Hi, my name is Prince Ersatz. Some say it is all my fault. Thanatos drank a beer at my Dad’s kitchen table a couple weeks ago. He rambled about the new bridge over the Styx made of the bones of the lost. It’s a new design that uses sinew as cable, sort of a reverse cable-stayed design where all the structure is beneath the roadbed. I busied myself over a fry pan filled with Trinity. My Dad was still recovering from the flu in the hospital. My peppers, onions, garlic, tomato, basil, and thyme perfumed the room as they sweated down.
Prince Ersatz, Your Name is Voldemort
The family narrative states that I am the reason for all the family’s ills. If it wasn’t for me, if I had done the expected thing, none of this would have happened. It did happen. I am nearly three-score years old. Nearly three generations have been born since the waning days of 1959 when I became a first-born fact. I have three sisters. The youngest laid her miseries at my feet a generation ago. Because of me she had to carry the miseries of the globe. Because of me she had to rescue that doe-eyed child on TV who can grow up to be a first-worldy for only a nickel a day.
I find it odd that I have so much power over my baby sister Jolana when the longest span of time I have spent with her in a generation and a half is a weekend at her place in Cancun. Even more impressive is the premise that my family is miserable because of me. Do I feel the weight of this guilt? No. The amount of power claimed for me far outstrips the actual influence I have over my kin. It is my fault. It is my compliance with their strictures that will bring harmony to them. They deny owning any agency for their circumstances. I am a safe straw-man for their bad choices. Blaming me relieves them of owning their shit.
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The fact of me, the IRL bard of this blog, spends little time on this. I have better things to do. After 2,157,062,400 breaths I found peace. I am happy the way the Dalai Llama means happy. One more thing–I won. The most hateful, despicable, horrible, awful evilist evil brother ever to breathe life has become the brother all three sisters look to for leadership. After all that I am not the pretender to the throne. I am the heir to the seat as the family patriarch. The most lowly is in charge.
I spoke last with Jolana on the phone. She swore that I was abusing my son and would never speak to me again. At dispute was whether my son would spend the summer with her. My mother was his custodial parent. The choice was not mine to make. I am Voldemort so if I wanted Jolana’s approval I would force my son’s mother to comply. Jolana met my reply with curses and derision. I recommend getting cussed at in Mayan inflected Spanish. It is a wonder to hear.
My first awareness of my improved status happened a few years ago. We were gathered at my Dad’s house for a visit. Dinner took place at my Dad’s favorite buffet. I feared the worst. I dreaded a shouting match with Jolana that would cause some of us to wait out the meal outside the restaurant. The moment came, I said, “hey“. She replied, “hey” and moved to the far end of the table. Message received.
I Crown You Prince Ersatz
Then last summer I was visiting again and she came over. Again we exchanged pleasantries and moved through a couple of hours being civil to each other. She behaved toward me as if no harsh words had ever been said. I was not Voldemort. I was just a brother in the room she could chat with.
My head almost exploded. This was crazy-making for me. No reconciliation. No words of contrition. Nothing. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to give her the what for. The only thing I said was to Lina, “I am just going to go with it.” So I did.
A few weeks ago I had a long phone convo with Lina. We laughed that I had gained in rank against Lina so that I was less evil than she. Unspoken and unnerving for me was the way I was being treated. Lina wanted guidance from me. How would I handle my son and Jolana? Back when Jolana swore to never speak to me it was I who was evil because my son would not agree to be rescued from the clutches of his evil parents. If I understood I would convince my son that Jolana could save him by dictating a strict regime of therapy, medication, college and a good job. I did understand and that was the problem.
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Jolana spent a weekend in the hospital again. Upon release she campaigned to save my son from the evil clutches of Lina. The answer he must accomplish was to come back to Jolana and do the regime he didn’t finish. I, as the heir and nominal patriarch, ought to make my son comply.
You read this blog. You know who I write for. We don’t give a flying fuck about what you think we are supposed to do. We punch obnoxious authority figures in the face. Yes, there are consequences. It does not stop us. My son is not as aggressively defiant as me. When his back is up he tends to be a bit catatonic. Jolana’s regime was not received well.
I learned a few lessons In the generations since I left the castle. One of them is a regime like Jolana’s cannot succeed. Failure is in the heart of the one dictating the tasks in the regime. Even if executed perfectly it becomes a fail anyway. Some detail, some small thing will be wrong that ruins it. I learned to quit caring whether the one dictating the regime approves of my performance. I knew I’d be yelled at for failure regardless. This left me to do the right thing without care for how I’d be evaluated. I walk the high road in peace.
Please be Well So I Can Be Well
When I went to visit my Dad Jolana and I again spoke pleasantries. She wanted to know how I was doing. Well, I’d say. One of the oddities of our relationship is that she secretly emulates me. If I am doing well she will try to do well. If my life is in a shitty place then she will similarly experience misery. It gives me power over her I don’t want. Lately we are both doing well.
The last event was a forty minute sales pitch by Jolana. At the core of it was an annoyance that my son and I had failed to comply. We had not done what she asked in the manner that she dictated and to her satisfaction. My son Tito should leave Lina because that bitch was abusing him. Lina was controlling Tito and making him fail at college. All Tito had to do is come back to Cancun and return to his studies in integrated pest control. Tito had gone dark. His way of refusing the plan. I was his father so it was my duty to intervene for Tito’s safety.
I gave the wrong answer. Tito is his own man. He has a right to make his own choices. Playing the keyboards in a club in Camden was a choice. It isn’t a steady job choice. It is still his choice to make. Jolana insists that Tito must complete college and get a good job. Tito’s music career is a road to ruin. I went on about skilled labor and Mike Rowe. I think it is a fine life to find a skilled trade and make a career of it. Jolana was not having it. A boy like Tito has to graduate from college and get a good job.
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Here is where I found myself at the end of it. I who had been the pretender was now the one who would influence my son to do the right thing. She gave Prince Ersatz deference and respect. I felt like Dobbie after Harry gave him a sock.
Preceding this was my phone conversation with Lina. we hoped there was a way to have Jolana back off of Tito in that convo. Jolana treats Tito like a troublesome tweenie boy who just needs to be told the what for so he will get with her program. She does not recognize that he is of age and should be treated like a grown-assed man.
Like with Jolana I came away from talking with Lina surprised that my status had risen. Neither responds well to a strong arm declaration that I was the patriarch and they needed to come to heel. We are not a family that behaves well when commanded that way. It’s the Catalan in us.
Yet both sought my opinion even though it wasn’t what they expected to hear. Jolana expected me to tell that boy to come correct. I gave the wrong answer. So be it. Lina feared I was the asshat she believes I am from some of my more insolent blog posts. She gained a new respect for the way I treat Jolana. Jolana threatened Lina with shunning and accusations of abuse similar to those she threatened me with. Lina was nonplussed.
I am Going With It
It still unnerves me that the lowly brother could be the honored prince. I have those choices, to push back, to fight to keep my status as the pretender and evilist brother ever. My cause has been and remains to push for giving grace first, forgiving first as a way of life. Pushing back, and keeping my status interferes with my cause. I’d rather endure the cognitive dissonance and go with this new respect.
Mary, who washed the feet of Christ with her tear-soaked hair, and Christ who washed the feet of his disciples, are my models for leadership. Leaders serve those they lead. I see myself as a servant of my sisters. My task is to be quiet and to be available. Doing so has been more powerful than a spitting rage in Spanish. I am going with it.