Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The X-Files

My sister was always a bit strange in her choice of reading materials.  Which I didn't understand because she had two degrees and I always thought once a person starting studying, no matter what it was, there was always more to learn so one should maintain the learning aspect.

Later in life she took to reading romance novels.  Barbara Cartland of all things.  Don't get me wrong, there is a place for these books besides my basement, its just that the writing is mundane to say the least, the plots centered around  lovesick females, the endings always perfect.  The day I was visiting her and found one of these 'novels' beside her chair I felt the need to be socially responsible and confront her.

"Are you actually reading this?" I asked.    "Oh, ah, yes."    "Your kidding me right?"      I was in a bit of shock.   "Well, no.  I really like them, you should try."

A few weeks later my daughter and I were stalking yard sales and found an entire carton of Barbara Cartland romance novels for a quarter.    We looked at each other, shrugged and thought why not.    I could not make it through the first.  My daughter made it through two and said, "Talk about a dreamer writing those things. Can't imagine how the world actually looks to the writer."

Leave it to my daughter.  Now I had the insatiable urge to investigate Barbara Cartland's background just to see if her childhood had been so horrendous she hid behind storybook endings, and what for gauds sake, had driven my sister to reading diarrhea of the heart stuff?

So I called her.   "OK, I really tried, but I just cannot get into this stuff.  What on earth appeals to you about it?"     "Oh,' my sister replied in that matter of fact tone she always used when something was supposed to be simple to comprehend, ' everything else is too real." 

Realization hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.  When a friend's brother was dying he started making stuffed bears. The closer he got to the end the thinner he got, and the fatter his, now overstuffed, bears were.  My sister had been told they had gotten 'all the cancer,'  but I know now from my own experience no matter what they tell you, the thought of it never goes away.   My sister was escaping through these books describing lives with bumps in them that always ended romantically perfect and hardly anyone ever died.

 Some time later I called my sister.   What I got was, "I can't talk to you right now, the new X-Files are on.  Call ya later."    Huh?   My son was into that show but my sister?  She was eight years older than me and way off the generational scale.  Now I was really confused.   I had seen a few episodes and was just not on that wave length at all.   I even picked up couple of books on the bargain table.  One claimed to be the Official Guide to the X-Files, the other the Book of the Unexplained.  I read them.   I still didn't get it.   And then she finally returned my call, apparently she had been having an adventure.

"You really should get into the X-Files.  This weeks episode was great."   
"I tried, I can't.  Its that whole alien-takes-over-a body thing, but the person is still in there somewhere.  You never know who is talking.  The alien or the person."     "Oh, by the way,'  my sister said,  'I have to talk to you about something. You have to promise not to tell Mother and Dad."    "Um, OK."
"Promise on Gunga's grave."    "You couldn't stand her at the end."     "All the better, maybe if you tell the heat will get turned up."    Huh?  The alien is never far from the surface.   "OK already, I can't stand the suspense."    

"I got arrested and I need to know what's gonna happen."      "What?  Who are you, and what have you done with my sister?"      "Very funny, it started as some silly little traffic ticket."      She went on to explain that she had gotten a ticket for speeding.   Despite the fact that she had a lead foot and a vintage car with a 351 Cleveland, she had driven over forty years without a ticket, so why now?  

Apparently she had been driving on an unfamiliar road and didn't know where the speed traps were.  She had gotten the ticket, and after discussing the recent NASCAR stats with the cop, threw it in the glove box and drove home. 

Over a year passed and she would be stopped again, only this time the cops would say,  "You are under arrest, you have an FTA on an outstanding traffic violation."   

"Well they handcuffed me, and put me in the back of the police car, right in the center of town.  They had my car towed away, I was mortified. The poor homeless man I buy lunch for every Saturday showed up with five dollars to bail me out.  Of course I didn't need it.  Then once I had signed all the papers at the police station they cut me loose' - there was that darned alien again,  my sister didn't talk like this -  'and told me to call a cab."      Her husband was out in the middle of the forest in Maine marking selective cutting areas about 300 miles away, totally out of touch for the momentous occasion.    "And now I can't drive until I go to court."     Whoa.  She was right.  Our parents need not ever know about this.  They were old.   They would collapse.  

Our parents left this world blissfully ignorant of the incident. 

When my sister left this world, my brother-in-law said, "See if there are any books under the bed you want."      My sister had our grandparents bed.  It was an antique mahogany, four poster fancy thing of the style she was fond of.    It was high off the floor to begin with, but when she became too ill to get out of it most days, blocks were put under the legs, four inches at the head of the bed, two inches at the foot.  This resulted in the side boards and slats being about 15 inches off the floor.     I lifted the bed skirt and was confronted with an absolute mountain of Barbara Cartland romance novels, years worth of Royalty and Majesty magazines, and a few X-Files magazines.

A lot of the time,  the most important aspects of people are hidden under the bed a protective veneer that has been polished to perfection by life's obstacles.  One has to dig deep to find the person.  It's important to remember the fact that there is a reason behind the reference to 'human error.'  And as I told my sister,  "Just because you were arrested, does not make you a bad person."

Oh, and check the glovebox...


  1. What a life! It's too bad she died. She sounds like a great sister, whom you clearly loved. Thanks for sharing this poignant story!

  2. My middle child had the hots for David Duchovny..omy..they also filmed the show out here, yeah, they film alot- 24, NCIS, various music videos... u name it... oh and I dated a guy who could double for DD.. yeah, it was a definitely weird feeling....Barbara Carland- omg. didn't think those books were around any more. never read them

  3. I have never once read a romance novel, but I hear Barbara Cartland's books were the worst. And I too am sorry to hear of your sister's passing. I used to love the X-files, though, especially the redheaded female lead (Scully). Once I learned how sleazy Duchovny really is, though, I stopped watching.

  4. My family was a hoot. I'd like my grandson to know this someday!

  5. You wouldn't think this to be the case but most of us science-junkie skeptics are big fans of the X-Files, Star Trek and all kinds of entertaining sci-fi imaginable. Sometimes our brains kind of long for something mindless and fun like "James Bond" movies or "the 3-Stooges".

    On a side note, I used to repossess cars from people who didn't make their payments. You wouldn't believe how OFTEN I found all their late notices and collection letters UNOPENED in the glove box when I would clean out the repo-ed vehicle. Go figure!?

  6. What a great post! I'm NOT a sci-fi fan, yet I really like X-Files! ... I'm more of a romance kind of gal myself! ;)

  7. I figure sometimes people like certain things because they 'like them'. One can analyze all day -- and I suspect to confront the person with the analysis may subtract from their joy a little. It's probably kind of nice to indulge oneself in perfect romances and perhaps places the soul a tiny bit on edge to ponder the mysterious and odd.

    Ya' know -- I think I would have liked your sister. You certainly did.

  8. Nice read.

    I can identify with your sister--she reminds me of a similar family member of ours.