family


A Christmas tree inside a home.

Image via Wikipedia

There are two tones the holiday letter can take – bragging to the point of possibly delusion or so much information you aren’t sure you want to ever see the author, or their family, in person ever again in this lifetime.  I would say that most fall comfortably in the middle with just enough rah-rah to promote gladness as opposed to jealousy and just the right amount of gossipy goodness to make it worth the time it takes to read it.

I am lazy as you know and go for the total slide show sappy approach, but when I do write about family, I tend to err on the side of “feed the voyeur troll” though not in a merry way.  TMI does not belong in a holiday greetings missive.

It is fair game for the blog though I will grant that some family don’t share my view on this.

The Brother

CB resurfaced not long after his scary low with a surprisingly yoga outlook for someone who doesn’t know a down from an up dog. He decided to cut ties with the Bay area and head back to the Sierra Nevada’s and Tahoe. Mountains stabilize him. He is like Rob really in that they both need to commune with the actual wilderness. Rob just gets grumpy within the confines of civilization, but CB’s doors come unhinged if he is away too long.

As of this post, CB has a snow removal job that is simply awaiting snow and call backs on a few contract gigs. Mother has even agreed to foot the purchase of a used vehicle which will in turn facilitate more employment. His kids and xSIL are spending the holidays with him in his new place atop Heavenly and I imagine that a bit of skiing and hiking is just what the doctor ordered right about now.

The Mother-in-law

The whole divorce and upheaval is becoming a bit of a testy issue for Rob and I. Her not being my mother means I am less subjective when he would prefer that I be more indignant for her. Like he is. But he is her son and I think mother/daughter relationships are not so blinkered. Maybe this is due to the fact that sons don’t typically separate from their mothers as violently as daughters do during the teen years, or maybe it is because at some point, mothers and daughters become “women” to each other and you know how judgey we can be. Whatever the reason, I don’t see the situation in black and white terms, and this is coupled with the fact that I can also clearly see the impact this marriage has had on our life over the last year, and how the fallout could inadvertently render us collateral damage in terms of clean up.

“She just needs time to come around to the realities of her new situation,” Rob told me during one of our many conversations on the topic of divorcing across international borders.

“If she were my mother,” I replied, “I’d have already spelled the realities out for her.”

“You can’t tell her anything,” he reminds me.

And I know that. You can’t tell my mother anything either, but that doesn’t mean I don’t tell her when she is being unreasonable, or when her choices come loaded with the high probability that they will impact me negatively in the near or far future.

Sigh, I do love my mother-in-law, but I can’t pretend that I am unaware of why things are as they are.

“If something happens to you,” I asked him. “Do I inherit her? Or is she like an heirloom to be passed on to the girls?”

“Funny,” he replied, but it’s not.

I share the responsibility of my mother with DNOS and not equally. Because she is on the ground and I am a thousand-ish miles away, DNOS is a front line defender should something happen.

Rob is his mother’s only line of defense by default.  DNOS has me.  Rob can count on a zombie apocalypse occurring before one of his siblings lifts a finger to come to the aid of their mother.  And that sucks.  For Rob.  And for me.

How things will turn out is still an unknown. As Yoda once said the future is difficult to see because it is always in motion. So many things in play. Future xFIL included.* I will not be amused though if this ends up costing us significant time or any more money that it already has.**

Baby’s Corner

I was chatting with DNOS the other night when she mentions her recent encounter with our youngest sibling.

“She called Mom to come get her when she had a flat, but of course Mom can’t see to drive in the dark anymore. So she had to call N1 and his dad. They got the tire changed and brought her to Mom’s.”

“How was she?” I asked. My interest in Baby is even less than DNOS’s interest in CB.***

“She’s looking old,” DNOS clucked.

“Well,” I said, “I thought she looked tough when I saw her over the summer. She can’t have aged more in such a short period of time.”

DNOS sighed, “Oh gawd, yes.  She looks older than either of us.”

Which is sad because she is just 43 and I looked pretty damn good at that age.

“How’s LawnMowerMan?”

“He lost his job when the farmer sold his cows and his back is too bad for him to work,” DNOS chuckled. “Baby says he’s been approved for disability.”

“That’s bullshit,” I replied. “It takes at least two years to get on disability for something like that.”

I know because I spent 10 months getting my late husband approved for disability and he was dying. LawnMowerMan will likely die younger than he should but he’s nowhere close at the moment.

But DNOS went on to say that Baby is working full-time at the nursing home and is supporting them both, which is ironic because Baby’s back problems are easily worse than that no account drunk she lives with and defends with the all the passion of Michele Bachmann at a rally for the sanctity of marriage.

It’s funny how nothing much changes with Baby. I was just recalling for Rob a Christmas about 20 or so years ago when she forced Mom to invite her boyfriend Len to the Christmas Eve festivities. They were “living together” and by that I mean they were couch surfing his wide circle of acquaintances, carting everything they owned in paper grocery sacks from hovel to hovel. Sadly, Len was probably the nicest guy she ever knew. Far as I know, he was the only one who never hit her. Early thirties, a bit punch drunk and missing his upper front teeth, she left him when he refused to have a baby with her.  She wanted to go back on welfare.  N1 kinda owes his existence to her laziness.

N1

The California experiment was a failure. N1 is back in his grandmother’s attic. And that’s really all I know, but CB spoke to him last week and remarked, “I don’t think much has changed.”

Speaking of Change

Last Christmas the front half of our home was just barely rehabbed from its total gutting. Today there is a brand new kitchen and living area. Silver and xFIL were newbies, and now Silver is a permanent fixture and xFIL has been kicked to the Arizona curbside.

In Silver, and with the addition of Mick’s fella , Dare, I have inherited interesting dining challenges via one’s gluten intolerance and the other’s deathly nut allergy.

We’ve also encountered the interesting phenomena of Christmas musical chairs as we struggle to nail down day and time for our holiday gathering. Rob finds it perplexing because he is old enough school to have been simply absorbed into his wife’s family and holiday time-table, both times. That’s not really the way it works for all men but most bow to the wife and her family traditions.

Silver’s family usurped our Christmas Eve tradition and Dare’s mother has claimed all day Christmas.

“Boxing Day?” Rob asked.

But there was no way that Dee could hold out on opening presents until Boxing Day. She barely made it ’til Christmas Day last year.

As of today, I know only that I am cooking meals both days and whoever shows up will be eating them. The business of the gifts is yet to be decided.

Epilogue

And so we come to the end of the anti-letter, which is not to say that the year was so heinous that it deserves one, but to remind that there is dark and white meat on every bird. My life is no different from anyone else’s. There are highs, lows and inbetween’s.

Happy Holidays to all and if you missed the year-end pictorial, it’s right here.

*He’s written letters to everyone who knows MIL, pleading with them to help him patch things up.  I still don’t dislike the guy.  He reminded me of all those things about my dad, which were sharp-edged and old-school.  That kind of man is not to my personal taste, but I am not 70 years old either. Older people marry for reasons that go beyond the romantic love and sex that drives younger people. This is not to say that they don’t experience it, but companionship, someone to take care of you and a pooling of resources enter into it in probably bigger ways than it does with younger couples.

** They came as a couple last Christmas and we put them up in a hotel for a week, which xFIL never offered to reimburse us for – even a little and there was the whole “moving” thing in August.

***DNOS would never admit to it, but she loves to get news about CB. She adores family gossip.


"It's YOUR time to SHINE in 2009!"

Image by eyewash via Flickr

And at the risk of sounding shrill as I repeat myself, “unless someone is dead or nearly so, don’t call me!” Really. I mean it.

The latest non-life threatening emergency that presented itself for my immediate attention is the ongoing drama surrounding my older nephew’s premature entry into the adult world.

I am standing in the check out at Safeway yesterday and the phone ringles. It’s the oddest ring tone but the least annoying of the generic options available to me as I don’t (yet) possess a smart phone with all its sci-fi tone upgrading capabilities.

Snatching it up as quickly as the confounding zip locks on my purse will allow, I am expecting a request from Rob. I’d spoken to him a bit earlier, so he knew I was shopping and I thought perhaps he remembered something he wanted me to pick up while I was still in town.

It was Mom.

Since day one of cell phone ownership, Mom’s treated my cell as a homing device. I knew she would. In fact my chief objection to getting a phone was Mom.

“She will see this as permission to track me like an endangered animal on the plains of the Serengeti,” I told my late husband, Will.

He wanted me to have one so that I would “be safe”, but the truth was that he just liked having the same type of instant access to me that I didn’t want to hand over to Mom.

“You can screen her calls with the caller ID,” he said.

“Because having her call me over and over until I picked up would be better than just picking up,” I replied.

I still lost on the issue of carrying a cell phone and Mom went from her habit of leaving me multiple messages on the answering machine to simply stalking me by cell phone if I didn’t answer the home line. The cell phone thing has worked out nicely for everyone but me no matter how one looks at it.

Because it’s the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I know right away that Mom isn’t calling to ask me how my day is going. Like DNOS, weekday calls mean that something is wrong.

“I need to talk to you,” she began.

“I’m standing in the check out at the grocery. Can I call you when I get out to the truck?”

“Okay,” and she hangs up on me before I can even say “good-bye”.

Naturally, I am in the lane of the cashier who least loves her job. She is a dour woman, who moves at the speed of drying paint, so by the time I get to the truck, I have run through a dozen desperate scenarios – which all involve dead or near so relations.

“I’m so worried about N1,” she tells me. “He was up here yesterday for a visit. I made him his favorite lasagna and he couldn’t even eat.”

Mentally, I note that the drama queen gene is overly represented in my nephew, but say,

“Why is he upset this time?”

I’m expecting that he’s made another pitch for a car or asked her to co-sign a lease on an apartment for him because he and his dad are continually at odds, but she tells me that she thinks it’s about his wanting to go to community college and study mechanics.

It’s about no such thing, of course. N1 launched a campaign over the summer to be allowed to move back to D-port, where he went to high school. His dad moved them there a couple of years ago. N1 fell in with a group of older kids – drop-outs to varying degrees – lost interest in school and then quit himself when his dad moved them back to DBQ last winter. He’s moped about ever since, plotting to move back and get a place with some of them and work at a fast food place that someone’s grandmother owns.

It’s a seventeen year old plan and that about sums up the long, short and every which way of it. There is no merit to it. It won’t further his life in any meaningful way because at the end of the experiment (which is where he loses the job, can’t pay his share of the rent or make up the difference his friends won’t be paying either and Mom is stuck with the bill), nothing is gained by way of N1 being even marginally closer to the “contributing adult” status that is fervently wished for by all.

“I think he might be severely depressed,” Mom went on. “Who knows what he might do?”

And I’m thinking now? What the fuck? And why couldn’t she have burdened DNOS with this nonsense after she got off work?

But my wiser younger sis, DNOS, refuses to have anything to do with the half-assed attempts to first aid our nephew’s life. As far as she is concerned, when N1 gets tired of lying in the lumpy mess of a bed he’s made for himself, he will do something related to “constructive” and until he makes a move in a positive direction without help or coercion, he is best left to flounder.

Good point on the “he needs to do this himself” front but it overlooks the fact that N1 is a kid who has mostly been raising himself, and badly, since he was 13. Even before that, parenting isn’t something he’s had too much of.

After fifteen minutes and much reassurance, I talked Mom back off the ledge she tearfully teetered on and promised to talk to N1.

Who wouldn’t give me his damn phone number when I messaged him on Facebook for it.

I’d had it, couldn’t find it and asked him to send it to me. Little monster would only talk to me via “chat”.

Grrrrr.

And no, I didn’t tell him how much like his mother he was behaving though I was sorely tempted. Baby won’t talk to me in real time either.

Back and forth over the course of the afternoon and evening led me to the conclusion that N1 was playing the drama card for a bit of sympathy from Grandma. In fairness, she is as close to a mother figure as he’s got. It didn’t have to be that way, but I failed time and time again to get custody of N1 while he was growing up. My last attempt came just before he entered middle school and I warned my parents then that it was unlikely that I would be able to take him once he hit his teens for real and they would rue the day they turned me down.*

As per her request, I called Mom back that evening to let her know how N1 was. We discussed again my brother CB’s offer to have N1 come out and live with him in Cali.

DNOS is adamant that N1 not go, but she is hopelessly biased. Baby really hasn’t said how she feels about it except to reiterate her inability to foot his room/board in any way. I don’t know how his dad feels. At the moment, his father seems to be wallowing in regret over his own wasted life**, so he isn’t much use.

For all his faults, CB has been a pretty good father and N1 needs a father. CB was also once a 17-year-old high school drop-out with nothing but more ideas than capital and a GED. He certainly has the right credentials for understanding just what N1 is up against in the real world that the kid hasn’t clue one about navigating.

N1 admitted to “thinking about calling Uncle”. We went back and forth and then he stopped responding.

What he will do now, I haven’t the slightest idea. He’s a lot like his mother. He hates the unknown and invents all sorts of worst case scenarios to justify avoiding change, and while he makes friends easily in new situations, he loses them just as quickly. Partly because he trusts where he shouldn’t and distrusts where he should be more open. It’s a gift he inherited from Baby, who has only rarely lucked into good friends and never into a good relationship.

The last meddling I did was at Mom’s behest. I contacted CB and asked him to talk to N1.

And now, let’s all remember – dead or nearly so – anything else really needs to be referred to someone who actually lives south of the Canadian border.

*And I get no pleasure out of this particular “I told you so” because N1 needed a parent. I can only guess where he’d be today if Baby would have given in and let me raise him the first time I asked when he was two, and there is no sense crying over the spilled milk, but few things make me as angry as adults who waste the little lives that life puts in their care. A wasted child is one of the saddest sights. I encountered so many children as a teacher who were ruined by crappy and/or indifferent parenting.

**He was a 19 year old high school drop-out when Baby got pregnant. She was 25 or 26. N1’s dad was a foil. She used him to try and make the real objective of her attention – a mutual friend of theirs – jealous. This guy, though a royal sleeze, was wise enough to realize that Baby was looking for a baby-daddy. She missed being on welfare.


The only "protective custody" availa...

Image via Wikipedia

At least for a few more weeks according to my older nephew N1, who at my behest called his mother, Baby, last night to tell her  – from me – that ignoring my calls would not make the situation go away. Fortunately, DNOS had already managed to get my rock star sister to take a call and proceeded to royally ream her backward ass, setting her straight on the new world order.

Baby cried persecuted to her son though he informed me that he didn’t believe a word of it, and when I spoke to Mom late Sunday afternoon, the harassing phone calls had stopped.

This was not before she received at least two more after her trip to the police station and was a nervous wreck.

As I chatted with Mom, I called her the traces of anxiety and exhaustion in her voice. This latest incident with Baby being a baby strained her, but unlike times past, she didn’t cave. She’s determined that the Bank of Mom is closed, and she hinted at “other changes”, which can’t be good for Baby. Whereas my dad didn’t believe in punishing us from the grave, Mom is perfectly capable of playing behavior accountant from beyond. Dad was a hammer in the moment, but Mom had the longer memory and could wait patiently for the right opportunity to throw youthful indiscretion squarely back at you when the moment presented itself.

LawnMower Man is on work release, so apparently he was tormenting Mom before or after milking and field work at the farm where he is one of several hired men. My late husband, Will, used to refer to such a set up as “baby jail”. An old high school friend of his wound up in a similar program early in our marriage, and he was mercilessly teased about it.

Between Baby’s broken back and LawnMower Man’s incarceration, they are a hurting financial unit. In days of yore, he would simply phone Mom and inform her that if she didn’t help them out, he would pack Baby up and dump her on Mom’s doorstep. Since the beginning of the year, however, DNOS and I have made it clear that there is no way on any level of hell that we’d allow her to take Baby back. Normally, Mom listens to us not even the littlest bit, but we’ve made surprising headway in the influence department and Baby’s going to have a difficult time getting out of the corner DNOS and I have left her to manuver this time.

“She has the numbers of all the women’s shelters,” Mom told me. “It’s time she got herself out of her own messes.”

Forty-three at the end of the month, she looks a decade older and telegraphs “poor white trash” with her every word and action. No one in the family has an ounce of patience left. If she had  real emergency right now, she had to rely on the kindness of strangers quite literally because anyone who knows her is done with her. She’s played too many people and the chickens are roosting for real in the yard of the possibly condemned trailer she lives in.


Hear No Evil Monkey

Image by Enokson via Flickr

Not long ago, I told my mother and my sister, DNOS, that I preferred to be kept in the dark about the various implosions that occur in the family – especially if I haven’t the power to do anything about them. After all, I live in another country. It’s a 24 hour drive if I push it and can take nearly as long if I fly given the absolutely appalling state of current day air travel. My knowing, therefore, is essentially the same as my not knowing because there is precisely jack-squat I can do for them.

When we were in the Okanagan last week, my dad’s older sister – who is 88 years old – suffered a mild heart attack.  DNOS called and I always know something is up when she calls me at any time other than evening or god awful early on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Week day mid-morning? Something has happened.

Of course, there was nothing I could do. Auntie is old. Her health has been precarious this last year.  She is 88. Even in my dad’s family, where relatives can easily live to see 100, 88 is still pretty fucking old.  So, while I attempted to impose order onto my MIL’s decamping from her condo, I worried about Auntie; about Mom, who doesn’t do stress well at all anymore; and about DNOS, who doesn’t do stress all that well herself of late.

And it was fine. Auntie is home and hooked up to Lifeline and recovering nicely.

After the whole near death experience with Baby earlier in the summer, I had an opportunity to be home and let interested parties know that unless someone was dead or near enough that it’s a certainty – don’t call me.  I don’t need the stress for one thing, but mostly, nobody listens to a word I say when the shite is flying off the fan anyway. Even though, a lot of the time, my advice is spot on.

Oh, I am sure they listen, you think.

No.  If the Auntie incident wasn’t proof – and I let that go because Auntie is DNOS’s godmother and they are close – today would convince you, my skeptical reader.

We went into the city to see Mick and run a few errands. A trip like this is a half day-ish affair. Driving is just a side-effect of living in the part of Canada that we do, so when DNOS didn’t find me at home, she immediately falls back on my cell. Nevermind that it’s a piece of crap that is off due to battery life issues more than it’s on or that I just as often don’t have it on me. So when it went off as we drove home, I already knew that something was likely amiss.

“What’s up?” I ask after being greeted by DNOS on the other end of the transmission.

She always greets me cordially before launching into the true nature of her call. Something that I almost find worthy of a chuckle.

“Lawnmower Man is harassing Mom for money. He’s just out of jail and has been calling her since last night, telling her if she doesn’t help them out he will be forced to pack Baby up and dump her on Mom’s doorstep.”

Jail? Again.

Apparently for OWI number four. He’s a hopeless alcoholic*, which makes it ironic that Baby, given the hysteria she had over our father’s drinking problem, would tangle herself up with a guy who makes Dad look like a teetotaler by comparison.

“I want Mom to call the police, but she won’t.”

DNOS’s voice was a bit quavering and as she goes on to tell me she even called Baby to try to put a stop to the harassment, I know it’s serious. Both of our younger siblings are effectively “dead” to her. She wouldn’t call either one to warn them of the coming Apocalypse.

“So you want me to talk to her?” I asked.

“Yes, I called Baby and now LawnMower Man has my number!”

I hear a voice in the background and she continues,

“BIL says it’s not a big deal because we have guns.”

I relayed that bit to Rob after and he laughed. Rob would love to be similarly equipped but we’re Canadians.

Promising her I would call mother as soon as I got home, she hung up only to call me back and let me know that Mom had decided to go to the police station. She wanted to go there rather than have a patrol car come to the house. She didn’t want the neighbors to know. I don’t know why. The neighbors have long thought we were mere millimeters from white trash anyway.

A trip to the cop shop and a few more back and forth long distance convo’s later and all is fine.

LawnMower Man is on work release, so he is technically still in custody. Mom has reluctantly agreed to change the locks on her doors though not until after the holiday weekend because it will cost too much to have the locksmith up today. This after I went on at her last spring for installing new doors and locks and giving that idiot baby sister of mine another key in the first place. See what I mean about “no one listens to me”?

Since the drunk in question is incarcerated when not milking cows, Mom feels secure enough to sleep in her own home for the time being. DNOS was content with this as well. Problem probably solved.

But not really because I had to know about it in the first place! However, I got to be worked up into a frenzy about it and they will ignore the other things I suggested should be done to keep this from happening again – until the next time it happens. And it will. Baby has a lifetime history of trusting anyone but her own family. She won’t walk about this relationship.

“Next life time,” I told Rob, “It’s orphaned and childless for us.”

“Next marriage, ” he replied, “I’m going to do a better job of screening applicants.”

“I did warn you,” I reminded him.

He nodded, “Indeed, and there will be no more marriages. Two wives with colorful family is enough for me.”

*Just to make it a completely interesting weekend, Rob’s homeless niece and her drunkard/drug abusing other of some significance are house/animal sitting for Edie and Silver. I shudder at the possibility for ugly fallout that might cause, but Edie and Mick are determined to give their cousin every chance even at risk to themselves.


Three Legged Black Cat

Image by broadsurf via Flickr

Monday marked the end to a very long weekend. One that began with a phone call early Friday morning from my sister, DNOS, and ended with a Father’s Day celebration at Edie and Silver’s Sunday evening. The evening being punctuated but not marred by my mediating a years old argument between DNOS in Iowa and our brother CB out in San Francisco.

And why? Because Baby is in the corner again.

I thought perhaps things had settled but on my way back from dropping Dee at school, Mom called me on my cellphone. As I was on a county road, I answered and let her know to call me when I got home. Yes, yes, I shouldn’t have answered at all. But my phone is an ancient piece of shit sans voice mail and caller id.

Given that Baby was still in the hospital, I feared the worst, but Mom only wanted to know if I was okay – after the mediation session the evening before – and to vent a bit. It is not easy being 79 and still called upon to parent as though your children were small and helpless.

But before I got home and called Mom back, I pulled into the driveway and saw a black cat.

It was just sitting on the stairs in front of the back porch, eyeballing me with the smuggest look I have ever seen on a cat.

After staring me down, it hopped down and sauntered towards the truck and as it passed, it swung a backward glance that can only be described as taunting.

And I thought – well, this can’t be a good sign.


ancient roman marriage

Image via Wikipedia

Two things inspired this post. The first was a comment or two from the Widower Wednesday series referencing the ire of in-laws and adult children whose widower was daring to date without their permission. The second was a news item concerning Sir Paul McCartney’s recent engagement to his soon to be third wife.

All I can really say is, “Huh?”

When I hit adulthood, it never crossed my mind to seek my parents approval of anyone – friends or potential partners. I was an adult. Free to companion as suited me, my life-style and needs. My parents certainly never concerned themselves with my opinions of their friends or even of the relationship they had with each other – the latter of the two clearly being none of my business.

But it seems there is a segment of the adult world – both parent, grown kids and even extended family – who feel that getting judgey and expressing it in all manner just-plain-juvenile-and-wrong is completely fine and normal.

McCartney sought the approval of his grown children before deciding to marry again. Perhaps he felt the need to verify his choice after the particularly disastrous 2nd marriage to a gold-digger a few years ago, or maybe the big kids informed him that all future step-mothers must be vetted by them. Who knows. But why? Why?

If my mother were to date or even marry again (and I would start preparing for the Second Coming in either case because it would surely follow on the heels of something so mind-bogglingly unlikely – you’d just have to know Mom in person, trust me), I would smile and say nothing – to her anyway.  DNOS and I would have plenty to roll our eyes about in private to be sure, but we were raised better than to presume on our parents’ intimate relations.

Rob’s mother recently remarried and he kept his mouth shut throughout the process that led her online to a Catholic dating site and through a whirlwind courtship that made ours look downright puritan and leisurely by comparison. She’s an adult and sound of mind and it’s her life.

FIL shaped up to be a good match but even if he hadn’t, it wasn’t the place of her children to wade in – unasked – and jump up on the nearest high horse to pontificate about it.*

Back in my message board days of new motherhood, I belonged to a group of women who were all first time mothers. We’d met at BabyCenter and took our cadre off to a private group once our kids arrived. Through the course of several years, we shared our lives and a couple of the women lost their mothers and had fathers who dated and remarried. Oh, the angst. Some of it was grief driven and I understood that, and none of them got up to any antics because they were too well brought up for such trailer park drama, but it’s not uncommon for adult children to over-think and have a hard time letting go of the idea that parents aren’t just Mom and Dad trapped forever in the context of our childhoods. They were grown ups long before us and continue to be long after we’ve cultivated big girl and boy lives of our own.

The “being raised properly” thing is likely the culprit. The past couple of decades have seen parents being less the adults and more the friends and allowing children too much input into how a family is governed. Recipe for entitled-to-meddle-in-your-lives-adult-kids, in my opinion. Heavy emphasis on the word “kids”. Some people never let go of the selfish impulses and world view that drove their parents to distraction when they were physically children and is now quite the lodestone now that they are only physically adult.

Edie and Mick were somewhere between taken aback and actively stunned when Rob announced our engagement to them. They knew about my existence, our dating and that was about it. They felt a little out of the loop, but that’s because technically they were. That’s what happens when you go out into the world and focus on your own life: you stop paying a lot of attention to what your parents are doing. In some ways it reminds me of my middle school students who were always incredulous when details of my life slipped into their line of vision. They couldn’t conceive of me outside the role of teacher. Kids have the same stilted vision of Mom and Dad. We are JUST Mom and Dad. So there was no reason for the older girls to know about Rob’s life and he was equally oblivious to their grown up lives too.

But Shelley and Rob raised their girls well and our new family formed and continues to evolve without any reality show drama.

The issue that extended family or friends may take with a new relationship or spouse though is different. Whereas children’s feelings should be taken into account – though not necessarily catered to because the idea that one’s children – especially those underage – have some mystical idiot savant ability to ferret out bad actors is one I wish would simply vanish. Children are not the equivalent of drug sniffing dogs when it comes to people’s character. They are far too self-interested for one and way too young and inexperienced for another.

One’s in-laws or friends, unless they are point-blank asked for an opinion, should just keep their opinions to themselves. And even when asked, they should remember that no one really wants opinions. When you are asked for an opinion what is really required is validation. So validate with a smile because no one gives even the tiniest fuck what you really think. Really.

I am continually astounded by people who put up with people who behave like the cast of Jersey Shore. I don’t have any tolerance for it. Neither my younger brother CB or my youngest sister Baby act out with impunity and when my older nephew got snotty with Rob on his first visit, he was squashed. It didn’t prevent further fires, but he knew I wasn’t putting up with it and I didn’t. We actually packed up and checked into a hotel during our 2008 visit when N1 unleashed one of his classic tantrums and I unceremoniously kicked CB out of the house the afternoon Dad died because he launched into his famous imitation of his substance addled teenaged self. Though I loathed Dr. Phil, the oaf got one thing right – you do teach people how to treat you. The choice to be a doormat in your own existence is entirely yours.

Rob has had to set both his SILs straight about what he will and will not indulge as far as their grief issues go, but by and large, our road has been baby butt smooth compared to the horror shows of some of the women I have encountered in the comment sections here and there.

Stalking, verbal harassment, poisoning the opinions of small grieving children. Not okay. If the party related to these people is not acting, that’s telling, and if you are not drawing hard lines in quick drying cement, telling as well.

We have this idea that drama and the “course of love never did run smooth” means that a relationship is meant to be because adversity is good for romance. That’s just sick twisted Hollywood garbage. As the credits roll, the actors are snug back in real lives and the people on the screen are make-believe.

*Rob’s youngest sister was a bit blistery when she first met him – after the engagement and slightly ahead of the wedding – but Rob didn’t back her up. We all sat, rather uncomfortably, around the table while she had her say. Gee handled the episode with more grace than I would have.


In Simon Ushakov's icon of the The Last Supper...

Image via Wikipedia

I haven’t commented on the wedding. It was a wedding. They are all the same on the surface, varying only slightly depending on the personalities involved and the tales told in the aftermath.

Dee loved being a flower girl but she has no use for Catholic ceremonies that involve/revolve around the mass. The last time she was in church was for my dad’s funeral in ’08. At that time, she and N2 entertained each other a bit and the ritual still fascinated her with its exotic qualities and mystery.

No more.

Cannibals At the Altar

At nearly nine, she listens. And her reactions ranged from frustrated – because she couldn’t participate in the rote recitation and response that is so drummed into me that I could follow a mass while in a coma – to horrified when she finally comprehended what the priest was saying at communion.

“Body of Christ,” he intoned as he placed a wafer on each tongue

Horror. That was her expression.

“He doesn’t mean that literally, ” I whispered.

Incredulous horror.

“Do you remember the Last Dinner painting?” I asked her.

She nodded. Da Vinci’s Last Supper is a favorite of hers. The Canadian public school system recognizes no separation between faiths and state though Christianity in its Catholic form gets the most play. Dee loves to talk about the “last dinner” and what happened.

“Do you remember that Jesus shared bread with his followers?”

Eyes begin to widen in growing comprehension.

“The priest is just doing what Jesus did,” I assure her. “It’s not really anyone’s body.”

“That would be gross,” she said.

Indeed. And yes, I know perfectly well that Catholics believe (or should at any rate – it’s so hard to know what Catholics actually understand about their own faith) about the host, but transubstantiation would sail over the heads of adults and I didn’t have time to get into that with Dee then.

Witnessing

Rob and I ended up being matron of honor and best man. It’s a better gig than reader though I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to explain the role reassignment and by the time I had to reassure Fr. Pat that all was well and truly figured out, I was thoroughly reminded of why patriarchal systems irritate me so completely.

Domestic Air Travel in Canada

The weather was wonderful. It warmed our spirits up considerably to be somewhere that snow wasn’t, and the air travel, aside from a few minutes of disaster movie like turbulence on the return trip, went smoothly.

Did you know that Canadians don’t remove footwear as they move through security for domestic flights? Nothing even slightly Gestapo-like in the screening area at all. Just quick, suspicionless inspection of bags and jackets.

However, I did find the security wonks at the Kelowna airport a bit lax in their reaction to an abandoned backpack. I noted it and, being an American I suppose, pointed it out to Security agent. When he radioed it in, he was told to simply “take it to the break room and I’ll look at it later.” As I haven’t seen any news reports about the Kelowna airport blowing up, I will assume that someone – who is clearly not an American nor has ever traveled by air in the U.S. – just forgot the whole “unattended bag thing”. Understandable because in the domestic travel areas of Canadian airports one doesn’t hear that automated voice droning on about responsibility and how “only you can prevent a terrorist incident”.

On A Break

This week, I officially asked for some time off at my paid blogging gig. Between reno, teaching and recurrent health issues, I need a real vacation.

For example, I didn’t take my netbook along last weekend. I didn’t check mail or blog or Facebook.

It was nice.

More than nice and has jumped-started my quest to balance virtual and actual reality toward the latter. Rob’s opinion is that until the Internet completes its inevitable split which will leave those without means trolling a UHF-inspired tier like bottom feeding fish, one should enjoy what is left of the web. It is a shadow of what it was even just a few years ago as the “entrepreneurs” continue to destroy its actual quality for the fastest bucks possible. But my eyes and interest are open to opportunities to free myself though probably not from my personal blog. I still enjoy my little corner of the blogosphere enough to resist attempts to make it bigger or shinier.

Family Matters

Rob picked out a movie for us at the bookmobile last evening. It’s never a good idea to watch a film on a weeknight and now with Dee’s bus driver on a mission to get us up as early as possible, it’s even less of a good idea, but we haven’t snuggled and viewed in a while (unless you count the “Hoarders” thing this last weekend and I don’t).

A 2010 flick called Mother and Child, which takes all the worst aspects of adoption from every possible angle and mushes them into one film. I am used to the misrepresentation of adoption – good and bad – but there was one thing in the film that made me incredibly sad. Sad enough that I cried when the movie was over.

There is the notion that it’s difficult for adopted children or birth parents to find each other. If the agency is known, most allow adoptee’s and birth parents to place contact info/letters in the file that both parties can easily access. Agencies will sometimes contact one party on the other’s behalf.

Both the mother and the daughter in the film write letters for their file, but due to miscommunication the mother doesn’t learn about her daughter until after the young woman dies.

Which was sad, but not what upset me.

The upsetting thing was being reminded that neither of my birth parents have ever contacted me. My information has been on file with the agency for 25 years. I haven’t thought about that for sometime now. Not looking for sympathy, mind you. Just an observation.

Last But Most

Both Rob and I are tired. In the last 6 weeks obligations have been plentiful and while we took care of them, the reno sat by idly a lot and we have gotten run down, over-tired and illness/injury prone. That’s being the grown-ups, I know. Suck it up, Buttercup.

But we now have a bit over a month to move a few mountains around before the obligatory family holiday to see folk down south and it’s just him doing all the work and just me trying to make the trains run around it.

This last weekend was a two nighter of bad mattress that has stove up both of us for much of this week, and a week or better at my mom’s (not to mention hotels there and back) promise more back and shoulder issues on top of exhaustion. Tripping to the States is about family. Not fun. Not relaxation. However, Christmas was exhausting and I don’t foresee resting up in advance of the trip. A dilemma that I am rolling around with now and for which I have no solution. Having pulled the holiday rug out from under Dee in November, I can’t see doing that again, but a hotel is a pricey option given the expensive Christmas followed by an unplanned for in the budget wedding and other miscellaneous.

“I am content never to leave home,” Rob pointed out as we discussed this today. I’d called him from the truck with the latest dental update (I’m not ready to discuss that).

“I suppose we could just start telling everyone that if they want to see us, they will have to come here.”

“No one would come then.”

A sad but true point. He and I are the wheel hubs in our families. If we don’t make it so, it just won’t be.

Just a good night’s sleep. That’s all I need. Oh, and to avoid further illness. At Christmas the new father-in-law left Rob and I the cold from hell as a parting gift. Today Rob got an email from his mother describing some virulent stomach/intestinal flu that they came down with last evening.  Nice.