My dad used to always make jokes about which of us kids he and mom would come and live with once they get old and infirm. “I can’t wait until you get to take care of me, Annie.” he’d guffaw over and over never thinking it was less funny that the twelve times he’d said it before.
I’ve been feeling a bit bad lately because I haven’t spoken to my parents in more than six months. Occasionally, I get the guilt-inducing email from my mother asking if I’m alive, but I haven’t called them and they haven’t called me. I simply refuse to feel terrible for not calling when if they really wanted to hear my voice, they certainly could make that happen. I also suspect that there’s another reason that they’re not calling.
They know exactly where I, the underemployed, uninsured public servant with two masters degrees stands on the healthcare debate, and I suspect that actually speaking to me, even if we talk about other things, might make things a bit uncomfortable. I avoid talking politics with them as much as possible because it doesn’t get us anywhere. My mother used to pick fights with me during the Clinton administration, but has since backed off, possibly because on the eve of W’s re-election she was having a crisis of Republicanism, and we actually had an intelligent, respectful debate. Prior to that, our political discussions often went something like this.
INT. KITCHEN DAY
ANNIE and MOTHER are sitting at the kitchen table. Annie, a junior in high school, is eating a bowl of Lucky Charms and working on the crossword puzzle. Mother is reading the newspaper.
The only reason gay people want to get married is so that they can take advantage of health insurance benefits.
Of course it is. Why else would they be making such a bit deal out of it? It’s ridiculous. They could just get better jobs and quit pushing for something so unnecessary and wasting everyone’s time.
Why did you get married?
END OF SCENE
Eventually, she quit picking on me because even as uninformed as I was, logic flew in the face of everything that she held so dear. That comforted me; it made me believe that my parents were still rational beings.
Then tonight I got a phone call from my brother, which began with, “do you know where our parents were last night?”
Since I don’t know where my parents are most nights, I said no, and pictured some kind of lame church function.
“I got a phone call from Mom telling me that they had just attended their first Tea Party meeting.” My brother went on to say that recent conversations with them have revolved around how that poor Sarah Palin was treated by the media, and how awesome Glen Beck is, but even knowing this (and keeping it from me), he truly did not believe that it would come to this. I skimmed an article recently talking about how latest polls show that Tea Baggers are more educated and erudite than the earliest incarnations of the movement (and I do mean bowel), but I seriously did not believe that my parents would buy into this.
My parents have always been conservative. They took down a lovely studio portrait of my brother and I and replaced it with one of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, but I still thought there was a germ of reason in their heads. “You have to fix this,” I told my brother, “You’re their favorite. They’ll listen to you”
“I’ve kind of given up these days.” he told me, “It’s like nothing I say gets in there at all. They just kind of blink and repeat themselves.”
This is probably not what my father had in mind when he said that I’ll need to take care of him one day, but that’s really the place I’m taking it. I have no idea what to do about this, or if something can be done, or if maybe this is just the time to take our estrangement to the next level; but I’m feeling a range of emotions that must be similar to those that Nancy Kerrigan felt when she got clubbed in the knee and just kept screaming “Why?!”
I’m struck dumb.