September 1, 2006
I’d spent the past couple of months quietly searching for an apartment, and when I found one I started moving my possessions out as stealthily as I could. I was waiting until the last possible minute to tell Dad that I was moving. In fact, I was surprised that he hadn’t given me a hard time already. “When you’re 18, you’re out the door.” That was his philosophy, and it drove him up the wall that everybody “sponged” off of him even though they all paid their way.
And I had to be especially careful moving my stuff out because it turned out that Tina was spying on me as well as Bill. I’d wake up in the mornings and hear her telling Dad what time I’d gotten in the night before, and even what food I was eating from the kitchen. Seriously? So when I was putting boxes into my car I’d go out the side door and cut through the hedges into the neighbor’s property to avoid detection. Nonetheless, I’d re-enter the house to find Tina with her arms folded, tapping her foot and glaring at me and demanding to know what I was doing.
The nerve of this woman. It was one thing to spy on me, but to constantly snap at me and speak to me as if I were an errant child of hers – who the fuck did she think she was? It was a miracle I never gave her a good slap, or at the very least a tongue-lashing she’d never forget. I vented to Mom about what a bitch Tina was, and ironically her theory was that she was a domestic abuse victim and that’s why she was so controlling. Who knows. All we knew was that it was curious that she had a Spanish last name when she was Russian. Bill pissed her off something fierce one day when he asked, “So Tina… whatever happened to Mr. Lopez?”
Mom came over for a visit shortly afterwards and she shut Tina right up. The first thing Mom said when she walked in the house was, “Wow, we’re not watching TV today!” since Tina always parked Grandma in front of the TV set. Tina had also given Grandma a haircut – since her real job is supposedly a cosmetologist – but it looked as if she had done it in a blind rage. Mom joked to Grandma that it looked like she cut it herself, and that wiped the smirk right off Tina’s face. She just sat there with a sour puss and didn’t say a word for the rest of the night. It was bliss.
Dad came home to take Tina to the train station, and right before they left Mom told Dad that she was thinking of moving back in. She was only joking, but Tina didn’t know that and Mom wanted her to sweat the whole weekend. The look on her face was priceless. After they left we had a nice quiet time with Grandma. It didn’t take long for Dad to return, and it took even less time before he started going on about Bill.
“Well, why did you ask Bill to come here?” Mom inquired.
Previously Dad had lied saying he never asked Bill to move in, but this time he didn’t deny it. Instead he said that he had no idea that things would be so bad. He added that Uncle Chuck was evil, but Bill was just plain crazy. “He needs to seek help,” Dad fumed, spittle flying from his lips. I barely repressed a giggle. Dad was three belts away from a straitjacket, but Bill was the one who was mental. Right.
I told Bill the next day that I was moving out and he seemed a little sad about it. He said I’d be missed, and I felt bad leaving him behind in the nut house – or as he called it, the Bates Motel. Then I sat down for my final breakfast with Grandma. What an ordeal. She refused to take her pills after she ate. First I put them in front of her and told her she had to take them, but she ignored me. Next I told her that she needed to take them to stay healthy, and even joked that I’d tell on her if she didn’t. Still no effect. Then I kept putting the pills in her hand but she kept putting them back on the table. Finally I tried to put them in her mouth the way Tina does, but she jerked her head back and told me not to do that. Fine. I didn’t know what else to do so I just gave up. Clearly I was not cut out for this sort of thing. Fortunately Dad was able to get her to take them when he came home, but he had only a slightly easier time than I did.
Then when it was time for dinner, Grandma got upset when I shut Mother Angelica off. Oh boy. Now we were back to her thinking the people on TV could see us. And the cherry on top was when she had to go poops, but she refused to take off her underwear in the bathroom and went poops in her underwear instead. Sigh. Of course my last night in the house couldn’t be an easy one. Just couldn’t.
Finally, Grandma was in bed and I marched upstairs to say fare-thee-well to Dad. I spent a couple of hours pacing the den and mentally rehearsing what I was going to say, but as I made my way to his room my mind went blank and I ended up winging it.
Me: I’ve got some good news for ya.
Dad: What’s that?
Me: I’m moving out.
Dad: Moving out?
Dad: Really? (pause) That’s good news?
Me: Yes…isn’t it?
Dad: No, why would it?
Me: Well, I won’t be running up your bills and freeloading and sponging off of you.
Dad: That’s good news?
Me: Yeah! I’m 21 – when you’re 18, you’re out the door. Isn’t that how it works?
That was a lie.
Me: No? Well, that’s what we always were told.
Dad: No… 35…
Me: That too.
Dad: You have to ask Johnny. That’s the only one I asked. Just Johnny.
Dad: I asked him to contribute a little bit, that’s all. But he didn’t. Said he didn’t have to. I thought it would be nice if he would contribute a little bit to this household… Are you really moving out?
Dad: When’s that going to happen?
Dad: Tomorrow? Really.
Me: Yeah. First of the month is coming up.
Dad: Well, it’s a free country, you can do what you want. [but I thought he said the house was like a dictatorship?]
Me: Yeah, well, I’m just lettin’ you know.
Dad: Well, all right. You’ll be missed.
Me: I hope so.
Dad: So where’s the new place?
Me: A few miles from here.
Dad: Is it an apartment?
Dad: You can afford it?
Me: Yeah. I got it cheap.
Dad: I’d like to go down and check it out with you.
Me: Not until it’s ready.
Dad: Well it’s ready if you’re moving in tomorrow. Oh, it’s not ready ready?
Me: No. No sneak peeks until it’s done.
Me: I’ll let you know when you can see it.
This is the part I was really sweating over. I wanted to get away with not telling him exactly what I was moving to, because I didn’t want him bringing his nonsense over to my new place. I was as vague as I could without getting into a scene with him. A delicate line to walk.
Dad: Yeah…well, it’s uh… that’s a move.
Me: It’s definitely time.
Dad: You’re 21…
Me: Well, it’s been three years since I came out of school, so…
Dad: Well, I mean it’s, uh…I don’t bother people if they’re in school or just getting started. But once you reach 30, uh, I think it’s time you… help out. That was the deal. Whether people misconstrued that or not – I don’t know. But that’s their problem, not mine. (pause). That’s nice, you should be independent. You find this through the real estate?
Me: No, on my own.
That was pretty much how that went. Short and anticlimactic. Phew. And it felt even better when I finally moved into my new place. No more questions about where I was going or what time I’d be back. No more being asked to sit with Grandma. No more ka-KLUNK ka-KLUNK of her walker jarring me awake every morning. No more blasting TV. No more excruciating dinners to sit through. No more being spied on. No more fights. No more bullshit.
And now that I had my own little bachelor pad, I couldn’t help thinking how nice it would be to get a girl to bring back to it. I’d been single for three years and I was anxious to get back in the game after having been out of it for so long. But I had been so preoccupied with work and elder care and all the nonsense at home that I rarely got out or saw anyone my own age. That was about to change.