oh brother

First off, let me say that I hope the holiday season finds you better than not.  It’s a stressful time of year – lots to do whether you’re traveling or hosting:  navigating practical details and the expectations (and biases) of family and friends, both tending to be difficult for people whose resources are already pretty much taken up by the smaller spheres of our lives with chronic illness.

My holiday celebrations have grown quite minimal, and I am realizing that the more circumscribed they get, the less I hate christmas – so that’s a pro.  We had a tree, we have an anniversary – our current kitty came in from a snow storm on christmas day of last year (spent the night in our basement and we didn’t have a tree last year so this was her first “real” christmas with me and my husband).  She got a stuffed animal/bird that chirps.  A lovely red robin.  So far all she’s done with it is rub her face on its beak.  photo of a small christmas tree with a cat walking in front of it.

I made cookies.  That was my one nod to the ghost of manic christmas past.  I called them “christmas bribes”, most of them going to my primary care doctor since the guy and his nurses have been pretty damned good this year.  The admin staff, well, I am not super happy with them but it seemed like too much to write “merry christmas to everyone but that bitch who gave me such a hard time about my workplace accommodation forms at thanksgiving…”  It’s the thought that counts, right?

Christmas day we had my brother over.  For dinner.  “I’ll be there at two” turned into “I’m running an hour late,” and then into a text message at 3:30 saying he was running a bit more late and would be here at 4:00.  I’ll spare you the suspense of the entire phone and text saga and just jump to the punchline:  he was here at 6:30.    When he got here, I could tell he was spinning a yarn about what held him up.  I have no idea what the real story is and wasn’t in the mood to ask.  I’d spent the two previous days fighting a stubborn migraine and just wanted to eat before it was so late that I’d be up all night with heartburn.  Plus, my sister and I are still not talking and I try to keep it to one catastrophic familial estrangement per calendar year.  So I let it go.  Merry Christmas little brother – my silence was a big part of your present this year.   He stayed late today but spent the last two hours of his visit half-way out the door, packed up and ready to go when he finished ranting about work.  It truly is a stressful job.  He works with surgeons at the granddaddy of all B.A.T.H.s.  Ranting done, he used the bathroom one last time…and clogged the toilet and flooded the bathroom.  “Where’s your f***king plunger!?” he said as he burst out of the bathroom doing up his pants.  He proceeded to berate (in a “don’t take this seriously, I’m just kidding, sort of” way) me and my husband for our too-soft/too-thick toilet paper, clearly the reason why the toilet clogged.  And this, dear readers, is why I feel TWO bathrooms are a necessity for more than two adults in a home.

This week, I am off.  We are having a chunk of my husband’s sibling set up to visit.  His half sister, his brother, and his brother’s wife.  In the negotiations of this visit, we said we could go down there to visit or offered to have them up.  Brother said it was fine either way, and then said if we came down we could go do this and that and that and the other thing with all these friends from college that are always dropping by at his place.  Ugh.  And one bathroom.  No thanks, so we decided that we’d rather have them up here if it was all the same to everyone.  Which they’d said it was.  And then it wasn’t.  I.e., after agreeing to come up, brother in law tells my husband that he and his wife might rent a hotel room since our cigarette smoke bothers them sometimes.  Between my husband and me, we smoke about one pack a day, less when company’s over.

Ok.  No mention that the last time brother in law was up he stunk up my place with cigars.  Nope.

Husband says ok, his brother asks him about close-by hotels (they’ve stayed at one before when we were living in our tiny first apartment in this area).  Husband tells him the closest is the one they stayed at before.  And that’s the end of it, until two days later when my husband is talking to his brother and his brother tells him that they found a cute looking place up in XXX, which according to Google maps is only 26 minutes away.  Now, XXX is on the other side of the major city of which our city is a suburb.  We are to the south, XXX is to the northwest.  It is congested.  It is NOT 26 minutes away, not by a long shot.  It’s 40 minutes in good traffic.  Keep in mind, this is a quick one night visit, so brother in law and wife staying so far away is going to eat into a significant portion of visit time.  My husband was pissed.  See, there’s a history of his brother doing what we call “add on” visits.  As in “Sure, we can get together.  (Wife) and I have plans to see 5 different sets of friends from college who happen to live in the same state as you and I have a work meeting up there next week so we can squeeze you in!”  Yeah.  You can’t win with these guys.  Either you go stay with them and you’re living in what is sort of like a nicer, more grown up frat house or you have them up and you’re the intermission in a much more exciting and high priority set of social engagements.

Tis the season to be…irritated.

My husband suspects his brother and sister in law chose their hotel based on some other plans they tacked on to the visit.    If they did, I’m sort of done with them.  Not like I won’t speak to them again but like I’m not going to feel bad about asserting my priorities and not going to knock myself out to find ways to compromise for their priorities.  If their social commitments are ranked so high in group plan making, then why would I ever feel bad about ranking my health and physical conveniences as important factors for me?

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