hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I skyped my parents. We mostly talked about the weather. This is a really epic winter for snow in Minnesota; this February is breaking snowfall records. Dad showed me the view out their patio door: the birdbath is completely buried under a snow drift. It's quite a difference for my parents, who were on vacation in Florida last week.

They had ten more inches of snow overnight and now 40-50 mph winds today. Dad says they haven't had a blizzard like this in years. He's been waiting for one ever since he retired: now that he doesn't have to go anywhere, he says he wants to look out at the snow with his nose pressed up to the window. Safe in the knowledge that he can stay inside.

But not everyone is so lucky. Dad told me the governor called out the National Guard last night to their county and the next one over, to get people out of stranded cars on the freeways: apparently 50 people stayed overnight in the nearby armory and 20 more in the next one over.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Today I Skyped my parents to get the debrief of their dull old-white-person Florida vacation.

I spent last week thinking of the tragedy that is my dad who, when friends convinced my parents to join them on a trip to Fort Myers, could not get them to go any later than the second week of February.

A group of Minnesotans went to where Minnesota's baseball team spends its spring training. As long as I can remember, spring training has been a big deal: in the middle of a Minnesota winter, we cling onto any evidence that green grass and baseball exist somewhere in the world. For as long as I can remember, my dad has talked about wanting to go see the Twins spring training one year.

And now? Pitchers and catchers reported
the
day
before
they
had
to
go
home.

But they did get to see the ballpark and he bought a souvenir hat ("it says '2019 spring training'," Dad said "And it's peach!" Mom said "Mango," Dad corrected her) so he's still happy.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Keeping up that millennial stereotype, I just had to help my mom work the printer.

So she could print off the only thing old ladies care about: pictures of grandchildren -- obviously she doesn't have any actual grandchildren, but her friends' and sisters' grandkids fulfil the role for her, which is actually really nice.

Mom made a nice Freudian slip the other day when she was bitching to one of her sisters about not having an updated picture of that sister's grandson, and she said something about wanting it to put "with the rest of the grandchildren." She quickly corrected herself but I was so glad to hear her say that, as it's the closest thing I've had so far to confirmation that she thinks of these kids that way, even though I first noticed a few years ago that this is how she seemed to be acting toward them.

It makes me feel better about not making grandparents of my parents, who'd be great at it. Anyway they'll see all these fictive grandchildren a lot more than they'd see any actual ones I had!
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I can't write much more right now but after I wrote that last post and before I even got a chance to post it, Mom said we should go through Chris's wicker chest.

My brother and I both had these; my mom started keeping stuff in them when we were tiny. Baby clothes, school reports, all kinds of keepsakes from our childhoods.

Both my parents and I just went through my brother's. It's the last thing left untouched since he died (almost 13 years).

I feel emotionally wrung out now, like an old dishrag.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Somehow, my dad ended up paying for dinner and buying me a drill today, which is surely the wrong way around!
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Can't remember if I've talked about this before but shit, buying a birthday present for my mom can suck.

I'm mad at myself because I've left this too late: I was browsing the university gift shop the other day to find something to get my dad for Christmas, and I saw a coffee mug there that I think she'd have liked but didn't have my shit together enough to buy/post it then (this was Wednesday when I turned up to uni an hour early because I am officially an idiot) and even if I had it might already have gotten there late. Of course now here present's going to get there late because we're not going to pay as much again as it costs in shipping. But only a few days and I think she'll be fine about that; I just feel shit about it. It's not like I've forgotten her birthday, it's just...well, like the tweet says, "gestures vaguely at everything"...

This is a bad time of year anyway, for my mom and me (and maybe my dad too but there's no way of ever finding that out). Her birthday is ten days before the anniversary of Chris dying so it's a nice way I can do something for her without calling attention to why I might be extra inclined to be nice right now. We don't talk a lot about Chris or the day any more, but there's this underlying tension and melancholy until we get Thanksgiving out of the way (or the date itself, whichever is later...this is a perfect year because they're not on the same day, which my mom particularly hates, but they're also not like a week apart which...well she also particularly hates; pretty understandably in both cases I guess).

So I really feel like I owe her good presents these days, anyway; I don't want to just phone something in -- so to speak, though that's of course what it feels like I'm doing because I'm so goddam far away!

Anyway, if you search somewhere like Amazon for, like "mom gifts" or something, you get a few "funny" things: coasters that say "Don't fuck up Mom's table" would be hilarious for a mom like, say, [personal profile] mother_bones (who has the same birthday as my mom! but so little else in common with her that I'd be hard-pressed to believe in astrology!) but not for my mom...or coffee mugs that say things like "You're such a good mom for putting up with a bratty, spoiled, messy, difficult, etc.etc. child like my sibling!" And a few other "I'm your favorite kid" style of things which are so inappropriate for my family I feel like I've been punched in the chest just thinking about them.

Andrew was filtering through the dross and said he'd screened out tons of "the best moms get promoted to grandma" kind of stuff, which, again, thanks universe, holy fuck. It's a minefield. And especially this time of year.

And especially with living in a country that doesn't even have Thanksgiving to keep Christmas from appearing right after Halloween; I'd read this twitter thread just before, which is so sweet but it's about missing your parents in a particular way which seems exacerbated by Obligatory Present Buying Season. And then at the end of the thread someone comments who went to the school that the beloved and missed dad was headteacher at and it's like a damn Hallmark Channel movie...

I didn't cry when I read it, but I cried when I was trying to buy a present for my mom because of it. My go-to present used to be to get her a gift card for one of my parents' favorite restaurants because I wanted to take her out to eat for her birthday and couldn't be there to do it -- my parents love going out for meals and it was a feature of my childhood that they made us, every Sunday, even though my brother and I hated it and now of course now going out for a meal is my go-to treat too -- but it's too sad to get something so fleeting when I'm so fleeting myself. I get her little things she can keep around her nice house and think of me (maybe) when she dusts them every week. I am very glad my parents are with me so I can imagine these things and buy these presents, but being so far away feels like a tiny echo, a shadow, of what it sounds like to have lost a parent.

This year she's getting a candle in her favorite scent that says "Home is where mom is," which is the only thing I found on seemingly the whole internet which is terribly twee but also happens to be what I really believe.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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 on a letter from Minnesota, like me. (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (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.



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