The Male Sibling Unit is in a tizzy of sorts.
With the holidays nearly upon us, he is trying to sort out his complicated social calendar. So many parties to attend! So many outfits to plan! He is truly a social butterfly, very happy to be the center of attention in his own mind, but not quite as socially dynamic as he envisions himself to be. Oh, I am sure that in his head, he is John Travolta a la Saturday Night Fever on the dance floor, but truth be told, he resembles Ed Grimley from Saturday Night Live in both movement and personality. “Awkward” was a word invented for him by some ancient, visionary, psychic person who said, “You know? I’ll bet there’s going to be someone in the future who embodies this word.”
The thing about The Male Sibling Unit is that he likes to talk about these upcoming events. A lot. Every day. Months before they actually happen. Hell, months before he actually knows the date of said events. In the past, I would just try to handle the incessant chatter, because I am not the kind of person who dwells on the things that are going to happen in the future until they are nearly upon us. I’m not a procrastinator as such, but I just prefer to concentrate on the here and now instead of thinking about something that’s not happening for 3, 6, 9 months. Eventually, I would explode with frustration at his tendency to dwell on the next Christmas party at work the day after the last one. I am acutely aware of such outbursts of irritation toward him because that’s how our mother chose to handle him in nearly every possible conversation she had with him. I am not kidding. Back in the days when I was married to my biggest mistake and we had bought our first house next door to her, I would rise at 6am to get my kids going for the day and hear her screaming at him. Yes, through the walls of two houses in the winter, and of course, through an open window in the summer, which is more understandable. Our houses were perhaps 6 feet apart, which isn’t much, and our kitchens were side-by-side. I’m not trying to explain how I was able to hear her. I am explaining that she was screaming at him at 6am. I know, I know…..don’t bother someone before they’ve had their coffee. I am such a person, but I don’t scream or rip faces off. I am more likely to stumble about, blind, muttering incoherent bits of sentences, and groping for my Xanax if I have woken in the throes of a panic attack. (It happens. A lot.)
But our mother? Would. Rip. Your. Face. Off. Simple questions from The Male Sibling Unit like, “Should I wear a sweatshirt today?” or statements like “We are almost out of milk” would elicit banshee-like shrieks of fury only heard in the best, most terrifying horror films. One morning, one of my kids – I don’t remember which one – asked me, “Why is Grandma so mean to Uncle Charlie?” My answer was probably something along the lines of “She hasn’t had her coffee” or maybe even “Because she’s a bitch” if I was feeling particularly hostile toward her on that day. The truth is, I was used to it. She did it to me, too, but I was intellectually savvy enough to learn, very young, that you just didn’t engage her in the morning. (Or any other time.) The Male Sibling Unit, he of a less advanced intellectual capacity, didn’t grasp this, and still hasn’t, and she’s 5 years dead and gone. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, I imagine he expects her to pop out of a room one day, bellowing at him. Death has little meaning to him.
The point is, I try, very hard, to never explode at him. I am not her. Sometimes, it’s hard. Sometimes, I am pushed beyond my limits. But I have tried to come up with simple rules he needs to follow about these things, because he is very regimented when it comes to following most rules. Even better, if you make him charts, he will follow them religiously. Now, I have a hard and fast rule that, if it is not happening in the actual month we are in, we don’t talk about it. It works. Most of the time. He is, lately, very verbal and OCD about the things he does every day. He will chant to himself his tasks or responsibilities and actions for the day, in order. If I have’t got my Mom filter on (the one that only hears the shit we absolutely need to hear in case someone is in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, or truly in some sort of jeopardy….if you’re a mom, you know exactly what Superpower I am talking about) I will hear him and call him Rain Man in a joking sort of way.
Anyway, we are in the midst of furtive mutterings about parties and gifts when he thinks I am not listening. I hear him, though, and when he slips up and starts making his vocal lists about each event and who’s going and what they will eat and how much he will dance and then on to the next event, I have to modulate my voice to stifle the rising tide of exasperation and remind him that we have rules. Thanksgiving? We can talk about that. Christmas, though? Please. No. It’s bad enough that the TV commercials started the day after Halloween and I have people on my Facebook page crowing excitedly about how they already put their tree up and have been playing Christmas music for a month and don’t even get me started on the retail world and the tinsel-covered, ornament bedazzled, Christmas vomitus blanketing every single store, every single window, every website. I just can’t do it. Not yet. I have begrudgingly begun some shopping, but that’s only because my children have procreated an astonishing number of grandchildren and it’s as daunting a task to manage their gifts as it was 20-odd years ago, with five young kids.
The Male Sibling Unit has a girlfriend now, and that has become a major consideration when planning his holidays and his shopping. He knows he should buy her a gift, but truly, it is less about the gift than the fact that he gives her one. He really doesn’t actually care about what he should buy her, and will offer up suggestions like “a necklace?” when asked what he would like to buy her. She is older than him, and is capable of living independently, with guidance from social workers, so her needs are a bit more refined than he imagines. I have begun planning his gifts to her, and he’s perfectly cool with that as long as he gets all the credit due. When she is delighted at the scented lotions and soaps and the pretty jewelry and probably a nice coffee mug since she drinks coffee, he will take every ounce of the credit for picking out the things that thrill her so. I’m good with that, as long as we don’t have to talk about it for two weeks after Christmas. He is, however, extremely excited and concerned about what she has already purchased him and, unfortunately for me, teased him with the knowledge. He’s a 42 year-old 8 year-old, giggling and excitedly wondering out loud, “What did she get me?” I don’t know! I think I’m going to love it! I hope I do!” He can’t help himself. And I don’t have the heart to quash his anticipation.
19 more days of blessed silence remain until he bursts out of his room on December 1st, chattering about Christmas and parties and food and presents and what kind of cookies are we making and most importantly, what is everyone going to think when he shows up at work every single day with his vast assortment of Christmas hats and attire on? I can feel it building, like a pressure cooker filled to the brim. He is gonna GO OFF. There is no way to avoid it.
It doesn’t have to be stressful. What you allow will happen, right? I can choose to be zen-like in my approach to his effervescent bubbling-over. I’m girding my loins. Preparing to embrace the horror.
And keeping the Xanax and wine in constant supply.