Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Let's Just Play it by Ear
I keep waiting for the weekend to snap together into some sort of coherent, narrative flow that lets me capture it in, oh, say, a billion words or less. Not so far.

So rather than impose structure on an inherently formless blob of time, let's just start babbling and see what happens, shall we? One could even say that we're now playing it by ear... unless that particular phrase brings you to near-suicidal head-banging and eye-gouging activities, in which case we'll ad lib and leave it at that.

Because "let's just play it by ear" is more than just a handy phrase for my mother-in-law. It's more than even a lifestyle or a deeply ingrained habit. It's a mantra, a way of being-in-the-world, an existential Gestalt. And if it makes others of us, those who live in a world of courtesy-by-information and plans, bleed from the ears at the mere thought, well, all the better!

The weekend started with me inadvertantly irritating my coworker M, because she didn't realize that when I left for the day at 2:00 I was actually really leaving, not just going to be home and available by phone. Happily she didn't get nailed by another Angry Young Man festival like we had the other weekend, but still - she didn't expect it and I feel crappy about that.

And this became all so much more delightful when, after driving the 8 hours to NY in order to be there in time for my father-in-law's ashes to be spread around his backyard first thing Saturday morning, it all got postponed to sometime Sunday because my brother-in-law A had to work an extra shift. Sorry, A... but whenever you're ready to grow up and have some real emotions and adult responses, I'm there for you. Until then, allow me to act as your personal guide to the world of How Humans Act. Step one: on the weekend of your father's memorial, it's okay to pass on those overtime shifts. What the hell, go wild, actually take a whole day off. And step two: if the entire restaurant industry would simply grind to a halt if you took a day off to be, you know, a family member, fine, go ahead, work the extra shift. But let the rest of the family know more than a day in advance so that they don't alienate their coworkers and keep their kids up several hours past bedtime. Guess what, A? You're not the only person on the planet!

No, really!


So, that was annoying. Wanna know what was even beyond annoying? Saturday we spent a lot of time standing around like a herd of cows without a farm boy, because my mother-in-law really loves to be the Person in Charge but she really, really, really hates to actually Make a Decision. So as long as she's in charge, she's the only one who gets to make decisions, and the rest of us will have to - say it with me now - play it by ear.

Anyway, that's not the annoying part. (Well... not the beyond-annoying part.) Once we learned that no plans had been made for the dozen or so out-of-town family members that were in town Saturday night for Sunday's festivities, Willem and I broke out of our cow-molds to tell everyone to be at my father-in-law's house at 6:00 and he and I would bring dinner. We raided the local oversized and pretentious grocery store and brought back marinated meat and salads and whatever. When we arrived with the food, the family was all sort of oddly subdued. After a while, Willem's grandmother made an offhand comment about, "I can't believe my foot still hurts." Turns out she had fallen on the deck, which is inexplicably two levels and just begging for people to fall on it.

That's not the annoying bit either. The annoying bit falls somewhere in the realm of, Grandma sat in the same chair for another four hours after she fell, with no pretense toward medical attention like ice or even psychological attention like comfort. I finally pulled her aside to determine whether she was actually in pain, she said yes, and I agreed to take her to the emergency room. At which point my mother-in-law (whose mother this is) barges in to list of what is wrong with each of the closer hospitals and insist that we take Grandma to such-and-such an ED. Yet mother-in-law can't stand Grandma, and said repeatedly, "She's just looking for attention." Except... 8 hours and a visitor lockdown and x-rays and whatever else later, Grandma actually had a broken foot and a sprained angle.

"Just looking for attention." If I had to pick something, I think that's the annoying part. Though I could be wrong about that. I was wrong about *plenty* else and seem to have survived that.

Anyway. She'll be fine. And my mother-in-law will always be like that.

Phew. I'm sleepy. Never blogged in bed before, don't you feel honored?

More soon, never fear...