And You Think Your Family Is Matto?

Back in February I approached my Papa about taking my grandma on a trip to Arizona.  I wasn’t sure how he would feel about it; since she has Alzheimer’s, I’m pregnant and I’m sort of the “baby” of the family….maybe I should back-up?

What’s the saying – ‘Family, can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em?’  I love my family dearly, but they definitely make me matto (Italian for “crazy.”)  Being of Italian descent (have I mentioned before that I’m Italian?) my family definitely favors many Italian stereotypes.  We are the big loud Italian family, run by our own “Godfather” my beloved Papa.  Side note: Every time I see my Papa he’s wearing a different t-shirt that says “Proud to be Italian.” Or “I know You Wish You Were Italian.”  (I’m not joking, he must have hundreds!)  And just for a visual, he also carries a coffee mug that says “Of course I’m a Republican.”  I just adore him.

My Papa and I in our Italian duds

My Papa and grandma have five children – my mother being the eldest.  My mom had me at a young age so her baby sister was just nine when she became an auntie to me.  Naturally as the first granddaughter I was absolutely adored by all (are you even surprised?).  Because my mom was young we spent a lot of time with my grandparents and her siblings.  I almost became the sixth child in a sense.  But, as the years have passed I’ve kind of turned into the black sheep of the family, or maybe the pink sheep. 

I have always beaten to my own drum.  I have always liked to do things in my own way.  I have the same strength and independence as my Papa.  I’m a very ambitious and driven person.  I strive for excellence every day.  I am very hard on myself, and I know I get this from my upbringing.  I always want to better…I can be better, do better, be more attractive, make more money….In the end it leaves you truly never satisfied, but that’s a blog for a different day.  On the positive end of it, I can pretty much get anything accomplished that I set my mind to.  (Remember, I’m writing my first novel, tentatively titled “Concrete Boots!”)

So now with this background information you know that I am the oldest child (obviously possessing first born traits like being assertive and a perfectionist), with a touch of baby of the family syndrome (my narcissistic and manipulative nature, as well as my extreme sensitivity).

Now back to the beginning!  Back in February I approached my Papa and asked to take my gram to AZ.  I wanted to take her for my cousin’s high school graduation.  My Papa supported the idea and was all for it.  Unfortunately, money grew tighter and tighter and I pushed off booking the trip for several months.  Sometimes procrastinating pays off – as with most of my college papers – but not in the case of buying airfare.  Ticket prices went through the roof!

I determined that I absolutely could NOT back out of this commitment.  I was taking my gram to AZ even if it meant being the first 6th month pregnant stripper at Diamonds Gentlemen’s Club’s “Amateur Night.”  For weeks I watched ticket prices.  I prayed they would drop – or that I would magically get a $1,000 check in the mail made out to moi.  Neither happened. (Remember the book “The Secret?” – ALL LIES!)

So what do I do?  I continue to procrastinate.  I figure it will “come to me.”  It will all work out.

My uncle called me.  He had gotten wind of this (Italians like to talk and aren’t capable of keeping a secret).  He thought it was great that I wanted to take my gram to AZ.  He heard money was tight and offered to help pay for my gram’s ticket.  While that was an extremely generous offer, I do have my pride.  Of course, I declined his money.  I can do this; I can do this all by myself.

I ended up having to change our flight plans.  Sure I was disappointed, but it seemed silly to spend $800 to fly to AZ for five days to see my cousin’s graduation, that which my gram in her Alz state of mind won’t even remember.  I do have a baby on the way, and I should be saving money.  Why not go in early May, when the travel is WAY cheaper?  We can celebrate Mother’s Day, my b-day and my cousin’s 18th b-day!  We can go for 7 days!  Perfect.  Booked the trip for $500.  And before you ask, of course I asked my Papa.  He’s the Godfather, remember?

I left my uncle a voicemail thanking him for his generous offer and telling him of our alternate plans.  He called me back.  WTF?  He is disappointed that I did not book the trip over the graduation.  I explained to him that I didn’t feel right taking his money and that I’m doing the best that I can.  I can’t take criticism and was feeling defensive.  Gosh, I’m the granddaughter/baby of the family for Pete’s sake!  Can’t this family be happy that I’m taking her out there?  I’m taking a week off work unpaid two months before my maternity leave?  I’m spending money that I don’t have (remember, maxed credit cards!) to fly us out there.  Why can’t they just be happy that we’re going???? (My entire family actually suffers from “Never Being Satisfied Syndrome.”)

My uncle was very kind don’t get me wrong – he offered to pay the difference to change the flights and he suggested I talk to my Papa further about this and maybe ask my gram what she wants to do.  After all, she still has an opinion right?  I slept on it that night.  Part of me understood what he said, but the other part of me was all, “Stay out of my business, yo!”

I emailed my Papa, the pleaser that I am (first born trait), and asked him what to do.  I don’t want anyone upset with me!  I just want to do a nice thing!  I expressed my confusion and frustration…it all came out….prego hormones, I tell ya.  I thought my Papa would email me back a terse email.  “I don’t have time for this Jennifer,”  “Your feelings are stupid Jennifer,” or even worse, “Grow up Jennifer.”

It took him a day and a half to respond.  But what came back to me was the most important email that I’ve ever received in my life.  It is personal and private, and for me.  It is words that I will cherish forever.  It is my Papa telling me what I needed to hear, but without telling me what to do. 

My family has always been like an octopus.  My Papa was the head floating around the ocean, and all of his arms were his wife, his children, and ME!  The head tells us what to do and we listen.  We follow.  We do as we’re told.  But it wasn’t like that.  This time it was different.  What I will share, is the common thread amongst my entire family – our pride.  My Papa encouraged me to swallow my pride, as he was told to do one year ago when my gram was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Fast forward to today.  I called my gram at lunch and told her I have a huge surprise for her.  She was beyond excited.  I told her about the trip to AZ and gave her a choice to fly in early May or late May.  And this is where the hilarity ensues.

My gram can’t make a decision for the life of her, as she can’t even remember the dates I keep giving her.  I repeat the dates maybe five times.  We hang up.  I email my Papa and ask him what he thinks she wants to do, as she wouldn’t make a decision.  I call my aunt in AZ to see what she thinks and if we can switch it.  Well, she’s just hung up with my Papa.  Seems he called her to tell her that as long as she can get graduation tickets for my gram and I that we are switching the dates.

My aunt, confused, says, “What are you talking about?  The trip is booked.  The tickets were too much money.”

My Papa – ever the old school Italian that we love so much – responds, “Don’t worry about it.”

My aunt, worried about it, repeats, “Dad, Jen already booked the tickets.  The airfare was too high.”

Papa repeats, “Don’t worry about it.”

She goes on to say to me, “Well, your mom may be coming out the week that you and Grandma are supposed to be.”

WTF?  I asked my mom BEFORE I booked the trip if she wanted to come out to AZ with us.  She said she would have liked to but money was tight and she was taking a family trip with my aunts and gram in July.

I say to my aunt, “What are you talking about; she can’t afford it because she’s going to Florida.”

My aunt says, “The Florida trip got cancelled.  Steve won’t get out of the house.”

WTF is she talking about?

Me: “Who is Steve?”

My aunt: “So-and-so’s husband…they are getting a divorce and he won’t leave the house so the trip is cancelled.  Your mom called me yesterday and said maybe she could fly out here instead.”

Me: “You’d think she’d mention it to me since I was the one who invited her in the first place!”

My aunt: “Yea, well, she was gonna sleep on it and get back to me today.  So, I better call her and tell her to call you.”

Me: “Ok, I will call Uncle to confirm the price change, and then I have to call the airline to find out how to even change the tickets.”

My aunt: “Right.  I’ll call your mom.  You call me back.”

Me: “Ok, I’ll call you later.”

At 4:30 p.m. my mom is calling me.

Mom: “What the heck is going on?”

Me: “OMG, this trip has turned into a fiasco!”

Mom: “I guess so….Aunt told me they want you to change it.”

I proceed to give her deets on the situation.

Mom: “If I were you I would say no, I’m not changing it.  This is when I’m going.”

I may be the pink sheep, but I certainly don’t like to ruffle any feathers – especially my Papa’s!

Me: “I couldn’t do that, Mom.  Papa sent me a really nice email telling me basically to swallow my pride.”

Mom: “Well where is Uncle getting the money from?”

Me: “I don’t know, but the fact of the matter is I have $100 in my checking account until pay day.  I literally can NOT change the tickets without his money.  So are you going to come?”

Mom: “I want to come, but I’m still not sure.  I definitely can’t go later in the month.  If I go it has to be on the trip that is already booked.”

We continue to go back and forth – some of which I’m sorry to say must remain private.  If you knew you’d be like WTF, trust me.  As we’re discussing the web of drama that has been spun out of control we can only laugh.  This is nothing new.  This is our family.  DRAMA.  This is how I became an uber drama-queen.

Me: “Mom, Aunt is calling me on the other line.  Let me call you back.”

Aunt: “What is going on?”

Me: “I was just talking to my mom.”

Aunt: “And?”

Me: “She’s still not sure about booking a ticket out here.  She’s worried about the cost.”

Aunt: “I already offered to pay for her ticket and she said no.”

Me: “I know, she said she will not take your money.  I told her what Papa said about letting go of your pride and she said ‘he would never do that, are you kidding?’”

Aunt: “Well, I really want her to come.”

Me: “So do I.”

Aunt: “I don’t think you should change the trip.”

Me: “Neither do I.”

We continue to discuss, as I open my pink Dell laptop and check airfare to the desert.

Me: “OMG, the prices have dropped!”
Doesn’t that ALWAYS happen?????

Aunt: “My computer is down.  I’m giving you my credit card right now and you are booking your mom.”

Me (I’m so not a bad-ass when it comes to my family!  I’m a perpetual wimp!): “NO WAY!  She would kill me.  You need to call her first.”

Aunt: “OK, so I’m calling your mom and Papa and then I’m calling you back.”

We hang up. 

Mom: “I don’t want to be manipulated.  I never said I was 100% going and Aunt tells Papa that and now wants you to book my ticket.”

Me (laughing): “I knew you would be mad.  I’m so glad I told her to call you first.”

Today at 10:30 a.m.

I get an email from my Papa.  It says he has found out that my mom can no longer go.  Stomach drops, yikes!  What does this mean?

I call Aunt: “I got an email from Papa.  I don’t get it.”

Aunt: “Well, what’s it say?”

I read it to her and say: “I don’t know what this means?”

Aunt: “Neither do I.  Well, my computer is back up, and I emailed him last night letting him know your mom is not coming.  I checked my email this morning and he hadn’t responded.”

Me: “He responded to me!”

Aunt: “Your mother!  Why wouldn’t she just come?”

Me: “She’s stubborn.”

Aunt: “Well, I better call her and tell her to call Papa and discuss it with him.”

Me (gasping): “OMG, she is going to kill you.”

Aunt: “Why?”

Me: “Cuz she was mad you even got her involved in this.  She said she doesn’t like to be rushed to make a decision.  And now you’re telling her to call Papa?”  I laugh.  This is rather amusing at this point.  This is like the 4th time we are discussing changing a trip that is book for 2 weeks from now!

Aunt: “OK, I’m gonna call your mom.  I’m gonna tell her to call Papa, and I’ll call you back later today.”

Me: “OK, I’ll check airfare again and text you the prices.”

We hang up.

Are you as confused as I am?

Are you starting to see why I’m matto, loca, verruckt, crazy, etc?  Is it starting to make sense now? 

While it’s extremely annoying and drives me absolutely insane….I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Family – you can’t live with ‘em, you can’t live without ‘em.  And if you’re wondering, no I don’t know what is going on with this flight yet.  The craziness will continue tonight in a mass game of “he said-she said Telephone” and I guarantee by the end of the night I’ll be beating my head against the wall and asking, “Where are we going again?”

Photo courtesy of

Author: jlee5879

Office manager by day...struggling writer by night

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