I didn’t save the letters, but Grandpa sent us a letter every day for years. Different topics, different pens, different paper, but always the same strangeness. Sometimes I would barely read them. They came so often and just as often I could not understand them. I would write a obligatory letter of small talk here and there. The thoughts of letters I box up and add to the pile of subjects and folks in my family that give me unbearable guilt.
The letters were a bit like Grandpa as he began to age. Often incoherent. Full of receipts from the Co-Op in Burns, Wyoming where Grandpa had lived since he was a little boy. The family homesteaded there and bought up 146,000 acres of land while running a cattle company. Wyoming roots. In the roots of the Wyoming tree were also roots of the eccentric side I recognize all through branches manifesting in my own mannerisms.
Grandpa had his own workshop down in the basement of the huge house my sister is still convinced is haunted. The new tenants that are renting are convinced of this too. Perhaps a little of the madness of my Gpa has stayed there lingering in fumes of paint and metal. I never felt the ghosts my sister claims, but I was eccentric like Gpa. A quiet connection I found in his pillow when I realized it contained the same smell as mine.
Sometimes the letters contained dead bugs. A spider smashed by the manual typewriter. A dead bee scotch taped to a yellow paper of a legal pad. Brown juice of flies in corners of cartoons he would draw shakey and small protruding from the margins. The cartoons always of someone running or the laughable folly of a heavy object falling. Gpa and myself not aware of any falling, falling, although others might see the eccentric slip as a painful one.
My uncle commented perhaps his eccentricity compromised his career and that may be the case for us all but instead my Uncle meditates everyday, I blog everyday, Grandpa wrote a letter everyday, my sister parents everyday. Sanity and strangeness just perceptions, socially coded, dynamic, changing, different everyday.
In Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness, psychiatrist David Weeks explains that eccentrics are physically healthier and significantly happier than “normal” people. He notes that eccentrics are wildly diverse yet share common characteristics. Here are his 25 descriptors of eccentricity, listed in descending order of importance. (Dr. Weeks says the first five are the most significant characteristics.)
- Enduring non-conformity
- Strongly motivated by an exceedingly powerful curiosity and related exploratory behavior
- An enduring and distinct feeling of differentness from others
- Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six)
- Intelligent, in the upper fifteen per cent of the population on tests of intelligence
- Opinionated and outspoken, convinced of being right and that the rest of the of the world is out of step with them
- Not necessarily in need of reassurance or reinforcement from the rest of society
- Unusual eating habits and living arrangements
- Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of other people, except perhaps in order to persuade them to their contrary point of view
- Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy, and wit
- More frequently an eldest or an only child
- Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories, usually a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. (It should be noted that the family history method of estimating hereditary similarities and resemblances usually provides rather conservative estimates.)
- Eccentrics prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings. There is a frequent use of the psychological defense mechanisms of rationalization and intellectualization.
- Slightly abrasive
- Midlife changes in career or lifestyle
- Feelings of “invisibility” which means that they believe other people did not seem to hear them or see them, or take their ideas seriously
- Feel that others can only take them in small doses
- Feel that others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. In some cases, this is well-founded.
- Dislike small talk or other apparently inconsequential conversation
- A degree of social awkwardness
- More likely to be single, separated, or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced
- A poor speller, in relation to their above average general intellectual functioning
“Eccentric doesn’t bother me. ‘Eccentric’ being a poetic interpretation of a mathematical term meaning something that doesn’t follow the lines – that’s okay.”