Looks like today is going to be ‘all about Mom’. I spoke to her briefly this afternoon. She wasn’t happy but that’s nothing new. When I asked her what she’d been up to, she said, “Nothing much.” It’s hard to know what to say to her because she’s determined to be unhappy. She never wanted to end up in one of ‘those places’. That’s something I’m reminded of on a regular basis. When I talked to her yesterday and asked her what she was up to, she said, “I’m just sitting here looking at all of my mother’s furniture.” Sigh. The only thing in my mother’s apartment that was my grandmother’s is a corner cabinet, the rest of it is all hers. But you cannot tell her that. Well, you can actually. I’ve told her at least 3-4 times that, with the exception of her mother’s cabinet, the rest all belonged to her. “Oh, really?” is the typical response. She’ll then get quiet and won’t bring it up again (that day). But the next time I call and ask her how she’s doing, I get the same response verbatim. When did I get trapped in an episode of ‘Groundhog Day’?
‘Calling Mom’ is getting harder and harder. I feel like I have to be in the right frame of mind in order to not get sucked into the negativity. I don’t mean to give you the wrong impression. Sometimes she is actually happy but it’s usually rare. And it’s usually associated with ‘getting out of that awful place’. A few weeks ago I called and she was almost giddy. “Hi! How are you?” I asked when she answered the phone. “Doing pretty good!” she responded. “Really? That’s great! What happened?” I asked, relieved to hear her sounding upbeat for once. “Well, nothing yet. But I’m getting out of here soon!” she said. “Where are you going?” I questioned, slightly puzzled, as I had not heard about an impending move. “I’m going to start looking for an apartment soon and I’m going to see if Turtle wants to share it with me,” she responded with confidence.
Turtle? She couldn’t possibly be talking about my brother Turtle, could she? Turtle, the ‘commitment-phobe’? Turtle, the guy who had a woman devoted to him for four solid years and when she finally gave him the ultimatum and said, “Marry me or I’m outta here,” he watched her walk away? The guy that has been living on a boat for over 27 years and cannot make a decision to save his life? The guy that any time a significant decision must be made, he ‘backs out of the deal’ at the eleventh hour? Do you know how many times he has called me and said, “I was just getting ready to buy a car/purchase a property/rent a new slip BUT?” If there’s a dotted line, I can assure you, he isn’t signing on, under or through it! Good luck getting him to agree to ‘share’ an apartment. And what is she thinking anyway? He’s the one child that my mother has complained about for years because he talks incessantly.
Desperation probably is playing a key role in my mother coming up with this ‘grand plan’. But honestly, it wouldn’t matter who my mom chose to ‘room’ with, she’s never going to be happy. She laments having been ‘moved out of her lovely yellow house’ even though when she was living there, she constantly complained. When my brother Clover had to clean it out to get it ready to put on the market, it took him weeks to sift through all of the paperwork she had stored in her office. She kept EVERYTHING! Every check, every invoice, every letter, every card, every I.O.U.! Amongst the things my brother found, along with the hospital bill from 1977 when I had my appendix removed, was a very large file dedicated to complaints or grievances. If she bought something or experienced something and she wasn’t happy about it, she would ‘send a letter’. And apparently, she was unhappy about a lot of things throughout the years.
Have you heard of ‘Goldilocks’? She complained a lot, too. ‘Goldilocks’ is a character in a children’s fairytale that breaks into a bear family’s house and eats their porridge, sits in their chairs and sleeps in their beds. She tests out all kinds of stuff and it’s either too hot or too cold, too hard or too soft, too this or too that. You know who she reminds me of? My mother. It doesn’t matter what the scenario, my mom always finds something that ‘displeases’ her. When she’s been out to visit me in the past, rest assured, she would let me know after the first night what she wasn’t happy about. Depending on the house and/or the room, I could count on hearing one if not all of the following complaints: 1) The room was too hot or the room was too cold, 2) The mattress was too firm or too soft, 3) The pillow was too fluffy or too flat, 4) There were too few or too many blankets. I give up! The last time she spent the night I heard a brand new complaint. Are you ready? “Someone was playing a radio all night and kept me up.”
Do you think she only reserves her complaints for sleepovers? Not a chance! Try taking her to a restaurant!! Do you know how many meals she has had ‘comped’? I have learned that there are certain items on the menu that she should just avoid altogether. Salads are one of those things. It doesn’t matter who prepares the salad, it could be the top chef in the entire world, and she’ll find something she doesn’t like about it. I have heard it all! It’s either ‘too much dressing’, ‘not enough dressing’, ‘wilty lettuce’, ‘too much lettuce’ or the salad itself is ‘too small’ or ‘too big’. The next thing you know, her hand is up in the air and she’s summoning over one of the wait staff. “Here we go again,” I think to myself. And salads are just the tip of the iceberg (pardon the pun). Hamburgers, pizza, fish and chips, soup, sandwiches, even ice cream. Nothing is off limits! One time, she took me out for a cone at one of those restaurants that mixes up the ice cream and assorted toppings on a marble slab and then places it in a cone or in a cup.
When the female employee got finished preparing my mother’s cone and handed it to her, I knew something was wrong. Uh-oh. It was written all over her face. “What could it possibly be this time?” I wondered. I think part of the problem is if there is something to compare it to, it gives her ’cause’. She kept looking at her cone and then looking at mine. “What’s the matter?” I finally asked her. She then pointed at the poster on the wall and said, “It doesn’t look anything like the one on the poster.” Ack! Are you kidding me?! When does the actual food ever look like the ones on the signs or in the menus? Never. Have you ever gone to McDonald’s and compared your burger to the one on the menu (above the countertop)? The one on the menu looks perfect, so perfect it makes your mouth water. But the burger you ordered? Once you unwrap it or unbox it, it looks anything but perfect. And usually the first question I ask myself is, “Where’s the meat?” Is it just me or does it seem like the patties keep shrinking?
I know it sounds like I’m picking on my mother, but it’s important for me to see her for who she really is. She has good, even great sides, too. But the reason it’s important for me to be aware of ‘this side’ is because I will be less likely to panic and work myself into a frenzy when she announces she’s unhappy and needs to ‘get out of there’. I’m a ‘fixer’. I don’t like people to be unhappy, especially my mom. I love her, I don’t want her to be upset. But because I know the chances are slim-to-none that she’ll be happy no matter where she lives, I am less likely to react. The last time I did, I made myself physically sick. She kept complaining and I decided to step in to ‘save the day’! I called my brother Clover and asked for his blessing and once he gave it to me, I went hog wild. I started calling around to different care facilities, scheduling tours and making plans. My husband said I was moving way too fast but I was insistent on getting her moved in under a week. There were so many things to take into consideration but I was determined I could figure it all out. “If there’s a will, there’s a way,” I always say.
Funnily enough, after about 3 solid days of going full speed ahead, my body said, “Hold it right there!” I became really sick and could barely move. Once I started to get my energy back a few days later, I made the connection. What did I get myself into? “What am I doing?” I finally asked myself. I could barely muster the energy to take care of my own affairs, let alone my mother’s. In the midst of fretting, the phone rang. It was my brother Clover. “I don’t know if moving mom is such a good idea,” he said, “I don’t think she’s going to be happy no matter where she lives. She probably should stay put.” Do you know how happy I was when he spoke those words? I felt immediate relief! He was right, so right! He knew it and I knew it. You could put her in a beautiful castle, with personal attendants at her beck and call to take care of her every need, feed her the most exquisite food prepared by the best chefs and dress her in silken robes and she still wouldn’t be happy.
But hey, my friends, that’s what you get when your mother is Goldilocks! You want to know what I do now when she complains about her living arrangements or the terrible food or having to quarantine for two weeks after she insisted on going out for Thanksgiving even though she was warned of the consequences? I tell her, “I’m sorry to hear that, Mom.” And when we’re done talking, I go about my day. I don’t try to fix ‘her stuff’ anymore. I simply can’t. And you know what? I’m much happier because of it! No matter how hard you try, there are some things in life you just can’t fix. Thank you so much for stopping by. For the folks that are ‘following’ me, I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I talk about each day. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.