Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Christmas Eve day with the Weebles was a nice affair. They were excited about a recent visit from The Brother, and the fact he was going to drop by on Christmas Day.

I’m sure it was a not so subtle hint that we could drop by too and then the Weebles would have the whole family together on Christmas. Himself and I began a tradition when the Eldest came along. We stayed home for Christmas. The door is open to those that want to drop by, but we don’t move from the house.

“Oh wow, that will be nice for you,” I said and smiled at Ma.

A while ago, Dad had given me his old movie projector, screen, and some reels of film he had shot. The film had lived for five or more decades under the eaves of their house alternately sweating and freezing. I thought it would be fun to drag out the projector to watch the old home movies. Dad had told me the bulb on the projector was burned out and Himself and I wondered where we would even begin to look for a bulb. Fortunately, we had a fallback. Himself has his dad’s old movie projector, and it works as we had watched Himself’s home movies several years ago.

So, after dinner Himself lugged up the movie screen and set it up. We shifted the sofa and the Weebles around so they could see the screen. Their faces glowed as they watched the flickering images of their siblings (gone now) and themselves as young parents. We watched the antics of The Brother with cousins, waved at my Grandma (Ma’s mother) and admired how cute I was as a baby butterball.

As the Young One turned on the lights, Ma turned to me.

“Well, you certainly took everything you could get your hands on (film, projector, screen), didn’t you?” she sniped.

I felt my blood boil at her remark which was the only thing that had marred an otherwise pleasant visit. I had a very hard time controlling my tongue.

“Excuse me?” I croaked. “I didn’t take. I was given!”

She must have realized she was about to cross a dangerous line because she backpedaled the remark.

I served tea and pie, talk turned to very neutral subjects and soon it was time for the Weebles to go home.

After Himself got home from shuttling the Weebles to their home, I groused about the remark.
“Don’t let it upset you. It’s just your mother’s way,” he said.

I’m always amazed at his equanimity. His feathers rarely get ruffled, and he is easily able to give others the benefit of the doubt while I run around yelling grace off and muttering in tongues.

“Still, it hurts to be accused of stealing from your mother.”

“I know. There’s a faculty member at school who’s the same way. The focus always has to be about him. Your mother is the same way. Let it go.”

Christmas Morning

We had spent a leisurely time as we opened gifts one at a time to be admired, oohed, aahed and savored. (Himself thinks this organized method is weird as his family Christmas gift opening tradition was a feeding frenzy). The girls had gone to their rooms with new items while Himself and I were still in the livingroom.

Himself had given me a digital picture frame, and I was searching the packaging for instructions written in English. I had the Spanish pamphlet in my hand.

“Y’ know,” he began. “That would make a great gift for your folks.”

I looked up and gave him the look that goes with a politically incorrect Boston expression.

“No way.”

“It’d be great!” he insisted.

“Yeah, I can just hear Dad now. THEY don’t give him his email and now THEY won’t give him his pictures. No electronic gifts for the Weebles.

Himself chuckled.

An hour later he was sitting at the kitchen table using the laptop.

“Hey? I just had a thought about the burnt out bulb in Dad’s projector. Do you think the bulb from your dad’s projector would fit?” I asked.

“I’d hate to touch the bulb as it’s really sensitive. Just moving it, could shake the filament.”

“It was just a thought. I didn’t try out Dad’s projector. Just took his word that the bulb was blown out.”

“Yeah, like they don’t give him his email.”

"Point taken."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Caged Bird Sings

Dad’s side of the story.

A week of snow was over. I hadn’t heard from the Weebles. Wasn’t sure if no news was good news, but I was worried about the threat to lock Dad out in the snow.


“It’s me. How’ya doin?” I was relieved to hear his voice.

“The usual.”

“Did you go singing yesterday?”

“Of course.”

“Did she lock you out of the house?”


I laughed. Ma was always as good as her word.

“What happened?”

“I went singing. When I got home she had all the doors locked.”

“How did you get in?”

“Well, I was in the garage, looking for some tools to take the door [inside door from garage that leads to a small porch off the kitchen] off its hinges, but I didn’t have the right tools. I do now, though!”

I didn’t want to tell Dad how ridiculously easy it was to break into the house. Himself used to help me all the time when I was a kid and either lost or forgot my house key. One didn’t need to remove the door hinges, and the only tool needed was a screwdriver.

Dad was amazingly calm, and he laughed as he related the details. I expected him to be singing arias in tongues about Ma.

“So, how did you get in?”

“Well, like I said, I didn’t have the right tools so I was just about to walk over to Stop and Shop and get something to eat and @#$@#$ her!”
I didn’t mean to laugh.

“She must have heard me banging around in the garage,” Dad continued. “And she unlocked the screen door.”

He didn’t relate whether there were more fireworks, and I thought it prudent not to ask. I was just relieved to hear he wasn't in the hospital with a severe case of hypothermia or frostbite.

“Well, I just wanted to check to see if things are ok.”

“I appreciate it. Listen, I’m not going to tell her you called.”

“Ok.” Just Dad’s little way of tit for tat.

Ma’s side of the story

Ma called to chat. Dad must have gone out and she was lonely or ticked at him, or both.

Curiosity got the better of me.

“Did he go singing?”

“You know him.”

“Did you lock him out of the house like you said you would.”

“Of course!”
Like I said, Ma's as good as her word. With Dad out of the house, she doesn't have control over him.

I laughed. Couldn’t help it. Jackie Gleason’s show “The Honeymooners” is still going strong and Ma and Dad have the lead roles.

“What happened?”

“He was in the garage yelling and banging around.”

I had the image of the Flintstones with Fred locked out of the house after he tried to toss the sabertooth cat out for the night. Wilma! And Fred pounding on the door.

I lost some of the details and caught her explanation, the crux to the matter.

“Well, he goes out of the house and he leaves me for hours all alone. I’m afraid to be alone now if something happens, I have no help.”

Six or seven years ago now, Ma had a stroke while she was home alone. Dad had gone singing. Ma had gone outside to sweep leaves from the back walk when it happened. She sat outside on the ground for two hours until one of the kids coming home from school happened to hear Ma’s call for help.

“Still, you shouldn’t lock him out of the house.”

I could see her shrug an I don’t care.

I’ll have to remember to play the hole card next time. If you lock Dad out of the house, and something happens to you, how will he get in to help you? How will the rescue people get in? Maybe I should leave a screwdriver under the front mat.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fun In The Snow

Late in the afternoon, The Young One and I had just finished digging my car out of the snow. Cold and tired we were anticipating a well deserved rest and a cup of hot chocolate when the phone rang. Even before I looked at the caller ID, I knew it was Prissy.
Prissy has her large circular driveway plowed, but the plower doesn't shovel her front walk or clean off her car.
"Does the Young One want to earn some money? I'll pay her to shovel my walk and brush off the car." she asked.
"We just finished digging my car out. Do you have a shovel because I broke my good one?"
"Yes, I have shovels and a broom to brush off the car with."
Ok, give us an hour and we'll come over to do yours."
An hour later, The Young One groaned as we pulled on our boots and grabbed gloves.
"Why does she have to have her car dug out now? She won't be going anywhere." said the Young One looking longingly at the laptop.
"I know, but old people are funny that way. They worry about things." I grabbed the crappy shovel and we crossed the street.
"What does she have to worry about?"
"If the snow isn't cleared she'll worry about things like, if she has a heart attack, how will the rescue people get to the front door? How will the oil delivery man deliver the heating oil? How will the electric company read the meter? Stuff like that."
The Young One made the classic teen face and sighed deeply. Her breath plumed in front of her. She took the crappy shovel and began digging out the back of the car.
Prissy came to the front door with shovels and a broom. I waded up the front walk and she handed them to me.
"I'll put my boots on and come out and help you."
"No, that's ok. We got it covered." The last thing I would need would be for Prissy to have a heart attack while shoveling her stairs. I patted my coat pocket to make sure I had my cell phone with me.
"I don't need the whole front walk shoveled," she said. "Just a path so I can get to the car."
I nodded.
A few minutes later, Prissy came out dressed in her coat, boots, hat and gloves.
"Here, let me help you."
"No! Get in the house!"
"Young One, brush the snow off the car this way." Prissy made motions with her mittened hands and started down the stairs.
"Will you get in the house! Go make me a cup of tea!"
Prissy took another step and started to open her mouth.
"Get in the @%$@# house before you slip and fall and break a hip." I played the trump card. "Go put the kettle on, I want a cup of tea."
Prissy mumbled something and went into the house.
The Young One snickered. "Dude," she called to me. "She just wants to help."
"I know, but the last thing we need is her telling us how to shovel or having to call 9-1-1 to have someone come and pick her butt out of the snow. Besides, if she was able to do this, she could have come out earlier in the day and done this instead of waiting until it was dark. Old people," I grumbled.
The Young One regarded me for a minute and nodded sagely.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Day After

Friday, the day after the storm, I called the Weebles to see how they were doing and if they needed the driveway shoveled. Himself had packed a shovel in the trunk of his car and would stop at the Weebles after school to dig them out. Usually, one of the neighbors would snow blow the driveway for Dad, but just in case Himself would be prepared.

I called and the phone rang, and rang and rang. Ma doesn’t move fast and around the nineteenth ring she picked up the phone.


“Hi, I called to see how you were doing. Did you get a lot of snow? Do you need the driveway shoveled?”

“HE’s out there doing it.”


“Your father.”

Silently, I said some choice phrases concerning Weebles, and I looked to the heavens” Rolling Eyes

“He shouldn’t be doing that.”

“I know, but he has to go singing.”

I forgot the day. Friday is the Goldenaires glee club rehearsal. Dad is McNamara, the leader of the band, and he’d sooner cut of his right arm then miss anything to do with singing.

His singing is a bone of contention for Ma. She’s jealous of his mobility. He gets out of the house every chance he can get. Either he walks to the Senior Center or one of his “ladies” comes to pick him up. That’s another sore point, the ladies. While Dad is out and about, Ma can’t have him under her thumb.

“He shouldn’t be out shoveling,” I preached to the choir. I wasn’t sure if Dad’s bit of stupidity had to do with his OPD of singing, a death wish, or a combination of both. Most likely, the death wish. If he dropped dead from a heart attack in the middle of the driveway, he’d show her! “Himself will stop by after school to shovel.”

“No, he has his own work to do.”


“Don’t worry, I’ll fix HIM.”

I knew she meant Dad and not Himself.

“What will you do?”

“If he moves one toe over the driveway to go singing, I’ll lock him out.”

I laughed. She would too. I remembered a story I heard as a kid. Dad had been out at some Knights of Columbus event. Ma had imposed a Cinderella curfew. In by midnight or else. Midnight came and went with no sign of Dad. She locked both storm doors so he couldn’t get in. He spent the night in the car.

I sent Himself an email. C’mon home. The driveway will be taken care of. I didn’t add and so will Dad.

White Rabbit Appointment

Another doctor’s appointment. I arrived early per usual. Thought I would have a chance at visiting for a little bit, a chance for redemption in case the doctor kept them waiting and I had to leave after dropping them off at the house. We had a half an hour before we had to leave for the appointment. Ma was getting herself dressed. Dad wanted me to take a look at the computer.

“They won’t give me anything,” he explained.

“They” as if there are elves in the machine.

“They won’t give me my email. I put my password in, but they won’t let me do anything.”

I booted up his computer. Listened for the happy chime of the Windows logo. Signed onto his ISP with his password and was rewarded with his home page and the email preview.

With him looking over my shoulder, we sorted through his inbox.

In the middle of this, Ma came upstairs and went into the room across the landing which she turned into a sewing room. Dad got very paranoid.

“What’s she doing up here?”

I found Ma standing in front of her industrial Wilcox and Gibbs sewing machine fumbling with some thread. Ma was a seamstress and this antique machine was her baby.

“What are you doing?”

“I have to fix my pants.”

“We have to leave for your appointment in 15 minutes. Your appointment is at quarter to 11” I wasn’t sure why she didn’t fix her pants the say before when she had all day to sew, but questioning her was only going to get me yelled at.

“Here, thread the machine.” She gave me the navy thread.

I can’t sew. I can’t sew on a button to save my life, let alone thread a machine. Ma made me take sewing in jr. high school. (I wanted to take technical drawing, but that’s another story) I hated sewing and the sewing teacher. She wasn’t thrilled with me either and gave me a “C” because she knew my mother was a seamstress. Ma remade my dress at the end of the year so it could be worn.

I held the end of the thread as if it was a snake.

“Here put it through this guide.”

She made it sound so easy and it probably was if I could see the damn eye to the guide. I got the thread close a couple of times.

“Through here,” she yelled.

“I’m trying! I can’t see the damn hole!” The blind leading the blind.

“You have your glasses on!”

“Just because I have my glasses on doesn’t mean I can see!” I tilted my head this way and that trying to find the correct focal point in the bifocals.

“You’re doing it wrong!”

“I’m trying! Stop yelling at me!” The thread slipped through the first guide. Two more guides and then through the #$%@#! eye of the needle.

“Now through here!”

With shaky hands, I tried again.

Ma was breathing down my neck.

“No! Here!”

“Stop yelling at me! If you think you can do better, here!” I dropped the end of the thread.

“I didn’t ask for your help!”

“Yes, you did! You said ‘Here, thread the machine.’ I picked up the end of the thread and shoved it through the next two guides. I was worried about threading the needle without an electron microscope there was no way I would be able to see the eye of the needle.

I was too busy concentrating on the guides that I didn’t really see what Ma did. She had the end of the bobbin thread.

“Tie a square knot!”

I took the end of the bobbin thread and the thread through the guide. Right over left…

“It has to be a square knot!”

I bit my tongue and finished left over right and pulled the square knot taut.

She pulled on the bobbin thread. I was skeptical, but the navy thread flew through the eye of the needle. Ma grunted with satisfaction, pulled her chair out to sit down to her sewing.

I went back across the hall to Dad’s office.

“What’s she doing?”

“She’s sewing her pants.”

Dad started sputtering and rolled his eyes.

I told him I wanted to do some housekeeping on the machine, and he went downstairs. I cleaned out the temporary files. I also thought the problem he was having getting into his account was due to the old DSL access still in his tool tray. He was probably trying to sign on through that account which no longer exists so I happy deleted the programs.

I only had one point of contention with the FIOS ISP and that was virus security. Under the DSL account, the virus protection program was free. FIOS offered a 30 day trial subscription to Norton. Now, I pay $40 a month for “them” not “to give him anything” and I don’t want to pay an additional fee for him not to turn the computer on.

I wasn’t worried as there are plenty of free virus protection programs. AVG, Avast, Panda. They all work equally well. I downloaded Avast and in the middle of the download encountered a Windows error. Tried again. Same problem. Tried Panda. Same problem. What the… Checked his log in account to make sure he had administrator privileges. Yup, that was ok. Maybe I’d have to reinstall Windows.

It was now quarter to 11 and Dad with hat and coat on came upstairs.

We could hear the whirr of Ma’s sewing machine.

“Take your hat and coat off,” I said. “It’s going to be awhile.”

“But we’re going to be late.”

“I know.” I shut down the computer. I wasn't worried about the computer not having virus protection. Dad doesn't turn it on often enough for a viral invasion and because "they" don't give him his email, he's pretty much protected.

Dad started to sputter and was heading across the hall for a confrontation with Ma. I grabbed his arm to stop him.

“Look, yelling at her to hurry isn’t going to change anything. Her little trolley won’t slip the track.” I thought of the way The Brother let's Weeble aggravation roll off his back with an oh, wow. 'Oh,wow. We missed an appointment.' No worries.

“Why didn’t she sew yesterday?” He was gearing up to explode.

I shrugged. “Look, calm down. If she misses the appointment, you can schedule another, and I’ll take you.”

Dad looked at his watch. “Maybe I better tell them we’re going to be late.”

“Good idea.”

The appointment was rescheduled and Dad put the kettle on for tea.

Ma came downstairs. “I’m ready to go now.”

“You missed the appointment and it’s been rescheduled,” I said.

She looked at the clock.

“Your appointment was at quarter to 11,” I added.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I did, but you had to sew your pants.”

“Hmm,” Ma sniffed indignantly. “That doctor wouldn’t even wait for me. Why didn’t he wait for me?”

I laughed. Ever La Signora, The Lady. “He has other patients and can’t wait until you’re good and ready to grant the doctor an audience.”

Ma made lunch and Dad and I sipped our tea in the living room.

“Come set the table,” Ma yelled. Dad and I both jumped as we didn’t know which one of us she was commanding.

She brought 3 cheeseburgers to the table.

I frowned.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t like cheese.”

“Since when?”

I laughed. “Since forever. Don’t you remember when I was at St. Pat’s when it was grilled cheese day, Mrs. Burns [a neighbor who was the head dietician at the parochial school] would stop the lunch line and bring me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich so the nuns wouldn’t yell at me for wasting the grilled cheese sandwich I wouldn’t eat?”

“I’m sorry, I forgot.”

“Don’t worry about it.” We sat down, ate lunch and had a nice visit.

On the ride home I was congratulating myself for being so calm about the missed appointment. Surely, I must have risen to the eighth level of Hell for not losing my temper. Maybe even a small gem for my heavenly crown. I patted myself on the back. A thought struck me and my elation sank. Pride is the worse of the Seven Deadly Sins. Lucifer committed the sin of pride and fell. Being so smug about how I didn’t lose my temper was hubris. Oh, well, back to the ninth level of Hell.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


The mail arrived with a check for the phone bill and a letter from Dad, a newsy note. The Brother had gone to pay them a surprise visit on Sunday. The surprise was on The Brother as the Weebles were not at home. Dad's friend had taken them for storm supplies on a three hour shopping expedition to Market Basket. Lord knows how they would make it through the one to three inches of snow without a case of Pastene canned tomatoes. Dad was sorry they missed The Brother's visit but was pleased with The Brother's phone call later that evening.

The end of the letter turned to Dad venting. Seems Ma was singing the "He's Stupid" song. No surprise there. I did chuckle at the last paragraph, some words of advice from father to daughter.

Growing up, Dad really didn't have much to say to The Brother and myself. When he did have something to say, he was like that old E. F. Hutton commercial. "When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen. "

"...It's wonderful to have a perfect wife, pure as can be. I keep telling her that perfection was made 2,000 years ago. And we ain't going to sing Ave Marie.



P. S. Don't you ever get to be like her."

I'm listening, Dad, I'm listening.