Wednesday, August 16, 2006
You Are Here ... But She Is There and They Are Over There
So. Where are we?

First, a brief but sincere shout-out to my sisters, I am so glad they came out this weekend. We were just as New England Seacoast stereotypical as we could be, visiting three different beaches and putting TWELVE lobsters to death, along with four pounds of mussels and six pounds of steamers, over the course of two days. When lobster is cheaper than steak, that is a sign from the Grocery Store Gods that I have moved to the correct area of the country.

My mother came out with them, I'm also glad she came. And not just because she paid for everything. But because she kept it together and acted like a [frustrated, irritated, not-quite-angry] grown-up to my father's insistence on interfering with her vacation. My parents' divorce became final in January, and my father has lived in my house since last summer. My mother very carefully planned her visit for a Friday-through-Monday, which would have precisely avoided my father's normal Tuesday-through-Thursday weekend. He is a truck driver, out on the road Thursday-through-Tuesday every week. Except for last week. He claimed illness Thursday, so he decided to stay home until Friday morning. Then, since my mother and sisters were due out on Saturday, he decided to take another day to be able to visit with the girls... even though my mother came with the package and explicitly did not want to spend time with her ex-husband on her vacation. I hope that he enjoyed his time with the girls, really I do, because otherwise he unnecessarily added stress to a perfectly nice weekend.

Anyway. That was the weekend. Monday morning at about 10:00, my mother and sisters returned to New York, with Emily. Who, at 6, is apparently ready for the weeks-at-Grandma's-house that my childhood summers were characterized by. (I'm learning now that this is not all that common an experience. Willem never spent a week away from his parents with any relatives, until he was an adult. One more bit of proof in my raised-by-wolves theory.)

At 10:05, my mother-in-law called, quite hysterical and uncontrolled and generally unlike herself (passive-aggressive and loss of control don't mix well for her, apparently), to report that my father-in-law had taken yet another turn for the worse, and she actually - wait for it - called to state a preference. She asked Willem to come out to help her for the week, and possibly say good-bye to his father. This is not a family which has ever been close or supportive, and I am just too cynical and snarky to believe that a deathbed reunion will suddenly fix decades-in-the-making problems, but the point was, she asked, so Willem went.

But he had a summer class to teach, a child still at home to worry about, and about 4,000 household details to attend to before leaving, so he couldn't just hop in the car and leave. Instead he wrapped up and delegated his class (which, for Willem, is a major accomplishment - delegation is akin to root canal without anesthesia), did laundry and packed, and decided to take Jacob with him because I still have to work. I chose not to go because I can't come up with one single way in which my presence would make things easier or better for either of my in-laws. They have spent a lifetime dealing with crisis in a certain way, and there is no reason for me to try to bring honesty or my version of healthy coping into their lives now. ANd because I have to work.

So Willem and Jacob left yesterday morning, and I was woeful and self-pitying yesterday. Not out of plain old missing them - that I can cope with - but out of a sense of being totally unprepared and un-in-charge of the situation. I've had some time to process, mainly by way of knitting and watching TV centered around Bad People Doing Mean Things. Don't knock it till you've tried it, man.

I spoke with them all on the phone last night. Emily is near Binghamton, NY, and her account of her day at my mother's was just SO SIX:
Em: Hi Mom! I am having SO. MUCH. FUN!
Me: Good to know! What did you do today?
Em: I don't know! But it was fun!
Me: Wow. How about one thing you did?
Em: Um. Hmm. Well. I ate broccoli at dinner! And... [dramatic pause here] I LIKED it!
Me: Fantastic. I like broccoli, too.
Em: Yeah. Okay, good night, Mom! Love you! [click]

Jacob got his moment on the phone, too. He is SO TWO:
J: Hi, Mama. Love Mama. Bwaah. (which is, to the uninitiated, a kiss)
Me: Hi, Jacob! Are you having fun at Opa's house?
J: Yeah! Bwaah. [coaching from Willem in background] Nigh-night, Mama! Don't bite the bedbugs!
Me: Good night, Jacob. You don't bite the bedbugs, too.

Then Willem and I chatted, and it was awkward, because I feel guilty that I'm working and can't be out there, and because I don't believe that his mother is as blameless and martyrworthy as she presents herself. And he feels guilty because I'm working and can't be out there, and because he's trying to be optimistic about his mother in the face of my not-quite-scorn.

And now I'm at work, benefitting from the fact that Judi doesn't think I'm capable of getting my own water from the cooler by myself, because she has been running around like crazy all morning and I have been reading blogs.

Which reminds me, I really want to learn how to create topic-relevant archived links, so that I don't have that long list of my favorites over there on the right, so that I can start a list of other blogs I read without having sidebar insanity. If anyone out there can make me smarter about this, I would be ever so grateful. I know I could figure out a way to hack around and make it happen, but it wouldn't be pretty and it wouldn't be graceful.