Friday, July 22, 2011

An Inconvenient Truth

I recently went on a GIRL'S TRIP (which should ALWAYS be capitalized) to South Carolina, and my parents watched my three girls while I was gone, and I was going to write a post (and WILL) about my trip, but my adventures in the car, to go and see my parents, and then the dysfunction that went on inside my parents house, ended up warranting it's own post.

Speaking of doors, one of the funniest things, about my parents' house is not only their Sober Valley Ranch Pub (see other post), but the fact that one of their front doors is fake.  I do not mean this, like the door is made of Styrofoam, I mean this, in the way that the front of the house has double doors, but one of them is glued and nailed, I guess, to the living room. Only one of the doors opens, ya dig?   Here I'll just show you a picture to illustrate my point.

Anyway, I drove to Louisville the day before I went on vacation, because I have finally wised up to the fact that it is much easier (for my parents) for me to fly out from Louisville, if they are watching my kids, than for them to meet me in Cincinnati both ways.  I have mentioned that my Mom is on home dialysis, so I haven't talked to her about this, but I am assuming that it makes her life a little easier.

It is NO PICNIC, though, to travel ANYWHERE with my three children, so I definitely need to make a mental note to casually mention what a pain in my ass it is for me, at some later date, because that is just the sort of ungrateful BEEEAAACCHH they raised.

Apparently, I have succeeded in passing along this passive-aggressive trait to all of my children because they are constantly reminding me of how inconsistent I am as a Mother, and everything else I have done wrong in their lives, on a daily basis, this summer.

Finally, one day I asked Mills to keep a running list of everything that is inadequate about me on the our huge chalkboard in the kitchen, so that she can just point to a number, rather than having to strain her little brain to come up with new examples.  If anything, I am efficient when it comes to aiding them in realizing their own smartassnessness.

ANYWAY, among all of the awful, ungrateful things that I have done to my parents over the years, I decided to take along Mills' hermit crab, Tybee, that we got in Georgia that was clearly dead.  You see, while she was away at the lake with her cousins, Tybee's claws began falling off.  We would discover his body parts alongside his painted shell with googly eyes on it that was supposed to resemble a penguin, but I would always compliment Mills on her pet's duck shell, just to irritate her.

SO, Mills comes back from the lake and she is squirting this stuff on him, and is sure that he is still alive, even though he has not emerged from his shell in a week to partake of food or water and he no longer has arms and legs, and I just decided that I would continue with the charade because I was about to go on my Girls Only business trip, and I could not handle the drama that comes along with Mills losing a crustacean pet, again, because it is very painful and arduous for the entire family.

A week before our family vacation, we lost Lilo, the tadpole, who Mills brought back from Indian Princess camp out, which we nurtured for six weeks until he turned into a frog, and then the next day after we had paraded him around the neighborhood as a natural miracle, was floating belly up in his tank.

Therefore, I drove for three and a half hours as Mills sat in the back with Tybee's cage on her lap and listened to her talk to him, and about him. I couldn't help but to be reminded about this scene in Dumb and Dumber.

Now, before you go telling all of your friends that I have the parental coping skills of an umbrella, understand that I had tried to tell her TWICE that Tybee had gone to a better place and she would then break out into hysterics, which caused Hallie to furiously search the Internet for reasons why her hermit crab was still living and then she would acquire HOPE, and her hysteria would subside, so I could get some packing done and she would calm herself down enough to take her tennis lesson, or eat, or swim, or BREATHE, and so finally I just gave up and made the decision to keep the charade alive, so that I could clean the house and get the Hell outta town.

Soooo, we arrive at my parent's house, and I knock on the door that is glued to the living room wall, as I always do, because it gives me sick pleasure, and they open the functional door to greet us and Mills thrusts Tybee and his cage in their face and begins gushing about him effusively, as my parents begin to back away because Tybee's corpse is beginning to decompose while they simultaneously try to mirror her excitement.

"Oh, see," Mills' explains, "Tybee just pooped!  So that PROVES he is still alive and that is why he smells.  He's not dead, he just needed a good POOP!"

There is some glob next to Tybee's painted shell, which in retrospect must have been part of the decomposition process, but she immediately decides that my Dad must clean his cage, and all will be well again.

My Dad immediately gets the look on his face that he always gets when I am pulling some stunt and his eyes scrunch up and he is looking sideways at me and then I usher the kids into the kitchen to partake of the any of the 1,000 varieties of junk my parents stock up on before their visit, and I whisper.  "Look, her crab is dead.  I just can't deal.  This ball's in YOUR court now." and then I ask out loud, "Are we still gonna go to Goose Creek Diner tonight, because I am DYING for their fried green tomatoes and sweet tea."

"Well, sure.  Sure. That sounds good," my Dad says without skipping a beat, because we both LOVE food, and then my Mom comes in, whom we lovingly refer to as Dr. Doolittle, because she truly believes that she can converse with the animals, and then my Dad breaks the news to her I have brought with me a dead hermit crab, and then she gasps, like I knew she would, and says, "Ooooooohhhhh, you're bad." And then, I say, "Well, since you are the animal whisperer, maybe you can bring him back to life."  and then we all laugh and I tell them I am going to take a shower because it has been two days and that I am starving and I go upstairs.

I shower and come down and my Dad says, "I thought you were going to take a shower" because I did not wash my hair because I have discovered dry shampoo, and the kids laugh and we head off in the midst of a torrential downpour because I have a hankerin for fried green tomatoes.

At the restaurant, the kids finish their meals, and I keep feeding them quarters for this ridiculous dispenser that either gives you a tiny floating duck or stickers and the count is uneven amongst the kids, and I just want to eat my meal in peace so I keep digging around in my purse for quarters, as each try is 75 cents, and they each want a duck, but they keep getting stupid stickers, and I run out of quarters, and ask my Dad for a dollar so we can break it with the cashier, which keeps not only my children, but the staff occupied, and you would have thought that I asked him to break a hundred dollar bill.  These are the little nuances that I notice about my parents as an adult, that both miff me and endear me to them as I get older.  And make no mistake, if it were MY childhood, and not my childrens', my Dad would not have given a PENNY for such nonsense, but because he now possesses, as a grandparent, the BEST qualities he ever had as a parent, and then some, he is rooting around in between bites to find quarters to satisfy my girls' every whim.  Unless, he has to break a dollar, that is.

SO, fast forward, I wake up on vacation to see TWO missed calls from my parents' house at 7 am and I panic, and call home and Mills answers on the first ring and whispers in between hyperventilations that Tybee died and that they buried him that morning.

Apparently, Tybee was so stinky that my Dad could no longer keep him in the garage because the stench was beginning to permeate their house and the neighbor's teenage babysitter declared him dead, the night before, when Mills proudly tried to introduce him to her.

I regained my footing because I HATE to see (hear) my child so miserable, and I promptly announced that the day I got home, we would go and get an animal for her because she wanted "her OWN pet" because our 1 1/2 year old Labrador retriever who was delivered at Christmastime and who broke my knee and severed all of my tendons, was not as much fun because she had to share her.

"Okay, when I get home, you can EACH get what you want at the pet store as long as it is not a rodent or mouse-like (we already own these in our garage) and nothing that will die in the next two weeks - so we're talking a fish or a frog and that's it.  Talk amongst yourselves."

Mills perks right up and decides on the spot  that she is getting a goldfish and that she is going to name  it Coco.

I learned later, after I got home, that the morning after Tybee was pronounced "dead" by the babysitter next door, Mills was inconsolable and my Dad took her aside and told her, "Let's just you and me bury Tybee in the backyard and you can make the cross and it will make you feel better."  My Dad, then, fashioned a cross out of two pieces of wood for Mills, which he helped her paint and they buried Tybee together.  When he told me this, I almost cried because I had delivered a virtual shitstorm at the man's doorstep and he handled the situation with compassion, and grace, and love.

It immediately reminded me of all of the times he would hold me when I was a teenager if a boy I liked ignored me at a party, or when I was in middle school and my friends had turned on me and he would take me to get pop rocks and Coke to make me feel better, even though he had NO IDEA what I was going through, but he had the tenacity to empathize with his little girl because she was hurting.

I am so grateful for him and I realize that I have a lot to learn about parenting, but I refuse to let this be an exercise in guilt, as I am prone to do, and instead, I am just going to consider this yet another act of parenting on HIS behalf, concerning ME, because it is summertime, and I am with those kids all of the time, and I am strung out, and he was not only being an ideal grandfather, or "Poppy" as they call him, but also, giving me a break, as HIS child, as he has always done.

My advice to you today, is to value your parents because you just never know how long you will be graced with their presence, and that they always have something to teach you - at every stage of life.  Just as my Dad has taught me to be a parent, good and bad, he is also teaching me how to be a grandparent one day, in a sense.  I just hope I can rise to the challenge and make him proud on both fronts.

Also, don't buy a hermit crab who lives in a gigantic crate with five thousand other crabs and is from a Southern state that is riddled with humidity and then stick them in an air conditioned Mid-Western home by themselves in a crate 1/100th of the size they have grown accustomed to.  I don't care HOW cute the shell is painted. Apparently, even though Tybee was showered with love from his new Human adoptive mother, he died from the temperature change and from lack of interaction with his peers.

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