Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Post-Katrina Lesson #1- Adventures In The Psychic Psychotic Friends Network- Part 2

And now, for Part 2 of the story...

The Problems

In Part 1 of this sad-but-true tale, you got quite a bit of background on the Xs. It's not all pretty and clearly, I don't share a lot of XX's values, but that never stopped me from seeing her value as a human being. She never insisted that I be like her. And XX always had a wicked funny sense of humor and was always great fun to be around.

In retrospect, I think the trouble may have started when I started driving solo. Since XY was recovering, I was told I could use his mini van to run errands and tend to my refugee business. Some of you may remember a comment from my friend, Whitney Broussard, in an early-September post about meeting him in D.C. (about 120 miles from here) for The Future of Music Coalition's Annual Policy Summit. We'd both attended this before (Whitney is a pretty regular panelist) and I thought it might ease my homesickness and sadness to see some of my friends from the music world. As soon as I mentioned the possibility to XX, she began throwing obstacles in the way. I ended up getting sick and couldn't have gone anyway. But after this, I noticed that she started to get testy. I don't think she liked my newfound independence.

The next weekend, another friend was going to be in D.C. for a convention. I hadn't seen him in about 15 years, and as some of you know from prior reading, I have a thing for Ethiopian food, which is plentiful in Washington. As a city girl, I felt like I needed a little urban fix and Alex needed to connect with his former world, so I announced my plans to go to D.C. for the day. We would meet up with one of Alex's friends from home who was exiled in Fairfax, meet up with my friend, and have some of my favorite chow. Then back to Keswick. XX clearly didn't like this and suddenly I felt like a teenager living back at home with distrustful parents.

In the beginning, there were no restrictions on my use of the car. They said that it would be nice to take a drive up into the mountains, an hour or two away. But now, they didn't think I should take the car to Washington. When I asked why, the first response was that I might not be comfortable driving in the city. (!!!) I told them that the country roads were the unfamiliar ground and that I had been to D.C. countless times, knew my way around and had driven in the city more than a few times. Then the story changed to it being an insurance issue and that I couldn't drive the car out of the state. No problem, I said. I could park it in Fairfax and take the Metro. Then they just said no. No problem, I said. I'd could rent a car for less than $30. Oh. They had no rebuttal for that one. So, the nest thing I hear is XX asking me, in a disapproving maternal voice, "just how well do you know this guy anyway??"

(Picture of my kids at the Whitehouse on that fateful day with Alex's long-time friend and school-chum, Katie, left. Please forgive my vanity, but I didn't like the way I looked in the picture, so I made Alex happy by replacing myself with Samuel L. Jackson.)

This gives you a good idea of what the first few weeks were like. Suddenly, I was like a teenaged kid that they had to control. I had to let them know what I was doing and where I was going all the time to make sure it was "approved." Really, I don't think XY cared, but XX expected it. And she seemed to resent the fact that I was doing things independently. (I'm saying "I" but it includes the kids, too.) In fact, she seemed to resent many things. She made snide remarks about the amount of time I spent on my cell phone, without regard to the fact that it had not worked for a long time and I was just beginning to hear from friends all over the country and other New Orleans expats who wanted to know all about what had been going on with us. I was on the phone with my mom and Renard a lot, too, working through all our feelings about the tragedy as it continued to unfold. No one knew what to do, what we could do, what had happened to our homes and when or if we could go home again. And compounding the frustration for me was the fact that I had no internet access in Keswick and I couldn't even watch the news because the only access to CNN was through the satellite receiver and XY sat in front of the TV 24/7 with sports and soap operas on. I was losing my mind in the communication vacuum and had to compete with Alex for a little dial-up time once it was late enough for them not to expect phone calls on the single, no-call-waiting phone line.

As many of you know, I am a night owl, and especially given the aforementioned circumstances, I stayed up quite late, as is customary for me. This too, irked XX, even though it had no effect whatsoever on her life or lifestyle. We were in our own wing, remember, and once we went in and closed the door, no one in the main house could have known whether we were asleep or awake anyway. So, bottom line, I noticed a clear change in XX's attitude after the first couple of weeks, once my independence had taken hold.

There are a few other things that merit a mention, and these concern the kids. I mentioned earlier that XY has a bit of the bigot in him and he'd begun making remarks about "The Mexicans" and "The Africans" that bothered us all, especially Alex. (Alex mentions this in his blog posts linked in my previous post and comments section.) "The Africans" referred to a family from Togo that XX was supposed to be helping with their English. XY routinely had the teenage son come over to do work at the house to earn extra money. And they announced that Alex could also do this. I'm all for teaching kids responsibility by giving them chores and then giving them an allowance for completing them, but the primary chore that they chose for Alex left he and I both a little befuddled. This chore was to walk the six acres and pick up sticks from on the ground. Alex's comment was that it the best they could do in the absence of a cotton crop on the property. We could hardly take this task seriously, but XX certainly did and was miffed that Alex, who had to make up for two weeks of missed classes in a new school far away from home, put his homework before pick-up-sticks. She complained frequently about that and about a dog blanket that he didn't take out of the mini van we were driving. She thought that taking the blanket out was doing us some huge favor, even though we tried to explain to her again and again that it was not a problem and we were hardly even aware of it being there.. But XX saw the sticks and the dog blanket as big priorities and Alex's neglect of these clearly pissed her off. It was about this time that she began issuing stern orders to Alex as soon as he came home from school. And that's when the notes started.

Little yellow post-it notes started appearing, directing us to do things. That was no problem, and we were happy to help in any way we could, but it was the tone of these notes, particularly when it came to the tasks assigned to Alex. . Granted, Alex does not usually do what you ask him to do as soon as you ask it. Usually, his response is, "okay, as soon as I ..." eat, finish my homework, finish watching this show, etc. And, granted, a lot of time he forgets and doesn't get around to it. And yes, it gets annoying when he doesn't do what he's asked. And I get very annoyed when it's something important, but most of these things were of no magnitude. I thought the nasty tone was an overreaction, but I kept my mouth shut and only tried to explain once that Alex's homework would always be his priority and that I'd pick up his slack if necessary.

Meanwhile, Little Rachel seemed to be exempt from chores, with the exception of doing things she liked and offered to do, like set the table and help in the kitchen. And Rachel is the greatest little mess-generator on this side of the Mississippi. (Probably both sides. Rachel's father once described her distribution of junk around the house as "pollenation" and I now frequently refer to her simply as "The Pollenator." Kind of like the Terminator, because she swiftly terminates any sense of order and cleanliness in any area she occupies.)

One thing that really bothered me, and I didn't hesitate at all to address it, was the fact that XX, who loves to shop above all things, was showering Rachel with all purchases while Alex got nothing. I made it very clear that, while I appreciated that she wanted to buy things for Rachel, there had to be parity between what was spent on the two of them. Oh, she said she definitely agreed and said it would be hurtful to spend on one child and not the other. So she continued to buy little things for Rachel and made repeated promises to take Alex shopping, but never did. XX's own mother could see how Alex was being neglected and felt so bad for him that she gave him $150 to buy some winter clothes for himself. In fact, during the time I was back in New Orleans, she told Alex that she would take him shopping while I was gone and instead, took the two of them out. Both kids bought a few things with their own money, but the trip was not to buy anything for Alex again Rachel had extra things that XX bought for her, right there in Alex's presence. When I returned and saw this, I made a lighthearted and joking remark about it not being safe to leave town because she couldn't seem to help (over)indulging Rachel in my absence. (She even bought Rachel a very fine leather blazer that XX really wanted for herself but only came in an extra-small-petite size. It was impractical and something I would have never done.)

There were other things I learned about the Xs in the first few weeks of our stay. I learned that XX had recently undergone treatment Hepatitis C. When I asked her how she contracted it, she hedged. Then she mentioned...uh...maybe drug use. Later she let it slip that she was on prescribed methadone. And antidepressants. And antipsychotics. And as XY began to recover, he began to drink again. That's when XX told me that he was an alcoholic and that she hoped they'd leave for Florida before he started drinking heavily. She said that it sometimes got pretty ugly and she hoped the kids wouldn't have to experience any of that.


The late hour requires me to stop here for now. As we move on, it really starts to get weird, ugly, and downright scary. So, stay tuned...


Blogger muse said...

Egads... with lives like these, who needs tv, right? ;p

I'm so glad you and your kids aren't living with them anymore!

8:27 AM  
Blogger Dominique said...

I love your photo-editing. You've got my stomach in knots from your story.

10:35 PM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Happpy Day!! My Mom took the train up to visit for the holidays, so I will post the next installment as soon as I can without interfering too much with our time together...

3:16 AM  
Blogger compelled1 said...

very frequently i slip into little reminiscient ponderings/meditations/prayers for you and all of new orleans. just thought you should know that. also, i'm really happy that your mom took the train up. i know how important to all of you that is. i bet ms. rachel is ecstatic. how is renard? take care.

8:47 AM  
Blogger muse said...

Hi Lisa!

Just thought about something: I'd sent you a subscription to MacAddict (or whatever it's called), did it get forwarded to you? I'll contact customer service otherwise and tell them about your new address.

8:04 AM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

Muse- Thaks ever so much for Mac Addict! I am now getting it and I updated the address after I received the first issue. I'm so despondent about the demise of my Powerbook and am trying to figure out how to replace it. But that's another story all together. Anyway, thanks so much, for EVERYTHING!

And Brandy! I just noticed the PayPal account got a substantial bump! Thank you ever so much!! Here's the skinny on Renard: He's doing well, though, like the rest of us, he's experienced a tremendous amount of change since the storm. His wonderful dad, who I just adored, died in November after having been sick and hospitalized since before the storm. George was 87 and had lived a full and happy life and knowing this has helped Renard deal with it well. His apartment had serious roof damage, and he's moved out of it and into his parents' house , which is good because he can live rent free. Pretty much the rest of his family-his mother and two sisters and their families are living in Houston and Renard now has his son with living with him. The studio had roof damage over the area where the drums were, but he'd moved most everything out of there before the storm his. Now it's all set up in one of the bedrooms of the house and he's happy with it. Full-time parenthood is a new thing for him, but he's loving it- and I think it's helping buffer the loss of his dad, as they were very close. He seems happy, though we miss each other a lot. We talk regularly and he's been up here twice, once driving with me to bring the car up and once just to visit. I wish I could tell you the status of the CD, but there have been so many changes and I know better than to ask when he'll say amen and send it to press. One day...

Again, thanks so much to all of you who have helped us get through this turbulent period. I know the sun will shine full and bright again and we'll one day find ourselves lamenting our unexciting and routine lives once more. (That surely puts a different spin on things, doesn't it?!!)

6:41 PM  

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