Depending on who you ask, my 91-year-old mother has either two or three personalities. I’ve only met two, the sweet one and the sour one, kind of like you get when you bite into a Sour Patch Kid. That’s candy by the way, not an actual child. Don’t bite children. Please. It’s cruel and uncalled for. What if they bite you first? NO! Even though it’s tempting, don’t bite them back. That’s like hitting a child for hitting. Not advisable and it just creates confusion and resentment. Anyway, back to my mom. Day to day, I never know what I’m getting. Yesterday, it was definitely ‘sour’. She called me a brat. I told her I was writing that one down so it’s on record. How did that all come about? She started complaining. And it was one of the topics that comes up on a regular basis. “They took my license away and I had a perfect record,” she told me yesterday for the umpteenth time. “Keep telling yourself that fairytale,” I responded. “Someone must have turned me in and that’s why they took it away. Did you turn me in?” she asked. “No, I didn’t. But I should have a long time ago.”
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I was being a brat. But this is how we communicate. We constantly banter. It’s all done in a very playful way. It’s how I learned to survive my childhood. I coped by using humor (and food). I’ve spent a lifetime learning how to deflect and to distract. When she starts getting angry, I pull out all of the stops. “It’s a good thing they took your license away,” I continued (after telling her I should have been the one to report her). “So many people in the neighborhood lost their pets when you had your license. There was road kill everywhere, especially leading up to your driveway. And there was no denying it was you. The tread marks that ran the length of their bodies matched the treads on your tires. And all of the mangled children! It’s a good thing you didn’t kill any of them, but still! It’s no wonder so many of your neighbors have those signs in their front yards that say ‘caution, children at play’!” That’s what I do because if I don’t, my feelings get hurt.
My mother’s all-time favorite sayings? Hang on! There are quite a few! “Two burnt holes in a blanket. Two wildcats fighting in a burlap sack. It all happens for a reason. I practice the K.I.S.S. method, that means ‘keep it simple, stupid’. My kids are all different, my grandkids are all different, my great-grandkids are all different. What a revolting development! What a crazy world! I never once asked my parents for money. You’re not wearing THAT are you? I need that like I need another hole in my head. Just ignore it, don’t let it bother you! They’re the ones with a problem. I’ve never once accepted a handout. It could always be worse. Turn the other cheek. I have the BEST neighbors! Never work in an office full of women. I’m not that hungry, do you mind splitting a meal with me? The number of children I gave birth to was about the same as the number of times I had sex with your father. I’ve been driving since I was 14 years old and I’ve never once been in an accident. That was THE WORST (fill in the blank)! Look at those old people!”
My mom has some funny sayings, but she also has a way of saying things that can be extremely hurtful. And I don’t think she even realizes she’s doing it. What never fails is that it always seems to happen when I crave her acceptance and approval the most. When I first moved into my current house, she kept after me and kept after me about wanting to look at it. But I kept postponing. I wanted everything to be ‘just right’ before I invited her over. Despite everything I did to ensure she would not be able to find fault, she found it. Right after walking into the house and stepping foot in the livingroom, she pointed to the mirror above the fireplace and said it was too big for the space. She then walked into the office, pointed at my drapes, and said they looked ‘like a shower curtain’. Thanks, I needed that (like I need another hole in my head). About 13 years ago, when I managed to drop about 65 pounds, I flew out to see her. She didn’t know about my weight loss and I really wanted to surprise her! I had worked so hard to achieve the results by exercising and eating right. But instead of praise when she saw me, she said in an accusatory way, “Are you bulimic?!”
Good ol’ mom! She’s got ‘the touch’. Another memory I have when she said something that really stung was when my brother Dapper Dan got married to his second wife. I was invited to the wedding, so among the things I packed, I included a suitable outfit to wear that I felt good about. My mom asked me what I was wearing to the ceremony so I showed it to her. I could tell by her face that she didn’t approve. “You’re not wearing THAT are you?” she asked. “Yes,” I responded. “That was my plan.” “I’ve got something I think would work out better,” she said as she gestured for me to follow her. I followed her into her office where she had an outfit hanging in the closet. “Try this on!” she insisted. I already knew it was all wrong for me. The outfit that she thought ‘would work out better’ was a fuzzy, cream colored top (with short sleeves) and a tan skirt. If she knew me at all, she’d know I don’t ‘do tan’. I don’t have the skin tone for it. It makes me look awful. And I also don’t wear short sleeves, especially in public. But she insisted, so I tried it on.
I looked like crap and I felt like crap. Everything was super tight. The waist of the skirt cut into my belly and I looked like a sausage. “That look’s nice!” she said, a big smile on her face. “According to whom?” I asked skeptically, my left eyebrow raised. “It’s not me, mom.” “I think it looks fine!” she then said. After a short pause, I responded, “I’m not comfortable in this. The colors are all wrong for me. I’m going to find something else to wear.” Usually I give in to her suggestions, but this time I held my ground. Wrong answer! She doesn’t like it when you don’t agree with her. I ended up running to the store and finding something that better suited me, a cream-colored pantsuit. But that ‘perceived slight’ from me seemed to color her mood. And the next day, the day of the wedding, I got ‘served’. I felt like I bore the brunt of her criticisms. She was unpleasant in every possible way. And if making me miserable because I didn’t agree with her was her intent, she was successful. I don’t hide my feelings well and the photographs from the wedding made that very clear. I was the very picture of ‘misery’.
Another one of her favorite/familiar sayings? “Do as I say, not as I do.” It’s great in theory but it’s just plain wrong. “I know my mind. I would have NEVER said anything like that.” I love that saying, too! So many times my mother has said things to me or to other people and then flat-out denied it! And they’re often not-so-nice things that the ‘sour’ version of my mother would have said. But they did happen. I heard them with my own ears. And even though my hearing can be questionable, when you have additional witnesses, it’s hard to deny what was said. One phrase or quote she has never said? “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Never once have I heard her utter those words. “Honesty is the best policy.” Nope, never heard that one either. ‘Honesty’ was one of those words that had a wide range of meanings in our household. It’s kind of like ‘fuzzy math’, one of the terms George W. Bush was famous for. And what the heck does that even mean anyway?
‘Being honest’ means having to own up to your mistakes and my mother has NEVER done that! She got ‘duped’ into marrying my father. “Did someone hold a gun to your head?” I asked her one day. She has never hit anyone with her car. “What about the time that you were driving down the street and you hit a lady who then bounced off the hood?” She’s never received a traffic citation. She has. My brother Clover has the letter from the police department that includes a photo of her behind the steering wheel. She hardly watches TV, there’s never anything on. That’s all she does. Everything that’s wrong with the Mental Minion (Diabolical Debbie’s daughter) is Larry’s fault. When I hear that, this is what goes on in my head, “Hmm. You might want to rethink that one. Seems like you were part of the equation, too, mom. Don’t you think you deserve some of the credit?” Sigh. Is it dishonesty or is it denial? I cannot tell the difference. I just know half the stuff she says, I’m not buying it.
Have I picked on my mother enough? The short answer? Yes. So I will refrain from saying anything else negative (for today). Can you tell we have a ‘challenging’ relationship? Yes, I thought you could! As much as I love her, she drives me nuts. But the crazy thing about having a mom is that no matter what, no matter how many times she’s said things that cut me to the core or make me feel crappy, she’s still my mom. And I still want to protect her. I want to protect her from herself and I want to protect her from people that try to take advantage of her. She isn’t perfect, but she’s the only mom I’ve got. So as long as I’ve got her, I guess I have to figure out a way to handle the occasional ‘sour’ remark. If I just keep reminding myself to ‘deflect and distract, deflect and distract’ (much like what I would do when dealing with a naughty toddler), I think I’ll be ok. And on that note, I’m outta here! It’s time to go! Enjoy your weekend! Thank you for joining me once again, dear reader, and I will ‘see’ you again tomorrow.