After completing our somewhat overdue grocery and booze shopping this morning (we were out of practically everything), we ventured to pay a visit first to my parents and later to my sister and her husband.
My mother was not in particularly good humour today. By her own admission, she is tired of looking after things, something I think we can all relate to from time to time, though in the same breath she insists that she will host the customary Christmas family dinner at her house again this year. My sister and I, in the interest of relieving mother of all the work, had suggested instead a family luncheon at the Château Laurier Hotel, but mother dismissed that possibility, as much as I think it would have made for a pleasant change and even the beginning of a new and enjoyable tradition.
My father, as usual, had something negative to say about everything, a talent he has perfected to punctuate almost any comment made by another. While at first he appears to enthuse about a visit from us, and professes to be anxious to gather the local scuttlebutt, he quickly turns the conversation into an endless collection of criticisms and cynicisms. If one isn't alive to the distortion being foisted by him upon a conversation, it inevitably turns into a monologue more closely resembling a rhetorical lecture on the failings of the government, the car industry or any other topical institution (he appears to be particularly unfond of Michael Ignatieff, whose name he pronounces the way only a thoroughly unilingual person from New Brunswick can do). Once he gathers speed in these matters, it is impossible to derail him except by ignoring him entirely or talking over him (the latter method being moderately more effective because, in view of his increasing deafness, he is never sure whether you're saying anything pertinent to what he has said, so it comes off as less than a complete slight).
In the end, however, a visit to the parents becomes agitated and increasingly preposterous. There is of course no telling them anything; and sooner than later, everyone is shouting at one another or telling the other to shut up. Nonetheless I admit to some conceit in having succeeded in pissing them off in the same way they pissed me off so many times in my younger years, by presuming to tell me how to run my life. Rather fun to return the favour, I must say!
Fortified by this nutritious bit of family fodder, we decided to pursue the line of enquiry by paying a visit to my sister and her husband, more particularly because they were in the throes of doing a rather extensive (and expensive) make-over of their kitchen in their singular home off the Driveway. This adventure has been the hot family topic for months, as its development has been nursed along with detail after detail, not to mention the customary surprises which arose as the various contractors began dealing with the project on the ground, not merely on paper. Upon our arrival, my sister gave a heated introduction to the renovation, which by all standards is excellent. During this display, my brother-in-law was subjected to bits of spousal abuse which my sister seems to have inherited from our mother. As my brother-in-law observed, the renovation has not been without its moments, as I have no doubt. Nonetheless, after we retired from the scene of the crime into the front parlour, the conversation became more general, oddly including a discussion of our Wills, which I felt might as well be put into the open just in case there was ever any debate about where the millions are going when we're gone. Naturally, I mean that my sister (and ultimately my nieces) are among the chosen residual beneficiaries. Hopefully, this forward thinking will placate any embarrassment I might feel for not buying the girls a new car.
All in all a rewarding day with the family!