Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Three! It's a magic number

You seem appalled that we've had a houseguest for eight weeks. Here's what happened.

"Uncle" J is one of our oldest friends here--he worked with Pynchon at his first job here, and helped him to land the second one, where they worked together again. They went out drinking and dancing and caroused together. But I got to know and like J too: he was into celebrity gossip and home fashion and is a great conversationalist (which is to say, he asks me lots of questions about myself). Single and with no family in the area, we began to adopt J as a member of our family and he us: when Munchkin was born, he arranged to have our first dinner at home catered; in turn, we invited him over in the week of quiet time we had arranged to keep just to ourselves.

J's been ill. When I was pregnant with Munchkin, he had a bad hernia, and a worse emergency hernia operation that resulted in a serious infection (two weeks in hospital!) and permanent nerve damage that has seen him lose two jobs over two months-long stints on disability, in terrible pain. Since February, he's been on leave from his latest job, ill at home: demoralized, depressed, lonely, worried. We tried to help, with visits and drives to far-away medical appointments, and caring.

July 2, while I was Up North with Munchkin, Pynchon came home to find J sitting on a lawn chair in our driveway, with suitcases at his feet. He had been (illegally) evicted from his apartment, and could he stay with us a day or two?

Ultimately, a social service agency arranged for him to be able to remove his belongings from the apartment, and Pynchon and a buddy put them all in storage. J and his vast trove of pharmaceuticals took up residence in our guest room. For "just a couple of days," he said--days that began to stretch into weeks.

He is a gracious guest: he helps with childcare and is tidy and pleasant. But we didn't know his plans and were worried. Pynchon told him he could stay for 4-6 weeks, until he got it all sorted out. J began to feel better and started back at his job in Toronto (he works for the 'Movie Carnival' that begins to run in a couple of weeks, so it's very intense). Still, nothing on the horizon for a move out date. And it's been eight weeks now. He's still here, and we are beginning to chafe.

We have been glad to help. We are so lucky in terms of our health, our jobs, the stability of our family life--hell, our square footage. But we want to be our family again.

Our family.

What, actually, has most surprised me from this was how much Munchkin and Pynchon and Mimi have coalesced into a real family unit. It was such a shock when we brought our new baby home from the hospital: our whole lives seemed thrown out of whack. There was a stranger living with us, a stranger who wouldn't leave. Our habits were discombobulated; we became self-conscious. Somehow, though, in the two intervening years, we have become three--something I noticed a little when we moved into our new house and it seemed right that we three ordered in our pizza and stomped through the empty house together. Munchkin and Pynchon and Mimi is who we are now, a three that is one. "Uncle J", as close a friend of the family as he is, is not a member of this unit, and our rhythm as a family is thrown off by the syncopation of his constant presence. We are not, individually, quite ourselves, and we are not, collectively, our family.

We need our house back. We need to be us again, speaking our family nonsense language, running around in our underwear, cracking the veneer of polite detachment, stringing together the little intimacies that bind us to one another, that make us us.


Assertagirl said...

May I suggest some loud, obnoxious sex? Something that'll make him uncomfortable enough to get the heck out?!

You and Pynchon have such wonderful, generous hearts.

Beck said...

And yeah, I've been there. When The Girl was... lemme think... around a year old, my brother broke up with his girlfriend, was jobless and decided to move into the other bedroom in our TWO BEDROOM apartment. Where we were already a three person family. GOsh, that was cozy. He lived with us for MONTHS. Lovely.

kittenpie said...

Exactly what I'm talking about - you need your space to be yourselves, not the public selves.

Patti said...

Ugh, that's a tough situation. I'm sure J is very grateful for you guys; hoping he soon realizes he needs to find his own space again.

Mandy said...

That's a tough one. I would say, start asking how the apt hunting is going. Start leaving leads out for him to follow. If there's no movement in another 2-3 weeks, give him a hard and fast deadline (like 2 more weeks) to find a place.

You've been extremely generous as it is. Nice, neat and pleasant though he may be, he currently has no incentive to move out.

Cheryl said...

Imagine, my MIL would visit us in the U.S. for 6 weeks at a time-twice a year and we had to give her a deadline or she would've stayed longer!
You've been extremely generous. I'm sure that he appreciates your help and given that he's a decent person, he's probably on his way out, maybe a nudge might get him going.

Kyla said...

Still? Oh my, Mimi!

Wishing you house guest-free home very soon!

Jenifer said...

The proverbial rock and hard place...you have been more than generous. I am sure your friend realizes that. I hope he is back on his feet and living under his own roof soon.

Mad said...

One of L's actors ended up in our house for 4.5 months, arriving on the day we moved in. I have never been happier to see the backside of someone even though I really quite liked this person herself. Here's hoping J is gone soon to some sort of stable location for him and his future.

Bon said...

fish and visitors...oy, Mimi. i personally don't do well with anyone in my house for more than a week, because of that very thing you describe, the coalescence, the invasion on our us-ness, however mundane.

i am also a major chickenshit who has no suggestions about how to politely, um, make him GO.

best of luck. to J...and to you guys.

NotSoSage said...

But how lovely that you wouldn't have necessarily had this lesson driven home quite so hard if J hadn't stuck around for so long.

Sorry...I shouldn't not read for a month and then go all Pollyanna on your ass.

Sage out.

Denguy said...

Wow, you brave souls--and generous. My wife has a "one night" rule for ANY visitor. She hates when people interrupt her family routine.

Janet said...

Eight weeks is a very long time.

We had a friend of mine live in our extra room in the basement for four months once, while she was on a work placement. It was just my husband and I back then but it still threw us off centre. I can't imagine doing it now, as a family of five.

nomotherearth said...

We found out the same thing on our trip to PEI. Every family has a rhythm, and - fun or not - it gets thrown out of whack when other people are thrown into our midst.

Bea said...

Mimi? Are you there?

Patti said...

Missing your posts!