Not In Kansas Anymore...

Click your heels, and see if home is where you hang your hat, or somewhere else inside yourself as this simple, postmodern girl takes on L.A.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let's give this day a do-over, okay?

It started off nicely enough. Really, it did. I awoke at 11am to thunder, and rain on my tin roof. Beautiful sounds, and good sounds for SoCal. It's a sign that, with any luck, our summer will not be dry and hopeless.

I got out of bed, made coffee, and discussed with Annie the plans for the day. She just got some of her EBT money, so a trip to the grocery store was in order. I also needed to go to the library. I figured slogging around in the rain in Los Angeles ( scary when people who live in sunshine 9 months out of the year get behind the wheel in a rainstorm) should be limited to one trip, so we decided when Davy arrived for the day we'd all pile into the car and go.

Except, of course, Davy's dad had to be an asshole- like usual-- and on a whim, this morning, take him to his (Ed's) mom's house. He's been doing this somewhat frequently lately, much to Annie's consternation, since she's available ALL day and there's no reason to go to Grandma's when Mom is right around the corner. ( Add to this that Ed's lawyer hasn't gotten back to Annie's lawyer about a proper visitation schedule, and Annie is chock out of cash to pay her lawyer to get off of her ass to make a fucking phone call. Annie's lawyer is a lazy bitch, who, whenever asked about such delays, would rather file an injunction and collect another $3000 retainer. ) So she called, and Ed gave the usual excuse, "Oh, I went to drink coffee with my mom this morning and he was having so much fun playing and I had to get to work...." Whatever, pal.

And he said he'd call over there, and see what was up, but OF COURSE he delayed. And delayed. Finally it's about 2:30 and now it's MY day he's fucking up, because we can't leave the house since he MIGHT call. This is when I get a little short with Annie and say, "Okay, I know this is a sucky situation, but this man is holding ALL of us hostage. The whole household is now waiting to get food because he's dicking around. I have other things to do. YOU have other things you could be doing, like working if he's going to pull this crap. " I go on to discuss the lawyer situation-- which I did not know all of the details of untill she told me in the midst of this tense talk-- and her options for getting a pay-as-you-go-cell phone, the concept of which eludes her. Finally, she just hands me the EBT card and her pin and says, "You go." And cries.

Shit. This is not what I wanted.

So I sit and talk to her some more, and the whole financial quandry with this lazy bitch of a lawyer comes out, her trying to stroke Ed enough to get him to agree to a custody agreement they can settle out of court and have the judge sign off on, and this and that, and all of it. Of course, I had no idea. Basically, Ed wants to believe they're getting back together, and the judge is crazy, and her lawyer is....yeah, you guessed it, and Ed's got all the power. Legal Aid won't call back, and she's stuck, at this point, trying to work it to her advantage the old-fashioned way: manipulation. Poor girl.

And guess what time Davy came today? 3:30. Screaming his head off, since of course, he'd not had a nap. Hitting and screaming as loud as he can have become his forte, by the way, since when he's with Daddy, he doesn't have a bedtime. Or naptimes. Or any rules. When he's here, he has boundaries and limits, and naptimes and bedtimes. He's also going through a developmental push, growing and learning to talk, which naturally is frustrating to him. So, when he doesn't get what he wants, he tantrums. When he wants something, he whines.

(There is no whining permitted in Miss Julie's House, in case you didn't know, so this is getting extinguished pretty quick. I think Mommy is so glad to see him she's immune to it, but Miss Julie isn't. So when whining comes around--about every 10 minutes-- I make a silly joke. Or make him laugh. Or if he's being truly incorrigible, say in a serious voice that "there's no need to behave this way." Surprisingly, it works. We're down to whining only when we're truly cranky or hungry or thirsty-- in other words, when there's a real need. )

Today he didn't want to take a nap, so he threw a holy rolling fit. Luckily for everyone involved, he passed out rather quickly, and frankly, for the sake of my own sanity, so did I. I just needed a mental break from the maddening situation in my house which I cannot escape.

I woke up 4 hours later- FAR later than I really intended-- and ate some dinner. Davy? Was back with his dad. Annie was PISSED. Understandably so. I was....pissed that my day had been wasted entirely by stress that I have no control over, or so it feels.

So I commit to going to the grocery store. (Earlier in our talk, Annie really did genuinely offer her card, so that today I could just go and get as much as I could and later, we would all go together and stock up. ) Then I realize that my friend Terry, who lives in NYC had texted me. I pick up the phone to call him, and we're chatting and whatnot. Next week we have plans to meet in Seattle- a short, cheap jaunt for me;a more expensive, long haul for him-- for my birthday, and to see our mutual friend, Kat, who lives there. We're all very excited, and so on, and he and I are talking details, and then he starts going on about "this most recent development, I'm just not accepting it. I cannot."

Um, what?

"You know, the breast thing."


"Oh, shit. You haven't read your email today."

I had, but apparently not THAT email....last night my power cord died, and I've been sharing one with Annie til my new one comes, so I've not been online as much as usual....

AND, as it turns out, Kat was diagnosed with a carcinogenic tumor in her breast this morning.

All the details, I do not have. But it has to be removed, Anthony said, and chemo is probably on the roster, too. I was floored.

Kat is barely 36 years old. (Which certainly puts those stupid new guidelines for waiting untill you're 50 to have a mammogram to shame. SHAME.) I've known her since she was about 16, which is to say, at least 20 years. She was my first roommate in my first apartment on my own, and she's one the brightest, most special people I know. She recently lost her job, and had to move, and is trying to rebuild after losing her business because of the recession. I'm not even sure she has insurance. Her mother lives close by, but her mom isn't entirely....functional, so this is something she might be doing, to some degree, on her own.

Which makes me SICK. Sick to think of that girl doing this on her own. Immediately, Terry and I are like, "We must DO something...." and the best we can do is....possibly buy her a new bed ( because she currently sleeps on a mat on the floor!). I can't stand how unfair that is.

I'm currently praying that when they take this thing out of her next Friday, it's small and contained, and she bounces back with all her might. I want her to know, though, while she goes through it, that she's loved. That we're there for her. But how to BE there when I can't BE THERE??

This day really needs to go back another 24 hours and start over, fresh. I need a different outcome.

And yeah, I did finally make it to the store. I cried in the aisles to the maudlin music they play, but at least I can do that. I can shop, I am well enough to shop. I am well enough and my friend is sick. And don't think for a minute I wasn't grateful for my health and cursing whatever stars made this day as fucked up as THAT at the end of it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

In the hubub of the holiday season and my Annual Post-Holiday Season Cold, I realize this evening while making cookies ( yeah, I know. They're New Year's cookies. Shut up.) that I'd forgotten about my recent episode in The Aging Parent Follies.

Not to be sarcastic (me?) or flip ( never!), but as my parents get older, they start to do things that make me take on the role of the adult and them, the role of the insolent teenager. By and large, my parents are in excellent health, are active and self-sufficient. (And just in case, my brother checks on them regularly. Well, sort of. He checks their refrigerator regularly for good eats, which by mere proximity allows him to be in their company at least twice a week.). However, as they start aiming down the middle 60s, I've noticed their tendency to slide into denial about the limitatons of their age. Case in point:

My mom, for most of her life, has had perfect eyesight. Unlike my father and I ( who should be qualified as legally blind along with the rest of his side of the family), she can see without any kind of corrective lens. This is still, amazingly, true at 63 for her. Nonetheless, some aging has taken its toll: she needs reading glasses to read and see small print. Did she go to the optometrist? No. She insists, instead, on buying those cheap reading glasses from the drugstore. Of course, none of them is ever *quite* right, so she has a million pairs of them lying around the house, languishing. A couple of Christmases ago, she finally found a pair that suited her-- but had rather unfortunate frames. (When I teased her that she looked like Buddy Holly trying to wrestle garland onto a pine tree, she didn't think it was funny, oddly.). But then she lost those and the search began anew.

Finally, she once again found a pair that suited her needs, and all was well in her world. Well, except for the fact that she kept misplacing them, forgetting where they were, and really, not havng them on hand when she most needed them. I once watched her try to answer the phone, standing there, with the phone in hand, holding it out at arm's length, trying to find the "ON" button, swearing, "Well, goddammit. I can't see. Where are my glasses? I just had them..." Meanwhile, the phone rings insistently, and by the time she finds her glasses, the caller had just given up. ( Don't ask if the machine picked it up. That's a whole other kettle of fish, my friend....).
I looked at her and in my family's time-honored way of expressing loving jest, pointed, laughed, and ridiculed her infirmity.

"You're like Mr. Magoo bumbling around trying to answer the fucking phone! That's ridiculous Mother. Why don't you just get one of those chains and keep the glasses around your neck? That way, when people call, you can actually answer. It will save on the numerous police drive-bys that will surely start occurring, as people start to wonder if you're still alive, since you're NOT ANSWERING THE PHONE."
Of course, her answer was, "I'm not getting one of those things. They're so UGLY. And they make you look like an old lady."
(Never mind that she IS an old lady....but I delicately avoided pointing this out to her.) In response I said, "Okay, then, go to the doctor and get progressive lenses. The top lens can be clear, and the bottom lens will be your reading lens. You can wear them all the time."
No dice. "I don't want to wear glasses all the time. So unattractive."
(Never mind that *I* wear glasses 80% of the time and my dad, before his Lasik 10 years ago, wore glasses their whole marriage. Whatever....)

Every time I call now, my father answers the phone. When I last visited, it was next to his chair ( you know, His Chair). Apparently he decided to take control of the situation, and now screens all calls.

But you see what I'm dealing with here? Okay.

This year's little Aging Parent Folly was actually a pretty decent scare. I called on Christmas, dutiful daughter that I am, and wished my parents a Merry holiday. My dad ( having answering the phone, of course) returned the good cheer, and I asked him what he'd been up to, blah blah blah. THIS is when he informs me that all was well-- except for that fire in the house 2 days before Christmas.

Excuse me?!? FIRE? WTF?

"Well, I was making some stew on the stove," he started. "You know, I was starting a soup." ( For my dad, this can take all day, BTW. The art of stew/soupmaking cannot be rushed.) "Then the power went out, and we waited a bit to see if it'd come back on, you know.....but it didn't, and we were hungry, your mom was getting impatient , and so we decided to go out to eat."

Uh huh. Where is this going, Dad?

"We came home, opened the door, and the house was filled- I mean just FILLED-- with black smoke! I mean, it was terrible. Just terrible. I went downstairs to see what was going on (sidebar: DID NOT call the Fire Department first, I might add! Hello???), and the stove was all hot and the countertop next to the stove, you know, the green formica we had put in? It was all buckled and black and in flames...." (Second sidebar: where was my mom? Not calling the Fire Department, apparently....) "SO I found the fire extinguisher and put that out, and opened the windows and all that, and..."

"Did you call the Fire Department? I mean....." "Well, yah, after the fire was out and everything....", he answered, like calling them DURING the fire was an insane notion, since he was busy, you know, (DOING THEIR JOB and )putting it out himself. "Well, what did they say, Dad?"
"They said everything was all right, and checked the house for any other risk, which there wasn't. But they said that if we'd have been even 10 minutes later, the whole house could have gone up!!"
I was shocked and appalled at the idea of my parents going through such a trauma at this usually festive time of year, and of my childhood home going up in flames. "I'm SO GLAD you're all right," I squeaked out. "I can't imagine what could have happened. Thank GOD. " My dad, in his usual way, sort of minimized it and replied dismissively, "Well, everything's fine, now, no need to worry."

Then it hit me. "What did they say started the fire?"
"Well, it seems I forgot to turn the stove off when we left. The power was out, so I didn't think to."

Yeah, that's the sound of my palm hitting my forehead.

"Uh, you didn't think to turn off the stove BEFORE you left the house? "
"No, the power was out."
"Oh. Well, USUALLY, it's kind of a reflex; I guess I would have done it automatically. "
"Well, I TOLD YOU, the power was out, so I didn't think of it."

RIIIIIGHT. Because you know, the power was out. Not like it MIGHT COME BACK ON while you're gone, which is an obvious notion. Not like it might have been a good idea to --JUST IN CASE-- make sure you turned off the stove.


And now they're having the insurance people over, replacing the countertops, washing all the apholstery, the drapes,....hiring a cleaning company to remove soot from the walls, the carpets, the furniture, on and on and on and on blahblahblahblah.

It's in moments like these I flash back to my adolesence, when I used burn candles (safely! Yes, safely, I might add!) in my room for ambience ( yeah, I thought I was cool. Shut up.). My mom and dad FREAKED out, and constantly nagged me with things like, "Don't fall asleep with those burning. Make sure you're not burning them next to the curtains. You didn't get wax all over your dresser, did you? I REALLY want you to know we're worried about a fire, so DON'T let those things get out of hand." Okay, I understand that's a reasonable concern: teach the silly teenager about fire safety, yes, yes.

I just never thought the roles would be reversed, that's all.

God in heaven. PLEASE keep us all sane and safe while they get older and older....or untill I can think up a legitimate, passable reason to have them institutionalized....

Sunday, January 03, 2010

FINALLY, once more, the Christmas season has passed with no fatalities, emotional or otherwise. I really hate Christmas. I know that's unpopular, so although I whine about it, I won't come out and say that to just anyone. But it's not a favorite time of year for me, so I just try and get through December til the New Year without much fuss. I like the gift exchanging, food, and tradition of some of it, but the ramapant craziness that takes over (in general and in my family) makes me really stressed out. I usually go out lunch and then to a movie ( had a lovely brunch with Jeannie- Joannie was with her daddy that morning--and my new friend Luddy. Then we saw Sherlock Holmes" which was FANTASTIC. )
So, today I actually had company in being a singular entity which was fun ( but isn't always the case- which is another reason I hate Christmas- if you don't have a family, it can be lonely, for no other reason than it's a cultural IMPERATIVE you SPEND IT WITH SOMEONE or you're a sad soul or something, like Valentine's Day...).

Later, Annie and Davy came home...oh, yeah. There's a story there...

After all the mayhem of getting here and settling in, and confirming her opposition to Ed, she spent the night at there Christmas Eve because it was "easier" and Davy fell asleep. If Ed had any big plans for Christmas, maybe that would have made SOME sense, but he didn't. Even so, I was like "AAAAGGHGHG! You're shooting yourself in the foot! Pretty soon he's gonna be all like, "Why don't you just move in, it will be easier" and you'll be all "I'm tired of not seeing my son". " Then I told her she was a grown-up and could make these decisions on her own, but she knew better than to keep this up, and this time could be seen a a "quickie holiday solution" by the courts, but if she did it again, it wouldnt. It was just an odd choice because she was so empowered the day before, making him take Davy by himself while we went shoppping, Davy even spent the night there at Ed's alone, did well and yet.....? She had been so strong and everything, I was so proud of her. Then Christmas? I was discouraged.

However, a Christmas Miracle occurred, and she came home and said, "That was the worst idea." *WHEW*. I would have hated to see her cave under stress and go back. What a waste that would be.

Anyway, we had some silly fun we they got home: I had bought him some little things, and he had a good time which was a lot of fun. Of course, it got me feeling all heartsick about my own reproductive possibilities......hopefully, I'll have kids too and have that for myself someday (um, someday? SOON? Like, REAL SOON? Like My-Ovaries-Are-Gonna-Give-Up-Any-Second-Soon? Maybe I should freeze my eggs. SEE? This is what this kind of holiday does to me. I go into this panic because my life isn't all I expected at this point, even though it's FINE, and I have plenty of other options- like adoption, or..or...-- and no one's life always works out how they plan and so on...)...

Which brings us back around as to why Christmas sucks. All of that shit gets pushed to the forefront, when on every other day of the year I can at least muddle through thinking my life is actually okay. New Year's is just as bad, in terms of "Who am I going to kiss at midnight?" Heh. I haven't kissed anyone at midnight in.....6 years. And this year I got the sniffles and stayed home, watching Ryan Seacrest and a very old, orange Dick Clark. ( Seriously Dick, it's time to give it up. I'm just sayin': if I were in that shape, no WAY would I appear on television.).

Overall, though, I got some lovely, absolutely lovely gifts and again, escaped relatively unscathed. Now the Christmas decorations are put away, life returns to normal, and I keep my mind focused on how 2010 is going to be so much better than the weird decade prior and the horrible year that was 2009. I suspect I have many cohorts and supporters in this notion. Amen to that, and Blessed be. Blessings to everyone and to every house this year. For real, for sure, yeah.