Monday, May 07, 2007

An insight into why all sitcom Dads are clueless dolts -- or -- The Curmudgeon goes to his own party. Eventually.

I worry, sometimes, about Long Suffering Spouse. I worry that she doesn't ever want to go out socially.

Not that we've been in a position to trip the light fantastic too much this year -- my health and consequent inability to earn income have provided an understandable chilling effect on our ability and willingness to undertake social obligations.

But a couple of weeks ago my friend Steve told me he'd bought a table for a benefit for a little girl from the neighborhood who's seriously ill. He asked me and Long Suffering Spouse to join him at his table.

"Steve," I said, "right now we really can't donate... I mean, you know what's been going on...."

"I need bodies," Steve said, cutting me off. "I just need you to be here so it's not me and my wife at an empty table."

"Sure," I said, "if that's what you want...." But Long Suffering Spouse who was carrying on a separate exchange with Steve's wife overhead this and said, "I'm not going."

"We'd really want both of you to go," said Steve.

"I'll work on her," I said. Because I can understand why she wouldn't want to go to a charity event when we're not far removed from being charity cases ourselves... but I really want her to get out on occasion. This seemed relatively painless.

And it was also in a distant, unspecified future: Steve wasn't sure when the event would take place, or even where. So I had some time, I assumed, to bring LSS around.


Early last week, Steve called. "You know that benefit I talked to you about?" I did. "Well, it got scheduled."

"OK," I said, thinking it was set for July or August or something... because these things usually have fairly long timelines. The better to sell raffle tickets, you know. "When is it?"

"Well, what are you doing Sunday?"

I thought Youngest Son had a game, I told him, and Middle Son might be pitching Sunday. If he was pitching, I'd want to see that. I'd certainly want to go to Youngest Son's game. But, I said, let me ask and confirm all this -- I'd get back to him.

We'll make this long story a little shorter by omitting how Middle Son's game was eliminated as a matter of concern. Suffice it to say that, though I may write about it someday, it won't make this year's Christmas Card Letter. And, when I investigated, I found out that Youngest Son's game was at noon and it was nearby; Steve wanted us sometime mid-afternoon, so I thought it might all work out.

"I'm not going," said Long Suffering Spouse. "You can go if you want to. You said 'yes' -- not me."

You have to pick your spots; I didn't think this was one to go to war over. I told Steve I was in but LSS was out. "She may change her mind," I said, when Steve said he really needed bodies at the table, "and if she doesn't, I'll bring a sweater and we'll hang it on the back of a chair. We'll tell anyone who asks that she's in the powder room. Like in the old Bob Newhart Show episode."

I really do talk like that.

Steve didn't sound happy. "We'd really like her to be there," he said. "Well, so would I," I said, "but I've been as persuasive as I can be and I'm not getting anywhere. She's just going to get mad at me if I push this." Steve said maybe his wife would call and talk to LSS. I said fine... and didn't give it another thought.


Steve called again Saturday afternoon. "Is she coming?" he asked. "No," I said, but Steve sounded so disappointed I said I'd ask again. I mentioned the Mr. Carlin trick again, too; it did not jolly him in the slightest.

"Here's the deal," Steve said. "We'll get you in and out in an hour. We'll pick you up and drop you off so you don't have to be there by yourselves." I didn't say no and I didn't say yes -- but I really didn't care about chauffeur service. I can walk into a room by myself if I have to... and, of course, I was still planning to go to Youngest Son's game.

I hung up the phone... and realized I still was missing critical information. I called right back. What, I asked, would be the uniform of the day? Males forget to ask these questions... but I knew if I was ever to persuade LSS to accompany me, she'd ask this question. "Business casual," I was told. Slacks and a shirt; no jackets or ties. Steve's wife said she'd wear slacks and a shirt too.

I didn't relay this information to LSS right away: It was a busy weekend in the Curmudgeon household. Oldest Son was in town -- he was in last weekend, too, although he never actually stopped by the house. He's apartment hunting, now that graduation is upon him; this time he was staying at our home.

And Older Daughter was home, too. She came up Friday from Indianapolis and spent the night at the apartment of a girl with whom she's been friends since grammar school. She was helping the friend move into a new apartment.

She wandered into our house Saturday, lay down on the floor in front of the TV, and promptly went to sleep.

Girls do not sleep at sleepovers whether they're 10 or 23.

So Older Daughter was asleep on the floor, Oldest Son had commandeered the TV remote and the Internet connection and, worst of all, my chair.

Long Suffering Spouse was grading test papers. I gingerly broached the topic of the benefit again. "Steve really wants you to go," I told her.

"Don't you think they're up to something?" she asked me.

"Who's up to what?" I asked... and the conversation ground to a halt. And she hadn't said she'd go.


Older Daughter took her leave of us early Sunday morning. She hadn't planned on leaving until later, she said, but her boyfriend was pouting that she wouldn't be at his concert that afternoon -- in Indianapolis.

Younger Daughter went to work.

LSS suggested that Oldest Son go visit his grandmother. Abuela had been at 7:00 Mass, too -- or, as we call it in our house, 7:15 Mass -- but Oldest Son had lit out for the car after Mass so fast that Abuela didn't have a chance to talk to him. "And she may even have birthday money or graduation money for you," LSS hinted.

The prospect of money seemed to motivate Oldest Son into action. He left in one car; Long Suffering Spouse left in the van for the grocery.

We were unpacking the groceries when Long Suffering Spouse said she'd come with me to the benefit. I told her about the chauffeuring offer and she agreed with me that it was totally unnecessary.

When it was time to go, I came down wearing my black shoes and LSS said they'd get all dirty at the game. Well, maybe -- but we were going from the game to the benefit -- and I told her how I'd thought to ask for instructions about what to wear.

I was quite pleased with myself for having thought to ask. No clueless male I, I thought.

LSS seemed unimpressed by my initiative. But she changed slacks, too.


We were just pulling into the parking lot of the school where Youngest Son's game was being played when my cell phone rang. It was Steve. "Where are you?" he asked. I told him.

"But we're picking you up at 2:30," he said. I detected a certain strain in his tone but I didn't make too much of it. He's part German; sometimes that surfaces when he's scheduling things. "Don't worry about it," I told him. "I know where the banquet hall is. The game should be over by about 2:30 -- we'll join you by 3:00 at the latest. It'll be fine."

"Well, actually, we're not going to that banquet hall," he said. "Huh?" I said. "Where are we going then?"

There was silence at the other end of the line. Then a woman's voice said, "Hello, Curmudgeon." It wasn't Steve's wife. It was Long Suffering Spouse's college roommate; she'd flown in from Virginia for... the scales were beginning to fall from my eyes... our 25th Anniversary party.

Long Suffering Spouse didn't know to whom I was now talking. But she knew what I was talking about. Or rather not talking about because I don't think I said anything for a considerable period of time.

But Long Suffering Spouse did: "I'm not going."


LSS and I carried folding chairs and a thermos of water and her correcting bag from the parking lot to the field where Youngest Son's game was already in progress. "I told them I didn't want a party unless we could do it ourselves," LSS said, "I told all of them. They don't listen! I knew they were up to something...."

This was more of a monologue than a conversation; I was still rather stunned.

We had barely gotten settled in our chairs when LSS' cell phone rang. It was her mother.

The call did not go well. My mother-in-law told my wife to change into nicer clothes; my wife told her mother she wasn't going anywhere. There may have been some other points and counterpoints but the upshot was that LSS terminated the call and shut off her cell phone. "Turn yours off, too," she told me, but I did not immediately comply. "Now I'm really angry," she said.

"I'm kind of curious about what they've done," I ventured -- but that line was unproductive. "You can go if you want. I'm not going," said LSS.


My cellphone went off not five minutes later. It was Steve again. "I told you to shut that thing off," LSS told me as I got up and walked away from the little crowd along the foul line to take the call.

"She's really mad now," I told Steve. "I'll try and get her to come... but whatever you do, don't call back."

Steve was upset. "There's a lot of people here. What am I supposed to do?"

I had a thought: Send over LSS' old roommate, I said. If anyone can get LSS there, it'll be her.


I saw Penny as she trudged up from the parking lot to the freshman field where the game was being played. Even with my glasses on, I couldn't be sure it was her... but the person I saw was walking like she didn't know where she was going.

And she didn't. She wandered over toward the other team's bench. It seems that one of my daughters -- either the one who didn't leave for Indy in the morning or the one who didn't actually go to work -- had given Penny bad information about Youngest Son's team. Penny was looking for a team wearing the wrong colors and with a different name from either of those playing on the field.

Youngest Son had just been called out at first on a controversial pickoff call. It looked like he'd dived back in time, but the umpire -- who hadn't moved out from behind the plate -- called him out. When his team went back on the field, Youngest Son was on the bench. So I told Long Suffering Spouse I'd bring him the water jug. I thought I might catch Penny's eye, too, but she was still wandering around behind the backstop wondering why she couldn't find us.

"So," I asked Youngest Son, as I delivered the water, "Did he get you?"

"He never touched me," said Youngest Son. "Don't you have to be somewhere?"

So he was in on it, too.

I duly reported this fact to LSS when I returned to my folding chair. She did not seem surprised.

Penny eventually found us. "What a surprise," Long Suffering Spouse said, in a tone that made it abundantly clear that she wasn't surprised at all, "that you've come all the way from Virginia to see Youngest Son's game."

I excused myself quickly. Oldest Son showed up; he was under orders to drive Youngest Son to the party. Youngest Son was on the bench because his coaches knew he'd be leaving early.

In fact, I have come to suspect that all of you reading this were probably aware of this party before I was.

I begin to see, now, why sitcom writers always make the Dads into clueless dolts: Some of us, apparently, are totally clueless.


I drove the van to the party by myself. Penny drove Long Suffering Spouse. That way, she said, she could make sure that Long Suffering Spouse showed up.

But LSS' entire course of action was apparently a ruse -- a means of ascertaining whether her suspicions were well-founded and, when she confirmed that she was right about that, a means of drawing out all of the particulars. I still don't understand all of this.

But it was a grand party.

And I only wish it had been on Saturday... because I'm moving just a little slowly today.


sari said...

Oh my gosh, I'm tired just reading about everything!

Glad the party turned out well, though!

Happy Anniversary!

MommasWorld said...

Congratulations to you and LSS!! Happy 25th Anniversary!! Now the Happy Anniversary song will be stuck in my head all day. Well, until I pick up Snow White from daycare, then it will be some Disney song.

I was so relieved to read the happy ending. While I was reading I kept thinking “She has to go!” In my mind I was begging her to go.

I know how you feel, I had the same “slow moving” Sunday. I think I have recovered from Friday night Slumber Party. Yes, you were right, they ~ never ~ sleep at sleep overs.

Have a Fantastic Day!

Smalltown RN said...

wow see that is the problem with's so hard to keep them that way...I hope your wife ended up having some fun...sounds like you did.....congratulations to you both!!!


Mother Jones RN said...

Wowser, what a story! Happy 25th Anniversary!


anyjazz said...

Funny, funny stuff!

Hilda said...

Happy Anniversary!

I totally agree with your LSS - I *hate* surprise parties - not only receiving one, but even attending them are too much stress. Where do you park? Are you there on time? Are you quiet enolugh when the surprisee is at the door? Honestly, there just isn't enough liquor in the world.

Now my MIL is *dying* to throw me a surprise party - so I suspect she's gonna spring something on us at some point. I have made it abundantly clear that I don't like them, but hubby's entire family loves this sort of thing. I've warned them I'll go all Little Havana on their azzes, but they don't even care!

Bah humbug!

Lynn said...

Congratulations to you and LSS on your 25th anniversary! How wonderful that the two of you have so many people who love you enough to throw you a surprise party.

LSS is one smart cookie...working everyone until she found out what she needed to know in order for her to feel comfortable...good for her!...Don't be so hard on yourself...sometimes being oblivious is the safest was to be:~)

Where fibers meet mud said...

Woo HOO! Happy 25!

The story is too cute. I have solved the "surprise syndrome" in my family - I learned (after 35 years of bliss) to plan an event around the day and make it as I want - which is usually low key!

It takes a little effort but I hate to be surprised because I never am dressed right and usually am inbetween haircuts!

Enjoy the landmark year! Go out and trip the light fantastic by yourselves at a place and time of your choosing and laugh right out loud about all the silly things you have endured over the years!


The Curmudgeon said...

Thank you all for your good wishes.

I tried to figure out how much of LSS' anger was ruse and how much was genuine... but I don't think I've solved it yet. "Didn't you have a nice time?" I asked.

"Well," she said, "it was nice to see everybody. It was nice to see Penny. Although we didn't talk that much. But you were obviously having a good time... and I was happy to see you happy."

So I'm still confused... but I think she had a good time too.

Claire said...

I am confused too:)
But it seems to worked out well in the end!


Anonymous said...

You do sound a very patient man, you must give my husband lessons.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

What a long story! Congratulations on your Anniversary.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

i think my invitation was lost in the mail curmy. sorry i wasn't there. was there cake?

smiles, bee

(drat! i KNOW there was cake!)

Patti said...

Happy Silver Anniversary to you both!

You're correct, I did suspect that there was a party involved after awhile!! :-)

Sounds like you had fun. I can't tell if LSS did. Wait a week and ask her again if she enjoyed it.

What kind of cake was there?