Mom, Her People, Perspective

Like I said, my relationship with my mom is much better now that I too am a parent, and I understand more. Time is healing. “I understand the drinking, and I’m sorry I was judgmental,” I tell her. We laugh. We know that is a cover for the sins of both of our pasts. When I have a particularly hard parenting day, I tell her I want my mommy. She hugs me back and says she wants her mommy too, and we both cry. We are mixed bags, she and I. Alike in many ways. And I really do understand the drinking.

I no longer feel punitive. And that’s great timing because I am turning into the woman before my very eyes.

Mom is 81, and she has elements of awesome. If we could convince her to use her damn cane and quit stirring up grassroots discontent in her housing community with each utility change (CURSE YOU, COMCAST!), all would be well.

I kid you not--the woman doesn't dye her hair!

The last time I stopped in to visit, Mom was leaning against her counter reading some neener neener letter from hospice. Yep, the woman can barely walk and she serves as a hospice worker, stopping by when she is out and about to visit her dying friends. Hospice wants her to fill out paperwork THEIR WAY.  They want her to ‘keep a schedule.’ Ha! I snorted when I heard that. She gave me the 81 year old version of the ‘I know: right?’ look.  Mary doesn’t do anything THEIR WAY.

She tells the story about George, a hospice patient who, when she walked in, said to her, “Thank God some old broad has come to see me. I can’t stand these young things. They come to me with their fresh smiles and they say, ‘How are we, George?’ I say to them, ‘One of us is dying, Sweetheart. How do you think we’re doing?’ but I’m glad you’re here, Mary.” If only she’d fill the paperwork out correctly.

Though she can barely walk without holding on to things (use a damn cane, Mary!), she takes her ‘little old friends’ to their doctors’ appointments. She tells of Rita and O’Dell, folks from the Appalachians with sixth grade educations (both of whom are on oxygen) who fed their moonshine mash to the hogs by accident and woke up the next day to find a pasture-ful of dead hogs. Well, not dead, exactly, but ‘Them damn hogs were higher than a Georgia pine!” O’Dell tells me the day Mom arranged for me to meet him and get all my moonshine questions answered. I have a variety of hobbies.

Then there’s blind bridge buddy John. He was a nuclear engineer. Bright guy, well-educated. Very enjoyable for her to talk to. Widowed and still so deeply in love with his wife that he can barely stand to eat alone. But Mom picks him up for their Wednesday bridge club and takes him to lunch afterwards. He gave her a bridge box with inlaid wood which he made by hand. Holds 24 hands of duplicate bridge. He thought she’d like to have it. Mom asked me to go visit John with her at the facility he lives in. He had an extra chair he thought she might have and she needed some help getting it into the car. Turns out the chair matched all the other ones in the facility and wasn’t John’s to give. While Mom kept John company, I created a ruse with the folks at the desk to come take the extra chair out of the room to ‘help us carry it to the car’, so John would think Mom had taken it home (it seemed really important to him.) Afterward, while we were eating lunch, Mom started chuckling. “What are you thinking about?” I asked her.

“‘Dear John,’ I’ll write,” she says  “‘Thank you for the beautiful chair. It goes really well in my living room. I appreciate you thinking about me. Come sit in it next time you come for bridge.'” Keep in mind John is blind, so this just might work. The woman’s spunk and thoughtfulness warms my heart!

Just had my birthday recently. Mom volunteered to make whatever dinner I wanted. Scalloped potatoes with kosher hot dogs, green beans, broccoli salad without the bacon and Oreo cookie dessert, please. “Dammit, I used to be able to do this in an afternoon. Now I have to start two days early,” she says. She wasn’t complaining about the making of the meal–she is at the place now where she likes all the chaos when we’re there. She was complaining about the sheer force of life it takes to do things that were once effortless. “It isn’t getting old that makes me so damn mad. It’s the fact that it is so hard to just get around and do simple stuff.” I think she gets more done than she will ever know.

Despite all the crap and all the hurt and all the having not ‘been there’, she’s a pretty generous old broad who has figured out how to matter to the people around her. (Including this daughter.) That’s something a mixed-bag of a girl can look forward to!

Your Turn to Say Something...