I just finished narrating a very well-written, but ultimately depressing autobiographical story by Blake Bailey, entitled The Splendid Things We Planned, about a dysfunctional family.
I guess one could say that the family I had growing up was dysfunctional, although what labels like that actually accomplish, even so far as differentiation of any useful sort, is dubious.
We were functional, and then at times not so functional… I imagine almost any family could be described like that. An ideal family has yet to trod the Earth, I reckon.
In any case, immersed as I was in the telling of this story, I began to appreciate how very, very fortunate I am to have the kind of family that I do.
The story is told from the viewpoint of the younger brother of a fellow named Scott, who at a young age suffers merely from being a bit selfish, insensitive and arrogant, but ends up a completely dissolute, wasted and worthless criminal who commits suicide in prison at age 43, after decades of ridiculous behavior, punctuated by moments of endearing lucidity.
It’s a portrait of the tormented life that many have unfortunately lead, owing to the abuse of alcohol, especially, and drugs, coupled with no real knowledge or tools for handling life.
It brings to mind Act III, scene 1 of Hamlet, the part of that famous speech:
“… but who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely (harsh treatment)
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay
The insolence of office, and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes,
when he himself might his quietus make
with a bare bodkin?”
This question of Hamlet’s seems ever more fitting and pertinent. Especially after reading this story about a guy who, in the end, decides that “to sleep, perchance to dream” is his best and only option, and ushers himself out of this universe.
(Don’t worry by the way, I’m feeling FINE. I’ve been studying Hamlet’s speech not because of any philosophical conundrum, but because I mean to work it into a JIMPRESSION video very soon. I feel great!)
There is the expression, “There but for the grace of God go I…” and I wish there was a better, non-religious one. But it communicates.
I had my first steps on that same path to utter worthlessness, and then by sheer luck, love, good fortune, God, and/or my own quiet ambition, I got help, and skittered back off the verge back onto a road that lead to somewhere worthwhile, and, eventually, an enviable family life.
I’m pretty sure you had a less melancholy Sunday than I did, pronouncing every syllable of this captivating, at times sardonic, yet very sobering cautionary tale. I hope so, anyway!
And I hope that you and your family will have a lifetime together that is pleasant and mutually rewarding, and devoid of the heavy drama that seems to rise up like a summer storm for some, as it has since the very earliest tribes.
Sheesh! More laughs next blog, I promise!