Hi honey, I’m home!
Well, as homey as Dallas can be, anyway.
It was a spectacular holiday, if for no other reason than it’s the holiday that in all possibility should never have happened. A split second here, a seat belt there, but who’s counting? The fact is, we all gathered in south-central Texas for another pleasantly small, low-key event (I even endured a full run of “A Christmas Story”, which is like the “Better Off Dead” of the 1950s).
I’d say it was quiet and peaceful, but Fox News and Peace are mutually exclusive and guess which won? I’m betting the farm: Fox is the new crack. People get very edgy, even downright hostile, when you try to divert their attention away from their addictions. I’m fairly certain that I’d go for the jugular myself, if anyone came between me and my Whole Foods organic chocolate truffles, but conveniently, this isn’t about me.
Now, my mother has the legit-est of excuses; I mean, how healthy would you be if you had tissue still inside you that had been dead since May? Such is the lovely socialist medicine (make no mistake: no matter what they tell you, “public option” is essentially the same thing). I digress.
My father, on the other hand, flirts with a combination of dry drunkenness (sober 25 years but I think he holds us responsible for Mom’s highly-justified us-or-it ultimatum), early dementia, and borderline mental illness. I mean, having bare cement floors in your house and those god-awful greenish fluorescent light bulbs to read by would f*ck with anyone’s psyche, but to want to paint your ceilings (in your house, mind you) black in an effort to emulate the decor of Willie Nelson’s Texas Roadhouse?? (No shit.) Come on. “Ambiance” is not the correct term here, padre.
Don’t get me wrong; I love my parents, even–sometimes begrudgingly–my father. As much as we are locked into various levels of on-again, off-again estrangement, we still share our share of good times and plenty of laughs–even when the sense of humor is not exactly up my alley. As screwed up as parts of my childhood were, and as often as I can still be found licking the wounds therefrom, and as deeply as some of the aftereffects have penetrated and unfortunately shaped who I am, I still can’t exactly hold a strong grudge. He did his best, after all. It’s just that there is a sort of relief that can be felt upon entering your own (carpeted) house (with white ceilings) (and being able to take your shoes off) and watching (not Fox News) Family Guy’s new full-length spoofs of Star Wars Episodes IV and V (backlit by normal, everyday incandescent lighting).
Which brings me to another thought or ten: we’re about to move into that same house, long term; is this a good idea? Does it bode well for the mental health of all involved?
Obviously, for whatever reason, I single-handedly have this knack for setting my father off and driving him crazy. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why I serve this special function in his life, but I do. I’ve spent a bit too much time trying to devise coping strategies to minimize direct contact (I mean, we will essentially be using the place as a crash pad to recoup from all the long hours spent 75 miles away, right?
And there is, after all, that attic upstairs, complete with its own bathroom and temperature control. And maybe if we move this furniture in and that furniture over here…)
I oscillate back and forth between feeling like I’m being a spoiled little ingrate and the realization that hey–I have been living on my own (and on my own terms) for the last 14 years and I’ve basically become a completely different person since I last shared a roof with my ‘rents. I’m 32 now, not 18, and I also come with a whole package of complicated accessories: a marriage partner, 2 habitual cats anchored to their daily routine, a politically independent paradigm, special dietary needs, my own truck, a big couch, tons of other furniture, an entire book library, you get the picture. I hardly have the heart nor the energy–nor is it even my place–to enter into a pissing contest with the incorrigible, especially when my existence there is graciously governed by said incorrigible as nothing but a favor to me.
As adult as we are, I’m not exactly sure we could suck it up and lease a living space of our own at this point in time. One more (semi-staggering) bill isn’t all that appetizing to me.
Then again, neither are the inevitable debates-turned-arguments that invariably mushroom cloud between Dad and me after any more than 3 whole days together (which is often a liberal estimate). Because thus far, I’ve gotten by, by biting my tongue and holding everything back, even when I’m right, a strategy that only works for so long. Eventually my desire to set the record straight is going to win out over any sense of diplomacy I ever might have possessed. With any luck, we’ll have an escape route in place by the time that happens, because much like abstinence being the only fool-proof birth control, the only surefire long-term crisis-intervention strategy is to maintain a healthy geographical distance. Until that possibility becomes reality, however, I’ll just have to suck it up, be grateful like I should be, and hope that someday soon, there is a 12-step Fox News recovery program. I’m not holding my breath just yet…