A coworker of mine has been dealing with an unruly daughter in her terrible eighteens. Unsavory boyfriends, friends with undue influence--all is driving the woman batty. In an attempt to make her feel a little better today, I shared--at least some of--the story of a cousin who is two months younger than me but has lived a life James Frey would kill for.
My brother and I have two cousins who are the same age as us, and we spent a lot of time with them growing up. While my brother and I were fairly sedate and well behaved, these two were animals. And while I can't speak for Chad, I have to wonder what my life would be like if they didn't move out of our hometown 23 years ago.
Hanging out with Dawn always ended in disaster and/or illicit activity. I had my first drink of booze with her when she moved back from California the summer of 1980. When we were outside playing she'd get bored and say things like, "let's hitchhike" and I'd say things like, "ok!" We got caught shoplifting at the IGA (her idea). I smoked pot (I definitely didn't inhale) for the first time at age 10 with her. We practiced the drinking game quarters with Grape Koolaid. She was very good at it, and I was throwing up the shit all night. Her mom teased me saying, "Geez, Angie sure can't hold her Koolaid." Dawn even tried huffing the cooking spray Pam, one of the few things I said no to in the those days.
Late in my 7th grade year, Dawn called me and said she was picking me up in her grandma's beige Topaz. I thought she was kidding. She wasn't. We spent the day driving around, and we had plenty of money since Dawn had written one of her grandma's checks to the local grocery store for cash. There was a fifth of Jack Daniels in the glove compartment and a gun under the driver's seat.
I wish I was making this up.
And to this day I can picture the two of us at the corner of 3rd and Joliet Streets in LaSalle, ready to make a left turn when I saw a very familiar blue station wagon with one of my normal friend's mother behind the wheel coming toward us. I slumped down and prayed. I think that's the day I decided there was a God.
That Thanksgiving my mom let me head down to their even smaller town to spend the holiday with her. I rode down with her grandma, the gun toting alcoholic who had a serious gambling problem. On the way, the old lady who was loaded, suggested we stop for a steak dinner.
"Uh, Nancy, aren't going to have dinner at their house?" I asked.
"Ahhhhhgguh. I'll buy."
I'm 12. Isn't that a given, I thought.
I talked her out of it and we continued on to one of the most fucked-up Thanksgivings I ever had the pleasure of being part. Dawn's drug addict mom, apparently clean at the moment and possessing a conscience, had a problem with her mother showing up drunk with a minor in tow. Major fighting ensued which resulted in Dawn pushing Nancy in the kitchen, who in turn fell backward into the garbage can.
Again, not making this up.
At its core, this story is really very sad. Dawn had a mother who not only abused just about every substance she could get her hands on, but she pushed it on her children (and her visiting niece on occasion). I luckily had the chip that taught me how to deal with some of the more fucked-up adults around me. Pity them, piss them off by exhaling instead of inhaling on their one-hitter and blowing all their pot all over their car, but don’t emulate them.
As I write this, I have no idea where Dawn is. Over the last 18 years or so, I’ve seen her half a dozen times. Once when she was pregnant at 16, she greeted me at the door with a Bud in one hand and a joint in the other. About 10 years later we got together after her family was busted by the Feds for operating a Meth lab. She told me about the day when she walked out of their trailer and was met by dozens of agents with guns drawn, from just about every agency you can imagine.
Dawn: (pauses) yep.
Dawn: Of course.
Me: Were they hot?
Dawn: Actually, yeah. They were.