Jesus H. Tingle

Sometimes I wish my brothers and me had been born in the old west and had been like the Younger brothers riding around on horses, scaring the piss out of folks, and killing somebody now redeemerand again if we felt like it.  I can see us now all scarred up, bearded and gnarly looking spitting this way and that,  all liquored up and scaring old ladies in the street just for the pure nastiness of it. Folks would say, them boys is riding them horses straight to hell.  Those Tingle brothers.

Tingle brothers, though just doesn’t sound right.  Who the hell ever heard of a crew with a name like “Tingle.”  To have been proper outlaws we would have had to change our name.  But there was those 6 Tingle brothers who went off to fight for the confederacy in the Florida Campaign. That’s enough for a whole platoon, isn’t it.  I can imagine those six boney guys sitting around their campfire, beating off mosquitoes spitting this way and that and generally being as surly and uncooperative as possible.

I just hate to think they would have been all gung-ho, with yes sir this and yes sergeant that and yes, I am ready to change into the face of cannon cause God’s at my side and I have seen the glory on my lips.  But come to think of it, that’s pretty twisted too.  A bunch of drooling glassy eyed fanatics going off to meet their maker.

The old man in his last years talked about going to meet his maker.  I am going to meet my maker, he would say.  I thought about that a bit.  It was like he was going to meet his long lost father and his father would recognize and welcome him and take him in his arms and if the old man found the idea comforting, well, OK.  But he didn’t always seem comforted.  Once he started reciting the 23rd Psalm which he had down by heart:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

But when he got to the part about the Lord guiding him down the path of righteous, he changed the words and said but Lord, you are walking too fast.  I can’t keep up.  I can’t keep up.

I kept thinking what the hell sin did he think he had committed to warrant being left behind like that by his maker.  I don’t think he had been unfaithful to the old lady.  But maybe he felt guilty about those  salacious magazines he kept hidden around the house with names like “Titties” or “Big Ones.”  I got to say those magazines were something, not like the slick jobs they have out now with all those airbrushed young things looking all perky and healthy.  He must have found some backwoods, red-neck outlet cause the women feature in his magazines tended somewhat more towards the humanly grotesque than towards the impossibly perfect.

I sure hope that’s not why he thought he was going to hell.  But you never know.

A Philosophy Major

Brother # 2 was graduated from the same college as I with a BA in philosophy.  If anything he had elected a career path even more useless than mine, and while we have not discussed it, since we Platodon’t discuss anything, I surmise that like myself as an English major he had small grasp of what being a philosophy major was about.  In any case, he was accepted in graduate school, but dropped out in his first year, in part because of the draft, and in part because he started to learn what academic philosophy is about.

But for him as it would have been for me, the philosophy taught in graduate school was not the real thing.  It was analytic philosophy, which as far as I am concerned is the death of philosophy, major league knit-pickers, knit-picking to death philosophers whose thoughts they could not match if their lives depended on it, and making up elaborate intellectual puzzles, that they try to dignify with the term “thought-experiments,” which can be used to justify or knock down any argument known to humanity.

I do not speak for him of course since I have no idea what’s on his mind, but I expect that he believed that, if one went to graduate school in philosophy, one became a philosopher, that is, a person with a philosophy by and according to the values and knowledge claims of which one lived, or tried to live, since no real philosophy has ever been a piece of cake, and suffering is to be expected along the path.  His naiveté, as well as profound ignorance of what becoming a “professional” anything means for the middle class person, is here demonstrated.  To believe that one would become a philosopher by attending graduate school—why that’s a fool’s errand.  We were rubes in the ivory tower.

That he was inclined to view philosophy in this way seems also indicated by his having on occasion thought about becoming a reverend or minister.  He did not want simply to have a set up beliefs by which to justify and rationalize his actions, he wanted to live the beliefs and thereby to test them and himself, as the believer.  The problem here, I think, was that he did not believe in God, or let’s say the God he believed in would not be recognized as a God by anybody else.

 He also expressed a desire to join the Marine Academy and become a sailor.  He loved as I recollect the Captain Hornblower novels. This was a path within his grasp upon being graduated from high school but he did not take it.  I think he would have made an excellent “salt.”

But of course we all could have made an excellent something else if we had bothered to go in that direction.  Instead we took the educational means of moving up.  With his philosophy degree in hand, pursued by the draft, married soon, and then with a child on the way, he applied for a job in the post office, got it, and stayed in their employ for near on twenty years by my calculations.

For a working class person, a job in the post office is not to be scoffed at.  It’s civil service, the work is steady, and the pay reasonable.  And one gets to wear a uniform.

Something Egyptian

The old man’s claim to fame—of a very local variant—was his having built each house that we lived in.  Except for the very first, that had a tin roof and an outhouse and was rented for our first year or so back in South Carolina.  While we lived there, he built his first house on land adjacent to his adobemother’s house out of cinder block.  This made for quick, sturdy, and above all cheap construction but was not a style favored at that time or to my knowledge since.

One may make a house out of brick and it is an excellent house. But cinder block is used primarily in commercial construction, and is then painted because cinder block unpainted is rather ugly.  But the old man made it with his own hands, including I believe in this case the electrical, but without indoor plumbing.  It was a functional house and served the primary purpose of a house which is to keep out the elements.

He also built with his own hands, and the help of an electrician, the house in which we lived in California.  As I may have mentioned the original mortgage for this house was 12000 and was a kind of house in a box, lacking a better description.  All of the materials for the house were provided by a company, Whiting-Mead, so that, for example, all the wood was pre-cut to the dimensions of the house plan selected. This reduced considerably time and thought, both rather in short supply when it came to the old man.

But build the house, he did, and later he added on what we called a family room.  This had the table where we ate and the TV at the other end and in between a fancy fireplace of his own construction that had a place not just for a fire but also a grill for grilling meat and such.  The first time he lit a fire it did not however draw properly and flooded the house with smoke.  Over time, with much cursing and flinging about of tools, this defect was repair.  The building of this room took perhaps ten years.  Admittedly, most of it was there from the beginning, but finishing touches such as proper flooring were a long time in coming.  For years, before some linoleum got put on it, the flooring was simple and serviceable plywood.

The exterior of this house was covered in shakes painted grey.  Why, I don’t know.  But that they were part of the original package for the house in a box.

But the old man’s master piece, over the construction of which he would wax eloquent saying the The Lord had guided his very fingers, was the last one.  The adobe, as we called it, since that was what it was constructed of.  This house took perhaps five years to build as the old lady and old man lived in a trailer located on the property.  The bulk of that time went into the making of the adobe block directly from the earth of the property itself.  The old man would shovel the adobe into a cement mixer, liquefying it, then pour the adobe into molds, then remove the molds and let the adobe cure.

He made himself 10000 block and I must say I find something Egyptian about the feat.


Rousseau asks the reader to imagine infants born six feet tall.  And if we add to these creatures the emotions Freud believes infants and children feel, we have monsters indeed.  Or let us say we have adults but with no concern for the consequences of their actions and no sense really of their jawbonestrength.  If I were a woman I would of course be thankful that infants are not born 6 feet tall; we can all be thankful because the massacre would be enormous and the human race would come to a bloody pause.

I have seen a two year old wrench the bottle from its infant brother’s hand and run away to suck fiercely at it in some corner.  The two year old feels murderous but relatively small, somewhat portable, and surrounded by giants is not likely to commit homicide.  The feeling of having been abruptly uprooted and removed from the center of parental attention, however wavering, polluted, and pathological that attention may be by this obnoxious intruder and Johnny-come-lately may abate under ideal conditions, but is not likely to do so, as was my case, if one experiences one’s self as having been cast aside like an old shoe.

The face of the intruder will always remain the face of the intruder however much time and experience alter and weather that face. One cannot help but feel something darker and more mysterious than dislike because while one will always blame the intruder, one cannot help but wonder if something was and continues to be wrong (perhaps for example one’s nagging desire to strangle one’s brother) with one’s self to have been so early and precipitously handed over to the elements.

Why did he always get the larger ice-cream cone?  Why when disputes arouse was he invariably in the right and I in the wrong?  Why was he so confident and right when he said the world was flat, and I so dithering, and on the verge of wringing his neck, when I dared to contend otherwise.  Why when I said he had done it, did my father say, he didn’t care because surely I had done something that week deserving of the licking he was going to administer.

He had the higher IQ (if one believes in such things) I was told on more than one occasion.  He was tall, dark, and handsome.  I was pale, bony, red-headed and homely.  He looked more like my father; and I could have been my mother’s twin.  He studied only what he liked to study and success was a snap.  I did well in school but only because I was an “over-achiever.”

I knew a man, a professor of literature, who seemed always happy.  I said, why are you always happy?  He said,  with curious honesty, because my mother loved me.  There is nothing like a mother’s love.  True enough, but a mother’s love comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  And knowing our mother, I must believe my brother may have paid a highly complex price for having been the apple of her peculiar eye.

Bone Structure

The textures of brotherhood, in their yin and their yang, are buried very deep and out of sight.  2crowsRather like one’s skeleton one knows those textures are there; but one is happy not to see them in the way one might be happy to be spared ever seeing one’s skeleton. The sight and the experience of it would be very disturbing indeed.

While my father jokingly called me son number one, the second son is my brother number one. Brother 1 and I shared the same space or bedroom for about 15 years.  Shared is not quite the right word; rather we inhabited it as two young monkeys might the same tree.  While the tree provided shelter and sanctuary for both, we sat on very separate branches.  He tended to his business and I tended to mine.  Through long and unconscious practice we learned how not to get in the other’s way.

He did not tell me about his day and I did not tell him about mine.  While we caught diseases from each other and endured the other’s farts, we did not talk to each other about our worries, concerns, or ambitions. We did not talk either about the old lady or the old man or our other brothers when they came along. We had some of the same teachers in high school, but we did not talk about them.  We both liked to read but we didn’t discuss what we had read.  Nor did we talk about world affairs or the latest scientific developments.

He attended the same college that I attended. We lived at or around  the same school and for those two year I don’t think we dropped in on each other no more than a couple of times.  After that I had a nervous breakdown around the time he got married and started a family.

He was my mother’s favorite.  As I believe I may have mentioned, I know this because my mother told me so.  By the time my brother appeared, my mother had concluded that our father was not a proper man and that, consequently, she had to start over.  I accordingly was to be my father’s son, since I suppose she had decided not to abandon me by the roadside and my brother was to be her son.  My mother says that for the first 2 or 3 years of his life I followed my younger brother around as if he were the older brother and I the younger.

I don’t know if this is true or not (especially since the old lady’s primary purpose in life seemed to have been the emasculation of her boy children), but if it is true I suppose I did so to get whatever crumbs of affection that might come my way. The affection and attention that she gave to my brother and took from me accordingly was not compensated for by increased attention from my father, my  mother having apparently failed to inform him that I was now “his” son.

The Younger Brothers

I have 3 brothers acquired over the years.  One in 1948, one in 1952, one in 1960.  That makes 14 years between me, the oldest, and the youngest.  We are rather strung out.  Brother number 2 was born after the death of our sister, who died of the RH factor, after being on the earth for a week or younger brothersso.  But by the time brother #2 came along they had come up with stuff to combat the RH and he, success story that he was, was written up in some medical journal.

We are all rather nuts in some way or the other.  As the psychoanalyst, D.W. Winnicott says, if you have one mother and 8 children, you have eight different mothers.  This is true; we all have different perceptions of our mother.  But we agree, even with these differences, that she is crazy.  Or maybe she is evil.  We have discussed this matter and have not really reached a conclusion.

I think she is crazy.  Brother number 1 thinks she is Evil (or at times he thinks this).  Brother #2 believes she is capable of any manner of horrible acts.  And brother #3 would just as soon she went away.  Our different perceptions of her are probably related to the differing reasons we have for believing she is crazy and/or evil.

The thing that has kept us in contact with each other over the years as we went our different ways and to different parts of the state is the shared experience of having been raised by our crazy mother and impotent father.  Without these two we would not have much in common.

We are rather like those poor soldiers flung together in the same trench from different parts of the universe; and as they undergo the terrors of war, they bond, as they say.  After the war, they go their different ways and sometimes never contact each other again because really they had nothing in common except the shared misery of a miserable experience.

 One must face the fact that genetics is a crap shoot and just because you are related to another person by blood does not mean you have any deep elective affinity with that person as another person or soul.  Though of course you are probably all human beings. And in that respect, as much as you may dislike, fear, or simply hate, another of the same blood, you are bound by that blood to respect the fact that the blood relation is, in fact, a human being, something not as easily accorded a biological stranger.

This is no small or easy thing.  Many are much nicer and more pleasant, courteous and respectful to complete strangers than they are to members of their own family.  I think this much more the “norm” than many might imagine.  We say things to members of the family that we would never dare to say to others, unless we wish to get shot or be beaten to a pulp.  And we do not usually get shot or beaten to a pulp because we are family.

Sometimes this may well be a terrific mistake.