hollymath: (Default)
"The world's quietest room is in Minnesota," Andrew just told me. "That seems appropriate, somehow."

I had to laugh. Andrew still thinks my dad is so quiet he doesn't even say all the words in his sentences, and just expects the people around him to be used to him enough to fill them in.

(After he said this I paid extra attention the next time I was around my dad, and I'm sure he says all the words. But the fact that I found this plausible enough to have to check? Probably says a lot.)
hollymath: (Default)
Skype with parents My mom emailed to ask if I was around to talk to (I've trained them to do this because they don't understand that unlike them I don't have it running all the time) when she was talking on the phone with her mom and bored and wanting an excuse to get off the phone.

My mom using me as an excuse because she's tired of talking to her mom on the phone is the kind of thing that convinces me my parents have an impermeable irony shield.

Like this week they also sent Andrew his birthday present with a card that basically said vegetarians make shit cakes. When their daughter, the person who'd be making Andrew a cake if he was going to have one, is a vegetarian. And...you'd really have to struggle to make a cake not vegetarian? I told Twitter about this and Twitter thought my parents were mean but they're not, they just...don't think about things like this. Plus they sent him chocolate, which is nice but since he's Not Eating Sugar I, the vegetarian, had all the sugar-filled chocolate-covered aspects of the birthday the card wished for.

My dad asked what my classes are so I told them and predictably they didn't care about the others but when I got to Arabic they were stunned and I think my mom is probably a bit nervous of this. My dad came around to it pretty quickly, making the point I'd guessed one of them would in an attempt to normalize this new fact: "You could probably get a job doing that!" because learning Arabic became such A Thing in the U.S. after 9/11; the government needed a lot more people who could speak it. Whereas I really don't think the UK is going to give me a job involving Arabic that could go to any one of thousands of native or otherwise more fluent speakers, but whatever.

Dad also asked "which one?" and knew there were different kinds of spoken Arabic, which honestly I was kind of surprised by (though the only places that he could name that he thought spoke it were Iraq and Iran, oh dear, see also previous point re Arabic being The Language of Terrorists).

So I expect that'll be all kinds of fun conversations at Christmas, though it's sounding like my aunt's partner is expressing no enthusiasm about visiting us for the holiday this year, so now I have reason to hope it'll be a lot less overtly racist as he's the Trump troll of the family. There are plenty who voted for the guy but he's the only one who seems to delight in talking about it, or at least did last year and since my parents have just been to visit them and said "We didn't agree about a lot of things" I can only presume that continued. Though then I think she was talking about who got to pick what they watched on TV so it could've just been about that!

And I can always hope Trump is impeached by Christmas, anyway.
hollymath: (postmark)
My mom spent $22 mailing me something I both asked and then told her not to. I thought I'd gotten it through to her.

The nice thing about my culture is that in the e-mail saying "thanks, they arrived" I can also say you really shouldn't have. (I perfected this kind of truth-telling when it wouldn't be treated as such, when I was a teenager.)

But I guess the bad thing is that when I said "oh please don't, I'd really rather nothing or something else instead" in the first place, my family think I'm just being polite and ignore me.

I know they want to do nice things and they don't get to spend money on us very easily because they don't live nearby. And I try to appreciate the good intentions of the thing. But it's tiring doing that, and it'd be easier if I could get them to understand that the things I value aren't things that carry a high value to them so seem like stupid things to send (wild rice, maple syrup, ranch dressing mix...).

Whereas they really like sweets, so they think it makes sense to send me Girl Scout cookies. I'm just thankful that my mom didn't part with any of her Thin Mints this year! She did that once and I'm so indifferent to them while she loves those things so much, I couldn't bear to think I'd taken them from her.

I think last time I gave them to Simon; I'm sure I have some friends who'd like Girl Scout cookies. So at least they'll bring someone some joy.
hollymath: (Default)
I couldn't call my parents when we got back from the airport to say we'd arrived fine, like I usually do, because Andrew had unplugged the computers and router and the phone, which is cordless. (Calling tem from my cellphone would be prohibitively expensive) so I sent an e-mail instead (over 4G, becasu the wi-fi was inexplicably fucked even when I did make sure everything was connected up and plugged in again) to say we were back fine and I got a reply from my dad basically saying good, thanks.

And then the weekend came and went, it was New Year's so I was sort of relieved and we hadn't been gone a whole week yet so it didn't seem like a big deal.

Then last weekeend arrived. I was a lot less busy. And I'd actually...kind of missed my parents. I feel like this isn't a thing I usually get to do. Usually having to talk every Sunday regardless of whether I feel like I have anything to say, I can get resentful. It feels oppressive. It's really a chore. I appreciate the regularity of talking around the same time every week, I know my parents really like that, but I am the ungrateful, ungraceful child.

Sunday wore on and I hadn't heard from them. Eventually I sent them an e-mail asking if they were around to talk, which I don't know has ever happened before? I mean, we don't talk every Sunday and it's become less rigid since Dad retired -- it used to be the only day in the week he was guaranteed not to be working, and now they're as likely as I am not to be around on Sundays, as they're settling into their life of day trips and season tickets to the local am-dram and whatnot -- but usually if they're not going to be around Mom will have already e-mailed me to let me know. She's really good about this stuff, much better than I am.

But this time I went to bed not having heard back, which left me feeling a little unsettled. Not upset or worried or anything, but it was odd.

I got an e-mail from Mom the next day saying sorry and was I around then. I wasn't, I was trying out a yoga class (it was my first time trying yoga and I ended up really liking it). She was busy yesterday having a meeting about the kitcheen renovation they're having done.

So finally we caught up today. She couldn't get the video working on the iPad, which is a ritual that happens probably 50% of the time and she'll probably never learn to hold it in such a way that I'm not looking up her nose. She interrupted my dad lifting weights to get him to talk to me too. They told me my grandma's sight in her right eye is getting better, enough to read her mail and read the newspaper a little it, which seems to have had a pretty awesome effect on her quality of life.

Mom also told me they'd been having prolems with their e-mail: somehow she thinks their e-mail address has been changed to one that's about bikers?...or something... and from her description I have no idea what kind of problem they've managed to make for themselves this time: she says she has to "go out into the e-mail and delete that and put our e-mail address in," and then when she comes back to send another e-mail that one's back so she has to do it again. So she thinks their e-mail has been hacked, but luckily she knows little enough about hacking that she isn't worried abbout this. And their e-mails have looked perfectly normal by the time they've arrived with me. How do parents manage to do these things?

It was just nice to see them again, nice to see my mom's very My-Mom kind of top she was wearing and the bits of the house I could see as she walkd with the iPad down to see my dad. Nice to catch up on all this normal stuff. Nice to miss them.
hollymath: (Default)
...is what I said last year.

If you're going to die, don't die on a holiday that isn't on a fixed date. It means in future years the date of your death and the holiday will be on different days, and it makes two very difficult days. Last year, the twenty-forth of November was almost a week distant from Thanksgiving (which is always on the fourth Thursday of November) and I thought that was worse. But this year they're on the same day, today obviously, and my mom finds that harder.

So I'm glad they're able to do something different from how they usually spend Thanksgiving. My dad's sister and her partner have moved this year, they're fixing up what sounds like a nice house out in the woods in northern Minnesota, it sounds lovely. But it's also lovely because it's something new, because they're not doing what they always did, they're not surrounded by several generations of my mom's family without having their own children there. My aunt and her partner have grown-up children who are scattered around and who I don't think will be around this weekend. And since it's a long enough drive they're not just going for the day like they would if they were going to my mom's sister's, they're staying for the whole long weekend, which will keep them away from the whole holiday palaver, the Black Friday sales and the traffic and everything.

But I miss them. I didn't get to talk to them last week before they went, which is a shame. Thanks to Skype I should be able to talk to them at some point while they're at my aunt's, but still. I worry that they think I'm somehow unaffected by this because I'm not there, and we don't have the holiday. But I am, and I'm affected differently precisely because of those things.

Peak Dad

Mar. 26th, 2016 09:26 pm
hollymath: (Default)
I thought my dad telling me that they'd been to see Zootopia last week and really liked it was going to be the most surprising news of that phone call, but then he told me he'd gotten an iPad (they went to look at new phones and a contract that better suited them, and I know he's been vaguely interested in smartphones but not in a hurry to get one for years now, having seen co-workers looking at YouTube and Facebook and whatnot; I actually think whoever in the Verizon store steered him towards a tablet rather than a smartphone did the right thing for him) and hey there's this thing called Skype that means we can call you for free...

This after we got webcams as a wedding present from a friend of my parents', who already had offspring halfway across the country and was Skyping to see her grandchildren and whatnot. I set up one camera for them, installed the drivers, installed Skype, wrote down very hand-holdy instructions for how to use it...and then nothing happened. They never ever used the sweet, clever, thoughtful present. Ten years later, I get asked if I've heard of Skype. Bless them. I still can't convince him he doesn't need my phone number to use it. And he still can't use it, he's going to take it back to the store because it sounds like he has some very old-person problem with using the app.

But in the meantime he seems to be using his iPad for two of his favorite things: weather and geography.

He told me that Middlewich, where Andrew's family live, is south of Manchester which I didn't know I'd needed telling (it's in Cheshire) but apparently he'd been thinking it was west of here. I know he's always said, since his first visit, that he can never get his cardinal directions the right way round here, he has trouble visualizing the relative positions of things, and that really disorients him.

I've always been meaning to get him a map, but finding one with the right kind of detail and not so much irrelevant stuff as to be confusing to him has proved basically impossible. Sounds like now he's got it anyway. "And then I saw the airport, and then Didsbury [where we lived the first couple of times they came to visit] and Levenshulme [where we've lived since]..."

He was clearly delighted, and I was impressed he remembered the names, even though he's actually pretty awesome at that. Hence being disoriented bothering him so much: my mom couldn't tell you most of the cities she's been to here, much less what number bus we get into town, what parts of Manchester we've lived in, or the name of a coffee shop chain, but she's happy like that and has no interest in knowing more detail than she does. My dad knows all that stuff and still feels a bit adrift, bless him.

And yes I know all of this has been freely available on the internet forever but my dad basically never uses the internet, doesn't even use the computer for much, so I don't think it'd either have occurred to him or been enjoyable to him to look at Google Maps or similar this way. Whereas he's just the kind of person who'll love being able to sit in his comfy armchair and drag his fingers in what he probably actually thinks is an intuitive way across a map, zooming in and out.

If he ever finds out about Street View, he'll be showing my house off at family get-togethers, I can just picture it.

In today's phone call I'd forgotten all about the iPad until he asked me if it was "still" raining, which baffled me, but then he told me it'd been raining in Ireland for two days straight now and he'd figured it'd get over , Manchester at some point (he has a very "lived in the middle of a continent his whole life" faith that whatever weather's off to the west of you I what you're going to have next; I figure in this instance the more likely explanation is that it rains in Ireland a lot, it rains in Manchester a lot, and any apparent cause-and-effect relationship between these two facts is probably coincidental...but hey, if it makes him happy there's no reason to argue).

He knows the temperature and precipitation where I am better than I do now, because his local TV meteorologists have to satisfy old-cranky-man needs for weather precision (especially when some of the old cranky men, and others, are farmers whose livelihoods really do depend on the weather and how accurately it's predicted), and I don't even have a TV to watch the news on and consume only national radio which seems to think the likes of "sunny spells" and "dry except in the northwest of England where it'll rain" (I have heard that way too many times) are sufficient weather data.

If I could find him an app that tracks (and converts!) local-to-me petrol prices, he'll be able to have all the Dad conversations with me. It'd be almost like I never left home! Or at least, not for anywhere actually very different, anyway.
hollymath: (Default)
My parents are aging.

Of course, I'm also both far further away and completely lacking in sibling support compared to what I expected. These things are responsible for many of my tears.

My mom had a hospital consultation today that seemed to leave her feeling better, but me worse. So there's nothing to worry about (well, nothing much anyway and possibly less than there was before?). I think my being inconsolable this evening says a lot more about me right now than it does about anyone or anything else.
hollymath: (Default)
So my mom has something wrong...something something temples something probably arteries?...that if left untreated could make her go blind. Of course it's being treated, but with something that could affect the functioning of her one remaining kidney. She's having a biopsy today and will let me know the results of that when she does herself.

Until then, my parents seemed cheerful enough on the phone yesterday (my dad thought I didn't know what Super Tuesday was, bless him; my mom was talking about my cousin's family; all seemed pretty normal).

But, and perhaps because today I've got no plans and not enough to distract myself, and maybe because a friend is having I-don't-live-in-the-same-country-as-my-aging-parents issues, perhaps because my life lately seems full of worries about the health of people I love...I'm utterly exhausted and not coping fantastically.

That's it

Jan. 18th, 2016 08:19 am
hollymath: (Default)
I've given up hoping this will ever change and am now resigned to the fact.

I will never be done reassuring my parents that I am always going to be a U.S. citizen.
hollymath: (Default)
My dad is fixated on telling me, when I'm in Minnesota, what time it is in the UK at any given point. Only he doesn't say it like that, he says: "For you, it's..."

If I yawn at 8:30pm, I know "For you it's two-thirty in the morning" will follow (even though I yawn at 8:30 in the evening here, too!). If I look bored in the afternoon, he'll say "For you, it's bedtime!"

I don't think he has any conception of how crazy this drives me.

I can't convince him to stop, that I don't find this interesting or helpful because I just really don't feel like it's the time he's telling me it is for me. If he just said "In Manchester it's [whatever] right now," I don't think I'd care. But being told what I think about something, even if it's something so impersonal as what time it is, sends me absolutely bonkers.

I usually do okay at coping with the time zone change: I tend to fly local-early-morning and get there around local-evening-meal-time, which after some food and a bit of unpacking and winding down, means I go to bed at an acceptable-if-early local-bedtime. If I can do that, and have a longish sleep, I wake up around the same time as my parents, and then I'm probably all right.

Last night I went to bed to read at about 7:30. I couldn't stay awake past 8:30. I woke up, as I knew I would for going to sleep so early, at 1:30 in the morning. So far so normal, but this time I was completely unable to get to sleep after that.

Going by the xkcd time zone sleep descriptions, I'm even further from Minnesota than I am from Manchester. Somewhere around Russia, probably.
hollymath: (Default)
As I was digging into my pancakes last evening, all of a sudden Mom started talking about one of her best friend's little granddaughters, who broke her arm.

Apparently the girl told the doctor "You've got to fix me up, because I'm all my mom and dad've got."

Yeah, little girl. I know that feeling.
hollymath: (Default)
Remember how Mom told Andrew the other week she was worried about me because my eyesight had gotten so much worse I was depressed about it?

This is already so full of however you say "I can tell you don't get it" in NT-ese that no further refutation is really necessary.

But, in case it were, I was just at the optician's this morning (all by myself! what used to induce panic in me and require [personal profile] mother_bones's presence so I didn't run away now seems like a piece of cake after all the eye hospital hoops I've jumped through, and it helps that I know this optician and what the tests will be like) and my prescription has hardly changed at all! I don't even need to get new glasses.

And this meant I finally could get the prescription swimming goggles I'd decided on as a "hooray, I'm getting PIP now!" celebration once my first payment arrived a week or so ago. That should help a lot with both anxiety and of course blindness when I'm swimming, and hopefully help me do it more.
hollymath: (Default)
My mom left the gold hard hat as the centerpiece of the dining room table until I got home to see it. For once it's my dad who thinks something's silly and her who's sticking up for it.

I'm so glad I got to see it; it's awesome. Not just spray-painted gold, but bedecked with stickers too.



hollymath: (Default)
A song came on the radio while we were eating breakfast and all of a sudden my dad said, "Who's this singing, is it Katy Perry?"

I had no idea, I'd never heard the song before. But since my dad had been telling me the day before how much he likes Lady Gaga and that he wishes Adele would come out with a new album, I was happy to defer to his expertise.

It always delights me to contemplate -- as I am so often given reason to do -- that I will never be as cool as my dad.
hollymath: (Default)
I wish my mom didn't explain to me every Father's Day since my grandpa died why my parents go to Red Lobster.

When my mom's dad was still alive, my parents always spent the day with my mom's side of the family. But now, they go to Red Lobster, because they miss my brother (they always claim it to be his favorite restaurant; I don't know if he'd have agreed, but it's done with the intention of memoralizing him anyway).

And every year my mom tells me this, tells me they won't be calling until late because they're going to Red Lobster (which means going to Mankato, which means they'll go shopping while they're there, which takes all frigging afternoon as I well remember).

And every year I think: I know.

I am not some stranger you have to remind of this. I know that my dad doesn't get to spend Father's Day with his kids (of course the same could be said for my mom but at least she can still spend Mother's Day with her mom, whereas my dad's parents died even before Chris did, so...). I know you never go to Red Lobster otherwise. I know it makes you think of Chris. I know you wish you could get closer to him than visiting his favorite restaurant. I know.

And I hate being told, because being told makes it sound like I care so little that I could ever forget or fail to understand these things. It feels like they don't trust the extent to which I share their loss, and that I bear witness to the rest.

I hate to be so self-centered on a day that's about fathers, and about all the people who don't have them or wish they didn't for whatever reason. I love my dad and I'm glad he's alive but I can't spend the day with him. I don't hate the day but I don't participate either. I just feel weirdly unsettled.
hollymath: (Default)
My dad didn't just get a gold watch when he retired. He got a gold hard hat.

Milestone

Apr. 30th, 2015 06:52 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Just about now, my dad is finally done with work.

Forever.

He's retiring today, and the tradition at his place is everyone (it's only a dozen people or so) goes out for a meal, my mom gets invited along too, and then he gets to go home after that, he doesn't have to work the afternoon.

So right now, it's about lunchtime where my dad is, and I'm thinking of him.

He's worked so hard, all his life, with a heavy load of farm chores since he was old enough to do them. He's one of those people who's never sick, never complains, never thinks "no I won't go to work today because there's a blizzard."

He's worked hard his whole life, missed a lot of my brother's and my school concerts and football games when we were growing up and he worked nights. He's done a lot of manual labor jobs, even as his body gets older and slower and a bit more prone to aches and ailments.

He is the ideal I always feel I fall short of, for working so hard and so uncomplainingly, with all life has thrown at him, his whole life.

He's worked so hard, no one could more deserve their retirement. But it's weird, too: I can't imagine him not working. Neither can he. He's already talking about all the stuff that needs doing outside and the places around Minnesota he'd like to visit. I hope he has very much very happy time to do all he wants, now.

Hawaii

Mar. 17th, 2015 06:16 pm
hollymath: (Default)
Mom's tried to call a couple of times when I was asleep or out, so I haven't talked to her yet but I've got an e-mail. Here's what she says about the glories of Hawaii:
It was great over there.  We kept saying it was hard to believe we were there.  The flight is long and you only get water,pop, pretzels or peanuts once.  So we did have crackers and I tried to buy water before we got on the plane.
From that description, I find it hard to believe they were there, too!

I'm gonna call her in a minute, but I just don't know if I can yet handle the deluge of information about the ghastly-sounding Pearl Harbor Experience, the bound-to-be-racist luau they'll have gone to, and a detailed report on the clothes Mom wore while she was there, which she will call "outfits."

Major

Jan. 18th, 2015 09:07 pm
hollymath: (Default)
My mom always says on the phone stuff like "not too exciting around here," and "nothing major."

Both of which she said even today after she just got done telling me about planning their vacation-of-a-lifetime to Hawaii.

I start to wonder what would count as exciting to her.

Another thing that struck me in this conversation: in the middle of telling me about one of the girls I used to babysit, who's a college freshman now, she suddenly said, "And she has a friend who, it's like how you and Seth were, you know."

There was a long pause I utterly failed to fill as my mind raced trying to figure out in what way this girl and her friend were supposed to be like me and Seth. Our freshman year, my roommate and I sort of adopted him because he didn't get along with his roommate very well. We met almost literally running into each other outside a party for the new freshman before classes even started. He and I went on long walks in the middle of the night as an excuse to chat. We did improv together. He told me about calculus and coding and I told him about poetry and astronomy. In which of these or a billion other ways did we remind Mom of this girl and her friend?

"They're just good friends, you know, like you were. He goes with her for her blood tests and stuff, so she has someone there. But it's not like a boyfriend-girlfriend type of thing, her mom told me. And I said, well, it's like that friend you had in college.

Oh. So it's just "mixed-gender friendships" she was thinking of. Right. Is this one of those things my mom thinks only happened to me once, like she thinks I only have one gay friend?
hollymath: (Default)
When I found a link to this article that labeled it merely "A parent’s lessons on living with grief, 10 years after her daughter died", I already knew that clicking on it would be bad for me.

But I did it anyway, of course. Because I'd had a bad day and didn't mind an excuse to cry? Because it's my mom's birthday? Because I was intrigued at that "10 years after." Because I'll read anything on the subject, in the hopes of feeling understood or just feeling less alone. As I said a couple of years ago,
I suppose it's because losing a brother at what we've been lead to believe is such an unnaturally young age is a rare thing now; it doesn't happen to a lot of people, so it's easy to feel lost and bewildered and alone.
I'm always hungry for anything that helps alleviate that loneliness.

The situation I read about in this long, wrenching, beautiful article ended up being eerily similar to my parents': a child in their early 20s dying in a car crash this time of year. It was ten years ago for this writer; it'll be nine for my parents in less than two weeks.

You hear a lot about the immediate aftermath of such a shock, and people kinda know what to expect, but what is there to say as the years go on and on? I was wondering this just today. And here I have an answer to that question.

Maybe that's why this is by far the most resonant and comforting thing I've ever read on the subject of the effects losing a child has on the immediate family.

I poured myself a glass of wine I felt I'd well-deserved as tears dried on my cheeks after I'd finished reading it, but I'm still very glad I did read this article. Because one of my big hang-ups is having to, trying to, failing to find words for my brother and my family now that I'm surrounded with people who didn't know him or what our lives were like then. None of my chosen family (with the exception of Andrew, of course) knew me when he was alive, which means they never knew the person I used to be...because I haven't been able to be that person since. Here at least are some of the words I haven't been able to find for myself.

Of course this writer's situation is very different in many details but surprisingly many of the experiences match. And in seeing familiar but always-unspoken reactions and insights reflected in this way, I feel like a part of myself that is usually hidden -- because neither I nor anyone around me seem to know what to do with it -- is being held up to the light. Reading this, I nodded a lot. I remembered a lot. It's awful to relive these memories but it's a relief to feel understood. It's worth it.

My parents are, by temperament or circumstances or both, not articulate people; they were not educated as this woman was, and they're part of a culture that (to put it mildly!) doesn't encourage or reward such openness. So to read here so many words that remind me of my own mom, particularly, feels like a kind of gift. I'm afforded a glimpse I never thought I could get of how my mom might have thought and felt, thanks to someone in circumstances similar enough that I can see my own parents and I all over her terrible, beautiful words.

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