.journal 2003.11.18

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.org.3 part 2: Things are gonna change so fast

Now listening to: Tori Amos, Little Earthquakes
Now reading: Poppy Z. Brite, Wormwood
Now playing: Final Fantasy Origins (Playstation)

This past year there’s been something going on in my life that I haven’t made mention of online in any way. Having finally received permission to write about it online, I figured I’d save all the details for the .org’s three-year anniversary.

Let’s go back to the house fire two and a half years ago. Although the rest of the family didn’t lose too much, my sister, Heather, pretty much lost everything she owned. In a lot of ways, she’s still yet to recover from that, although the rest of the family has done all it could to help her.

Still, we weren’t what got my sister through those first months after the fire. For the previous couple of years, my sister had been corresponding with someone whose name you probably know. I won’t say who it was, except to say that while most people would probably consider him a “celebrity”, he tries to live his life like anything but a celebrity. No, they weren’t “a couple” or anything like that, but the two of them were close, and their relationship was clearly benefitting both of them. (He was the one who turned my sister on to the Yankees, by the way.)

That relationship ended about a year or so ago, and that, combined with the Yankees’ recent lack of success, had my sister pretty depressed. Then came word that the other big thing in my sister’s life — Buffy the Vampire Slayer — was coming to an end. (Hey, don’t ask me!) Between these three things, my sister must have been feeling her world collapse around her, like I felt in the week before the fire.

But my sister found help. And I found myself thrown for a total loop.

Although I’ve never gone in on the whole song-swapping thing, my sister took to it fairly quickly. While I don’t sympathize with record companies and the stories they tell about it hurting their business — sales numbers prove the opposite, their sales model is woefully outdated, and quite honestly I view song-swapping as legitimate civil disobedience against corporate America — my sister’s case is unique in that she’s only been downloading all the albums she lost in the fire. Albums she’s already bought, and albums which our insurance company is only willing to reimburse her for at five bucks a pop. Quite honestly, if any record labels file lawsuits against my sister, I will personally tell them to kiss my Irish ass.

Anyway, so my sister gets on a file-sharing network, and in addition to downloading songs she also downloads some Buffy audio clips (not video — we’re still on dial-up here in the Shannon house) and puts them up for others to download. One night my sister called me into her room and asked me what her programme was doing, and I figured out that the programme she was using had a built-in instant messaging function. So I gave my sister a quick tutorial on instant messaging, and let her have at it.

It turned out that the guy who instant messaged her was named Mark. He was messaging her from England, which my sister found incredibly cool. Mark was also into Buffy, and the two of them started talking Buffy. When I heard Heather talking about Mark again over the next couple of weeks, it seemed clear that the two of them were becoming good friends. When Heather talked more and more about him as the months passed, it became clear that they were becoming much more than friends.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to companionship, I am well beyond desperate. I can’t even drive out in farm country anymore because some of the four-legged animals are starting to look a little too attractive, if you know what I mean. But I would still never look for a partner via the Internet; there are too many horror stories out there, and there’s just too much unreliability about the whole thing to allow me to even consider it. My sister is ten years older than I am, and while she was never good in school, she has a natural wisdom that I’ve always looked up to. I guess I took it for granted that Heather would avoid Internet dating for the same reasons I have.

But she didn’t, and it became more and more clear that she had very strong feelings for Mark. Other members of the family got in on Heather’s conversations with Mark, but I generally stayed away. Not that I had anything against Mark, but I figured that this was one area of my sister’s life I should stay away from, out of respect for her. I was concerned for Heather, but she’s more than old enough to be making her own decisions, and I vowed to respect her decisions when it came to Mark, even when I disagreed with them.

Fast forward to this past summer, as the Internet relationship became a real one. Mark actually visited Toledo for a couple of weeks while I was taking my second summer course, and it was, well, interesting. I used to be a bit of an Anglophile, at least up until Betty Boothroyd vacated the Speakership of the House of Commons and turned Prime Minister’s Question Time back into a snoozefest. I’m still intrigued by many aspects of British culture, and so having a real-life Briton in the house was interesting, although in the end I generally left Mark and Heather to themselves.

What was more important, though, was that I became comfortable with Mark. He’s a nice enough fellow, and a lot of my fears about his relationship with my sister were quelled by his visit. I still remember my sister’s first husband — it would be hard not to, considering he beat and raped her, got dishonourably discharged from the Marines for dealing drugs on base, then got arrested for stalking around our house (and chopped off half the tail of a stray cat that had been around, who we soon adopted and named Rowan) — and what our whole family went through with that. That was a long time ago, though, and I think my sister only got married just because it was still “expected” of young people back then. I don’t think anything has influenced my feminist beliefs as much as what happened to my sister in that marriage. But Mark was nothing like her first husband, and I felt comfortable with what they had going for them.

Mark eventually flew back home to England, and he and my sister resumed their usual Internet correspondence. My sister had been talking about flying over to England to visit Mark at his home, but I didn’t give her words much thought. I guess I just assumed that her plans wouldn’t pan out. Or maybe that’s just what I wanted to happen.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, it happened. Last Thursday my sister got on a plane and flew to Heathrow, where Mark picked her up and drove her to his hometown. She won’t be back until the week before Christmas, and although she and I have e-mail and instant messenger, it’s not the same. And while I trust that Heather is safe with Mark, I don’t know if she’s safe around all the other people she’ll be around while she’s there. Hey, she’s my sister, I’m supposed to worry about her, you know?

Heather had also been talking about the two of them moving in together. After Mark had difficulties adjusting to the heat of a Toledo summer (and he wasn’t even here during the real dog days), it seemed almost certain that Heather would wind up moving to England at some point. A large reason for Heather making this first trip to England was to make sure that she could handle England’s winters, although I’ve yet to hear back from Heather on how the weather’s treating her over there.

Unfortunately, Mark was made redundant at his job a few weeks ago — after all the planning for my sister’s current trip had been completed — and he won’t have a job come the new year. While Mark could probably get another job in England, now it looks more than likely, although not entirely certain, that Mark will sell his home and move to Toledo. There’s a nice little apartment complex about five minutes from our house, and there’s a lot of talk of Mark and Heather getting an apartment there.

So what will Mark do with all that extra money? Well, the talk right now is that Mark will go for a degree in electrical engineering … at UT. Yep, Mark and I may be going to school together here in a couple of months. And of course, because the university system is so different in England than it is in the US, it’s going to fall on me to explain to Mark everything about credit hours and core requirements and all of that. Part of me almost wants to ask Mark to go to BGSU, so we could get an apartment closer to campus and I wouldn’t have to worry about all that driving if I stayed at home.

Oh, and rumours have it that Mark’s Christmas present to Heather will be a ring. Yeah.

So what do I do now? I mean, I realize that it’s odd for Heather and I to still be living at home all this time (although, ironically enough, it wouldn’t be if we were in England), but it’s just something we’ve always done. I mean, sure I bitch about my family from time to time, but they’re still my family and I love them. Especially with three of my grandparents and my Uncle Sanford dying in the past five years, and all we went through together after the fire, we’re a really tightly bound unit here.

It’s been difficult for us to adjust to Heather being in England, but what’s going to happen if Heather and I both move out of the house next year? In all honesty, now I’m kind of hoping that I get into either BGSU or Michigan, so I can continue living at home for at least another couple of years, and hopefully make it so that we all have an easier transition here. Quite honestly, part of me wants to go somewhere else for my MFA, just so I can get my legs under me before I get my first post-collegiate job, but … I don’t know.

When I chose to leave Antioch to help my father with his business — the second biggest mistake in my life — I put my family’s priorities above my own. If I choose to stay here for grad school, even if it is just for a couple of years, I fear I could make the same mistake. But now that it looks like Heather and I could both leave the nest in a matter of months, and even if I thought the rest of the family was ready for that, I’m not sure if I am.

So yeah. Now you know about that whole deal.

Everyone take care and be well. I’ll see you all back here next week for the conclusion of .org.3, me answering your questions. Yes, the w-word will be spoken again.

— Sean

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