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Monday, February 7, 2011

Oh, Marvelous Illusion. Oh, Terrible Surprise.

For ardent G&S schdorks who got here by Googling the title of this post (yes, it is a line from the Act I Finale of "The Sorcerer") keep your proverbial Gilbertian dick in your pants. This isn't an Anglophiliac, Victorian operetta appreciation post. This is a post about how my family is falling apart, and how its pieces are descending slowly but methodically to Hell.

Sorry about that.

On Saturday night, while my wife and I were cleaning up after making fresh lemon bread (really, it's more like cake-- I'll give you the recipe, if you want it. It culminates in drizzling lemon juice and sugar all over the top of the loaf, if that's any indicator of its awesomeness) my cellphone rang. It was my father. I was to call him, "you know, Mummy-- later. Whenever. When you are... relaxed."

When I'm relaxed, I thought. What a strange thing to say. I am never relaxed, except post coitally, or post poo, and neither of those situations seemed like an entirely appropriate time to be phoning my father. So I said to my wife, "Let's get whatever bullshit this is over with so we can go watch COPS," and I dialed his number. It was 7:40pm. I let the phone drop on the floor at 8:45.

"Mummy, I just wanted to let you know," he said at the beginning, "that your sister put an offer in on a house across the street from you, and the offer was accepted, and so she is going to live there, with her son and her husband, and her husband's other son. Together. Across the street from you."

What followed was one of the longest silences I've ever endured in my life. A silence fraught with tension, where I could actually feel my blood pressure rising. My back began to sweat. My eyes darted over to my wife, who was busying herself wiping down the gold-flecked Formica countertop. He said nothing, and neither did I-- because that's what a silence is.

(Just ask Pinter.)

Finally, he broke it by saying my name with that "Are you still there/breathing" inquisitiveness. I responded with such a timeworn cliche, such a patently ridiculous, sitcom response-- but it was absolutely the only single thing I could even think of to say, the only thing I could possibly say to that unbelievably painful, awkward, unfortunate, searingly terrible statement of my father's. I said the only words that would trickle down the synapses from my brain along my nerves down to my lips.

"Is this a joke?"

It was not. And while I'm usually pretty good at sniffing out humor, or attempts at levity, or horrendously misguided jokes about severed babies or drunk-driving crashes or old ladies having sex with voles, I have to admit that the possibility that my father was serious about my sister moving quite literally across the street from me and my wife was really a very distant possibility in my mind when compared to the likelihood that this was some sort of inept Israeli attempt at a joke.

But it was no joke.

My sister, who routinely discusses openly her utter contempt for her husband, or talks of divorcing him "as soon as our kid's five-- I'm just using him for childcare," my sister-- who has never lifted a finger in her life to help someone else, my sister-- who uses my father and my mother for childcare, who uses our oldest sister as some kind of mix between a personal assistant and a slave, my sister, who text-messages me complicated coffee orders that I am to order and pay for and bring to her hand when I come visit her, my sister is going to be my neighbor.

"Everybody Loves Raymond" without the laugh-track.

What ensued, after the distinct dearth of humor was realized on the phone, was the most painful hour I have ever spent talking to anybody in my life. My father, who has created an insulated fantasy world for himself, where his sole mission in his life is to save my self-centered, misanthropic sister, and the innocent child she created with this unfortunate lummox, spent an hour listening to nothing that I said.

And I said a lot. And I said it loudly. And passionately.

But it didn't matter.

Today, there's a house inspection. Yesterday, there were papers signed. One step closer. Howdy-doodly, Neighbor.

I am absolutely crushed. It's not that I don't want the absolute best for my nephew. Of course I do-- but that would start with different parents for him, which I cannot arrange. It's just that I don't want the absolute best for my sister. Why? Because she doesn't deserve it. She isn't nice. She isn't a good person. And it kills me to say that, it makes me want to spew hot vomit across the room and throw myself down the stairs for thinking and believing that about my own flesh and blood-- but it's true. Since she had this child that my parents take care of more than she does, they have aged exponentially. My mother is falling apart. My father is driving himself insane trying to dump water out of the boat that contains his daughter's marriage-- the boat that bears a gaping hole. Everyone is scrambling to save it-- everybody but my sister and her husband.

They kind of just don't seem to give a damn.

And, on a hot, selfish, dastardly level: I'm disgusted at the mere thought that they get to have a child-- a miracle-- that they don't appreciate, while we remain childless-- and on top of that, they're going to get a house in the suburbs that they won't appreciate either, and that poor man is marked for divorce in T-minus a couple years, and he doesn't even know it. And now I get a front-row seat to our family's own personal, private Hindenburg. The whole thing is just one marvelous illusion and, for me, a very terrible surprise.

Though I guess it shouldn't be. It's just what it always was with her-- the world kowtowing to her every whim and order-- only the stakes are so much higher now.


  1. Wow. It may say something about how involved I am in the lives of people who I've never met, but my jaw dropped and I am indignant on your behalf. If they're going to split up at the drop of a fucked-up hat how will she pay a mortgage on her own while raising a child? I mean... fuckero.
    And on a non-sympathetic note, I want that lemon bread recipe.

  2. Thank you for your righteous indignation.

    In return, you get the recipe!

    Lemon Nut Bread

    1/2c butter
    1 1/4c sugar
    2 eggs - lightly beaten
    1 1/4c flour
    1tsp baking powder
    1/4tsp salt
    1/2c milk
    1/2c walnuts - chopped
    grated rind of 1 lemon
    juice of 1 lemon

    Cream together shortening and 1 c sugar. Add eggs. Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture alternately with milk. Add nuts and lemon rind. Pour into buttered loaf pan and bake at 350 for one hour. Remove from oven. Pierce loaf with small skewer all over the top of it until it resembles the body of Bonnie and/or Clyde after their final encounter with law enforcement. Combine 1/4c sugar and lemon juice. Pour all over hot bread. Let cool on wire rack. Slice. Consume while thinking about me and my new neighbor from Hell.



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