Monday, August 21, 2006
Wisconsin Dells: The Finale
Poor George and I are safely back in New York, decompressing from the family "vacation."
Last I reported, we had gotten through most of the week without any major emotional dilemmas. My brother did have a significant meltdown at one point mid-week, but he did it only in front of my parents and me. Rich's tantrum was momentarily upsetting for my mom, but fortunately I was able to take him aside and talk him down in private. It only took about ninety minutes, and put me in quite a mood for the rest of the day. But at least my parents' 50th anniversary trip was still intact.
For a while it looked as though we were going to finish off the week without any further catastrophes. Wishful thinking.
Although Rich continued to be randomly drunk and belligerent at times, we made it right up to the final moments of our familial celebration before it all fell apart.
Each of us had been responsible for preparing the evening meal on a given night, and the plan was that my parents were going to take us all out to a buffet dinner on Saturday for the final celebration. We had a lovely champagne cocktail hour at the cabin before the nine of us headed off to dinner in two separate cars.
We were all seated with our salads and were having a fine time, when out of nowhere my dad blurted out to my mom: "I don't know why Donna (Rich's wife) just ran off from us when we walked in here. I didn't know where she went. I didn't like that."
Ok, so it was a random, somewhat snarky comment. My dad seems to do more and more of that as he ages. He's 75 after all. I thought old people were entitled to their random snarkiness. Plus, if he would have said that about me, I would have a) apologized for upsetting him, or b) told him the reason I had walked away from him. Then I would laugh to myself and think "what an old coot."
Well according to Rich, my dad's comment was too much to bear, even if Dad hadn't intended for anyone but my mom to hear it. Rich glared at my sister and me and said "was Dad talking shit about us?" Luckily, or so I thought, my parents had already left the table to refill their salad plates.
Marg and I both immediately replied that we didn't know what Dad was talking about, and tried to change the subject. George was busy stuffing a french fry up his nose or something like that, so we tried to use him to distract Rich.
But then Rich turned to Donna and said "did you go off and abandon my parents when you walked in with them?" Donna replied "Well, yes, but just so that I could go up to the host desk to make sure they still had our reservation. There was a big group that came in right at the same time and I didn't want us to be stuck there behind them."
Rich's cheerful rejoinder: "Well, I don't know why this entire family has to talk shit about you! Everyone here hates us both, it's obvious! I'm about sick of everyone being against us!"
Marg: "Rich, we're not against you! We're really glad you're here."
Rich: "No, you guys hate us. I'm sick of it. I told everybody, the first shit I hear from anyone, I am out of here! Do you understand me?"
Marg: "Rich, please don't be upset! We're having fun! We all love you and want you to stay here with us!"
Rich, with a look in his eyes that was growing downright scary: "I am out of here. You can all go fuck off! You all hate me, and I don't want to bring you down!"
Marg, being more sensitive than I, broke out into tears. Rich was clearly spinning out of control, and besides, she figured my mom would try to find a way to blame this all on her.
I, on the other hand, felt I had done my duty by talking him down through his first tantrum, and decided to return to the buffet for my entree.
When I came back, Rich had departed. My parents were still at the buffet.
Those of us still at the table, including Donna, who hadn't left with Rich, agreed that we would shield the news of Rich's departure from Mom & Dad so as not to ruin their party. If they asked where Rich was, we had a number of excuses in store: "He's in the bathroom" or "He went outside to smoke" or "He wasn't feeling well - I think he may still be in the bathroom." That kind of thing.
Well, let's just say that Donna is not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. After about ten minutes my dad noticed that Rich had not returned to the table. He walked over to Donna. "Where is Rich?"
"Oh, uh, I guess he left."
"Well, uh, he heard you say something mean about me and he got mad."
Bridget was sitting across from me, and the look on her face was priceless. Can anyone spell S-T-O-O-P-I-D?
So of course, Dad marched right back over to Mom to announce that Rich had taken off, leaving eight of us stranded with only one car.
Mom started to cry.
We all soberly finished up our plates, and made plans for me to drive half the party back to the cabin, and then return to the restaurant to pick up the others.
I dropped Marg, David and Bridget off first. Then I returned to pick up the others. By this time, Rich had returned to the restaurant, but just sat in the bar and refused to speak to anyone but Donna.
Mom, Dad and George got in the car with me. Mom said, at least while she wasn't sobbing, "Don't take us back to the cabin. I refuse to go in and watch his tantrum. I'm sure he's packing up to leave early, so let's just let him do it."
I took them to a pub across the street from the cabin, where we waited until we saw Rich & Donna speed out of the parking lot.
We returned to the cabin to see that Rich had neglected to pack much of what he brought, including all sorts of kitchen instruments as well as my mom's motorized scooter. It was going to be quite a game fitting everything into the rest of the cars to get it all home. My mom spent the rest of the evening in tears.
We haven't heard from my brother yet, now that we've all returned to our homes. My mom and dad are despondent, when they were supposed to be celebrating this happy occasion. And at no small expense, either - a four bedroom, four bathroom cabin rental for a week wasn't exactly small change.
I don't even know what to say any more about it, except that I told you it would be a disaster.