Tuesday, July 2, 2013


This past weekend did not go exactly as planned. Little Bro and his wife arrived at our house in the middle of the morning Saturday, but they only stayed for a couple of hours, as opposed to the overnight visit we were expecting. The vast majority of the east coast had seen heavy rain on Friday, and while the impact on me was speed restrictions for the VRE which got me home an hour or so later than usual, the impact on my Little Bro’s current town of residence was widespread flooding and power outages, a combination which unfortunately removes electrical sump pumps such as Little Bro’s from the equation just when they’re needed most. He and my sister-in-law didn’t even really learn about the extent of the storm and flood until Saturday morning, since they had been visiting her relatives in a locale with zero cell phone coverage, and only once they were on the road toward my house did the attempts by their friends back home to reach them start showing up in the text message feeds and voicemail inboxes. Obviously my wife and I assured Little Bro that he should not feel the slightest bit bad about popping over to say hi and meet his newest nephew and then continuing on back home to deal with the flooding of his basement as soon as possible, so that’s how things went down.

Luckily (I suppose) this was not the first time their basement had flooded and they had previously gotten any and all items they did not want to lose to water damage up off the basement floor last time, so nothing was really lost this time around. They had to call the fire department to pump out their basement before the electric company would restore their power, but it all got sorted out.

So instead of doubling the number of human beings under my roof for the entirety of Saturday, it was mostly just my father, step-mother and sister joining us. I ran around doing a not insignificant amount of house tidying Saturday morning before everyone else appeared, while my wife went out to run an errand or two, and then in the afternoon I did a speed run to the grocery store to pick up the requisite cookout staples (thankful, honestly, that I had put it off til the last minute, since I didn’t end up overbuying in anticipation of Little Bro and sister-in-law, who were long gone by dinner) and by the end of the day, after my folks and sis had decamped to their hotel, I was completely wiped out. My wife observed my stupefied exhaustion and observed, “Having your family visit really stresses you out, doesn’t it?”

The weird thing was not that she was right, but that I was not particularly consciously aware of it. I mean, I’m familiar with the phenomenon but I hadn’t been obsessively focusing on it this past weekend, and if my wife had simply said to me as we were getting ready for bed “Why are you so run down?” I would have honestly answered “I have no idea.” The fact is that relations between the family I am the (nominal) head of and the one my father is head of got off to a bit of a rocky start but have steadily gotten better and better over the years. And that fact actually probably goes a long way toward explanation; I used to experience abject, mortal terror at the thought of the families getting together, and now it merely gnaws at me in a subconscious kind of way.

My dad is just the kind of person who wants certain things a certain way and doesn’t always take kindly to suggestions that maybe he might take the impact on other people into consideration. This means, for example, that he will make a long drive down the interstate, hours and hours to cover hundreds of miles, to ostensibly visit his son and daughter-in-law and grandchildren. But, after arriving late at night to sleep at a hotel and then planning to come over to visit in the morning, he will wake up and get ready and have breakfast at the hotel all in no particular hurry, and show up at our house with a good chunk of the day gone. And then it’s equally likely that at some point he’ll slip off to the den by himself to turn on the television and see how the Yankees game is going. He doesn’t mean these things as a snub or a slight, it’s just that he works all week and on the weekend he wants to do things at his own pace and relax in front of a sports broadcast and so on, not only wants that but feels it is his right and his due. And the fact that these things take away from the time he could be spending interacting with his children and grandchildren, time which is extremely limited based on geographical separation to begin with, doesn’t factor in.

To my dad’s credit, he didn’t get to our house too terribly late on Saturday morning, and not once did he attempt a surreptitious score check. Of course, we got to talking about baseball Saturday evening and he did more eye-rolling than talking. He said he had come into the current season with extremely low expectations for the Yankees, by virtue of which he’d be satisfied if they simply had a winning record, one game over .500, playoffs or no. As it happens, that’s pretty close to where they are right now. As it also happens, the Yankees were playing the Orioles all weekend, and ended up getting swept via a blown lead, a rout, and a close game that didn’t feel that way. I suppose on some level even that made me feel like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place; if the Yankees had been winning the series my wife might have felt ganged up on by my whole New York descended family, and I would have felt obligated to temper that, whereas if the O’s had the better of it (as they certainly did) I would have worried about my dad simply being a sore loser about it and curdling whatever satisfaction my wife might normally take from our own friendly rivalry. But other than the brief discussion of how rough a year the Yanks are having, baseball failed to impress itself much on the proceedings. The fates of the AL East: simultaneously totally trivial and yet devastatingly hot-button!

But yes, to sum up, nothing untoward happened but apparently I spent most of the day Saturday just waiting for the other shoe to drop, and by the time we said goodnight and goodbye to my fam I was on the verge of collapse. Maybe one of these years I will have enough faith in all our collective abilities to navigate the personal minefields that it won’t be quite so draining to traipse on through them for a weekend. But clearly I am not quite there yet.

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