Thursday, February 4, 2010

In which Sly and Doris warn Primo that I am a Gold Digger

Summer 2008 Primo talks to the man and woman who gave him life and want Nothing But The Best For You, Honey. You're The Light Of Our Lives. Are you sure That Woman is not just after your money? Because you know, That Woman was laid off and hasn't found a new job. Maybe she's just LAZY and is marrying you so she doesn't have to work.

Sure. Because there is nothing more appealing to an unemployed 44 year old woman than a divorced, alimony and cobra-paying mid-career, no patents, no stock options engineer. Who did not have a mean lawyer.* Who gave the house to Isabel and is paying for the storage unit where Isabel keeps her wine not because that is in the divorce decree but because it's on Primo's credit card as an auto-bill and he just hasn't noticed and it's not like Isabel is going to tell him because Isabel is many things but she is not stupid.

But who kisses great if you know what I mean. And is a wonderful companion. When we are not talking** about politics.

Primo tells me that according to Sly and Doris, I am a gold digger.

Why his parents think that everything they say to Primo is under the seal of some kind of parent-child confessional, I do not understand. Do they really think that what they say to him about me stops with him? No, he is a conduit. A one-way conduit, because his first loyalty is to me. I would not have married him otherwise.

I snort.

"Oh really? I'm marrying you for your money? What? Because I turned down all my other marriage proposals*** because I was waiting for a divorced middle-aged engineer?" [Smack! Love ya, honey! You know I do! But your parents make me NUTS!]

"Do they know that I am bringing the assets into this marriage? Do they know that the 50% down payment on our house - the house we wouldn't be able to afford otherwise - comes from me from the house I sold in Memphis that was within $300 of being paid off when I sold it?"****

He rolls his eyes. "You know how they are."

"Do they know I was proposed to by an actual millionaire? And that I was dating the Moroccan millionaire when I met you? That I broke up with him to date you? I could have married a millionaire."

Well. He said he was a millionaire. I never saw any evidence of that. Yves was French. I met him through work. We traveled through the south of France together and split the expenses. He kept notes, then as soon as we got to his place in Paris, made a spreadsheet so we could settle up. I just cared about the major expenses, but wasn't too worried if my spending six francs on a loaf of bread didn't make it to the list.

He lived in a tiny two bedroom place with one of those dorm refrigerators. He didn't even have a washing machine. Washed his clothes by hand in the sink. Maybe that's just standard European millionaire fare. I don't know. Maybe he was a miser. Or maybe he was a liar.

We dated long distance for months, then he broke up with me after sending me an e-card for my birthday. This was after I had done the research and gone all over Miami to find a special boutique bourbon to take to him but whatever.

Nine months later, he came to the US for work. Wanted to see me. Took me to lunch. I found the most expensive restaurant in town. He told me he was getting married. "That's great, Yves!" I said. "I'm really happy for you." And I was. I was over him.

"Who is she?" I asked.

"Oh, you know her," he answered mysteriously.

"I do?" I couldn't think of anyone I knew in Paris. Maybe he'd met someone else at work.

"It's you!" He beamed.

I blinked and shook my head. "No. No!"

"But I need an heir!"


He sat back and stiffened.

“I’ll put half my money in your name.” (A big deal for him – I told you he was a miser.) “We can live wherever you want. You can work or not work, but if you want to live in London, I might have to keep working.”

I kept shaking my head.

“Why would any woman turn this down?” he asked in disbelief. And he really couldn’t understand why.

I tell Primo the story about Yves. He already knows about the Moroccan millionaire, Gomez, because I wasn't exactly - um - done dating Gomez when I started dating Primo and it took me a while to tell Gomez that we were over, but in my defense, I didn't want to break up by email because I think that's tacky and I kept waiting for Gomez to call me and he didn't and didn't and I was hoping that maybe he just never would and he would forget about me and I wouldn't have to deal with the situation. Oh don't judge me. You've done the same thing yourself.

He skyped, BTW, which honestly, if you're a millionaire, don't you have the money to make a decent phone call? Or is that how you become a millionaire - by not wasting money when you don't have to? Actually, Gomez became a millionaire the old-fashioned way - by being born into money in a third-world country.

But anyhow. I tell Primo to tell Sly and Doris that they can kiss my butt. Oh, I'd love for that to happen! But of course he would never do that and neither would I. And actually, I don't want him to tell them anything. Let them think what they want. Our finances are none of their darn business. Let them think that I sit on the sofa eating bon-bons and watching soap operas all day long. It will drive them crazy trying to figure out how to re-write their will so that Primo gets their money but I don't.

* More about that later. [Rolling my eyes.]

** "Talking" = Primo is ranting and I am waiting for him to stop so I can get back to blogging.

*** Well yes I did as a matter of fact. I was engaged after college, then had a few boyfriends who wanted to get married and one who said he would convert from Islam to Christianity for me so we could marry, which taught me not to use religion as an excuse to break up with someone. You just have to say you don't love him any more. It seems mean, but it lets him get on with his life.

**** Oh yes it's true. I come from Thrifty Folk. I owned that house eight years and I owned it.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

In which I plan Primo's funeral

Oh like you don't think about this sort of thing. Or maybe you don't. Maybe you don't have a "be ready for the worst possible situation" mentality as I do. I've always planned for the worst. Well, maybe not always, but not being able to find a job for almost two years when I returned from my two-year stint with the Peace Corps,* watching my otherwise healthy father be diagnosed with cancer and die within eight months,** then being laid off after eight years with my job has instilled in me a waiting for the next shoe to fall attitude. If nothing else, I am always wearing clean underwear. They will not be laughing at me in the ambulance. No sir.

Anyhow. Yes. I lie awake in bed at night thinking of what I need to do if Primo dies in a plane crash. It's always a plane crash. He doesn't drive that much, being that he works from home and all and is unlikely to die from a fall as he walks down to the basement to get the Pringles Dill Pickle potato chips he has hidden from himself. But he does fly a lot in his work travels, so a plane crash is more likely than a car crash just because he flies more. Yes. I know plane travel is statistically safer than car travel. Although have they considered how many drunk drivers there are in our state where drunk driving is the state sport?

There are the obvious things: throw away all the boxes of junk in the basement that he moved here after he split with Isabel and has not opened in ten years, with stuff like Claudia's tuition receipts. (I have opened the boxes.) Claudia is married, expecting a baby. Claudia graduated from college over ten years ago. It's safe to throw those papers away. Really.

We can also toss the calendars from 1990 that Primo saw the other day when he was moving boxes so the plumber could get to something. Primo didn't throw them away because 1. it wasn't in the scope of the move the boxes project and 2. the calendars had trains on them.

The big things: Sell this house and move back to someplace warm. I love Primo and mostly like living here but I hate the winter weather.

Then the immediate death details. Do I make Isabel file for her life insurance (part of the divorce settlement) on her own or do I do it for her, knowing that she is lazy and incompetent and just wouldn't do it?*** Do I take the high road? Oh heck I take the high road. I don't need that on my conscience. She would lose her house without the alimony payment, which of course I would not make, so she would have to have the insurance fast. I am a gossipy, spiteful person, but I am not that mean. I'll let someone else handle vengeance.

Do I have a funeral? Primo's really good friends live far from here. Do I make them travel? Yes. Yes. I think I do. We would have one heck of a wake. Have I mentioned there are over 300 bottles of wine in the basement and that I am a fabulous cook? They come here for the funeral, stay at the house, and we send Primo off in style. We mourn, but we mourn with good food and drink.

Now to the main part. Sly and Doris.

I never have to talk to them again. That's the one good thing about Primo being dead.

Well, that and I get to get all his crap out of the basement.

Primo asked if I wouldn't even send them a Christmas card.

I don't send them one now,**** but OK. I'll send them a card. Fine. If he wants me to send them a Christmas card after he is dead, I will do it.

But I don't have to talk to them. If they call, I don't have to answer the phone. If they email, I can just hit delete.

I would miss Primo so much that I wouldn't be able to stand it. We broke up once for a month and I was miserable. His death would crater me. But there would be a tiny, very thin silver lining to that enormous black cloud.

* Mind you, I had an MBA from a top-20 school with a 4.0 GPA with five years work experience at a Fortune 100 company in addition to the Peace Corps experience, so it wasn't as if I was some slacker who had spent my time in the Peace Corps getting high on nutmeg.

** He thought he'd pulled a muscle running a 10K. The good part is the cancer and my unemployment happened at the same time.

*** She didn't fight for child support even before she married Primo - when it really would have been in her financial interests.

**** Primo is in charge of his parents' birthdays, of Mother's Day, Father's Day, and of their Christmas. His parents, his responsibility.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In which Doris complains I didn't spend enough time with her

December 2009 Yes, we are back near Christmas time. We have done our filial and filial in law duty of making the trek to chez Sly and Doris. We have cleaned their house and garage. Eaten with them. Primo has played cards with them. Watched football with them.

I did not watch football with them. I had a headache; I do not care about watching football; and I thought they might enjoy some time with Primo alone. I made a mistake, though, when I slipped into the bedroom - I did not excuse myself. I did not say, "I'm going to go into the bedroom and read. I have a bit of a headache."

They assumed I didn't want to be with them.

Which was true.

But I should have anticipated the situation and at least gone through the formality of making an excuse. Because who wouldn't want to sit in a living room with three other people and watch TV? When she does not give a darn about what is on said TV?

But I should have said something. They complained to Primo, Primo came in to get me, I ended up sitting out there having to endure a stupid football game. All because I did not strategize properly.


Two weeks after we return, when Primo has his command call, Doris tells him that I did not talk to her about her gardening magazine.

"What gardening magazine?"

Primo shrugs. "I don't know."

"She never mentioned it. I never saw it."

"She says you didn't spend enough time with her."

I drop my head back and roll my eyes. "I was with your mother every single waking hour we were there except for the two hours early that I went to Stephanie's the night we had supper over there, the couple of hours you took the kids bowling and I hung out with Stephanie and her dad, and when you and I played tennis. Other than that, I was with your mom. That wasn't enough for her?"

"She says she is trying to reach out to you and you're pushing her away."

Well. There might be something to that. But the woman looks for insult.

Last summer, when my grandmother died, Doris emailed me a condolence note, which was very sweet. I responded. Doris wrote back. Something about memories about her own grandparents. She gets very emotional. I did not want to get into that level of communication with her, but felt stuck. Yes, I know that makes me sound very cold and mean, but there is more to this story.

I replied to the email in a friendly, but not intimate way. She wrote back again. I answered. I did not want to be dismissive, but I did not want to encourage a deep outpouring on her part.

Doris complained to Primo that I had not answered her emails properly.

I showed the whole shebang to Primo.

He sighed and said, "I don't know what she's talking about. Your answers look just fine to me."

Back to December. Doris is complaining that I did not spend enough time with her. I cite chapter and verse of the hours and minutes I spent with Doris. I recount the conversations.

Primo says, "She says she's reaching out to you and you're rejecting her."

I say, "Did you remind her about the part where they told you not to marry me?"

He answers, "They* think you should be over that."

I'm not. I won't be. I don't think I should have to be.

* They have not only never apologized to us for telling Primo not to marry me but have never even mentioned the incident because you know, they didn't really mean it, so it's OK to say that sort of thing to their Only Joy two weeks before his wedding, causing him horrible stress.

Monday, February 1, 2010

In which Sly discusses his old-age plans with Primo

Thanksgiving 2008 We are at Sly and Doris', going through the usual. Cleaning their garage. Patching the hole in the patio screen. Scraping the mildew off the front door. Taking everything out of the refrigerator and washing the crud off the shelves, throwing away the rotting food. Dusting the ceiling fans. Vacuuming the closets. Cleaning the cat poop off the floor around the cat box. Pulling all the weeds out of the very neglected garden. Repairing the garbage disposal.

Of course these are things that two older people in poor health cannot do.

Of course.

The question to ask is why are they things that 1. the gardener cannot do, 2. the cleaning lady cannot do, 3. the grandchildren who want to earn money cannot do, or 4. the son who lives one hour away cannot do?

Primo repairs the garbage disposal the day before Thanksgiving. We haven't tested it. Thanksgiving, after we have eaten, as Stephanie starts to do the dishes (Sly mutters something about how she doesn't know how to load a dishwasher) and is scraping food into the trash, Sly tells her just to put the scraps into the disposal.

"No, don't!" I tell her. "The disposal hasn't been working."

"Go ahead," Sly tells her as he glares at me.

"What if it breaks again?" I ask. "We'll never get a plumber out on Thanksgiving afternoon."

Sly looks at me as if I've sprouted horns. Who would do something so whacky as to call a plumber? "Primo can fix it," he announces. Because that's why Primo exists: to serve the needs of Sly and Doris.

"Oh that's just how I want my husband to spend his Thanksgiving," I mutter to Jack, who looks like he'd rather be having his fingernails extracted one by one than be sitting in the room with Sly.

Sly and Doris bought this house a few years ago. It is a big house on a big lot. They pay someone else to cut the grass. Sly can barely take out the trash.

"What were they thinking?" I ask Primo. "Why didn't they just buy a little condo on the beach? Their health was bad already when they bought this place."

"They thought they would get better," he answers.

"Ha! Nobody gets stronger at the age of 70! Does your dad really think that he alone defies the laws of aging? Sheesh. Even I knew enough to look for a small yard when we bought our house and we're way better off than they are. What is their plan? They can hardly take care of themselves. What is their plan for the future because they're sure not moving in with us."

I do some research, find the county services for the aged in about three minutes, find some good retirement communities. There are some decent options. Sly and Doris have money*. They can afford help. All they have to do is pick up the phone and ask for it.

Primo talks to his dad. Asks him - what are you going to do? How do you plan to handle this? "This" being code for "your deteriorating health and inability to do basic household tasks that used to be so easy for you, who used to be so strong."

Sly's answer to Primo: "Well, your mother and I plan to have you come down here at least twice a year to help us out."

My answer to Primo: "That is not an acceptable solution."

My anwer to Primo: "This is not China. This is not India. They don't get to make bad decisions about their retirement and expect you to bail them out. It is not acceptable for them to expect you to spend your precious vacation time and our money to do their chores. It is reasonable for them to expect you to visit, but your visits should be visits, not work sessions."

Primo is not happy about the situation, either. He has a conversation with them a few months later about this issue. Doris emails: "I know you resent coming here and doing our chores."

Gee, Doris. You think?

I overheard a woman complaining about her daughter in law keeping her son away from her. I wanted to tell her that maybe she is the one keeping the son away - that maybe if she made if pleasant for the son and DIL to visit, they might want to come.

What would it be like to visit and just visit? Not work. Not be tiptoeing on eggshells wondering when Sly is going to explode. Not wondering what infraction I am going to commit: - bad bacon eating, Sly correcting, not oatmeal offering - that Sly will later complain to Primo about.

Ah. That's crazy talk. We'll never know.

* My philosophy is that if you can afford cable, internet, a maid, a gardener, and booze, there is probably room in your budget for Meals on Wheels and some extra household help. Am I right? Oh. And for a cast-iron cat and $100 pressed wood hummingbird tables, bless Doris' heart.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

In which Sly and Doris make up a little bit for eating all the Good Cheese, but only a little, because they still drink all our bourbon

September 2008 Sly and Doris have arrived for our wedding. The wedding they were going to boycott. Yes, I intend to tell you the story. I am getting there. This blog has a plot.

Primo picks them up at the airport 90 miles away. He has them fly there - on his frequent flyer miles - so they can take a direct non-stop flight. He didn't want them to have to change planes. He drives the hour and a half rather than have them fly into the airport 16 miles from our house. All so they don't have to change planes.

(But they will not pick us up when we visit them. That would be inconvenient.)

They come in on Saturday. They will be with us for nine days. NINE DAYS. NINEDAYSNINEDAYSNINEDAYS.

Primo is a big wine and beer drinker. If he could change anything about me, he would change my drinking habits.* He would have me be a wine drinker before he would change my politics, although he would be very happy if I would come over to his side.

But he is not much for hard liquor and neither am I.

Still, we have rum and scotch and whiskey and bourbon and other good stuff because we like to offer it to our guests. We have really nice liquor, our philosophy being that we drink so little of it, we might as well have the Good Stuff. As in, we might open the door to the liquor cabinet twice a year if you don't count my getting sherry to make my Cuban pork and okra stew. Or rum for rum balls at Christmas.

Before Sly and Doris arrive, Primo and I have A Conversation about The Liquor.

"Are we supposed to supply your parents' bourbon?" I ask. As a hostess, I expect to feed, shelter and otherwise provide for my guests. It is what a host does.

But am I supposed to buy their booze if they drink a lot of bourbon every night? As in, how much above basic need am I supposed to supply? I already bought the Lactaid, which wouldn't bother me if they were truly lactose intolerant, but they are just being faddish and that's what ticks me off so much. And then they eat all my cheese because they are hungry. Just eat lunch like normal people!

I don't expect my host to supply me with me diet cherry Dr Pepper. Really. I don't. I will eat and drink whatever is available chez vous. And liquor is not a necessity. So what is the protocol here?

Primo doesn't know what will happen. But we don't run to the liquor store to stock up. We decide if they run us out of booze, they can figure out a solution.

They arrive on Saturday, go to bed.** On Sunday, the first thing they want to do is not have a quick tour of our beautiful lakefront. It's not hear about our wedding plans. It's not lounge around and read the paper. It's not go to a museum. Or tour a brewery. Or play a game of Monopoly.

The first thing Sly and Doris want to do is go to the liquor store.

(Good thing we don't live in Texas.***)

Which is fine, because after six days, they have finished the half gallon of bourbon and the half gallon of brandy that they buy. Plus the wine that accompanies supper every night. That gives them less time to finish Primo's Good Bourbon. Which they still do. Because they are here for NINEDAYS, remember?

Oh yes. There is Drama.

* Having his parents in our house for NINEDAYS might be enough to turn me into a drinker.

** In our bedroom because they can't take stairs and the guest bedroom is upstairs, so that's fair.

*** For purposes of being able to buy liquor on Sunday only. Otherwise, I would be thrilled to live in Texas. Primo, not so much. Again: bacon, the only thing we have in common.