(This post contains crude language- be forewarned. That’s because Bud swears a lot.)
Having a conversation with my parents is a ridiculous enterprise. Rich and I called The Bud and Jan Show on the speaker phone yesterday to wish my mother a happy birthday. (Yesterday was her’s, tomorrow would have been my father’s but he died young. I miss him all the time and more when there’s something special in life I would like to share with him. For example, he never met Rich. He didn’t live long enough to hear Dan play professionally. Abby was a tot, not yet a fish. But I feel SO fortunate to have Bud as my dad; how lucky can you be to get two really good ones?)
Anyway, these phone conversations involve a lot of over-talking, a lot of "What?? I can’t hear you!", many malapropisms, much swearing and, about one out of three are completely upbeat and happy, not marked by reports of illness and doctors visits. Yesterday they were both in fine spirits, sharp as tacks and looking forward to our visit next weekend. That’s when Rich and I will fly all over the country in noisy prop planes just to arrive in the tiny tip of the U.P. with a duffel bag of Christmas lights to decorate Lost Loon Lodge.
Bud LOVES to get phone calls. Considering they live about as far from civilization as you can get, he’s a very social guy. They have occasional visitors down to the lake from MTU where my mother taught and where many of their friends from their environmental activist days work. They have their next door (half mile away) neighbors, Donna and Ray, but they have had a rough year medically; they’re in pretty much the same situation as my folks. The situation where, at their age, they really don’t have much business living up there. Then there’s the Schwans guy who brings their standing order plus he’ll stop and pick up kitty litter in town on the way down. Sometimes I point out that they have over 50 boxes of Schwans chicken breasts in their giant freezer and Bud responds, "Aw, hell. He’s a nice young kid trying to support a family." (And you would be what? A retired public school teacher living on social security?) A couple times a month, two young Jehovah’s Witnesses come all the way from Houghton to see them. Bud invites them in, makes them chicken breast sandwichs and then he argues with them about religion for an hour or so, "no offense". They’ve been known to stay most of an afternoon and sometimes Bud has them watch some atrocity on CNN and then says he just can’t fit those things together, "no offense". The hurricane gave him a lot of grist for the mill. Daniel was visiting once when they were there and he asked if he could record the conversation; I think he plans to use some of it in a mixed media show some day. It’s actually pretty funny because Bud’s swearing is so ingrained and on the tape he says things like, "How the hell, s’cuse me, could a loving God let that happen? This is a fucking mess, pardon my French." This couple borders on sainthood (do they have saints?), they are calm and persistent in their position- plus they laugh with Bud. Secretly, I think they know more about my folks than anyone; I’m sure Bud has discussed his plans to build a crypt at the back of the lot so he can stay there forever and frankly, for all I know, he’s left them everything but the house. Bud informed me in a recent phone call that they are always happy but now they’re even happier because they got married so now they’re "getting some."
When we call they use the speaker phone too and Bud does most of the talking and every few sentences he turns to my mother, who sits five feet away on the sofa, and yells, "Right, mama?" Yesterday we said we were calling to wish the birthday girl a happy birthday; was she there?
Bud: Oh, hell no! She’s out bathing in the lake so she can get her blood flowing for a little birthday snuggle!
Bud: As soon as she finishes her breakfast we’re going into the bedroom to celebrate her 50th birthday!
Bud: She’s smiling because she has an L.L. Bean box here and I got her some flowers and I made her some waffles.
Mom: They’re nice! What’s in the box?
A lot of the time they talk to each other so we just listen in. Then:
Bud: How’s Danny? How’s Abby?
We update them on the kids- that’s all good news- except Abby still has no ATM card to access her money and it’s all in an account up here in Michigan so she’s still penniless and starving; last night she entered a poker tournament at USF. Ten tables, she made it to the final table, went all in on an Ace, Jack suited and someone had an Ace, King suited. She told us she really really wanted the 300.00 top prize money but then told us how happy it made her to being going to a school where they had free events like this at the student center and added that she filled up on free chips,nuts and pop. She found a University event catering job for this weekend so she figures she’ll eat off the trays and earn money besides.
Bud and my Mom marvel at her the same way we do.
Bud says, "How the fuck can she be such a genius and lose everything? Hell, the girl counts cards but she drives away from the gas station with her wallet on the roof. I don’t understand that! That girl needs to spend some time with her Grandpa Bud! Send her up here! I’ll teach her some memory tricks. I remember everything, right mama? Your mother can’t remember anything! She can’t even remember I sneaked in her room last night! Right, mama?"
I told them we would be arriving separately- I via Minneapolis midday and Rich on the late night flight; he has to travel from Florida. My mother said that we could have Thanksgiving dinner since they hadn’t done that yet and she said they had a nice big capon out in the freezer. Rich didn’t hear her clearly and said, "A what?" Bud said, "You know. A fuckin’ gay turkey."
I was debating about whether to ship a bunch of Christmas lights up UPS this week or check a piece of luggage. That started this snippet of conversation:
Bud: Well, UPS gets here okay. Don’t use those Fed Ex bastards or those fuckers at the post office. Your brother is all upset because he tried to send us some DVDs and the damn communal mail box is busted. (Everyone has their own rural route box and then if you get a package the USPS puts a key in your mailbox which, in theory gives you access to the large "communal box" that serves the whole lake- all 3 year round residents.)
Bud continues: The damn lock was frozen and I tried to fix it with a blow torch and the fucker still wouldn’t open. I finally got it open but it was a Christmas package for Virginia from Harry and Davids. I think I may have melted it but what the hell could I do? Now we’re waiting for that idiot from the post office to come down and replace the whole door. (Rich and I are rolling around on the bed, stifling shrieks of laughter) So if you send something send it UPS.
In the background my mother says something about Harry and Bud says, "Yeah. Now we have Harry from UPS- we call him that because he’s bald. He’s pretty good but not as good as Petey. He moved. Petey was good except for the time he couldn’t get down the road because we had 18 inches overnight. Then he just took that damn Christmas ham my sister sends every year and tied it up in a tree halfway down the drive. Next time I saw him I said, "What the hell, Petey? The fuckin’ bear could have eaten our Christmas ham." Petey was okay, though.
Some folk’s lives. They report that they have a good 15 inches of standing snow already and the guy we hired has been coming everyday to plow their road. I can’t wait to see that bill. Right up until the moment he had a heart attack the year before last, Bud was doing it all with a blower, including the roof so it wouldn’t collapse. As much as 300 inches and more.
And so, this week I’ll get out my snow pants and try to wrap my head around flying in that tiny SAAB F3 bundled up like an Inuit. How’s your week shaping up? If you got your light display up and running this weekend, post a link and a picture at your place. Remember- first place is a dead lizard tree topper.