150 Days

Day 26
February 22, 2010, 2:00 am
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Occasionally my parents have the urge to throwback to the days when they had young children and have a true ‘family’ dinner. It’s a great idea. With me living under their roof, it becomes an even easier idea to follow through. Unfortunately, my brother lives on the other side of the continent. His attendance to a family dinner is crucial for the experience to truly be reenacted. Not only does he live thousands of miles away, but he is also a busy guy and can’t easily fly seven hours to sit beside me at the dinner table.  However, at my house nothing is impossible. Tenacity and persistence flow through the veins of my father and he always finds a way.

As I arrived for dinner, my parents had all dressed up. They do this when we have company, are celebrating a holiday, or have a grown-up family dinner. I always forget, and find myself somewhat ashamed of the navy jogging pants I’m sporting. I hear my parents talking with excitement over the sound of wine glasses clinking. There is jazz music playing. The fine china is out on the table. The smell of some cooking animals fills the room. My parents are sitting across from each other and staring at the head of the table. There, sitting at the head of the table is a small laptop computer. I’m get that weird feeling in my stomach, like this is one of those moments that will always be remembered. As I approach the table to assume my place, I notice that there is a face on the laptop. It fills the screen and is interacting with my parents. It’s my brother.

My father discovered Skype. Never one to allow anything to get in front of him and his family, including geography and time zones, he has patched my brother in live to the supper table to assume a digital seat at the head of the table.  We all begin to eat, except my brother as he is at least four hours away from his dinner hour, and engage in social banter. My brother’s head rests just to the left of the carrots and the bread basket. I’m pretty sure he’s watching television on his couch, but entertains my parents with the occasional ‘pass the potatoes’ joke. As is tradition in my household, my father has set up the camera to take a family photo. The lighting is adjusted so that red-eye is reduced and that any glare off my brothers screen face is avoided. My dad runs up to the tripod, hits the timer, runs back and assumes the position beside my brother. We all put our forks down, look up to the camera and say cheese.

Only 124 days left.


Day 25
January 29, 2010, 1:35 pm
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You may remember that my father has a universal remote that has the computing power to launch a rocket into space.  The digital screen, the multitude of options – some would say its the cats meow (not me though, as I don’t say that phrase typically). Today, among his regular self talk descriptions of what he is doing, I overheard him describing the functions of the remote to himself. This seemed odd, as his monster remote has been a family staple for at least two years and he should have the functions down by now. So I thought I’d investigate.

It turns out that my father had been in the mall earlier today. There he saw an advertisement from the local cable company. On that advertisement was a remote – one that was made for the cable box, but looked different than the one that came with his cable box. Never to be bested by The Man, my father challenged the company on why his remote didn’t look the theirs. They didn’t know, and didn’t actually care. They just gave him a new remote.  Now that his home remote was in harmony with the advertising remote, the world was balanced. Peace spread across the land. Now he just had to program it.

Only 125 days left.

Day 24
January 28, 2010, 1:44 pm
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When I was moving into my parents place, I noticed that I had two bottles of my ‘wedding wine’ – a red and white that had the wedding date on it. I never intended to consume this wine as it was a more of a keepsake then a casual alcoholic beverage. I had actually forgotten that I owned it until it found my way into my parents place during the moving process.

The phone at my office rang today around five. It was my wife.

“Steve, did you drink the wedding wine?”
“Well, there are two empty bottles sitting on your parents counter.”
“They didn’t drink our wedding wine did they Steve?”

I wanted to say that they didn’t. That nobody would go through the effort of going to the back of an old fridge in the basement to pry out two dusty bottles of homemade wine. That nobody would wonder if the two bottles of wine that had been kept long past its prime drinking date, and labelled with someone elses name and wedding date, were up for grabs for public consumption. But nobody usually doesn’t include my parents.

This act of theft was difficult for me to address. So difficult, I left it unaddressed. Perhaps this is a problem or a sign of weakness, but walking through the their reasoning that lead them to pop the cork off two bottles of wedding wine on a weekday afternoon would have been incomprehensible and probably left me in a state of verbal paralysis. I don’t enjoy falling into a catatonic state so I avoid situations like this. I’ve come to learn that you cannot reason with the unreasonable.

Only 126 days left.

Day 23
January 27, 2010, 2:06 pm
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Tonight I came home to a real treat. The sounds of metal bashing around the kitchen with the smell of something sweet baking in the oven. As I ascended the stairs into the kitchen I realized that my perception of what was transpiring in was slightly off.

I had assumed that there was some baking going on. I was half right. My wife was baking, but had used my mothers baking pan. The baking pan had required “some oil” (quotes here imply that my mother said this) to ensure that whatever was being heated in it would not char and stick. Unfortunately for my wife, and for all those who would consume the baked goods, the baking pan was 35 years old and had long-lost its fine, smooth, black finish. The state of the baking sheet could be compared to one of those chairs wrestlers use to smash people over the head with. It basically looked like someone fired a hockey puck at it for an afternoon.

Due to the decrepid state of the baking pan, the squares my wife was trying to create had decided to make a permanent home within the pan. Upon my arrival into the kitchen I witnessed her using a butter knife like a hammer, while her body was wedged between two countertops to ensure that her power was maximzed as she unleashed each blow to the pan of squares. Chunks of skor squares were flying from the pan across the kitchen, as black flakes of metal floated through the air. It was like a snow storm in hell.

The only thing that filled the air more than pieces of dough and worn teflon were my wife’s shrieks of profanity that followed each raging attempt to dislodge her squares from my mothers high quality cooking surface. I have never experienced fear and hilarity at the same time, so this was another first. The only thing that would have topped off the experience would have been for my mother to return home and receive the molten wrath of a woman whose efforts had been sabotaged.

Only 127 days left.

Day 22
January 27, 2010, 1:44 pm
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Everyone likes surprises. They come in different forms – some are spectacular, others are modest and some just baffle the mind. I’d like to share a particular surprise that falls into the last category.  I may have alluded to the fact that my mother is quite frugal. I think she once acquired a pair of designer shoes from a friend who was giving them away, even though they were one size too small. Well, today I was reminded of this character trait while fetching a plate from the dishwasher.

As I prepared for lunch, I opened the dishwasher to get the newly cleaned dishes that would hold the delicious meal I was about to consume. As the door lowered, I couldn’t help but notice a massive piece of green plastic jammed between the dishes. On the side of this piece of plastic was a label that read “Cascade” – it was a bottle of dishwasher detergent. Finding it odd that the bottle would be in the dishwasher, rather than the required amount in the detergent dispenser, I decided to ask about its purpose. “Well, we were out of dish detergent and I wanted to make sure we got all the detergent from the bottle before getting another one” was my mothers casual response.  Not only are there possible health issues with melting plastic in your dishwasher, or mechanical issues that arise from using some random amount of dish detergent, but the thought process that decides to jam a container into the dishwasher so that the last penny’s worth of detergent is used… blows my mind. I’m probably making a bigger deal out of this than one should, but seriously – it’s like $5 to get a new bottle and you don’t have to worry about all the carcinogens bleeding from the plastic on to the almost clean (but not as there is not enough detergent in the bottle) dishes.  It’s the little things that get to you after 22 days of living with your folks. 

Only 128 days left.

Day 21
January 5, 2010, 4:30 pm
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I’ve been a bit negligent updating this blog, but I have been keeping meticulous notes so that no tragedy, comedy, insanity or calamity goes unrecorded (that is the first time I’ve written the word calamity).

So…I’m still living at home. The last twenty days have provided me enough time to try to formalize a routine that resembles my old life. Overall, my efforts have yielded positive results except in one critical area – sleep. My place of rest is situated in the basement. I don’t have the proper tools to make this claim 100%, but based on my initial approximation the bed is situated directly underneath my parents’ kitchen table. This wasn’t a feature of my living space that was brought to my attention, nor was it something I even thought about when moving in. In many cases, this wouldn’t even be a problem as my sleeping hours usually take place in the evening, which is exactly the same time my parents choose to sleep (they are retired, so they have no reason to sleep then. I think it is now just a habit).  It turns out that my folks are notorious heel walkers. The pronounced placement of their heel bone on the hardwood floor above me sends sound waves straight through the foundation to the core of the earth. Before they reach the core, the sound waves fly out of the foundation and smash into my ear drums six feet below.

I’m not sure what a human being has to do to create such a sound while walking – my folks are not overweight or particularly tall, and they often wear slippers. This is usually a good sign that points to quiet walkers. However, when my mother arises from her slumber at 5am because she dreamed the oven was still on, my ears tell me that there is nothing quiet about the thunder from above.  Then right when I think the noise is over, someone pulls out a chair from the kitchen table. Although different in tone and volume, this is equally obtrusive to my rest.

Living with heel walkers has made me more aware of my own impact on the earth. When I wake up, I ensure that the heel has a disbursed impact on the floor surface as I am ever so paranoid of being the cause of heel walker insomnia. I hope that by sharing this story, I am comforting others who have been suffering.

Only 129 days left.

Day 20
December 2, 2009, 5:38 pm
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After my first few days home, I had to have that conversation with my mother about boundaries. If you recall, there were the laundry and the bamboo incidents, which were just a few of the highlights of that first week. For the most part, the notion of boundaries has been well received and the number of infractions against this new constitution have been limited. For example, after stating that the bedroom where my family calls home is now off-limits to my parents, they would leave things outside the door. I would find a piece of mail, or something that was to meant to start a conversation – like a single shoe which represented the subject of walking or dog walking or shoes. When I asked “Why is there a shoe in front of my bedroom door?” they would reply “We walked the dog today and didn’t want to forget to tell you?” or “Is that your shoe? We thought it might be.”

However, there is one thing that continues to infringe upon the boundaries of my space. Every once in a while I notice that someone has been in my room. My folks deny it or have some odd reason that excuses the breach of space. A week ago they had placed a DVD on a bookshelf. It was a compilation of family videos. useful and a great keepsake – but trespassing none the less. Most of the other items that mysteriously find their way onto this bookshelf are useful, old books, a few pennies, the odd piece of laundry. Then there’s the automatic pencil sharpener. The two-inch by three-inch brown, worn out,  pencil sharpener. I’m not sure why it has made it into my room. I’ve been able to make the link between each item left and its purpose except for the pencil sharpener. It isn’t like it’s huge and won’t fit in a normal drawer, or that it belonged to me years ago and now I’m back so it is back as well. I don’t even own a pencil. Perhaps I used pencils a lot when I was a child or my mom wants me to take up drawing. I could just ask, but that would lead to another arduous discussion around boundaries, which is really not worth it in this case. I’m sure I’ll need to save my energy for something of greater significance.
Only 130 days left.