• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Don’t Believe Me Just Watch

Whenever I read that someone is leaving a job to spend more time with their family, I’m like no you’re not. It’s a euphemism for getting fired and it truly sucks that you’re fired. But spending more time with your family is no consolation.That’s worse than any boss giving you and your ideas the stink eye. Worse than having to sit by yourself in the corporate cafeteria with a cold helping of mac and cheese and some runny green beans. “Loyalty to the family is tyranny to the self,” a quote I’ve remembered my whole life from a woman in her nineties whose adventurous life took her around the world by steamship. When I met her she was home bound, reliant on a magnifying glass to read and kept company by a goldfish in filmy bowl. Small though her world was, she donned her artist’s smock every day, and studied her art books. I worshipped her. My family nearly came to blows on vacation over whether we leave for Portland at 10:30 or 11:00. Yes, a half hour took us down.

Work v. family. Discuss.

16 Responses

  1. Loyalty to what helps and supports and uplifts and wraps around you. If that’s family, so be it. If not, go find it and latch on. Took me a while to get there but it’s a fine place to live.

  2. Family is everything to me. My sister is blond, Buddhist, beautiful in every way. Her husband installed our kitchen faucet, just like that, having seen it in a box on the counter. My mom is selling everything she owns to move north, bowing to a lifelong craving to live by the water and surrounded by evergreens. My son and his lovely boyfriend are getting married next year; my daughter and her boyfriend record music together and always show up with enough weed to share. My youngest studies physics in his spare time and is studying to be an electrician. (Thank god. The number of defunct lamps in this house…) And my husband. My husband. After twenty years, he still electrifies me, still provides ballast, still brings me daisies every week and laughs at all my stupid jokes.

    I’ve never had to choose between family and work, but my heart belongs to my people and always will.

  3. Work and family, hand in glove. Tie goes to the family.

    Work is work, and once swallowed me whole. It was mostly time wasted.

  4. I’ve had two families, one when I was a child and the one now. as a parent.
    The old one? Gone. May they rest in peace where good memories write a better past.

    Now, it’s wondrous. I have often said that I must have done someone really spectacular in a former life in order to be blessed with the family I have.
    Are we perfect? Hell no.
    Who is? Nobody.

    We are a gift to each other.
    Funny how grandchildren smooth all the sharp corners and rough edges. Jeez they are fun.

  5. Family in small doses is enough. It’s complicated. Enough said.

    What I really want to know is what is the equivalent of an artist’s smock for a writer? I want to be just like this lady at ninety. Maybe my vintage black velvet cape I bought in Harvard Square ten years ago? Also, a pen in hand to scribble in my Parisian notebook, and photo albums & manuscripts at my side. A candle, Dunhills and a glass of wine. And a black cat, like I’ve always had.

    Thanks for this vision of how to age well.

  6. Oh, happy vacation memories.

    A part of my family is GREAT. Because we are “here” I can say this – my MIL is a bitter, and very unhappy woman who holds grudges. LONG STORY but my husband and I finally cut off communication. I should have known how this would go when, within a few months of meeting her, we had a political disagreement and she asked if I was a Communist.

    B/c we’ve shut down with her, my FIL, let’s face it, he’s self-centered, and caused my husband a LOT of grief, so, he is also behind this wall we’ve erected. We read all the time about toxic relationships – this is an example of what happens when the toxicity gets out of hand. You quit talking to them. The End.

    The rest of the fam is good – a few bumps here and there, but eventually it smooths over. My brother is potentially paranoid schizo (I’ve come to this conclusion for too many reasons/observations to count). He sends me his crazy writings and when I say that, I’m not kidding. They are . . . like code. Very interesting/bizarre. But, we are in touch and that’s all that matters.

    Thank GOD for my husband, is all I can say.

    • I know just what you mean about the code. I have a cousin who sends us letters from prison, containing packets of powdered orange drink and cryptic notes written on splayed-out styrofoam cups. The poor guy thinks he has a Gates-worthy plan for a shopping mall (he has apparently missed the news about malls), and provides detailed instructions for how to proceed with construction, with threats about how we’d better not screw him over.

      My husband keeps the letters in a safe with a note for the police, in case the cousin gets out of prison and shows up here looking for the mall profits.

  7. I gave up possibilities a long, long time ago to raise a family. They are difficult and fascinating and the family dynamics are off the charts, but it keeps life interesting. There is love. One son a philospher/comedian type, a daughter my soulmate, another son (youngest) a musician/rocker/blues man. The sweetness on my granddaughter ‘s face (just two) is the universe. Fifty years now with my husband – the man complex, practical, competent, and we celebrated big time. Yes there is a part of me that would have liked to have achieved, produced, I don’t know, a body of work, something. But I shared a life and brought up marvelous, decent human beings.

  8. My family was a small work-unit. My parents were children of the Great Depression, traumatized by the experience. They taught my brother and me that the most important thing a person could do was work (and go to church, regularly).

    I am far from my family now (I have been far from any church my entire adult life). My father passed away a few years ago. My mother is in Texas and failing. My brother is in New Jersey and striving to hold his life to the standards of work and religion that he learned while young. My son is in New Mexico, seething at racial injustice, economic disparity, and fascistic upsurgence. I am in Chicago, a place where I have no family, with my wife, who was born and raised here and wanted to return here from New Mexico to be closer to her family — but her family is not here, they have moved on, or died, as the case may be.

    I work at my paying job, 35 a week, Emm thru Eff, and hope to remain employed. I work from home, at home, in my employment, on my writing, on my photography, at my studies — all is work.

    When I was a boy, I did not like my family. I was not close to them. My parents were tyrannical to the point of cruelty. My brother was caught up by his own dreams and plans for escape, as I was with mine. Aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were all at least one state away, and frequently two or three — and the states were big. I was close to no one, so, at age eleven, I began to make of myself a writer — to have someone to talk to, who might listen, even if that meant that the listener would only be me, when later I would read over the page.

  9. In high school I ran, cross country and track. One day I just kept running and spent the next couple of decades on vacation, away from both family and work. It was good for my soul and while it didn’t put me in a happy place, I did gain a little bit of insight on the nature of things and also put my depression in perspective — what was done was done and fuck what anybody else thought of me. It was kind of liberating and as long as I could leave whenever I wanted/needed to, my family was tolerable. Once my stepfather quit drinking it became less tense to spend time around him.

    My own family keeps me going now. I hope I’ve learned from past mistakes, although I’m not so sure — my wife and I had an argument the other evening because I went off to do something instead of staying in the kitchen with her while she cooked dinner. She was pissed that she was being treated like a servant and was ready to storm out of the house. I said she was taking out her frustrations from work that day on me. It was a heated “discussion”, but we talked through it. She was mad because I didn’t want to go to a work-related event with her — she’s way more sociable than I am — because I’d rather stay home and work. Without really resolving anything (she did admit she didn’t want to drive back to work but also felt we don’t do enough together), we patched things up and watched a movie, most of which I slept through. I’m not too exciting a date. We held each other at night, but sometimes things seem like they’re becoming a little rattled at the core. I don’t like it when she’s not happy. I’ve noticed that in the past few days we’ve become more attentive with each other. We’re in it for the long haul.

    Our daughter hates when we argue, but she was away, traveling with a friend and her family. They went to a NASCAR race in New Hampshire, something that makes an old, bald hippie like me think my head is going to explode like an egg in a microwave oven. But that’s another story.

  10. During the years when I was the custodial parent (pronounce that “only” parent) of a preschool child AND employed in a high-pressure job, there was a blurry reality between when work stopped and family began. For more than a year, my son spent one night a week watching a movie on the office TV and sleeping on a cot in the conference room while I worked a 20-hour day, designing floor plans for the construction of a multi-storied building. Later, when the building was nearing completion, my son rode his tricycle through the office hallways during my evening inspections. We made this odd routine our family time; later, he cried when he learned the building wasn’t, really, his. I like to believe it was a subtle lesson in finding the silver lining within a big, thunderous cloud.

  11. With grands at both ends of the country and several in the middle, my wife and I are hoping to take a trip that “doesn’t involve seeing family.” Time with them is fine, as is time away from them.

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