinking she’d always been that way, and was once the mother version of this same ideal, which she hadn’t really been.

We have different selves at different times in our lives; rare is the person who is not a product of context, the people around them, their station, their fortunes, the prospects for tomorrow. My mother loved her mother, and she was devastated when she died, but she always harbored a special affection for aunt Dot. She wasn’t just aunt Dot’s defender—she was, if anything, her champion. A quiet, forceful, determined, unwavering champion. The person who interceded on car rides home, turning to us kids in the backseat and correcting something we had said about Dot, without fail, as though this were exceedingly important. She never let one of our wiseass comments pass without a correcting comment of her own, or some mysterious remark that people rarely know as much as they think they do.

Dot made it hard for you to bang the drum too loudly for her, but as I got older, I learned more and more from the person who had elevated aunt Dot within the sacred space of their own heart. When my mom was lonely as a child, left on her own, without the money to do certain things—you know, basic things, that other kids did, like go to the movies or to a birthday party where you brought a present—it was aunt Dot who took my mom out and treated her. And what fun they had. Trips to downtown Boston, to plays, to restaurants, afternoons of tea at a hotel near Boston Common, shopping for a dress, two ladies having swell times together. My mom would tell me of these things, and I’d think that if gratitude had a face, it would be like that which I saw looking back at me in those moments.

I don’t doubt, in a Wellesian sense, if those trips were my mother’s Rosebud times. It was like she had a guardian angle, and a secret best friend who loved my mom, and provided her with that benign form of spoiling that all children need and deserve, as though my mom was the child aunt Dot never had. And maybe she was part of the purpose, too, and Dot was actually an amazing person all along. It’s just that with some people, they store that amazingness in different layers, and aunt Dot kept hers buried further down than most.

Aunt Dot, interceder and protector. Provider of necessary joy and hope-blooming respite that would color the rest of my mother’s life. Who knew.

Without aunt Dot, I think I would have been without my mother. I would have had a mother. Everyone has a mother. But that’s not always the same as having your mother. When the doctors told mine that she would never have a real child of her own, my mother corrected them by saying that yes, she would, and she’d love that child as much as a child could be loved.

How do those who love the best learn to do it? We act like everything just happens, don’t we? Nothing just happens. The night sky doesn’t just happen. Nor a cloud. A baby’s smile. Never mind love and the decision to love, with creatures as meek as humans may well be, so often overwhelmed, beleaguered, scared. Love isn’t slipping on a banana peel and there you are.

The people who love the best find much within themselves, for they have much within themselves. But they don’t often know it without someone on the outside who helps them learn to look. That was aunt Dot. For my mother. And because my mother has helped me learn to look, for me, too. It’s so hard to give that which you don’t know you have. But when you know what you do? There are no limits, regardless of our own failings. If we’re talking love, that is. Which is why love is love, just as the night’s sky has its reasons for being the night’s sky, the cloud the cloud, and the baby’s smile the baby’s smile.


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