Saturday, July 8, 2017

Ch 5 Sunday Primo finds a desperate email on Doris’ computer and I feel really sorry for her because Sly is a jerk and yes, a married man can rape his wife

Primo: I saw something really disturbing on my mom’s computer.

Me: What?

Primo: She writes out her emails in word and then copies them into her email.

Me: That is disturbing! Why? Why would someone do all that wasted work? It’s so inefficient.

Primo: I don’t know. That’s not the point. I mean, that’s not what was disturbing.

Me: Actually, it kind of is. Why would you draft something in word and then copy it into an email? Just write it in the email.

Primo: I don’t know why. That’s not what I wanted to talk about. So she has all of her files on her desktop—

Me: Why am I not surprised that her computer is disorganized?

Primo: There’s a file called “email to Primo.” I opened it.

Me: As one would. As one does.

Primo: I have never gotten this email from her. She wrote the note a few years ago. I guess she decided not to send it.

Me: What did it say?

Primo: She wrote that my dad wants sex twice a week.

Me: He’s old!

Primo: He is very proud of this, I think. Anyhow, it seems he will just tell her that he has taken a Viagra so get ready.

Me: That is gross. And mean. He doesn’t even ask? He just tells her?

Primo: And she wrote that he is getting really mean. He is angry that she will not watch porn with him. He wanted her to watch a movie about an incestuous threesome—

Me: What was it called?

Primo: Why?

Me: I think I know the movie you are talking about. I got it from the library – I didn’t know it was about an incestuous threesome, but I stopped watching after 15 minutes because it was boring.

Primo: The Dreamers.

Me: That’s it. It was stupid. I am glad I did not watch any more of it if that was the subject matter.

Primo: Anyhow, my dad was angry with her because she wouldn’t watch it with him.

Me: Your dad is a jerk. I am totally on your mom’s side on this one. And your mother should not be sharing that kind of information with you.

Primo: Well, technically, she isn’t. She never sent the email.

Me: Yeah, OK. But she thought about it. She wrote the note. That’s not something she should be sharing with you at all.

Primo: I know, but she doesn’t have anyone else.

Me: You’re right. The really bad part is she should not have to live like this.

Primo: If my dad dies first, I will move my mom up near me. But if she dies first, he is on his own. I put up with him only because I feel so sorry for my mom. Her life is horrible.

Ch 5 Sunday Primo helps Sly clean out his office and finds a bunch of receipts for booze, which you would think most people would hide or throw away just out of shame (not that I would know anything about that kind of behavior, as I have never hidden the evidence that I ate an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting)

Primo: You know how you joke about my Leaning Tower of Visa?

Me: Yes. You probably don’t need to keep five years’ worth of receipts stacked behind your computer monitor.

Primo: Sometimes I need a receipt and I can always find it because I remember when I bought the thing.

Me: From five years ago?

Primo: It could happen.

Me: Right.

Primo: Anyhow, my dad has stacks and stacks of receipts for booze. For the big bottles.

Me: Maybe the big bottles are a better a deal.

Ch 5 Sunday Sly tells Primo that his getting old plan is for Primo to take care of him and Doris, which makes perfect sense because we are homesteaders on the prairie with multiple generations huddled into one simple house working together for the survival of the group

Primo: I asked my dad what their plan is.

Me: For what?

Primo: For getting older and not being able to do things and to take care of themselves.

Me: Oh good! What is it?

Primo: He said, "Your mother and I plan to have you come down here at least twice a year to help us out."

Me: I knew it! I KNEW IT!

Primo: Yeah.

Me: That is not an acceptable solution. This is not the third world. You are not in charge of taking care of your parents when they are capable of doing it themselves.

Primo: But they don’t have anyone. That’s what they would say.

Me: They have themselves. They have plenty of money. How much did you say they invested in Jack's restaurant? A quarter million dollars? If they can lose $250,000 and still have a house, they have enough money. They don't get to make bad decisions about their retirement, like buying a house they can’t maintain, and expect you to bail them out. It is not acceptable for them to expect you to spend your limited vacation time and your money to do their chores. It is reasonable[1] for them to expect you to visit once a year, but your visits should be visits, not work sessions.

Primo: I know. I don’t know what they were thinking, but I have my own life.

[1] She writes with clenched teeth.

Ch 5 Sunday Sly complains that his ex-wife was always asking for more child support, even though she was married to a wealthy man, and that Ted wanted Sly to help pay for Ted’s college when Ted’s stepfather could easily have afforded it

Me: Your dad complained about paying child support for his own children?

Primo: His ex-wife’s husband was rich.

Me: But Ted and Jack are your dad’s children, not their stepfather’s.

Primo: My dad didn’t think he should have to pay. When Ted started college, my dad wouldn’t pay.

Me: Why not? No money? That’s why my parents didn’t pay for my college. They couldn’t. They didn’t have the money.

Primo: No. Because Ted wanted to go to Amherst and my dad thought it was too expensive. He also said that the child support agreement ended when Ted turned 18.

Me: Ted didn’t stop being your dad’s child when he turned 18.

Primo: My dad said that Ted could have gone free to the school where he taught so he should not have to pay tuition elsewhere.

Me: Ted got into Amherst?

Primo: Yes.

Me: But the school where your dad taught is a tier four school. Amherst is way up there.

Primo: I know.

Me: Your dad thought Ted should go to an inferior school just because he didn’t want to pay any of Ted’s tuition?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Your dad paid for your college. He didn’t say you needed to go to his school.

Primo: No.

Me: Do you think Ted is bitter? Because I would be.

Primo: My dad is a jerk. He thought Ted’s stepfather should have paid for everything.

Me: You paid for your stepdaughters to go to college.

Primo: That’s because their dad didn’t have any money. If I didn’t pay, they weren’t going to get to go. My dad could have afforded to help. He just didn’t want to.

Ch 5 Sunday What Primo and I did today

·         Cleaned the garage. Again.
·         Patched the holes in the patio screen.
·         Scraped and bleached the mildew off the front door and doorframe.
·         Took everything out of the refrigerator, including the fancy cornmeal that I gave Doris as a hostess gift last year and that she has not used at all, which is her prerogative, and that I should take home with me because she sure won’t notice it’s missing, washed the crud off the shelves and from the tops of the bottles and jars, and threw away the rotting food, of which there was a lot.
·         Dusted the ceiling fans.
·         Vacuumed the closets.
·         Cleaned the cat poop off the floor around the cat box.
·         Pulled all the weeds out of the neglected garden. (I did that with Doris’ supervision.)
·         Repaired the garbage disposal, a task that took Primo all morning while I was at the gym.

These are things that two older people in poor health cannot do. Nobody would expect people in poor health to do these things. What they would expect, however, is that said people would find some other way to solve these problems other than to put their houseguests to work.

Me: Why don’t they pay the grandkids five dollars an hour to do these things? They are always complaining that Michael and Maria don’t seem to understand the value of money. This would be a good way to teach them and an easy way to get the work done.

Primo: They say they have to explain too much to them.

Me: What is there to explain about cleaning a cat box? It’s not rocket science. And these are bright kids. I’ll bet they could figure out how to clean cat poop off the wall. I figured out how to clean human poop out of diapers when I was a babysitter in high school. An advanced degree is not necessary for these tasks.

Primo: I’ve suggested that to them several times. They don’t want to do it.

Sly and Doris bought the house four years ago. It is a big house on a big lot. They pay someone else to cut the grass. They pay someone else to clean the house, although apparently the housekeeper’s scope does not include opening closets to vacuum inside them or cleaning cat poop.[1] Stephanie or Jack take their trash and empty booze bottles out to the curb on trash day.

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

Primo: They thought they would get better. And they needed room for Nancy.

Me: Nobody gets stronger after the age of 70! At least, they don’t get stronger on the “Drink heavily and never exercise” plan your mom and dad are on. Does your dad really think that he alone defies the laws of aging? I looked for a small yard when I bought my house and I’m a lot younger and way better off than they are. What is their plan? They can hardly take care of themselves now. What is their plan for the future?

Primo: I don’t know. Probably for me to take care of them.

Me: Yeah, right. That’s not sustainable.

I go online and find the county services for the aged in about three minutes. There are some decent options for housekeeping help, for cooking, for shopping, for all the everyday things that have become a challenge for Sly and Doris. They have money.[2] They can afford help. All they have to do is pick up the phone and ask for it.

[1] Although I don’t blame the cleaning lady for avoiding the box. I would want extra pay to clean the cat box used by multiple cats.
[2] 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. Amiright?  

Ch 5 What Primo and I had planned to do during our visit

·         Tour the lighthouse
·         Go to the beach
·         Walk around the old town in the evening
·         Go to the beach
·         Go to the farmers market
·         Go to the beach
·         Go to the local history museum

·         Go to the beach

Ch 5 Sunday I go to the Y and then to the grocery store, where I buy my own lunch, even though I am a guest in someone’s home, and get snacks to keep in the guest room

I go to the Y, take a step class and a weights class, and then find a People magazine to read while I pedal slowly on the exercise bike. Shockingly, this does not give a person a good aerobic workout, but that is not really my objective.

In case you are wondering, no, I do not usually exercise this much. This is Avoidance Exercise.

I finish about noon, then find a grocery store.

I’ve never had to be in charge of my own meals when I’ve been a guest in someone else’s house. How do you handle that? Do you let them see you eating food you brought? Would that be insulting to them? What is the proper etiquette when you are the guest in a home but are not being fed? Do you worry about the food-withholding host being offended? Or do you think, Yeah, they SHOULD see that I had to buy my own lunch even though I am a guest in their home.

I buy a turkey and cheese on wheat and a peach yogurt for lunch and eat in the car in the parking lot.

The sandwich is not very good. There’s a shock.

Neither is the yogurt.

Man, I hate having to eat bad food.

I also buy a big bag of almonds and a bag of dried apricots. I smuggle them into the guest room and leave them in my suitcase. Is that the right thing to do with snacks? To hide them?

Me and my eating disorder. What would you call it? “Not Lunch-Eating Hosts Hidden Eating Syndrome?” “Post-Gym Grocery Store Hidden Eating Caused by Poor Hosts?” Is this a common syndrome? Is there a DSM-IV code for it?

There is no fruit in the house. I could have bought fruit. But I don’t want to. I shouldn't have to.[1] Produce is horribly expensive where Sly and Doris live[2] and what is at the store isn’t even ripe, so I couldn’t eat it right away anyhow. Where would I leave it to ripen? If I bring it into the kitchen, they will see it and might eat it and how unfair would it be that I not only had to buy my own food while I was their (unwilling) guest but I now also had to buy theirs?

I am ticked off enough that I am buying my own darn lunch. They can’t feed me lunch? They can’t buy a few pears?
"What is wrong with them?" I whisper to Primo as I shove almonds into my mouth during a break from cleaning the garage. “Why don’t they eat lunch? Or at least have lunch food for us? Didn’t they ever take Host 101?”

"They're not hungry," he says.


[1] Entitled much? I know. I am a bitch.
[2] Why? Why should produce be expensive in Florida? I lived in Miami, which is a port, for two years, and could never figure that out.

Ch 5 Sunday I try to patch things up with Doris, even though I do not think I am the party at fault here

OK. I need to try harder. I do think that Sly and Doris are completely dysfunctional, but I am not going to fix them and Primo is stuck in the middle of it. I will make an effort to get them to like me and give them no ammunition to use against Primo.

If we can’t have an honest, open conversation about what was going on, I will have to win in other ways. God! WHY DON’T THEY LIKE ME?

“Doris,” I ask, “when I get back from the Y, would you like to work together in the garden? I can pull weeds for you if you want to direct.”

“Um,” she says as she looks at Sly. Why was she looking at him? For permission?

Sly shrugs.

“Sure!” she says.

I shoot a look at Primo. See? I am making an effort. I get credit for this.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Ch 5 Sly is ticked off because I do not want to watch TV with them and I want to say, “Would you please just give me a list of your Rules for Houseguests so I can navigate?”

We have had supper. Sly turns on the TV, the first time I have seen this actually happen. Their TV is almost always on. I don’t see it turned on or turned off – it’s just there – on – all the time. It’s some strange magic.

Sly and Primo settle in to watch the football game. Doris joins them, but pulls out her crossword puzzle.

I do the dishes and clean the kitchen (I am probably doing it wrong), then join them in the living room.

It is too dark to read on the far sofa. To be near the lamp, I would have to sit by Sly. I have no interest in watching the game[1] or in sitting by Sly. They are engrossed in the game, so I say nothing as I slip into the guest room to read.

At halftime, Primo comes into the room.

Primo: They’re angry that you’re not out there.

Me: Why?

Primo: They think you’re being rude and unsociable.

Me: Why? I don’t want to watch.

Primo: They think you should be out there with us.

Me: Can’t you just tell them that I don’t want to watch? This is not about them. I am not reading at them. They’re just watching TV. They don’t need me there. It does not have to be a group activity. I don’t care about watching football. I don’t care about these teams. It’s not even like you guys are talking.

Primo: I know. This is not about the game at all. It’s about power. They have to win. If they don’t, they will complain about it to me for the rest of their lives.

Me: So let them. I don’t care. Why don’t you tell them to fuck off?

Primo: I choose my fights with my dad carefully.

Me: Why?

Primo: Because if he is angry at me, he makes my mom pay. I just try to avoid the whole situation.

Me: I hate your parents.

Primo: Imagine being related to them.

[1] I have no interest in watching any sporting event, ever.

Ch 5 They put us in the guest room together without – as far as I know – even discussing it with Primo and fine whatever I don’t care

Fine. If it makes them happy to believe they are the cool, hip parents and that I am a big prude, then fine. They can think that. This is no longer the hill I am going to die on. There are bound to be bigger issues. I have to pick my battles and this is no longer one of them, especially since my mother’s betrayal at Thanksgiving. Et tu, Brutus?

But I still think it is more about not wanting to clean the spare room. There is no principle involved. It is just laziness. Which you know what? That’s cool. People are allowed to be lazy. But own it. Don’t be all, “She’s just a prude and I cannot support that!” when it’s really just that you don’t want to clean.

Ch 5 Which reminds me of this story about how cheap I am

Me: I'm stopping the diet soda again.

Primo: Why? Because you have a headache?

Me: No. It's just too expensive. Even on sale, it's four dollars for a 12 pack.

Primo: Do you know how much I spend on wine?

Me: Sort of.

Primo: Every time I drink a glass of Ridge, it costs four dollars. And every-

Me: Stop! I don't want to know!

Primo: Buy the Dr Pepper.

Ch 5 I am a bitch about the diet Dr Pepper, which is unfair to Doris because she really is making an effort

Although there is not any lunch food, Doris did buy regular milk. Sly and Doris are lactose intolerant of milk. Not of cheese or ice cream, but of milk, so they drink Lactaid. But she has regular milk for Primo and me and diet Dr Pepper for me, which is very thoughtful, even if it is in the two-liter bottle instead of in cans, which, as anyone who drinks soft drinks knows, is the better way to parcel out individual servings of soda over a multiple-day period.

Me: Why didn’t she get cans?

Primo: She says that all she could find was a 12 pack, and she didn’t want leftovers.

Me: Rather than spend an extra two dollars for cans, she got the big bottle?

He looks at me. I shut up. I am being a bitch.

Doris would say she is reaching out and trying to accommodate me, which she is. Sort of. But it is pretty clear where I stand in Doris’ world: not worth two extra dollars.

OK, she probably didn’t think of it like that. Doris has qualities I don’t like, but she is not unwilling to spend money. She probably thought that she didn’t need to have leftover soda after we left and that’s fair. Just getting for me was nice. It was. Thank you, Doris.

I am grateful for the soda. I open the bottle, fill a glass with stale ice, and pour, hoping the caffeine will banish my headache.

Ch 5 We fly to Florida, rent a car, and are still optimistic – or maybe just stupid – so we don’t buy lunch on the drive to Sly and Doris’ house and I regret our stupid decision because really? This was completely foreseeable

We arrive at Sly and Doris’ to find that there is nothing for lunch, unless you count mushy white store bread and rancid generic peanut butter as lunch food, which I do not. White store bread is not my favorite, as it is a big fat waste of calories. Pure refined carbohydrates and it doesn’t even taste good.

But – I have nobody to blame but myself. I knew better. I knew. I should have insisted that we stop for lunch and food supplies on the drive from the airport. I cannot put this one on Sly and Doris, even if Doris did trick me by asking what I like to drink. I thought she had seen the error of their ways and was going to provide food.

I thought I did the right thing by making cheese and steak sandwiches to take with us on the plane, but it was not enough food to stave off the Visit Sly and Doris Headache. As soon as we cross the threshold chez Sly and Doris, I can feel the stabbing behind my eye. Correlation? Causation? Who knows? Does it matter? All I know is I have a headache. This stinks.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Ch 5 Doris asks Primo what I like to drink and I am filled with hope that perhaps she has changed her mind about me and we will be able to be, if not intimate friends (not that I want that), at least friendly or at the very least cordial

Primo: My mom asked me what you like to drink.

Me: Really? That’s nice of her.

Primo: I told her that we both drink milk and that you like diet Dr Pepper.

Me: OK. Maybe this won’t be so bad. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Chr 5 Primo gets a cold and you would think the world is coming to an end, which is so unlike how I get sick (that is, I don’t complain)

Primo: (Whine, whine, whine)

Me: Poor baby.

Primo: (Whine, whine, whine) I have a cold. I feel miserable. This is so unfair to be sick on the weekend. By the time I feel better, it will be Monday and I'll have to work again.

Me: You don't come from a stiff upper lip family, do you?

Primo: (Whine, whine, whine)

Me: We should probably cancel our trip. You might not be recovered by Christmas. It would be awful if you made your mom and dad sick.

Primo: Nice try!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Ch 5 My Christmas list of small, inexpensive items for Doris that I make against my will because I do not want to get into the whole gift thing

·         flannel pajamas
·         microplane lemon zester

·         silicone baking sheets

Ch 5 Doris wants a list of gift ideas and I want to say, “How about something that costs $100 like the garden lights Primo got you for Mother’s Day?”

Primo: My mom wants gift ideas for you.

Me: What? No! Tell her not to get me anything. I don’t need anything and I don’t expect anything from them just because we will be in their house.

Plus I don’t want to get into a present-exchanging tradition with people who have made it clear that they don’t like me. If I hardly give presents to or get presents from the people I love, why would I want anything from people who don’t like me?

Primo: That won’t work. Just make a list of small things. She can pick one and then she’ll feel like she’s doing it right and you won’t have to feel obligated.  

Me: I don’t even exchange gifts with my own family. When my brother and sister and I visit my mom, she considers that her gift. She knows flights to Colorado are not cheap and she knows that we don’t get a lot of vacation. Plus none of us want more stuff.

Primo: She thinks it’s the right thing to do.

Me: I don’t want to get into this with her. I don’t want anything from your parents.

Primo: I know. But if you don’t make a list, she’ll pick something out on her own.

Me: Good point.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Ch 5 Primo feels sorry for Sly and Doris and I grit my teeth and remind myself that they are old and in poor health and that Sly is mean to Doris

Primo: We can go to the beach. We can do tourist things.

Me: Like last time, you mean? When we cleaned out their garage and I helped your mom weed?

Primo: This time, we could do tourist stuff. Christmas is on Tuesday. We could go on Sunday and come home on Wednesday or Thursday. We can tell them we have to get back because you don’t have any vacation left.

Me: My work shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s.

Primo: They don’t need to know that.

Me: I don’t want to go. Just thinking about it gives me a headache. You go by yourself and I will hang out by myself here. I’ll be fine.

Primo: Please go with me. I don’t want to go alone – it’s so miserable there. At least we can be miserable together. I feel sorry for them. Their life is awful.

Me: But don’t they have any friends? Don’t they volunteer? Don’t they have things to do? They’re retired and financially secure. Don’t they enjoy their time? You saw how busy my mom is with all of her projects. She has church things and she is doing all that family history research and she is involved with her neighborhood association and she has friends.

Primo: My dad doesn’t like to go out and my mom won’t go without him. They think their neighbors are stupid. They don’t have any friends.

Me: So – they’ve made a choice to be lonely.

Primo: Maybe. But they’ve had it hard. They’re really unhappy.

Me: Don’t they do any volunteer work? They have time.

Primo: My dad had thought he might teach at the junior college there, but when they moved, he decided it wasn’t to his standards.

Me: What? It’s not like your dad was teaching at Harvard before he retired. This school isn’t good enough for him? Didn’t he check on it before they decided to move there? Was that going to be an important part of his retirement?

Primo: I don’t know.

Me: How do you know they just didn’t want him?

Primo: Could be. I don’t know. But now they are both unhappy.

Me: Is it your responsibility to make them happy?

Primo: As far as they’re concerned, yes. You saw the part that I am “the light of their lives.”

Me: Just a little pressure.

Primo: I know.

Me: But you don’t want to go.

Primo: No. I would rather stay in town and relax with you. I don’t get much downtime. Even when I take time off, I still get email and phone calls. Holidays are the only time I can really relax.

Me: Why can’t you just tell them no?

Primo: They’ll get mad at me.

Me: And?

Primo: They’ll be mad.

Me: Big deal.

Primo: They’re my parents. They’ve had a rough life. I have to go. I would like it if you would come with me. I have enough frequent flyer miles that we could go first class.

Me: Fine. But I am going to the gym this time. Every day. For a few hours. I cannot be around them all day. I am not used to being around people who don’t like me.

Primo: OK.

Me: And you have to be the one to explain to them that I am going to the gym. I don’t want to start a fight.

Primo: They’ll be happy to have me to themselves, but they will be insulted that you don’t want to be around them.

Me: I don’t want to be around them! I wish we could have a do-over – that I could say to them, “We didn’t start off on the right foot but we all love Primo so let’s start again.”

Primo: Ha! As if that would make a difference! Besides, that’s not how things work in my family. We don’t talk about that stuff.

Me: But your dad brags about taking Viagra? And about his sex life? And we hear all the trash talk about Ted and Ted’sWife and Stephanie? They can talk about all of that but not have a conversation about feelings?

Primo: I know. It’s crazy. They talk about the things I don’t want to hear about but there is no way they would want to talk about how to have a better relationship. Ten years ago, I would not have been able to do that, but ex-wife and I went to marriage counseling. I really did not want to have a bad marriage or be like my dad, so I had to learn new ways to communicate and argue. But my parents? No way.

Me: OK. I will suck it up. But I have to get out of there for a while every day. And we have to get out of there together.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Ch 5 November Sly and Doris are pissed that Primo went to my mom’s for Thanksgiving and write him a nastygram

I guess I will have to remind you that you are THE LIGHT of our lives. Your sister is dead, and the pain doesn't diminish much with time. Your stepbrothers,[1] despite the caring we tried to exhibit during their upbringing with (their mother and stepfather), have proven to be grave disappointments in multiple ways. Your new love has two siblings, which should be of some comfort to her and her mother and a potential "extended family" for you.

[1] Yes, they also refer to his half-brothers as “stepbrothers.”