…you’re family! That’s The Olive Garden’s famous tagline on their commercials. I think they got more “family” than they expected or wanted last Sunday though.
Sunday was the unveiling of my father-in-law’s grave marker. Or it was supposed to be. Hubs and K and I arrived at the cemetery early, beating everyone except the Rabbi. We made our way inside the gate and looked around for the covered grave marker. And looked. And walked and looked some more. Hubs had gone straight to the tree he remembered being near the grave a year ago but there was no new stone, no indication he could see that he was in the right place.
A few moments later Mom and the others arrived. It soon became clear someone had dropped the ball and the stone had not been placed. There we all were, including a niece who had driven over 300 miles to be there. We stood around in a kind of daze. Mom was so not happy. That is probably the biggest understatement I’ve ever written. Seriously. The unveiling after a year of mourning is the signal in the Jewish faith to give up mourning and move on with your life. Unhappy does not begin to describe my mother-in-law.
She told SIL (who had been on the phone dealing with the FUBAR) to tell them if it was possible she’d move her husband and son (Hubs’ older brother’s ashes were buried with Dad) somewhere else and she wanted her money back! We’re talking thousands of dollars and someone screwed up royally. And will probably not have to take responsibility.
The Rabbi tried to calm everyone and had us gather around the grave anyway. At his suggestion, Dad memories were shared, then the Rabbi said Kaddish (an Aramaic prayer which is recited after the death of a close relative). Everyone held hands in a loose circle and before long it was over. The Rabbi said we could re-schedule the official unveiling once the stone was in place but after he was gone Mom told SIL to tell them not to cover the stone once it was placed because we wouldn’t be doing this again.
A late lunch had been planned to follow the unveiling and that didn’t change; you gotta eat, right? So everyone piled back in the cars and we met at The Olive Garden. Of course with a party of twelve there was a wait. I think the tension began to build during the wait. The niece who had had to drive 300+ miles was antsy and hungry. And not afraid to be vocal though I don’t remember it getting to that point before they had our table ready.
The real trouble began when we were taking our seats. I’d moved in one seat from the end of the table figuring Hubs would sit next to me and Mom would sit at the head of the table. A and her husband and baby girl were at the other end and the rest of the family started filling in the middle. Mom swapped seats with Hubs so she was beside me and she wanted her daughter to sit across from her so she and her children could continue to discuss what had happened. P, our niece (daughter of the brother whose ashes were buried with Dad) didn’t want to sit “in the middle” of the row and sat where SIL was supposed to, not caring what Mom wanted. So SIL sat next to her, across from me, still close enough to hear the discussion with her mother and brother.
We had already agreed we were ordering alcohol; it was merely a matter of what and how soon they could bring it. Then Mom began talking with Hubs about the mess up at the cemetery, her anger quite evident. Niece asked them if they could talk about it later (like when she wasn’t around) because it was putting her in a bad place, making her anxious. Now remember, SHE CHOSE to sit there. This is a forty-two year old woman; an adult by all appearances. So when Hubs told her no, they wouldn’t be talking about it later, they were going to finish it you’d think she’d let it go, or maybe ask to change seats, right? P put a hand on Hubs’ arm and argued it was never going to be finished.
Hubs stood up. I honestly don’t remember if he said anything then but he turned around and left the restaurant. I proceeded to tell P what I thought of her having no respect for her uncle and what he and his mother wanted, then I got up and followed him. He was already about half way back to our car in the parking lot and when he realized I was following him he stopped me. “I’m not going to talk. I need to be by myself.” I knew then how very angry he was and I went back inside. There’s nothing to be gained by trying to talk him down when he’s that upset.
I didn’t realize his daughter A saw me come back (and probably saw how upset I was) and she went looking for him. She told me later he didn’t talk to her but she kept talking to him and offered to swap seats with P, until he finally told her he might come back in a few minutes. She returned and tried to switch seats but P didn’t want to move so A sat in her dad’s chair and when he did eventually come back he let her know she should stay there and he went to the other end of the table.
By this time we’d already ordered or I think Hubs would have given me and K the high sign and we’d have excused ourselves. Since food had been ordered he stayed and P got her way as the cemetery issues were tabled, but the tension was thick enough I found it difficult to breathe. The glass and a half of Sangria helped considerably. Later, the bottle of Moscato K ordered was served (let me just say YUMMY!) and I had a glass or so of that. We were eating by then and between the wine and food I was starting to relax. Every now and again Mom would interject that P should have stayed out of her conversation with Hubs; that she had butted into a conversation she wasn’t a part of and P would defend herself. Each time it faded on its own before anyone else got involved.
The meal wound down; I shared dessert with Mom and fed a tiny bite of the chocolate mousse to my seven month old granddaughter who I was cuddling. It was a sweet, restful moment in a sea of tension and anger. She even liked the lime wedge her aunty K gave her! We joked about her being a margarita lover in the making.
On the walk outside while we waited for SIL to bring her car up for Mom there was more arguing though. P continued to try to defend herself (if you’re really right do you need to defend yourself?) and Mom continued to tell her she should have stayed out of it. Hubs followed us out and was headed back to the parking lot to get our car when P tried to hug him goodbye. She was a little put out when he brushed her off. SIL arrived and I hugged Mom goodbye and BIL helped her to the car. I hugged P and she immediately started trying to explain herself again. I hate to say it but she was basically whining about how hard her life was (remember she’s 42!) and how no one understood. One of her justifications was that her parents divorced when she was 5 and that her dad remarried women who beat her up. Okay, I can be empathetic about that. My mother married and divorced at least six times! And I never even knew my father. But what came out of my mouth was worse. I told her my grandfather had sexually molested me.
I don’t usually share that so baldly; and certainly not on the sidewalk outside of The Olive Garden! I guess I was hoping to shock her into thinking about someone other than herself. Would you believe it didn’t work? It didn’t even phase her. She just replied that I’d dealt with my issues. Seriously? That’s your answer? How dare you presume to know what I’ve dealt with? How dare you make every. damn. thing. about. YOU!
On a brighter note, before all the crapola hit the fan this happened: