“Therapy” #37

Posted on March 18, 2011

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To combat the stress of the craziness, both inner and outer, I’ve started doing Tai Chi in the backyard.  Not real Tai Chi, because I’ve never taken a class, but my own version that I’ve made up.  I recall Ralph Macchio in“The Karate Kid”- wax on, wax off – and the old geezers I used to see in Chinatown parks at 7am and put together a series of body movements coordinated with in and out breaths.  So naturally, after dinner where my father made us order from the kids’ menu as punishment for taking his car to the mall and then saw him give his usual 8% tip that made me cringe and run out of the restaurant with my sweatshirt hood up over my head while mouthing I’m sorry to the waiter, I headed to the backyard of the house to practice my new techniques. 

Wo shiwon ni da toufa, I recite – the only Chinese words I know, which mean, “I love your hair.”(I try to learn pick-up lines in every language).

My sister and brother come out to laugh at me.  My brother tells me I’m certifiable.  I tell him thanks for finally deeming me worthy to speak to.  But, they are stressed out, too from my parents fighting inside.  My father ordered my mother to ride with him on his Harley, and she said no.  Now he’s calling her a twit.  And she’s calling him a fat hippo.

So, I lead them in a Myra Tai Chi session.  We are looking like cracked-out flamingos as Vito watches us from the perimeter with bewilderment, cocking his head to the left, right, and back again.  I call out “Wo shiwon,”and my brother and sister repeat, Wo shiwon.  “Ni da toufa.”  Ni da toufa.

Suddenly my sister falls to the ground in tears.  “Being here, with all this fighting, it just gets to me.  It reminds me of being a kid.  My life is a mess.  I’m out of control with money.  I keep shopping all the time.  I don’t know what to do,” she says.

“All this from the Tai Chi moves?  Maybe I should be a teacher,” I say.

“It’s not funny, Myra,” she whimpers.

I think about it and say, “You know, we could go to a meeting they have, like a therapy group that’s open to everyone.  It’s called ACOA, Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families.   I saw it online.”

My brother breaks his monk-like silence, “Oh God.”

“What?” I say to him.  “What do you think?  You haven’t said anything.”

“Just stop shopping,” he so wisely divulges.

“Why don’t you come with us,” I throw at him.

“I don’t have any problems,” he says flatly.

Jeannie wipes her tears.  “How will we get there?  We can’t take his car.”

I respond, “We’ll take a taxi.  That’ll show him he can’t stop us from doing what we want.  But, you have to pay for it and I’ll pay you back, if that’s okay.”

So, the next evening my father is in complete shock when the taxi pulls up in the driveway and leaves with my sister and I in it.  I wonder what my brother will tell him.  Because, he may be a goodie-two-shoes, but surely he wouldn’t actually say anything…

Later we’re at a church in Port Jefferson, sitting in a circle of  people with several empty chairs among us.  A soft-spoken older guy is leading the group of various ages and backgrounds.  My sister is bursting at the seams to talk about her own problems, and when finally given the chance, unloads like a storm cloud on the plains.  She’s talking about our parents, her marriage and kids, how her whole life is a mess and how she just spent four-hundred dollars on Stuart Weitzman boots because they were on sale and she felt she deserved it to make herself happy, but her credit card debt is overwhelming and she remembers how when she was seven my father didn’t even buy her a birthday cake because it wasn’t on sale.

I don’t know what’s worse – the embarrassment of my sister’s long tirade and this group of people’s reaction to it or what’s about to happen.  My sister stops mid-sentence – not because the leader is trying to warn her of time consideration for others, but because of the figures at the door.

The leader turns toward the door and says, “Come in.  Have a seat.  Are you looking for ACOA?”  At the door are my father, mother and brother.  My father is just looking around the group, nodding.  “No, no, that’s okay,” he says.  The leader presses, “Please, sit down.  There are no observers here, only participants.”

My mother wants to go back to the car, but my father says, “Stay, you could learn something,” and orders her and my brother to take seats.  The leader tells my sister to continue.  She says, “No, that’s okay.”

My father butts in, “Did they tell you about the post-it notes that say, “Money just comes to me?  What do you think about that?”

My sister and I are looking down.  The leader tries to tell him that there is no cross talk and if he waits his turn, he can express his own feelings.  But, he doesn’t listen and continues, “I don’t really have any feelings, but I’m just curious, what did they say about me?  Did they tell you they took my car to the mall?  No, come to think of it, I would like to talk about my problems, of which I have many.  I get no respect from my family…”

Everyone in the place is up in arms about the fact that he didn’t follow protocol and say his name or raise his hand to speak.  He then says to us, “Okay girls, can we go now?  I’m parked illegally.”

And we all leave.  As a family.  Together. 

In the car I turn to stare at my dirty rat brother who doesn’t look at me.  “I remember when you used to be so cute.  What happened?” I ask him.

Lest you think this ends on a sour note, I will say that my sister later confessed to feeling much better, we each enjoyed several slices of on-sale-with-coupon pizza, and my mother joined us in my signature backyard Tai Chi while my father watched from the kitchen window and called us orangutans.  Good times.

Posted in: Humor, Life