Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ch 7 I make onion rings with Doris and think perhaps this, this is a bonding moment and then she asks me how much I weigh, which is a rather personal question and could spoil the mood or could create intimacy – who knows?

Doris wants onion rings for supper. I have never made onion rings before but it can’t be that hard, right? At the least, I can keep her company while she cooks. I will practice loving kindness, even if I don’t feel it. Maybe it’s like smiling – the act of doing the thing can actually induce the feeling.

I really do feel sorry for her. It’s just that it’s a lot easier to feel sorry for her when I am not around her. But I want to like her. I do. I will try. The whole, “Ram a pole up her ass” thing from last year, though – that’s a tough one to overcome.

I watch her peel an onion and then, very slowly and very carefully, with one of the dangerously dull knives in the knife block, cut the onion into slices. We should have given her their Christmas present early.

Oh! Forgot to mention. We ordered them a nice butcher knife and paring knife. We had them shipped to Stephanie's, as carrying sharp stabbing instruments on a plane is generally frowned upon. I need to go over to Stephanie's to pick them up. Good. I always like spending time with Stephanie.

I can’t bear to watch this. First, Doris is so darn slow that it makes me crazy. Second, I am pretty sure that knife is going to slip and gash her and that blood will get over everything, including the food, and Primo and I will have to clean it up and there won’t be anything to eat because it will be covered in blood.

I am not that squeamish, but I am reluctant to eat food that has been covered in blood, even if the food is rinsed.

And, of course, I am squeamish about showers.

Me: Why don’t I do that, Doris? You can sit and tell me what to do. I’ve never made onion rings before. You can teach me.

Doris: You don’t know how to make onion rings?

I almost never eat fried foods. It’s not because I don’t like them but because I am descended from a long line of peasant women who had to give birth in the fields and then keep harvesting potatoes. My body is built for comfort, not speed, and it will hold onto all those extra calories just in case. Just in case there is famine. Because famine happens a lot in the first world these days.

Also, I do not like having grease spatter in my kitchen.

Me: Nope. I can’t eat food like this very often. I have a tendency to accumulate pounds.

Doris: How much do you weigh?

What? That is not a polite question.

Well OK. Whatever. Maybe this can be a (bizarre) bonding thing between us.

Me: Oh, about one forty, one forty two. I feel better and think I look better at one thirty, but I have to be hungry all the time to get there.

Doris: I only weigh one hundred and nineteen pounds.

Holy smoke. My boyfriend’s 70something wants to get into a competitive weigh off with me? What the heck?

Be kind. Be kind. She is a bitterly unhappy person. Be kind. Do more than the bare minimum. Deep breath.

Also: she is five inches taller than I am and weighs more than 20 pounds less than I do. Crap. I am really doing it wrong.

Me: Yes, Doris, you have a nice tall, slim figure. And Primo has shown me photos from when he was born. You were a knockout.

She was. She was gorgeous. She was tall and slim but very shapely and had beautiful lush long auburn hair. She was amazingly talented and had a full scholarship to the music conservatory. And she threw it all away on a jerk husband.

She weighs less than I do. She wins. I guess.

But I can get out of a chair by myself.

Be kind! Be kind! I don’t have to fake enthusiasm but I can be kind to a miserable old lady.

Not that I care if I know how to make onion rings. If ever an occasion should come along in my life where I would need onion rings, I am pretty confident I would be able to master the skill. But you know – trying to get along. And really, it is very hard to watch an old lady do something that is so clearly difficult for her.

I peel the onions, slice them, and shake them in a big plastic bag with flour, salt, and pepper.

She directs me to the deep fryer. I get it out, fill it with oil, and turn it on. As we wait, she tells me that this is one of Primo’s favorite foods and that she always makes it for him.

That is kind of sweet.

Primo has never told me he likes onion rings. I have never seen him order them at a restaurant. Maybe he likes only his mom’s onion rings? Whatever. It’s OK for a mom to try to do something special for her child.

Once the oil is hot, she has me dip a portion of the flour-coated rings in milk, then shake them with the seasoned flour again. She stands and drops them in the hot oil. At just the right time – I gotta give her credit for this, she lifts the basket, dumps the rings onto some crumpled newspaper, and sprinkles them with more salt.

I reach for one – too hot.

Doris: You have to wait!

I wait a few more seconds, then reach again and eat one.

Oh. Man.

This. Is. So. Good.

Hot. Salty. Fat. Is there anything better?

Doris eats a few, then eases herself back into the chair.

Doris: Get that cookie tray out from that cupboard. Put the rings on it and put it in the oven on low until we are done.

Sly: Doris! Come watch this tennis match!

She looks conflicted.

I understand. I would not want to spend time with Sly, either.

Me: Go! I’ll finish these. I’ll do it just like you showed me, I promise.

You know me. I never mind being alone. Besides, I have a headache and the medication is making me feel crummy and I am running out of nice. Pain makes me cranky.

I finish the onion rings, eating one or two out of each small batch that went into the fryer. It takes 30 minutes and I make 12 batches. My hair and clothes reek of grease, which does not help my headache. But whatever.

It is not hard at all to eat a lot of onion rings hot out of the fryer. Not at all. But when they catch up to you, you discover that they are very, very filling.

By the time we sit down for supper, I am not hungry at all. I serve myself only a small amount of food and spend 30 minutes moving it around my plate until I feel I can excuse myself to go to bed. The headache is not abating and I just want peace.

Ch 7 Doris is determined to tell Fernando he is living his life wrong because clearly, she and Sly have found the formula for happiness

Primo: I spoke to her. She's still going to write to him.

Me: Do your parents ever wonder why they don't have any friends?

Ch 7 Behind closed doors, Primo and I talk about Doris’ proposed actions RE Fernando and I explain that going to church on Sundays, going to Sunday school, going to church social activities, being in the church choir, and being involved in the CYO do not necessarily make someone a horrible person unless you think I am a horrible person

Primo: I think she wants my approval to write that letter to Fernando.

Me: What do you think?

Primo: Well, I thought Fernando's letter was awfully churchy, too.

Me: No. What do you think about your mom's first response to Fernando’s letter being to criticize? And he’s not too churchy. Honestly – the things they do – Sunday school, church every Sunday, social events at the church – that’s how I grew up. My parents ran the Sunday school program. We had the priest over for lunch after Mass. I was in choir, I was in the Catholic youth organization. It is not a horrible way to live. I don’t think I turned out too bad.

Primo: I don't know. I'll talk to her.

Ch 7 Sly seems surprised to see me reading a book with no pictures

Sly: Are you reading Andersonville?

Me: Yes.

Sly: MacKinlay Kantor Andersonville?

Me: Yes. Is there another one?

Sly: Oh!

He walks out of the room. Dang. I have rendered him speechless. How can I use this power for good?

(BTW, read the book. It is horribly sad but we need to know our history.)

Ch 7 Doris complains about a Christmas card from Primo’s friend and volunteers to set the friend straight about his life, which is too dedicated to religion

Doris: Primo, your friend Fernando sent us a Christmas letter.

Me: That was nice of him. Primo said they have been friends since high school. He sent Primo a letter, too. I read it before we came here.

Doris: I haven’t seen him since Primo was in college.

Me: That’s really nice that he is keeping up with you.

Doris: His letter was too much about religion! His life is too involved with the church. I am going to write back to him to tell him he and his family are getting too entangled in religion and that they are too focused on the church.

I look at Primo. He makes an almost imperceptible shake of his head.

I keep my mouth shut.

Ch 7 Nope, it was the cleaning lady who left the flowers in the guest room, and I wonder how someone who can afford to pay a cleaning lady, which is something only Rich People have in my world, can’t afford to buy cans of diet Dr Pepper for me

Me: Doris! The flowers in the guest room are so nice. Thank you.

Doris: What flowers?

Me: Some hibiscus, maybe from your garden? I love hibiscus.

Doris: Oh. The cleaning lady must have done that.    

Ch 7 Doris puts flowers in the guest room for us and I am so, so happy that we have finally Turned the Corner

Me: Primo! Look!

Primo: What?

Me: Flowers! Your mom put flowers in the guest room!

Primo: So? You always do nice things for your guests. You put out the little shampoos and soaps so they don’t have to use used soap. You put flowers from your and bottled water and chocolate in the guest room and you buy orange juice and little yogurts, even though you don’t eat them.

Me: Because my guests might want them.

Primo: Right. So why would you be surprised that my mom put flowers in the guest room? My mom is a nice person.

Me: I don’t know. OK. You’re right. She is. I am just really happy to see them, that’s all, because it seems like maybe her attitude is shifting?

Primo: I knew once she got to know you that she would like you.

Me: OK. OK. That’s really nice. That’s really good – I want to be friends with your parents, but I will settle for being friends with your mom.

Ch 7 Alternative conversation where Sly and Doris are mortified that we bring our own food and react appropriately

Primo: Mom, where should I put this stuff? We brought some lunch meat and some bread.

Doris and Sly: What? No! Oh, how we are shamed that guests in our home would think they need to bring their own food! We have a bounty here! Even though we ourselves do not partake of lunch, we do feed lunch to our guests! 

We have salmon and asparagus for you to grill tomorrow and hamburgers for after that. There is a big bowl of ripe pears, mangoes, and bananas on the counter and there are grapes and strawberries in the refrigerator. 

There is also Good Cheese and Good Lunch Meat in the fridge and Good Bread on the counter. The Good Chocolate is in a bowl in the guest room. 

Goldie, there is a 24-pack of canned diet Dr Pepper for you as well. In addition, we have Good Coffee for the morning, and, of course, half and half to go with it. Please eat what you want – we cannot bear the idea of a guest in our home being hungry.

Ch 7 It does not faze Sly and Doris at all that we bring our own food, even though I would be dying in shame if someone brought her own meals to my house because she didn’t think I would feed her

Primo: Mom, where should I put this stuff? We brought some lunch meat and some bread.

Doris, not even looking up from her crossword puzzle: Just wherever it can fit.

(Primo doesn’t ask Sly because Sly is not involved in these women decisions and women’s work about food and meal preparation.)

Ch 7 Tuesday We buy our own lunch on our way to Sly and Doris’ because finally, I have wised up and accepted that the world is the way it is and I will no longer struggle against something big and unstruggle-able-against, like Sly and Doris and the fact that they are very bad hosts who do not provide lunch for their guests

Primo has some deal with his American Express card where he will get a $30 credit for spending money at six merchants. He still needs to buy something from Whole Foods, which is not a place he or I usually shop because it is outrageously expensive, although I am happy to take the sample tour.

Primo: Dad, I have an American Express deal where I need to spend some money at Whole Foods. We’re stopping there before we get to your house. Do you need anything?

Me: Ask if they have anything for lunch.

I know! I know I said I accepted this, but it’s like picking at a scab. I keep pulling it off just to see the wound bleed. I cannot let this go. I need to! I need to offer my suffering up to Jesus, as my sweet grandmother, who, even at the age of 93, before she moved into assisted living, walked the three blocks to 6 a.m. Mass every day, suggests I do. I could get souls out of purgatory.

Primo: Do you have anything for lunch?

He turns to me, rolls his eyes, and shakes his head.

Primo: OK. We’ll eat lunch at the store and see you guys in a bit. Bye.

Me: I have had a migraine for three days already just dreading coming here. And now it’s getting worse because I am getting hungry. I should have packed more food to bring on the plane.

Primo: We knew we would be stopping at the store so I could get this deal. We’ll get us some lunch and we can grab you some snacks.

As one does, we walk the perimeter of Whole Foods, eating as we go: cheese and persimmons and guacamole and Rice Krispies treats. I don’t like their prices, but I do like their samples. We buy a couple of sandwiches to eat in the store and then a loaf of nice bread and some deli turkey and some roast beef to take to Sly and Doris’.

Me: Your parents won’t eat this, will they?

Primo: No, they won’t.

Me: It’s bad enough that we have to take our own food to their house. Taking food to feed them would be unbearable.

Primo: Don’t worry. They only like the gross sandwich meat. Like baloney. Besides, they don’t eat lunch. Remember?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ch 7 I don’t want to give homemade jam to Doris because I am a bitch – there is no way to sugar-coat it

I have a pear tree in my back yard that produces abundantly. I hate to waste food and there are only so many pear pies[1] a person can make so I take a canning class, buy canning jars and equipment from a downsizing couple I found on Craigslist, and spend hours and hours putting up dozens of jars of pear compote/preserves/jam.

There are also only so many jars of pear preserves a person can eat[2], so I have been giving jam friends. To people I like. To people who are worthy. Canning is hot, sweaty, tedious work and I do not give my labor lightly.

Me: Make sure to pack these jars of jam.

Primo: For who?[3]

Me: For Stephanie and for her dad.

Primo: Are you going to take some for my mom?

Me: Noooooo.

Primo: Why not?

Me: Because it's all designated already?

Primo: For who?

Me: My sister. My brother. My mom. My aunts and uncles. Other people.

Primo: Why not my mom?

Me: Because.

Primo: My mom likes jam. You gave me jam to take to ex-wife's mom when I went to California for work last month and you've never even met her.

Me: Well I thought you should take her something and she sounds like such a nice lady.

Primo: I could have taken her some pecans.

Me: Pecans aren't special. Homemade jam is special.

Primo: My mom doesn't deserve something special?

Me: We're paying $500 to fly there and we are renting a car and you are spending your vacation days cleaning out their garage and fridge and cat box. That’s special enough.

Primo: I'm just messing with you.

[1] It’s actually a lot of pear pies. You can eat a pie a week, easily. And then switch to pear crisp when you are bored with pie. Except who gets bored with pie? Not me. I make awesomely good pie. And I don’t peel the fruit.
[2] Not that many. Pie is easier to eat than preserves.
[3] Primo knows proper grammar, but most people don’t say “whom,” even when it is the right word.

Ch 7 Primo packs Cream of Shrimp soup, which costs four dollars a can, to take to Florida, which is so environmentally responsible – I applaud Sly and Doris’ commitment to sustainability

Me: Why are you packing soup in my suitcase?

Primo: Because it’s liquid and can’t go in my carry-on bag.

Me: No. Why are you packing soup, period?

Primo: Because my mom asked me to buy it.

Me: Why doesn’t she buy it?

Primo: She says she can’t find it there.

Me: She can’t find Campbell’s soup. In Florida?

Primo: That’s what she says.

Me: You’re telling me that there is not a single grocery store where she lives that carries this soup?

Primo: I guess not.

Me: So you have to go to the store to get this soup just so your mom doesn’t have to find it where she lives? And then you have to transport it a thousand miles? Doesn’t your mom care about the carbon footprint on those cans?

Primo: She says it’s really expensive down here.

Me: So she can find it down there.

Primo: Yes, but it’s expensive.

Me: Well it’s sure a lot cheaper for her[1] to have you buy it.

[1] It’s like four dollars a can! For soup! Processed food! For the environmentalist! And yes, I am the cheapest person in the world, but honestly – my mother is completely anal about paying me for anything I buy for her, to the point where it’s a little bit annoying. But I would rather say, “No! You do not need to reimburse me!” than to stew in Bitter Resentment, which appears to be the place I now go every time I have to interact with Sly and Doris.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Ch 7 I tell my sister that Sly and Doris are crazy people and she points out that I do not have to play this game and offers to send me drugs

Jenny: When are you guys going to get married?

Me: Divorce isn’t final.

Jenny: So you aren’t even married – you don’t even have a date set – and you are going to his mom and dad’s with him for Christmas?

Me: Yeah, I know. I’m an idiot.

Jenny: He better be worth it.

Me: He is. He said he would go alone. I feel sorry for him having to be around them. At least if I am there, he has a friendly face. They have just been so awful. After the email where they told him he was a bad son, he woke up the next morning and his first words were, “Why are they so mean to me?”

Jenny: What? You share a bed with him?

Me: I know. I am a hypocrite.

Jenny: They are mean. That is horrible.

Me: I know! I had no idea there were parents like that. I had no idea that we were so lucky to have good parents.

Jenny: Yeah, my boyfriends’ parents have always been nice, too.

Me: So I can suck it up for a week to make it easier for Primo.

Jenny: Plus you can get more material.

Me: Exactly. It’s not fun for me to be around them, but I am fascinated at how awful they are.

Jenny: Should I send you some Xanax? [1]

Me: Yes, please.

[1] I think that’s illegal but I don’t care.

Ch 7 And then Sly and Doris really pull out the big, mean guns that make Primo ask first thing in the morning, “Why are they so mean to me?”

Sly emails: You are a bad son.

Doris emails: Everything sucks and I get despondent. We are ignoring Christmas for the most part, although I will put up a few decorations.  

(Not making this up. Really happened.)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Ch 7 Primo tries to reason with Sly and Doris, with Sly noting that my family, of which Primo has already met my mom, my siblings, several of my aunts and uncles, my grandmother, and many of my cousins, is “not close” – BTW, I have met only one of Primo’s brothers and none of his extended family

Primo: What if Goldie’s mother acted the same way and demanded that we spend all holidays with her?

Sly: That’s different. Her family is not close. And besides, you spent Thanksgiving with her mother. It’s our turn.

Primo: What? That was Thanksgiving last year! And there are no turns, Dad! I went years without seeing you guys more than once a year. I travel half the time for work. I’m exhausted. It’s hard for me to take vacation because my work does not stop. Christmas is one of the few times of the year I can take off without worrying that stuff is piling up in my absence. Flying at the holidays is a pain in the neck. I want to be able to relax.

Ch 7 Sly and Doris play hardball with Primo about Christmas using parent tactics I didn’t even know existed in real life, as I have seen them only in fiction and thought they came from the author’s active imagination (just a reminder – nothing I am writing here is from my imagination – it is all true and real reporting of real life events)

Primo: Oh no. Look at this email I got from my mom.

Doris: I had written another email but decided not to send it. We will feel abandoned if you don't come for Christmas.

Me: What does that even mean, “I had written another email but decided not to send it?” Either send the email or don’t mention it.

Primo: It means that the one she wrote is way worse than the one she sent.

Me: And she wants you to know that.

Primo: Yes.

Me: Not passive aggressive at all.

Primo: My mom is not passive aggressive.

Me: I think if you look up the phrase in the dictionary, you will see her photo.

Primo: I don’t think so.

Me: OK. I am not interested in convincing you, but she is definitely manipulative.

Primo: Maybe.

Me: Maybe? She wrote that they will “feel abandoned” if you don’t spend Christmas with them! I’m not sure of the proper term for that, but I am happy to call that manipulative.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ch 7 Oh yeah I am probably going to Florida for Christmas again, which makes me an idiot, doesn’t it?

Me: You know I do not want to spend Christmas with your mom and dad again this year. Last year was an outlier, not the beginning of a trend.

Primo: I don’t want to go there, either.

Me: Good. It’s decided.

Primo: Well.

Me: Oh come on! You told them we weren’t going there for Thanksgiving. They lived.

Primo: Yeah, but they were not happy about it.

Me: So what?

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ch 6 I message Stephanie to ask what has Sly annoyed

Me: What happened at T giving that S didn't want D to tell P about bc it might get back to you?

Stephanie: I have no clue other than the fact that I was exhausted. Why what r they saying?

Me: Nothing!  D said dinner was nice and S said something to her about not saying anything. So I was wondering.

Stephanie: Why do they always make issues?

Me: But maybe it's some stupid S thing.

Stephanie: He refused to help cut the turkey. I was so tired and regret inviting them.

Me: Because they are whiners and you are a saint to invite them! He refused to cut the turkey? Why? If you had told him he couldn't do it, he would have pitched a fit!

Stephanie: I asked him to cut it n he said no u are capable of cutting it yourself.

Me: Oh Lord. Whatever. You deserve a medal!

Stephanie: I am never inviting them again, they have a son here who doesn't give a crap about them...... I am done!!! Oh n they were upset that I made a cheesecake too.

Me: What? Who doesn't like cheesecake? And even if they don't like cheesecake, all they have to do is NOT EAT IT. Do you think that’s what Sly didn’t want Doris to say anything about? Because I am not seeing anything wrong with cheesecake!

Stephanie: I don't want or need drama in my life oh n I think they were upset bc the kids were home all week n didn't go n c them. It wasn't that they didn't want to eat it they said that they didn't know I was making a pie or they wouldn't have bought 2. Now I'm twisted!!!

Me: I guess the obvious question of why don't the kids want to see them has never crossed their minds. Jack told them why and they don’t believe him. Twisted person.

Stephanie: Lol should be twisted sister.  Lol

Me: Yes! You are my twisted sister!

Stephanie: Yes, I just don’t get them at all!!!

Ch 6 Sly complains about Thanksgiving at Stephanie's while Doris tries to explain that no, it was really nice without Sly hearing her

Me: How was Stephanie's?

Primo: My mom said it was really nice, but I heard my dad in the background telling her, "Don’t tell Primo about that thing because I don't want it to get back to Stephanie."

Me: Ha! Because you would tell me and I would tell Stephanie?

Primo: Yeah. They think I shouldn’t tell you anything they say.

Me: What? No! You are not operating under the seal of the confessional. I mean, I’d rather not hear anything hurtful that they say about me, but other than that, there is no such thing as privileged communication between your mom and dad and you. The privilege is all between you and me.

Primo: Nope. They think my first loyalty should be to them.

Me: I know we’re not married yet and that your parents are ardent atheists, but surely they’ve heard the part where a man should cleave to his wife.

Primo: I wouldn’t cite the Bible as a source to them.

Me: What don’t they want Stephanie to know? Did you find out?

Primo: I’m not sure. My dad said the turkey was dry. He said he could tell the second he walked into the house.

Me: How can you tell if the turkey is dry before you even see it or taste it?

Primo: My father has many talents. Maybe that’s his superpower – that he can tell if meat is dry just by being in the same house with it.

Me: Is that what's not supposed to get back to Stephanie?

Primo: I don't think so.

Me: I want to know.

Primo: Me, too.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ch 6 Sly and Doris let themselves be talked into going to Stephanie's for Thanksgiving because spending Thanksgiving with your family is such a burden (not that I would want to spend it with Sly and Doris, but Stephanie is nice)

Primo: My parents have let themselves be talked into having Thanksgiving at Stephanie's.

Me: What do you mean, "talked into?"

Primo: They're going to Stephanie's for Thanksgiving.

Me: They don’t want to spend Thanksgiving with their grandchildren? The grandchildren they were complaining about not seeing enough?

Primo: I guess not.

Me: They would rather prepare a Thanksgiving meal – even if it’s not fancy – by themselves?

Primo: I guess so.

Me: Except with your mom’s wrist and your dad’s shoulder, they really can’t do much. So it would just be pizza or something like that.

Primo: Yep.

Me: They think they are doing Stephanie a favor by going to her house for Thanksgiving?

Primo: Apparently. They think they are doing the kids a favor.

Me: Because the kids really want to be with them? Do they not remember what Jack told them when he was drugged?

Primo: Oh yeah. Maybe they could take them to another lecture on global warming.

Me: That’s what would make Thanksgiving great for me.