Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tales of the Visit So Far

The trip to San Marcos yesterday went well, though it was very tiring. Gwen called in the morning to tell me that she was worried that their rickety dining table chairs wouldn't hold Bill and Mary's weight. She was worried about an uncomfortable situation happening, and wanted TJ and me to somehow (without them knowing) arrange for Bill and Mary to sit on the couch with their lunch on tray tables. TJ said they wouldn't want to and wouldn't be able to lean forward to eat (that hadn't occurred to me, but it's true), so we brought a couple of folding chairs instead. I'm not sure what chairs they ended up sitting on, but there were no embarrassing mishaps.

Gwen was also calling because she wanted me to warn Bill and Mary that Joel (who has schizophrenia) sometimes says inappropriate things to people, like telling you you're fat or that your breath smells or that you're sexy. I suppose she was worried he'd comment on their weight. He's told Gwen she's fat before, and my parents are like toothpicks next to TJ's (which is saying something).

So armed with this knowledge, we were off like a herd of turtles yesterday. TJ was frustrated with his parents that we got off to a late start. Then, in the car, they started making jokes about Joel. Asking if he lived in an insane asylum. Bill asked (jokingly) if he lived in the Southeast Los Angeles Home for the Criminally Insane. (He lives in an assisted living facility for mentally ill people outside of LA.) The two of them were feeding off each other and laughing. TJ finally said, "Hey, HEY. You need to remember that this is Gwen's brother. His name is Joel. Stop making jokes about him. It's not funny." I was grateful to him for saying this. He has the ability to be very blunt with them, and I don't feel comfortable doing that as their daughter-in-law.

My dad and Joel came out to meet us when we got there, and Joel introduced himself to Bill and Mary. I could tell he made them a little uneasy (it can be unsettling talking with him if you've never experienced anything like it before), but they handled it pretty well. At one point Joel told Mary that he'd seen her the last time he was there. She said, "Oh . . ." I almost laughed to see Mary speechless!

Gwen said that Joel had been agitated and antagonistic towards her this visit, and I saw that firsthand (it was disturbing), but he was very sweet to us. He took me back to his room and showed me his swimsuits, and I asked him about Grandpa, his dad, who died a year ago. Joel clearly understands that he's gone, but sometimes he talks about him as though he were still alive. He said he misses him a lot, and told me about how his dad had to grow his hair really long when he was sick so he could protect himself (or something like that). He also told me that "all of Mexico swims on the bluest side of the pool."

Anyway, there was a ton of food from the Salt Lick, so we all stuffed our faces, and ooohed and ahhhhed over Eamon, and Gwen asked Mary (who's a retired realtor) for tips on selling my parents' house, which has been on the market since last November. My little brother Angus showed me the new Ford Escape my parents just bought (I can't believe they did this; it's very out of character and I know they don't have the money for it). He'll be driving it until he graduates from high school next year, and he and I went for a little drive and talked. Then later my dad played us all a recording of Angus singing at a voice recital this spring. It was wonderful! (I've had to miss his various activities this year because it's too hard with Eamon, and he goes to school in San Antonio, but I plan to get to more of his stuff next year.)

In any case, it was a successful visit. Loud and non-stop (my head was spinning), but fine. We left around 3:00.

We didn't see Bill much after we got home. He sat downstairs while TJ and his mom and I sat upstairs watching TV. We invited him up several times. This is pretty typical of him even at his own house, but it's no less anti-social. TJ figured out today that part of it could be that his dad has a hard time getting up from the upstairs couch, so he moved a chair up here for him.

In other news (this post is way too long, I know), Mary is getting on TJ's nerves (mine too, sometimes, but I hide it in front of her). He's been very short with her at times, and she talked to me about it this yesterday afternoon. She said she feels like he's mad at her, and she doesn't know why. I didn't know what to say, because it's not like I can explain it to her. "Well, you're really annoying, and he can't deal with the things you say." She doesn't understand how she comes across. She asked me if I thought he needed some counseling. Ha! Probably, but not for the reasons she thinks!

The three of us watched FAST FOOD NATION last night. (The book was much better.) It makes me never want to eat cow's meat again, but I don't know if I have it in me. Mary retired early, soon after the movie ended. I think she might've gone in because of an exchange that she and TJ had. FAST FOOD NATION ended (on a pretty somber, unresolved note) and she said, "Well, that was a stupid movie." TJ looked at her and said, "What does that mean? What was stupid about it?" She refused to answer him and he kept pushing her, and finally she said she wasn't going to tell him because he would just pick it apart. He replied that she's the one who'd said it was stupid and so he wanted to hear what she thought was stupid about it. But she wouldn't say, and shortly after that she went back to her room.

Today in the car, I was trying to say something, and she kept interrupting me and talking over me (which she does constantly with everyone; usually I just stop trying to say whatever it is because there's really no point and it's not like she's listening anyway). I was getting very frustrated in this instance--her rudeness was undeniable (and yet she's *completely* oblivious!). Finally TJ said, "STOP TALKING! Heather's trying to say something and you keep interrupting her! Let her finish." Aaaaagh.

The thing is, she's very sweet, and she LOVES Eamon. She's utterly devoted to him and she said she feels like there's a rubber band pulling her towards him (as well as towards her other grandkids). I appreciate her love for him. Yesterday she told me she feels close to me, which seems kind of sad. TJ and I talked a little today about how it's impossible to feel close to her on anything other than a shallow level. He said something like, "You can't feel close to a cartoon character unless you're one yourself."

Today we went to the Domain and she bought herself several shirts at Macy's (out of her allowance, as she always tells us; she and Bill constantly fight about money, and he gives her an allowance every month--can you imagine?), and then we went to Border's and she bought Eamon a beautiful book of Mother Goose rhymes.

On that note, I better close. We're about to go out to dinner.

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