Family and mission impostible30 Dec 2012 05:05 pm

I don’t want to call this a genuine Christmas miracle or anything, 1) because it was the day after and 2) they eventually ended their odd relationship and 3) blasphemy.

But!  While hyped up on sugar cookies and post-holiday euphoria, my children got into a fight which involved flinging dirty laundry and their stocking gifts at each other.  Charming, I know.  The upshot being this:

HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?  The unbroken circle of my underpants leg magically looped on this closed loop of metal wire.  Homemade brainteaser puzzle.  Anyway, it took two college educated adults half a day to figure out how to separate them.  Not sure if I feel very clever or not very clever at all.

 

I saw my parents for the holiday.  During dinner, my dad got pretty confused while helping my mom serve guests.

He tried to give a plate of food to someone who already had one.  For long moments after the guest explained she’d already been served, my dad stood in front of her, holding out the plate, not understanding what to do.  There was this horribly awkward silence and people (me included) averted their eyes.  Finally, my dad simply set the second plate down in front of the guest.  I guess that in lieu of not being able to resolve the problem himself (e.g., if someone already has a plate, give the full plate to someone who doesn’t yet have one ), he trusted what my mom had told him (e.g., please take this plate to Mrs. X).

To me, it didn’t seem like the same level of forgetfulness he had a year ago.  It made me worry about what might be going on when we’re not around: How could you find yourself in periods of such confusion without all this anger accumulating?  How could you not be mad at the people who averted their eyes when you were vulnerable?  If that was me, I’d be so pissed off, and scared, and lost.  And fuck it.  This IS me, overwhelmed, pissed off, and scared by all those things.  They’re not even happening to me.

My mom took me shopping the next day, which is, was, and forever will be known as a huge fucking disaster.  Every year, my mom wants to take me shopping for my birthday.  But really, this pilgrimage between my mother and me is a fucked up catharsis in which she pretends she’s forgotten that I loathe trying on clothes worse than a root canal.  Like any ritual, it begins when she says, “I want to get you something special for your birthday.  Let’s go shopping.”  And in my well-worn, online-purchased, ill-fitting clothes, it is hard to argue.  But I do.

I tell her I don’t want to go about five times before I give in and  drag my ass out so she can dress me in old lady clothes that I’ll never wear.  It is my perennial Charlie Brown moment, always hoping it will go differently, that everything will fit and I won’t look like I’m dressed as Barbara Bush for Halloween.

But what happens:  My mother leads me to Macy’s/ Chico’s/old lady boutique, and I have to look at my own naked body in fluorescent lights.  In the dressing room, I am stripped of my notions that I am cute with a reasonably cute figure.  In every outfit I put on, I’m forced to face the fact that my arms are huge and I have cankles.  Muffin top or swimming in a rowboat of fabric, size mammoth.  By the tenth pair of ill-fitting jeans, I am a human whale.  They don’t even make clothes that fit my misshapen ogre ass.  The three-way mirror assures I have piglet pink skin and a saggy double chin.  Surely, the Most Perfect Way To Spend Your Birthday Ever.

By that time, I’ve started crying in the dressing stall. Undeterred, my mom throws a dozen hideous outfits over the top of the door before running off again.  I am standing in a bra and pants with the pleats blossoming out like origami balloons, waiting for her to return so I can show her I am  having no fucking luck whatsoever.  But she doesn’t come back and I can’t bear looking at myself anymore, so I peel everything off like I’m some overripe banana.  I get strangled by those invisible plastic tapes they hide inside some shirts.  Even though I double-dosed the deodorant, I’m starting to stink.  Finally I have to scream, “Do not bring another fucking thing.  I am getting dressed and I am leaving!”

My mother always yells back from some farthest corner of the store, “Just try on those last few things!”  I wonder if perhaps I am just being an asshole.  It’s probably the delirium onset from dehydration.  She sounds so happy!  So I try on three more things, and they are hideous, but they were the last items on hangers.  Daughterly duty done.

Gratefully yank on my own pants.  She dumps five more outfits over the top of the door.  And when I whimper through the slatted door:  please,dear god, I’m really done,  I hear her sigh deeply.  She says, “Well… let’s at least buy all the rest of these things, and you can try them on at home, and I’ll bring the ones you don’t like back.”

The sales woman’s eyes light up like a jackpot.  I can’t see this happen, since I’m under the avalanche of clothes inside the dressing stall, but I know they do because I can hear the ding-ding-ding coming from her ears, and the flashing lights strobe the carpet near my feet.

From under the hot, sweaty pile of shitty clothes, I scream, “Get me the living fuck out of here!”  I can’t open the door to escape because there are so many clothes shoved inside my stall.

My mom and the sales lady dig me out, and neither seems to understand why I refuse to let mom purchase a single item of clothing.  The sales lady shoots daggers at me, cursing under her breath that I’m such a spoiled bitch and there goes her commission.   I shoot daggers back – why does she think I’m the kind of person who’d be caught dead in a fishnet pink leisure suit?  How about that purple/orange houndstooth shoulder-padded nightmare?  Lycra jeggings with booty implants?

All the way home, Mom tries to reframe the day as ‘a learning process’ and eventually I escape to my room where I have to reconsider whether or not I should have let her spend a thousand dollars to dress me like I was Macklemore.  But mostly, that afternoon drive is all about trying not to cry in front of her while as I begin the process of repressing any memory of the past twenty four hours.

But this time, I ask her about Dad.

“I’m sad about what’s happening,” she says.  “But I know it’s also part of life.”  After a moment, I tell her how I’m worried how he’ll deal with this change in his abilities.  The dad of my childhood was a creature driven to excellence, aggravated by a long slope in anyone’s learning process.  When I was a teenager he took me golfing.  Irritated that I wasn’t that good, he decided to follow me around the golf course with a video camera,  so he could show me in depth all the things I was doing wrong with my swing.   Don’t think I’ve played the game since, now that I think on it.

He also once diagnosed a kid with a rare genetic anomaly by noticing her hands at a dinner party.  The kid’s mom burst into tears – she’d known something was wrong, but it had taken two years before any specialist could tell her what was going on.

Fuck you!  Where were you when we didn’t know?!”  She yelled at my dad when he mentioned it, full f bomb in a room full of people, not having met my dad before that day.  He felt guilty.  As if somehow he could’ve helped that kid by running into them sooner.  How would my dad’s ego survive not being the sharpest person in the room anymore?  What about not even being in the top half?

“Then you are missing the best part of your father,” she says to me.  “He knows what’s happening to him.  Does he seem angry to you?”

 

Her question makes me remember how he’d set down that second dinner plate with a smile and a shrug.  He hadn’t seemed angry, only confused. I run back through the other memories of this visit.  He’s stumbled on a forgotten word or lost train of thought, only to smile wanly, apparently knowing he’s lost but not how to get back to where he was.  It’s always been me that’s angry and scared.  Not him.  In the car, my mother is crying.  “Your dad has always been more than smart,” she says.  “He’s a courageous fucker too.”

11 Responses to “long, unedited, way too many f bombs”

  1. on 30 Dec 2012 at 8:12 pm Heather

    Great post; loved the Mumbledore link. Wish it wasn’t the case for your dad.

  2. on 30 Dec 2012 at 11:57 pm Amelia

    Fucking. Wow.
    My FiL is changing changing and I watch from the sidelines. I don’t have the relationship with parents that my husband does, it’s so hard for them both.

  3. on 31 Dec 2012 at 12:53 pm Susan

    Oh honey … where to begin? Really sorry your mom wanted to gift you with clothes of her relentless choice while you, locked in a horror house of mirrors with no escape, are drowning under piles of mismatched expectations. {{shivers}} A cinematic horror show for sure. And your dad … I can’t even. So glad the undies finally escaped the slinky clutches. Life is so weird and relentless sometimes. xoxoxoxox

  4. on 31 Dec 2012 at 7:14 pm austin_boo_moo

    I’ve come to realize at my old age that whenever I think I’ve got problems, all I have to do is hop on LJ, and I quickly realize that my friends are experiencing things that I never have.

    The underwear/slinky thing? Priceless. Can’t say I’ve ever had that happen to me. However, my cats have worn my undies as necklaces before. Yay. I’m waiting for the day that they do that when we have company at the house. Especially if the underwear has been worn already, and they hop on someone’s lap. I should probably get rid of the cats…

    The shopping experience with your Mom? Girl, you really need to stop that. I know you love your Mom, but you need to love yourself, too. Suggest some other kind of shopping – go shop for shoes, or jewelry, or perfumes/candles or something. Tell her that you’re trying to downsize your closet. Your sanity is more important than appeasing her need to buy you clothes. If all else fails, tell her to pick out some stuff for you and give you gift receipts. You can return the items, and then use the store credit to purchase yourself some clothes that you like on their online website. (Even the worst clothing stores usually have *something* decent on their website.)

    (Sidenote: When I used to be married, my MIL used to buy me giftcards to Coldwater Creek all the time… which is very much an “old lady” clothing store. Every birthday and Christmas, without fail, she’d give me a giftcard to them. Me, being the crafty person I am, would turn around and use those giftcards to purchase her Christmas and birthday gifts [her birthday is in January], and she was none-the-wiser. Whenever she asked me what I bought with my gift cards, I’d tell her that I got pajamas or underwear – something she’d never see, anyway.) :D

    As for your Dad… what a sad and disheartening thing to witness. I’m happy that he doesn’t appear to be suffering, but it *is* sobering to watch someone you love and admire deteriorate. On a positive note, he isn’t suffering… it just sounds like the family is, to a degree. Take solace in the fact that he’s still a happy man, and just keep a careful eye on him – your Mom is going to need additional help and support as his condition worsens.

    You’re in my heart and thoughts, Anne. I’m glad to see you back on LJ, and I hope 2013 proves to be a better year for you. You write in such a way that I feel so many complex emotions after reading your entries.

    P.S. The Macklemore link was amusing, and kind of catchy. I’m humming it right now. I have an urge to buy a really obnoxious coat.

  5. on 01 Jan 2013 at 9:15 am Sarah

    Ahhhh, the clothes shopping with mom. It has struck me that not only are our fathers practically the same person, but our mothers are too. For my mom, we turned it into a manicure and/or pedicure thing. Still feels like she is girl-ing me up and making me look more together, and I don’t even have to talk during the whole thing and painted nails always fit.

    I think the process of understanding your father and making peace with his perceptions/expectations/judgments/disappointments (sorry if I am projecting at all in that list) with you is you understanding your perceptions/expectations/judgments/disappointments with him. Seeing actual Now is hard. Who you are and who he is, right now. But I think just about everyone has to deal with that in some way as their parents deteriorate, so I don’t know if it makes you feel better that most people, if not in the same boat, are at least also lost at sea.

    Brilliant writing, I hope the New Year gives you many more opportunities to write.

  6. on 01 Jan 2013 at 5:50 pm Rachel Gattuso

    I can’t tell you how happy I am to see you writing again… there is just something so beautiful in your honesty, and something gorgeous in your exceptional craft.

    That being said – I am just so, so sorry. It sounds like your shopping trip was much more stressful than it needed to be. And I agree – is there a way you could steer the shopping trip toward shoes? Or books? Or something you truly enjoy?

    As for your father and your family’s ordeal in coping, stay strong. I cannot even begin to imagine how painful this must be for you. I would unravel so quickly. All I can think is that you being together must be of great comfort to him, and to your mother, and I truly wish you all find more peace and more love. I usually find that happens when I eat more chocolate… and cheese. But that’s just me.

    Keep writing. You give fledglings like me something to aspire to.

    Love and light.

  7. on 01 Jan 2013 at 9:13 pm bon

    Anne, I am reading. I have been reading since you have started blogging again, and am thrilled to read you again. Haven’t been able to drag my own butt out of my own sorry mess to comment, but I have to express my admiration for your dad. It’s cool to be the smartest and the rightest and the on top-est… but it’s even cooler to be the kind of guy that can go on the most frightening carnival ride of all and to do it while retaining kindness, love and gentleness. I aspire to that kind of greatness. Doubt I’d ever be that freaking cool in his circumstances.

  8. on 02 Jan 2013 at 9:57 am Marci

    First, I am so happy to have you back. I missed baby J this Christmas. The holidays just weren’t the same without him.

    I’m sorry about your Dad (and to a lesser extent, your Mom). My parents (knock on wood) are crazy but still in good health. My 2yo, however, was diagnosed with autism a couple months ago. For me it’s been like floating in a choppy sea without a sail. He doesn’t care. He’s such a happy boy and even though I know that he will have bad days ahead and face challenges, today he has a smile on his face that alone pulls me to shore. I find a lot of comfort in his smile and I smile with him as much as I can. Sometimes that’s all I can do.

    I’m not going to try to give you words of advice or tell you I know what you’re going through or I sympathize or empathize or whatever because it mostly irritates me when people do that. For some reason it never fells authentic when someone does that in real life, but I like it when a good book can empathize. I read The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan a few years ago and I think I’m going to re-read it. If you haven’t read it you should check it out (It may make you cry so I recommend following it up with A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, hil.ar.i.ous).

    I just wanted to tell you I’m glad you’re back. I hope the Cool Thing is going well and, whatever it is, I hope you can get out of it what you want out of it and don’t-let-the-man-get-you-down and all that. Glad you didn’t flush the blog.

  9. on 03 Jan 2013 at 10:52 pm drhoctor2

    Holy everything, Anne..you sure can write.

  10. on 04 Jan 2013 at 3:22 am Jen

    Sweeetheartttt, firstly…

    WHY, OH WHY… and I have asked you this before… are you not writing sitcoms or crazy madlibs in Time or The Trib? I just can’t help it. You’re insane in the best of ways I love and miss and admire your humor… even when you’re being rudely pegged by Lycra jeggings with booty implants!

    SECONDLY… should you decide that now is not the time to move into sitcom writing, would you allow me to be your agent when you do? Primetime NEEDS you.

    THIRDLY… I am very sorry for the problems dad is having. =( I read what you said and I can’t help but defend you, of course. Dad, well, I wonder… if he felt those feelings or if they just sort of drift away, too. It’d be terrible to be pissed and hurt and just keep holding on to that longing confusion and pain. But if it was like, well, when you stub a toe, something that smarts, yet you forget about twenty minutes later, maybe it’s not …. no, it’s bad. I’m sorry. I would hug you if I could. I will do so from a distance.

    FINALLY — YOUR MOTHER!!! You poor girl. I would say the answer is to tell your mother to tinkle up a rope the next time she suggests shopping, but what would the girl at the checkout counter ever do without her huge bonus?!

    May your jeggings be ever kind. <3

    Sending love,

    Jen

  11. on 08 Jan 2013 at 6:00 pm Jan

    I am so sorry about your father, but glad that he is brave and cool. My husband has been diagnosed with ALS… and we thought we had years. He is being pretty brave and cool. I am not. I do understand.
    As for your mother and the clothes shopping, I respectfully urge you to consider telling her — NO MORE. It’s not helping you; it’s hurting you.