Advice: Partisan Politics at Home

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am a second-semester sophomore at college. To save money and make life easier for my parents, I am attending the college in our town and living at home. It’s been a lot of fun and with one exception has worked very well.

My parents are Democrats. They’re not just great-hearted policy liberals they are staunch, wild, my way or the highway kind of Democrats. My older brothers, who all live in the area, are exactly the same. Nothing’s more fun than casting stones at the opposition! So what’s the problem, you ask?

Well, my boyfriend is a Republican. They “tease” me unmercifully and call him names when he’s not there. If I have him over for dinner, they mock him to his face. It hurts him, and it certainly doesn’t give him a great opinion of Democrats. “See,” he says, “See, that’s what they’re all like.”

The other thing? I’ve been taking nothing but finance and poli-sci courses since I got to campus. I’m a Republican too. And now I have this amazing opportunity this summer to work for a state senator. It’s a dream job. My parents would think it’s a dream job too, except that it’s for a Republican. He’s a good man! But that won’t matter to them.

I’ve avoided bringing up my newly-embraced party affiliation to them. I know it’s cowardly, but I have to live here. I can’t afford to go to school if I don’t live at home. I don’t like living with all the shouting and ugliness. So…Help! Where do I go from here?

Signed,

Stealth Republican

Dear Stealth,

P: Oh, dear… This is going to be a challenge, isn’t it? First and foremost, and easiest, I think you should stop asking your BF to dinner. Although you should be able to invite your friends over and have them be welcomed, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Make clear to him that you’re doing this because you care for him and not because you’re giving up on the relationship.

If one of your brothers is an easier touch for you, you might be able to say to him, not when you’re being what they probably think of as “teased,” but when you’re alone, “I don’t know whether you understand exactly how much it hurts me when you name call and humiliate this guy I care about. I don’t feel safe and I don’t feel that my friends are welcome in my home.”

Maybe he can hear the pain and stop because he loves you. He might then be able to de-escalate what goes on with other brothers.

B: You’re nicer than me. I really want her to confront her parents. I get that it’s a difficult thing to do, but they—and the messages they’ve sent to their other children—are causing our letter writer pain. I don’t think she will make any progress trying to back-door-wrangle this situation. Her entire family is causing her anguish and behaving in an insulting and derogatory manner towards someone she brought to them. Someone has to start acting like an adult here and instill manners. I’m afraid that’s up to the letter writer.

P: I want her to confront her parents; I just want her to develop an ally at home FIRST, if possible. If you can talk to either or both of your parents, you might mention in a non-confrontational way, that you’re confused. Supposedly, they taught you to be open and welcoming of everyone. What does it mean that they’re willing to accept immigrants but not their neighbors? You might lay it on heavily and say that you’re sorry, but you hadn’t realized that you wouldn’t be able to bring people to the house who were different from the family. And say something along the lines, “I’ve told him, that it’s not fair to him to ask him to come to a home where people are mean and hostile towards him.” Tell them the truth, that you respect this guy too much to allow anyone to bully him and that it hurts too much to see the parents who talked to you about inclusivity be so mean.

B: Where does the letter writer say that her parents talked to her about inclusivity, or taught her to be open and accepting? She doesn’t say that anywhere. In fact, she said they’re “My way or the highway” as far as politics are concerned. Which is inherently exclusive. And damaging. As we have proof, written above.

P: I’m holding fast there, Terri. I’m sure they talk easily about accepting all sorts of people. It’s part of the party platform. My guess is if she came home and said she were gay, they’d be all, oh, wow, look now you can get married. They’re not willing to accept anyone outside their norms — but things are hard because they probably actually think the ARE inclusive.

Now you knew that we would get to this — the boyfriend, while his presence in your life exposes uncomfortable truths about people you love, is really only a sign of what the deeper problem is. It seems that you don’t live in a house that accepts you. That’s a crying shame.

B: Much of the time—not all, but much—children continue the affiliations they were raised with. They keep the same religion, the same political ideology, the same diet, even. It’s what people know, and it’s an easy way to define one’s world. The problem comes in when a kid rejects an affiliation. Think about what the gay kid coming out to her or his parents goes through. I mean…I’ve seen fights break out over an adult child’s decision to embrace vegetarianism (Parents: But what will you EAT?  Kid: My vegetables.) I had my own moment with my family when they realized I had given up the religion I was born into. And for you, your decision to switch political parties—it feels right to you, doesn’t it? For you, it makes sense. But for your parents…if it’s how they define their world then it’s also partly how they define themselves. Your defection to the other side is also a rejection of them and who they are. I’m not saying this perspective is the correct one to have, because you’re not rejecting them. But a lot of people take this sort of thing incredibly personally, which is why I think they’re so hostile towards your beau from the very beginning.

P: Presumably you’ve tried the yelling back thing and that hasn’t worked too well. It never does. It just gets everyone all roiled up. If you want change, you’re going to have to be the one who changes. You’ve got things you want to do; you don’t want to spend college simply reacting to their judgmentalism. And you don’t want to become judgmental from the other side. Nothing good comes of that.

However, now you’re going to have to make some hard decisions. Are you willing to live in a house where you’re not accepted? Your quick response might be, “but they’re paying for my school and I can’t afford it any other way.” That translates to “Yes, I’m willing to live with this.”

B: And in your case, that’s a bitter pill and hard to not take personally. Because being made fun of, and having your boyfriend mocked, around the dinner table? That IS personal. Sometimes, people see things upside down. They think if you reject a value system that they believe in, you’re issuing a personal attack. But if they behave antagonistically toward you and someone you love, and make you want to leave the house, somehow, you’re not supposed to take that personally?

P: Some people aren’t willing to put up with this, and they will find a way to pay their own way through school. Sometimes they quit and find a full time job, and live incredibly frugally and skimp and save and get it done. How much do both your education and your self respect mean to you? You can’t have a conversation with your parents, if you don’t know what you’re willing to put on the line. Well, you can, but they don’t usually go well.

B: To be fair, and practical, the idea of the self-supporting college student is increasingly a myth. And even if she strikes out on her own and is fully independent, the way the student loan laws are written, she still needs to access her parents’ income tax records in order to get federal funding, until she is 24 or married.

P: There’s all of that, so if you can’t get an education appropriate for what you want to do without them, can you get some counseling for coping strategies? Because this isn’t going to work forever. Consider your options. Think about coping strategies; think about an exit strategy. Then talk to your parents, who actually may just be clueless about how hurtful they’re being with the boyfriend and with you. It’s not good to live where you’re completely disregarded.

Be prepared. They’ll tell you it’s your boyfriend. They’ll tell you it’s a phase. Even if those things were true, you don’t feel welcome or safe to explore who you can become. My guess is they told you, you can be anything you want to be, and guess what, you want to be a Republican. So did they mean it?

Here’s the thing. Conversations like the one I’m suggesting take a lot of preparation and an absolute dedication to being calm and deliberate. This may be a series of conversations. It’s going to be a lot for them. I just Googled: How to tell your parents you’re a Republican! Of course there was stuff. If you let them see how you feel, let it be the pain, not the anger. Give them space to maneuver a bit. In your home, the anger is a tried and true tool for getting away from the point. Clarify what you want. Practice what you want to say. Start little. Don’t close any doors. But hold fast to your vision for yourself and what you’re willing to do to make your dreams come true. Don’t threaten them; just focus on your dreams.

B: And write a list of topics to cover. Don’t let the anger or pain or arguments or tears or name-calling get in the way of you making your point. If you’re going to intern for a politician, you may as well get acquainted with the idea of sticking to the determined talking points. This? Is what they are. Stay on point. Make your case.

P: You want your parents to support and love you. Even more than that, you need to love and respect yourself first.

Oh I hope this goes well, however rockily. Families are meant to keep growing. The chances are pretty good that they love you and want the best from you. It’s just that your best and theirs are a bit different. And good luck with the internship.

Prepare carefully. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Prepare carefully. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Elephant Cocktail

  • 1  Ounce pomegranate liqeur
  • 1  Ounce  black cherry rum
  • 1 1/2  Ounce pomegranate juice
  • 1 1/2  Ounce  fresh sour mix (2 parts simple syrup, 2 parts lemon juice, 1 part lime juice)
  • Blueberries as garnish

Combine all ingredients (except blueberries) in a cocktail shaker, shake, and strain into a rocks glass. Add garnish.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: Father, Dead or Alive?

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am concerned about my 80 year old father. He’s a widower, and the last of his siblings. When he was younger he was a force to be reckoned with—one of those strong, confident Mad Men sort of businessmen—but he’s been retired for a while, and has lost touch with a lot of his old contacts thanks to time or their passing. He doesn’t go out much, and so he doesn’t really take care of himself. He never shaves, he has crazy-man hair, his clothes don’t fit and he’s got dirt caked under his fingernails. I feel like he’s just not concerned about his appearance any more.

What I’m really worried about is what to do about his appearance once he dies. Does a funeral home handle things like a shave and a haircut? His scraggly look doesn’t really represent the man he is. Part of me wants to ask him about this, but I’ve never been able to talk to my father man-to-man. I worry that I’ll get tongue-tied, or end up hurting his feelings. Can you give me some feedback?

Signed,

Worried About the Future

 

Dear Worried,

B: It can be extraordinarily difficult to manage the demands of an aging parent. Interpersonal dynamics can get twisted when the traditional roles associated with parent and child (caregiver and dependent) flip-flop. Fortunately for you, you’ve turned a blind eye to all of that.

P: In today’s world, we’ve allowed ourselves to be so disconnected from life that we don’t know a lot about what can happen as we age. There’s actually a lot of info around about the life cycle, but it seems enough of us aren’t taking advantage. What you’re seeing is your father’s deterioration. Handsome, snappily-dressed men don’t suddenly stop caring, something happens — disease, depression, addiction, stroke, who knows — that makes them unable to care for themselves.

What’s sad is that you’ve let your father wander down this road without stepping in. What’s great is that you’re now ready. Before you do anything, I suggest you spend an evening with your computer googling. Google really is your friend.

Doctors are also your friends. Do you have a family doctor? Make an appointment to talk to her. Find out what you should do for your dad. Call your dad’s doctor. Or call up your local Area Agency on Aging and tell them your father’s in trouble and you need some help. Because, and you need to understand this, your dad’s in trouble…

And then try real friends. If you don’t have siblings, do you have friends your own age who have aging parents? Or friends that are Social workers?

I’m guessing that if you ask in the break room you’ll find someone who knows something and that you’re not the only person trying to figure out what happened to your formerly strong and stylish parent.

B: What you’re missing is his specious hygiene represents exactly who he is now. It doesn’t represent who you want him to be, but it’s who he is. And you know, I get it. You’re thinking of your dad when he was young. Mad-Men-esque. Suave, glib, handsome, right? Dirty fingernails and wild hair is so not that guy. But he’s so not that guy any longer, so you need to stop looking backwards and bring your vision into the future. Coming to grips with an aging parent is difficult. Understanding your father’s mortality means you get a glimpse into your own mortality. Who wants to think about their own Big Sleep? Or, the process that takes you to the end, with the myriad physical and mental issues that accompany the aging process? It’s not pretty, but if we get old we go through it. We can only hope we will go through it with someone who cares enough to ask the right questions if our personal aging process becomes burdensome.

P: In addition to whatever is wrong with your father, his lack of cleanliness is not healthy for him. What’s his refrigerator look like? What’s he eating? Is he capable of feeding himself? You haven’t exhibited a lot of concern for your father other than wanting things to look good when he dies, but my guess is, from the little story you’re telling, that it’s not a warm relationship. Even if that’s the case, you do yourself no favor by not trying to fix things. You can do this from a distance. If there’s no money, social services doesn’t like to let human beings dissolve and die, call them and let them get involved. Don’t want to do it for your dad? Think about doing it for another human being — any human being — and take care of it that way.

B: The likelihood is very high that your father is unwell and needs to see a doctor. The only way you’ll know if he just doesn’t care, or if he’s got deeper problems to manage, is by checking it out. And if you want to actually do something that can further your understanding of where he is mentally and physically, you need to go with him when he goes to the doctor. Get over your discomfort and talk to him. Any relationship issues you may have with your dad stopped being relevant when your father stopped cleaning himself properly. It’s how we adult. It can be hard to take on that mantle when you’re dealing with your own adults, but compassion should point us in the direction of caring, and the reach for understanding.

Of course, if all you want to do is mark time until he dies, then by all means, just worry about the shave and a haircut.

I hope you choose adult compassion. Your father deserves it.

P: Who you are as an individual and what you expect out of life is as much at stake here as your father’s health. Old age can include disease. It always includes deterioration. In our society, we all want to pretend that we will always be strong and vital. We turn our children into tiny sex objects and pretend that 60 is the new 20. It’s not.

We come into being; we grow up; we mature; we age. Each and every one of us. We all need help in each and every one of these stages. And we all need to be helpers. All of us need to be helpers.

I’m trying really hard here not to jump up and down and ask you, “where is your humanity?” Because really, even if you have a lousy relationship with him, have you no feeling for another person? You don’t say that he’s a horrible person; but your disregard for him doesn’t say he’s beloved. I’m not asking you to mend your relationship with this man, even though, trust me, it needs mending! Among the things your father suffers from is neglect — not his neglecting his hygiene, your neglect of him. Please, help him. And then, this is not what you want to take forward with you into the future. This is not who you want to be as a man. No one wants to be the person who doesn’t see another’s suffering.

Unless of course you do. And then, there’s not much that Terri or I can say.

But even if you do, pick up a phone and call social services. Someone needs to take care of this man while he’s alive. Because there is no reason for him to live like this, other than you don’t care to care for him. Before you wrote to us, you could plead ignorance. Now you’re done.

And after you get the life part figured out, here’s some information from an expert. Because they will care for your dad… Actually it seems they’ll care for him whether or not you do. I’m going to trust that you will however do what is right.

This just in from Patti Fitchett, friend of BnP and a professional undertaker: I don’t know anything about while he is alive, but once this person’s father dies, I have some words of advice from a funeral director. First of all, every person who will have any kind of public viewing (such as a wake or visitation with the body lying in state) or even a private viewing (a few family members come into the funeral home to say their goodbyes before cremation takes place) will be thoroughly washed, shampooed and given a shave. Even women are shaved, (and not just those in the hot-flash years) because it helps the cosmetics that are used to look better.

For any viewing, attention will be paid to the person’s fingernails, hair and the fit of their clothing. Funeral directors have tricks to make baggy clothes lay more naturally and to help tight clothing not appear uncomfortable. A public viewing of this kind can be very healing to a family. Sometimes when a loved one is decimated by disease or the ravages of aging, a talented funeral director can give the family a beautiful memory of peace and grace. As far as clothing, new clothing can be purchased, or the person’s own clothes can be cleaned and used. (Nobody HAS to wear a suit!)

A good funeral director will never be judgmental about your loved one. So even if your dad has a scraggly beard and crazy old man hair, we will know that he is your dad and that you love him. That is the spirit of the trade.

Celebrity advisor bio: Patti Fitchett is a licensed funeral director in Kenosha, Wisconsin. She writes a monthly column in her local paper titled “Matters of Life & Death”. In her spare time, she loves to laugh.

aging father napkin

If nothing else, as a fellow human, your father’s well-being should merit some legitimate concern.

THE GIBSON COCKTAIL

2.5 oz Gin (or vodka)

.5 oz Dry vermouth

Garnish: 1 Cocktail onion

Glass:  Cocktail

HOW TO MAKE THE GIBSON COCKTAIL

Add both ingredients to a mixing glass and fill with ice.

Stir, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a whole cocktail onion.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Advice: The Real Work of Parenting

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I am struggling to manage my household, and feel like I am failing miserably.

Recently, I lost my job, so the all the financial burdens of our home are falling on my husband’s shoulders. I am looking, but haven’t found anything yet, since I’m a little older and it’s harder for me to find work. My husband is a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of guy and he hasn’t so much as said one angry thing to me, but I know the bills are piling up and he’s under a lot of stress. I hate it.

We have three kids living with us, and two of them are adults. One of the older kids is in college but the oldest one works. We also have one son’s girlfriend living with us, and two of their friends. They’re all employed but it’s part-time and they don’t make much money. Nobody contributes to the household.

I want to be a good mom, but I also feel like maybe these kids are taking advantage of me and my husband. What should I do? I’m really worried about how the financial stresses we’re under will affect my husband.

Signed, Worried about the Future

 

Dear Worried,

P: Oh, we are so sorry you lost your job. It is hard to find work as you age. There’s no question but that the market place isn’t forgiving of age. Check with all the local help sites and see if there’s support in getting a job. Don’t hesitate to call every single friend you have. You need every piece of help you can get.

However — about your home life! I worry that in your worry, you’ve lost your balance as well as your job. You’re allowing people to leech off you. Young adults whose parents don’t choose to do the same are living with you. Why would you allow them to drive you into poverty or bankruptcy? It’s not smart. It’s not kind. To you or them. Do not allow them to make your life more difficult. Your relationship with your husband is precious, you need to protect that.

B: Way back in the dawn of time, as human civilization developed and we gathered in communal caves and humans developed the traits associated with our sort of community-mindedness, rituals emerged that helped members of a family/clan/unit cross from youthful dependency to adulthood. These coming-of-age rituals were often dangerous (or at the very least emotionally trying) tests of strength or quests for survival. The participant had to manage on their own in the wild, or fight a bear, or walk through fire. And so on, and so on. The rituals served an important purpose, though, and they marked an important, life-affirming transition. The child left the hut, but then returned as a man.

Sometimes, I think it’s too bad we’ve gotten away from this sort of traditional journey into adulthood. Because your son and his friends and girlfriend could really use a “kick ‘em out the door and let ‘em fight the bear” kind of moment. It’s time they all grew up.

P: If there are people in your house who are earning but not contributing, they need either to pay or leave. If they’re making enough to buy gas to get to work and have clothes, then they can contribute from what’s left over. No one owes them beers, vids or tats. Especially people with money problems.

You’re not really being generous, you’re being taken advantage of.

B: By my count, there are eight people living in your house, including you and your husband, and only one person supports the entire lot of you. That, Momma, ain’t right. We will give a pass to the youngest child, who I assume is still somewhere in the K-12 range, and the older son who’s in college; for all intents and purposes, their schoolwork is their job right now, so we will leave them alone so they can focus.

Now. As for the rest of them…

Your son, his girlfriend, and two other friends all live under your roof—eat your food, make use of your facilities (shower, laundry, etc)—and don’t contribute a thing? Oh, Momma, you are being taken for a ride. With adulthood comes responsibilities, and one of those responsibilities is participating in the upkeep of the roof over one’s own head. There is nothing about adulthood that entails living off the sweat of your parents while you behave like a high schooler who works at the mall for mad money.

P: Figure out what base costs are for you and your younger child to live there. Is your college kid working? Is his/her grade average high? Have you always paid for a child in school?

I know I’m old fashioned. I was brought up to participate. Are you doing laundry? Supplying food? Electricity? Sheets? Living space? All of these cost money. Put a price on it. And then set a date.

B: I’m not necessarily advocating that you throw your brood out into the street. I don’t know where you live, housing may be difficult to come by or prohibitively expensive to rent if you don’t have any savings for security deposits, etc.  But allowing them to live responsibility-free in your home does no one any favors. You and your husband are stressed out. Your youngest and the one in college are getting the message (loud and clear!) that in a few years they can live off your largesse, no matter what. And the oldest son and his crew are living an extended adolescence, which doesn’t help anyone. It’s time they take on the mantle of adulthood.

P: Set a schedule: As of a certain date, each of them will owe you $X per month (or week). Establish chores, as well… You might allow those who refuse to pay to sleep there an two extra weeks while they make arrangements, but there will be no food, no laundry, no wifi, no tv. If you have to, take those things out of their rooms. You take that tv out of their room, they’ll move really quickly. Or their devices, or, or, or.  Changing passwords is not all that difficult.

You do these young adults a disservice when you make them believe the world owes them a living. When will they be responsible? I’d want to be darned sure that son and girlfriend were using birth control as well. (when did I get this suspicious?) Because wouldn’t it be lovely for them, now when they have no responsibilities to have a baby you can support and babysit. Yikes. I mean really: Holy Moley!

B: Parents are afraid to seem “mean”. But do you know what’s more cruel than forcing your kids to grow up? Not preparing them for the realities of how the world works, so when they go out into it they can’t function. You can’t coddle them forever. You may think you’re showing love, but you’re emotionally crippling them all.

P: You need to protect your husband. You also need not to be so busy taking care of the house and the freeloaders that you can’t get a job or can’t find the energy to look for one. You also need to be a good role model for your kids and the neighbor kids.. And you owe your youngest a safe place to grow up. The older ones had it; if you can, you want to give the same stability to him/her. What you don’t want is a child that is seeing other people take advantage of you and then beginning to think that she/he can take advantage of you and of people in the future.

B: Long ago, living in the caves or the huts, once people crossed into what was determined to be “adulthood” for their era, they were expected to behave accordingly. Imagine an able-bodied young caveman saying, “I’m hungry…Dad, go out and bag us another caribou, will you? Me and Becky will be snuggling under our fur blanket while you and Mom kill and clean it. K? Thanks.” It sounds ridiculous, right? That’s because it IS ridiculous. Of course you’re worried, but it doesn’t have to be permanent. There’s no better time than the present to take control of this situation.

Taking care of someone doesn't necessarily mean coddling them. Remember that.

Taking care of someone doesn’t necessarily mean coddling them. Remember that.

The Stiff Upper Lip:

  • 3oz Gin
  • 3oz Apple Cider
  • 1/2 oz Triple Sec
  • Lemon Slices
  • Sliced Apples
    Preparation: 
  • Combine all ingredients into a shaker glass and shake well. Pour into a highball glass and garnish with apple slices and a lemon.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential.

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Separated at Birth: Sting

This isn’t so much a question of separated at birth (there is no discovery of a secret twinsie, at least not in today’s post) so much as it is a question of just what in the heck is going on here.

Sting, über-cool rock star, once a darling of the spiky and angular, aloof and yet angry set…

You could cut a roast with those cheekbones. Even his jacket is angular. Photo from sting.com

You could cut a roast with those cheekbones.
Even his jacket is angular.
Photo from sting.com

Has recently morphed into the love child of Mitch Miller (Sing Along with Mitch; ask your parents…or your grandparents…about it) and Clinton Kelly.

Hmmmm.

Hummina-whaaaaaaa?

I have nothing left to say. Imma leave this here.

Oh! And enjoy a little sing-along, on your way out.

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My sister, “Cindy” is driving me out of my mind. She is so irresponsible.

A year and a half ago we celebrated my father’s 90th birthday. My sister lived in another part of the country, so she took some time off work and came home, staying at our parents’ house as she always does. The day before she was ready to leave, Daddy died of a heart attack.

She called work and took a leave of absence, telling them she was staying with our mom to help her get settled. At first we thought it was great that she was there. It meant Mom had a chance to get used to Dad’s being gone and would have some help downsizing.

But, Cindy’s been home with her now for about a year and a half. It’s way past time for Mom to move into assisted living and for Baby Sister to go home. Mom isn’t getting the socialization she needs. Mom says she isn’t interested in moving out of her house; she wants to live there with Cindy. Cindy always takes her side. She also keeps insisting on being included in Mom’s healthcare decisions. The thing is, I’m a nurse. She’s not. I have her medical power of attorney.

I pay Cindy a salary out of mother’s pocket and we’re giving her room and board. She gets two days off most weeks, but complains if the other three of us can’t fill in on the times the nurses can’t be there on the weekend.

Last week Cindy’s former partner died. I’m sure she’s sad, but she hasn’t been with this woman for about 2 years, and it’s not like they were married. Hell, she doesn’t even believe in marriage. I can’t plan a schedule for the next month because Cindy doesn’t know when things are going to happen in Houston. Why can’t these people make a plan and just stick with it?

Cindy’s an artist and calls herself an “activist.” She’s almost 60. It’s time for her to get something steady in her life and stop leeching off the family. It’s also time for her to stop filling Mom with the notion that she can live at home. Mom doesn’t have a lot of time left I want her to be safe and not constantly reminded that Daddy isn’t here any more. We all live outside Boston (except of course for Cindy) and would make sure that someone visited Mom a couple times a week. There’s plenty of money to make sure she can be somewhere nice. And I’ll never need to worry about the scheduling.

Signed,

Tired of her interfering.

 

Dear Tired,

P: Wow, it must be tiring, being in charge of everything, including a few things you might not need to be. And even the things you’d like to have well organized are not necessarily going to fall into place.

I understand that you would like your Mom to feel better. You don’t say how old she is, but if she was happily married to your father a long time, grieving becomes a life-long process.

I’m not sure why you want to move her out of her home. I understand that it requires more maintenance, although there are programs that help with that, particularly in large cities. You say that there is plenty of money, so why not throw home-health aides at the problem?

I’ll admit I’m biased. Although my mom was in assisted living and then a nursing home, I spent (and was paid by my parents) a lot of time with Mom. I fed her twice a day five or six days a week. It was only later that I realized there was someone in my hometown that I could have had manage their care. I could have moved into their home and had support.

Mom had dementia and was moved a lot. Every single move was a very hard adjustment and she lost ground. You have a sister who is willing to be home and that’s what your mom wants. Why don’t you want that? You don’t say that Cindy’s not taking care of her.

B: I’m concerned about the idea of “downsizing”. Your father’s been gone for not that long of a time, really. He was 90 when he passed away, and I’m going to presume your parents married in their early-to-mid 20s. They have 60+ years of living put into their home. Why the rush to “downsize”? What’s the hurry? I’ve lost my father, too, and don’t feel any need to downsize my mother and distill the entirety of their lives together into…what would make you happy? One room? Two? I’ve watched it happen to other people, who have watched their belongings get carted out the door around them. And I remember one of them saying, “I can’t believe my daughter is doing this. I’m not even dead yet.”

P: Why don’t your Mother’s wishes carry any weight? Why can’t she have what she wants, especially if Cindy wants to give her that? My sister also had medical power, but because I saw Mom every day, and took her to the docs and to the emergency room — oh, yes, there are lots of emergency room visits with aging parents — she didn’t dream of making decisions without my input. Because I saw her every day.

B: Agreed. Your desire to leave your sister out of your mother’s medical conversations is, quite frankly, alarming. If you’re a nurse, then you know that communication and information are paramount in providing medical care. What do you gain by not having your mother’s primary caregiver as up to speed on her medical information as possible? Other than some odd sort of gloating right that you know more than Cindy, so ha ha Cindy. I am not sorry that I don’t understand this.

And what’s with the question of socialization? Does Cindy lock your mother in her room and never talk to her? Because your mom saying, “No, I don’t want to move, I want to stay here with her” tells me she likes the arrangement. Do you think Mom needs bingo night? Does your mom even like bingo? It feels like your idea of socialization is more “put her with people her own age (who she neither knows nor cares about) so she can mark time until the big sleep” and less “leave her with one of her children, who she loves, and who is offering her services as an end-of-life caregiver”. If you think Mom needs a bingo night…offer to take her to bingo. See how it goes.

P: This feels a lot like sibling rivalry here. Make sure that in your fight you leave enough room for your Mom’s well being. And I can say with assurance that 1-2 visits a week will not compensate for the comfort of her daily interaction with your sister. And as fine a home as you find, they will not love your mother the way your family does. If Cindy’s willing to do this work of love, give thanks and pamper her.

And really, what is it about your sister that you don’t like? I’m presuming her name is Cindy for a reason. Is Cinderella a family name or just a position? Her estranged partner dies and you need to know when the funeral is rather than asking her if she needs some time off and does she want to come to dinner? (And oh, btw, activist is a real word and doesn’t need the quotes around it.)

B: Your reaction to the death of Cindy’s partner (former partner, someone who was clearly very important to her) saddens and upsets me. It’s really too bad that she couldn’t die according to a more convenient timetable. For you. Though that seems to be at the core of your issues in this question. Your mother isn’t finished mourning quickly enough. Your sister hasn’t moved out in a timely fashion and is, furthermore, delaying your mother’s resigned exit out to pasture. And now, with Cindy’s partner up and dying on you, you may have to muddle through a few days that are loose and unscripted. Normally, I would sarcastically state that that was unfair of her to do that to you, but I wouldn’t want you to think I was serious.

P: Cindy works five days and has to cover the couple of hours that you guys can’t make work during the week? Are you kidding me? What makes you think you’ll all make time to see Mom when she’s in the home and you’ve packed Cindy back to Houston? If Cindy’s staying there — oh right, living at home with your mother — do you pay her for eight hours or round the clock care? If it’s only eight hours, you’re getting a steal.

B: Ann, it can be difficult to have someone you treat as an indentured servant, when you actually sort of don’t want that servant around.

P: However much we love our parents, it’s exhausting to be present. Recognize that. Support her as she does this very hard work. And you need to work on getting over the sibling thing, as it’s really unattractive.

B: Again, we agree. If your baby sister is 60, then you’re…pushing 70? Isn’t it time to put down whatever burdened you with all this anger? For your mother’s sake, if for nothing else. You’ve put her in the middle of your personal feud with Cindy. Why do you think it’s OK to use your mother as a chew toy as you rehash some lost but not quite forgotten rivalry?

P: Look, I have to believe you want the best for your mom and you’re worried. But you can’t control people’s aging process. You put her in a home and they’ll keep her alive, but not necessarily living. Stuff and familiarity is so important. She keeps her rhythm and not the institutions rhythm. She has someone who loves her living there all the time.

She has you who must love her, although, you might want to put more of that in the way you talk about this. If managing your mom is too hard, pass it on. Hire someone. Or let Cindy do it. Put your Mom and Dad’s money to good use. Let her live as large as she can in her home. Everyone wants to die at home. Sounds like your mom’s got the resources she needs to manage that. Why not make that dream come true? Certainly she helped you realize your dreams.

And whatever you’ve got going about your sister, you’re old enough to get over it.

Repeat after me: Relax. Have a nice glass of warm milk. Easy, now.

Repeat after me: Relax. Have a nice glass of warm milk. Easy, now.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Travel Theme: Entertainment

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa asks, ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED? Indeed I am. Here’s how.

Here’s a man doing a little violin busking on the Metro in Rome. Transportation AND a show? It’s a bargain!

He was good, too.

He was good, too.

For those of you who think I might have a mild obsession with New York Rangers hockey…you’d be right. Here’s a shot from a game George and I went to last year. Slide across the ice, Henrik! Slide! #LetsGoRangers

Fun fact: I bleed Rangers blue.

Fun fact: I bleed Rangers blue.

The things some of us do in the name of fun. Here’s roller coaster poised to take the plunge at Knoebel’s Amusement Park (sorry…Amusement Resort) in central PA.

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Mommy…MommyMommyMommyMommyMommy…MOTHER F*

Full disclosure: Once the lines die down, I will totally be one of the freaks on this ride. But, I am not a standing-in-line-type person. Moving on.

Tjörnin Lake is a prominent feature in downtown Reykjavik. Located right behind their City Hall, Tjörnin is surrounded by park benches and lots of picnicky-looking places for summer fun (I would imagine). In the winter, when it’s frozen over, residents take advantage of Tjörnin’s frozen surface for some cold-weather entertainment.

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Just another day on the lake in Reykjavik.

And finally.

If and when you go to Myrtle Beach, the Hollywood Wax Museum is a great way to entertain yourself and spend a day, particularly if you go in the winter and it’s unseasonably cold. But I dare you to get a picture as deranged as George’s photobomb of the Donny & Marie figures.

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I got your wholesome image riiiiiight heeeere.

I hope you had a fun time checking out the photo challenges! Thanks for stopping by.

Imma leave you with an opening segment from The Donny & Marie Show. Check out their inexplicable space palm tree bibs. 

Mmm hmmm. Saucy.

Advice: Five-Finger Fallout

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

My Uncle and I went to a pub the other night and had a great time. The beer and the food were great. We laughed a lot. I spent the night thinking, “yep, that’s my uncle.”

And then we got home. I drove because he’d had a fair amount to drink.

When we get home, he produced a beer stein that he’d pilfered from the bar. (Did I mention that I hang out there, often?)

So we had a fight. Yeah, I probably should have waited until he was sober. But he’s a grown man and he stole a glass from a bar. It makes me furious. It’s stupid and disgusting. I confess I shared that opinion with him.

He thinks I’m prissy and stuck up. I think he could easily afford to buy the stupid mug (or the bar if he wanted to), so what’s the thrill? When you’re 50, why are you stealing beer mugs?

It was stealing when we were in college and guess what? Still stealing.

He wants an apology. I want the mug to go back to the bar.

Oh, great. Now the mug will not be going back because he just “dropped it” on my kitchen floor.

What do I do with him? How do I look at him with all the admiration I had just yesterday afternoon?

Signed, Disappointed (and outraged) Nephew

 

Dear Nephew,

B: It’s always difficult to find out our beloveds have feet of clay, isn’t it?

So you and your uncle, out together, had a great night until you realized he likes to help himself to things. One of the main expenses any bar faces is the cost of glassware. Of course, one reason for that is breakage. But more to your point–the fact is, people like to steal bar glasses. More to it, beer companies want customers to steal their glasses with the cool logos printed on them. It’s stealth advertising. And I admit it; I’ve lifted one or two things from bars in my lifetime. I’m not proud of this, but it’s the truth. And my perspective shifted entirely once I went behind the stick and I ended up running short on glassware while trying to satisfy thirsty customers. It’s annoying.

P: Annoying indeed. And probably hard to reconcile with your image of him and what he represented to you. I confess that when it comes to some things, I’m very black and white — and not necessarily in the healthiest of ways. I have strong “shoulds” about things like this and this falls on the other side of my line. I have found myself outraged about exactly this — there was that time when a bunch of girlfriends got up to leave a bar and I realized my bag was full of silverware my friend had pilfered. Although that did have the added zing of her having set me up to be the one who would have been the bad guy if we got caught.

But I think there are a couple things going on here that make this hard for you to deal with. One, he stole the stupid mug. Even if the beer companies profit from this (I admit I never considered that, Mme. Bartender), stealing isn’t part of your value system. Two, your uncle is not the guy you always thought he was — and loved him for being.

B: Here’s my armchair psychiatrist, pop-culture take on what motivated your uncle. First, it is possibly the single safest way to misbehave, ever. If he engaged in drunken sex, there’s inherent danger. He could catch something, he could ruin any current relationship he’s in, he could encounter his one-night stand’s jealous partner. If he drank and drove, he could kill himself, kill someone else, end up in jail, have to pay tremendous out of pocket fines. But stealing a glass from a bar..? He gets the thrill of kind of feeling like a little bit of a badass with little to no repercussions. The most that would happen is, someone would think he was kind of a jerk, and shrug their shoulders as they took the glass back and walked away.

Or so he thought, until you unloaded on him. He probably never thought acting like a frat boy–thirty years too late–would result in such anger from you. I almost imagine the song “Glory Days” playing in his head, until you made the needle scratch its way across his mental soundtrack.

P: I probably don’t really care about what motivated him. Because, after all, he’s not looking for our support, you are. What I do care about is how you cope with your feelings about him. He’s both someone you admired and someone you didn’t know as well as you thought you did. He’s all those things you once loved, but he’s some things (a sometimes heavy drinker who lets alcohol override his good sense) you don’t like.

We’ve all been things we don’t like, the question is do we learn from those things? In this case, your uncle seems not to have learned quite enough. This is a chance for you to realize your uncle is human in ways you’re not excited about. It is also a chance to plough through the stuff that you do, that are not exactly aligned with your values and start living into who you want to be.

B: It is a blessing and a curse that we, as humans, can have complicated and even conflicted feelings about one person at the same time. You love your uncle, but you’re also profoundly disappointed in him. I get it. And you’re angry, I get that too. The thing is, you have the power to control what you do here. He is your uncle, but you are also an adult,  with all the attendant autonomy to decide how to further react. You can choose your interactions so they suit you without putting you in a position to be made uncomfortable again. You can also choose to hold on to the anger that’s flared up within you–which, after the fact, only tears away at your own well-being–or you can let your anger go. I’m not saying forget it. Remember it. Just don’t let it ride you like an old coat. And take charge of future interactions.

Don’t go out to the bar with him again. That’s where the side of him you don’t like came out, so don’t go back asking for more. I also would not make a point of confronting him about it again, because you’ve already spoken your piece. While his actions offend and upset you, and highlight something you don’t like about your uncle, in the grand scheme of things this isn’t the worst crime a person could commit, and I say that as a potentially irritated bartender who’s run short of glasses on a Saturday night. Your uncle knows how you feel, and you can’t make him see your point or apologize from the heart or stop him from digging his heels in deeper if he’s responded by being mad at you for being mad. Move on. Choose not to hang out with him, but don’t let it ruin Thanksgiving, dig?

P: Since we’re concentrating on you, you have the chance to look at the difference between exercising good judgment (based on your values and common sense) and being judgmental (based on self-righteousness.). It’s true it’s only a mug, but he stole it. And faced with your disapproval he made the childish choice to shatter the mug in your kitchen. (Keep wearing your shoes for a while.)

But our reaction to that kind of nonsense is ours to control. Judgmentalism is seductive. I have heard and succumbed to its siren call on more than one occasion. Your uncle acted like an idiot. He will live with that the rest of his life, because your relationship will never be the same. It won’t be the same because you don’t need to be hanging out with people who boost glassware.

I doubt, however, that your sound value system includes disdaining people who have foibles and weaknesses. When we were talking about this question, Terri and I had this whole long conversation about the messiness of forgiving. You want to let go of your self-righteousness. You’ve lost the chance for him to be a different person, because he did this. You have the chance to accept that weakness (and isn’t that forgiveness?) in your now perhaps not so favorite uncle. But you don’t want to be clinging to self-righteousness when you make the decision not to forget — you want to keep the information about who your uncle is in your brain, and your heart and try and see him for who he is.

For, as always in these situations, the deepest part of the question is “who are you going to be?” How will you be a person of integrity? How will you be the person who moves from thoughtful, accepting (but not embracing) love?

B: If only people behaved honorably, and as we wanted them to, all the time. But they don’t, and getting over a fundamental disappointment can be a long trip. Is this incident going to override the entirety of your relationship up until now? It’s up to you to decide how to manage the information you have. And if you decide to burn a bridge with your uncle, remember, they’re difficult (if not impossible) to build back.

P: This is the hard growing up part that happens as we become adults and our favorite uncles become people rather than icons. And sometimes we realize that our favorite uncles were our favorite uncles when we were children and might not be the best role models for us as adults. (I had this uncle. Brilliant, funny, talented — and an alcoholic who messed up his life and his children’s) He’s not a friend or acquaintance that you can move into the “former” category. He’s family. He’ll be at Thanksgiving or at your Winter Celebrations. You’re going to have to make space for this extra bit of info you have about him. Because he’s still all the things he was, plus he’s this one other thing that you’re not crazy about at all. There are maybe some other things you’ll not be excited about.

He can be some of those things to you again if you’ll let him. You might not be ready for him to do that by the next holiday. And you have a choice, you can go home and nurse a grudge and cast a great pall over the holiday, or you can find something else fun to do that holiday that will necessitate your absence (something fun, did you hear me?) and give yourself some space to come to terms. Families are filled with foibles. You don’t need to encourage him and you may never have the relationship you had with him, but acceptance will keep your family, your family. You may not need to share with anyone what happened… (that’s why you wrote to us, not your mom!) but you do need to change your relationship with him to one you can live with… but you need to do that when you’re not nursing your broken heart.

stealing beer mugs

Think carefully? Do you want to start a feud over this?

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

 

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