Saturday, September 17, 2011

86. Foiled Again

86. Foiled Again

How lucky are we, my kids and I, that we have my parents in our lives? From the time both my kids were born, they’ve been there. Actually, I had to kick them out of the delivery room when I started to push Alice out 18 years ago. They’d stuck with me through labor, all 12 hours of it. But when I started the active pushing phase, and I could see their feet under the curtain blocking the door, I said, between agonizing breaths, “go home now.” Then I saw all four feet scurrying away. Now it seems funny. It’s an image locked in my memory jail.

They’ve celebrated every milestone with us: birthdays, divorces (well, luckily only one), marriages, anniversaries, Hanukkahs, school plays, graduations, Bat Mitzvahs. You get the idea. They drive up, or we go to their house. Their house has always been pleasure central for my kids. It’s just five minutes from Disneyland, features a pool (albeit, more like a 300 square foot bathtub) and steady supply of frozen waffles and miniature Dove bars. For some reason, my Mother’s standards have slackened for this generation. If they go outside and it’s cold, she doesn’t make them wear a sweater. If it’s raining outside, she doesn’t make them wear hideous rubber boots. Catch my drift there? And so far, she hasn’t slathered heavy white zinc oxide on their noses and cheeks.

I think the only time they’ve expressed any, any, any sort of imposition of a parenting opinion was when I was deciding to let my 15 year old pierce her nose. I remember my Mom saying, a little sharply, “do you have to let her do that?” But then, my older, multiply pierced, psychologist sister intervened, and she backed off.

I can’t count the number of times they’ve helped me out in jams, pickles and indulgences, like the time one summer when my husband and I were fighting over a trip to Aspen. He wanted me to go with him, and I wanted the kids to come. I eventually came around to his way of thinking, but by then he was so upset, he rescinded his invitation. I reacted by booking a trip for my oldest daughter and me to Hawaii. Mom gamely offered to keep my rambunctious, non-sleeping two and a half year old toddler for five days. Alice and I had a wonderful time. Of course I missed Milly, but I knew she would be well cared for and doted on. A few years later, my sister (yes, the older, multiply pierced, psychologist one,) chided me for leaving my rambunctious, non-sleeping two and half year old toddler with my 75 year old Mother, as she claimed Mom got absolutely no sleep the whole week. (I felt kind of bad about that.)

My Dad, who has come to both rely on, and tread lightly around issues of technology, likes to talk tech with all his sons in law. When they’d come up to my house to baby-sit, we’d try and guide him through the heavy machinery of how to get onto the Internet, how to manage the TV and VCR. At the house I shared with my first husband, he couldn’t even turn the lights on or off because we had a fancy dancy remote control X10 system on the lights. Sure it was convenient for Jeff to be able to turn all the lights on or off from one master control panel, but none of the rest of us could really seem to manage the individual switches. We’d sometimes come home to find Mom and Dad huddled around a desk lamp. One of the very first things I did when we divorced was to hire an electrician to change the switches back to plain old fashioned on and off. I still get a luddite thrill from the click of a wall switch turning the lights off.

So, last night, they came up to stay with, (not baby-sit,) (Milly the twelve year old hates when I say it that way) my one remaining offspring. Her older sister, who had filled that “staying with” role, has wandered off to college by now. Before we left, we explained how to turn on the TV, how to change the channels, how to find Jeopardy and the news on the TIVO like mechanism, and explained that Milly knew how they all operated and to just ask her if they got confused. Dan and I went to a play near by and had a lovely, lovely, much needed night out together.

When we got home, there was no sign of television in the living room. I found them sitting around the dining room table reading. I knew instantly what had happened. It’s not that reading is a foreign art to them. My whole life and childhood was about reading. I just knew that he’d been foiled by the TV controls. And he didn’t want to disturb Milly from her preteen Skyping or supposed homework doing. So, they found some old New Yorkers and sat and read for the ninety minutes we were gone. How frustrating it must be for my poor 86 year old Dad to just want to watch Jeopardy in peace and have no way of figuring out how.

Well, when all is said and done, the evening wasn’t a total loss. We’d all had dinner together, we all got updated on the goings on in our lives, they’d had a chance to see their grandchild and a break from their not so busy, newly retired lifestyle. I’ll always be grateful for their continued presence in our lives, and maybe next time, when they come to baby-sit, I’ll hire a TV tech to help out.

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