Christmastime with Mom and Bill 2017


Highlights from This Year's Christmastime Visit with Mom and Bill:

*This was my ninth annual Christmastime visit in Wallace, Idaho. This year's full photo set on Flickr, which I just finished captioning, features 50 shots (48 photos, 2 videos) -- as compared to 53 in 2016; 56 in 205; 48 in 2014; all of them prior to that averaging around 40.

*The first one, in 2009, was spurred by Mom and Bill's then-PSR ("Psychosocial Rehabilitation" person), Holly, when Mom had said she wanted to have a Christmas party. For several years before this, I was only visiting Mom and Bill once a year, but Holly convinced me to come this year because it was such a big deal Mom wanted to do something this social in nature -- and she knew it would make a big difference if I came. This was also before Shobhit moved to New York, but he didn't come that year because of a work commitment. Holly convinced me to fly to Spokane, and she would drive all the way over from Wallace to pick me up -- which she did the first few years, until I decided I'd rather pay for a rental car than deal with the cigarette smoke, the cold air coming in from her rolled-down window she quite mistakenly thought sucked the smoke out, and the blasts of unbearable heat from her cranked car heater. Anyway, Holly came by for five of the first December visits I made (the exception being 2012, when Bill was in the hospital for vocal complications after sepsis, and I took Mom to visit him there in Couer d'Alene), but has since moved to Coeur d'Alene and really never sees Mom and Bill anymore. Enter Shelley, the new PSR/friend, who has come over each December visit since 2015. We've played Cards Against Humanity every time. In fact, at Mom and Bill's is really the only time and place I ever play that game anymore. It's kind of run its course for the rest of us, but Mom and Bill and Shelley all love it.

*Shobhit has come along for springtime visits most years since he and I have been together, but this was the first time he ever came along for a December visit. He was in New York in 2010, and in Los Angeles every year between 2011 and 2016, unable to justify an additional trip mid-December when he was already coming to Seattle to be with me for Christmas. Well, he moved back to Seattle permanently just after my Wallace visit last year, and has been home since. So, my doing these things on my own is once again going to be far less common.

*That December visit in 2009 featured a party with 12 people. Pretty much every year after that never exceeded four -- Mom, Bill, myself and Holly. The number went back up to 5 in 2015, since Shelley came and also brought her then-boyfriend. This year qualified much more as a party, since Christopher is currently living there and also TJ and Nikki brought Cheyanna down to visit for the day on Sunday too. Shelley was not there on the same day Nikki and TJ were, but if you just take Sunday -- yesterday -- then it was basically a party for eight -- by far the most that have been there in December since the 12 that had come for the Christmas Party in 2009:

1. Mom
2. Bill
3. Christopher
4. Matthew
5. Shobhit
6. Nikki
7. TJ
8. Cheyanna

Lyman, a guy who lives down the street -- and who was actually one of the Christmas Party guests in 2009 -- actually came over for a moment too, but not long enough to be considered part of the party, really.

If we just considered Saturday evening, when Shelley did come over, then there were still six of us -- Mom and Bill; Shobhit and me; Christopher; and Shelley. Even that's more than any December visit since 2009. (This excludes springtime visits, and when all three boys were brought down from Spokane by Christopher, that actually tied with 2009 for the number of guests, with twelve in attendance.)


*Speaking of the boys, there was some legitimate family drama that went down yesterday while Nikki and TJ were over, as Katina kept sending Christopher bitchy texts about how upset Tristen apparently was that he didn't get to come down and visit. This was actually beyond Christopher's control -- I guess this was normally the weekend Chistopher would have his parental visitation, but Mom and Bill actualy asked him not to bring the boys over on the same day Nikki and TJ brought Cheyanna. I guess they just felt it would be too many people in the house at once.

I never saw any of the texts from Katina, although Christopher kept showing them to Mom and saying things like, "What am I supposed to do with that?" I told him he should just tell her Mom and Bill asked that the boys not come, and it wasn't his decision -- "I did!" Christopher said. Well, tell her again. What else could he do? A couple of times he got up to go outside because he was so angry.

Apparently in one of Katina's texts she had said Tristen had gone to his room, upset about not being able to come. Katina had made it a point to tell Christopher this. I asked if they thought it would make things worse if I sent him a Facebook message. Christopher said no, and so I wrote this to Tristen:

Hey Tristen! I’m sorry you couldn’t come visit today. I missed you. 🙂 Mom and Bill tell me they just couldn’t handle a huge number of people at the house today, they can only handle so much at a time anymore.

Maybe you can come visit us for a weekend after you graduate next year. We’d love to have you again.

He just wrote back one word: Okay. Christopher said that's just typically how he is, though -- I guess Tristen is a young man of few words. At the very least, as was noted yesterday, by next summer Tristen will be 18 and can make his own decisions, and Katina can't keep him from visiting me. Christopher himself prevents the kids' visiting me every year between 2012 and 2014, after which I got a heartfelt and meaningful apology from him that really changed everything. As a result, after three years of no visits, I actually had all three boys visit me again in the summer of 2016, figuring it was going to pick up every year again.

But, in 2017, it didn't happen -- as this was the year of Christopher and Katina's divorce; Katina has custody of the boys; and when I messaged her on Facebook to ask about it she just replied, At this point I don't know. I never pressed it, and so it never happened. Christopher tells me Katina didn't want to let the boys visit me because she was afraid he'd come and take the boys while they were with me, which is genuinely insane, but whatever.

By the way, when the initial years that the kids weren't able to visit me anymore were brought up yesterday, Christopher took the opportunity to say "I'm really sorry I did that to you." It only occurs to me right now, as I write this, that this was the first time he apologized to me in person, and I suppose that means something -- but it still wasn't necessary. "It's water under the bridge," I said, which is true. Christopher had a genuine change of heart in 2016, and in spite of how much I resented him for three years prior to that -- to the point that I had literally come to terms with the very real expectation that he and I may never speak again -- how much that actually meant, and means, to me cannot be understated. I don't hold grudges, and if someone wants to reconcile, I am open to it. Especially if he's my brother.

Christopher really wanted to play Cards Against Humanity again, this time with Nikki and TJ, yesterday, but we never quite got around to it. We all thought we were waiting for Shelley to come over again, and she never did. Apparnetly she has her own mental disability (or disabilities?) and can have her own sort of manic -- which is how I've tended to see her -- and then more kind of down episodes. She was the life of the party on Saturday, but evidently spent much of the day Sunday sleeping and just wasn't up for it, not even when Bill actually got into our car to help us find her house. We had discovered she left her phone at Mom and Bill's, and thought maybe that was the only reason we couldn't get a hold of her to ask when she'd be coming over.

We got Bill out of the house for a few minutes, at least. He did lead us to the wrong house at first -- one block over from the one we needed. I knocked on the door and a young woman answered, having no idea who Shelley was. At that point I thought she lived on that block so maybe she'd know her as a neighbor, but nope: she was in a house one block over. And when she did open the door to that house, she gave me a hug and took the phone, but wasn't all that interested in coming out again. She was going to, at first, when she thought we were gathered over at our room at the Hercules Inn just two blocks from where she lives -- our new favorite place to stay in Wallace, thanks to Shelley's own recommendation last May -- but then I had to tell her we were all still over at Mom and Bill's. We're talking one mile away at most, but I guess that was too far for Shelley. She gave us a "maybe" she'll come over later, and we all knew that meant she wouldn't be coming.

We sure did have fun with her on Saturday night, though, once we finally reached town three hours delayed because of fog at the SeaTac Airport. We were over at Mom and Bill's that night, after quickly settling in at the Hercules Inn (our room being on the second floor was what shot down the idea of us all gathering in our much more spacious unit -- neither Mom nor Bill could do the stairs; we've already requested a ground floor unit for when we come back next June, on our way to Yellowstone National park), at probably around 6:00. Shelley was already there, and we spent much of that evening all six of us gathered around the table in the kitchen. We did later move to the living room to play Cards Against Humanity, and we laughed a lot.

Just as we had when we visited in May, Shobhit and I stopped in Coeur d'Alene to pick up Costco pizzas to bring for dinner. Two of them would have been plenty, but we decided to get three just for variety -- veggie, combo, and cheese. They're only ten bucks per pizza so even with three of them, feeding six people dinner for thirty bucks is a pretty damned good deal. Although to be fair Shelley didn't have any that night; she said she had eaten recently.

We also got a bunch of other snack items, and sliced cheeses and breads to make sandwiches with for lunch on Sunday when Nikki and TJ were there. We knew they wouldn't bring any food of their own, and if we were all to eat, the options were either to take everyone out to a restaurant, which would cost Shobhit and me a fortune, or get the kid of food we could all make on our own at the house. We were even more economical about it this time than we were in May, when we got a bunch of fried chicken for them at the grocery store. This time we just got the makings for sandwiches, including some lunch meats at the Osburn grocery store, and also a cashew salad mix from Costco. Nikki was especially impressed with that salad.

By the end of the day yesterday, there were some tensions, because Shobhit and Bill got to arguing about everything from what the Civil War was "really about" (duh) to labor unions, but this ultimately left me quite entertained -- because Bill constantly comes at him with false equivalencies, logical fallacies, and quick tangents meant to change the subject instead of addressing actual points being made. All of these things are what Shobhit does constantly to me, so it was kind of delicious for him to get a taste of his own medicine.

I would say Bill is way worse about it, though. It all started because Bill is convinced there is no good reason for it to be legally compulsory to wear a seat belt. He's convinced that because in the car accident he was in, years ago, since his sister was wearing a seatbelt and was just as damaged by the accident as he was without wearing one, that somehow means it's useless to have to wear a seat belt. He wouldn't hear the arguments about statistics an probabilities, would only ask where that information comes from, and if you bring up things as simple as government studies or even the U.S. Census, he then just says he doesn't trust anything the government tells him about anything. How the fuck do you debate anything with someone like that?

I suppose I should give Bill credit for this, though: he was all about believing it should be legal for gay people to get married, which was a little surprising. Even Mom acted like it had never occurred to her that without marriage rights, a hospital could deny one of us visitation. I'm convinced she's heard such arguments before, but maybe just doesn't remember. She acted like this point had never even occurred to her, like, "Oh!" My theory is that this is related to her 2014 stroke, which clearly affected her intellectual capacity in permanent ways she doesn't realize, and which would no one any good for me to tell her.

There's more I could tell, but I'm running out of steam after all the photo editing, uploading, captioning -- to be sure, you can get more detail by reading those in the Flickr photo set -- and now writing all of this. I need to go watch an episode of The Crown with Shobhit.

Oh! One other thing: no snow in Wallace this year. After the major winter wonderland of last year, that was almost disappointing. Then again, it likely would have precluded Nikki and TJ visiting. So it was for all for the best.

Now I'll leave you with a video I took of Shelley performing "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," which she remembered from once actually playing the title role in Evita in a local theatre some years ago.


[posted 8:25 pm]