Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tyler/Judith: When Mom is sick, the house goes to hell

I'm not really a neat freak or anything, but the Inn kind of forced me and Kitty into accepting these very old fashioned gender roles... she's out at Adrian's job 45 hours per week, and while I do have a job, it leaves me with enough time to clean the house, do the dishes, the laundry, make sure everything is basically livable. It's nice to live in a clean house. I'm getting a knack for it, even if Kitty is constantly finding places I neglected ("Did you dust behind the TV? Vacuum the steps?" Jeezes, Kit, thought I'd leave something for you.)

Anyway. Last week I caught a nasty flu that put me out of commission for five days, basically just resting in bed achey, sore, stuffed up, hard to breathe, vomiting and other unpleasantness, on top of my usual headaches and PMS symptoms. I felt like death, so I decided to "indulge" in a little recuperation time. And of course Kitty, even though she's so fussy, didn't put much effort into cleaning up, because he felt so overworked. When I finally made my way downstairs after the two most intense days, there were takeout boxes and wrappers left out, grimy dishes left, three loads of laundry not yet done... I honestly couldn't make sense of the contradiction between Kitty's words and her actions.

When I confronted her about it, she got back in my face, saying she was working hard to keep this house paid for, and how she had been my nurse all week and how it's just a little bit of mess that would take no time to clean up. I asked if she expected me to take care of all of it, and she said no, we could do it together, and I asked when we ever did cleaning together, it's always left to me. And I said I didn't remember signing on to be a full time housekeeper, and she said that was what I was getting into when I agreed to come to NH and I knew it. So I said it wasn't like I had a choice, and she said "Don't give me that crap you knew it was the right thing to do" and blah blah blah... petty blame game bullshit. It's a fight we have often, but this one was so intense that I screamed my still-raw vocal chords hoarse and Dylan, who was sitting in the TV room, went upstairs and shut himself up in his room.

It just made me think, you know... the thing that keeps families together is just that: they're family. They didn't choose each other, and maybe they don't always understand each other, but there's a level of forgiveness and bonding that isn't there when you're plucked from your regular life into someone else's. God knows I was able to forgive and overlook a lot of shit my dad and brothers did to me, and they did the same. Now I'm getting angry over some crusty plates? That's not me, and I don't want it to be. A lot about me has been fundamentally changed by this experience - in ways I still don't fully understand - but I don't want to be that.

Kitty went out and when he returned he had a bouquet. I gave him a look that said, "What am I supposed to do with this?" And he said modestly, "I know it's not a very 'you' gift, but I couldn't think of the male equivalent. I'm sorry, Tyler. You do a lot for us and the least I could do is show that appreciation by picking up the slack when you're not feeling well."

"Damn right," I muttered, accepting the flowers. "I shouldn't have snapped at you. You're a good person, Kit, and you do a lot for this so-called family."

We hugged, and he gave me a little peck on the cheek and ran his hands down my hair and back.

"Chocolates," I said. "I'm that kind of woman."

"Good to know," he said.

By the way, midway through this post, I started referring to Kitty as a "he." More and more my mental image of him is being replaced, from the 50-year-old-woman or beautiful young Greta, to the husky balding gentleman I live with. But I still think of myself as a man, too. I just feel like I will be someday again, so I don't embrace the "she" word for myself yet.

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