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Taking sides

The promised tour of the CrazyStable's strangely-named superfluous rooms has been cancelled on account of rain...which is entering through the roof of the laundry room at an alarming rate, reminding me again of the pressing need to find a roofer willing to patch, not tear off the whole bloody roof for $40,000. I will take a gang of rhesus monkeys with buckets of tar and lots of enthusiasm at this point, even if they don't have worker's comp.

The dismal rain and cold (and the sound of the boiler struggling to come on in the second half of May), along with the pwank-pwanking of roof tea into the foil turkey pans, plus hormonal impairment, were sending me into a tailspin this morning...til I saw this picture in the news: rain in ne.jpg

Yes, as the old Irishman said, Sure 'tis never so bad that it couldn't be worse. For example, in New England along the banks of a raging river right now.

But this reflexive bit of optimism--the house is not half-full of water, by God, it is half-empty!--is quickly countered by an inner voice saying, "Well, aren't we Pollyanna today?" This is the Voice of the Mater (not to be confused with the Voice of Binky). My beloved late mother lived her (unnecessarily difficult) life in the absolute conviction that not only was the glass half-empty, but the waiter had taken one look at her in particular and then surreptitiously spat in it. Pollyanna was my mother's archfiend. To be cheerful, relaxed, or hopeful, in my mother's worldview, was to wallow in self-delusion. Embracing the role of the clear-eyed realist with acerbic gusto, she spent her life in a defensive crouch against the next blow from the hairy right arm of fate.

Amazingly, she had a long and happy marriage to a man--my father--who was possibly one of the world's greatest optimists. mdwed.jpgMore a philosopher than a Pollyanna, my dad saw happiness as a never-ending series of choices--some profound, some minuscule. He never saw the point of choosing misery. He never gave up, in 37 years of marriage (and 15 years of courtship!), trying to convince my mother of this wisdom. And he never succeeded--not the tiniest little bit.

Both my parents were highly verbal, persuasive individuals, and so I am left with a sort of everlasting debating society raging inside my head. Life: Mined Field, or Box of Chocolates? The facts that my father was one of the most genuinely happy people I've ever known, and that my mother spent the last decade of her life in a slough of largely self-inflicted mental torment, would seem to tilt the case. But I spent a lot more time with the Mater, and a lot more recently, since she outlived her sunshine-souled husband by 14 wretched years. Hers is the first voice I hear, every time I put my hand on a broken doorknob or step over our cracked driveway:  It figures. It's always us. I might have known.  How typical.

And then, in distant answer, there is my dad's reply... you could save that knob, they don't make them like that anymore, and just replace the lock casing. You'll get the cement fixed; look how well the Belgian-block footing is holding up. Good thing that leak is where you can see it, and not sneaking in under the attic where it'll rot the joists without your knowing it.

In other words, I spend more time fighting off the temptation to join the Dark Side than Luke Skywalker. And yes, that means I have compared my mother to Darth Vader (well, sort of) on the day after Mother's Day. This is a one-dimensional sketch of her--in younger days, she was fiercely funny and loving, the brittleness and bitterness only hinted at like sombre notes in an overture. And even in later years, she was more Eeyore than Evil Empire. But by the time she spent her final years here, every square foot of battered floor and wall was an outsize challenge to Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.  It's quite a tribute to my dad that, Obi-like, he still beams in after all these years, and never gives up.

Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say.
Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle!
And this'll help things turn out for the best...

Monty Python's Life of Brian

Posted on Monday, May 15, 2006 at 11:39AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | CommentsPost a Comment

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