Writing Inspiration and Lifeblood: The Crazy
I’m back in Los Angeles this weekend for a family memorial. I tell you, the memoir I’m going to write after the matriarchs pass. My family is a writing inspiration. The Beard stayed home to mind teenage boys, dogs and cats. Bless him. I invited the dotter to come with me. She brought the boyfriend for his first dip into the crazy pool. Originally, we planned on staying with my grandmother. The plane tickets weren’t too pricey and staying at my grandmother’s kept things in the reasonable area. My mother, who first decided not to go, changed her mind and changed our plans. My grandmother’s house isn’t big enough or comfortable enough to house that many people.
“You going to the memorial?” My mother asked. I hadn’t discussed it with her, but she’d spoken with my grandma.
“Yep.” I avoided engaging her.
She sighed. “I just can’t. My new doctor told me I have neuropathy. My hand still isn’t healed and I don’t want to slow you guys down. Lillie’s going with you.” It was an accusation.
I took a breath and let it go. “Yep.”
“I already sent Terri a letter saying I can’t go.” You know the pregnant pause, my mother’s a master.
“Okay.” I took a sip of coffee and leaned back in my patio chair.
The Beard looked at me puzzled. These conversations usually involve a lot more of “Uh huh. Really? And Well then’s….” on my part.
I shook my head at him, but didn’t say anything to my mother.
“We have so many bills with my surgeries and now this neuropathy.”
I couldn’t resist. “This is the new doctor that you found after the other new doctor told you there was nothing wrong with you?” She’d called me in tears and distress at the news that she was healthy.
The Beard put his hand over mine. He mouthed, “Let it go.”
My mother, relieved that I’d turned the conversation back on, started in. “Oh yes. This new doctor is Spanish.”
I snorted. “I thought he was Mexican.” My mother, Mexican, Apache and Spanish herself, has become a raging racist. Spanish is European, ergo not Mexican.
“Oh no, he’s Spanish. He said I have neuropathy in my legs. I shouldn’t go to L.A.”
“Okay.” I took The Beard’s advice and let it go. “Love you. Talk to you next week.” I quickly ended the call.
Ten minutes later my phone rang. “Hello Madre.” I looked at the Beard. He slapped his forehead.
“Hey, I talked to Dad and I’m going. I need your flight information so I can get on the same flight as you.”
I pursed my lips, but took a deep breath. “I’ll email it to you. You’d better talk to Terri since you’ve already declined.”
“Oh, I will.”
“Gotta go.” I hung up. “Fuck.”
The Beard shook his head. “She’s going.”
“Yeah.” I put my feet up on the other chair and scratched the Nugget’s head, which thumped into my lap.
After discussing it with the Beard, we weighed my sanity against the cost of the trip and broke down to get a hotel room. I found a pretty good rate at a hotel less than ten minutes from my grandmother’s house. It seemed like a fair compromise though it disrupted our reasonable cost plan. Still, a four star hotel, WiFi, a king size bed and bright bathroom would be a treat.
Plans for the trip in place, I worked on keeping my Zen during the inevitable insanity spike. We would arrive in L.A. on my mother’s birthday, so my grandmother asked me to find a place for dinner. The phone call quota rose to three or four times a day rather than the two or three. There was a breaking point when my mother called two weeks before departure.
“Hey Madre.” I kept slicing veggies for my juice.
“Oh, I’m so mad. I’m trying to reschedule my hair appointment, but she can’t change it. Blah, blah, blah….” She kept going about shopping and driving and grabbing a hamburger for ten more minutes. “It’s just crazy with Dad in the hospital.”
“Wait. Mom, Dad’s in the hospital?” I tamped down my rage and irritation.
“Oh yeah, he’s been having pain in his abdomen and his back. He has kidney stones, but they’re not passing. He’s going to need surgery.”
I rubbed my neck and rolled my head a few times. “Mom, it’s better to lead with ‘Dad’s in the hospital.’”
My statement disappeared in her new diatribe about her own stuff. “Oh and I don’t know if I’ll go to L.A. My legs are really bothering me. I’m not sleeping and the doctor doesn’t know what he can do for me. I’m miserable.”
“Surgery, Mom. When is Dad’s surgery?” I kept my voice calm.
“They don’t know. They’re trying to schedule it. Grandma’s on a rampage because I might not come and she says Luke and Dotter can’t stay at her house because they’re not married.”
My patience snapped. “Mom, I’ll take care of it. I don’t want to hear another word about it. Call me when Dad’s surgery is finalized.” I hung up and dialed my grandmother. “Hiya Grandma, it’s Julia.”
“Oh hi. Did you hear about your mother and father?” She asked.
“Yeah, I did. I’m just calling to get the trip details down. We fly in Thursday and we’ll pick up a rental car.” I approached it calmly.
She took a tone that I refer to as the Montoya tone. It’s a nasty, cutting tone meant to injure. “So you’re planning on staying here.”
She knows full well we are. “Yes Grandma, Luke and Lillie will take the front bedroom. Mom will stay in the back room and I’ll stay in the hotel.”
“Lillie and her boyfriend are not staying here.” She snapped.
Something in me snapped too. I went full on Apache. That’s what The Beard and the kids call it when my head spins and I see blood. “Seriously? You’re going to pull that shit? After all of the time I’ve made for you. Every year since the kids have been born, I’ve come to see you.”
“You can’t talk that way to me. I’m not a child.” She rallied, fueling my Aztec rage.
“You’re acting like a child, so I’ll talk to you like you’re a child. Who in this family spent scholarship money to fly out after Tata had his stroke? Was it my mother or Uncle Mike? Nope. Who flew out early after Tata died to help you get things arranged? Oh, was it my mother or Uncle Mike? Was it any of my cousins? Nope. Have I missed something or has any of my cousins brought their kids to see you twice a year even though they LIVE in California? I don’t think so.”
“It goes against my beliefs. They aren’t married.” She tried to cling to her position.
“Fuck your beliefs. This is the 21st century and last time I checked neither you or I had such great run with marriage. How dare you treat my daughter this way. You know what, I’ll change my hotel reservations and the three of us will go stay at the beach and you can spend the weekend alone with my mother. You two can go to the memorial on your own and you’ll never hear from me again.”
Son One walked into the kitchen, “What the hell Mom? Who’re you screaming at?”
I waved him off on a tear. “My children treat you with kindness and love and this is how you’re playing it? Fuck you and your beliefs.”
“Oh now, wait a minute. I guess I’m old and need to change my ways. They can stay here.” Her voice softened as she changed tack. “You’re right, it’s old fashioned and I can’t expect the kids to do things the way I did them.”
I wasn’t ready to cave. “No, I don’t think so. You’ll say something or be insulting in some way. We’ll stay at the beach.”
My grandma’s voice grew stern again. “I can be civil. I promise. I’ll be gracious and I won’t say anything. You have to give me a chance.”
“All right, but Grandma, one word, just one and we’ll be out of there.”
“Do you think your mother is a hypochondriac?”
The rapid change of topic confused me. I’d won my battle and she’d shifted gears too quickly. “Of course I do. Dad has kidney stones, so she’s plagued with neuropathy.”
My grandmother snorted. “You know that’s not a diagnosis. It’s pins and needles. It’s a symptom, not a disease.”
“Yeah, I know.” My 92-year-old grandmother blew my mind for a second time in one conversation. “She needs to one up my dad’s problem.”
“She never used to be this way. Have you thought about being tough with her like you were with me? It might help.”
Holy shite. Now my grandmother thinks my tirade is great. “Um, it wouldn’t help Grandma. She’s determined that she’s ill.”
“Wait, you’re staying in a hotel? Are you doing that because your mother is coming?” After all of that, she’s realized I’m staying in a hotel.
“Yeah, there’s not enough room for all of us at your place. Don’t worry, it’s only five minutes away.”
She chuffed. “You should make your mother pay for that. She’s the one changing everyone’s plans.”
Okay, now my world view completely tilted off balance. When my grandmother, Grand Dragon of Crazy, thinks my mother is being unreasonable the earth should open to spew rainbows and unicorns. “It’s okay. We’ll make it work.”
We finished up the conversation and Son One, who’d been standing there aghast asked, “Was that Grandma Garduno? You were screaming at Grandma?”
“She pissed me off and was treating your sister poorly.” I shrugged.
He shook his head. “Jeez Ma, that was crazy.”
“Really? You’re just this minute realizing the crazy?” I rolled my eyes.
The next week my mother officially canceled. I couldn’t get a refund on the hotel. No big deal, irritating, but what’re you going to do? My grandmother reaffirmed her belief that my mother should write me a check. My mother called ten more times to tell me she wasn’t going.
When we arrived at my grandmother’s house, she once again surprised me. “Your mother has called me every day to remind me she isn’t coming.”
“I know. I think she believed we would cancel our trip because she wasn’t.” I shrugged.
“That’s just crazy.” She said in disbelief.
Lillie looked at me, eyes twinkling.
“You said it, Grandma.” I agreed. Oh boy.