Tag Archives: In-Laws

Mamu and Daddy’s Departure…

P’s family is getting ready to leave. They originally planned to depart on September 26th, but Mamu really wanted to get home to start organizing the house for Dashain, and they moved their tickets up to Sunday night (Sept 18th).

They have been with us for twelve weeks.

Wow, I had to recount because I couldn’t believe it when I first counted. That time went super fast.

I was nervous before they came. I hadn’t had bad experiences with them before, but the idea of having my new in-laws live with me full time for such a long time felt daunting, or at least a bit overwhelming. But all went really well. I actually feel a lot closer to them than I did before, particularly Mamu, whom I get a big kick out of and really enjoy.

The last time P’s family visited us it was for five weeks back in 2008. P, myself, P’s brother, P’s cousin MK and P’s cousin’s boyfriend MS dropped them (Mamu, Daddy and MK’s mother J Phupu) off at the airport. We sat together for a while, and eventually it was time for them to go through the security gates. Mamu and J Phupu were crying, but Mamu was an absolute wreck. She was sobbing and was almost too upset to coherently find her way through the security line, and Daddy had to lead her along. When they reached KTM P’s dad called to inform us of their safe arrival, and said Mamu and J Phupu cried most of the plane ride home.

After such a dramatic departure last time, you might wonder if Mamu will equal, if not surpass, her level of anguish after staying with us for twelve weeks.

But I don’t think so. Perhaps Mamu will shed a tear or two, but I don’t think there will be too many frowns or too much sadness this time around.

Because…

We will be following them to Kathmandu next Friday.

Surprise!

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A Weekend With My Dad

This weekend we took P’s parents to my home town, about a five hour drive from our New England abode. My dad, who spends most of his time in Vermont these days, was back at the old house for the week, and was able to host us on Saturday night.

There were a few reasons I wanted to take them to my home town. First I wanted to show P’s parents where I grew up. We currently live in a city, and P grew up in a city, but I’m a country girl at heart. I grew up in a wooded area, climbing trees and going on adventures in the woods with my dog. We spent a lot of time outside, riding our bikes, swimming, picking wild blackberries and raspberries and eating them off the bush, planting vegetable gardens (and eating cherry tomatoes and small cucumbers off the vine as well!) If was a pretty fun childhood.

I also wanted to bring them to visit my dad because I wanted my dad to have the opportunity to bond with P’s parents a little.

My parents are divorced, something that P told his parents early on (and for a little while reinforced P’s mom’s view that—“See Americans will divorce you!”). They have met my mom a few times (in 2005 my mom came to P’s graduation and met his dad, in 2008 they stayed at her house in Virginia for a weekend, and my mom stayed with us a few days before the wedding) and they like her a lot. She is very entertaining (bordering on showy sometimes), but she is a great person to have when there is awkward silence, because she fills the silence with idle chatter (or embarrassing stories, which was the case during the wedding weekend). She is very extroverted, and animated, and easy to get to know because she lays it all out there for everyone right away.

One reason that my parents are divorced is because they are very different people. My dad is opposite to her in nearly every way—where she is loud and boisterous; he is quiet and reserved; where she likes to hustle and bustle, be close to the action and the city; my dad is happy to sit on his own, do things at his own pace, and live in the wilderness apart from others; where she is carefree, extroverted, and easy to know; my dad is difficult to know, introverted, and relatively serious (unless you get to know him well, then his dry sense of humor comes out).

P’s parents know very few divorced people (practically none). My theory is that they probably assume that in a divorce situation one partner was essentially “good” and one was essentially “bad.” Now my parents’ divorce is very complicated (much too complicated to begin sorting out in a blog post) and there are good and bad things on both sides, but the basic assumption that one person was totally wrong and “bad” and the other was totally right and “good” doesn’t fit this situation in the slightest. However that was the schema that made the most sense to P’s parents. Although they never outright said anything, since they met my mother first, and she is so bubbly and entertaining, right away they assumed my mother was the “good one” (I could tell by the way they would ask about her, but never my dad). I tried to explain to them in 2008 that the divorce was complicated, and they were only seeing one side (my mom’s side), but I think it was difficult for them to understand.

P’s parents first met my dad in 2008 when they stayed with my mother in Virginia. He drove down from New York to attend a program for my younger sister, and my mother insisted that he attend the “P and C family meeting” at her house, on her territory. Although everyone essentially behaved themselves (no arguments, etc), it was a bit of an unfair advantage for my mom, and I’m sure my dad was uncomfortable and more awkward and happy to escape to his hotel room once the meeting concluded.

I remember we were all sitting on my mom’s back porch. My mom was filing in the silence with stories (I remember one such story where she was telling about meeting P’s cousin MK for the first time, and how MK kept having to take smoke breaks—now the family kind of knows that MK smokes, but it’s one of those “she does it in secret” and they “pretend not to know” type of deals. I was standing inside the kitchen looking through the sliding screen door motioning with my hands for her to stop the story, and she said, “Oh look, C is trying to get me to stop, ha ha, anyway—so then…”)

My dad sat there mostly in silence. I remember P’s dad looking at him, hopeful for some “father to father” chit chat, but P’s dad didn’t know what to say (I think P’s family was relying on my parents to guide conversation since P’s parents were shy of their English), and I don’t think my dad felt that comfortable speaking. Eventually I said, “Hey dad, why don’t you talk with P’s dad.” And my dad turned and said, “So, how about the weather?” and that was pretty much it for conversation.

This awkward situation probably didn’t help their vision about my dad. He looked serious, quiet, and tough looking. Prior to their 2008 visit, when they would call and talk to me, P’s dad always asked about my mother and sisters and told me to say hello to them, but never mentioned my dad. After the 2008 visit he rarely, if ever asked about my dad (but at least slightly more than before).

Likewise, at the rehearsal dinner, between my parents, my mother dominated conversation again. She is just better at it, more comfortable, she doesn’t mind if P’s parents don’t really understand what she is saying, it’s easier for her to chat then sit through silence.

At the wedding my mother was dancing up a storm—dancing with everyone, including P’s dad. My dad mostly stood with his relatives on the porch, drinking beers and catching up on stuff. It’s the age old introvert/extrovert dichotomy.

I felt my dad needed his time and space to adequately share his personality with the P family. A short weekend trip to his home seemed like a good idea.

I’m glad we did it, because I think being in my dad’s space and on my dad’s time helped a lot. My dad had the opportunity to share his hunting stories without being talked over (my mom would surely find an extended conversation about hunting boring and dull). I think P’s dad really liked the one about my dad being on a bear hunt, and having a giant grizzly bear itching it’s butt on a tree no more than eight feet away from my dad’s hunting perch. My dad decided not to shoot it (P’s dad: “You had a gun ready, pointing at the bear?”) because his friend had killed a bear the night before and they were going to split the meat, so my dad just watched this giant animal walk around, so close he could practically touch it. Or the story about crawling two miles through the grassy plains of Montana stalking elk. Or about hiking out of the northern Canadian woods in waist high snow dragging a sled with 100 pounds of freshly killed caribou meat (my dad had pictures of the caribou hunt to help visualize his story).

My dad made a “Central New York” dinner—grilled deer meat (and veggie burgers for me and Mamu), fresh local corn on the cob, salt potatoes and melted butter, and apple pie made with local apples. We sat on the screened in back porch listening to the crickets, while my dad talked about things he was familiar with or that he enjoys—like how to make maple syrup (while we ate homemade blueberry pancakes in the morning) and which trees in our backyard were maples, what New York is famous for, what vegetables are locally grown, how he built our house himself, etc (again, conversations my mother would have found totally dull, but P’s dad seemed interested to hear).

My favorite questions that P’s dad asked that night were, “Do you have lions and tigers in America?”

Dad: “No. But we have mountain lions, which are big cats out in the Western US [He went inside and came back with a hunting advertisement with a mountain lion on it to show P’s dad what it looks like and how big they can be.] We don’t have them around here.”

P’s Dad: “Do you have elephants?”

Dad: “Nope.”

P’s Dad: “Monkeys?”

Dad: “No monkeys either.”

(I liked these questions because these animals are “normal” for P’s family, but exotic for mine. For P’s family it’s kind of strange that we don’t have monkeys running around, where as my dad probably thought the question was from left field.)

They talked about the animals we do have—skunks, beaver, opossum, fox, porcupine, etc—and which were also found in Nepal.

I think P’s dad liked being in the countryside. He desperately wanted to see animals (my dad told him there were generally some turkeys and sometimes deer around. We showed him a salt lick that my dad uses to attract deer to his backyard). On the screened in back porch P’s dad said it was like being on a jungle safari in Chitwan National Park—looking down into the woods to find the rhinos from a high perch. He told me in the morning that he got up in the night to watch the “jungle” from the porch to see if he could spot any animals but sadly didn’t see anything.

I think it was a successful trip. I think they realize that I don’t have one “good parent” and one “bad parent” but two very different parents, with different interests, energy levels, and personalities.

I feel confident that once they go back to Nepal and we chat on the phone again, they will now ask about and say hello to my mom and my dad.

My dad and I taking P's family around the sights in town-- including the city harbor on the shores of Lake Ontario

P's mom and dad pose outside my childhood home

What to Do?

“What to do?” is Mamu’s unofficial catchphrase. I think it’s really cute. She uses it as a catch all statement, an exasperation, a declaration, and a filler. “Sigh, what to do?”

My favorite “What to do?” was from their 2008 visit. We took Mamu to one of the local temples (not where we got married, but a South Indian temple east of us), and she was bringing me around to the different altars telling me the names of each god. We got to one god and Mamu didn’t recognize the name so she asked one of the pandits who the god was. He said, “Shiva’s third son.”

“But Shiva have two son.” She said.

“No, Shiva has three sons.” The pandit insisted.

“No, two only.” She insisted back. The pandit shrugged his shoulders and walked away. She turned to me and said, “In Kathmandu Shiva have two son. In America Shiva have three son. What to do?”

Anyway… “What to do?” seems to be the question P and I have on our minds as of late. Now that the wedding is over, the extra relatives are gone, and wedding related tasks are finished, we don’t know “what to do?” with his parents. I’m worried that they are bored out of their minds.

P has been largely working from home, but hasn’t been getting a lot of research done, so he will have to start going back to his office soon. I leave for work every morning at 7:45 and don’t come back until 4:30. We have computers and internet, so P generally tries to find Nepali and Hindi serials online for his parents to watch, but we don’t have a proper tv for them to flip through the channels, and Mamu doesn’t understand enough English to follow American serials very closely (too much English tends to make her fall asleep).

Mamu spends some time each day cooking, and P’s parents have gladly volunteered for the job of taking our dog out for walks around the park in the morning and afternoon, but most of the day they are at home, and especially in the recent heat wave, I think they spend much of the day sleeping.

“P, what can we do with them? Do they have any hobbies? Can we get them active in a local community group? Should we teach them to use the bus system so they can go around the city? I feel bad that there is so little for them to preoccupy their time during the day. What do they generally do at home?”

“At home the day is usually spent just making it through the day—doing stuff that requires electricity during the brief time it is available, stocking up on water during the brief time that it is available, taking care of my grandfather, cleaning, washing clothes by hand, cooking, it all takes extra time, and then the day is over. Otherwise they socialize with neighbors, drink tea on the roof. That’s about it.”

During two of the heat wave days this week P dropped them off at a local mall so they could enjoy air conditioning and poke around stores while he was at work, but there are only so many days one can do this before even shopping becomes boring.

We try to take them out of town on the weekends– day trips or overnight trips to visit new places or people, but that is only two days out of seven.

About a month ago Gori Wife Life had a post asking for suggestions on how to keep her father-in-law busy during his recent visit. She had the idea of getting him involved in the activities surrounding a local mosque. That sounded like a great idea, but unfortunately the local temples are at least a 20 minute drive east or west and not easy for them to get to, plus I’m not sure how much community activity currently surrounds either.

But I’m happy to solicit for suggestions. Any help for “What to do?”

The Black Wedding Cloud Strikes Again

What the hell? I thought bad things happened in threes, not fours, and I certainly hope not fives and sixes :(

Its 1:15 in the morning, and the reason I am up is because we just got back from picking up P’s brother U from the bus terminal, but instead of taking us 1 1/2- two hours round trip, it took us almost 3 and a half–because our front driver’s side tire pretty much exploded on the way in to Boston, on the worse stretch of road possible, and the whole fiasco took us about an hour to solve. Let me rewind.

First things first. I don’t mind dealing with sticky situations, particularly when I am on my own. I deal with it and its over. The worst thing is dealing with a problem when you have an audience, especially an audience you want to make a good impression on. It makes the whole issue more stressful and feel 100 times more terrible (then it might actually be).

The week before P’s parents arrived I was trying to be as proactive as possible, not only with wedding prep (thank god I did that! I still have a few small things, but most is done, and I’m so relieved), but also with other things– like getting the car inspected for the year, getting an oil change, paying the car insurance, etc.

I was dreading getting the car inspected, because I was a little worried about the tires. With all the wedding expenses, the last thing I wanted to do was shell out for new tires, but if I had to do it I would. So I got my oil changed and asked my regular oil change guy to do a quick once over to make sure everything looked okay before I paid someone to do an inspection. The mechanic said it looked fine, that one or two of the car tires would probably need to be changed 6 months down the road, but we were good for now. P and I had recently noticed a whir whir noise from one of the tires and I asked the guy about it. He said that my alignment was probably off a bit, the tires were wearing down a bit differently, but it could be fixed later.

Okay, that sounded fine to me.

So the next day I took the car to the inspection place, paid the inspection fee, and hoped that this guy also felt the tires were fine. The car passed with no issues what-so-ever. I even asked him about the tires specifically and he said, “In a few months, but for now you are fine.” (He even said something like, “The tires fail at 2 or 3, your’s are at 7 or 8.”) Phew, just the answer I was hoping for.

So tonight, P’s brother was slated to get in to the Boston bus terminal at 10:30 from Philly. P’s leg has felt stiff all day, so I was happy to volunteer to go alone and pick him, but P’s parents hadn’t seen U in a few years, and they were eager to see him, and P had hinted that Mamu was nervous to stay in the apartment alone, so against my urgings the entire crew piled into the car for the hour and a half/two hour round trip.

Things were going fine. We even caught a good percentage of the local fireworks show while filling gas at the station before getting on Interstate 90 east towards Boston. There was more traffic than usual for that time of night, probably holiday traffic, but we were cruising along. P’s parents eventually zonked out in back, and we could hear their gentle snoring from the front.

Right as we passed the first toll booth upon entering the greater Boston area, right where the highway starts to narrow and the shoulder disappears, there was a loud pop (which woke up P’s parents and started them asking questions) and then everything got bumpy and loud. I was in the fast lane, and had to move to the right hand side of the road, but didn’t know what to do. The tire seemed to have completely collapsed, so I didn’t think it would make it even a few feet down the road (trust me, I tried, frantically) and I wasn’t sure where the road would gain a shoulder again.

Not sure what to do we put our hazard lights on, and I tried to call roadside assistance. I quickly popped out of the car and assessed the wheel before jumping back in. While I was distracted by the phone, I think P was busy watching all the cars zipping by and realizing how dangerous our position was on the road. He jumped out of the car, and had his parents jump out, and they climbed over the guard rail  and up the embankment to give them and the car some space in case someone came whipping through and smashed the car. He kept calling for me to get out.

I was trying to get through to roadside assistance, meanwhile feeling completely mortified. I didn’t want P’s parents to think I was an incompetent driver, or had done something wrong. I knew I didn’t hit anything. A few minutes later a Peter Pan bus pulled up behind us, and I half thought that U had spotted us on the road and asked the bus to pull over and let him out, but the bus driver was actually pulling over to tell us to get out of the vehicle, “One tractor trailer comes through and doesn’t see you, and you are all dead. Get up the hill, I’ll call the police for you.”

So now we are all standing on the hill. I’m watching the sky (it was raining about 15 minutes before), and finally getting through to roadside assistance, when a police car pulled over and started yelling at us (what is with police and yelling at me this week?) I was trying to juggle the roadside lady on the phone and talk to the police, but instead of explaining anything he just kept yelling through his window, “Get in your car, get in your car right now and drive. You want to get us all killed?”

“But sir, our tire is flat.” I stammered, I was worried I’d start crying again, like with the other police officer.

“I don’t care if your tire is flat. Your car will drive clear to California on a flat tire, now get in your car and drive.This is incredibly dangerous. Never stop on an active road way. ”

So we hustled P’s parents into the car and jumped in. I’m now super flustered, the police officer, with his lights on, is still yelling at us but now through his loud speaker, “drive forward, just drive.” And the tire is so broken the entire car is shimmying, shaking and rattling as I ease her down the slow lane. I’m still flustered, and mortified, and the police is still yelling at us through the loud speaker to “keep moving,” while P’s worried parents are asking us questions, “What’s going on? Isn’t that a police officer? Why is he yelling?” Somewhere along the line the roadside assistance operator asked me if she could put my call on hold–“What does that mean? Are you going to call back?” I asked. “No.” she said–and I dropped my phone somewhere in the car.

After what seemed like an excruciatingly long time, the cop advised us that the shoulder had widened enough for us to pull over. I promptly jumped out of the car and walked back to him. He said gruffly, “Never ever stop on the road. Your life is worth more than a tire rim.”

I said, “I agree, but I didn’t know it would keep driving.” (I was blinking back moist eyes again).

“The car will always drive… on a flat, on a rim, on a damaged rim… always keep going. I called a tow truck, you’ll be fine here.” And he sped off, offering little in the way of comfort or additional help/advice.

P had us walk back up the embankment. I again looked at the sky hoping it wouldn’t rain. The ground was a little wet, and I went to the trunk to get out the towel we usually have in the back seat for our dog to sit on so that Mamu, Daddy and P could sit down, but no one wanted to.

“The police officer just drove away?” P’s dad asked, bewildered. “He could have stayed with the lights, to keep us safe, no?”

“I think he was in a bad mood.” I offered, “He didn’t seem very nice.”

We sat waiting for ten minutes, and I said to P, “This is ridiculous, I know how to change a tire, lets just do it and get on our way.” But P was worried about the busy highway. No doubt he had visions of a car whacking me while I was on hands and knees changing a tire, killing me or injuring me a week before our wedding. It seems our luck is going that way.

I convinced him that if we could get the car on part of the embankment, and off the road, I could change the tire, and so we arranged the car. I whipped out the spare, and went to work trying to jack the car. Like I said, I’ve done this before– but not with P’s parents squatting nearby watching my every move. They were just trying to be helpful, but it was making me more stressed out, making me worry about failing in front of them.

And lo and behold, just as the car seemed nearly jacked up, the dirt embankment buckled and the car shifted forward, wedging the jack sideways. I had to unscrew it and readjust all over again. I found what was a solid spot, and started again, sitting in the dirt on the side of Interstate 90, twisting the jack slowly by hand. Just as the car almost seemed high enough to work, the soil buckled and the car lurched again.

DAMN IT.

I reasoned with P– we had to move the car so at least one of the tires was on the pavement. “Fine,” P agreed, but I think he was also loosing faith, and had started calling roadside assistance back. I started all over again, with P’s dad crouching near me.

I really wanted to get that damned tire off, and fixed myself. I wanted to be the hero to save our crummy situation. If I had to be humiliated as the driver when something stupid like this happens, at least let me be the one to fix it, and win some “Wow, did you know C could change a tire? How impressive!” points. But my two previous failures seemed to be making that less of a possibility.

Before I could get the car jacked a third time, this time on the pavement, a tow truck showed up (sent by the angry police officer). The guy quickly used his giant jack to hoist the car, changed the tire, and fit the spare. He showed us that in fact the inside of my tires were worn to oblivion (“But I just got my car inspected last week and it passed with no problems!” I told the guy, “Well, this shouldn’t have passed” he responded) and had literally blown open.

I felt like an idiot, P’s parents were watching, P was stressed out too, U was stuck at the train station (and supposedly “starving”– he texted us just after we left asking us to bring food, but we had already left. “It’s just another hour and a half,” I told P, “He will be fine until we get home. Then he can eat Mamu’s cooking” famous last words), and the whole thing took us an hour or more to fix.

I’m sure P and I probably felt worse about it then U, Mamu or Daddy. We were embarrassed, tired, and frustrated. The whole situation made it seem like our car is in bad shape, and we are reckless. They were quite chatty on the way home, while P and I drove in near silence. We were both listening to every noise, worried that another tire would blow. Why do these stupid things happen when you least want them to? Any other time would have been better… although as I write this, perhaps better now than next weekend on the way to one of our weddings!

As we neared the apartment a cat crossed in front of the car. “Bad luck,” U clucked in the back seat.

“One crossed in front of us on our way out too.” P said.

“Do you believe in these superstitions C?” P’s dad asked.

“No.” I said, “Do you?”

“No.”

I was really thinking, Let’s all hope for no more bad luck!

So now tomorrow morning, instead of taking P’s parents to the white and red wedding venues (before my lunch meeting for work), we have to probably buy at least two new tires and try to get the alignment fixed on our car.

Can people send some good juju vibes our way?