Clash of Cultures, or The List Must Go On



CURRENT BOOK:  On Beauty by Zadie Smith

This week has been insane.

My husband’s mother passed away overnight on Tuesday.  She was at home in her own bed like I think we all hope we will be.  It wasn’t completely unexpected.  She hasn’t been well over the last several weeks after steadily declining over the last couple of years with aches and pains she couldn’t tolerate and problems managing her medications, and lately she was tethered to an oxygen tank and wearing adult diapers and was losing the will to live.  And I’m okay because I didn’t have anything against her but I wasn’t close to her.  It is sad that she was the only person in my husband’s immediate biological family who DID accept me.  At the same time, this was all very awkward for me because my husband’s father and sister DO have problems with me (it’s all petty superficial stuff and it’s them, not me — everyone else in my husband’s circle likes me).  This is to the point that I haven’t seen or spoken to them in over four years since they objected to the marriage right before my so-called wedding (which I say because people were there and I signed a piece of paper but I did not marry my husband in my heart that day and it was not a happy day or a celebration for me).  Not to mention that I don’t do funerals.  I’ve never been to one besides to show my face for a little while at the visitation or attend the Mass.  In my family, you live to your 90’s if you don’t smoke, so nobody has died yet.  I did lose my grandfather on my father’s side when I was seven, but my middle sister was a newborn and we went to visit my grandmother and went to Mass but we didn’t go to the service at Arlington National Cemetery which was just for my grandmother and my father and his brother and sister.  I lost my great-grandmothers but they lived far out of town and I didn’t see or talk to them often.  I also lost a great-aunt and her husband, but again, they lived far out of town and I didn’t see or talk to them often and didn’t go to the services.  I did lose a close friend from college, but since I didn’t know her family I didn’t find out until over a month later when I realized I had not seen anything from her on Facebook for a while and on some kind of hunch I Googled her name and found her obituary.  In other words, I have never lost anyone so close to me that I have been to a full-blown, all-day funeral.  And they do funerals BIG in New Orleans.  You have to have a reception afterwards and everything.  Not my gig!  And not to mention that my husband and I are a step above most of his family.  Let’s just say he’s the only college graduate.  Okay I’ll be brutally honest — they’re just a step above trailer trash.  And I’m at a disadvantage with all the people from the Lodge that my husband’s family has known for years whom I have met once or twice.

Anyway, I got through it.  It helped that there were people who actually showed up for ME.  They were MY people, and they came.  My husband was worried about his eulogy and asked me to look over it for him since writing isn’t his strong point but I felt almost like the guy at the end of “The Fault in Our Stars” who says “I have nothing to add.”  It was perfect.  And he did perfect.  I ended up not having to communicate with the father or sister at all.  I made clear to my husband that I was there for HIM but I could care less about them.

I really thought I would not get through it.  Not that they aren’t understanding, but work hasn’t let up and they don’t have any extra help for me and I was not in a position to work overtime even if I wanted to.  By Thursday evening I was completely exhausted from trying to support my husband and begged off of work half an hour early just so I could take a nap because I had a dance practice later that I didn’t want to miss because they were teaching a new routine.  Then a friend of my husband’s came over to return an air pump and check on him just after I changed and was going to take my nap.  We had to kick him out of the house after about 20 minutes so I could get something to eat before practice.  Practice ran late and the majority of us ended up ended up having to bail because I was apparently not the only one who was ready to go.  Screw them and I don’t think they’re actually going to kick me out especially under the circumstances so I’m skipping the next couple of practices.  Then I even had trouble even getting myself a glass of wine when I got home from pratice, because I didn’t have any cheap everyday bottles so we had to run to the store and then it didn’t ring up properly and although I told the cashier to forget about it she insisted on bringing over her manager to fix it.  Then although my husband (wisely) decided to come out to eat on Friday evening with just my mother and grandmother and me, instead of going with his family which had gathered a group of ten people attempting to get into a small and popular restaurant at prime time on a Friday, we ended up running late visiting and I still didn’t have any down time after I got home.  Yesterday morning before the funeral I just had not had time to myself and I was on empty.  Cue the meltdown.

Thank goodness it’s over now.  My husband has been having ups and downs but he has been doing so much better than I thought he would.  They have to figure out what to do about my husband’s father, and I’m leery of that, but hopefully they can keep their heads together so it’s not a drama-fest.  And I was blunt with my husband that I can’t support him helping his father until his father has made an effort to repair his relationship with me, and that he should use it as leverage to ask his father to adjust his attitude.  I somehow got through yesterday but I just told my husband I’m not dealing with anyone or anything for the next six months.

In the meantime, at least I took proper lunch breaks during the week and I finished the next book on the The List and I’m still on track.  Although initially I liked this modern novel, I lost interest before long whether this was just because of everything else going on or because I was trying to rush through 50 pages on my lunch break, or what.  I saw an interesting clash of cultures between the British father, the middle-class African-American mother, the Haitian blacks, and some of the street kids who became friends with their children.  The novel also portrayed university culture at the institution where the father taught.  On top of all this was the dynamics within the family, with the husband’s infidelity.  I wish I had sensed a better resolution at the ending to know where the characters were going — not that real life is like that, but especially when life is uncertain, I like my fiction to give me more of a sense of closure.  Even The Goldfinch was a little better.

Anyway, hopefully I can focus back more on the book stuff next time.  I’m going to go have some time to myself and try to pick up the house.


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