Merry Christmas! Quick! Someone call 911!!!
I started this off thinking I could get this all down in one post but as I started telling the story I realized this could be a 2, 3, maybe even 4 part series. So here's the beginning.
Part One: in which you meet my crazy father-in-law
Yesterday we had the Fresh Family Christmas (the Fresh Family being my husband's side) right here in our house. It was a mostly happy gathering of my divorced in-laws (each utterly insane in their own way), my two brothers-in-law and their wives, and my nephew).
Fresh Daddy was in the city earlier this week and made a pilgrimage to DiPalo's on Mott and Grand for some of the finest cheesiest this side of Italy. It was a mob scene but worth the wait, and, as everyone filtered in, we all enjoyed some delightful parmesan and pecorino cheeses. I had also made a couple trays of lasagne and Fresh Daddy made his meat sauce, and I had made a couple of pear pies and a chocolate mousse pie for dessert. And everyone else was bringing a little something to nosh on too.
I asked my father-in-law to bring a salad because he became anorexic about two years ago and (supposedly) ended his life-long love of bread and pasta. Okay, he's not really anorexic. But he's become obsessed with Bikram Yoga and now claims to only eat fish and vegetables and soup and subsequently lost a lot of weight, probably more than he should have (I'll probably weigh more than him after the holidays). He made a big stink a few months back to both Fresh Daddy and J., his younger brother, about how we always serve pasta when he comes to visit. "Dude, man, what's with the all the pasta? You guys are giving me, like, pasta poisoning." Yes, he says, "Dude, man." All the time in fact. He has called me "dude" and "man" on more occasions than I care to remember. Imagine Christopher Walken if he played a stoner or a surfer or, better yet, a stoned surfer. That's his voice. Now imagine him looking like Larry David, but a little shorter and thinner. There. You got it. That's him -- my FIL.
FIL considers himself a real gourmand and loves to cook and feed people, all the while playing International Man of Kitchen Mystery.
FIL: "Would you like some dessert? Have some dessert."
Me: "Well, what is it?"
FIL: "Oh, don't worry. You're gonna like it. You're really gonna like it."
Can you just tell me what the fuck it is? Why do I have to be surprised? He does that for everything. One year he made fish for Thanksgiving. Surprise! We're having fish! It was the most disappointing meal in the history of the world.
Also, his handling and preparation of food would get a big fat "F" from the Department of Health. They'd close his kitchen down faster than you can say "health hazard" if they got a look at it. I once saw him wipe the butter off a knife onto his shirt and then use it for something else. He keeps his cutting boards on the floor which are covered in dog hair. And he has to touch everything with his greasy hands which he doesn't wash as often as he should. His friend once said that he doesn't see dirt and truer words were never spoken. The lightswitch plates in his house are filthy, cabinets and knobs are literally stained with grease and chocolate and dirt.
But he was fishing around for something to bring and I knew he was going to have a fit over the lasagne dinner so I asked him to bring a salad. What can I tell you -- it's Christmas. I was trying to be generous.
My sister-in-law L. offered to make a warm spinach and artichoke dip which sounded heavenly to me so I put the kibosh on the spinach dip I was going to make (you know, the one in the bread bowl?).
Now, FIL lives in the Hamptons and we and J. and L. live upstate (G., the oldest brother, and his wife T. live in Queens). FIL decided to make an unexpected stop at J. and L.'s house for breakfast and to try to get L. to wrap his gifts for the kids. So here he comes at 8:30 in the morning, barreling through the house, dog in tow, in dog-shit laden shoes across several rooms of carpet. By the time anyone realizes, there's mounds of dog shit smashed into the beige carpet. J. is running around opening windows saying, "Dad, you've got to take your shoes off." FIL has some weird ankle thing and claims to need to wear his shoes at all times. So he takes them off and starts washing the dog shit off his shoes in the kitchen sink. Where L. has been draining spinach for the spinach and artichoke dip. Merry Christmas! Have some e.coli! Spinach goes into the garbage. Say good-bye to the spinach and artichoke dip.
He then proceeds to drive my SIL crazy by demanding wrapping paper and asking her to wrap gifts and demanding cards and insisting she had to have more cards, even though she said she didn't and wanting golden raisins for his oatmeal, not the other kind (apparently oatmeal is an acceptable carbohydrate). He's also one of those people that is just incredibly in the way all the time, and probably no more so than in the kitchen. He's always looking for something and needing something and asking you for a million different things and getting in the way and turning on appliances.
And he's a real klutz. For someone who considers himself Mr. Yoga, he needs to work on his balance. Or better yet, stop working on it. You could be standing around talking politics and he'll strike a pose. He's constantly stretching, leaning, standing on one foot, balancing on his heels, you name it. So yesterday in the midst of opening gifts he completely toppled over -- crash, bang, boom -- feet in the air, I don't even know what happened. I can't even tell you how many times he practically tripped over the kids. But thankfully nothing was broken and the gift opening continued.
As expected, he tossed his salad with his hands. He made a big show of washing his hands first (thank God) and declined the tongs I tried to offer him.
We all somehow managed to squeeze around my dining room table and I even ate some salad, trying not to think about the dog shit shoes and the hand tossing. FIL actually ate the lasagne and about 12 slices of bread. He's probably cursing me right now for ruining his pasta-free streak.
Next up: The Ambulance Arrives