Category Archives: dad

Salami and red wine for supper

One of the nice things about being a grown-up is that if no one is looking, you can have chocolate cake and soda for breakfast, or, you know, whatever.  It’s up to you to screw up your nutrition, or something like that.

I didn’t know that one of the things I’d miss the most about being married would be having someone with whom to split a bottle of wine over supper.  Still, though, I do.

Dad’s a sober alcoholic and unable to resist projecting his experience over everyone else as the Universal Truth(tm) so the minute I have more than one drink at a time, or one drink more than one time a week, he gets shit-headedly (it’s a word, shut up) condescending and hysterical about whether I need to tune-up my meds or see my shrink or somesuch.  I ignore it, since, erm, I’m the one taking meds and routinely engaging in mental health care, Mr. Self-Medicating, but it’s annoying.  (And also, all the drunks on both sides of our family drink G&T’s, so I think I am smart enough about my own drinking to 1) avoid gin, and 2) not drink when I really, really want a drink.)

There is also the fact that I’m a food snot.  It’s not enough for the wine to be “red” or “white” and therefore it goes with supper– it’s got to be a restrained Pinot Noir or an off-dry Riesling or some other first world problem of food and wine pairings.  When the ex and I were still together, we could keep a middling red and a middling white both open over a week without either getting sloshed at dinner every night, or letting the good wine go off before we could finish it up.  The in-laws were likewise pretty sensible– no one looked at you askance if you had a second Prosecco while you were waiting for the gas grill to preheat.

Every so often, though, my niece runs my dad ragged and he’s too tired to eat– which means I don’t have to make something low-salt, light in fat, and vegetable centric for the 73 year old diabetic heart patient with COPD.  And then… then, I can slice up some good hard Italian salami, a few chunks of provolone, and load up a bowl of cherries to eat with the perfect $15.00 Nero d’Avola, and eat that while reading at the table– and then pour myself that second glass while I polish off the rest of the cherries.

It’s not cake for breakfast.  It’s better.


You may call me the cream cheese assassin

Me:  (Smears cream cheese onto the back of the really good oatmeal cookies from work.  Hand one to Dad, keep one for me.)

Dad: (Eats one bite, eyeing cookie skeptically.  Chews.  Swallows.  Snarfs the rest.  Clears throat.)  Are you TRYING to kill me?  (Grabs for the tub of cream cheese.)

(Easier than) waiting around to die

(Trigger warnings for discussions of suicidality, family drama, and other A+ parenting issues.  Also, as usual, language.  This is a sort of undecided, sort of open-ended piece because I need to tweak my meds again and am feeling more than a little blue, but I have already called my shrink & let my therapist know I feel lousy, in case you’re wondering.)

I read some author’s line someplace that we sometimes feel like can’t be who we really are until everyone who’s known us is dead.  Sometimes, it’s even true by circumstances of money or other constraints– you don’t have the freedom to tell other people and their expectations to go screw, and sometimes just heading out for the hills and reinventing yourself somewhere, somewhen else is not in the cards. Continue reading

Decisions, decisions (it’s only dinner)

I didn’t make supper tonight.

Is that a failing or a freedom?  I don’t really know.  It is a decision, though whether it’s a capital D Decision or a small decision just for the right thing I needed today, I’m not really sure.  I do know I started to assemble things out of the fridge, all knackered out, and then looked at the ingredients out on the board in the pantry and said to myself– no.  I don’t want to.

When I came in, my dad had been sitting there for at least a half hour, snacking on all the various food he didn’t have to cook or reheat that was there in the house– and I was just wrung out when I came in on automatic and started to housewife, you know, in the ways that we do.

I didn’t want to, though.  I’m not hungry, because I’m upping the dose of the particular meds that kill my appetite dead (anorexic anti-convulsants, woohoo!), and also because I had a late snack/drink at the store in accordance with the preset alarms I’ve got in my phone and which I obey whether or not I am hungry, on the hard lesson learned that your body needs fuel whether your stomach feels like it or not.  But– having had protein and some carbs and some veggies on three occasions today, not to mention too much caffeine and other fluids, the idea of doing it all again just because I have let my dad get into the habit of me doing the cooking made me kind of sick to my stomach, physically and mentally, too.

Instead, I said– sorry, I was really just tired, I didn’t know what to cook & didn’t feel like eating in any event, and that there were X & Y leftovers to heat in the fridge & I was going to bed.  Dad did not understand the not hungry thing, so I explained, for the fourth time in two weeks, about not being hungry with the increased dose of the meds and feeling grossed out by food– and then retired upstairs.

I supposes it’s a measure that the increase dosage is working that I didn’t have a temper tantrum of rage or start crying because he just can’t pay any attention to what’s going on outside his own head.  And I suppose it’s good, too, that I still feel pretty calm and chill about the fact that I said no, sorry, I’m not your wife or your nurse, feed yourself, and am not feeling horribly guilty or like a terrible mooch.  The fact is, I do buy a lot of the food, cook & clean, do the yard work & heavy lifting.  If it’s not money, it’s still work, and it’s value– and valuable.  I’m starting to know that.

There will be a time when my dad can’t “do” for himself at all anymore, including the cooking, and then I will have to take care of him whether I feel like it or not– but right now he can, whether or not I’ve fairly/unfairly stepped into the cook/caretaker role in an attempt to pick up some of the slack my not paying rent leaves.  He taught me how to cook, after all– if he’s too tired to do it, well, then we’re both in that boat.  Any stupid decisions he makes about salt intake or junk food or excess fat or calories are just that– stupid, small-d decisions, rather than life-impacting Decisions that are the product of someone who’s senile, demented, or some other process of aging or illness.

Maybe, for example, an Illness Decision could be: someone who’s manic-depressed and making bad life choices instead of self-caring ones because they’re not really lucid?  Then again, Bad Life Choices can be really good learning experiences,  even if it takes a while in the rearview to bring them into perspective.  I think skipping dinner, though, isn’t so big as that.

Ask me next week.

One man’s trash

… is another man’s treasure, isn’t that the saying?  That little set of six glasses, espied through the window of a vintage stuff & art gallery called Hudson’s at MassMOCA in North Adams, was priced for $25.00.  I have a set just like it– maybe?

The set belonged to my mother, and she picked it up for some cheap price at some church white elephant, because she had notions of what kinds of things one was supposed to own in order to maintain a proper household.  When she moved to California to express her displeasure that I wasn’t giving her granchildren find her bliss in the sunshine, she pushed them off on me along with other sundry glassware, some of which I wanted because it had been my grandmother’s, and most of which I thought was just junk.

I say maybe I own something like it, because I really cannot recall if it’s sitting, wrapped in a box in the basement, unused with my grandmother’s china and other still-wanted possessions, or if I took the chance of leaving my husband to give it to the AIDS Action Committee thrift shop for them to sell to someone who might think that six tiny pressed-glass cordials or whatever the hell you call them would somehow make your life more complete than if you just bought some all-purpose lowballs at Ikea or Crate & Barrel.  Who knows?  Maybe the owner of this shop bought this very set from the Boomerang in JP, and it’ll bring someone else way more use and pleasure than it ever brought me, cluttering up the bottom shelf of the hutch full of shit I didn’t use and had had foisted on me by family insisting on the right way to set a table, entertain, put on a spread?

Seeing that set in the window got me thinking about the things that we keep and the things we discard– not so much that I’m going to go hunting downstairs through my stuff– but in terms of the trash versus treasure conundrum, and how invested we get in other people validating our treasure, and telling us how lovely it and therefore we are. Failing to take an interest in the same things as you is taken as a wholesale rejection of you as a person (and heck, sometimes it is but I do have some manners and usually manage to be polite, but asking for pom-poms and a brass band is too much).  That perceived rejection is a cause for drama, accusation, pouting, shaming, guilt or outrage (I don’t know your family, I just know mine, all those options are possible, sometimes within the span of five minutes), and if you dare state anything as inflammatory as a disagreeing opinion, you’re a terrible person.

You’re trash, in a word, for rejecting someone else’s treasure.  (Though you haven’t, you’ve just said you don’t want any yourself.)

People mistake the collections of objects they amass for pleasure and success, and project that mistaken impression of accumulation of happiness via stuff onto you, in a nutshell.  Go your own way, and you’re telling them that you think they’re all wrong.  It’s not that, necessarily (though sometimes it is, and sometimes it only becomes that after our progenitors start insisting you follow The Old Ways) but changing the arrangement and type of objects is deeply unsettling to some, and the lack of stuff is even moreso.  When I tell people I don’t have a TV or a car, it earns me these looks– and when I look at the house I have only one room in and think– the things I could do if I could get rid of all of this stuff– well.  I’m sure it’s crazy to some.  But I like not having to deal with the weight of so many things (or wanting them, any more) physically & mentally taking up space that could be better spent swinging into warrior pose, or spreading out in a sunny patch on the rug with a shelf-space conserving Nook.

In the two years that most of my stuff has been in the basement, there have been maybe four times when I’ve needed something.  Maybe it is time, in fact, to go down and unpack– not for keeping’s sake, but shed to even more.

Therapy homework (1-b)



I did a better job after a good, cathartic too-many-drinks with strangers gettin’ my drunk on & long, much-needed twelve hour sleep at listing some things that my dad has done right to be appreciative/positive/non-critical, or has done things that have made me uncomplicatedly happy since I moved in with him.   (Yeah, every four years or so I get four-drinks wasted.  I’m a cheap date.)

And now that I’m writing this I can think of two more:  buying me my DSLR and my smartphone, with which I took the above photo.

Therapy homework (1)

I started to see a new therapist just last week and while of course these things take time, it seemed to go well in that he listened and re-framed what I’d said and was actually kind of quickly & scarily perceptive about my main issues– though I had actually put together a list of things I knew were issues and had made a point to talk about them and my concerns about being stuck in particular ruts or being afraid about where certain things in my life right now were leading me toward.

Without boring you with a ton of the details here, one of the things I brought up was the problems I’ve been having with my dad, both long-term and of late, and how he’s really been getting under my skin and how I’ve been so wound up about him and about everything else that the temptation to be awful to him in retaliation for real thoughtlessness & inattention & old-dog-new-tricks stubborness & his self-destructiveness around his own health when his November hospitalization led to the diagnosis, in no uncertain terms, that he could change the way that he ate or he could be dead in a year.

All my responsibility & need for appreciation & guilt at not paying my way (which is bs but still) quirks and all my inner child crap that rebels every time he never says thanks or interrupts or tells me how to do a job he knows nothing about or… everything else– it’s a bad, toxic combination right now.  And I don’t want to kick him while he’s down.  But I do want to stand up for myself, and I always anticipate all the ways it will explode because he’s an unmedicated bipolar & so completely unpredictable (and sometimes just viciously mean or just a flat-out-screamer) that I often just don’t. I don’t want to continue to silence myself, though, or what the hell was the point in leaving the husband?

My therapist gave me homework to do while I’ve been on vacation:  to try to think of positive things about my dad.

It’s been hard, because every time I try to think of something nice there’s a counterpoint that says “except when he uses X characteristic to bludgeon you into compliance.”  His desire to share knowledge is also a desire to be a know it all and show off and he never lets you get a word in that yes, he’s told you before or yes, you actually read the review of the show before you attended it, thanks.  His desire to tell me how to behave at work has more to do with all the times he’s gotten himself fired from a job for being outspoken, but his outspoken = drunk & unmedicated, and mine = medicated and in a legitimate open door corporate culture.  The lectures just raise my hackles and make me feel stupid.  And I cannot get out of his way, or more accurately, he is always underfoot, and then he gets mad at me when he’s wandering around the kitchen like a zombie while I’m cooking supper and trying to use the small space to feed us & do something creative.

I am still feeling really conflicted and angry, I guess. But here we go:  some good things:

He remembered that I like W.S. Merwin & got me the Library of America for Christmas this year. And a collection of Mary Oliver’s prose, the only book of hers I didn’t own.

He’s mostly stopped questioning if I’m going to finish everything on my plate, and mostly stopped huffing when I pull my plate away from him when we’re out to eat and I leave half for lunch the next day.

He can every once in a while be counted upon to cook steak tips for supper, which are pretty much one of my favorite food groups.

He tries, tries again.  He sometimes succeeds.  He was trying harder to be less grumpy last week.  It wasn’t perfect, and he didn’t apologized when he did snap at me, but he did at least get the hell over himself PDQ.

… And… that’s it right now, which is sad, that those are only things I can think of that don’t come wih some flip side when he’s being an ass.  But I’ll work on it some more.