VR, in her mid 40’s, is from Johnscreek, GA. She’s mom to a girl and two boys from her husband’s previous marriage. We talk about her Michigan militia childhood, what makes her laugh and inspires her to write among other things. Here’s the transcript of my face to face interview with her.
Heart: I’m a proponent of free will, but for you coming from a Michigan militia past, what does it mean to you?
VR: (She asks for my notebook and starts drawing).
I just answered 50 questions on a website that’s canvassing for the upcoming Congressional seat elections.
I was balanced on the end of the line, far right even farther than the Tea party. My husband fell somewhere near the Liberal Republicans. And I was like, “You just can’t commit, can you?” People don’t believe me. People ask me, what have you done in your life?
I sang in a rock band, I have done crazy, crazy things in my life, at one point of time, I fancied being a race car driver because that’s what my grandfather was. It’s a need for speed, I love fast cars.
Heart: Yeah, I remember our previous conversations. You introduced me to the concept of heavy metal. Hey, I saw your daughter sing last week.
VR: I was so proud her. She sang so lot, that the song came out very haunting.
Heart: I want to learn from parents like you who tell their kids “Just go and show yourself”.
VR: You have to. Instead of sitting there and let fear consume you, you gotta stick yourself out there. She had practiced Saturday and she screwed up a couple of times.
Heart: What do you do, if you want to be able to make a difference somehow (in society)?
VR: I think a lot of people feel that their hands are tied though. You know? What difference am I going to make? And, you can also say, I am exhausted, I need a nap. I mean if you want to find an excuse you will, its easy.
Heart: Tell me anything, no filters. Maybe we can start with something about your Michigan Militia past?
VR: We used to have to go visit my grandmother. And she lived on a farm. And we would show up, it would be invariably during the time when she was harvesting the chickens. So, she had a clotheslines and it was not used for clothes.
Heart: You are talking to a vegetarian, but go on.
VR: Yup, it turned me into a vegetarian for a very long time. It was mildly horrible and involved a cauldron of boiling water and a large knife. You get the picture.
Heart: Reminds me of a book I read recently. In Hillbilly Elegy, an Appalachian guy goes to Yale law school to become a lawyer. He grew up with his grandmother because of a drug addict mom and an absentee father. I want to understand if your family was matriarchal in a way, coming from rural America from that time? Was she relegated to the kitchen where she took care of business or was she involved in family matters?
VR: My parents on my mom’s side are kind of an anomaly during that time. My grandmother had been widowed, and my grandfather had been divorced. And that was sort of weird especially for that generation. So, he came into it with a couple of kids. And she came into it with a kid or two.
Heart: So, blended families were rare at the time?
VR: At the most, they would make movies of that kind of a story line, but its not something you would run into back then. Its far more common now, of course. I mean you can’t shake a stick without someone having step children or half siblings or whatever. So, OK, my grandmother, she ruled the roost. And a lot of it had to do with my grandfather being gone a lot. Because, he was a race car driver and he was gone a lot. And he ended up getting injured on the track and then he started drinking. He felt stuck and unhappy because he couldn’t drive and that’s all he wanted to do and so started drinking. And, that’s when she really started to be in charge.
Heart: I think I can understand, he missed the adrenaline and he lost his high.
VR: (Laughs) Yeah, I mean, I am guilty of it too, that’s why I got such a gigantic SUV. Otherwise with my need for speed, I would kill myself. I used to have a 75 anniversary Pontiac Trans AM, almost killed myself in it. I would take that silver, big old Firebird down the highway.
Heart: Did you buy it with your own money?
VR: Oh, yeah. And my father didn’t want me to buy it. I was like, well, its my money.
Heart: In India, in 1968, if you are girl riding a bicycle from the park to home, the whole town would come and gawk at you. Its one of my aunt’s friend who would do it and people would just come out of their homes to see a teenage girl ride her bike. And here you are buying your own car in America. So, when was this?
VR: Let’s see. It was in 1992. I was not going to ride that big piece of junk car that my parents let me have. I was like, “No, thank you”. I had a good time, but then I got rid of it. Because I was going a 130(mph) on 696 in heavy traffic and I realized that I’m going to kill myself. Those were my Detroit days.
Heart: So, do you still have any family in Michigan?
VR: I have some aunts and uncles, that sort of thing.
Heart: Are they doing well, financially?
VR: Most of them are retired, um, my one uncle had a humongous farm in Northern Michigan. But, he sold it after his one son died to suicide.
Heart: Was he an only child? Why did he kill himself, do you know?
VR: No, he has an older brother. He was just having a lot of problems, he was 25. And he overdosed on pills, thinking that he would be found. That seemed to be the general idea based on the note that he left, basically, hoping that he would be found. And, it took 2 days before he was found. Because, Jimmy’s plane had been delayed and once he landed he got busy. He was going to visit his younger brother, but that never happened, of course. I mean, its one of those, “Shit happens” kind of thing.
This older brother is himself kind of an anomaly. He is an international interpretor for the UN. He speaks 5 languages, Russian, Korean, Japanese and a few other Asian languages – reads and writes them etc. He has a very, very fascinating life, and he sort of rode that scooter. You know what I mean, he is a country boy from lower Michigan and look where he is now.
Heart: You have so much material in your life, you can just go, “I have a screen play idea for that”.
VR: (Laughs) My daughter was watching one of these little ASDF movies and they’re crazy. She sort of got me hooked on them. And there are other things called “Llamas with hats” that we like to watch. (Both of us laugh hysterically) And they are very different and I am a huge fan of dark comedy. Huge fan. Its free will and this stuff is some twisted crap and I love that. It really gets me. And, I am watching these stupid llamas and laughing my ass off, I mean these llamas or “psychopaths”. Anyway, I look at her and I go, I’ve an idea for a script. Yes, I did. And I pulled out my colored paper and my binders, one for character development, and the other for story development and I started writing. Of course, I stopped at the 5th or 6th episode out of the 10 or 12 episodes, because after that they get really dark and depressing. Because, I don’t want to be depressed, I just want the sick humor. Like, um, this one llama, you have to watch it to truly appreciate it, its sick. In the first episode there is a dead man and there two animals asking each other “Why is there a dead human in our apartment?” So they are trying to find out, and one llama asks the other, and this is how their conversation goes.
“Well, I don’t know this got here.”
“What did you do today?”
“Well, I was upstairs, and I heard a noise.”
“I came downstairs, and stabbed him in the chest 36 times.”
“Oh my God, why did you do that, stabbing kills people!”
“Oh, my bad, I didn’t know that.”
“Why is he missing his hands?
“Well, you know, my stomach got the rumblies, and human hands tasted pretty good for my gut” or whatever, I can’t remember the exact words, but its pretty funny. You actually watch this stuff with your stomach open. (Laughs)
Heart: I think the idea of having satire in art is like, if you see something that you don’t expect, you actually seem to enjoy it more. I think it has to be very different, for you to pay attention.
VR: Yeah, its off. Like I said, its hilarious. Its funny, funny.
Heart: We all have our vices, so you don’t have to apologize.
VR: My daughter’s friend, she’s Indian, she comes over and she says, “My parents don’t know fun. I hate my parents”. And I tell her not to say that. And she goes, “But you are so much fun”. And my daughter goes, “Yeah, you are the best parent.” I go, “Why? I don’t understand.” And then, when I have to pick people up, I go, “I am sorry, I hope you like the music that’s blaring out of my car. I play weird music, because I don’t play Justin Bieber or anything like that. That’s my car, and I will tear my speakers out before I do anything like that. And they’re like, “OK, why don’t you crank up the music?” Because they’re already enjoying themselves and they tell my daughter that her mom is super cool.
And I am like, “I’m me and I won’t apologize for it”.
Heart: I think its OK to show your kids that as long as you’re not being hurtful to anyone and not harming anyone, its OK to be yourself.
VR: Exactly. See, my husband is a big fan of adjusting for whoever he’s around. And that drives me bonkers. Literally, its crazy. And I tell him that I don’t care. I mean I really don’t care. Don’t take this wrong, but I spend a lot of time alone. And I am completely cool with that. I like my company, because I’m weird. I am completely cool with that. My daughter comes home and she knows I’m cracked. And her friends show up and they know I’m cracked. They always want to come to our house for sleepover because they know they can watch scary movies if they want. I’m like, “I don’t care, its a movie.” Its just a movie.
Heart: Word for word, I can talk like you as far as solitude goes. It helps me grow. There’s too much input these days, anyway.
VR: Even if you are listening to the music in the background, invariably there’s someone who’s going to start talking. I mean, if I wanted to hear a blow-hard, I would turn on CNN, MSNBC, Fox news and I will turn on some pundit and listen to him. I don’t want to listen to you. I hate other people in general. I do. Other people suck. (laughs)
Heart: (VR starts tying her hair saying that the long hair makes her look like a 70’s hippie) Yeah, you are right, the color of your hair does make you look like one. Actually, you look a lot like your daughter now.
VR: Actually, a lot of people call me out on that one. They are like, “Who colors your hair?” I’m like, “God?” And when I say nobody, they call me a liar. I don’t spend money on hair color, only on makeup.
Heart: You have great genes then?
VR: Most of my mother’s side was gray by the time they were in their 20’s. My father, gosh, how old is he, even in his mid to late 80’s, his hair’s still mostly black. Whatever little grays I’ve now are because of my middle son. He gave me those.
Heart: Where is the middle one? Is he in college?
VR: He’s a night stocker at Michaels. He took his ACTs because he said he wanted to go back to school. Um, its sort of like we told him, “You have to study for these things.” His scores were so low, they wouldn’t have allowed him to get back to high school, let alone allow him into college or community college.
Heart: Did you guys sit down and tell him that you’re really worried about him?
VR: I am so sick of it, so sick of it, I mean so sick of it. I told my husband, you know what, when my phone rings, and I see its him, I don’t answer it. I just turn my phone off. He needs money or he’s going to whine about something. Couple of weeks ago, he calls me at 11:30pm at night and calls and calls. I am like, fine, I answer the phone and ask him what he wants. Ok, let me begin at the beginning.
The beginning of November, you see, how far this goes back? So, he was at work and got mad at a box because it would not stick in a spot he was trying to keep it at and so he punched it. Do you know what was in the box? Wood craft logs. So he basically punched a tree, and broke bones in his hand. And he had to have surgery which he couldn’t pay for by himself. We have insurance, but still. We had to pay for everything. Then he tells us at the end of December, they had to take the pin out of his hand because he is having a reaction to the pin. When we look at it, its all swollen up. And he doesn’t schedule it until the beginning of January. And now we have to meet our new deductible. 1000$ later, that we can’t afford, we paid for this retard to get the pin out of his hand. And then the doctor says, that you have to careful etc etc. He calls me two weeks ago to tell me that he hit his hand on an end table and “I think I broke it again.” And “Should I go to the emergency?” And I say, “No.” And he says, “It hurts. What do I do?” And I say, “You asked me, and I say no. Suck it up, buttercup. Go to bed.” I am not a big pity-party person. The next day we go because he can’t drive. He lives with his girlfriend in her house, the house her grandfather left to her. Well, its not what you think when you think house, its a long story. (laughs) Anyway, its a house that’s paid for and all they have to do is pay utilities to keep it up.
So, I drive all the way to Woodstock and bring him to Cumming for his appointment. I am the chaffer, the Uber driver, whatever the hell you want to call me. The entire drive, he’s bouncing, and I go, “If you don’t quit bouncing in the car, I swear to God, I’ll shove you out of the door.” When we get there, we walk in and the nurse says, “So, what happened?” He goes, “Well, I whacked my hand off, and I think I broke it again. I was going to the emergency, but she said no.” He said it in a way that it took everything in me to not whack my hand on his face. And she goes, “She’s a smart woman, because why would you pay that kind of money when you can just come here and get it checked out in the morning?” And I am sitting there trying hard to control my hysteria. They check it out and gave him a brace, of course, for which he didn’t have money for. So, I dropped him off at his place all the way back in Kennesaw and he was like, “Hey, if you want, we can go for lunch, we can do something.” And I was like, “I have a lot to do today.” Because you know, I’ve had it. How can you go have lunch when you can’t pay for it? I am not doing this and it drives me crazy. Because he expects it.
Heart: I know, I’m with you, I keep telling my boys that “After 18 really, you guys are on your own. I might have to pay for college, support you in some way, but you have to stand on your own two feet.” So, I get you.
VR: He called us once to ask if he can come and stay. And I told him, that his room is an office now and so he can come visit and stay for dinner and leave. His room is my office now. So, stay? No. At 20 something he still expects to be spoon fed. He just doesn’t want to listen to orders though. I am the one that deal with him when my husband travels. He’s the one with ADHD and the ODD.
Heart: What is ODD?
VR: Oppositional defiance disorder. I call it, please pardon my language, I call it his asshole switch.
Heart: I am not judging, you’re the one dealing with him.
VR: You go outside and say, wow, look at the sky its a beautiful azure sky. He’ll look at you and say its not, its something else. Just to disapprove you. The kids with ODD are the ones that won’t take instructions, because they don’t want someone exerting authority over them. That’s what its all about. And I made it very clear in my house that its going to be an authoritative household once you walk in through that door. Its very simple.
Heart: You’ve to do what you’ve to do to keep the house sane if you’re running a family with so many generations of people in it. I can’t even keep up with a 6th grader’s temper tantrums? So, OK, how’s he keeping a steady job?
VR: Yeah, it kind of surprises us, but he has been with Michaels for a while.
Continued in Part II.
Note: Before you rate this episode, please consider if you would’ve been so open and authentic about your own life. Earlier episodes available at The Anonymous Manifesto™.