If I had known that buying a new house would inspire inspired a visit from Andy’s parents, I’d have barricaded myself into our old townhouse for life. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to keep them away if we ever had a son (hence my ongoing lobbying to adopt a little girl from China), but I had no idea a new house would be such a draw. Given my father-in-law’s obsession with photos of the house, I should have known what would happen.
As soon as Andy and I finished our year-long, DIY remodel of our new house, my Chinese-American in-laws decided they needed to make sure we’d done it right. Jay and Sunny informed Andy that they were coming to visit in April.
I was not consulted.
There was never any question in their minds that they would stay with us. Never mind that our house was less than 1200 square feet and their visit would last well into May.
Again, I was not consulted.
It was all wishful thinking when I pointed out local hotels and motels to Andy as we walked the dogs. “Look, honey! The Vagabond Inn will give them free cable and breakfast! And it’s within walking distance…hmmm, maybe there is something further away, ha, ha.”
We both knew his parents would be mortally offended. Sunny and Jay got upset if Andy and I weren’t home by 10 PM when we stayed at their house in Hawaii. The one time Sunny arranged for us to stay at the hotel where she worked, as a birthday present for Andy, Jay threw a fit. He told Sunny she would make us feel like we were not welcome. This was eventually smoothed over and we did get two blissful days in a fabulous suite on the dolphin lagoon. Of course, Jay and Sunny called five times before noon, continually (and ironically) interrupting the process which was their only hope for a grandson. And, no, there was no point in not answering the phone. This merely served as an excuse for the parents to show up at our door, asking: “Everything all right? I think the phone is not working.”
So we couldn’t suggest that Jay and Sunny stay at a hotel, no matter how inviting that continental breakfast sounded. After all, since there was no grandson, the house itself is the main attraction, with gambling coming in second. Sunny and Jay planned to take a side trip to Vegas.
Hooray for slot machines!
Once they had decided to visit, my in-laws called us two and three times a day regarding flights, turning Andy into their travel agent. Dutiful Andy spent hours on-line, searching for a fare that will not lead to outraged shouts of: “Too expensive! Mrs. Lui got fare to San Francisco for half that!”
I protested. “Honey, this is crazy. You can’t be spending your limited free time with Travelocity and Expedia. There are plenty of real travel agents in Hawaii, and they are SURE to have inside information on the best deals for Vegas hotels.”
“They’re also sure to jack up prices. Or at least that’s what my parents think,” Andy sighed. He continued surfing the web, pausing only to sigh heavily again, or throw out pleading looks from his puppy dog eyes.
To no avail. Years of therapy helped me remain firm. I reminded myself that it was not my problem if my husband couldn’t set boundaries for his parents; I could only refuse to be an enabler (even if I did have enough free time to lose $1,000 at computer solitaire).
A few days passed without phone calls from Jay and Sunny. Andy prowled the internet, checking every Honolulu/ Los Angeles/ Las Vegas flight permutation on every airline. The night Andy finally found a Mrs. Lui-worthy deal, he shot me a triumphant look as he dialed his parents’ number on the phone. Before he told them about his bargain, however, Jay and Sunny informed Andy they booked their tickets three days ago.
I bet they used Mrs. Lui’s travel agent.
Andy’s expression never changed during that phone call. I couldn’t decide if my husband was a saint or on his way to internalizing himself an ulcer.
I debated recommending psychotherapy to him, if only for the duration of his parents’ visit.
Only later did I discover how amazing my husband’s poker face truly was. I had the calendar open, since I was planning various events for my in-laws, including a BBQ at our house with their extended family members in the Los Angeles area. I asked, “What day should we have the party?”
Andy shrugged. “I don’t think it matters.”
“Of course it matters,” I responded. “I’m not going invite your cousins and aunt and uncle over when your parents are in Vegas. So, are your folks here the last Saturday or Sunday in April?”
“Okay, cool, we’ll do the barbecue then,” I said, making a note on the calendar. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Andy attempting a furtive slink out of the room. (This is not a maneuver at which he has ever excelled.) My in-law antennae twitched. “So, honey, when are your parents going to Vegas?”
There was no response. The “selectively deaf” gene, found only on the Y chromosome, had kicked in. That was not a good sign. With a rising sense of alarm, I tracked my husband down in the kitchen, pulling a beer out of the fridge.
Beer was a worse sign. I asked, “Didn’t you hear me ask when your parents are going to Vegas?”
Andy avoided my eye and pulled open various kitchen drawers. “I’m, uh, looking for some chocolate for you, honey. Didn’t you say you wanted some chocolate?”
Under normal conditions, I might have been sidetracked. Andy sometimes hides Toblerone bars around the house, hoping to score points if I idly mention wanting chocolate. Then, hey, presto! Andy pulls a chocolate bar out of the spice cabinet and is a hero (or maybe just avoid being sent to the supermarket). But that night, the chocolate meant nothing to me. “Andy. When are your parents going to Vegas?!”
“There’s chocolate in here somewhere, I just know it…” Andy opened and shut several more cabinets.
I sat down in a kitchen chair. There was no point in making him say the words aloud, because the truth might as well be written in red letters, five feet tall, across the kitchen cabinets:
YOUR IN-LAWS ARE GOING TO STAY WITH YOU FOR THE ENTIRE VISIT.
THERE IS NO TRIP TO VEGAS.
Which seemed a damned shame, considering Andy’s poker face.
He could have won a lot of money.