Saturday, January 9, 2010

In which I poke the bear

Thanksgiving 2008. Or was it Christmas 2007? I don't remember. This detail is not important to the story. I don't want to be a pedant. I already have a tendency to be a scold. Why add another layer of obnoxiousness to my personality?

Anyhow. We are at Sly and Doris'. Watching a movie. Sly says he has always found Alex Trebek to be arrogant. I cannot help myself.

Pot, meet kettle, I say.

Primo snickers.

Doris gasps, then laughs. Then says, You'll pay for this.

Thirty seconds later, Sly, who has been silent since I spoke, turns to Primo and says, You're pretentious. And so is your wife.

I stifle a laugh, think of making a smart-aleck response because boy has he told me, think better of it, and return to watching the movie.

When the movie ends, I pick up the dessert dishes, take them into the kitchen and start washing them.

Doris tells a story about going to supper with the Browns forty years ago. They had heard someone famous sing and Doris had been asked to sing with her. Or was that singing story another time? I can't remember.

No honey, Sly says. It was the Smiths.

No, I'm pretty sure it was the Browns.

It was the Smiths, Sly insists.

The story Doris is telling is about the singing (or whatever). That's the story I want to hear. That's the story she wants to tell.

But Sly can't let go of the Smith/Brown dilemma.

And it isn't long before he is yelling at Doris. And telling her how stupid she is. And asking if they had had a "Stupid" category on her report card when she was a little girl because if they did, she certainly would have gotten a high score.*

And Doris is crying.

And I am in the kitchen wondering what the heck I am supposed to do.

And what a 70 year old woman who is treated like this is supposed to do.

Doris wasn't always like this. In her youth, she was stunning. Tall, stacked, with long, thick, auburn hair. A voice like an angel. Scholarship to the music conservatory after she had graduated from college, which she also attended on a full scholarship. Her parents, who did not even finish high school, were so proud. Her dad, a quiet, hard-working factory man who found the money to buy a piano and music lessons for his talented only child. It was his employer who had sent Doris to college.

But then she met Sly. He was handsome and confident. Handsome and a bit of a bully, really, but how was a woman who had been the tall, skinny, smart girl with glasses and bad skin in high school who had never had a date supposed to know the difference between confident and controlling? He swept her off her feet and left his wife and two little boys, Primo's half brothers, Jack and Ted, for her.

Oh yes. This is not a pretty story.

She left school for him.

She could have gone places.

There is nowhere for her to go now.

Even though her neediness makes me recoil, I have no wish to see her harmed. Which is why I should be careful when I poke the bear. Because he makes me pay by hurting her.

* Yes. Alcohol is involved. Not that that excuses the behavior.

In which we are toasted

September 2008 Our wedding supper. Only immediate family and Chris' Lutheran pastor. The priest couldn't make it. He's a popular guy. Other weddings to do. My mom, my brother and sister. Doris and Sly, Ted. Primo's stepdaughters, Claudia and Chloe. Pastor G. That's it. Small group at a nice restaurant. We have brought our own wine. Not that that matters to this story. But Primo is a wine snob and we have over 300 bottles of wine in the basement, so why wouldn't we?

If Primo were standing over my shoulder as I write this, he would be urging me to write what kind of wine it was. I don't remember. I don't really like wine that much. Yes. I know. How can I be such a philistine? No, I don't know why he married me. Neither do his parents.

My brother and sister both give toasts in which they extol Primo's virtues. Say how happy they are that he has joined our family. Joke that I am not worthy of how wonderful Primo is.

Sly stands. Raises his glass. Talks about how wonderful Primo is.

Yeah. I know that.

Says he hopes Primo will be as happy in his second marriage as Sly is in his.

Ooops. I don't think that Sly and Doris are particularly happy. They fight. A lot. Doris has called Primo from inside a locked bathroom before. I have seen Sly make Doris cry. I have heard the name calling. I do not wish this for my own marriage.

Sly continues. In his entire toast, he never says my name once.

In which Sly comments on the dark meat

Thanksgiving 2008 We are chez Sly and Doris. Yes, I know I said we would spend no more holidays with them. Did I lie? Or did I forget this event because I wish to forget it? Because I did not want to spend more holidays with them? What is a lie, anyhow? Is it when you forget something, when you do not know something is untrue but say it is so, when you deliberately mislead?

This is not a philosophy blog. I will not address those questions.

Alas, we are there for Thanksgiving. We do not want to be. I do not want to be. But Primo had wanted to use up his frequent flier tickets before the airlines changed the programs. Really, I would rather have seen those miles go to waste rather than spend more time with Sly and Doris, but I also love Primo and part of that love is sacrificing for his sake.

He has to visit. They are his parents, after all. He does not like to go there alone. Alone, it is nothing but doing their chores because you know there are no plumbers where they live. There is nobody who could clean the cat poop off the floor around the cat box, not even their cleaning lady. No, not even she. He gets lonely. I can suck it up so he is not so lonely and bored.

So here we are. It is Thanksgiving dinner. Primo and I have done a lot of the cooking, which we do not mind, as we like to cook and as Doris has arthritis in her hands, so she can't do much and it would be mean make her.

We have cooked with inferior tools. Their knives are old and dull. They do not have a decent potato peeler, only an old, dull paring knife and of course the potatoes must be peeled, even though Primo and I prefer mashed potatoes with the peels left on. The apples for the pie as well, even though we prefer unpeeled apples. But their house, their rules. I am OK with that philosophy, except it seemed that when they visited us, it was our house, their rules. Am I bitter about that?

Yes.

Stephanie and Jack's divorce is final. They are at the house, along with the kids. They are making a strong effort to get along for the kids' sake. I applaud them for it. Doris compliments Stephanie on her outfit. Later, after Stephanie leaves, Doris asks, "Wasn't that a tacky outfit?"

We sit down to dinner. So far, no fireworks, no yelling. Everyone seems sober. Sly carves the turkey. As we start to eat, he says, "You know, I never have liked the white meat. Too dry. No flavor. I've always preferred the dark meat."

Stephanie and I look at each other across the table and our jaws drop in disbelief.

Friday, January 8, 2010

In which Sly gets mad about the white meat

Overall disclaimer for this story and all other posts: This happened over two years ago. I may not remember the facts exactly, but what I present here is close enough to true.

Christmas 2007. I discover that xanax does not work for me. Maybe I didn't take enough. Who knows? Vicodin didn't do much, either. But I digress. I do that a lot.

Primo and I are spending Christmas with Sly and Doris. It is the last holiday we will spend with them. Once we marry, we will spend our holidays together, in our home. Sly and Doris do not know this. They will not be happy with the news. Actually, we have not exactly broken it to them yet. We just aren't going to their place. Maybe they are figuring it out.

Christmas dinner. Sly has ordered the grandchildren (Jack and Stephanie's kids*), Michael, Maria, and Pia, to serve themselves first from the platters in the kitchen. They fill their plates.

Sly notices the kids have chosen only white meat from the turkey platter. He yells at Stephanie. When Sly was a kid, there is no way he could have gotten away with such nonsense! How dare they take only white meat! How DARE they! How can Stephanie be such a bad mother?

For the record, let me note that this was a huge turkey and there was still plenty of white meat left for everyone to have as much white meat as they wanted and there still to be enough for sandwiches the next day.

Stephanie says that's it, I am not taking this crap, I am leaving. She gets her coat and walks out the door.

Sly goes into his office in a huff.

Jack and Primo go after Sly, imploring him to apologize to Stephanie. This may be the last holiday supper everyone is together. Jack is about to file for divorce.** Everyone would like the kids to have this holiday with both parents.

I go out and offer Stephanie some xanax. She has her own drugs, she tells me.

Eventually, everyone returns to the table and we eat. Sly seems oblivious to the tension. I talk to Stephanie and Primo and the kids and count the hours until we leave.

* These kids are the nicest kids in the world. Mostly very well mannered and sweet. Overall, nothing to complain about as far as kids go.

** I do not know if Stephanie knew this was about to happen. I was quite uncomfortable that I was in possession of this information. I didn't think it was any of my business.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In which I introduce the cast

The purpose of this blog is to give me a place to vent. I have another, semi-public blog that my outlaws may or may not know about. I write as if they do, which really cramps my style. I have to leave out a lot of really good stuff, not because I care about what they think of me any more -- no matter what I do, they are not going to like me -- but because they would make my husband's life miserable and I love him and don't want to put him in that position. They knew about my old journalspace blog and did not like me based on it. You know - because I mentioned things like my religious and political beliefs and they did not match their religious and political beliefs and that's a good enough reason to write someone off, isn't it?

I mean, my mom and my husband do not agree on religion and politics and she can't stand him.*

My outlaws will definitely not know about this blog.

I have been married to my wonderful husband, Primo, since September 2008. His father, Sylvester, and mother, Doris, live far from us - an airplane ride away and not a cheap one but hey we're rolling in cash so it's fine, right?

Primo has two brothers. Jack lives fifteen minutes** from Sly and Doris and Ted lives several states away. Jack cannot do Sly and Doris' chores the same way Primo can, though. No, only Primo is fit to repair the garbage disposal. On Thanksiving. Not even a plumber can do what Primo can. Because if a plumber did it, then there would be less money for other things, like bourbon.

* Not true. My mom*** thinks my husband hung the moon.

** Well, Jack lived 15 minutes from Sly and Doris at the time of the disposal incident. He now lives an hour away, which is still closer than the $300 ticket for one plane ride away that we live.

*** My dad died 12 years ago, but he would have liked Primo, too.