My sister-in-law, Jana, aspires to what she calls, Susie's "laissez faire parenting methods." Jana was proud that she waited 2 days for the cheaper non-weekend x-ray window to take my niece in with her most recent arm injury. Like my mom, I don't think I'd go to the doctor unless a child lost the arm. Smart phone healthcare is my method. I text our pediatrician images of the kids' goopy pinkeyes or write descriptions of their ailments, and he invariably writes back "bring them in at the end of the week if they have a prolonged fever..."
The really crappy thing is that my mom's partner, Dick, IS dying. After 6 months of her saying, "It's not fatal; it's allergies!" or "You just need to get back into shape!" They got a horrid diagnosis of ALS. My mom's and Dick's ability to switch gears and accept that has been an inspiration. I didn't inherit the "coping with things that suck but are out of my control" gene. I think about it while I'm throwing pots and start crying. I had a ridiculous moment of solace the other day. Terry Gross was interviewing Hugh Laurie, the man who plays Doctor House. Dick absolutely adores House. They were discussing the fact that the series is about to end, and all I could think was, "Thank God! Dick won't miss any House episodes."
I know I regularly put my craziness on display in this blog and in my everyday conversation. I think I'm doing it with a detached irony that lets people know that I really am sane, but it's not working. I got a call from a gallery the other day. The first message was cryptic, "Liz, I need to talk to you about the special order from last week." The second message was, "Liz, we really need to talk about what you sent to the store." I'd taken a special order for a serving bowl, but I'd sent a vase for a previous order. I laughed when I got ahold of him. "Steve! I didn't confuse the special order! I haven't made it yet. That vase was from an order you made in March." He responded, "OH! Wow, I had a speech all prepared about how you might be taking too much on." I told him to save the speech. He might need it later on. I did spend the rest of the afternoon wondering exactly how crazy he thinks I am.
I had another recent brush with someone else's assessment of my sanity. I had a disastrous night out with Lisa and Heather. I was going to take them out for their birthdays. Lisa who is a wedding planner at Loew's Hotel said, "Just come here; I can comp dinner." Stingy as I am, I accepted. Unfortunately, Heather had been out for a spa day with her friend Fiona. Heather's mother in law had given Fiona a credit card and told her and Heather to make a day of it. A lot of wine was involved, so they arrived at Loew's, 2 barely-standing puddles. Lisa and I tried to shove carbs into them during dinner, but that didn't stop Fiona from hitting on the waiters (Lisa's co-workers) and throwing a drink over her shoulder onto the floor. The birthday night turned into a group therapy session for Fiona whose marriage is not so great and who is, apparently, harrowed by apparitions of dead people.
One would think that Lisa and I would see the bad effects of alcohol on the girls and drink accordingly. Our coping mechanism, instead, was to join them. After tipping the waiters magnanimously to ensure that they not discuss Lisa's disastrous dinner guests with the Loew's higher ups, we headed off to another bar. Finally, at Fiona's insistence on a "boogie," we ended up at Woody's, a gay dance club. Lisa and I have been friends since she was born and I was 3 months old. We are not, normally, ones to go to a club for a boogie, but dancing with Lisa and a bunch of gay guys (Tanner Kok included) was a BLAST. We shook the visions of dead people and bad engineer husbands right off until we were retrieved by a door man to deal with an apoplectic Fiona. Heather had fallen off of a chair and been kicked out of the club. Unable to find Fiona, she had left with all of Fiona's belongings.
Fiona was so livid about her bag that she almost sobered up as she screamed about Heather's lack of loyalty. I took control and told Lisa to get Fiona to our neighborhood on the train. I'd ride my bike to Heather's house to get the bag and meet them at the station. Fiona's husband had been expecting her home at about 3 that afternoon. He had been in conversation all night with Heather's husband, Rene, who had held similar expectations for Heather's arrival home. The last time I had a girls' night with Heather, she woke in the middle of the night, fell, and hit her head on a coffee table. According to Rene, when I breathlessly arrived at his door for Fiona's bag, that was my fault as was Heather's getting kicked out of Woody's. I was incredulous. I screamed something about all I had done that night for his drunken wife and her drunken friend. As I ran out with the bag to go to the train station, I sent him a succinct text for emphasis, "YOU SUCK"
When I was in boarding school and ran into some discipline problems, my mom blamed them on Jennie Engstrom. That was as ridiculous as Rene's blaming Heather's behavior on me. My favorite Jennie story is that she moved to Vail after college. For years she was a ski bum. She dated a guy from Mississippi named Gil Fancher. Gil, too, was a ski bum. Every time I'd go visit, they'd take care of me and all my friends. Ski equipment and ski passes would magically appear. Gil Fancher was the mayor of the mountain. After they married, Gil got a little more serious about getting a real career and went into real estate. (Their wedding was fabulous. Jennie's super-preppy sister had all of us bridesmaids in wacky Lilly Pullitzer ensembles. Jennie's blue blood parents, William and Mary partied down with Gil's parents, Butch and Cookie at a ranch.) Gil Fancher was not cut out for a desk job. One afternoon, he couldn't take it anymore. He left his empty real estate office to go ski. On the chair lift he introduced himself to a man who was there to buy a ranch. I believe the man ended up buying not one, but 2 multi-million dollar ranches using Gil as his realtor. I envy Gil his immunity to the Puritan work ethic that plagues me and Tim. His role is the Mayor of the mountain, and his job is to schmooz.
These roles are set at birth. Steel is the craftsperson (Although she didn't get into the "week after Easter dying eggs because all of the Easter stuff at SuperFresh was on sale" project. Tim came home to me, by myself, in the yard tie-dying Easter eggs a week after Easter Sunday. The kids had all left me for the neighbors house because they get to play with an iPad over there.) Toby's role has always been the Homecoming Queen waving from her float. Last week, she came to our bed in the middle of the night and slept with us. I woke up pissed because she lay horizontally in between Tim and me. I thought I'd gotten the short end of that stick because she kicked me in the face all night long. She'd been slamming her skull into Tim's head, so I actually made out well. I lay there with Toby as she awakened. She was waving her little outstretched fat hand muttering, "HI! Good morning!" I asked her who she was waving to, and she said, "The birds!" Of course all of the birds in the back yard were there to see her!
My role has never been the bad influence friend. I'm the hard working one parents assumed would keep things above board. Rene has apologized twice for his accusations, but the idea that his brain chose ME as the problem is so shocking. I joked to him when I walked in the door about his never letting his wife go out with me, and he took that ball and ran with it. Clearly I'm no longer in a position to joke about such things.