Three phone calls or for whom the bell tolls

This week I talked to my father. Three times. I usually try to limit my contact to one excruciating phone call, but this week he kept calling and calling. His first call, “I went down to Hawthorne to see the Obama movie. That guy didn’t go to college. He took a class somewhere and now he says he went to college.”

“If that were true, don’t you think it would have come out in the first campaign?” And, as my husband said, how did he practice law?

“Oh, people were so frustrated with Bush, they just wanted to elect someone else,” he said. Well, yeah, they had to elect someone else, as Bush had just finished a second term. But there was a Republican candidate. “He wants to make this a Muslim Country. ” How? “There was no one in the theater,” he said. “Just a few people and some kids.”

“Thank God for small favors,” I said. “Hold on, my other line is ringing.” I didn’t want to have this discussion abd I swear there was another call. I clicked onto my mother-in-law and my dad told me to call him back.

My dad called me back after dinner, which was better than his usual during dinner. The kids were loud so I took the call in the bedroom. “I’m looking up flights. When would be a good time for me to come visit?” Dunh dunh DUNH! We’re doomed.

“Well, Beth is visiting and then we’re coming to New York. (My birth mother) offered to pay for tickets so we can visit.”

“Don’t get too dependent on her,” he said. “She’s got a mother complex.” (Of course she does. She’s my MOTHER!) “She’s got her own family, you know. Now she’s trying to rope you in.” Well, she’s certainly doing a good job of that, as everyone has welcomed me into the family. And she gives us gifts but our affection has nothing to do with money. She’s just a good-hearted warm person. My dad does nothing but look out for number one. He wouldn’t understand.

I know that my dad is worried about my birth mother replacing my real mother in my life, but she never will. My mother was my mother and my birth mother is my birth mother. Do I like having a mother later in life? Yes. Is my own mother’s memory fading? Not at all. Are they similar people? Not at all. My dad, aka “Number one,” knows nothing about people, and doesn’t care enough to learn. After he talked about the mother complex, he told me a story about his sister’s overbearing ex-friend. He thought the story was related to the mother issue but was completely unrelated, as far as I could tell. Apparently my aunt would follow this woman no matter what, until it came time for my aunt to marry, and this friend of hers didn’t want it to happen so she refused to be in the wedding and made several efforts to sabotage it. Am I missing something? Maybe that is related.

What my father did not do is offer to pay for tickets himself. He just won a lawsuit and got a hefty sum. He knows we can’t afford tickets right now and that’s why my birth mother offered to pay but he would never part with money on my account. I’m glad he didn’t offer, actually, because then we’d be compelled to stay in his moldy, air-polluted house, risking our lives just to watch him fall asleep reading the paper, day after day and night after night.

After I told him Beth’s dates and our dates, he said he would look up some fares and he hung up.

The next day, he called back. “So you said Beth was coming on the 23rd, so how is the 18th through the 21st?” WHAT? He wants to come the weekend before another house guest? He has no understanding of social customs or an iota of consideration. How could you live to be 82 and not pick up any inkling of what to do and what not to do?

I told him those dates didn’t work. It was a big week. We wouldn’t have the energy for two houseguests, and we had the Buffett show in town too. Absolutely not.

Then he said, “And when is [your birth mother] coming?”

I said, “She’s not.”

“Oh, that’s good,” he said. “You don’t want to get too chummy with her.” Thank God I’ve got his finely-honed social expertise to guide me, or what would I do?

Now here’s the thing: He fully understood me when I said she’d be paying for tickets for us to visit New York. He told me not to get dependent on her money. Now he thinks she’s visiting us? It doesn’t make sense. No money changes hands if she visits us. So somehow, in his twisted mind, he’s convinced himself that she was supposed to visit us. I guess I shouldn’t expect more from a mind that went from dependence on my birth mother to  sabotaging a wedding. We had even talked about the dates we’d be in New York during our previous phone call.

“Oh, well that opens it up a bit,” he told me. “When I figure something out, I’ll call Travelocity to get my tickets.” Uh, good luck with that. “How does it work, do they mail them?”

“No, you buy them online and you get your receipt in your email. Then you print it out and bring that to the airport. You can even check in online. The day before, you go to the airline’s website and print out your boarding passes so you don’t have to wait in line at the airport.”

“Print it out?” he said. “I don’t think I can do all that. Can’t they just mail them?”

“They don’t do that anymore,” I said.

“Well, I’ll ask them to send them when I call.”

Yes, yes you will. He’s never going to be able to buy tickets. We can only hope.