Monday, December 7, 2009

The Houseguest

Two weeks is too long to have a houseguest. He is fussy. I am decidedly not fussy. Every project became monumental. Chop an onion for a broccoli salad? Oh, let him do that. But then we'd have a long discussion on how the onion should be chopped. The merits of black pepper vs. tinned ground pepper was debated. Our paprika was not Hungarian. Our video store inadequate, since his genre is older movies. All remakes are dismissed with a sniff. The cheerful little wine that I buy is not the sort of wine that he would drink. His opinions are the only sensible opinions in the world, God help you if you see it differently. The beekeeping cousin who does not give her children processed sugar is soundly ridiculed, as is the hapless driver in front of us who does a stupid thing. He has no patience with the person who is hard of hearing, although I've repeated things to him a great many times. He is impatient with the 'internuts'. He thinks it's ridiculous that Tim, having a German name, prefers ketchup to mustard. He shouts in German at the pot rack above my sink, an affectation, since he does not, except for a handful of swear words, speak German at all.

This man is the grandfather of my children, the father of their father. He has suffered great loss, and I cannot bear the thought of him being alone, drowning in drink, grieving, and I welcome him to my home because I think it will be good for him to spend time with the kids. But the longer that he is here, the more I realize that, really, he and my ex are very much alike. I hate it. The intellectual snobbery, the dismissive contemptuousness, the barely suppressed impatience and temper. This all begins to grate after awhile. Just as I did not meet the standards of my ex-husband, I know that we (Tim and I) do not meet the standards of my ex-husband's father. The final days of my marriage, well, I was ashamed a lot. Today? Not ashamed at all. I venture a few thoughts to him, pointing out that 'everyone has a right to think in their own way...' but I can see that he doesn't understand this. He looks at the world that I move in and sees it as lacking. He thinks that I am a brilliant person who has not had the opportunities to succeed in life. He tries to enrich my life while he is here: good wine, good cuts of meat, good music, good movies, literature. He tells me that I deserve these things, and he bemoans the son that threw me away, depriving me of this life. I thank him, but I realize that the limitations of my life are not nearly as restrictive as the limitations of his mind. The world is open to me in a way that he cannot even begin to understand.

Saturday night, I cooked venison steaks, rich with peppers and onions, tender, seasoned with nothing more than freshly ground black pepper and salt and the slightest bit of mesquite. He was astounded that he could not tell it from beef. That is my life, I guess. I take what is available and I make something great out of it. The thing that he probably does not understand is this: I am content in my life. Perfectly content. I do not long for what I do not have, because everything that I need is right here.

12 comments:

Karen said...

Two weeks is a long time for any houseguest, even under the best circumstances! It's wonderful that you welcome him into your home and that your children witness your hospitality toward their grandfather. Just try to grin and bear it, until he leaves. He sounds like someone who's hurting inside. Happy people don't feel the need to be critical.

Your post reminded me of an old saying that goes something like this: Houseguests and fish have something in common - after three days, they both start to really smell!

A Novel Woman said...

Ah, you are a good woman. Two weeks?! In my house, he'd be wearing the venison.

When I read your posts, you make me want to try harder.

Mary Paddock said...

Debby,
People like him (and he sounds a lot like my Dad) give me a migraine--for real. I don't know how you've done it this long without showing him the door. Such patience on your part deserves a medal. Hurting or not, there are certain standards of behavior that apply to everyone. Constantly criticizing your (very generous, very kind) host is not acceptable by any standard.

But since you're committed to this (bless you)--let him cook a few meals since it sounds like it would make him happy. Perhaps a little of what he wants is to contribute.

Debby said...

In the beginning, his eccentricities were accepted for what they were...after two weeks, it started to grate. He did cook. I got out of the way and let him. He contributed, and he was thanked, and I think that you are right, Mary. It did mean a lot to him. He cried when he left. It wasn't like he was criticizing all the time. Mostly it was that he seemed to think we were not aware, and so for our edification, he attempted to teach us.

Hal Johnson said...

You're a better person than me, Debby. After about the third day, I would have offered him a tent and a sleeping bag. Well, okay, I would have at least thought about doing that. A lot.

steviewren said...

You did a good thing and maybe a seed of something was planted in him. In my experience only God can change a difficult person, but He uses situations and experiences to do so. Maybe his visit with you and Tim was part of His grand scheme. In the meantime, breathe a sigh of relief that you have your comfortable home and life back.

WhiteStone said...

A good friend likes the phrase, "Fish and Guests both stink after three days." And I find that 3 days is a goodly time to have guests. Beyond that I am longing for my space. Perhaps I need space more than others.

But having said that, I find that difficult people are difficult because they have issues themselves. Face it. We ALL have issues. It's just that some are more obvious than others. And some grate more than others. It's a test of love. It's easy to love those who are close to us. It's not so easy to love those who are farther away (in terms of relationship) and who have issues. In loving our "own", we've already ironed out the "how" and "when" and "what". But with someone beyond that closeness, it's difficult to measure and read and understand and love. But, that's what we're called to do, is to love. And it was a loving thing for you to invite this man to your home...even if it was difficult.

Ooops...re-read the previous comments and Karen, very first comment, stole my "fish" line. LOL

Bill of Wasilla said...

Every time I read a description like this of what is going on in your life, I think, "if she is not already doing so, Debby should be writing a book."

You've got a mini-book, right here, in these few words. They tell such a story. In fact, I've read whole books that do not say as much.

jeanie said...

I have heard that saying, although ours involves milk and houseguests and the 3 day rule.

You are extremely gracious to have survived and allowed him the same.

The Factory said...

I dislike house guests, which is why I set my personality to 'surly' on the rare occasions that one appears. I just NEED to walk round the house naked after a shower, and that just doesn't fly if you have company.

Debby said...

When did that rule get made? I had no idea.

Kelly said...

Two weeks?? Sheesh! To borrow Hal's words, you and Tim are better people than I am.