Cancer 23°

I said in the previous Blague that I would cut and paste a snippet from one of our live Starsky + Cox Christmas shows that related to the dream I recounted in Cancer 22°. Here it is verbatim. It is important to note that I totally forgot, in the telling of this to the live audience in this one-night-only presentation, the most important bit at the end about my mother forgetting. It still landed; but it would have landed harder if I hadn’t omitted that last part:

One of the last Christmases I ever spent with my family….first, I should pause to say that Peggy and Mickey didn’t become friends but they were drinking buddies, sometimes they’d go to the city, to Elizabeth Arden for the day and stay overnight at the Waldorf, but mainly they were ladies who lunched until dinner, driving their Caddies, blind drunk in furs, with giant rings and sometimes hats on. Evil Auntie Mame and Vera, my mother being an amalgamation of every actress who ever lit up the silver screen. She moved and looked, often exactly like Bette Davis, she spoke like Polly Bergen or Sandy Dennis, she dressed like Gena Rowland, and emoted like Ann Baxter. In later life she was constantly mistaken for Rue Maclanahan. Peggy and Mickey were both alcholics who died of Alzheimers, only my mother had twenty odd years of sobriety before the end.

            So, that Christmas. One of the last. Ever the over achieving enabler I decided to shop, pre-chop, pack and cart by train to where my parents now lived “down the shore” in Belmar New Jersey not only a full menu of items for Christmas dinner—giant turkey, veges and all the fixins—but also the makings of a full on Christmas Eve “7 fishes” traditional Italian meal. Now my sister, who arrived four hours late to our wedding, and on heroin, which really agreed with her—she was lovely that day for the first time ever—but she could never be on time for anything. And Christmas eve, my mother was already showing signs of her Alzheimers and my father was deep into his Folinari white wine, which he drank, with copious ice cubes, mainly because the crest on the label was the family name, Leone. The seven fishes were put out and nobody was eating but a taste of each; as my sister, who arrived three and a half hours late. Amid apologies and excuses, she went to sit down, but made an that I just need the bathroom quick face. We waited, she didn’t surface. I poked around the corner, she wasn’t in the bathroom, I went through the kitchen up the stairs, all the bedrooms were dark, but I heard a faint muttering—she was hiding behind my parents smashed together twin beds talking to somebody.

            Now I should explain that my sister was married, I think, for sixteen years to a guy called Warren who died, I think, and lived in, of all places, named for the planet of delusion and dissolution, Neptune, New Jersey the next town over; she pretended not to be married and to live with my parents, which she sort of also did, while living with Warren. I never met him, you see, because he was black and couldn’t exist because my father was so racist that he made Archie Bunker look like Meathead. So she led this sort of double life and had obviously just come from one Christmas Eve dinner with a family of inlaws she pretended not to have and was on the phone to Warren or someone now. Did I mention my sister was a Gemini? Yeah. So was my father. Yeah. So during all this my mother, who is really exhibiting symptoms of her disease, was trying to find some bits of pricey jewelry of hers that she was planning on gifting Stella for Christmas. She couldn’t find them. She’s rifling through the house. My father’s adding more ice cubes to his wine with a vengeance now, having all but polished off the entire gallon of Folinari bianco and my seven fishes have long since faded into dried up smelly memories, and I see my sister and I’m like what the fuck are you doing?

            And her reaction? To lunge and charge at me over the bed and start beating me upside the head and face with the heavy receiver of my parents beige streamline phone which had an extra long cord for her assault and battery convenience, all the while shouting No no no never again like a trainee at womens violence prevention workshop. My father, alerted, flies up the stairs, drunk and red faced, and also starts to beat me, assuming, of course, that I am somehow the culprit here. And only my mother, ironically, is seeing clearly; and drags me and Stella-Lynne who is also now on the scene into our room to keep the assailants away and comfort and reassure us. You did nothing wrong, they’re animals. And so, safe, my sister having returned to her other life and other selves, we fall asleep.

(Piano starts to play Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas….)

And when we awake, it’s Christmas morning. And we tiptoe downstairs to find that my father has not only thrown away all of the smelly 7 fishes Christmas Eve dinner but also the entire Christmas day dinner items I had precut and packaged for cooking with ease, along with, yes, the giant turkey; and not just in the kitchen garbage, but in a hefty bag filled with uneaten dogfood and dog waste outside in a trash barrel next to the garage. And as if this isn’t bad enough, my mother has absolutely zero memory of her tidings of comfort and joy—they’ve been erased Alzheimers-style from her mind and are now replaced with the story my father told her that morning about my having attacked my sister, which my mother thinks is her actual memory of the night before. So, pre cellphones and internet, we found, via the yellow pages, a car service that would bring us back to our one bedroom rent stabilized apartment in the West Village and did what Jesus, what Jesus and Mary, being Jews, would do, we got Chinese food delivered. Or as my mother would say, we ordered Chinks. Incidentally, my mother never found the jewelry that she planned to gift to Stella because my sister, who couldn’t bear anything not going to her, would have stolen it, scapegoating my mother’s disease as she and my father would both do for the next ten years of Peggy’s life; invariably, my evil quint would have sold that jewelry for drugs or money to gamble away in Atlantic City. So this is my gift to you—I hope it makes you feel better about the holidays with your families this Xmas.


Typos happen—I don’t have time or an intern to edit.*
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