Saturday, October 14, 2017

In which I wonder what to write from now on, as Sly and Doris are dead (although the estate still is not settled and continues to present challenges) and as Ted has quieted down some, which makes us nervously happy but also scared because when will the next shoe drop?

So yeah.

There's the draft of the book I wrote, where I fictionalized events because really, nobody wants to read a story where there is not some kind of either redemption (happy!) or comeuppance (even happier for the people watching for the comeuppance). (Think "House of Cards" - I hate every character on the show, but I watch because I want to see them get what's coming to them.)

I sent query letters to agents but either I stink at writing query letters or my first pages were not compelling.

But you know what? I don't think I am a novelist. I am not a plot person. My friend Jeff Abbott is brilliant at plotting. AND he gets to incorporate what he studied in college! He was an English and history major and one of his books has all this stuff about Russia and the Cold War. He mentioned one of his history professors in the acknowledgments, which was really cool.

I am not about plot. I can't make plot up. I don't think I am good at sustained narrative where you start with The Protagonist Wanting Something She Can't Get (i.e., a good relationship with Sly and Doris) and then Overcoming Obstacles and Going Underground For Three Days to Overcome Her Tragic Flaws only to Emerge Triumphant.

I think I am better at short scenes and that's what I like and I just have to figure out how to get that kind of thing published. (Published somewhere besides here, I mean.)

The other thing is that Primo is running for office again. He has a chance to win this time, which would be cool.

I am not interested in being part of the political world myself, but I will gladly grab the popcorn and listen to all his stories about the politics of politics. (It's SO DIRTY, Y'ALL. SO DIRTY. BUT SO FASCINATING.)

So maybe I'll write about that. On verra.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ch 12 Primo gives me the best wedding present ever and nope, it’s not a trip to Paris or a diamond bracelet or anything else you might think of

Primo helps Sly and Doris to bed. My mom, who is not drunk, is able to get to bed by herself. Primo and I use the guest bath to brush our teeth. I do not want to use our bathroom – the bathroom Sly and Doris have been using – until I can give it a good cleaning with bleach.

Is that irrational? I don’t think so.

Not to be too explicit, but it appears that Sly does not adopt the practice of sitting on the toilet when he is at someone else’s house. Older men, older men plumbing problems, older men dripping in places. Ick. I don’t want his cooties.

We pull out the sofa bed. Put the sheet of plywood under the thin mattress so there will be some back support. Smooth the old cotton sheets Primo has been using for years. The throw pillows are still in the window where we put them last night before so the sun wouldn’t wake us at the crack of dawn, but we discovered this morning that the sun is not the problem. Noisy Sly and Doris are the problem.

We collapse.

Primo: That was fun.

Me: I know.

Primo: Except for my mom and dad getting drunk.

Me: Getting drunk and then driving your car to the restaurant! Yeah, that was super smart. We should have seen that coming.

Primo: I know. I was so distracted by – you know – OUR WEDDING – that I wasn’t thinking.

Me: Me neither.

Primo: The sad thing is, I know my dad does that kind of thing all the time. I know he doesn’t forego his 4:00 drink when they go out to eat. I think he has gotten good at driving drunk.

Me: They are so lucky they have never hurt anyone.

Primo: Yeah, I know. I have been making sure I do the driving when I am with them for years.

Me: It would have been nice if they had stayed sober or at least not acted drunk for our wedding dinner.

Primo: You mean, “It would have been nice if they had thought about someone else instead of themselves?”

Me: Yeah! That!

Primo: That’s how they roll.

Me: Your mom was all weepy about you when you were a baby and wanted out of your crib. She tells me that story every time she sees me.

Primo: Any time she drinks, she gets like that.

Me: Which is – always.

Primo: Unfortunately, yes. She is not a happy person.

Me: But this was different. She gave me her mother’s wedding ring.

Primo: What?

Me: I was shocked, too. The ring is a huge deal with her.

Primo: It is?

Me: Don’t you remember the first time I met your parents how she told me about it and she was all sad because she had wanted to give the ring to Nancy?

Primo: Oh yeah. I had forgotten about my grandmother’s rings. I don’t get sentimental about things like that.

Me: Your mom does.

Primo: She is attached to things.

Me: I get annoyed with her – she seemed to be all in on the boycott the wedding movement, but I also feel sorry for her, being stuck with your dad. That fight they had the last time we were there?

Primo: What are you talking about?

Me: When he was screaming at her! And she was crying!

Primo: I don’t remember.

Me: How can you not remember?

Primo: Because that kind of thing happens all the time with them. It’s their normal.

Me: That is really sad.

Primo: My dad is a jerk.

Me: You can say that again.

Primo: How about that toast?

Me: Lovely! I like the way he insulted his first wife. And the way he talked you up, you, the perfect child, in comparison to your brothers. Even though we know he is also probably very disappointed in you, too.

Primo: Man.

Me: What? You don’t like being the Perfect Child? Aren’t you proud?

Primo: I don’t want the burden of being responsible for them. I don’t want to be the only one they want. My life would be a lot easier if Ted and Jack helped out. Only my mom and dad don’t want them, they want me.

Me: Who cares what they want? Why do their wishes get to trump yours?

Primo: All they do is complain. They are horrible houseguests. You made things so nice – we gave them our bedroom! – and they still complain! They can’t even say one nice thing to you.

Me: Nope. Because I am the evil gold digger.

Primo: Although really, it’s my dad. My mom just goes along with him.

Me: Yes – she is a different person when she is not around him. I could not believe how she – she – sparkled! – when she and I went to the gardens.

Primo: My dad is a jerk. He is the one doing the main complaining. You didn’t offer oatmeal.

Me: What?

Primo: Didn’t I tell you? I thought I had.

Me: What are you talking about? You told me about the cabbage and the napkins and of course we know I am a Bad Bacon Eater, but oatmeal? There is something about oatmeal now?

Primo: My dad is annoyed that you did not offer him oatmeal.

Me: But I did! I showed him and your mom where everything was so they could make breakfast for themselves and not have to wait for us.

Primo: No. He was upset that you made oatmeal and did not offer any to him.

Me: When?

Primo: I think he first complained about this on Monday.

Me: Oh! Yes, I made oatmeal on Monday, but when I got to the kitchen, your dad was already eating cornflakes.

Primo: He was?

Me: Yes! He was almost done with his cereal when I started making oatmeal. I guess I could have asked if he wanted an oatmeal chaser to his cornflakes, but it didn’t occur to me that someone who had just finished a bowl of cold cereal would also want a bowl of hot cereal.

Primo: He has been complaining about that.

Me: Why didn’t he just ask me to make some for him?

Primo: Because he would rather have a reason not to like you.

Me: Of course. They’re not going to be visiting often, are they?

Primo: I doubt they will visit ever again. I have no intentions of ever inviting them again.

Me: Then that’s fine with me.

Primo: And you don’t need to go with me when I visit them. This boycott threat? That was ridiculous. I need to visit them because they are my parents and I feel sorry for my mom, but I don’t think you need to put any more effort into the relationship.

Me: Good. Because I am done with them.

Primo: They have been so awful. I feel so bad for my mom, but even though I feel bad for her, just a few days of them in our house has been horrible. They will never live with us. Ever.

Me: Is that your wedding present to me?

Primo: Yes, I suppose so!

Me: That? Is the best wedding present you could have given me.


Ch 12 Doris is all weepy at my wedding dinner and it kind of ticks me off but then I really listen to her and it makes me sad for her and then she makes a Grand Gesture and it makes me so sad because her daughter is dead and she is married to a jerk and there is nothing she can do

Doris waves me over. Good grief. Now what?

Her cheeks are wet. Why is she sad? This is a wedding, a celebration.

I know! I know! I am joking! She is sad that Primo married me. Or she is sad that she is married to Sly. Or both.

She is drunk. She is weeping.

Doris: The most blissful time of my life was when Primo was a toddler. I would put him in his playpen while I ironed and did other housework. At only nine months old, he started talking. He was so bright. “Out!” he would say. “Out!” Then he would raise his little arms so I could lift him. I treasured those days.

Me: Yes, you’ve told me that story before.
Doris: He is my Only Joy!

Me: Uh huh.

Don’t you just want to slap me and tell me not to be such a bitch? Writing this, I feel really bad. I am not being kind. It costs me nothing to be nice to an old lady. And man, do I get hoist on my petard here. You’ll see.

Doris: No, you don’t understand. He really is the only happiness I have in life. He is the only person in my life who brings me joy.

Oh. Oh. I get it. I would be bitterly unhappy if I lived with Sly. I guess I would drink, too, as much as I could. I still remember what Primo’s brother said about Sly: He turns wives into alcoholics.

Doris: You love Primo. You’ll be good to him.

Me: OK, Doris. OK. I know.

She weeps.

Crap. What do I say? I just don’t want to deal with her weepy, drunk emotions. I don’t inflict my emotions on other people. I don’t want to take theirs.

Doris: Sit down.

Me: Ummm.

I look around for rescue.

Doris: Please.

I don’t want to talk to her, but I feel sorry for her.

Doris: I want to give you something.

Is she going to give me Wedding Night Advice? Great. That would be fabulous.

She pulls out a small box out of her purse and hands it to me.

Doris: Open it.

It contains a ring with a thin, worn band and a tiny diamond. The band has been cut.

Doris: That is my dear, dear mother’s wedding ring. They had to cut it off her finger when she died. I want you to have it.

My jaw drops. She has told me about her mother’s ring and how precious it was to her. She had wanted to give it to Nancy. She cried when she told me about it. I don’t even know what to say to you guys, except see what I mean about being hoist on my petard?

I really don’t know what to say to her.

Me: Thank you, Doris. I don’t know what to say. I know how special this ring is to you and I know how much Primo loved his grandmother. I will treasure it. Thank you.

A hug seems like the right thing to do but it also feels incredibly awkward. I pat her hand. That seems like a good compromise. 

Ch 12 Sly makes a toast but can’t even bring himself to say my name

Sly stands. “I want to offer a toast to our son, Primo, who is our only joy. He is intelligent and accomplished.[1] He is the only thing in our life we are proud of.” (Blah blah blah more stupid boring stuff here that is just blather.) “My first marriage was not a success. I hope Primo is as happy in his second marriage as I am in mine.”


·         Not once does Sly say my name
·         Not once does Sly refer to “Primo’s wife”
·         Not once does he say the word “Welcome”
·         He does say the word “happy” once, but it is almost a curse – he and Doris are miserable, as far as I can tell

A silence falls over the two tables. Sly and Doris have no friends. Their chief joy is trash talking other people, including their own family, and waiting for 4:00 so they can start drinking. What’s the point of waiting until 4:00 anyhow? If you’re a drunk, you’re a drunk. Own it. If you want to drink, drink. Waiting for an arbitrary deadline does not make you less of a drunk.

Sure. Thanks, Sly. This is the happiness I want for sure.

[1] Sly doesn’t really believe that. He thinks Primo should have gotten a PhD.

Ch 12 My brother and my sister each make a toast welcoming Primo to the family

My brother stands. “I would like to make a toast,” he says. “We are very happy to have Primo in our family. My sister is a special person and she waited a long time to find the right man. We had given up. But as soon as I met Primo, I knew her wait – and ours – had been worth it. Here’s to Goldie and Primo.”

Jenny stands. “I also want to welcome Primo to our family. He is a great guy. I can tell he loves my sister and that she loves him. We are very lucky that our family has grown to include Primo. I couldn’t ask for a better brother in law.” 

Ch 12 Primo and I make sure we will not be sitting by Sly and Doris at the restaurant

Primo and I arrive first at the restaurant. Bayou, one of our favorites, serves excellent New Orleans style food.

I worked with the chef to create a menu that would make everyone – the lactose intolerant, the lactose fakers, the hemochromatosis, and the whatevers – happy.

The booze issue. Lord have mercy, Sly and Doris could put us in the poorhouse with their alcohol bill. We have to manage this.

“We have some guests who – like to drink,” I explained to the owner. “How do we do it so everyone knows that they only get one drink on us? We are bringing the wine, but I can see my in-laws running up a bar tab higher than the dinner costs. Not to mention I don’t need them to get smashed.”

He laughed. “I promise your situation is not unique. We’ll handle it. Our waiters know what to say.”

Two tables at the back of the restaurant are set beautifully, with a small menu at each plate. At the top of the menu, it says, “Primo and Goldie Rehearsal Dinner,” which is wrong.

Should I be a bridezilla? Throw a fit?

Nope. Not a big deal. Who cares? We are married and that is all that matters. Perhaps they aren’t used to Friday afternoon weddings.

Me: Where is everyone going to sit?

Primo: My mom and dad will be upset if they can’t sit with me. But this is our wedding. They have had me mostly to themselves since Saturday. Let’s sit with your brother and sister.

Me: Let’s hope they get here before your mom and dad do.

Primo: I hope they get here soon.

Me: I don’t!

Primo: No. I mean – I didn’t even think about it before I gave them the car keys, but they went back to the house to drink.

Me: Oh crap. Really? Your dad is going to be driving drunk?

Primo: I don’t think so. When I am with them and we go out for dinner, he doesn’t drink as much as he usually does. I think this was more for my mom.

Me: You mean he was trying to be nice to your mom? That’s a switch.

Primo: I know.

My mom, Dr. J, Greg, and Jenny arrive.

Me: Mom, would you do me a huge favor? This would count as your wedding present to me.

Not really. She already sent me a Kitchen Air mixer and I have no intentions of returning it. This is wedding present number two.

Mom: Sure. What do you want?

Me: Would you sit at the table with Sly and Doris so I don’t have to?

She raises her eyebrows. I have not told her anything about the bad blood between Primo’s parents and me. I am not a Reliable Narrator. I didn’t wanted to poison her against them before she met them. Maybe I am wrong and Sly and Doris are right. Maybe they were right to tell Primo not to marry and to threaten to boycott our wedding. Maybe I am a golddigger.

Maybe my mom will see them in a different way. Maybe I am the problem, not Sly and Doris. Maybe they are really lovely people who are easy to get along with and I’m the one who has no friends or relationships that I have sustained across decades, oceans, and languages.

Hahahahaha! I just had to say that.


I just hadn’t wanted to burden her with the knowledge that she was going to have to spend several days in the same house with people who think she and I are stupid because of our political and religious beliefs.

“OK,” she says. “Sure.” She takes Dr. J’s hand and moves to the other table.

I grab my brother and sister. "Sit here," I say. "We've hardly had a chance to see you!" There. Now I am surrounded by people I like. I am throwing my mom, Dr. J, and Pastor Gail to the wolves of Sly and Doris, but they are taking one for the team.

Besides, let Sly and Doris prove me wrong about worrying about how they would behave in public. They were insulted at the insinuation that they would be rude to Pastor Gail? Show me I was wrong. I’d be happy to be wrong.

Not to be all bridezilla-y, but it is my wedding, in theory and probably in reality because I am one and done, the only wedding I will ever have. If you can’t sit with the people you want at your own wedding, when can you?

Once everyone has arrived, the waiter offers everyone a drink. He says something like, “The hosts are offering one complimentary cocktail before dinner.” He makes it sound good but he also makes it clear that if anyone wants more than one, they can get out their own wallets.

Sly and Doris order only the one drink each, which seems like not a lot for them, but during dinner, there is a lot of wine being consumed at the other table and it sure isn’t by my mom, Dr. J, or Pastor Gail.

Ch 12 We take pictures by the lake but Sly and Doris want no part of it and it doesn’t hit me until now that of course they would not want to be with us – it is almost 4:00 p.m.

After the church photos and chatting are done, we depart for the lake to take more photos. It’s a prettier backdrops than the inside of Primo's plain little cinderblock (but with a heart) church.

Sly and Doris decide to go back to the house. They don’t want to go for photos.

“But we packed a cooler with cheese and sausage and beer,” I say. “We’re going to take pictures and have snacks. Our dinner reservation is for 6:00. There’s not really enough time to go back to the house and then come all this way out again to the restaurant. You’ll get to the house and pretty much have to turn around and come back.”

“We’re tired,” they insist. “We’d rather not go.”

Fine. I don’t care. They don’t have to go. They're grownups. They can choose what they want to do and don’t want to do.

We recalculate the car formula. Primo gives Sly his keys and he and Doris leave. The rest of us go to the lake and take more photos and have a lovely Sly- and Doris-free time.

Ch 12 And we get married and live happily ever after, right?

Pastor Gail and Father Joe share the pulpit at Primo’s little cinderblock Lutheran church, with Pastor Gail performing the ceremony and Father Joe giving a short sermon, which is my favorite kind. Primo and I stand in front of the altar for the entire ceremony, which meant that I feel every inch of my very cute but very high-heeled black patent peep toe pumps.

When Father Joe says, “member of the body of Christ,” Primo and I look away from each other, biting our lips to keep from laughing.

“He said ‘member!’” I mouth at Primo when I look at him again.[1]

My brother caught my eye. “Mawwiage!” he mouths.

Fifteen minutes later, we are married. My mom takes photos. My sister takes photos. My brother takes photos.

Sly and Doris, who have a camera, sat in the pews. They do not take photos. They don’t even ask to be in the photos anyone else is taking and I sure don’t suggest it because I am not interested in photos of Sly and Doris.

My mom, Dr. J, and Pastor Gail talk about Norwegian immigrant life on the prairie, family history research, and Lutherans, of which my mom's father was one. Primo talks to Father Joe. Greg and Jenny talk to me.

Sly and Doris sit in the pews and don’t talk to anyone.

[1] Yes, he is 12.

Ch 12 I show Primo my new and improved self and he proposes for real, although still not with a ring, which is good because I do not like wearing rings and an engagement ring for me would be a big fat waste of money

Primo: Wow!

Me: Don’t get used to it. There is no way I could re-create this look ever. I don’t have the skills or the patience.

Primo: You look good to me.

Me: Good enough to marry?

Primo: Maybe.

Me: Does that mean you’re going to propose?

Primo: I thought we had already agreed to get married. We did buy real estate together. We are somewhat committed.

Me: Yeah, but you never proposed properly. Propose already.

Primo: OK. Will you marry me?

Me: Do you have a ring?

Primo: No, but I have something better.

Me: What could be better than a ring? You already got me the Good Trash Can.

Primo: And I even paid full price because it never went on sale.

Me: What more could a woman want?

Primo: What about these?

He opens his desk drawer and pulls out a little box.

Primo: Open it.

Earrings. I lift one out of the box. A long silver strand is embedded with three tiny diamonds spaced along its length.

Me: They’re gorgeous!

Primo: Look at the other one.

The second earring is longer than the first one and contains four tiny diamonds.

Me: What are these?

Primo: I had them made from the diamonds from my first wedding ring.  You didn’t want an engagement ring and you don’t want a fancy wedding ring, but I wanted you to have something nice.

They were beautiful and environmentally responsible – a recycled wedding ring!

Me: Thank you. I love them.

Primo: You haven’t answered my question. Will you marry me?

Me: Oh! Well of course. I have to. I’ve already bought real estate with you.

Ch 12 Jenny gives me makeover, which is fitting because she has the hair, makeup, and accessorizing gene that I did not get

Jenny knocks on the door of the guest room, where I am getting dressed. She hands me a box. “Open it,” she urges.

It contains a pair of lacy blue silk underwear. “That’s your something new and your something blue,” she says. “I thought about wearing them once to make them old, but there are too many bad memories with those days.”

She is referring to our childhood, when I would accuse her of wearing my underwear. She probably didn’t and if she did, it was by accident. We shared a room and a dresser. It is possible our mom put the wrong underwear in the wrong drawer. Why a mother should even have to put clothes in her children’s drawers I don’t know. If a kid is old enough to dress herself, she is old enough to put her own clothes away. My mom figured that out pretty quickly and soon got to the point where she left the clean clothes on our beds.

And yes, we knew where our own clothes went.

We even know where bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen linens were stored. We knew all this even though neither of us had a PhD in English.

“Let me do your hair and makeup,” she says. “You need to look good.”

Not that this sexpot even needs lipstick.

She opens her bag, removes makeup, a hairdryer, a curling iron, and various potions, and gets busy. She puts some magic potion on my hair, then dries it while she pulled it out with a round brush.

I don’t even own a round brush.

She plugs in the hot iron, then runs it through my hair several times.

“Don’t move!” she snaps as I lean into the hot wand. A little burn on the neck to celebrate the wedding.

She plucks my eyebrows, which I have never done.

She strokes foundation on my skin, blending it quickly and decisively. The few times in my life that I have tried to apply foundation, I have ended up looking like a kabuki dancer.

She applies eyeliner, a skill I have never mastered, then eye shadow. Three colors. All blended together. I’ve seen it done in magazines but have never been brave enough to try it on myself. Mascara. Then lipstick. I have never been good with lipstick. Putting it on seems easy enough, but I have never figured out how to pick the right color. I don’t own any. I just get the chapstick from my dentist – it’s what he gives out instead of lollipops – twice a year and that’s enough lip adornment for me.

Let me tell you about my sister and her mad makeup and accessorizing skills.

In my first job out of college, when I was 25 and she was 22 and already established in her nursing career after earning a two-year RN degree for which she borrowed no money – smart girl, smart career choices – I wish I had had her sense and majored in something more practical than English – Jenny came to visit me at work. She was in Austin for a meeting and picked me up for lunch.

She walked in the door wearing a miniskirt and high heels. Her shirt was not low cut, but it was pretty obvious that she had gotten all the bosom that was allocated to the Digger sisters. 

Her long, curly blonde hair tumbled down her back. It had grown back since the Great Haircutting Debacle of ‘XX when she and the neighbor boy, Stevie, got into the gardener’s toolbox and found the hedge clippers.

My sister and me, back when we didn’t need makeup. Although I do know of people who happen to be Texans, which makes me sad, because it gives people a bad image of Texas, who put full makeup on their elementary school age daughters

Her long nails were red. Her makeup was perfect. She was wearing long earrings that twinkled against her hair.

I was wearing my little navy blue suit and a pink cotton blouse with a bow tie, for that was what proper young corporate women wore to work in the that time. It was radical for a professional woman to wear a dress to work and pants were out of the question.

I introduced my boss and a co-worker to Jenny when she arrived, then she and I went to lunch.

After she dropped me back at work, my boss sighed, “Your sister oozes sensuality.”

“Yeah,” my co-worker breathed. “You guys are complete opposites.”

Thanks guys.

Jenny knows what she is doing with hair and makeup. When she finishes, she turns me to the mirror.

I swear I do not even recognize myself. She is a miracle worker.

Ch 12 But they hardly drink the Lactaid

So far – what day is it? Friday? – after five mornings here, they have used only about two cups of the Lactaid, about one quarter of the container. The Good Cheese,[1] however, is gone.

[1] $22 a pound. Did I tell you it costs $22 a pound?

Ch 12 Sly and Doris finish all the booze they bought and start drinking our booze again

Remember that liquor Sly and Doris bought on Monday? That liquor of which I thought there would be leftovers to add to our liquor supply and I was happy about that, not because I care if we have cheap booze but because justice?

It is gone.


You read that properly.

It took them only four days to finish almost two liters of hard liquor.[1]

They have been drinking wine with supper every night, too. We calculate that they drink more than eight ounces[2] of hard liquor each per day, plus wine.

[1] Primo was at a doctor’s appointment with Sly once. The doc asked Sly how much he alcohol he consumed and Sly answered, “Oh, about one drink a day.” Primo almost fell out of his chair.
[2] Or something like that. The math gets weird with ounces – you know that.

Ch 12 My brother, my sister, and Dr. J bring coffee and breakfast to us, including food Jenny can’t even eat, but her 100% lactose intolerance is exceeded by her family tolerance

Dr. J and my brother and sister, no worse the wear for having stayed up late the night before, arrive at 10:00 bearing a mocha for me, regular coffee for Primo, half caf/no caf for my mom, bagels, and cream cheese.

They probably slept past 6:30. They probably didn’t have someone stomping on a wooden floor right above their heads.

Jenny: Primo, can I fix your coffee?

Primo: No. I'll do it myself. I have my own way of doing it.

Jenny: How's that?

Primo: I put in the half and half first because that way I don't have to stir it and I put in the amount I want.

Jenny: Oh my gosh. You and my sister were made for each other.

Primo: What do you mean?

Jenny: When we were kids, Goldie would ask me to get her a glass of water. I'd get it and she'd say, “You didn't do it right.” How can you not make a glass of ice water right? Well, she'd say, “You have to put the ice in first! That way, the water runs over the ice and cools as it goes into the glass.”

Primo: Well, she is right.

Ch 12 Primo and I sleep in the basement, which is not comfortable and is not quiet, especially when Sly and Doris get their noisy, clomping selves out of bed at dark:30

Yesterday, Primo and I vacated the guest room for my mom and moved to the sofa bed in the basement, which is right under the kitchen.

Do not let people stay at your house when you get married unless you are really, really rich and have a huge house and servants.

And probably not even then.

At 6:30 a.m., which, if you will remember, is five hours and 15 minutes after we left the bar last night, which means we have had (five hours and 15 minutes) minus (the time it took to drive home, brush our teeth, and change clothes) to sleep, Sly and Doris start coffee. The coffee maker sounds like a small plane taking off.

They converse in normal tones.

They stomp, stomp, stomp across the wooden floor.

They open and close every single cupboard looking for the cereal and the bowls that I moved yesterday.

Yes. I spent an entire day re-arranging my kitchen so they could not find common kitchen items. Hahahaha!

No! Not really! I did not move a thing. Everything is in the same place it was yesterday and the day before and the day before that and the day before that and the day before that and where it will be tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Is it that hard to remember where things are in someone else’s kitchen? Must you open every cabinet and every drawer?

They are making no effort to be quiet and why should they? They are up. If they are up, shouldn’t everyone else be up?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ch 12 Sly and Doris tell Primo that using cloth napkins is unhygienic and that I am a Bad Cabbage User

Primo: Oh! I forgot to tell you. Guess what my mom and dad are complaining about now?

Me: What?

Primo: You used bad cabbage. You are a Bad Cabbage User.

Me: What?

Primo: Bad cabbage. My mom said you used bad cabbage.

Me: What is she talking about? What is bad cabbage?

Primo: Apparently, when you made the coleslaw, you used bad cabbage. It had brown spots on it.

Me: Yes. Because cut cabbage rusts on the cut part, which is why I trim the brown part off before I use the rest for food. Which is how normal people do it.

Primo: My mom thought you should have thrown all of it away.

Me: Oh Lord. She thought I should have thrown away an entire half cabbage?

Primo: I guess so.

Me: Waste half a cabbage? Because of some bad spots that can be cut off?

Primo: Yes.

Me: That’s wasteful. And your mother – an environmentalist.

Primo: At least she is not a Bad Cabbage User. And she and my dad think cloth napkins are really unhygienic.

Me: Yeah, I already had that conversation with her. I can’t win, can I?

Ch 12 My family listens to Primo sing and of course they LOVE him, which is not hard to do because 1. They love Primo and would love anything he does and 2. He can sing really well

Jenny: We need to go out. It’s too early to go to bed.

Me: Let’s go to karaoke. You guys can hear Primo sing.

Greg: That sounds like fun.

My mom: What’s going on?

Me: Greg, Primo, Jenny, and I are going out to the bar where Primo sings. I guess we’ll see you in the morning.

My mom: I want to hear Primo sing!

I avoid looking at Sly. This, my friend, is the proper reaction to an invitation to hear your son sing.

Me: We might be out for a while. Are you sure?

My mom: Dr. J and I can take his car so we can leave when we want. One song, then he’ll drop me off here and go to his hotel.

We got to the bar and surprise - it is horribly smoky. Awful. One of the main reasons I don’t like to go out with Primo is that I hate cigarette smoke. At least, I hate stale cigarette smoke inside an unventilated building. I love fresh cigarette smoke in the fresh air and fully intend to start smoking when I am 70 and already have wrinkles. It looks like fun.

Mom and Dr. J take one step inside the bar and say, “We’ll just wait in the car until it’s Primo's turn to sing.”
Men love my sister.

Me: I’ll let you know when he’s on.

Despite the dense cigarette smoke, the bar is not busy.

(Not being busy) + (my hot sister flirting with the guy running the karaoke show) = (Primo gets to sing right away)

Jenny – our secret karaoke weapon. I summon my mom and Dr. J.

Primo sings Easy, which is his go-to impress people song. It works. People are impressed.

My mom: Wow! He sings beautifully!

She gives him a big hug.

My mom: You’re really good!

She flips through the songbook. Dr. J buys a round of beers. The tattooed Native American guys with long ponytails and Harley hats playing pool next to us hit on Jenny.

Primo sings again. He can rock Delilah. Tom Jones is fabulous, but Primo is not too shabby.

Jenny takes the mike and sings a Cher song. She actually sounded pretty good. I didn’t know she could sing.

My mom looks through the songbook, taking notes. She has a list of songs for Primo to sing.

Then she decides she is going to sing herself. She pulls Dr. J’s arm and takes him to the microphone, where they sing, When I'm 64. That ship has sailed, but it was still sweet. Primo and my brother sing with them.

None of us, including my mom and Dr. J, leave until 1:15 a.m.

Ch 12 Doris says to my mother – in front of Sly and the world – that she has always thought it best not to interfere in her children’s love lives and I don’t even know what to say but maybe Doris really believes that and maybe Sly has been the main actor in all of this drama, which is not hard to believe

My mom, her gentleman caller, Dr. J., and my brother arrived. We are all eating supper chez nous.

(AGAIN! If you get married, do not do this! Do not feel compelled to provide meals for dozens or even twos of people! THEY CAN FIND FOOD! THAT’S WHAT RESTAURANTS ARE FOR!)

It’s Thursday. Thursday’s plan is for garlic chicken. I threw chicken and 40 cloves of garlic in the crockpot this morning and made coleslaw, which probably isn’t the proper side dish to have with garlic chicken but whatever – I had half a head of cabbage in the fridge and thought I might as well use it up. Primo makes rice and we tell people to help themselves. We sit at the dining room table and eat.

(I tossed the cloth napkins we had been using and have surrendered to paper napkins, which you would think would have Doris ravingly happy, but shockingly, she says nothing.)

(Not because I am no longer principled about cloth napkins versus paper napkins but because we have only four cloth napkins that match.)

(I know. I should have just used unmatching. I am not in my right mind.)

My mom: Doris, Primo is such a wonderful man. I liked him from the second I met him. We are very happy that he is becoming part of our family.

Doris: He is wonderful.

I wait for the traditional response to such a comment – the, “We, too, are so happy to have Goldie join our family,” a statement that will bring about smiles and joy to all concerned and peace in the Middle East and maybe even an end to world hunger. And a cure for childhood cancer. For all cancer.

I wait.

And wait.

Well anyway.

Me: Doris, my Christmas present to my mom the year I met Primo was that I was dating him. I gave her an envelope and told her it was her Christmas present.

Doris: What was in the envelope?

Me: First, I have to give you some background. I was dating this Moroccan guy I had met when I visited friends of mine in Rabat. He was rich and had a PhD from the Sorbonne and was a consultant to the World Bank and he owned a boutique hotel, so I was impressed. But he turned out to be kind of a jerk.[1] My mom and dad had lived in Saudi Arabia for five years, so they had seen Christian/Muslim relationships and knew they didn’t always end well. Anyhow, I gave her a note that said, “Dear mom. I have broken up with the Muslin Moroccan and am dating a nice Lutheran boy.”

Doris the atheist nods politely. Sly doesn’t nod at all. I think the phrase, “Nice Lutheran boy” is not something they ever expected to have applied to their son. Didn’t they raise him right? Where did they go wrong that a child of theirs would ever go to church?

Me: I thought she would be really excited, especially given her experience in the Middle East, but she just said, “Well that’s nice.” An hour later, though, when her friend Pat, from church, came over, she showed Pat the note. Pat read it and said, “We know a lot of nice Lutherans!”

Doris laughs.

Sly does not. Maybe he doesn’t think there are many nice Lutherans? Maybe he thinks that was an ironic statement? I have usually found “nice” and “Lutheran” to be relatively synonymous. 

Whatever. Laughter. From Doris. Twice. Twice in one day! Doris laughs twice in one day.

My mom: I was relieved because Goldie’s father and I saw some of these marriages – of American women to Arabic men – and they did not usually seem to be successful, at least not for the women. The cultural differences are huge.

Doris: Didn't you say anything to her when she was dating the Moroccan? You clearly knew it was not a good idea.

My mom: No. I’ve always thought it best not to interfere in my children's love lives.

My mother's answer is completely unscripted. I did not prompt her. I did not prepare her. I had no idea such a question would be coming from Doris.

Doris: That's probably a good idea. I have always felt the same way myself.

She doesn’t look at Sly as she says this. He scowls. Doris ignores him.

[1] The week we spent together in Paris, he drank two bottles of wine a day, took a four-hour nap after lunch, did not want to do any of the tourist things – he said, “I ‘ave done zat! Eet ees boring!” – and didn’t want to eat out. He was THE MOST BORING, SELF-CENTERED PERSON I HAVE EVER DATED. Primo was a breath of fresh air.

Ch 12 Thursday Jenny informs me that just because a person is lactose intolerant does not mean he can’t eat cheese, which ticks me off because I want to be pissy about having to buy Lactaid for people who are eating all of my Good Cheese

I pick Jenny up from the airport. We take a slow drive along the river, then stop at a coffee shop with outdoor seating. The sun is sparkling on the waves and it is too pretty to hurry back to the house.

And, you know, I just don’t want to deal with Sly and Doris.

Me: I don’t like coffee. I’ll just get a diet Coke.

Jenny: Try the mocha. My treat.

Me: I don’t drink coffee.

Jenny: It’s like hot chocolate with caffeine. Just try it. There’s whipped cream on the top.

She is paying and it is my wedding week, so calories don’t count. Well why not? She buys a mocha for me and a soy latte for herself – that’s what people who are truly lactose intolerant do – and we sit outside in the sun, enjoying the peace.

She is right. The mocha is fabulous. Mocha: My new best friend.

Me: You won’t believe Primo’s parents. They say they’re lactose intolerant, but they didn’t want soy milk. They made me buy Lactaid for them, but they’ve been eating our expensive cheese for a snack every day. Don’t say anything to them.

Jenny: Like I would. But you know what? You can be lactose intolerant and eat cheese.

Me: No you can’t. Cheese has lactose.

Jenny: And you are an authority on this how? I’m lactose intolerant. I know. Some people are more lactose intolerant than others. Lactose intolerance can change throughout the day. It is possible to be lactose intolerant of milk and not of cheese.

Me: You’re kidding.

Jenny: Nope. I’m not. You should have hidden that cheese behind the regular milk so they couldn’t find it. You blew it.

I sure did. I hate being wrong. Well, they are still wrong for skipping lunch and then filling up on my expensive cheese instead of waiting for supper. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Ch 12 Then we have the stupid idea to take an already cranky Sly to hear Primo sing at the American Legion karaoke and it ends in disaster

Sly and Doris have never heard Primo sing before. Don’t they want to hear him sing?

·         Sly and Doris are singers and
·         Sly and Doris are his parents and
·         Most parents like to see their children exercise their talents. Most parents are proud and excited when their children can do something well. Most parents like to see their children achieve. Most parents.

It’s early in the evening and the middle of the week, so the bar, in the basement of the Legion building, isn’t be too crowded, too noisy, or too smoky. Sly won’t have more than a few things to complain about.

Primo buys beer for everyone but me. I take another half a Vicodin.

Doris: I like this song! And that singer is good!

Sly: It’s too loud in here! Too loud!

Doris shakes her head and exhales.

We move to a table further from the speakers. What Sly wants, Sly gets.

Sly: That woman cannot sing.

It is true. The singer is not very good. She is not professional caliber. Most singers one finds in a karaoke bar are not professional caliber. Most singers in a karaoke bar would not meet Sly’s exacting standards. People here sing for fun. Sly is a semi-professional singer of classical music. She is a middle-aged bar patron singing a Cher song on a karaoke sound system in a basement bar. She is not a trained musician with Sly’s talent. Can’t he cut her some slack?

No. I guess not.

Doris, who got the scholarship to the music conservatory and who, according to Primo, is a better singer than Sly, can cut the singer some slack. She doesn’t look at Sly as she speaks.

Doris: I think she sounds just fine. And I like this song.

Sly glares at her.

Primo: I put my name on the list. It will only be a minute. There’s almost nobody ahead of me.

Sly goes to the bathroom.

Primo is called to sing. Doris smiles and claps when his name was called. “Go Primo!” she says.

He smiles at his mom, takes the microphone, and sings.

On one of our first dates, he took me to a bar to hear him sing. I thought karaoke was totally dumb and I could not imagine how an engineer could possibly sing well, which is on me, because aren’t I, the studier of literature, supposed to have some degree of imagination?

The first seven singers before Primo at this bar were awful. He and I were still in the blissful first months of dating stage – the stage where we didn’t fart[1] in front of each other. How would I would lie convincingly after he had sung to tell him how wonderful he was? 

Then he started to sing.

And guess what?

He can sing.

Total strangers were coming to our table to tell me, “Wow. Your husband can sing!”

Of course he was not my husband, but I took the compliment that was intended.[2]

Doris smiles. As Primo continues to sing, she smiles even wider. She beams.

Sly returns. It had taken him a long time to pee,[3] but Primo is still singing.

“Why why why Delilah?” he sings.

Sly: It's too loud in here! I can't stand it! I can't stand it! I'm leaving!

Doris: Honey, Primo is singing!

Sly: It’s too loud!

Doris: Honey! Listen! It’s Primo! Look! Listen to him! He can sing!

Sly: Too loud!

Me: Dammit, Sly! You will listen to your son sing! Shut up! Shut up and listen! What is wrong with you?

Sly: I can't see him! I'm leaving!

I slam my fist against the table.

Me: He's right in front of you!

Sly stomps out.

Doris puts her face in her hands. When she takes them away, her cheeks are wet.

Primo’ face falls.

Primo finishes the song – the show must go on – and then we walk outside to find Sly. Sly complains that it was too loud. He says nothing about Primo’ singing. Doris says nothing, period.

We return to the house.

Sly is dead to me. Dead. I spit on him. Pah pah pah.

[1] That sure changed.
[2] That’s because I am a Big Picture person. Primo, on the other hand, is a Super Detail person, aka An Engineer, so he would have corrected the compliment giver, telling her that he was my boyfriend, not my husband.
[3] I have since learned this is A Thing with older men.

Ch 12 Sly and Doris take us out to dinner, which is generous of them (they probably did it just so they wouldn’t have to use cloth napkins again) and Sly touches all the bread in the bread basket, which – really, Sly?

Holy smoke. If I weren’t on Vicodin, I might have slapped Sly’s hand.

The man has touched every single piece of bread in the basket. He grabbed one piece of bread from the basket, dropped it, grabbed another, decided it wasn’t to his satisfaction, and finally took another instead.

Who touches every piece of bread in the communal bread basket? People raised in a barn, that’s who. Does Sly think the normal rules of civilized behavior do not apply to him?

Instead of slapping his hand, instead of challenging him, I just don’t take any bread. Not because I am worried about catching a disease from him but on principle. There are things you do just because you have no choice, but there are things that no civilized person should have to endure.

I have cleaned cat vomit and cat poop and I have cleaned human poop from the men’s room floor at the pool where I worked as a lifeguard and I have picked up chipmunk carcasses after the cat is done with them. I have cleaned my own vomit and my friend’s toddler’s vomit. I have changed many a diaper. I have used some of the most disgusting public bathrooms you will ever see because when you have to pee, you have to pee. I don’t even always wash my hands after I pee, sometimes because there is no water, as in the bus station bathroom in La Paz, sometimes because I don’t pee on my hands,[1] people.

This is outside of the La Paz bus station. Trust me, you do not want to see the inside.

But I do not touch shared food with my bare hands. That’s Manners 101. You do not inflict your bodily fluids or contaminants on other people. Fine to touch your own food with your germy hands, not fine to touch other people’s food. If I am doing anything involving food other people will eat, I WASH MY HANDS. And then I touch the food only because I am preparing it. But at the table – I use utensils. Or touch only the food I am taking.

Although if Primo touches the bread, I don’t care. I kiss him. We already share germs. I have even used his toothbrush before by mistake and thought, “Oh well.”

His hands – and he is paranoid about washing them and gets all freaked out if there are dishes in the kitchen sink and he can’t wash them there even though I point out that he can wash in the bathroom, where he gets his drinking water – don’t bother me at all. I also point out that it is possible to wash hands in the same sink where there are dirty dishes because it’s not like you are going to make the dishes any dirtier.[2]

I do not pick my nose or my toes in front of other people, although I did have a roommate in the Peace Corps (an American studying in Chile) who would play with her bare feet and pick her toes and her toenails at the supper table. And then she would reach for food. With her fingers. That’s a great diet: to be so disgusted with someone else’s manners that you can’t eat.

I don’t touch the bread I’m not going to eat.

Sly is grossing me out. Rude.

I do not say anything to Sly about the bread, although I gave him several pointed, disbelieving, dropped-jaw looks that either he ignores or, more likely, doesn’t notice.

Barnyard manners.

I do, however, argue with him about school lunches and who pays and no, I do not remember how we got onto this topic. I am on Vicodin, remember?

Sly: Stephanie and Jack’s kids got the free school lunches.

Me: Wow. Jack must have been pretty bad off.

Sly: Jack?

Me: That his children were getting free lunch.

Sly: Oh! No, he has a good job.

Me: But not before the kids went to college?

Sly: No, he had a good job then.

Me: Then why would they have gotten free lunch?

Sly: Because Stephanie’s the custodial parent and only her income counts. But I think she somehow gamed the system.

Me: What? That’s crazy. Why shouldn’t the income of both parents matter? And really, Stephanie does not strike me as a cheater. Not to mention it is pretty hard to cheat on something like that. Don’t you have to show your tax returns for something like that?

Sly: That’s how it works. Just the custodial parent’s income matters.

Me: But you said Jack has a good job.

Sly: That doesn’t matter.

Me: So Jack was OK with the fact that his kids were on free lunch even though he could have afforded to pay for their lunch?

Sly: Why should he pay if he doesn’t have to?

Me: Because they’re his kids! I would be ashamed to take public assistance if I didn’t need it.

Sly: If the system is set up that way, why shouldn’t he take advantage?

Me: Because for one thing, when people who do have means do this, it means less for the people who are truly needy. But mostly because they’re his children. He can afford to take care of his own children. Why should I pay more in taxes so they get free lunch when he can afford it but won’t pay?

Primo, the adult child of alcoholics peacemaker: Dad, what do you think about this wine?

[1] My friend Charlotte grew up in Africa with her missionary parents. Her Big Secret is that she does not wash her hands. “I never get sick,” she says. “I have an immune system of steel.”
[2] None of this applies, of course, if you have been dipping your hands in Ebola virus. But for everyday situations, it is fine to wash dirty hands in the same sink where there are dirty dishes.