This will come out wrong but here goes, the day Husband’s mother died was a sad and humiliating one - for me. It was sad for the obvious reasons, his mother died. There is not much sadder than loosing a parent. Well, there might be but I don’t want to spend time thinking about it. And it was humiliating because, well, because I'm me.
Husband was just Boyfriend then. When his Sister-in-Law called and said his mom was not doing well, he’d asked me to come with him to in Scotland to see her. It was the week before Thanksgiving and his mom was in the end stages of liver cancer. It was a horrible time to meet his family for the first time but we were getting serious and I wanted to be there for him so off I went.
When we got there, his mom was too ill to visit with anyone other than family. Quite frankly, I was terrified she wouldn’t like me so, I was okay that they didn't want to subject her to me. In Scotland, the doctors and the nurses will come to your home so his mom's hospice care was the lower floor of the house. As Boyfriend’s support I was mostly just in the way so I spent that week up in the room at the top of the stairs reading mystery books, thinking deep thoughts about life and death and watching lots of British TV. My mother had just had a bone marrow transplant so I was very familiar with the distresses that cancer brings and I just tried to be there when he needed me. When his mother passed away a few days later, the family was busy calling people and dealing with her effects and I was at even more of a loss for how I could help. I alternated between trying to make tea and hiding upstairs. And then somehow, I ended up in the parlor with Boyfriend’s Father and his mother’s sister, Auntie.
Now, in situations where I’m uncomfortable, I get stupid and giggly and don’t think straight. And when I don’t think straight, I say the most inappropriate things. And there is not much more uncomfortable than me sitting in the parlor with the Boyfriend’s Father and Auntie after they have just lost their best friend, their sister, their wife.
I sat there, in the parlor on the fussy couch, all twitchy with self-conscious feelings and they sat on opposite ends of the room in silence. They weren’t talking to each other. They weren’t talking to me. The silence was smothering me. And so my nervous brain decided that this would be the perfect time to tell the joke I’d heard Billy Connolly tell on TV the night before. The totally inappropriate joke that should never be told to your prospective in-laws and most definitely not just after they have lost a wife and sister. And yet, I told it...
Awkward booming silence:
ME: (throat clear) So I heard this great Billy Connolly joke the other day. Would you like to hear it?
More awkward silence. I should have stopped here but I don’t listen when my brain says stop. Or even my brain yells STOP, THIS IS A BAD IDEA.
ME: Soooo he said when you’re over 60 there are three things you should never do. Never pass up a chance to pee. Never trust a fart. And…
It was at this point I realized what I was doing, where I was, what joke I was telling and I tried to stop. Really, I did. But then Boyfriend walked into the room and I made it worse. I involved him.
ME: (stuttering) Um... I was just telling the joke I heard Billy Connolly tell last night… you know the one when you’re over 60 there are three things... um.... you should never do. Ah... the first was, um, never pass up a chance to pee. And the... the second...um, was never trust a fart. And…
And Boyfriend wasn't really listening. He shot me a look. A look that said, “What the hell are you talking about?” look. There was no real way out so I played dumb.
ME: Um… I’m not sure what the punch line is….
Boyfriend didn’t get that I was stalling. He shot me another look but didn’t fill the silence. I was forced to continue. Silence is my nemesis.
ME: Um… Never pass up a chance to pee. Never trust a fart. Never waste an…
And then Boyfriend realized what joke was telling.
And what the punch line was.
And he tried to stop me but it was too late. Boyfriend started speaking just as I shouted the punch line -
ME: ... ERECTION! NEVER WASTE AN ERECTION!
And I thrust my arm into the air and shook it.
The room was silent. You could hear my cheeks catch fire and burn me up. You could hear the rain on the roof three rooms above us. You could hear Boyfriend's brain calculate the risks of helping me out of this situation and then stop as he came to the conclusion that it was a no win.
Boyfriend looked at me, his head shaking slightly, lips pursed, and then he stood up and LEFT THE ROOM. Leaving me with my future Father-in-Law and my future Auntie and the awkward, awful stench of a joke gone wrong.
And what happens when I’m in uncomfortable situations? I tell inappropriate stories. And what’s more uncomfortable than having just told a Billy Connelly joke at a kind of wake…?
ME: Soooo when my brother turned 18, I talked my mother into giving him a Playboy magazine…
My first Thanksgiving away from home, I spent in a crummy apartment over a Chinese restaurant, complete with crack head living on the floor above. But it was a blast.
I'd moved to New York City for school when I was in my late teens. My mother had told me we didn’t have the funds for me to come home so I was stuck in NYC. Totally crushed at first, my mood turned around when I realized the boy I was dating wasn’t going home either. Suddenly, I wasn’t sad and mopey anymore. I was thrilled. I felt I was suddenly staring in a movie, the college kind, where hijinks and crazy stupid antics happen. And just like the movies, Thanksgiving in NYC was going to be so exciting.
A few of us not going home arranged to have a dinner. One of my fellow students, “Bob”, agreed to host and I agreed to help cook. I don’t know what I was thinking, offering to cook. I’m not a cook now and back then I was even less of a cook. But I got caught up in the excitement and offering to help cook seemed like the thing to do so offer I did.
Bob’s girlfriend was visiting. She was a senior in high school and, in my opinion, she was hoping to make herself into Bob’s fiancee before the end of the trip. We were put in charge or, or volunteered to be in charge of the kitchen. I’m not sure which it was. All I know is that Bob’s Girlfriend and I ended up in the kitchen attempting to put together a meal – the non cook and the wanna be wife. Not a great plan at all.
The turkey seemed pretty easy, once we got past to stuff or not to stuff dilemma. We went for not stuffing since we found the whole thing gross and the poor turkey had been through enough. We prepped the massive thing, both of us squealing at any bird to skin contact, turned on the oven to preheat it and put that slugger in. Job done, Bob’s girlfriend and I set about boiling the potatoes for the mashed potatoes and prepping the rest of the sides while she pumped me for information about Bob.
It’s at this point I should probably mention we were cooking on a gas range. It was the kind that had an oven below and a cooker on top. It was nothing like the electric one I’d grown up with. And nothing like the electric stove Bob’s girlfriend’s mother cooked on. Neither one of us had ever cooked with gas before. So, neither one of us knew about pilot lights on gas stoves and how sometimes they needed to be lit. And Bob neglected to mention that while the pilot light on his stove was always lit, the gas oven wasn't.
We didn’t light it. We didn't know.
And that's why Bob’s girlfriend and I were in the kitchen, giggling away at all the silly things that boys do or say when the gas building up in the oven reached the fire under the boiling potatoes aaaand BOOOOM! The oven blew open with a baaaang and pretty flames in pretty colors and I was no longer giggling over things silly boys do. I was crying over my lost eyebrows and singed eyeballs.
None of us were quite equipped to deal with the fall out, the literal fall out, of an exploded oven. All of us stood around waiting for a grown-up to step up and do something but no one in the room was enough of an adult to have a clue. I was the one that took the blast to the face; I was useless dealing with anything other than the pain. I was also too cool to actually admit I should probably go to the hospital. The rest of the crew was too drunk to really come up with a plan other than sit me on the couch, slather me in lotion, plant a glass in my hand and keep it filled with booze. And so, by 11:30am on Thanksgiving, I was eyebrow-less, eyelash-less, with singed, crispy, over lubricated skin and drunk.
Very, VERY drunk.
And that is why, despite the explosion, it was the best Macy's Thanksgiving Parade I’ve ever seen. Or kind of slightly seen. I had to keep my eyes closed as my lenses had been fried, much like the whites of an egg. So, I guess it would be more accurate to say it was the best Macy's Thanksgiving Parade I’ve ever heard. And the best turkey I never ate. Because, unlike Brother, who got to have a mellow Thanksgiving in California with Mom, I was able to say my first Thanksgiving in NYC was a blast.
I didn’t budget my time properly this morning; forgot I have to work, forgot to take out the trash and stuck my head back under the pillow for some more wonky dreaming when I should have gotten up. So, uninspired and unawake, I’m going to tease you with my coming posts on Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is next week. I know lots of folks have precious memories of their past Thanksgiving holidays. Mine, of course, are tinged with awkward moments and embarrassing over-shares. And though August, according to my brother, is when I go crazy, Thanksgiving seems to be when everyone else around me goes nuts.
Sometimes literally: One spectacular Thanksgiving, we spent the in the psych ward with Jesus and his friends. No lie.
What’s to come? There’s the “How I learned Billy Connelly jokes are NOT appropriate for wakes” story.
Intrigued? Oh, it gets better.
Only I seem to be able to link Thanksgiving with my family and threesomes. Yep, you read that right. Thanksgiving. My family. Threesomes. A jolly story, which leads right into a Christmas tale about me, a party, a date and a vibrator.
So join me, as tomorrow I’ll start my trip down wacky Thanksgiving lane with my first Thanksgiving in New York.
When we first moved into this house Nashville, I spent and hours standing at the windows staring into the woods. It was too wet, too cold to be outside and the inside of the house was too depressing to spend anytime looking at it so I planted myself at the windows and I watched. But really, outside there was such excitement, such life I could not look away. Deer were prancing about, birds were having flirtations and fights and make-up dancing, and the chipmunk soap opera was like nothing I’ve seen on TV. Even with the trees a bare as they were, the colors of the plants were intense.
Every so often, while zoning out in front of the picture window, I would hear this sound. It was almost like a horn but it was obviously coming from a creature. Somewhat like a train whistle combined with a long time drinker down on his luck asking “Whoo coooks for yooou?” at dusk. I’d never heard anything like it before and it drove me nuts that I could not identify who it was coming from. Every time I heard it, I would stop and stare hard in the direction it had come from, eyes darting about, hoping to catch movement but I saw nothing.
And then one day I spotted him. It was like those pictures people send around on Facebook where you have to make out a face and if you do in five seconds, your day will be lucky. I never spend time on them because, quite frankly, I don’t need to add that superstition to my list of things to worry about but, when I spotted him, I sure felt lucky. He was tucked in tight on a bare branch near the trunk of the tree deep in the forest, barely visible, staring right at me. At first he was just eyes in a patchy brown face but then he shifted to turn and I saw all of him. Owl, in all his haughty glory.
Once I spotted him, Husband and I looked for him every day. Every time I left the house, I’d look for him as I crept up the driveway to the road. Husband would throw ball with Tigger the Dog and watch the tree line for contact. I would find myself at the dining room window, my eyes darting about until I spotted him tress. He was my ‘Where’s Waldo’ excitement every day. Owl and I, we stared each other for hours, for days on end. He was far enough back that I wasn't a worry. And he was close enough to me that I could watch him and not feel like I was in his way.
A few weeks after I spotted him, we heard him chatting with another Owl, a call and response sort of flirting. “How yooou doooing?” Then we spotted the female as she flew over to sit on a branch near him and continue the date, the two of them hollering back-and-forth in bursts of conversation. A few days of this and then suddenly we witnessed the sweet 5 seconds of lovemaking. Lovemaking that we thought was a fight at first but turned out to be just lovemaking with a lack of foreplay. It was awesome. I was a animal voyeur.
Later we watched them share parenting, tucked in on the nest they’d built in the hollow of a tree just across the road. Owl would skim down and catch a squirrel or chipmunk and fly up to the nest and feed baby. Or Mrs. Owl would perch on a near by branch, taking a moment for herself as she watched the squirrel traffic below. Just before I left town for the summer I got to see baby, all fluffy feathers and eyeballs attempting wobbly flight around our yard.
We didn’t know then that there was more than one baby. I was not here when the two babies, Larry and Moe, gave Husband a once over while sitting on the play structure.
I missed them sitting on the kitchen deck and letting him get a good look at the competition.
And since I've been home I've only caught glimpses of them flying the sky swooping down for dinner. But even that small sighting makes me happy.
Because Owl wasn’t my first Owl. I had one outside my room in Kenya singing me goodnight. And when I was a teen and my world was an angst-y mess of hormones and hate, I would spend my breaks in the Zoo section of the Junior Museum and Zoo with their Owl. He lived in a large circular cage, exposed to the elements at the front and sheltered at the back. I would sit on a bench in the dark sheltered section, sharing my horrific life woes with Owl through steady eye contact and soft confessional whispers. And Owl would tilt his head, listen and nod, understanding my anxiety and fears, letting me know things would be brighter soon. And after my therapy session with Owl, I would head back to the theatre calmer and with less teenage mean.
Here, Owl - and Mrs. Owl and Larry and Moe - have the same effect. Knowing he’s out there, that they are out there can make even the darkest days light.
The leaves are slowly shifting themselves off the trees and onto the ground. I'm finding myself back at the window waiting and watching. Hoping to catch a glimpse my friend, Owl. The first one to welcome me to this new home.
I have this friend, Bobby - not his real name. Honestly, he’d probably not mind me using his real name but I’m going to call him Bobby for now. Anyway, Bobby has had everything possible go wrong in his life and with his body and he still manages to face the world with a smile. Not only a smile, Bobby spends his time working actively to make others laugh, most of the time at the expense of his body and always at the expense of everyone’s core decency. He was once voted third worst comic in a showcase and wore that title as a badge of honor.
Bobby’s life has been filled with so many WTF moments that everyone kept telling Bobby to write them down. Last year, Bobby finally did. Three times a week, while hooked up to his dialysis machine, he’d type out his life stories. They were often filled with misspellings and typos - he was typing them out with one hand - but they were, they are the most fascinating factoids I’ve read. Almost every story results in me shaking my head, mouth ajar and stuttering out the words, “No way. No f-ing way.”
Bobby has had, in no particular order – mostly because I have no idea what order they should be in – a hip replacement, a kidney replacement, a second kidney replacement, a dozen broken bones, a gallbladder removed, weekly dialysis, a body piercing, was hit by a car putting him in a full body cast, a self circumcision, and more, many many more. Last year, he was hospitalized at least five times for five different surgeries.
And his upbringing has been equally exciting. Bobby has been abandoned, adopted, fostered, lost his blood mother to suicide, called child services himself when his grandparent was no longer able to care for him, adopted and has now been married for a million years.
I’m sure I’ve got this information wrong because it's hard to process it all. Just one of these things would shatter me. Just one single thing that has happened to him, physically or emotionally, would bring me to my knees. Just one single event would make me question why bother going on, and yet he does. Usually with a smile and a horribly inappropriate joke that’ll make you cringe while laughing.
Friday, Bobby posted that he’d almost lost his life. He was in the hospital for repair of a fracture, a possible hip replacement and the removal and diagnosis of a mass. They’d discovered all these issues because Bobby couldn’t get up and walk after sitting in a rehearsal. His post as they got ready to wheel him down the hallway ended with “A new day, a new scar….” Apparently his body didn’t handle the pain meds and he almost “…became a thing of dust.”
Bobby is a pain in the ass. A funny, annoying, infuriating pain in the ass. But life would be incredibly boring without Bobby in it. Here is hoping he makes it through and that this hospital visits is just another fact to add to his book. Here is hoping that one day, Bobby’s book gets made into a movie and Hollywood actors are fighting to play the part of Bobby. Here is hoping that movie wins an Oscar and Bobby gets to get up in front of a microphone and give a speech because that is an awards show I’d like to watch.
Get well Bobby. I’m not done riding the roller-coaster that is your life.
My name is ej. I'm a girl. I say that because with the short hair and the short initials, folks aren't always sure. More brilliant insights to who I am in About me