Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In which I realize I should have been my usual interfering, bossy, know-it-all self even though it probably wouldn't have made any difference

Rule #1 for getting a divorce: Get a lawyer, get a lawyer, get a lawyer.

Rule #2: Get a lawyer.

Rule #3: Get a lawyer.

Do not do a mediated divorce. A mediated divorce is when a lawyer says, "I'll draw up the papers once you two reasonable adults who both want a divorce agree on what you want." The lawyer will not advise you in any way. The lawyer will not look out for your interests. Will not say, "By statute, this is how much alimony your ex-wife should get. This is how the assets should be split."

Get a lawyer. Get the meanest lawyer you can find. Do not try to be nice.

There is no such thing as "two reasonable adults" in a divorce. No such thing.

One of you wants a divorce, the other one does not.

If only one of you (Primo) wants a divorce, the other one (Bertha) has nothing to gain by agreeing to the divorce.

See the problem?

Primo files for divorce. He moves out three years before I meet him. I am not a homewrecker thankyouverymuch.

Bertha ignores him. She doesn't want this divorce. Primo is ruiningherlife. And she wants to stay on his health insurance. She would have to pay for health insurance* ($150/month for a $5,000 deductible) if she agreed to divorce. Or get a job.

Rule #4 for getting a divorce: No wxyz until he has actually finalized the divorce because otherwise he is not at all motivated to get it done. Really. I tell him no divorce, no wxyz.

I think, "This will motivate him to get this divorce done."

I also think, "How can I wxyz with a married man? That goes against all my morals!"

Yes, my morals are already shot to heck with pre-marital wxyz with other men (two), but I have to draw the line somewhere.

Apparently, my line can be erased, because Primo is a really good kisser and hey, he has filed and he has been separated for three years and it's not like they're living together or have kids together or anything.

A year after we meet, Primo and Bertha are still not divorced. Bertha is "not ready." I bite my tongue. I remind myself that this is Noneofmydamnbusiness. And really, it is not. Primo and I have not yet decided to marry. Sure, we have talked about it. He told me within six weeks of meeting me that he was in love with me and was Serious About Me.

I wasn't so sure. I was not ready to give up my independence. I like my space. I had to be convinced. But I do have that effect on men, you know.

So I stay out of it. It's not until spring of 2007 that Primo really starts to push Bertha. He and I are serious marriage talking and we need to get this done, especially as we have discovered that we will have to wait six months after the divorce is final to marry. Stupid stupid state law. No, there is no way around it. We have looked.

Bertha has no reason to sign. He has already given her their house. He is sending her money. He has been paying for her health insurance. He flies to where she lives and pretty much stands over her until she agrees to sign the papers. "I'll do it, I'll do it!" she says.

And then she says - cough! cough! - "I don't feel well!"

She goes to the doctor. "I can't sign papers and go to the doctor at the same time!"

Wants to wait for some labwork. "I can't sign papers and wait for labwork at the same time!"

Guess what?

She has cancer.

This weird cancer. A cancer that is not staged, will not put her in the hospital at all, and if you can call a cancer a mild cancer,** then this is it.

Now she really doesn't want to sign. So Primo re-works the agreement and offers her more money because why on earth would she sign a divorce agreement when she has cancer?

Sure, Primo could re-file, get a lawyer and take her to court, but how would that look? A man divorcing his cancer-stricken wife? Can you say John Edwards but without the hair, the illegitimate baby and the used-car salesman sleaziness? Did you know there are lawyers who specialize in cancer divorces? We couldn't take that chance.

So we're stuck. We're stuck paying way more alimony than we ever would have had to pay by statute. We have a bitter ex-wife who asks for more money at tax time*** and when her cat is sick.****

All for the want of a good lawyer. And an interfering, nagging girlfriend.


* Kind of like what I am doing.

** I know I am coming off as an unsympathetic you know what here, but my dad died of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. It was eight months from diagnosis to death and I was with him most of that time. I saw what a painful in-hospital, on morphine drip, spread to the lungs and spine, lose half your weight, wearing diapers cancer death looks like. Bertha has had her cancer since 2007. She has not been hospitalized once. She pitched a fit, played the cancer card and kept Primo from walking Claudia down the aisle at Claudia's wedding - from even attending the wedding. She has to wear a wig. Sue me.

*** We say no, honey, you're an honors grad from a top university that Primo paid for. Read the divorce decree

**** Primo is a sucker for that one because it's his cat, too. Bertha got custody. I say Bertha can get a job.

In which Primo promises me that his parents will never live with us

September 2008. Our wedding week. Our wedding night. Sly and Doris have been at our house for a week. Is that right? They arrived on Saturday. It's Friday. Yes, we marry on a Friday. It's a lot easier to get the pastor and the priest on Friday afternoon, especially when you have inadvertently requested a high-demand priest.

And we don't care about a big shindig. Primo's already been there and done that and paid for it all and then realized ooops! Shouldn't have done that!

I've never cared about having a big deal wedding, although I love attending them. My friend the pediatrician had a particularly fine wedding I must say, and so did my Alabama Belle. I have nothing against them - I just never wanted one for myself.

But yes - we have a low-key ceremony with family only. We have had houseguests for a week. Yes, I was insane. Actually, I was not insane. I was ignorant and spoiled by my friends and family, who are all extraordinarily well behaved and wonderful houseguests who do not expect me to be their maid, on-demand chef, and entertainer. I've always thought that the houseguest's responsibility was to fit into the rhythm of the household and accomodate herself to the host's schedule and habits. I didn't realize it was the host's responsibility to cater to the guest's every whim.

But that's how it's been with Sly and Doris. Primo spends Sunday and Monday entertaining them. He told them before they set their travel dates that he had to work Tuesday and Wednesday so he could take Monday, Thursday and Friday off. Yet they whine and complain on those days that they are sooo bored. Our TV is in the basement, so they can't watch TV. Soooo bored. Considering I have gone most of my life without TV, I am not sympathetic with two highly educated, self-proclaimed intellectuals who cannot go two days without television.

We have been in the house only a few months, so have not finished unpacking.* Which means we (=Primo) do not have a stereo set up yet. Primo hauls a stereo up from the basement and sets it up in the living room so his mom and dad can listen to something so they won't be booooooooored.

They are staying in our bedroom because they cannot take stairs. Our room is the only one on the first floor. I can't complain too much about that one. When we gave them a tour of the house upon arrival, they did struggle up to the second floor. On her way back down, Doris fell down the last two stairs. My horrible thought was, "Oh no! What if she broke her hip and has to stay here for six months?" Yes. Shameful, I know.

They demand a newspaper every morning. Well, not demand, exactly, but kind of whine about it. Why don't we get a newspaper? Because we only get the weekend issue and read the rest online. Fine. I get them a paper copy every morning.

They demand attention. I cook a full meal every night, which is not our usual habit. Then I sit there while they eat it. Slowly. Excruciating. Then Primo and I clean the kitchen. Well, Primo loads the dishwasher and does almost all the work, but I spend as much time as possible in the kitchen because I do not want to be with them. Then they want to socialize some more. Alcohol is involved in all of this. After I excuse myself to go to bed, they complain to Primo that I do not spend enough time with them.

On Thursday, my mother, my mother's gentleman caller, my brother and sister, Primo's stepdaughters, Claudia and Chloe, and Primo's brother Ted arrive. I am picking people up from the airport. I am cooking. I am taking people to hotels. I am cooking. I am changing sheets in the upstairs guest room so my mom can sleep there. Primo and I shift to the pullout bed in the basement. I cook more.

Yes. I am insane. I should have told people to find their own food, but even if my family and the stepdaughters had fended for themselves, Sly and Doris would have expected to be fed, even though they don't eat lunch, as we all know. So as long as I was cooking for them anyhow, I might as well cook for everyone.

I should have told people to rent cars, but it seemed so wasteful. I can't stand for someone to have to spend money on something like that when it's not necessary.

So I turn myself into an innkeeper/driver/chef for a week. The week of my wedding.

How dumb was that?

It wouldn't have been so bad with my own family, Ted, Claudia and Chloe because they are the kind of houseguests I have known: they help. They make life easier. They see what needs to be done and they do it. If the dishes are dirty, they wash them. If the table needs to be set, they set it. If there is a meal that needs to be prepared, they cook or get takeout.

But Sly and Doris create work. They demand. They whine.

And by Friday night, I have had enough.

And so has Primo.

On our wedding night, as we lie in our pullout sofabed in the basement, the sofabed that we have discovered is not the most comfortable bed in the world and for which we owe an apology to our friends who've had to sleep on it, exhausted not only from a long day but from a week of dealing with Sly and Doris, he turns to me and gives me the best present he has ever given to me and ever will give to me.

"They will never live with us," he tells me. "Never."


* May I note for the record that I am finished unpacking. Primo is not finished unpacking. As the daughter of a career air force officer, I have moved about 40 gajillion times in my life, including maybe 20 times since college. I know how to move.

In which Doris is upset that I didn't eat the onion rings and I am a bad onion ring eater

January 2010 Primo and I have returned from his parents, have been to see my mom. All our family duties discharged, in a ratio of about 40 to 1, his parents to my mother. Well, not that bad. More like - well, whatever. I don't feel like doing the math, but we've been to his mom and dad's at least once a year, plus he goes on his own, and he and I have been to my mom's twice.

He points out that my mom visits us and his parents do not.

Thank God for small miracles.

When my mom visits, it is a pleasure. Well, it is for us, anyhow. When she came last summer, she arrived the night before our basement flooded, so she got to spend the next day helping us dry the carpet. She might not be so eager to come again next year. But even when she would visit me in my old house, she would arrive with tools and gardening supplies. She would do a preliminary inspection of the house and yard in the evening and the next day, she would get to work.

My mother is not one to sit around doing nothing.

Am I complaining?

Nope. I have my grandmother's irises in my flowerbeds now thanks to my mom. And, of course, we saved the TV room carpet.

The one time his mom and dad were here - for the wedding they threatened to boycott - they had to be entertained. Primo took off the Monday, but had to work that Tuesday and Wednesday before my family arrived. They could not figure what to do with themselves without a TV. (Our TV is in the basement and they can't take the stairs.) I find it amazing that two intellectuals couldn't just spend a day reading. But no.

Anyhow. I am drifting off topic, as I am wont to do. We are back home. Three weeks after leaving Sly and Doris. Primo has his regular mandated phone call. He gets off the phone, comes downstairs.

"My mom was upset that you didn't eat her onion rings at supper."

"What are you talking about?"

"When we were there."

"She said something?"

"Yes."

"The onion rings I made so she wouldn't have to stand there for half an hour?"

"Yes."

"She's been stressing about this for three weeks?"

"Yes."

"Why?"

"She thinks you didn't like them."

"So what?"

"She says she is reaching out to you and you keep rejecting her."

"Because I didn't eat her onion rings?"

Primo shrugs.

"Do you think maybe your mom is just a little bit self centered?"

He sighs. He's the one who is actually related to them. I have the luxury of getting to be dramatic, loud and indignant. I have told him that one of the reasons I think he likes me is I am allowed to say a lot of the things he thinks and feels.

"Is it possible that one, I ate a whole bunch of onion rings while I was frying them or two, I just wasn't that hungry because I am taking migraine drugs that kill my appetite? Or three, maybe I don't like onion rings and if I don't SO WHAT? And guess what? None of these possibilities have anything to do with your mother! None of them! Why is she trying to make this about her? It's not always about her!"

Yes, I am over-reacting.

But so is Doris.

So there.

You may have noticed that this is a common theme with Sly and Doris: the delayed, petulant reaction to a seemingly innocuous event that could have been addressed at the time.

But rather than say something at the table like, "That Woman, would you like some onion rings?" thus giving me the chance to answer with, "No thank you, Doris, I'm already full from stuffing myself while I was frying them" or "No thank you, Doris, my medication kills my appetite," or even a simple, "No thank you, Doris," Doris waits three weeks to complain.

I can't even say, "No thank you, Doris." A "No thank you" is considered by most to be a sufficient, polite response that does not permit further pressing. Some people consider it rude to comment on what someone eats or does not eat.

But then, some people consider it rude not to provide lunch for their guests.

I am living in an alternative universe.

In which I tell my mother I have broken up with the Moroccan millionaire Muslim and am dating a Lutheran

December 2005. Primo and I have been dating less than two months. We met at our 20-year college reunion. We did not know each other in college, although we had a mutual friend, Sam, Primo's roommate and best friend, who worked with me at the faculty club. Our paths did not cross in college because I had a boyfriend and Primo had beer.

When I meet Primo at the reunion at the beginning of November, I have just been laid off from my job of eight years. I am unemployed. Unmarried. Childless.

I have nothing.

Wait!

I went to Morocco to see my friends Norah and Henry. While I was there, I met a Moroccan millionaire with a PhD in economics who was an advisor to the World Bank. He hit on me hard. Too hard, but I was blinded by the glamor of it all. He was rich and good-looking in a Gomez Addams sort of way. Indeed, that is what we shall call him: Gomez. He pursued me hard and I, flattered and unaccustomed to how Arab men do business, fell for it. We even met for a week in Paris.

Granted, this trip to Paris consisted of Gomez drinking a bottle of wine at lunch, changing into his Frette pajamas* and napping all afternoon, then drinking another bottle of wine at supper and going to sleep. All of this in his cousin's tiny apartment. Oh, sure, we might go out. To The Gap. Or to his bank. Maybe to the Ferrari dealer where he and the salesman talked about cars. We did go to the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré one morning so he could shop. That's a very fancy, expensive street. He bought a sport coat. Just like the one he was already wearing. For $1,200. Cash.

That's as much as I paid for my first car.

But this was not my idea of a good time in Paris.

Still, I was stuck at the reunion. Unemployed,** unmarried, childless.

Tell me you wouldn't have bragged about your rich Moroccan boyfriend. Oh yes you would have. Don't lie to me.

Then I meet Primo.

Sam and his wife walk in the door with Primo and I wave at them.

Primo waves back.

"Oh," I say, with my infinite tact. "I wasn't waving at you. I was waving at Sam and Nadine."

Yes, I find Primo the next day to apologize. I mean, how tacky was I? How rude was I? My mother did raise me better than that, so don't blame her.

We talk the rest of the evening. I think he's cute and interesting, but he lives 500 miles away from me. Oh well.

He knows I have a Rich Moroccan Boyfriend. Everyone does. I've been bragging, remember?

He gets my email from Sam and emails me on Monday, two days after we meet.

Soon, we're emailing every day.

Yes, I am still officially dating the Rich Moroccan Boyfriend.

Who, conveniently, lives on another continent, so our relationship consists of skype calls to my office. (Gomez does not email.) As I no longer have an office because my loser boss let someone kick us out of our 8th floor HQ offices into cubicles in a converted warehouse, I have to speak French*** so my colleagues don't overhear me, which means I don't have a lot to say to Gomez. Gomez doesn't care because Gomez really is not that interested in what I think.

In the meantime, Primo, who is a fabulous writer and full of things to say, emails me almost constantly.

He arranges a long layover in my city so he can have lunch with me. Changes a flight so he can have a long layover on the way back. Spends a weekend with me in December. Flies me to see him. The Millionaire didn't pay for my ticket to Paris. Just saying.

I realize I have broken up with Gomez. Gomez doesn't know this but we have not spoken in three weeks. Maybe he's figured it out. Maybe he should email once in a while.

My sister and I go to my mom's for Christmas. I hand my mom, who lived in Saudi Arabia for five years, a note. "This is your Christmas present," I say.

The note says,

Dear Mom: I've broken up with the Muslim and am dating a nice Lutheran boy. Love, That Woman.

"Oh!" she says. "Well. That's nice." She smiles, puts the note down, gives me a hug. That's it. She wants to know about Primo, but she doesn't say anything like, Whew! is she relieved I'm not dating a Muslim any more because she saw how much drama there could be after living in Saudi Arabia all that time and seeing what happens when there are those cultural and religious clashes.

I know she's excited, though, because when her friend Pat comes over later, the first thing she does is hand the note to her. Pat, a Catholic lady, reads it and says, "Oh! We know a lot of nice Lutherans, don't we!"

I tell this story when Doris and Sly are here. "Didn't you say anything to her when she was dating the Moroccan?" Doris asks my mom.

I did not tell anyone in my family about Sly and Doris threatening not to come to the wedding. I didn't want to poison the atmosphere. My mother's answer was completely unprompted.

"No," my mom says. "I always thought it best not to interfere in my children's love lives."

Doris hesitates, takes a breath. "That's probably a good idea."



* I had never heard of this brand before but upon subsequent research I discovered it is fancy.

** I've been told about the layoff, but it doesn't happen until December 31, so I am still working.

*** My French doesn't march much these days and it didn't then, either.

In which I have a miscarriage

Primo's divorce was final in December 2007. Finally. Although we could not get married until he had been divorced for six months (dumb nanny state law), he could add me to his company's health insurance plan as a domestic partner, which seemed silly to me. That option should be available only to gay couples because straight couples can get married and I don't see why any company or government should subsidize straight folks who just want to shack up, but in this case, it worked to our advantage so whatever. At least this wasn't out of anyone's tax money. He signed me up, I cancelled my individual health insurance with the $5,000 deductible, and I threw away the birth control pills.

Not that I was optimistic because I was already 44 and that is kind of old. But my grandmother had twins at 42 and my great grandmother had her last child at 48. She lost seven children to diptheria in six days and then had eight more. Vaccines are good.

I did talk to a fertility doc to see if there was any kind of magic get pregnant right away pill I could take. The middle-aged equivalent of climbing into the back seat of a car with a six pack. Not that I have gone my whole life about to die to have a baby, but Primo really wanted one and I've always thought it would be nice to have adult children someday, although I am not sure about the steps you have to take to get there. The whole baby/toddler/childhood thing seemed kind of time-consuming to me.

The doctor was candid. We could do all kinds of diagnostic procedures on Primo and me (if I could not get pregnant), but they are invasive and expensive and what do we do with the information once we have it? Plus I was old. Biology. There is not much you can do about it once your eggs get past their sell-by date.

I shrugged, went home and Primo and I talked about getting cats.

Then came a month (I'm not going to tell you when because it is important to the plot but you will find out eventually) when I was nauseated all day long.

I never get sick.

My skin was broken out.

And I was late.

That kind of Late.

I told Primo that I thought I was finally starting menopause. Great. Early menopause. And I was still getting acne. All the disadvantages of age with all the disadvantages of youth.

"I think you might be pregnant," he says.

So I pee on the stick.

I am pregnant.

Not what I am expecting. I am thrilled but terrified. Like getting an 18-year prison sentence.*

We don't tell anyone. Because you don't tell anyone until 12 weeks. That's the rule. Miscarriages are most common before 12 weeks, so you don't tell because you don't want to untell. For ten weeks, I have all-day morning sickness. I never get a bosom, which annoys me to no end. Where are my breasts? All my life, I've wanted a bosom. Don't I get a chest? If I have to feel nauseated and tired all day long, don't I get the C, B or even full A-cups to go with it?

Nope.

Then one night, I notice some blood. This is not good.

I call my doctor. Go in the next day. He tries to find a heartbeat. None. I have a blood test. Results bad. Go back in three days for another blood test. Results worse.

Go back the next day for an ultrasound. Results awful.

My options are to wait for everything to come out naturally in a day or in two weeks or whenever or to have the doctor take care of it. I opt to have the doctor take care of it.

It doesn't occur to me until after it is all over to ask the nurse, who has held my hand throughout the entire procedure, if there is a possibility that everyone was wrong and the baby could still have been alive.

"No," she says, stroking my hand. "No, honey, I'm so sorry. There is nothing anyone could have done."


* "No," said my mother. "It's more like a life sentence."

Monday, February 8, 2010

In which we buy our own lunch

December 2009 We are between the airport and Sly and Doris' house. Primo has some deal with his Amex card where he has to spend money at six merchants and he'll get a $30 credit blah blah blah. He still needs to buy something from Whole Foods, which is not a place we usually shop because they are outrageously expensive, although I am happy to take the sample cruise.

He calls his dad to see if they need anything from the store. They have bread. Good. I have no interest in spending six dollars on a loaf of bread. Even the Good Flour doesn't cost that much for five pounds and you can make a lot of bread with five pounds of flour. Primo asks if they have stuff for lunch.

Of course they don't.

Because. They. Don't. Eat. Lunch.

What are the rules on this? My dad gave me a stern talking to once because I didn't have coffee. "But Dad!" I whined. "I don't drink coffee!"

"Yes, but you might have guests who want coffee," he answered. "Like me."

Oh. Right. So I bought coffee and my little Cuban coffee maker thingy and there you go. I also developed the habit, especially when I lived in Miami, where I seemed to have an awful lot of company, especially in the winter, of stocking my fridge with orange juice and yogurt and cold cereal, all foods that I usually do not consume but are considered traditional breakfast fare by most. I did not want to force my guests to eat oatmeal, which was my breakfast of choice.

So yeah. When you have guests, you provide the basics for them: breakfast, LUNCH, and supper.*

Sly and Doris don't need anything, but I do. I eat lunch because if I don't keep my blood sugar up, I get a headache and I've already had a headache for 12 days straight and that's an awful lot of imitrex to use plus I turn kind of bitchy when I have a headache and I'm already bitchy about having to visit Sly and Doris and Primo really doesn't need the additional stress of my bitchiness when he already has the stress of his parents expecting him to Make Them Happy.

Plus I get hungry. Doesn't everyone?

So we go to Whole Foods to buy some lunch meat. I do not want a repeat of last year. Last year, there was no lunch.** Nothing. Oh sure there was some rancid generic peanut butter and a bunch of Cracker Barrel cheese (see: "We're lactose intolerant except for Primo and That Woman's $24/lb Carr Valley cheese, cream cheese, and Kopps frozen custard") and crackers, but I did not want to eat cheese and crackers for lunch five days in a row, so after I got back from the Y in the morning and then spent a couple of hours working the yard, I would go to the grocery store and buy myself something, muttering bitterly to myself the entire time. I bought a supply of almonds to keep in the bedroom so I would have emergency protein.

There was no fruit in the house. Yes, I could have bought fruit. But I didn't want to. I shouldn't have had to. Produce is horribly expensive where they live. Horribly. It takes a few days to ripen. I was ticked off enough that I was buying my own darn lunch. We had flown them to our house two months earlier. We had fed them for NINE DAYS. We had bought their damn Lactaid. They couldn't feed me lunch? They couldn't buy a few pears?***

I was in a very, very bad mood.

Because here is one of My Things:

I hate wasting calories on crappy food.

I have been a Fat Chick. I work hard to stay at a weight I like or at least don't hate. If I am going to eat something, I want it to be really, really good. I resent, I bitterly resent, having to eat bad food, as in processed, crummy, lousy-tasting food, just because I have to get something in my stomach. I am a really good cook. One of Primo's main [fake] complaints about our marriage is that we don't go out to eat enough. But really - why bother to go out if we can cook just as well or better at home?

So having to eat crackers (salt, salt, salt) and low-end cheese for lunch or something off the processed food shelf at the grocery store or something from a fast-food restaurant is not my idea of honoring the temple that is my body or my taste buds.

I was ticked.

I complained to Primo. "What is wrong with them?" I hissed.

"They're not hungry," he said.

In retrospect, I should have just eaten the supper leftovers. I should have. Then when supper came around and there was nothing there, I could have just said, "That wasn't lunch? But I was so hungry after spending three hours clearing out all the weeds in the back yard/cleaning the mildew off the front door/cleaning out the garage/etc, etc, etc."

But I didn't. I was an idiot.

Back to Whole Foods. Primo and I buy some turkey and some roast beef. We arrive chez Sly and Doris with our own lunch meat. Yes. We come with our own food after having spent $500 to fly there and having rented (well, used Hertz miles) a car.

We come bringing our own food.

If I had a guest show up compelled to bring his own food, I would be mortified. Drop-dead shamed mortified.

Sly and Doris don't seem bothered in the least. I guess they have a different standard of what it means to be a good host.




* My mother was emailing a month before we visited her this year to find out what Primo likes and what she could bake and cook for him. When I took my vegetarian boyfriend Sean to visit my mother, she made sure that every single meal was vegetarian friendly, even to the point of having another dessert when she made mincemeat pie.

** We left the day after Thanksgiving. So there would have been leftovers the day after Thanksgiving, but by then, it was too late.

*** In their defense, I do have to say that they did have diet Dr Pepper waiting for me. I am going to whine, though, and point out that it was the soda in the two-liter bottles, which everyone knows is inferior because it loses its fizz over time, and not the canned soda. "Oh, they only had the 24-pack at the store," they said, "and you were only going to be here for a few days." So? Like you drank all the Lactaid? Like it would have killed you to spend $4.99 on me? You spend more than that every afternoon on booze.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In which Sly refuses to listen to Primo sing

September 2008 Our wedding week. Sly and Doris are here; my family has not arrived. They have taken us out to eat. Very nice of them. Primo wants them to hear him sing. Sly and Doris met when they were both singing in a church choir. Not a church where they were congregants. Just a church where they were singers. Sly was married at the time, Doris was I believe a voice student at the music school.

Anyhow. Primo is excited. He wants to show his mom and dad that he shares their passion and their talent. Doris, who is lonely and likes to be around people, agrees eagerly, Sly, reluctantly. We drive to the American Legion. It's a Wednesday night. It won't be too crowded, too noisy, too smokey. Sly shouldn't have too many things to complain about. Always we are on eggshells with Sly. Always.

We get there. Hardly anyone in the club. Primo buys beer for everyone but me. Just what Sly needs: more booze. Doris sits, looks around, smiles, talks to me, to Primo. Happy to be out, out! In the world! This is what it's like not to be trapped in her house with nobody but a grouch for company.

Doris sparkles when she is away from Sly.

Sly finds something to criticize immediately. "Too loud in here! Too loud!"

We move to a different table further from the speakers. Always we must satisfy Sly.

He doesn't like the singer. Bad, bad singer. Well, yes, Sly. Most singers are not to your level. This is a karaoke bar. People here sing for fun. You were a semi-professional singer of classical music. She is a middle-aged bar patron singing a pop tune on a karaoke sound system in a basement bar. No, she is not a trained musician with your talent. Cut her some slack. Aren't you one of the Tolerant ones?

No. I guess not.

Primo puts his name on the list.

Sly goes to the bathroom.

Primo is called to sing while Sly is gone.

He is singing when Sly returns. He is standing four feet away from Sly when Sly begins to rage. "It's too loud in here! I can't stand it! I can't stand it! I'm leaving!"

I, who am drugged with vicodin, have had enough, and say something I might not otherwise have said. "Damnit, Sly! You will listen to your son sing! Shut up! Shut up and listen! What is wrong with you?"

Sly yells, "I can't see him! I'm leaving!"

I scream. "He's right in front of you!"

Sly stomps out.

Doris puts her face in her hands.

Primo watches his father walk away while he sings.

My feelings for Sly solidify.

I will not forget. Or forgive.