Saturday, October 22, 2016

When Med School and Family Merge

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I believe that I've shared this story from my family's archives. Nonetheless, I'll share it now on the outside chance either that  I dreamed having shared it but didn't actually do so, or that I did share it and you happened to miss that particular blog.  If I did share it and you didn't miss it, either skip this blog or prepare to be bored. I apologize in advance.

My grandmother was in the hospital a couple of summers ago with pancreatitis. In her absence someone probably grocery shopped for my grandfather, in addition to preparing meals for him, because I cannot imaging that he possesses the mental faculties required to transport himself to and from a supermarket, much less to navigate his way through the various sections of a grocery store and to make purchases of food he could either eat without cooking or, God forbid, actually cook. (The Earth might cease to rotate if my grandfather were ever observed or even rumored to have done woman's work.) Someone usually goes inside his condo and disables the microwave if my grandmother is ill or otherwise away from home for a significant amount of time because he doesn't understand the concept of not putting metal inside a microwave and then operating it, and he has destroyed multiple microwave ovens and nearly started an equal number of house fires. Whoever came up with the idea  that a person would need to possess intelligence in order to help to direct the upper levels of a church has very little association with reality.

Anyway, when my grandmother is ill or otherwise indisposed, someone comes into the condo to bring food, clear away the old food, or what's left of it, anyway (my grandfather cannot be bothered even with carting his dishes to the sink; he's too holy and has to much of of the Lord's business on his mind to be bothered with such mundane chores), clean up the mess that my grandfather has made of the place while eating (once we brought our dog to my grandparents' condo while we were visiting; in a two-hour visit, the dog managed to gain nearly a pound just from lingering near my wherever my grandfather stationed himself, and it wasn't as though my grandfather was deliberately slipping treats to the dog, either, as my grandfather hates dogs every bit as much as he hates people; it's just that he's such a slob that an entire meal may be made  of the food that he drops while feeding himself; and yes, he is senile, but not THAT senile) and take care of other basic cleaning chores (I'd be really surprised to find out that my grandfather even flushes the toilet after himself; his excuse is probably that Jesus didn't flush toilets, so why should he?).  Come to think of it, except for cooking and cleaning up after meals. and most of their meals are restaurant meals, someone does almost everything for them even when my grandmother is at home and is well.

Anyway,  my grandparents receive all this pampering at the hands of a church membership that, in theory, cannot  afford even to pay for professional services to clean its local buildings and instead requires its local members to show up on designated Saturdays with their own cleaning products to scrub toilets and take care of other cleaning chores. My dad keeps eagerly anticipating the time when two different members unwittingly pour incompatible cleaning products into the same toilet and cause either an explosion or unintentional chemical warfare, killing god knows how many. It's not the incidental deaths that my dad eagerly anticipates (at least I hope it isn't, though he may be more morbid than I know) but, rather, the opportunity to highlight just how parsimonious this very wealthy church is in its ways of dealing with local members. The head honchos in Salt Lake City, however, are treated in anything but a penurious manner. (I would have loved to have used the word niggardly here, but the very last thing I need is for my  less-than erudite relatives to accuse me of overt racism in my blog.) They, the Salt Lake city elite, are not scrubbing their own toilets, much less those of the the churches they attend. 

I digress again. The hired help does a good job of taking care of my grandparents, and particularly of my grandfather during the times when my grandmother is not around to manage even the basics, but one thought never occurred to me pertaining to any of these domestic helpers: I really wonder if these workers are documented, i.e. possess green cards; it's neither here nor there, but my curiosity is piqued. One thought that never occurred to the domestic helpers, apparently,  was  to clean out the refrigerator when my grandmother is not around. In at least one instance, they clearly did not.

My Uncle Lee paused in the kitchen for long enough to notice that my grandfather had seated himself in the breakfast nook of the condo and was feeding himself one spoonful after another of mold-laden cottage cheese.  The idea of eating cottage cheese in its pristine state is more than enough to make me gag, but my grandfather was helping himself to a full carton of a mold-enhanced version of the vile concoction. "Trogolodyte!"  *** my Uncle Lee said to his father-in-law [my Uncle Lee obviously did not address my grandfather as Troglodyte, but since I cannot use his actual name here, Troglodyte seems as fitting as any other pseudonym], "You can't eat that! It's full of mold! Can't you see the mold there?"

"Mold, schmold!" Troglodyte answered him. 'What do you think they make penicillin from, anyway? Everyone knows penicillin is good for you, so mold is obviously good for you, too! Didn't your dang medical school teach you anything?"  Uncle Lee was and is a doctor, though not necessarily a very good one. Troglodyte continued spooning one bite after another of the puce-green-and-white mixture from the carton into his mouth. Meanwhile my Uncle Michael walked into the room.

"Trogolodyte is eating moldy cottage cheese," I told my uncle. My Uncle Michael took one look at the situation, grabbed the cottage cheese container from his father's hand, walked over to the sink, turned on the water, flushed the stuff into the garbage disposal, then flipped the garbage disposal's switch.

"Dagnabit!" Troglodyte yelled. "What in the Sam Hill do you think you're doing, throwing away perfectly good food?"  He stood and moved toward me, as though either to kick or slap me, considering that this incident was in some way my fault.

"Don't touch her," my Uncle Michael warned Troglodyte as he stepped between the beast and me. "She didn't do anything to you." "Ihere are enough bacteria and mycotoxins in that cottage cheese to kill you if you eat enough of it," my uncle said to the Troglodyte. Then he whispered under his breath where only I could hear it, "But he's probably been eating that garbage far so long that it probably wouldn't even have any effect on him. It's just that the rest of us don't need to get sick from watching him eat it."

I hadn't mentioned in an earlier blog that I learned very recently that my paternal grandmother has been giving extravagant birthday, Christmas, and other  gifts and checks to my brother but not to me. My parents kept this information form me for quite some time, but I eventually learned of it when Matthew left a sizable check lying from her around that was a gift for passing the USMLE. Matthew didn't leave the check where I would find it to be hurtful to me. He had no idea I didn't receive one as well.

I initially kept this information from my blog with the rationale that if my feelings were hurt, it would be a source of mirth to many of my less-than-kind relatives. instead, I decided to share the information. I'm probably not the only black sheep in this loosely-bound organization to which some would euphemistically refer as a family. We, my grandmother's progeny, deserve to know where we stand. My guess is that roughly 80% of us have been on the receiving end of generous gifts and checks from my grandmother.  I could have erred in either direction. Perhaps I really am the only one who is not a regular stipendiary of her fortune.  If such were the case, though, I'd be very surprised.

I wrote a sincere and heartfelt letter to my grandmother in which I expressed my hurt feelings at her preferential treatment in favor of Matthew. I sent it by certified mail. She received it. I have have no way of knowing for certain that she actually read or even opened it. In any event, I gave her ample time to respond. She chose not to do so.  Cousins, if you're among the recipients of our grandmother's generosity, you can either consider yourselves to be fortunate, or you can consider yourselves the beneficiaries of a cold-hearted woman who uses her considerable financial resource to the betterment of some while deliberately disregarding others, perhaps even for the sick pleasure of pitting the haves against the have-nots.

I hope that if I ever possess sufficient means to make a difference in any way, that I will use what I have to help rather than to hurt people.

*** Thanks to Judge Alex Ferrer for the inspiration for my grandfather's new name. Judge Ferrer observed that some people are not very evolved.  That description certainly fits my grandfather, who shall be known in this blog and in any future references in or out of this by me as Troglodyte.

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Couldn't enlarge it any further. Sorry!


  1. Hilarious cartoon! Do you think your grandparents are slighting you because you threw away the moldy cottage cheese? ("Stop sending the checks, dagnabit! The girl doesn't know the value of a dollar.") That would be a new low in Mormon shunning. But the pattern is very familiar. They are justified in dismissing the less worthy. Sorry Alexis!! :(

    1. My Uncle Michael actually scooped the cottage cheese down the disposal. The last I heard, his kids are still getting checks and frequent gifts.It's weird, because he stands up to them more than almost anyone, but because he's a TBM they forgive anything he does.

  2. Grandma sucks. Not because she's a mormon, but because she's a terrible person. The church simply gives her the justification she requires to be so self-righteous. Money is a weapon to some people, a means of control. You don't want her money, you don't need her crap. Your success and happiness are the best revenge.

    1. Heather, you are so very right. Mormonism is just the vehicle that facilitates being an ugly person for my grandmother. She would find a way to mistreat humanity even if she were in the Peace Corps. I really hope she lives long enough to see me be professionally [and personally, if I'm so fortunate] successful. I'm almost sure she'll live long enough not to be invited to my medical school graduation. I'm not sure how I will persuade Matthew NOT to invite her since his graduation/convocation and mine will be one and the same. Twins will usually stick together in such matters, but if I have to write out a check to him of the same amount that hers would have been, I will do so with pleasure. Then again, I'll presumably graduate with high honors, while Matthew will presumably graduate. It would be OK for her to see that, and it would be OK at the time to look straight through her as though I've never seen her before, as in, "Oh, you're that person who writes checks to my brother every year on our birthday but can't quite seem to remember when mine is even though it's on THE SAME FUCKING DAY! Nice to meet you, bitch!" I probably would not be quite so explicit, but the sentiment will be there.

    2. You understand that she sends Matthew large checks just to fuck with you, right? Not an oversight, intentional fuckery. You've suggested in earlier posts that you have more money than him, and that you really don't need the cash. So here is my recommendation to deal with grandma at graduation, or any other time you should be so unfortunate as to see her. She expects (and is hoping for) hurt and anger. Grace is your friend. Your exceptional politeness is your weapon. And if the issue of $$ arises, perhaps genuinely (or as genuine as your acting skills will allow) thanking her for helping Matthew through med school would really piss her off. If you can stomach it, maybe "Oh, Matthew is SO bad with money. You're so sweet to help him out. I know he appreciates it". I'll bet Matthew wouldn't mind.

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    4. Heather, I LOVE the "Matthew is so bad with money. Thank you for helping him out" line. That will grate on her nerves like nothing else would.

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    1. I'm not even sure why she singled out Matthew of all people for favoritism, but then, I don't know how many favorites there actually are.