The morning windmill

Having three wives under my belt provides me with a diversity of memories. About all the three have in common is that they self-identify as women, which is a good thing because that’s what their plumbing firmly indicates.

Well, there is another characteristic they share, something all women share. They are fond of talking. Women love to talk. Some do it rather calmly, and some less so.

Every morning we sit at the dining room table about 8:30 with coffee and biscuits. She talks. I listen. More often than not, she’s agitated about something, which usually falls into one of two categories. One is the Mexican president who goes by his initials AMLO and who holds a press conference every weekday at 7 a.m. It’s live on YouTube, which is where my child bride watches in bed, and gets herself steamed.

Her second, common source of breakfast uproar will have something to do with one of her many, many relatives, a motley crew if ever there was one.

Okay, now that we’ve established she often comes to the morning table in a state of agitation, let’s move on to the topic at hand, how she manifests that agitation, and it’s something that provides me with endless chuckles, usually kept to myself.

She waves her arms around wildly. I watch as a hand passes the coffee cup at 100 m.p.h. and then the plant vase, and then whatever other fragile item sits nearby. Surprisingly, her windmilling has clobbered very few table items over the years. It must be like the radar that bats possess with which they instinctively dodge obstructions ahead.

The morning windmill is as entertaining as her rants about AMLO or her thinking she can, with sufficient sage advice, change the chaotic course of the lives of her kinfolk.

Family matters

car
My daughter gets a surprise new car that my mother and I bought her in the late 1980s.

“Men cause problems between nations. Women cause problems in families.”

THAT’S A QUOTE from long-time radio host, physiologist and family therapist Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I heard her say that on the radio in the late 1990s when I was living in Houston. It stuck with me because it is so true.

The only Gringo family I still have are two women, my daughter and my sister. I have not communicated with my sister in over eight years. That was my decision because she is explosive and stressful to interact with. And I haven’t heard anything out of my daughter in two or more years. That was not my decision.

My daughter is not explosive, but she is hyper-sensitive and hair-trigger to offend. I apparently offended her in some way years back, after my Mexico move, so she has never visited me here in spite of my invitations, invitations I have given up on extending.

She gets her hyper-sensitivity honestly, from her mother who is also hyper-sensitive. We copy our parents to a great degree, and as a child she was around her mother far more than she was around me. Her mother and I split when she was just 5 years old.

My daughter and I had a great relationship when she was 5. When she was 8, her mother and mom’s boyfriend hightailed it to Canada and never told me where or how to contact them. This was primarily because the police were after them. They (were) returned to New Orleans about three years later. My daughter was 11.

She and I reconnected at that point, but it was never the same. She told me later that she had believed I was dead. Wasn’t that a swell thing for her mother to impart?

She lives in Athens, Georgia, now with her second husband, a patent lawyer. She is 53. They’ve been married for about 25 years, and they have no children, so I’m not a grandfather, and never will be. I would like having grandkids. It would be fun.

This all saddens me quite a lot.

My sister lives in the small town of Arcata in Northern California. I learned this online. She moved there from Atlanta at some point in the past eight years. She followed her long-time “partner” there. My sister identifies as a lesbian!

She used to be straight, but then she switched teams about 40 years ago.

Out of curiosity this week, I did internet sleuthing and discovered that she lives in a double-wide trailer, or at least that’s what it looks like on Google Street View. I learned about a month ago that her partner died two years ago at age 77. Her partner was far more personable than my sister. I liked her. R.I.P.

My sister is 78. I sometimes wonder if age has calmed her. I doubt it.

My daughter and my sister won’t communicate either. I don’t know which one started that aspect of the miserable situation. Both are professional therapists, by the way, as is my daughter’s mother. The three of them. Isn’t that a hoot?

Enough about them. Let’s trot this notion of women causing problems in families over to my horde of Mexican relatives. What do I see? I see us men mostly minding our own business and the women lighting gas fires all over the place. The gossip and the ensuing problems are endless. This appears to be a universal phenomenon. Sad.

Why can’t women be more like men?

Good night, Dr. Laura, wherever you are.

The drop-ins

Here we are! What’s on the stove? Where’s the tequila? Let’s dance!

LIVING IN Mexico can be a challenge. Don’t let anybody fool you with that “it’s magical” hooey.

The pluses outweigh the minuses, of course, but some of those minuses can be maddening, especially to me.

Way up the list is what I call the “Mexican yes,” or as I often say it to my child bride, “el sí mexicano.”

She does not dispute the point.

This refers to the custom of responding positively to pretty much everything. Are you coming tomorrow to fix the faucet? Yes!  Are you coming to lunch tomorrow? Yes! It’s always yes, and it never has any connection to reality whatsoever.

Maybe you’ll come. Maybe you won’t. No telling.

The only exception to this occurs when the positive response is not yes, but no. Are you going to drive my car that I’m loaning you 200 kph over potholes? No!

But, like all Mexicans, I have become accustomed to the “Mexican yes,” knowing that it’s meaningless.

By the way, the “Mexican yes” is just one example of a broader problem, which is rampant lying. This habit stems from trying to make other people feel good on one hand, and avoiding embarrassment to yourself on the other hand.

Mexicans get embarrassed a lot.

Most of the lying falls into the “little white lie” category, the fib. It’s no big thing really, but it becomes a bigger thing due to its being spectacularly widespread.

What all this means is that you often cannot depend on what people say. I am convinced this is a major factor in our not running a First-World economy, which relies on trust.

There is little trust between the Rio Bravo and the Guatemalan border. Probably not south of the Guatemalan border either, but I have never been there, so I don’t know.

I suspect this is not a Mexican thing, but a Latino thing.

But it’s not lying or lack of trust that inspires me today. It’s another Mexican habit that drives me nuts.

It’s the drop-in.

If relatives want to visit, they just do so with no warning whatsoever, and it can happen at any hour of the day or night. And they rarely do so individually or in couples.

Think groups. I call them mobs.

Do they phone first to let you know they’re on their way? Do they wait for an invite? Do they think for a nanosecond that you may be busy with someone or something else? Do they attempt not to come right at a meal time? No.

My wife says this is just part of the culture, and nobody thinks anything of it, including the recipients of the drop-in. Relatives are always welcome. Always!

I very much doubt this. I think the recipients of the drop-in often are faking it to avoid that widespread embarrassment.

We usually end our days the same way. I make a big salad for the two of us. We’re in our PJs, and we sit in our recliners upstairs, eat and watch a movie on Netflix. This rarely varies, and I do not want to hear the doorbell. It will be ignored.

We had been eating our salads for about 45 seconds last Saturday night when my child bride’s phone rang. Here we come! it was said in Spanish, the five relatives driving down from Querétaro.

They were five minutes away. They knew when they left Querétaro hours earlier that they were coming here. They surely knew the day before, but did they let us know? Of course not.

It would have ruined the drop-in!

The five of them sat in our living room for over an hour, shooting the breeze while our salads wilted upstairs. Then they got up and headed downtown at 9 p.m. to “drop in” on other relatives who had no clue they were coming either.

Actually, we got off lucky because they did not decide to spend the night on our floor. The other relatives won that prize.

The drop-in.

Living in Mexico can be a challenge.

American Gothic

Family

MY SISTER RECENTLY  mailed some photos to my daughter, and my daughter sent this copy to me. The original was in color, but I made it black and white because it’s more in line with reality. It would have been taken around 1987.

You might notice that nobody is smiling. We were not smiley people. I still am not.* Oh, but my sister is smiling, you say. Not really. That’s her Cheshire Cat expression. She was probably planning an assassination of someone on Fox News.

We were not a happy family. Strangely, I would not have said that had you asked on the day of this photo. I would have shrugged. My father was a boozer, and so was I. He had stopped when this shot was taken, but I had not.  We both stopped voluntarily in our early 50s.

For the same reason, I imagine. It got too painful.

We drank in the same fashion. We were not violent or abusive. We were quiet and out of touch, the sort of drinking that can do about as much damage to relationships as someone who throws chairs through windows and screams. We did none of that sort of thing.

My sister was no stranger to the sauce either. I don’t know to what extent she overdid it because I rarely saw her. She graduated from high school and left home when I was 14. That was about the end of a sister in my life. She went on to stumble around, primarily in university settings. She took up with hippies. She taught English a while. She got graduate degrees in stuff like counseling.

In her 40s, she hooked up with a New York City gang called Social Therapy, which had connections with the New Alliance Party and a shadowy, charismatic figure named Fred Newman. Many call it an anti-semitic cult. I am one of those who call it that.

She is 73 now, lives alone in Atlanta, and has a private counseling practice. She is a left-wing fringe, lesbian, feminist fanatic, and I quit communicating with her about two years ago. I would have cut ties far earlier had my mother died sooner. My mother long embraced a family fantasy. As it was, I communicated only rarely with my sister via snail mail and then email. I have not seen her in person in about 12 years.

My father died about four years after this photo. Downed by a heart attack at 75. Like me, he had been a newspaper editor. He retired early, age 49, and became renowned in American haiku poetry circles. He still has two books of poetry available on Amazon.

My mother, in spite of appearing in this photo as if she could be the wife of Josef Mengele, was the nicest of the lot by far. In contrast to the other three, she drank not a drop. She was an elementary and junior high schoolteacher before becoming a school librarian in middle age.

She died in 2009 at the age of 90.

Some people sweep their dark family secrets under a rug. I take that rug off the floor, hang it on a clothesline, invite the neighbors, and beat the bejesus out of it with a big broom. And I feel better for it. Photos bring memories, no?

Thanks for listening.

* * *  *

* In spite of that, my child bride says I have a fantastic sense of humor, and I do. Go figger.

(Note: Unrelated to today’s topic, let it be known that there is now a Moon Google+ page.)