Clean Up or Shut Up

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My sister Connie called from L.A.


I said, “Hey there, how was the flight from Hong Kong?”


Connie said, “Any flight’s good where I’m not entertaining two little girls for eighteen hours. What are you up to?”


“I’m dusting,” I said brightly.


There was a disbelieving pause. Then Connie asked, “Why?”


I said I thought it had been about six to seven weeks since I’d last given it a try. I said, “Let’s put it this way, the dust has covered over the space where I wrote my name in the dust several weeks ago.”


Connie said, “That’s no excuse. Why are you really dusting?” and I said I’d fled the yard where George was laying gravel paths around the new patio—which is actually the old patio. We just dug up all 140 of the bricks in the patio and moved it over about ten feet. And then added another twenty bricks or so. And framed it. 


I said, “George has decided he needs to create another three or four gravel paths before Dad’s party this weekend.” And I added, “By the way, we’re up to about fifty cousins so far for the party.”


Connie said, “Mom and Dad must be thrilled,” and I said they would be if they were talking to each other. She said, “Mom can never stop talking long enough to give anyone the silent treatment,” and I said she’d actually managed it this time.


I said, “Dad’s convinced she put him in rehab after the hospital stay last week—where by the way he actually had no rehab, just a couple of meetings with the physical therapist. When I arrived to visit he asked where mom was and when I told him she was talking to the nurse, he said, ‘Good, they’ll be witnesses when I kill her.’”


Connie said, “He always says that.”


I said, “No, he’s never asked for witnesses before. So then he took is walker and speed walked past the nurse’s station where they tried to stop him because—get this—he’d almost broken out the night before. He apparently convinced one of the nurses he was a visitor, not a patient, and she called him a cab so he could get home. 


I could hear Connie snorting because she was laughing so hard. In retrospect, it was kind of funny.


I said, “So mom got mad and stopped talking to him and he got mad at her and by the time I got to the lobby, they were seated at opposite ends of the room. It was like that old Good Housekeeping column, “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” Except they’ve been married over fifty years!”


Connie said, “No wonder you’re dusting.” She said, “Do you think they’ll be talking by the time I get there for the party?” and I said, “If not, they’ll be plenty of other people not talking to each other so it won’t matter.”


I said, “Annie invited her brother Lenny, who I think is harmless even if he does play the guitar and get stoned all the time, but the Mc Kendrick side of the family can’t stand him so I know they won’t talk to him.”


Connie said the Mc Kendrick’s were hard to please. She asked, “Didn’t they stop talking to Liam six years ago at another family party?” and I said, “Yes, but that’s because he was in charge of bringing the beer and he bought Miller Light.”


Connie whistled. “Wow, did he live through that one?” I said, “Barely. Unfortunately he’s in charge of beer for this party, too, so I’ve given him a heads up.”


She wanted to know who else wasn’t talking. I said, “Aunt Felicia’s coming and I talk to her but she doesn’t talk to me, which could present a problem. But luckily Bernadette is not coming, which is good because she’s the one I don’t talk to. Actually Liam doesn’t talk to her either. I do like her husband though, he’s nice.”


Connie said she was keeping a scorecard. 


“But on the other side of the family, just about everyone talks to everyone else except Joe’s wife Colleen, who doesn’t talk to me.”


Connie said, “Maybe she could sit with Aunt Felicia and both of them could not talk to you together.”  I thought this was a great idea.


Connie asked, “Will Wally and the Snapper be there?” I said, “The Snapper will, but Wally’s working on campus this summer.” Connie said, “Lucky kid.”


I asked, “What time does your flight from L.A. arrive?” and she said, “Maybe never.”


I said, “You have to come! I dusted the damn bedroom!”


Connie said, “I get a bedroom this time, not the floor?” And I said, “Yes, you get Wally’s because he won’t be here and neither will his dust.” Connie said, “Well, okay then. No place like a dusted room to hide out and not talk to people.”


Huh. Maybe that’s why people dust on a regular basis.

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