Friday, June 23, 2017

Ch 2 Primo wants creamed onions for his birthday, which I guess is OK, but I am trying to move beyond Campbell’s soup as an ingredient (except for in King Ranch casserole, where it is essential), not because I am a food snob but it has so much salt

Me: What should we have for your birthday?

Primo: Steak.

Me: What else?

Primo: I don't know. Creamed onions. We could have creamed onions.

Me: I don't want to be cooking all day.

Primo: All you do is throw the stuff in a pot and heat it!

Me: What?! No! You have to make a cream sauce, which means starting with a roux and then adding milk. It's some work. And then there is peeling all those onions.

Primo: But you just open a can of soup. That's all.

Me: Soup?

Primo: It's my mom's recipe. I want you to make my mom's recipe.

Me: Ummmmmm. Cooking does not strike me as your mom’s thing.

Primo: It's just Cream of Shrimp soup, some sherry, and the onions, which you buy frozen and peeled.

Me: So – alcohol is involved –

Primo: It is my parents.

Me: And – not much else.

Primo: I like it.

Me: Fine. It’s your birthday.

Ch 2 Doris sends Primo a present that she should know he would never want

Doris sends Primo a birthday present – a brown Hawaiian shirt from a store in Florida.

I have known Primo for less than two years. That is, I have known Primo for a lot less time than Sly and Doris have. (Not that Sly was involved in the gift selection. That is Women’s Work.)

In that time, I have learned

·        Primo does not wear brown.
·         He does not wear Hawaiian shirts.

“But I never wear anything like this!” he says. “Doesn’t she even look? Doesn’t she see what I wear when I visit? I have never in my life worn a shirt like this.”

Blue. He wears blue. The man has close to 100 blue shirts. I counted all the blue shirts in his closet. Blueblueblue. Blue is what he wears. No brown. Not one single brown shirt.

I was looking at a coffee-table travel book with Henry, our friends’ little boy. He saw a photo of a man wearing a blue shirt on a camel.

Me: Who’s that?

Henry: I think it’s Uncle Primo!

Me: No. I don’t think Primo has ever been on a camel.

Henry: But – he’s wearing a blue shirt!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ch 2 Sly tells Primo to spend over $100 on garden lights as a Mother’s Day present for Doris and it ticks me off even though really, it is none of my business

Am I the only person in the world who hates Mother’s Day and its evil twin, Valentine’s Day? I hate them. I hate stupid mandatory holidays. I love my mother every day, not just Mother’s Day. I get her a Mother’s Day card because it would hurt her feelings for the day to pass unnoticed and because I love her and I don’t want her feelings to be hurt, but it’s not my favorite thing to do.

I already told Primo that he does not have to do anything ever as long as we are together for Valentine’s Day.[1] Doing something nice for someone because Hallmark says so? No.

Although of course good chocolate is always welcome. But you don’t need a day for that.

So I am annoyed when Sly orders Primo to get Doris a Mother’s Day present – an expensive one.

My mom gets a card! A card! And that’s fine!

Although really, I do not have standing to be annoyed. Primo and I are not married. We do not share money or other resources. His doing for Doris does not take away from me.

But it’s still annoying.

Primo: My dad told me my mom wants these garden lights for Mother’s Day.

He leans back from his computer so I can see the product page.

Me: But those cost $100! And then there is shipping!

Primo: That’s what she wants.

Me: For Mother’s Day? That is an awful lot of money to spend on Mother’s Day. In my family, we do cards and that’s about it. Even if this were a Christmas present, it would be something my brother, sister, and I would go in together on. We are not in the habit of spending $100 on gifts.

Primo: Oh, they don’t spend that on me! I am supposed to spend that on them!

[1] See, “Primo takes the dead rat out of my basement.”

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Ch 2 What Primo wishes for

Me: Until I met you, I never mixed leftovers in Tupperware containers.

Primo: Why not?

Me: I never thought of it. But it's a good idea.

Primo: The next things I'm going to hear you say are, "Until I met you, I wasn't a liberal and I didn't like having fingers stuck in my bellybutton."

Me: Yeah. Don't hold your breath on those.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Ch 2 Primo freaks out about a broken TJMAxx vase that cost only $15, which is only three in beer units – it’s not like it was Ming or anything

A vase sitting on top of Primo’s fridge falls to the ground and shatters into pieces.

I start picking up the glass.

Primo freaks out. Total Drama.

Primo: Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!

Me: Relax! It's just a cheap vase from TJMaxx!

Primo: How did this happen? How? HOW?

Me: I don’t know. I suppose that each time the refrigerator door was opened, the vase moved a tiny bit. Let's just clean this up and get out of here.

Primo: But how did this happen? It has to be someone’s fault!

Me: No it doesn’t. Sometimes things are just accidents. 

Primo: But I have to understand! How did this happen? It shouldn’t have happened!

Me: It fell. That’s what happened. And now we clean it up. That’s all.

Primo: No! I have to understand.

Me: Why? Sometimes things happen and they are nobody’s fault.

Primo: No. It has to be someone’s fault.

Me: No it doesn’t. Just what was it like in your house when you were a kid? What happened if you spilled milk or something?

Primo: I got in trouble.

Me: No, no, no. I mean when you were little. It's one thing to get in trouble when you're seven and your dad has been warning you to stop goofing off. It's another when you are four. Four year olds have accidents. Big deal.

Primo: I told you, I got in trouble. My dad would scream at me.

Me: At a little kid? When you were little?

I get the little hand broom and the dustpan and start sweeping.

Primo: Yes.

Me: Really screaming. Not just a little bit of chastising?

Primo: Screaming.

Me: When you were little.

Primo: Yes.

Me: Little little?

Primo: Yes!

Me: Did that happen a lot?

Primo: Yes. He punched me when I was a teenager.

He plugs in the vacuum cleaner

Me: Punched?  Like – closed fist – punch?

Primo: I weighed about 90 pounds. Well – you’ve seen my dad. He’s big. And he was strong back then. He gave me a black eye.

Me: Wow. People call the cops for that kind of thing now.

Primo: Didn’t your dad hit you?

Me: He spanked us when I was little but stopped when I was five. That means my brother would have been four and my sister was three. He said he realized it was not a good idea to hit his own children.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Ch 2 Sly and Doris complain about Michael and Maria's lack of initiative and I am bitter thinking about all the times my grandparents complained about me BUT WAIT! THEY NEVER DID THAT!

Primo: Look at the email my mom and dad sent. They wonder why their grandchildren do not want to spend time with them.

We’ve tried to encourage Michael's love of basketball by steering him through two basketball camps and giving him advice on what he needed to work on to make the school basketball team. But he chose not to bulk up, tone himself, or increase his stamina. Obviously without the necessary hard work he wasn’t picked after team tryouts. For whatever reasons, he seems bound to diminish his innate talents by making unwise life-choices. He is counting on scholarships but has done little or no research about colleges that would be appropriate and/or affordable.

Ch 2 Primo thinks I will help him clean out Sly and Doris’ house after they die but no way am I getting involved in that mess

Primo: I know you're looking forward to cleaning out my parents' place after they die.

Me: I'm not doing that.

Primo: But what if I have to? Aren't you going to help?

Me: Sure. I’ll tell Salvation Army to come get everything.

Primo: But there might be stuff I want to keep.

Me: What, like the eight-year old Pittsburgh newspapers in the closet of the guest room?

Primo: No. But I'll have to go through everything in case there's something I might need someday.

Me: You’re on your own on that one, baby. I haven’t been to a wedding in a while, but I don’t think, “Help clean out your husband’s parents’ house” is part of the vows. It’s definitely not going to be in our vows.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ch 2 March Sly asks Primo if he has ever seen Deep Throat and I reminisce about all the times my dad and I talked about porn – oh wait – that never happened because my father had a firm understanding of what’s appropriate, appropriate being you do not talk to your children, even your adult children, about your sex life and/or porn

Remember how we talked about Sly and his apparent lack of boundaries?

Hmm. If you don’t remember, let me remind you:

·         He offered his shower to Primo and me even though I was reluctant to share a bedroom with Primo under his roof
·         He told me that he and Doris shower together all the time
·         He told Primo about his Viagra use.

Here is Exhibit D re Sly’s Lack of Boundaries and His Total Cluelessness about Appropriate Conversations with His Adult Child.

Primo: You will not believe what my dad asked me.

Me: What?

Primo: He asked if I had ever seen “Deep Throat.”

Me: Your dad asked if you have ever watched a famous porn movie?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Does your dad know what the word “boundary” means? He was an English professor. I would expect he would know the definitions of common words.

Primo: Nope. Anyhow, he said that he and my mother had watched it.

Me: Oh you wanted to know that. Wait. Your dad admits to you that he watches porn?

Primo: Yes.

Me: But why? Why would he share that?

Primo: I don’t know. I know he watches online porn.

Me: He told you?

Primo: No, but when I have worked on his computer, I have seen his browsing history and his bookmarks.

Me: That is gross. I mean, I don’t care, I guess, but that’s not the kind of thing you share with someone.

Primo: And he said that there have been many women who threw themselves at him but he has turned them all down. There was even a man who offered to trade wives with him, because the man's wife was hot for my dad.

Me: Would it shock you if I told you I find that hard to believe? Not that your dad would tell you that kind of thing, although to be honest, I do find even that a bit shocking, but that women would throw themselves at your dad.

Primo: Nope.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ch 2 February Doris calls Primo from the bathroom, which is the sort of thing I thought happened only in fiction

Primo: My mom just called me.

Me: Oh no! Is something wrong? Your parents never call you! It’s not even Sunday!

Primo: Well, sort of.

Me: What do you mean?

Primo: Nobody is sick or dead, but she locked herself in the bathroom because my dad is drunk and is screaming at her.

Me: Oh man. That’s awful. But what does she expect you to do? Would it even help if you talked to your dad?

Primo: I doubt it. My dad can’t be reasoned with even when he is sober. Trying to convince him that he is not right when he is drunk would be impossible.

Me: So why did she even call you?

Primo: I guess she just wants to hear from someone who isn’t being mean to her.

Me: Your mom’s life stinks.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ch 2 January Sly says he is glad his sons didn’t have to be in the military and it’s not because he suffered so much – he was on a ship during peacetime, unlike my father, who actually went to war and whose death was caused by exposure to Agent Orange – but because – I don’t know why

Primo: My dad asked what rank your dad was.

Me: Why?

Primo: Why what?

Me: Why did he ask that?

Primo: I don’t know. He was in the navy for a few years and when I told him your dad was career air force, he asked what his rank was. Why wouldn’t he ask?

Me: Because asking someone’s rank is the equivalent of asking a civilian not only how much money he makes but where he stands socially. It is actually a very rude question. A civilian might not know that, but your dad would know for sure. When I was at my friend Julie’s wedding breakfast,[1] another guest, whose son was the aide de camp for some general, asked me what rank my dad was. The second I told her, she turned her back on me and talked to someone else. She knew that my dad could not help her son get promoted.

Primo: Oh. I didn’t know that. So I told him.

Me: Uh huh.

Primo: And he said, “He sure didn’t get very high, did he?”

Me: This coming from someone who was in the navy only because he would have been drafted into the army otherwise? Not because he had a sincere desire to serve his country? And who didn’t get promoted past lieutenant jg? Nice.

Primo: I know. Anyhow, he said he was glad that my brothers and I did not have to be in the military the way he was. Then he said it’s not like the military would have taken us anyway.

Me: Why not?

Primo: Because Ted and Jack have asthma and I have flat feet.

Me: I didn’t know you had flat feet!

Primo: I don’t. And Ted and Jack do not have asthma.

Me: But your dad says you do. So you must.

Primo: My dad is wrong.

Me: I’ll bet nobody has ever said that to his face.

[1] Totally not relevant, but when has that ever stopped me – that breakfast was where I learned how wonderful grits can be. In college, the grits were watery and bland. Julie’s breakfast grits had butter, cream, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese in them, which made them as wonderful as you might imagine.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ch 2 Primo and I plan to Christmas together and Sly and Doris are pissed that he isn’t going to their place

Need I say more about this? I mean, is there anything else to say but even though Primo just spent several days visiting them that Sly and Doris are very upset that he is not planning to spend Christmas with them? That even though he went 20 years of not spending Christmas with them and they are used to his not spending Christmas with them that now that he is not married to ex-wife anymore that his default should be that he goes to their house whenever they want him there?

Primo tells them nope, he was just there and he is not traveling again.

Primo: They didn’t say anything about your coming with me. They want me to come for Christmas without you.

Me: I guess that would be OK. I am not used to spending Christmas with you.

Primo: No, it wouldn’t. They're not used to spending it with me, either! I want to spend Christmas with you. I don’t want to spend it with them. I don’t even want to spend it with them if you are with me. We were just there and they were not nice to you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Ch 2 And this is why I don’t care about Valentine’s Day now or ever

Because Primo got rid of the dead rat (that cost $20 of poison to kill) that was making my basement stink.

PS Yes, despite the fact that I almost vomited and ran back upstairs when I saw this foul vermin, I did ask Primo to wait until I had taken a photo before he disposed of it. Looking at the photo makes me almost as sick to my stomach as seeing the thing live. Dead.

PPS Aren't you glad I share these intimate moments with you?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Ch 2 Sly and Doris do not like how I addressed my thank-you note and I think, “People! You should be glad you got a thank-you note AT ALL because there are plenty of people who don’t even write thank-you notes anymore, even if a person has bought a wedding gift and stood in line at the post office to mail it!”

I write a thank-you note to Sly and Doris because my mama raised me right. Not because I am truly grateful for the visit. I am not. They were not nice to me. They were not welcoming. But they are the parents of my boyfriend and someday husband, so I need to be on good terms with them. 

These are not the sheets that Sly and Doris used. These sheets do not have any holes in them.

And it is a pain in the neck to have people in your house, even if you are not going to be nice to them. You still have to clean the bathroom and put sheets on the guest bed and have food.

Or. You have your cleaning lady take care of the bathroom and the guest room and you don’t have food, at least not lunch food. Different strokes.

But. Thank you note. Required. Just because they were rude does not mean I have to be. They go low, you go high.

I send a thank you note. The good kind – in the mail.

Primo: My mom and dad don’t like your thank-you note.

Me: What’s not to like about a thank you note?

Primo: You addressed the envelope wrong.

Me: But they got it, right?

Primo: Yes.

Me: So what was not right about it?

Primo: You addressed it to “Drunk” instead of “Mr. and Mrs. Sly Drunk.”

Me: So?

Primo: They think you are not doing it right. They were insulted. They said you were being disrespectful.

Me: Did they notice that my return address was my last name only? That I did not include my first name?

Primo: That’s not the point. They were insulted.

Me: I wasn’t trying to insult them. I am lazy.

He shrugs.

Me: Tell them to bite me. I address letters to my mother that way and I love my mother. I was not singling them out in any way.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Ch 2 Sly and Doris are angry that I ate something (but we don’t know what it was) and that Ted'sWife ate all of the pickled herring and left after dinner a few years ago

Primo has his weekly call with Sly and Doris. I told you about that, right? Did I?

Every Sunday, before 3 p.m. his time, he calls them. Even if he is at my house or I am at his place, he calls. He can’t call any later because they start drinking at 4:00 and once they start drinking, they do not remember phone conversations, which would not be an issue except then they get angry at him for not calling.

They do not call him. He must call them. Because you know – those are the rules. If he doesn’t call, he gets these passive-aggressive emails about how they sure hope everything is OK and that he is not dead in a ditch because that would be the only possible reason for him not to call.

OK. I am making that part up – they don’t literally write that he might be dead in a ditch, but that is the subtext.

The sub-subtext is, “You are a horrible son for not calling us.”

Primo: They brought up the pickled herring again.

Me: Didn’t they talk about this when we were there? That they were mad at Ted'sWife for eating all of the pickled herring?

Primo: Yes. And then they complained that Ted'sWife left dinner early and returned to the home of the friend where she and Ted were staying and never went back to their house.

Me: When did this happen?

Primo: A few years ago, I think.

Me: What? They are still mad about something that happened years ago?

Primo: They are very good at remembering people not doing things right.

 Me: Like elephants.

Primo: They are mad at you, too.

Me: Again? I mean, I know they are mad that I was ignoring them by reading the paper when they were reading the paper.

Primo: Nope. This is new mad at you.

Me: OK? What now? Besides the ignoring them and them telling you not to marry me, which 1. Is a little premature—

Primo: It is not! I thought we had already agreed to get married once the divorce is final!

Me: I don’t know why you didn’t deal with getting divorced five years ago. You know – when you and ex-wife split.

Primo: Because I wasn’t in a hurry to re-marry and ex-wife didn’t have a job, so I wanted to keep her on my health insurance.

Me: OK. What I meant about being premature is not that we’re not getting married but that your parents don’t even officially know that we will get married. It is considered poor form, I believe, to announce an engagement while one is still married.

Primo: My parents really don’t care about poor form.

Me: Really? I hadn’t noticed.

Primo: What’s the second point?

Me: Oh! Yes. First point that it is premature of them to be telling you not to marry me and second point is that apparently, they do not learn from history, because history would teach them that telling you not to marry someone does not work.

Primo: Nope.

Me: So other than they don’t want you to marry me, what else are they angry about?

Primo: You ate all of something that you were not supposed to eat.

Me: All of what?

Primo: I don’t know.

Me: Didn’t they tell you?

Primo: I get tired of their complaining and I try not to encourage it by asking for details.

Me: You need to find out! Besides – there was almost nothing for us to eat there. They didn’t even have lunch food.

Primo: I can’t remember, but you were not supposed to eat it. And if you didn’t know you weren’t supposed to eat it, you should have known.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ch 2 I google Sly and Doris OH LIKE YOU WOULDN’T – don’t act like you never open the medicine cabinet when you are at someone else’s house – and find a letter to the editor that needs no commentary

I know I am the nosiest person in the world. I like to have information. I wonder what I might find online about Sly and Doris.

So I google them.

As one does.

Remember how they live in Florida? I lived in Miami for two years. Gorgeous weather. I left my windows open and almost never used the air conditioner. A fan was enough. I hate to be cold and about the only thing to like about Florida if you are not in Miami, where the food and the culture are fabulous, is the weather. As far as I can tell, there is nothing else of interest in non-Miami Florida – just a bunch of old people and McMansionettes and big box stores.

Hey. Don’t hate. I have my data points. OK, there is the beach, which is also fabulous, but Sly and Doris do not live on the beach. They live in a generic suburb in a cookie-cutter house where the appliances are crap and the corners are not square.

Back to what I learn with my sleuthing.

So they live in Florida and they are allegedly huge environmentalists. But – they keep their windows closed and run the air conditioning! In OCTOBER! Florida is not hot in October!

Wait! They keep the windows closed but leave the patio door open for the cats. And they still run the air conditioner.

Got that?

1.      They live in a place where air conditioning is not necessary for most of the year.
2.      They close all the windows to keep the fresh air out.
3.      They leave the patio door open.
4.      And they run the air conditioner. Which is not necessary. And which they are using to cool the patio.

I find this letter to the editor from Doris:

Editor: ...we overuse energy, often chilling in freezing air-conditioning. We would rather shiver than sweat. While our young soldiers continue to die or be maimed, we still buy as the president tells us to do.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ch 2 Sly and Doris thought I was “rude and detached” because I was on Primo’s computer reading the Sunday newspaper online while they were reading the paper Sunday newspaper in paper

Primo: Ready to visit my mom and dad again?

Me: Yeah, sure. It was so fabulous. They were so welcoming.

Primo: I know.

Me: They don’t like anyone, do they?

Primo: They like me. But they still think I am doing it wrong.

Me: What are you doing wrong?

Primo: They told me not to marry [ex-wife]. They still bring it up.

Me: They do? I didn’t hear them say anything about her when we were there.

Primo: Maybe they thought it was too personal to mention in front of someone they had just met?

Me: Definitely. It was pretty clear they were holding back out of a sense of propriety. They crossed no boundaries at all. If only they would say what they really think. They were so – so – superficial. I have no idea what they think about anything. They were Sphinx-like, really. I bet they are great poker players.

Primo: And my dad thinks I should have gotten a PhD or at least a master’s degree. I did start a master’s, but I hated it and dropped out. They are still ticked off about that.

Me: But you have supported yourself – and other people – since college. You haven’t asked them for money, have you?

Primo: No! Ted and Jack have, but I never have. But my dad thinks that because I do not have an advanced degree, I am not doing it right.

Me: It seems like not much makes them happy.

Primo: Nope. I was not happy with how they treated you. When we got back, I told them that.

Me: You did?

Primo: Of course I did! I said I had hoped they would be more welcoming.

Me: What did they say to that?

Primo: My mom emailed me.

Me: Let me see.

Doris wrote,

I'm sorry . . . that you noticed the chill in my last message. Sometimes I get the feeling that your dad and I have gotten placed rather low on the totem pole[1] of your priorities. I promise to open my mind and heart to your girlfriend and look for areas of mutual interest. Neither dad nor I recall any instances when we were rude or unwelcoming to Goldie.[2]

If you have any examples of our behaviors that were offensive, PLEASE tell us. I simply wasn't yet comfortable in giving her hugs,[3] and we saw her as, frankly, rudely detached, spending time in the living room on your computer, with us sitting there,[4] and both of you putting your heads privately together, even though we were present, and whispering, much the way you and [ex-wife] used to do,[5] as if you were enjoying some private joke that we weren't supposed to know about.

Me: Well OK. I wondered if they might have decided they liked me after all but I guess they didn’t.

Primo: Nope.

[1] The bottom of the totem pole is the best place to be. If only Primo had written back with that information.
[2] Well they wouldn’t, would they?
[3] In their defense, I did not want to hug them, either.
[4] While they were reading the paper or doing crossword puzzles or otherwise showing no interest in me whatsoever
[5] In the one and only visit [ex-wife] made to Sly and Doris’ – after that, she refused to have anything to do with them. I am in solidarity with you, my sister.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Ch 1 Sly has disdain for Doris’ parents because they didn’t have PhDs, which, in Sly’s book, made them unworthy of life

Primo: My dad’s mother was not a nice grandmother or mother, but my other grandparents were the kindest, most loving people ever. My dad would make fun of them because neither of them were educated. I think they probably got as far as eighth grade before they had to drop out of school and work.

Me: Education does not cause niceness. It doesn’t even correlate to it. They are two completely independent, non-correlated statistics. I guess PhDs in English are not ever required to take statistics.

Primo: I loved my mom’s parents. My grandfather taught me to shoot pool. They loved Nancy and me. They were always so nice to us. They were always happy to see us.

Me: Did they ever take you to a lecture on global warming?

Primo: No! They didn’t even feed us brown rice!

Me: That means they were bad.

Primo: One time, my dad was being nasty about my grandparents to my mom. He does that to her to be mean. I was little and I said, “But Daddy – Grandma and Grandpa are nice! Doesn’t that matter?”

Me: What did he say?

Primo: I don’t remember, but I don’t think he was impressed with my observation.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ch 1 Monday Sly and Doris are pissed that Priomo and I are probably going to get married

Primo: My mom and dad told me I shouldn’t marry you.

Me: What? How did they even know that we have talked about that?

Primo: They’re not stupid. They know I’ve dated a little since (ex-wife) and I split five years ago, but you are the first girlfriend I have brought to meet them since they met (ex-wife).

Me: Why do they think you shouldn’t marry me?

Primo: They don’t like anyone. It’s not personal. It’s not about you.

Me: It feels pretty personal.

Primo: I don’t care what they think. Don’t worry about it. But you have probably noticed that my dad is a jerk. I don’t think he’s going to change. The best thing to do is to focus on my mom. She really is a nice person.

Me: Uh huh.

Ch 1 Monday I get the scoop about Primo’s brothers, whom Sly and Doris are careful to call “half-brothers,” which is weird to me, as I have half-cousins and step-cousins and adopted cousins but they are all my cousins and all my family, period, without any qualification

Of course he has mentioned his brothers before, but it’s not something we talk about a lot. What? Did you think that they might be important to this story? Would you like to know more?

OK! Here is the dirty truth about Primo’s half-brothers, who, in a normal world would be referred to as simply “brothers” but apparently that is not how Sly and Doris roll.

Primo: My dad was married to another woman when he met my mom. He left his first wife for her.

Me: How old were your brothers?

Primo: They were little. Not even in kindergarten yet.

Me: And he left them?

Primo: He and his first wife had married too young. They’d had problems. She was an alcoholic.

Me: Wait! Your dad abandoned his little boys to an alcoholic mother?

Primo: He thought he was going to get custody. He and my mom tried for years to get them. He said he couldn’t live with his ex anymore because of her drinking. He had to leave. And he really did think he was going to get custody.

Fathers didn’t get custody in the early 60s. They didn’t even get it in the late 70s. Didn’t he see Kramer vs. Kramer?[1]

Me: How did it happen? With your mom, I mean? How do you abandon your little boys and your wife for another woman?

Primo: He met my mom at church, where they were both singing in the choir.

Me: They met at church? Your dad abandoned his wife and children for a woman he met at church? Are you seeing some inappropriateness here? Not that this sort of thing doesn’t happen, but I don’t know how you maintain the high moral ground after something like that.

Primo: No! I mean, yes. They didn’t belong to the church – they just sang there. They’re atheists.

Me: Why were atheists even in a church?

Primo: They sang there. In the choir.

Me: They are atheists but they still supported religion by singing in a place that they totally disagreed with?

Primo: They like to sing. And they were paid.

Me: Not that principled about their atheism, then.

Primo: Whatever. My dad asked my mom out and she told him she wouldn’t date a married man.

Me: Good for her.

Primo: He moved out from his first wife and started seeing my mom. As soon as he was divorced, he and my mom got married. Then I was born.

Me: Your mom knew he was married. She knew he had little kids. And she was cool with your dad abandoning them for her?

Primo: My dad’s ex-wife was an alcoholic and not a good person.

Me: Uh huh. I’m sure that’s the story that helps your parents sleep at night. If the first wife was so bad, though, why did your dad marry her in the first place?

Primo: I don’t know! This is what they’ve told me!

Me: And your dad was the good guy in all of this? Leaving his little boys to someone so alcoholic that he couldn’t live with her?

Primo: That’s what he thinks.

Me: Nice.

[1] I am realizing that I get a lot of my understanding of the world from movies. Is that wrong?

Ch 1 Monday Sly complains about Stephanie's weight again and I wonder what he will be saying about me when I am not around to hear, as I am not the thinnest person in the world

We just had breakfast. No meal – no gathering of two or more – is complete without some complaint about Stephanie, who is, you will remember, The Worst Person in the World.

Sly complains about Stephanie's weight. Resisting the temptation to make a glass houses remark and clearly having forgotten my resolution Not to Argue with Sly, I ask, “Why does Stephanie's weight matter to you?”

He sighs. Isn’t it obvious? Why must he explain everything? Who is this dullard of a girlfriend their Only Joy has brought home? How will they save Primo from making yet another marriage mistake? They couldn’t stop his first disastrous marriage, but maybe they can stop this one. Oh the burdens a father must bear.

"Because,” Sly explains, “her mother died young from heart problems. She was only her in late 40s when she died. Stephanie has heart problems. If Stephanie dies, then we will be raising those children."

I bite my tongue rather than ask the obvious follow up questions, which are, "Don't they have a father?" (they do – Jack, Stephanie's ex-husband) and "Why are you so sure that you would be their guardians?" Instead, I just nod my head and say, “I see.” 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ch 1 Sunday We haul the empty booze bottles out for recycling and it takes a long time

Oh you guys. I had no idea. My mom and dad are/were not big drinkers. Sure, I had my pencil case made out of the soft blue bag with the gold stitching – Crown Royal, google tells me – onto which my mother embroidered my name. I was in second grade and that’s what I used to hold my pencils and other school supplies, but I had one. ONE. ONE CROWN ROYAL BAG.

I don’t know if my siblings got bags. There may not have been enough booze. The photo to the right? That’s booze from my mom’s house. Some of the bottles have tax seals from 1972. In case you are bad at math, that is more than 40 years ago. My mom still has booze from 40 years ago that she has not finished.

Point is that my mom is not and my dad was not a big drinker. Booze lasts a long, long time at my mom and dad’s house.

But Sly and Doris. Lord have mercy.

I think they are drinkers.

OK, I know they are because Primo warned me but I really had no idea. I don’t like booze and I hardly drink, but it’s not a moral thing – it’s just that I don’t like how it tastes. I don’t care if other people drink, although I think that if you are going to get drunk, you should not drive. I don’t care if you kill yourself but drunks usually take innocent people out with them and that’s not fair.

In our one moment of private, alone, romantic together time since we arrived in Florida, Primo and I clean the garage. Boxes of recycling have accumulated for months, rusty tools are scattered on top of the workbench,[1] and plastic storage bins with Christmas decorations and linens are molding.

We take the trash out to the curb. Drag it out. Sly and Doris refuse to get a wheeled trash can because they’re convinced it will be stolen or the garbage men will destroy it or something. They had one, but didn’t replace it.

Primo: I asked my dad why he didn't get a new wheeled trash can.

Me: And?

Primo: He says the trash guys used to tear the top off and leave the can halfway down the street.

Me: They tore the lid off? Off its hinges?

Primo: No. Like your trash can. They'd leave the top open.

Me: You mean they'd open it and leave it flipped back?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Well so what? All you have to do is flip it back.

Primo: They always have a reason.

Me: Would the trash guys really leave them halfway down the street?

Primo: The one this morning was about ten feet from the curb.

Me: Hardly halfway.

Primo: Yeah.

Me: Although I suppose if you are old and out of shape, ten feet from the curb is a lot. So what happened to the wheeled cans? Were they stolen?

Primo: No, they just stopped using them.

Me: To use ones without wheels instead?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Oh good grief. How does that make things better?

Primo: Because they get other people to do the work for them. When I’m not here, Jack or Stephanie put it out for them.

Sly comes into the garage to supervise the putting out of the trash. Primo stuffs a bunch of bubble wrap into the bottom of the can, then lifts a bag of trash to put on top of that.

Sly: Not like that! Put the bubble wrap in a bag.

Primo: But it’s all going into the garbage truck. It doesn’t need to be put in a bag.

Sly: That’s not how I do it! Put it in a bag!

I want to point out to Sly that he is not, in fact, doing it, so his way doesn’t matter. If he wants it done his way, he can do it his own darn self.

But I keep my mouth shut. When is it appropriate to comment on something stupid and senseless when you are not related to the person doing something stupid and senseless? Shouldn’t Primo be the one telling his dad to be quiet or do it himself?

Bigger question: When you meet the parents, is it ever appropriate to argue with them?

I think not.

I keep my mouth shut.

Primo rolls his eyes, removes the bubble wrap, puts it in a bag, and then puts the whole thing back in the trash can. Wasteful.

May I point out that Sly and Doris claim to be huge environmentalists? Doris was an environmental activist when Primo was a kid. They hate mining and oil companies. They hate Walmart. They belong to the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. But actual day to day conservation, like reducing their own consumption of plastic, gas (they have an SUV), and paper – that’s for other people.

If they had a private jet, they would fly it around the world, telling other people to cut their carbon footprint.

As Primo throws one of the bags of trash into the can, Sly says, “No! Not like that!”

Primo: What now?

Sly: That’s not the right order.

Sly’s suffering is great. He heaves a deep sigh, the sigh of a man who has been cursed with a son who doesn’t do things right. It is sharper than a serpent’s tooth than to have a not doing it right child.

Primo: Then how?

Sly: The kitchen trash goes in first. Then the bag with the paper waste. The big green bag goes on top.

You guys, I am not making this up! Sly is convinced there is a Right Way for Trash to Go into the Can.

Sly: Don’t tie it!

Primo stiffens, then unties the green bag. Sly goes back into the house, leaving us alone to haul two bags of empty bourbon and brandy bottles out for recycling.

I guess I have to take it back about Sly and Doris not being walk the walk environmentalists. Look! They recycle their booze bottles!

Booze bottles. A lot of booze bottles. Recycled, but man. A lot.

Me: It seems that your parents might drink a lot.

Primo: They start drinking every day at 4:00. I can’t call them after 4:00 because they are close to drunk and they don’t remember that I’ve called.

Me: And then you don’t get any credit for the call. And they get mad at you because you didn’t call. Even though you did. And they just don’t remember because they were drunk.

Primo: Exactly.

[1] This really horrifies me – first, that tools are allowed to rust and second, that they are not even put away. There is no pegboard with mounts hanging behind the bench. I thought everyone used a pegboard! I thought everyone took care of his tools.