Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hospitality 101

turkey Pictures, Images and Photos
I packed up the car to leave as he was on his hands and knees with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels working to erase all traces that we had ever been there. I made the decision to leave somewhere between "before you get started cleaning up, when are you leaving?" and him dragging out the vacuum cleaner and pulling furniture from the wall to catch any errant dog hair which was barely visible to the naked eye after a mere two days visiting for the holiday. Traveling is already its own little hell; staying somewhere that you are constantly reminded how put out your host is makes it heartbreaking. Driving away, I actually physically ached in a way that reminded me of the soul-punching disappointment of a failed relationship. I don't know what it is in him that reflexively knows how best to feed a lifetimes worth of hang-ups and neuroses but the man has a gift. I like to joke that my father is a man who will give the shirt off his back but will make sure to let you know how much it costs. He'll also let you know how cold he is now, but that he's glad and blessed he had the shirt to give. Catholic and Jewish guilt, you've met your match; miscegenation brings us the best of both worlds.

Very aware (again) of how having a dog in the house was near anathema to my father, I sought to earn my keep for the few days I stayed with them and left, wounded and semi-determined to not stay with them again. I ran errands, picked up prescriptions, and tried to minimize the impact of our presence as much as possible. I slept on the couch because the dog was not permitted upstairs, endured recurring comments about dog hair, and watched him grimace every time she shook or scratched behind her ears. He took a picture of my dog and printed it for me and told me the title of the picture was 'No dogs in the house.' I told him I didn't get it. He kept going on about needing a day to clean up after I left and even though I told him I would clean up, I packed up the car and dog to leave while he was on his hands and knees hand-wiping the floor because I wasn't going to be an additional source of stress for him. If he was that put out to accommodate us, he should have just said no.

It is so cliche to invoke the father daughter relationship as the backbone of any discussion on how women deal with men but what I learned about love from my father is that it is conditional and that you both earn and show love through work. You work to jettison guilt or prevent censure. So friends, I don't know what kind of guest I am but know that I'm really uncomfortable being your guest and this is why. I know exactly how put out you are and feel like it is only really acceptable to foist that inconvenience on family. I try to relax by thinking of how I would want you to feel in my home (welcome and carefree). But if you find yourself arguing with me over trying to leave things as I found them (i.e. washing sheets, towels, cleaning), here's the reason you should just let me do it. It is the only sure way I know to convey gratitude and affection and ensure most importantly that you won't resent me (at least not for that). I know it's the right thing to do for the wrong reasons but trust that I am a work in progress and hope one day to rest as easy with you as I should in my own home. If nothing else, I hope it makes me a better host.


uno said...

I feel like the last comments are for me. I will try to remember when you come be the "nanny" but please know that I was raised differently though. I thoroughly enjoy when you come for a visit--I understand how many moons had to align to get you here. And being together when we can makes it seem like we are not so far apart when we are. You honestly are not a difficult houseguest at all--sometimes you are a pain though in that you try to be so easy that when I want an opinion from you it is like pulling teeth and you have your mouth closed! We love you and want you to visit whenever you can and Baloo will ALWAYS be welcome, hair and all! :)

Kill Tandon aka Castron Dillon aka Roya Roya said...

I chuckled when I read this. Pops is a trip. Gotta remember though, he is an ex-stray dog slayer. It's kinda like bringing a vietnamese man into a nam-vets home for thanksgiving.

IP said...

Castron: you made me laugh out loud. What is he going to do when I bring home his future son-in-law, Tron?

uno: I like the name! the last comments weren't for you though I've been your guest more than anyone I know--they are for anyone. Especially for those whose invitations I have never accepted because I don't know them well enough to inconvenience them. Promise you'll let me do the sheets next time, though? :-)