The Zany Hours


Crazy Christmas 3D Glasses Claim Two Victims

My phone conversations with my dad are a kaleidoscope of patchwork information. He has at least nine cylinders burning at once, including ones for food, sports, and a category of questions so random and rapid fired that it’s like being on the phone with Alex Trebek on meth. The first order of business is the obituary section, wherein my dad tells me about that week’s death roll. Next might be the successes and failures of our local sporting teams. I can always tell when my dad has a game on in the background. Not because he’s mildly distracted (which he is) but because he interjects his commentary aimed at the happenings on the screen into the phone, infixing points into other unrelated points.

“So anyway when we visit do you think we could check out what the fuck is your problem, moron! Throw the fucking ball! You know, to that monastery with the good beer. You think?”

“Um what?”

“The monastery can we go there?”

“Sure.”

“The Eagles suck.”

Today my family is happening in the background. This means that my dad is downstairs instead of in the fortress of solitude he calls his bedroom. Today his backup group is my mom, my sister, and her daughter. Her son is almost certainly there as well, but he’s transfixed at some cartoon animals doing something in his iPad.

My mom and sister are arguing and, from what I can gather, today’s bitter dispute concerns the location of “that fucking pan” or maybe “a God damned bag of other God damned bags.”

Having just gone home for Christmas, I am well-fed on my family’s zaniness. There were familial antics and wacky comedies of errors. My dad is 73 and exists mostly on cupcakes. One morning I came upon him picking out the chocolate chips from a bag of trail mix. “If I made trail mix it would be M&Ms and cashew nuts.” I skipped the opportunity to tell him that they have that trail mix and it’s called a bag of M&Ms and another bag of cashews.

My sister is pregnant and she has taken the opportunity to blame this for rampant homicidal mood swings. This observation was not acquired as much as learned when she said: “If. If you thought I was bad before, well just you wait motherfucker.”

Ten seconds later when she began sobbing and outlining my excellence as a brother, I tiptoed out of pot-and-pan range and suggested that the last thing her already sociopathic propensity to mood swings needed was a parasite living in her uterus and eating half her food. Perhaps this has led to the rise in tensions with my mom. In any event, I did not get hit by a pan.

The current argument (started 4 years ago) revolves around my mom’s habits as per acquiring things and leaving them in voluminous heaps all around the house. My sister takes exception to this and decides that she will instantly find places for these heaps, but she does this with no rhyme or reason. She chucks bags in closets or stows pans in random drawers. Anything to get them out of sight. This drives my mom insane, because she likes to be able to see the piles and piles of things she brings into the house. Otherwise, what’s the point? Over Christmas there were some skirmishes and tonight in the background to my conversation it sounds like a full blown battle.

Today the obituary section of our conversation concerned the awful news of a dear friend’s sudden death. I already knew about it, so I preempted the news by telling him about it and noting his disappointment. Alan was 66 years old, which makes the universe a real cocksucker in my opinion. Assholes like Donald Trump will live to be 105 with not an ounce of guilt, while wonderful and kind little Jewish guys with bad sweaters and loving families die at 66. In the early 90s, towards the end of high school, we walked our dogs together each night. He was then in his middle years and he was very smart and reasonable and always gave thoughtful advice. From then up until the very last time I saw him (last August) he referred to me as “son.” He’d introduce me to people: “Phyllis, this is my son, he lives in Prague, a professor! His mother and I are so proud.”

Sure, there was a resemblance. He was a short nerdy Jewish guy and I am a short nerdy Irish Italian guy. In the last years I would see him once in the summer while visiting the old neighborhood. We’d walk and talk for ten minutes, catch up, hug, slap each other’s backs. In the end, I’d promise to drop by before I returned to Prague, which I almost never did.

I know it’s selfish, but I suppose it was nice knowing that he was there. that they’re all there. As with other friends and old neighbors, it comforts me to know that on the other side of the planet, in a place I see once or twice a year, the people I know and love are living their lives in happiness. They have their ups and downs, cry, laugh, and do dumb things, but life moves along and these people enjoy their November years in peace.

But the universe sometimes has other plans, and ones I am not very fond of. People who deserve far better fall ill or they go away. It’s a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime of being good people and raising families. And the best part about it is that there’s not a thing I can do about it. When my grandmother died a few months ago, I said to my sister, “Amanda, this is going to start happening a lot more now.”

She laughed as if to say: “I’m pregnant and 43 asshole, sing me a song. And hand me that pan.”

The universe laughed, shook its head, and said: “Oh buddy, you just wait.”

So how to deal? Well, there’s drinking, of course, or a full collapse into the despair that comes with realizing that the world is a sucky unfair place sometimes. Or I can realize that this is the best time of my whole life and I can count my many blessings and I can be grateful for my wonderful friends, my asshole cat, and my zany family.

That seems like the best option. And so tonight as my dad outlines the failings of the Eagles and licks the icing off of the cupcakes, and as my sister throws a bag of God damned bags at my mother and then claims immunity due to uterine parasitic infection, and my mom grumbles under her breath and pours a heap of things by the front door, and as my nephew plays the same video for the 200th time on his iPad at volume 1,000, and my niece bakes a batch of cookies, and as salt shakers and bowls fall of the edge of the slanted kitchen table, I sit back and imagine it all and I drink it in.

Because life is fucking awesome.

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