Home for the Holidays

A survivor’s frightening account.

T’was the night before leaving for Pittsburgh, and Mom called to inform me that it was very cold there. I hid my shock well, though I lived in Boston and it was the end of November. I assured her I’d bring a coat. She said she had called four times before, and hung up when she heard, “that answering machine pick up.” In five weeks, it will be 1990, except at Mom and Dad’s house, where 1956 will never end. Before she could say “See you tomorrow,” Dad interrupted to remind me to get to the airport half an hour before my flight. He said they would be waiting for me “with painted breath.”

The next morning would begin the four hellish days spent with my family. Ninety-six hours jam-packed with television, eating and being treated like an idiot.

I took a coat. Even though I’m 40 years old with a grown child of my own, I respond to these parental directives with the fevered, “Gimme a *^#!@!! break!” of a 15 year old. I had half a mind not to take a bloody coat. Whenever I deal with my parents, in fact, it’s with half a mind. What kind of ignoramus do they take me for? OK, OK: I should know better. But this problem doesn’t reside in the domain of knowing. This one is in the gut, where only anti-anxiety drugs seem to help.

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