welcome to the danger zone

Saturday Night Panic and Me

I’ve wanted to write for the past two days. It’s been bubbling up inside but then my glasses were downstairs and my lazy ass kept forgetting to bring them upstairs and then when I would remember they were still downstairs. You would think that since I have like 20 pairs, I’d have one near by. Nope. I’d rather be blind that plan for that eventuality.


I have them on now and I am not sure where to start. On one hand, I am in my usual pre-holiday panic because back in July when I told myself to get started on my Christmas plans, Diane-I-am-a-fucking-grasshopper said to herself, plenty of time. Like all things. Plenty of time. And I promised myself that I would have a proper holiday this year like we did when Andy was little, because we haven’t had one since I was sick, and there’s no promise that this won’t be the last time he’s living at home for Christmas. The reality is that he is going to one day leave home, and here I am, fucking up the holiday once again. Or maybe I’ll leave home. Whoever is leaving, I’m still fucking up Christmas. I have baked nothing (although I’ve pinned all kinds of stuff), I’ve not written a card. I did go through three boxes of Christmas stuff, but the stuff is still in the boxes. I keep telling myself I’ve got plenty of time. Right, grasshopper.


That familiar need to shake things up in my world is rumbling inside. Since before my birthday I’ve had a little voice in my head saying it’s time to walk away. To start again, to change course. This isn’t working. Of course, as easy as it could be, it isn’t. I need health insurance. I’m only 18 months cancer free. I’m terrified that if I make a change I will not have the phenomenal health insurance that I have now, and I won’t get the excellent treatment I got this go around. I hate that trapped feeling, but I need to be sensible too. And let’s face it, I’m scared. As much positive energy I invest in projecting good health, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it is that life does what it wants. I just need to fall in line.


Then there’s my dad. I realized that part of the reason I haven’t been as motivated to get the hell away from this place that sucks out my very soul is because I don’t want to do it while my dad is still alive. He’s 85 now and he would worry too much about me if I moved. He worries too much if don’t call for a couple of weeks, and he counts on Andy to help him with things. I know in my heart that once he passes that there’s no reason to stay here any more. So I may be here for another ten years. His side of the family is pretty hardy. It’s even harder now after having a heart to heart with him on his birthday. For the first time in my life, my dad said I’ve done well. My whole life has been about trying to prove that I’m as good or better than my brothers. I didn’t have to try to be better than my sister even though her claim to fame as cheerleader/homecoming queen is still a much revered honor in my home. I was the bad seed, the rebel, the one that abandoned her family and moved away, the one with the piercing and tattoos, the smart one with no money. Honestly, even though my sister is a self-centered drunk with borderline personality disorder, the world still seems to revolve around her in my family.


Ugh. Family. I guess that’s what I really wanted to write about all along. I guess it’s because in a week or so I have to endure Christmas Eve with them. Yep, once every year in the Pietkiewicz family, we gather together to spend Christmas Eve eating and drinking, making sarcastic comments and sniping at each other. There are true moments of joy, but. But. It’s always awkward. I always feel like an outsider looking in. I don’t know them, I don’t know their lives, they don’t include me in their plans and they rarely if ever, talk to me any other time of the year. It’s not for lack of trying, but there comes a point where you just stop trying to connect. And I know once my dad is no longer with us, that tenuous connection is gone. There won’t be any more Christmas Eves. I endure them for my dad.


Wow, this devolved into self-loathing pretty fast. Seems like 30 minutes ago, I was kinda perky and painting and actually kind of cheery. Fuck it. This is cheaper than psychoanalysis. So back to the misery of Christmas eve. Please, let me share it in its glorious detail, because as I’ve said before, pain is funny. It’s a Feast of the Fishes. That’s right, no bacon is present. If we had bacon, it would probably be better. But no, no bacon. We pretend like it’s the traditional Polish holy supper that we had when we were kids, but let’s be honest, nothing at the present incarnation tastes as horrible as that vile feast. But let me set the stage. I’ll have had about half a bottle of wine before everyone gets there…that makes me much more tolerant. My dad may or may not be drunk – we hope not, because sometimes it then gets mean. My sister may or may not make an appearance – hopefully not, because then we have to play the “oh, yes, I’ve stopped drinking” game, all the while she is tippling away in the bathroom, on the back porch on the front porch, in closets, and my dad will find empty beer cans in boots and other curious places for weeks afterward. As soon as we get at least of three of the four brothers present, eating will commence. I like my brothers’ wives and girlfriends, genuinely. I’m the oldest in the family but my oldest brother runs this show. I’ve stopped bringing things to this dinner because my family are not very receptive to new things or change and typically whatever I bring ends up going home with me, so why waste time bringing it there? We’ll just eat it at home. I don’t need an extra reason to cry. We sit around the table, which is always set very nicely with a crazy Moravian star above us. And there are flowers with the baby Jesus in the middle. We are Polish, ¾, and ¼ Lithuanian. Moravian stars have nothing to do with us. Nor does the Feast of the Fishes. That’s Italian. A Polish Christmas eve dinner would consist of some stewed prunes, bitter dried polish mushroom barley soup, smelts, boiled potatoes, and green beans. The appetizer is the pretty printed “holy bread” that tastes like mushy cardboard. We still do that. And the prunes and the nasty mushroom soup. Someone will try to make me or Andy say grace because they know we are Buddhists and try to shove Catholicism down our throat. My brother will try to force his daughter to eat one or both. There will be retching and gagging, and she will whine. One year she puked. I got that on camera. Good times. Then we will get to the other stuff – pierogies and fish and pasta. It’s okay. My brother likes to put on a show. There’ll be one or two things that are tasty, the rest is passable. I’ll drink more wine. I’ll run out of wine and panic. I’ll be scolded for not baking cookies. Someone will try to shame me about past drug use and try to tell Andy some non-fact based story about my reckless youth. There will be the typical jokes about how the prunes will affect someone’s bowels. There will be racist remarks and I’ll have to tell them the Klan meeting has to stop or we’re leaving. We’ll pretend we have manners. Typically someone, usually my dad, will need to rehash everything I may have done wrong before I was 21. We will be forced to listen to every Christmas album my mother owned. We’ll reminisce about her, and my brothers’ will reflect on her sainted self, while I remember the mother who beat me with a chain dog leash, hit me in the eye with wood Dr. Scholl exercise sandal and told me that I was the reason my dad was so mean to her because he believed I left home and moved to California because of her. He was right. The mom who worshiped her sons and the pretty daughter and made the oldest one feel like they were a demon sent straight from hell to torment her. I could go on about that, but that’s a whole separate post or two. Did I mention I’m out of wine?


I’ll find more wine, or I’ll ask Andy to run home and get vodka. It will probably be vodka. This year I might add a percocet. Andy will sneak off and get high when he thinks I’m feeling toasty. He will also pound a few beers with my nephews even though he is supposed to be the designated driver. I’ll fume. Then it’s on to the presents. We used to have secret Santa because apparently giving gifts to all of our family members costs too much money. Despite being the poor grasshopper, I will still give gifts to everyone, usually handmade. My brothers will mock my sensible gifts to them, and will likely leave them behind when they leave the house to go to their homes. Gracious they are not. I’ll drink more. Unfortunately I will not get drunk, just tolerant. Lately we do that thing where you bring a gift and then you pick a number and you can either take someone else’s gift or a new one, and someone will get their feelings hurt because they got a crappy gift. My nephews and my son will keep me laughing. Typically we have a few “family” show up that are friends of my brothers. This year that will be awkward because one of them lost his girlfriend to cancer this year and I’m still alive. I’ll feel guilty for that. More vodka. There’s no escape yet. We have to have the family photo. I’ll be the fat one that kinda gets pushed to the side. We’ll have to take ten shots at least. I’m dying to get out of there and go home and cry because the whole ordeal was painful. Fortunately, when the crying is over, I can go next door and spend the remaining hours with the Rooney’s.


That’s really sad. It should be a Lifetime movie. This is why I should be readying the house for Christmas, putting the Christmas vulture out, dressing up the Living Dead Dolls in their holiday attire and getting Andy a new Pinkie Pie My Pretty Pony ornament. What will happen is this: Andy will throw some lights up on the house. I’ll end up decorating on the 23rd and there will still be six boxes of decorations that will never get up. I’ll still have a box of Christmasy things I meant to do, but didn’t do and swear will get started doing early next year. Then Christmas will be over. And on to New Year’s and I’ll be even more miserable because that will remind me I am one year closer to death, alone and poor. Yep, season of good cheer right there.


Now before you get all sad about my life, remember this: despite this dismal series of events, there is a positive side. Writing a blog entry like this makes me reflect on the positives in my life. Like some people don’t even have a miserable family to spend the holiday with. Some people will be wishing they could get home to be in their own nest of dysfunction. So I’ve got it all. I’ll have an excuse for drinking. I’ll be able to stuff my feeling with cookies and candy and ham. I’ll get to reflect on capitalism and consumerism and gluttony. There’s all kinds of perks. And I’ve got that Christmas eve mammogram to look forward to. I’m alive. And I’m gonna someday figure out what I’m supposed to be when I grow up.


On a side note, I made it through the dreaded birthday – I got to drink absinthe, wear a funny Japanese birthday hat, went to the zoo and had a great dinner with my son and his friends. And as long as no one mentioned how old I was, I didn’t experience any suicidal ideation. And I’m alive. There must be a reason. Even if it is to write miserable blog entries about my existence.


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