So, Jonathan's parents arrived in town today. Mine come tomorrow. Jon's parents are nice, normal people. They know how to behave in public, and in social situations. We picked them up from Penn Station with nary an incident, and took a cab to the hotel, where we got them settled into their lovely hotel room. We went downtown, to Little Italy, where we strolled through a street fair and then had an early pasta dinner at one of the many, many Italian restaurants on offer, but one they've been to before and were excited about going back to. Then we brought them back to their lovely hotel room. They've rented suite-style accommodations with a separate seating area, complete with couch. You know, in case they want to invite my parents up to socialize.
Like I said, my parents arrive tomorrow. And the series of events I've described above, a fairly normal interaction with Jonathan's parents, would be a small miracle should they occur in the presence of mine. I've been nervous about this visit, but I've been thinking it's going to be OK. Despite the fact that their last trip here was horrendous, and left me violently ill and in a severe depression. Despite a lifetime of witnessing them being completely incapable of behaving like normal parents or even normal people in any social or familial situation. Because they swore it would be better this time. Because Dad said he'd be less anxious since they've done it once now, and since they're staying in the same hotel as they did last time (familiar turf), and since he's doing better overall these days. Because they've been saying this time it's going to be alright. And I've been believing them, mostly because it's what I've wanted to believe.
So, foolish me, I've been worrying about things like, how will they react when we tell them the big news? And, how will we sidestep the questions of "money" and "parents' roles in the ceremony" until a later date? And, will it rain?
That is, until I got on the phone with my mom tonight.
"Hey Mom! Are y'all excited about coming up?"
"Oh yeah, I'm excited and Daddy is too. We can't wait to see you. It should be really good. The only thing is that Daddy doesn't want to take the subway."
What? "What? He said he was gonna do it this time! He promised." (Crap hell damn!)
"Well, maybe that's what he's telling you, but to me he says he doesn't want to do it."
"But it's gonna cost you like $150 a day to take taxis everywhere!"
"To keep Daddy calm? So what." (My mother, the rationalizing enabler.)
"But it doesn't keep him calm! He gets just as freaked out in a taxi. Plus, you can't put six people into one taxi. We'd have to take two..."
"Well I don't know honey, I'm not going to bring it up with him now. We'll deal with it when we get there." (This is my-mother speak for "I'm going to go along with whatever crazy thing your father does and then bitch about it during and later.")
And so, we're back to square one. See, my father isn't content just keeping his anxieties and phobias to himself, noooo. He insists on taking everyone along with him. He doesn't feel comfortable someplace? Well then everybody has to leave. NOW. He doesn't want to take the subway? Well then everybody damn well better pile into a cab, or maybe he just won't go at all. He's tired of being in the museum? Day at the museum officially OVER.
I suddenly have visions of my dad creating a huge scene, as he is so apt to do, right there in the lobby of the hotel not ten minutes after meeting Jonathan's parents for the first time. I see not getting them to the restaurant at all, or getting them there but having everyone in such a tense miserable state by that time that there's no way we can make our big announcement. I begin to panic. So I call the only person who could possibly understand this predicament: my sister.
And of course, she understands perfectly. And since this is not her crisis, she can see it for what it is... not a crisis. See, the problem is largely that my parents are catastrophists, and in being such they've trained me well. There is no such thing as a small problem for us. There are only end-of-the-world, earthshattering, unsolvable nightmares. Perfection or utter chaos, those are your choices.
That is, until I take a breath, remember my unlearning, and recall that I just have to treat my dad like I would a difficult twenty-year-old. If I am calm, this will not be a problem. If I am calm, this is just my goofy dad being my goofy dad, a barely noticeable bump in what can still be a lovely evening. He wants to take a cab? Fine. No problem. Him and my mom can take a cab. We'll see them there. As has always been the case with my parents (though it took me decades to realize it), I must be the rational and strong one.
So when we're at the hotel where all four parents are staying tomorrow (oh yes, we did it that way), and my dad makes his pronouncement that he refuses to use the mass transit system that is good enough for at least six million people to use every single day, I will calmly and happily tell him that the restaurant is called Spring Street Natural, is at the corner of Spring and Laffiette, and that me and Jonathan's family will see them there. Because you know what? I'm not humoring that crap from him any more than my friends humor it from me.
Ahh, yes, that's a funny part of the story - All my hysteria? Got it from him. I inherited all of my father's anxiety problems, directly, and then threw in some of my own. The main difference is that at some point in my twenties I realized that I didn't get to torture other people with them; that rather I should a) seek help, and b) should find ways to reduce my anxiety that don't screw with other peoples' plans. In this I have been not completely successful, but I do alright. And hell, at least I try. Unfortunately, my father at age 58 has not yet had this realization.
But, back to my focus. Tomorrow, and likely through their whole trip, I must chant this mantra: It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one. It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one. It's not a crisis if I don't treat it like one... As my sister reminded me, a tsunami is a crisis. The hurricane that destroyed both of our lives, that was a crisis. This? This is just dinner in Soho, and should be treated as such. It's just dinner with six adults, for chrissake, and I'll have my man there to hold my hand.
And so, deep breaths. I am the zen. I am the rock. If I can stay calm and rational, everything will be fine.
God help me.