Saturday, September 16, 2017

Ch 12 December Primo’s divorce is final and we can get married

Me: Don’t date a married man.

Jenny: Words to live by.

Me: I mean, don’t date one who is married technically but is divorcing. Or, if you do, stick to your promise that you will not sleep with him until the divorce is final.

Jenny: Ah. The moral question.

Me: That, plus he will have a lot more incentive to finalize the divorce. And maybe give you some leverage over dealing with his parents.

Jenny: That makes sense. So will it ever be final?

Me: Yes! It is final. It only took four years? Is that right? Something like that. So now we can get married.

Jenny: He proposed?

Me: No, I guess not. But we have been talking about this for a few years and when he got the papers yesterday, we realized that we could set a date. I am calling for your availability.

Jenny: Congratulations!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Ch 11 Primo doesn’t think anything weird happened

Me: That was awful! I cannot believe how mean your dad was to your mom!

Primo: What?

Me: Tonight! When your dad was yelling at your mom!

Primo: Oh, yeah. When I was a kid, I thought that kind of bullying was normal. That kind of yelling and intimidation happened all the time at our house. My dad has always been a bully and I thought that’s just what life was like. Even tonight, it seemed normal to me.

Ch 11 But then Sly makes Doris pay the price for my insolence

Doris: Primo, would you please turn off the TV and turn on the radio? There’s a concert on NPR that I want to hear. Sly, do you remember the time when we went to dinner and that concert with the Browns and the singer asked me to join her onstage to sing with her? Primo, this was shortly after you were born. We had mutual friends who had told the singer about me and she asked me to accompany her on stage! Me!

Sly: No honey. It was the Smiths.

Doris looks bewildered. Does it really matter if it was the Smiths or the Browns? This was decades ago. She soldiers on.

Doris: No, it was the Browns.

Sly: It was the Smiths!

The story Doris is telling is about the singing. That is the story I want to hear. That’s the story Primo wants to hear. That's the story she wants to tell.

But Sly can’t let go of the Smith/Brown dilemma.

Doris: No, it was the Browns. I remember, honey.

Sly: It was the Smiths! It was the Smiths!

Doris: Honey, why does it matter? I think it was the Browns, you think it was the Smiths. Let me finish the story, please.

Sly: It was the Smiths! How stupid are you? Did they have a “stupid” category on your report card when you were a little girl? If they did, you would have gotten an “A!”

Doris: Don’t you talk to me like that!

Sly: I’ll say what I please. Stupid. Probably because of your stupid parents.

I swear I am not making this stuff up. I am reporting, verbatim, what is happening.

Sly: Stupid parents, stupid daughter.

Doris (crying): Leave my parents out of it, you fucker!

My jaw drops. I had never in my life heard either of my parents cuss at each other. I never heard either of them use the “F” word – and my dad was a sailor before he was married. Not that my parents didn’t fight, but when they fought, they usually didn’t do it in front of us kids and I certainly never saw my dad reduce my mother to tears.

I watch the tears roll down Doris’ face. What am I supposed to do?

What is a 70 year old woman who is treated like this supposed to do?

Ch 11 I’m pretentious and so is Primo but Sly? He is humble

We are watching Jeopardy. I don’t want to watch TV with Sly and Doris. I want to be alone with a book because I have had way too much togetherness with them. Any togetherness with them is too much.

Sly: I’ve always found Alex Trebek to be arrogant.

I can’t resist. This is not an ass-kissing moment and I am flush from my pizelles and broccoli and five times negative five victories.

Me: Pot, meet kettle.

Oh yeah. I am poking the bear.

Primo snickers.

Doris gasps, then laughs for a second, stopping herself with a swift hand to the mouth. She whispers a warning to me, “You'll pay for this.”

Thirty seconds later, Sly, who has been silent since I spoke, turns to Primo and snapped, “You're pretentious. And so is your girlfriend.”

I stifle a laugh and a smart-aleck response. Boy did he tell me.

What. Ever. He can call me pretentious as much as he wants. Just the knowledge of my new power is enough. 

Ch 11 Sly and Doris take us out for dinner, which is generous of them, but Sly is rude about the broccoli casserole

Sly and Doris take us out for supper. In general, it should be the guests who treat the hosts to supper, not the other way around, but I am willing to compromise my principles because:

·         I buy my own lunch any time we are here
·         The rental car cost $130  (Primo paid)
·         Plane tickets were at least $500 apiece (Primo paid)
·         I have to take more Imitrex than usual because being around them gives me a headache and Imitrex costs $20 a tablet retail and I get only nine of them a month, so I treat them like gold

Primo: What are you getting?

Me: The vegetable plate looks good. Butter beans and corn pudding and turnip greens and broccoli casserole.

Sly: I’ve never had good broccoli in a restaurant. Restaurants never make good broccoli.

Sly has said nasty things about Stephanie and Jack. “Fat and lazy and all she does is shop. She needs to be in therapy and she needs psychiatric medication because she has a mental illness. Jack should be in the program also.

I have remained silent.

He has said nasty things about Jack. “Such a disappointment to us,” he tells Primo. “We invested all that money in his restaurant and he screwed it up.”

I have remained silent.

In their form Christmas letter that Primo got before we left Austin, they complain about the old white men who are running and ruining the world.[1] The letter ends with the words,

We are in despair for the state of the world. Have you seen our beautiful beaches and what has happened to them? We’re afraid that our apathy has led us to our destruction. Our society is degenerate. Success is now measured by faux-celebrity, by millions/billions being made by sports/music icons, by distorted ‘ethical’ values (have kids outside marriage,[2] hook-ups,[3] porn online,[4] the most outrageous entertainers accepted positively in sitcoms).

I have remained silent. They are mostly right, but who wants to get this in a Christmas letter?

I have been remaining silent, but now? Now I am empowered. Now I have challenged Sly successfully about the EXtract and about five times negative five. I am bold. I am brave. I am a warrior.

Me: Really Sly? You can make the categorical statement that there is not one single restaurant that makes good broccoli? That it is impossible?

Sly: I have never had good broccoli in a restaurant.

Me: That doesn’t mean that all restaurants can’t make broccoli. It means you have not picked good restaurants.

Ha! It feels so good to say that! And he doesn’t even answer! I win!

I order the broccoli casserole. The waiter brings our plates.

Sly: That doesn’t look as disgusting as I thought it would.

The waiter winces as he walks away.

Me: I’m not sure the waiter appreciated that.

Sly: What? I always treat waiters very well.

Me: Define “well.”

Sly: I always tip in cash.

Me: What? That’s not treating waiters well.

Sly: Yes it is. This way, they don’t have to declare their tips on their taxes.

Me: Are you advocating tax fraud? I pay taxes on what I earn. When I had self-employment income, I paid not only income tax but 15.2% social security tax. Why should I pay my taxes when a waiter isn’t going to pay his?

Sly: Waiters make hardly any money.

Me: When I’ve had self-employment income, it’s been my only income and it hasn’t been very much. When I was a waitress in college, I paid my taxes. When I did temp work, I paid my taxes. I have never cheated on my taxes.

Sly: But waiters don’t make any money.

Me: You know the IRS assumes tip income of a certain percent of sales, right? You know they have to pay the taxes anyhow?

Ha! Twice! Twice in one sitting I have challenged Sly! I like it. I like it a lot.

[1] I know. Sly is an old white man. The ironies, they abound.
[2] From a man who abandoned his two small children and his first wife when he met someone he liked better.
[3] But they were pissy that I didn’t want to share a room with Primo?
[4] Which, apparently, is one of Sly’s main pastimes. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ch 11 Sly is pissed at me and threatens to disinherit Primo (again)

We get back to the house. Sly calls to Primo. Primo goes into Sly’s bedroom to talk to him and I go into the guest room. My headache did not gone away while we were at Stephanie's, but at least I was comforted by the presence of more allies than enemies. Sly was outnumbered at Stephanie's.

Fifteen minutes later.

Primo: My dad is ticked off. He threatened to disinherit me if I don’t get you in line.

Me: Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ve heard it before. You’re not even inherited so I don’t know why he thinks that’s a valid threat. Besides, it’s not as if your parents are Rockefellers. And even if they were, so what? You don’t need their money. It’s pretty sleazy to try to control you that way. What else is new?

Primo: He said you’re supposed to respect your elders and he asked me why I let you boss me around.

Me: Wait. He used those words? “Boss” you around?

Primo: Yes.

Me: Wow. He is really big on this whole “boss” concept.

Primo: I know.

Me: Did you tell him it's because I'm good in bed?

Primo: I should have. He told me that I am pussy whipped.

Me: Except doesn’t pussy whipped mean that the pussy gets her way about everything? I sure don’t always get my way.

Primo: I am pretty sure that my dad thinks that the only reason I don’t spend every single minute of free time with them is because you forbid it.

Me: Yeah, right. Would that work?

Primo: Nope! Anyhow, he was pissed. He was ranting and raving about your disrespectful attitude and how you don’t know your place.

Me: Good grief. I have a “place?” What is this, 1950? That’s not very liberal of him, is it? So now what do I have to do to fix things? Man, I am so sick of your dad. I should have had it out with him years ago. I am tired of this passive aggressive behavior and tiptoeing around.

Primo: Actually, I told him that I’d had enough of his bullying.

Me: What?

Primo: I told him that I was tired of his bullying and bluster and that he needed to stop trying to push you around and stop trying to push me around.

Me: Wow!

Primo: I said I was not going to discuss you with him anymore. I said that the next time he complained about you to me, I would walk away or hang up the phone. I also told him that if that’s the way he’s going to be, then you and I will take care of ourselves and they can take care of themselves and we would have nothing to do with each other. They can get lonely by themselves down here and you and I will live our lives in Austin without them. I am not going to be threatened like that.

Me: Wait a second. If your dad has a problem with me, why doesn't he just talk to me?

Primo: I don’t know. I suggested he do that next time and he didn’t answer.

Me: I don’t get it. It’s not like your dad is meek and non-confrontational. He has no problem getting in someone’s face. He gets in your face all the time.

Primo: I don’t know.

Me: Wait. Wait! Your dad won't talk to me because he knows he can't push me around! Wait! Your dad is scared of me! OMIGOSH! I've spent all this time scared of your dad and he's scared of me!

Primo: Maybe. Yeah, probably. I never thought of it that way, but yes. Everyone else is afraid of him.

Me: I mean, he’s not scared scared – he outweighs me by over 100 pounds, but he knows that I’ll fight back! I’m the only one who challenges him! Sure, you challenge him, but he makes you pay. The price is too high for you. I don’t care if he likes me or not. He knows he can’t make me cry. He knows he can’t get his way with me by threatening to withhold love and approval.

Primo: Yeah, that makes sense.

Me: This is good! I feel powerful! I feel great! I win. I win! Oh man! You know what else?

Primo: What?

Me: My headache! It’s gone! It’s finally gone! I WIN! I BEAT YOUR DAD!

And you know what else?

Power? And victory?

They are aphrodisiacs.

Ch 11 When we are alone in the car, Primo suggests that perhaps direct confrontation was not the wisest course of action to take with Sly

Primo: You didn't need to yell at my dad.

Me: He started it.

Primo: You could have calmly asked, “Sly, is it really necessary for you to correct Maria like that?” or something. You're the one who escalated it right away.

Me: He's the one who was being a jerk first.

Primo is right, though. I should not have raised my voice, if for no other reason than to maintain moral superiority.

Primo: There will be a price to pay for this.

Ch 11 We go to Stephanie's for dinner and Sly corrects Maria for mispronouncing “extract,” only she didn’t mispronounce it

Maria: Mom and I made pizelles last week. It was fun.

Me: The ones you brought over for dinner?

Maria: Yes.

Me: Those were fabulous!

Stephanie: We used the pizelle mold Doris gave me last Christmas. It works great. My old mold wasn’t working so hot anymore. We always make them at Christmas. It’s an Italian thing.

Maria: We made lemon and almond. For the lemon, we used lemon zest, but for the almond, we had to use almond extract.

Sly: Maria, it’s EXtract, not exTRACT. ExTRACT is the verb. EXtract is the noun.

Maria: But that’s what I said, Grandpa.

Sly: No, you said "exTRACT."

She hadn’t. I heard her. She said it properly. But even if she hadn’t said it properly, so what? We all know what she meant.

Not that I overlook grammar and pronunciation errors easily. I am the crazy person who scratches out the apostrophe in the “Apple’s 99 cents” sign at the grocery store.

But I have gotten out of the habit of correcting people in public. You know – praise in public, punish in private.

You don’t shame someone just so you can show that you are smarter. It is important to speak and write proper English, but the way to ensure that someone does so is not by nitpicking at her in front of her family.

Sly, however, prefers the Punish in Public strategy.

Me: She did say EXtract, Sly.

Sly: No, she didn’t.

Doris: Sly –

Sly: Be quiet, Doris.

Me: Yes, she did.

Doris puts her hand on Maria's arm and pats it gently.

Doris: Sly –

Sly: No she didn’t.

Me: Yes. She did. Now leave her alone.

Sly: Don’t tell me to leave her alone!

Me: Just stop, OK?

Sly: You’re not the boss of me!

Oh yes those are the exact words used by a 76 year old retired professor. By a grown man.

Me: You’re not the boss of her!

Sly: I’m her grandfather.

Me: I’m her aunt.

Sly: I’m a blood relative!

Me: I don’t care. Leave. Her. Alone.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Ch 11 Primo shows me the handwritten note Doris slipped him

Primo: My mom can’t even talk to me safely. Look what she put in my hand while my dad was in the bathroom this afternoon.

He hands me a note.

Dear Primo,

It pains me to write this. I did not anticipate my older years being like this. I thought your father would mellow as he aged, but his actions are more and more cruel every day. I don’t know what to do.

Me: That’s awful. Your poor mom. But I’m not surprised. I have to tell you what Stephanie told me.

Primo: What?

Me: Your dad forces your mom to give him a blow job a few times a week.

Primo: But she has COPD! She can hardly breathe!

Me: I know.

Primo: How does Stephanie know this?

Me: Your mom told her. Your mom doesn’t know what to do.

Primo: How can he be like this? How can he be such a jerk?

Me: I don’t know.

Primo: I don’t know what to do to make it better for her.

Ch 11 Sly says that five times negative five is zero and I think, “I was an English major and I know that’s wrong”

Michael: Grandpa, I’m right.

Sly: Primo, five times negative five is zero, right?

Primo: What, Dad?

Sly: Five times negative five is zero.

Oh. This. Is. So. Good.

I have been trying to keep my mouth shut this visit. But this? How can I resist this?

Me, not even looking at Sly: Five times negative five is negative 25, Sly.

Michael: I told you, Grandpa.

Sly: No. The negatives cancel each other out. It’s zero.

Me: It's negative 25. You're wrong, Sly.

Oh the JOY of saying those words! WRONG WRONG WRONG! And on something so simple, so basic, so objective, so provable!

I smile in triumph. I catch Doris’ glance: she is smiling, too. She is a scientist. She knows math. When our eyes meet, her eyes fly open and her hand goes to her mouth. She hides that smile as fast as she can. What if Sly sees her laughing at him?

Sly ignores me and continues looking at Primo, because I cannot possibly have the right answer. Primo confirms what I said, which is not hard to do because five times negative five is indeed negative 25.

Sly insists: No! It’s zero! The negatives cancel each other out!

Ch 11 Sly reads Elizabeth Warren’s book and says his life was harder than hers

Stephanie, Primo, and I wash the dishes while Sly goes to the living room to watch TV. Washing dishes is out of scope for Sly.[1]

Sly: Primo, come out here! I want to talk to you.

Primo: I’m doing the dishes, Dad.

Sly: Don’t let Stephanie put anything in the dishwasher!

Stephanie (whispering): Because I don’t do it right!

Me: I know!

Sly: I read that book you sent me.

Primo: Which book was that, Dad?

Sly: The Elizabeth Warren memoir.

Primo: What did you think? I think she is amazing. I hope she runs for president.

Sly: She thinks she had a bad childhood, but my childhood was a lot worse than hers.

Me (whispering): The bride at every wedding?

Primo (whispering): The corpse at every funeral.

[1] See, “Women’s Work vs Important Men’s Work” and “Mr. Ultra Socialist Liberal Defines Women’s Work.” Yes, Primo is not a woman, but he also does not want to be around his dad.

Ch 11 Sly never did like the white meat – he prefers the dark meat – are you as shocked as I am to learn this?

Primo makes the turkey. I make a pie – with peeled apples,[1] broccoli with the stems cut off,[2] and mashed potatoes with the peels removed.[3] Doris directs me every step of the way and I smile tightly, through my headache and the nasty feeling the Imitrex gives me.

Offering my suffering up to Jesus! Doesn’t matter that I have cooked for myself since I was 21 years old! Doesn’t matter that my grandmother taught me how to make a pie crust when I was eight! Doris has to tell me how to do it!

My inner self slaps my outer self. Poor Doris doesn’t want to be telling someone else how to do it. She wants to be doing it herself. It would kill me not to be able to cook for visitors in my own house – to have to take charity in my own kitchen.

When I am old, I need to remember to be nice and act grateful to anyone who comes to my house and cooks, even if they are doing it wrong.

Or maybe when I am old I will tell other people how to do it right because it’s my house, my rules, darnit. That sounds like a lot more fun.

OK. I am going to be the Boss of Everyone at My House when I am old. Screw it.

Stephanie and the kids arrive, bearing pizelle. Jack arrives with beer and stuffed mushrooms.

I have to admit – I do not know the plural form of “pizelle” and google is no help. There appear to be many ways to spell “traditional Italian cookie.” If I am saying it wrong, I offer my deepest apologies. I mean no offense.

Why? Why do they bother to spend time with Sly and Doris? Sly and Doris are not nice to Jack and Stephanie.

I put up with Sly and Doris because it makes life easier for Primo . And, en el fondo, I also feel very sorry for Doris, even though I wish she would stand up to Sly and be nicer to me.

OK. I know that is impossible. She cannot stand up to Sly because he will punish her.

I will settle for her being nice to me behind Sly’s back and for thinking that perhaps, I am bringing a small amount of comfort to a miserable old lady.

I guess Jack and Stephanie put up with them because Sly and Doris invested and lost all that money in Jack's restaurant. If there is ever an argument for not going into business with family, that is it. That they will own you – or think they own you – after that. But after the White Meat Incident of Last Year, you would think Jack and Stephanie would never allow their children near Sly again.

We snack on the mushrooms while Stephanie and I set the table.[4] Sly pours some bourbon for himself and for Doris. Primo and Jack opens the beer that Jack had brought. Nope. No beer in the house for guests. Sly doesn’t drink it so why buy it?[5]

There is Xanax in my purse. I watch Sly carefully. Is he going to blow? I put the little pill box in my pocket so I can have it if I need it quickly.

We don’t set up a buffet. That, apparently, leads only to pain.

Primo and Jack bring the food to the table and place the turkey next to Sly. Sly takes a slug of bourbon, then carves the turkey with his old wedding present knives, not with the Good Knife Primo and I gave them for Christmas last year.

That’s what I like to see – someone mixing booze and weapons, especially dull knives. I step out of range.

Sly cuts the turkey and lays it on the platter. I sit. We pass the food around – no grace because that’s for stupid people and besides, what do Sly and Doris have to be grateful for?[6] – and no explosions. Nobody is drunk yet, as far as I could tell. It is, however, only 3:30, before they usually start drinking. Sobriety before 4:00 p.m. is not unheard of. After 4:00 p.m., it almost never occurs.

Michael and Maria very carefully take only small portions of dark meat, not looking at Sly while they serve themselves. After they pass the plate with the turkey to Stephanie, they look sideways at Sly to check his reaction.

He says nothing.

Stephanie and I watch Sly nervously after she passes the platter back to Sly. Sly serves himself a generous portion of dark meat, then passes the platter to Primo. The broccoli, the potatoes, and the gravy (which I also made under Doris’ stern tutelage but hey, it’s progress, right?) go around the table.

Everyone has their food.

Nobody dares to eat.

Except Sly.

He says nothing. He puts a forkful of turkey into his mouth. Nobody breathes. He chews slowly. He stops eating, and after a few seconds muses, "You know, I never have liked the white meat. Too dry. No flavor. I've always preferred the dark meat."

As our jaws drop, Stephanie and I look at each other across the table and raise our eyebrows. All that invective the previous year over the white meat and he didn’t even care about it? He doesn’t even like it? Then why the blowup?

I want to ask Sly, “Then what was last year all about? What was all that yelling and hatefulness and drama about?”

But I don’t. I am a sissy who will not stand up to bullies.

We finish the meal if not in peace – peace implies a calm and a lack of fear – then at least in quiet, with no screaming and no anger. Nobody is hurt; there is no blood.

I guess that’s victory.

[1] The wrong way to do it, according to me.
[2] The right way, according to Doris.
[3] The right way, according to Doris.
[4] Even though Sly is Mr. Ultra Socialist Liberal, setting the table is Women’s Work. Actually, though, based on anything I have read about revolutionary movements, the women are still expected to do the grunt work. Revolution is to free men, not to free women.
[5] Am I being a bitch again? Yes. I am. Sorry.
[6] They have nothing but sharp serpents’ teeth.

Ch 11 Sly says there is no room for the electronic frame and the baby photos of Primo and Nancy but Doris loves it and shows genuine enthusiasm, and I say that if she can show genuine enthusiasm, she is also capable of fake enthusiasm, PRIMO

I hold my breath, wondering what this year’s cast-iron cat and framed photo with the option of two frames will be.

Doris gives Primo cloth napkins. Both Primo and I use cloth napkins! We like cloth napkins! A useful present.

These napkins are hideous not to my taste, but they are from Crate and Barrel and she has included a gift receipt. Primo can exchange them and she will never know. This is a total win.

Primo handed his present to Doris. As she unwraps it, he says, “Mom, Goldie and I went through those photos you sent back with me and we scanned the best ones.”

He takes the box from her, opens it, and turns on the frame.

“Look!” he says. “It’s a frame! The photos are loaded in and the image changes! Most of our family photos are in boxes. This is a way for you to get to see a lot of different photos without taking up a lot of space.” He beams.

“Let me plug it in for you!” he says.

He turns it on. As the photos – Primo and Nancy as little kids, Nancy when she was healthy – cycle through, Doris smiles.

“There’s nowhere to put it,” Sly says. “We don’t have room.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Ch 11 Primo defends Doris’ lack of enthusiasm

Primo: You put her on the spot. What was she supposed to say?

Me: Oh puh-leeze. It is not putting someone on the spot to say that her son is lucky to be with me. She did not have to make a list of all my many wonderful qualities. All she had to do was say, “Yes! He is lucky to have you!”

Primo: You’re right, but if you expect to get by with the bare minimum with them, just doing what needs to be done on the outside, like cleaning the fridge, helping prepare meals and do dishes, you cannot expect my mom mother to fake enthusiasm with you.

Me: Really? Not only am I totally, correctly polite to them, I clean the mold and mildew out of their refrigerator – I clean their fridge, period. She can’t even agree with me on one little thing? I think she could fake enthusiasm just for that.

Primo: I think my mother has no idea anymore about how to feel enthusiastic about anything.

Me: Good point.

Ch 11 I tell Doris I am lucky to be with Primo

Me: Wow. It sure is taking Primo a long time to fix your computer.

Doris: I don’t know what’s wrong with it.

Me: He’s spent four hours on it. Do you know what that would cost if you had to pay someone?

Doris: No.

Me: A lot.

Doris: Oh.

Me: He is very good at fixing things. I sure am lucky to have him.

Doris: Yes you are!

At my friend Rebecca’s we breakfast, she, her fiancĂ©, her family, his family, and I had sat together. The fiancĂ©’s mother had raved about what a great catch her son was.

“He’s a doctor! He was a pilot in the Navy! Blah blah blah! Rebecca is soooo lucky to be marrying him!”

This went on and on.

Finally, I said, “Scott is pretty lucky to be marrying Rebecca, too. She has been my friend for years and she is wonderful.”

I glared at Scott’s mom as I said it. Honestly. She was just rude.

Me: He's lucky to be have me.





Doris: OK.

Me: Doris! He's damn lucky to be have me!





Doris: Yes. Because you appreciate him.

Me (on Day What – Three? Of Migraine?): No, Doris. It's a lot more than that.

But in her extremely modest defense, I have met Sly. That man is death to happiness.

Still. Would it have been that hard to be just a wee bit enthusiastic?

Ch 11 Of course I get a migraine that won’t quit – the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

The traditional headache starts a week before we leave for Florida. My body says, “I didn’t agree to this deal. I don’t want to go to Florida. I’ll show you!”

I tell my body to shut up – that Sly and Doris are old and in poor health and will be dead soon and I might not have many more chances to get material.

We make the traditional flight to Florida. Rent the traditional car.

Make the traditional stop at Publix for bread, sandwich meat, and fruit.

Walk into the house and almost immediately hear the traditional words about how

·         Stephanie doesn’t do it right
·         The grandkids don’t do it right
·         Jack doesn’t do it right
·         Ted doesn’t do it right
·         Nobody does it right

Survey the traditional landscape of old magazines and catalogs and paper napkins and take-out cups and glass octopuses. I am dreading the day they move to a retirement community[1] and have to clean out the house. Primo will get stuck doing all the hard work and I will probably help him.

Do the traditional chores – cleaning the mold off the front door, cleaning the fridge and throwing away the old food, removing and washing all the fridge shelves, repairing the torn screen on the porch, putting the trash out Sly’s way, pulling weeds, vacuuming the cat hair out of the closets,[2] cleaning the garage, and washing the cat poop off the wall by the litterbox.

[1] They nailed it in their letter to me about why we don’t get along: That I worry Primo will have to take care of them in their old age. I do. I do worry about it.
[2] The cleaning lady they have twice a month – a nice lady – does not clean closets, or so Sly and Doris say. They probably have never asked her to. By “clean closets,” I mean, “Open the closet door and vacuum the first eight inches of floor.”

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ch 11 We go to Sly and Doris’ for Christmas. Again. When will this madness end?

Me: What about staying in town? I thought you hated to travel during the holidays.

Primo: I know, but my mom.

Me: You can go by yourself.

Primo: I know they are awful to you.

Me: It’s not like they are nice to you, either.

Primo: I know.

Me: What about going to my mom’s for a change?

Primo: We went to your mom’s this summer. And honestly? Your mom will not punish me if we don’t go.

Me: Yes. I was not raised by wolves. My mother is a kind person who does not scream at people. Can’t you just tell them to go to hell?

Primo: You don’t get it. You come from a nice family – a low-drama family. I feel sorry for my mom. My dad is mean to her. I am the only thing in her life she looks forward to. I just want her to have a few days of not being alone with my dad. He is such a jerk.


Playing the sad old lady card. Fine. I guess I can suck it up for a few days to give some relief to an old woman whose husband is mean to her. Surely he will not be mean if there are witnesses, right?

Plus, now that I know Sly doesn’t like me because of the way I eat bacon, I can go just to observe. I have detached myself from them. I no longer care if I have their approval – I know I will never get it – I tried and they told me, “Too bad, toots! It’s all on you!” – and I am not going to try anymore.

Instead, I will be an anthropologist watching a strange species – a species of people who judge how other people at bacon. I will eat bacon wrong in front of him just to provoke a reaction. I will observe their strange little ways and write it all down for you guys. Whenever Sly starts ranting about whatever, I will think, “Keep talking, old man. I’m taking notes.”

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Ch 10 Primo admits he should have stood up for me

Me: You remember when your mom and dad got cranky because I didn’t want to watch TV with them?

Primo: Yes.

Me: I wish you hadn’t involved me at all. I wish you had just said, once they started complaining, “Yep. She’s reading. She’s not watching TV with us.”

Primo: But in their mind, this is the sort of thing you are supposed to do to suck up to them to earn their approval. This is a family thing, watching TV together.

Me: Yeah, but you shouldn’t have to be complicit.

Primo: What do you mean?

Me: I wish you had just told them that I was going to stay in the guest room and read and I was not going to watch TV. I wish you had not given in to terrorists.

Primo: You’re right. I didn’t do it right.

Ch 10 Primo eats bacon all wrong

Primo: I just did something you probably think is gross.

Me: Probably.

Primo: I know you'd think it's gross.

Me: Then don't tell me. I don't care.

Primo: I ate a piece of this (cold, almost all fat) bacon.

Me: Why did you tell me? I told you not to tell me.

Primo: You do think it's gross, don't you?

Me: You are the bad bacon eater, not me.