Friday, September 24, 2010

In which Primo gets exasperated with Doris and Sly

Primo: Why do my parents have to be so difficult?

Me: I dunno.

Primo: Jack [his brother] told them that Michael and Maria [Jack and Stephanie's kids] don't want Sly and Doris helping them with their college applications because of all their [Sly and Doris'] negativity.

Me: Yeah? What did your mom and dad say that?

Primo: They don't believe it.

Me: So what's the reason that Michael and Maria aren't asking for help? Have they thought about that?

Primo: And you don't like being around them. But in their eyes, it's all because something is wrong with you and something is wrong with Michael and Maria.

Me: They're not good at identifying the "X" in an equation, are they?

Primo: [big sigh] If I could just stick my finger in your bellybutton, things would be all better.

Me: Go ahead.

Primo: Really?

Me: If it would really solve the problems with your parents, I'll make the sacrifice.

Primo: I wish. It won't. Never mind.

Me: You have another 48 years.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In which Doris sends us an anniversary present that isn't half bad but don't worry she's still mad at me

I repeat: I am usually grateful for the thought behind any present I get. I don't want to sound like an ingrate. But. With Sly and Doris, there is present escalation - they send us something and they expect something expensive in return.

I would like us to reach detente and disarmament. No presents! None! Please don't expect us to spend $100 on each gift-giving event for you! I am fine with your not sending me a sweatshirt with flowers painted on it. Really.

That said, Doris got it right for the anniversary present she did not need to send. Well, sort of. Witness.

Primo: What's that?

Me: Your mom sent it.

Primo: What is it?

Me: A lemon tree.

Primo: Is that good?

Me: Sure.

Me: I mean, yes.

Me: I mean, if we can keep it alive over the winter. Look at the care instructions.

Primo: What do you mean?

Me: It's a tropical plant.

Primo: It's supposed to be indoors?

Me: Yes. And we really don't have anywhere in the house that will be warm enough and get enough sun.

Primo: I guess it can't stay outside.

Me: Nope.

Me: So I hope it survives winter.

Primo: But you like it enough that you'll write a thank you note?*

Me: Yes. Even if I didn't like it, I would write a note. I was raised right.

A note will not be enough to placate Doris, who responded to Primo's email yesterday suggesting dates for him to visit by noting how "bitter" she is that I continue to reject a relationship with her.

Me: What overtures does your mom say I am rejecting?

Primo: I dunno.

Me: Does she call me? No. Does she email me? No.

What she does is when my sister in law Stephanie mentions that she spoke to me is ask if Stephanie and I speak often (no - three times a year, with emails in between, plus facebook) and then tell Stephanie that she is always "reaching out" to me but I am not receptive.

Me: What would an ideal relationship with me look like to your mom?

Primo: I don't know.

Me: Is there anything I could do to make her and your dad like me?

Primo: Probably not.

Me: Did they like Isabel [Primo's first wife]?

Primo: Nope.

Me: And they trash talk their other daughters in law.

Primo: Yep.

Me: So I might as well please myself.

* Why is it that I am the one who is supposed to write the note even though they are his parents? Not that Primo cares, but how much do you want to bet that if he wrote the note, Doris would complain that I had not said anything?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In which Doris sends us an anniversary card and threatens to send us a present

I know. I should not complain about anyone sending us presents. It is tacky, tacky, tacky to bitch about receiving gifts. Except if you have read this blog from the very beginning, you know there is a price to be paid for what we get; that is, we are expected to reciprocate with presents that are equally expensive. This might not be so bad if the presents we received were not so cheap and ugly and tasteless, but Doris does not send us anything we would ever want.

Yesterday, Primo showed me the anniversary card his mother had sent. It was one of those fulsomely sentimental cards that I abhor, but tomato, tomahto, etc. I got Primo a card that showed two penguins on front and said "Happy anniversary to us" on the inside. Except of course the penguins were (between Primo and me) a reference to that Monty Python skit and the message I wrote was that he still had to wait 48 years to mess with my bellybutton. Sweetly sentimental I am not.

He showed me the card. I glanced at it and acknowledged that it was indeed nice of his mother to send it.

"Why don't I put this here on the kitchen counter with the card you gave me so you can see it all the time?" Primo suggested.

"Oh honey, no. It needs to be in your office so you can have the pleasure!" I answered.

"Maybe on your dresser?" he asked.

"Sweetness, you really deserve to have a constant reminder of your parents' affection next to you! I can't be selfish and keep it all to myself!"

I won.

The card disappeared into his office upstairs, never to be seen again.

He spoke to his parents yesterday because he didn't call on Sunday, his usual We'll Feel Abandoned if You Don't Talk to Us Every Week call.

On the card, Doris had written than she was not sending us an anniversary gift because she had not been inspired and I must agree that the pressed board Chinese nesting tables with the hummingbirds and hibiscus painted on them that she sent us last year were indeed inspired. Satan is at work, even today.

But when Primo spoke to her yesterday, she said that she had found something after all and we would be getting something soon.


What can top Chinese pressed board nesting tables with hummingbirds and hibiscus, a framed photo of Sly and Doris, and a cast iron cat?

We will find out soon.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

In which I tell Primo I have no interest in talking to his mother on the phone

It's our anniversary. Two years. Still not at the finger in the bellybutton stage. Primo has to wait until our 50th anniversary for that, although he had a chance a few months ago when I had told him I would go out to the bar with him but I really didn't want to go (I never want to go out to a loud bar where people are drinking), so I offered a finger in the bellybutton in exchange for not having to go out.

He didn't take it.

Too bad.

Now he has to wait 48 more years.

The subject of his parents came up. Just what I want to think about on our anniversary when we are still in our PJs at 11 a.m. and eating this chocolate-ricotta cheese-chocolate cookie dessert for breakfast before Primo makes omelettes with the chorizo-cheese-pepper thingy leftovers from supper at a Mexican restaurant last night.

It came up because I pointed out an article in the Sunday USA Weekend magazine, which sets the standard for responsible journalism. All the accurate, important news.

The article was about how to stay healthy and the last piece of advice was to keep a positive attitude, which is something Sly and Doris know nothing of, as they seek opportunities to whine and be miserable.

My great aunt watched her first husband crash his plane into the ground in front of her and their two daughters. She re-married and had four more kids and lived a happy life. Not a bitter woman. Another great-aunt lost her husband to leukemia when he was 37. He left her with eight children, one of whom died of cancer two years later. Not a bitter woman.

Point is that you decide how you are going to react to things and if you want to be miserable, you can be miserable. If you want to be happy, you can be happy.


I showed the story to Primo, who pointed out that his parents were different, that it wasn't their fault, that they weren't responsible and they had no choice but to miserable. Yes, he was channeling his mom and dad.

Then he noted that if his dad dies before his mom does that Doris will probably want to live with us and he will feel responsible for her.

I reminded him that his wedding present to me was the promise that they would NEVER live with us. NEVER.

Well, close to us, then, he said. There is an assisted living place two blocks from us.

Uh huh. If Doris wants to be in assisted living near us, whatever. That does not mean we bring her over to our house frequently or that we(=I) take her to the doctor or shopping.

"I don't think you know how nice my mom is," Primo said.

OK. Maybe I don't, as I have not seen evidence of that.

I still don't want her living in my house, taking my bedroom because she can't take stairs, telling me over and over how she can't help anymore and how bad she feels about that and could we move the TV into the living room (from the basement) and how Primo is her ONLY JOY.

"I don't even want my mom living with us and we both like and love my mom," I pointed out. "I don't want anyone but us living in this house."

Primo sighed. "I guess I need to call." [His mandatory weekly phone call or else they feel abandoned.]

I shrugged. "If that's what you want to do on your anniversary - submit to the parental guilt complex."

"They'll want to wish us a happy anniversary," he said.

Oh sure. Because they were so thrilled with his decision to marry me.


"What if my mom wants to tell you happy anniversary herself?" he asked.

"Tell her I'm out."

"I don't want to lie to my mother."

"Fine. When you call, I'll go outside and then you'll be telling the truth."

"You don't even want to talk to my mom for a second?"

"No. I don't. It's my anniversary. They already made my wedding stressful. I don't have to let them ruin my anniversary."

"My mom says she keeps reaching out to you," he said.

Yes, she also tells that to my sister in law Stephanie - that she reaches out to me all the time and I reject her.

I suppose you could count giving us a framed photograph of themselves as reaching out. Or sending me an email after I wrote a sympathy note after a family death and then complaining that my response to her email was too short.

"Just be nice to my parents," Primo sighs. "It will make life easier for me."

"Fine," I tell him. "If I am driving and I see your dad in the crosswalk, I'll stop the car until he gets to the sidewalk."

"Not what I meant," Primo says.