If you take into account that they dated for another 5 years prior to their marriage, that means that they have been together for nearly 56 years.
Mom and Dad met at a traffic accident. How's that, you may ask? Well, my Dad had seen my Mom before and wanted to meet her. At the time, Mom was working at a bank, so my Dad found no better excuse to meet the girl of his dreams than rear-ending her car, strolling into the bank, and telling her, “Excuse me. Is that your car parked outside? I believe I just hit it.”
They have been arguing ever since.
These are two people who love each other dearly and who are incredibly devoted to each other but who, nonetheless, sound like Mr. and Mrs. Miracle Max from “The Princess Bride.” In fact, I would compare them to Punch and Judy, except that there are some significant differences between my parents and the aforementioned couple.
For one thing, Punch and Judy have a baby, while my parents do not, their babies having grown up long ago. Neither are my parents into the habit of throwing small babies down the stairs or hitting each other with the little guys or with anything else. Also, Punch and Judy have a small crocodile. My parents have to content themselves with a cranky Chihuahua and a slightly confused white poodle.
But they do argue all the same.
And if you get caught in the middle of one of their arguments, the best you can do is run very fast, preferably to the next zip code, while waving a small white flag and screaming for mercy. (There will be none.)
This year was no different, although to their credit, they did manage to behave themselves most of the time. Then, just when you thought that it was safe to celebrate holidays, all hell broke lose.
I should have known from the moment my mother called us to the hotel (we wisely chose not to stay with them during the holiday visit) and asked me if we would be interested in going out to a seafood place. They wanted to take us out for lunch and were thinking about restaurants. I said yes, seafood will be fine, and the place she suggested was okay.
I may be losing my touch but, when it comes to picking restaurants, my parents may have very different opinions on what they want to do. At that point, it is a matter of who picks up the phone first and gets the kids to agree with them on where to go. In this case, Mom won the phone race and I, like an idiot, said “fine” instead of saying “you and Dad work it out and let us know.”
See how much I’ve learned.
To make a long story short, we get to their place and find them arguing because my Dad wants to go elsewhere. At that point I decide not to get in the middle of that. After all, Mom has beaten him to the punch and anything I can do or say can and will be used against me. (And remaining silent will not be an option.)
So we pile into my Dad’s car, where the argument continues with total disregard for the oncoming traffic.
“Er . . . Dad.” I say, “Have you noticed that you are driving on the wrong side of the road?”
“Well, that used to be the right side!”
“Tell that to that car that is coming right into us.”
“Oh, well,” he grumbles, veering to the right side of the road. “Have it your way.”
The other car whizzes past us at terrifying speed, which goes to prove that arguing and driving can be hazardous to your health.
We miraculously make it alive to the restaurant, where the food is great and the bickering continues unabated.
(Mercifully, Marcellus misses most of it on account of not speaking Spanish.)
(Some guys have all the luck.)
(“Dude,” says Carlos to Marcellus. “I understand that you want to learn Spanish so you can better communicate with the family. But are you sure you want to do this? Really.”)
(My kid is a very smart kid.)
*Bicker* *Bicker* *Bicker* My parents go. They are driving me up the wall. I decide then and there that if I cannot make it stop, at least I can have some fun with it.
“Hey guys,” I tell them. “I didn’t fly a gazillion miles just to listen to your arguing. So now, you will listen to me. I have a cat. His name is Scandal.” I whip out my camera, punch the “review” button and shove it under their noses. “Here is a picture of my cat. See Scandal run.”
That holds their attention for about five seconds.
“But wait! There’s more! Here are my pictures of the Washington National Cathedral!”
It buys me like ten more seconds.
They start bickering again . . .
“ . . . and here are the interior shots. And look! This is my doll Wilhelmina, and I will be happy to tell you, in painstaking detail, how these dolls are made.”
*Bicker* *Bicker* *Bicker*
But I am not done yet . . .
“And here are the pictures of Carlos’ 18th year party at Pennsic, which includes those of our resident belly dancer and the Roving Limbo Party, and by the way Dad, hand me the keys ‘cause you’re not driving.”
That gets his attention.
“What?” He says. “Are you giving me orders now?”
“Damn skippy. I want to make it home in one piece. So you are handing the keys to me, and you are riding shotgun, and don’t you dare giving me bad directions like last time or there will be a reckoning!”
My Dad did hands me the keys, gives me only one bad direction and we make it home in one piece.
There is, however, a reckoning. You don’t argue during my entire meal and expect that there will be no price to pay.
“What do you think you’re doing,” asks my father, as I pick up a white cardboard box full of fine pastries.
“Looking for dessert,” I reply.
“But I was saving those for later,” he says.
“But . . .”
“And just so you don’t think that I am a cold hearted daughter, I am even willing to share them with you. Here, have a pastry.”
“But . . .”
“Hey Carlos! Marcellus! You want a pastry too?”
Marcellus declines, but Dad, Carlos and I sit down and polish the box of pastries, the argument dies off mainly because Mom has decided to take a nap, but also because it is very hard to continue an argument with a mouth full of pastries. Dad has to content himself with offering to purchase a large shield for Marcellus so he can defend himself against Dad’s evil daughter.
Marcellus tells him that he has several of those, but that he would not mind a larger one.
And with that, there is finally peace and quiet at the parental home.
Conflict resolution via baked goods.
Gotta love it.