Mom complains. A lot. To keep my head from exploding listen more effectively, i’ve recently started playing a little game while on the phone with her – making marks on a sheet of paper under the headings “nice” / “not nice” regarding her running commentary. The ratio of “not nice” to “nice” is pretty high – last time i did it, it ran 18/1 during a half hour conversation. And the one “nice” thing? Her favorite restaurant has the chicken salad and fruit back on the menu for summer…
On Saturday, i went down to The Park to take Mom out for a belated Easter dinner. She had spent the previous week on the road, with my niece DQ and her family, in the Florida sun. For the better part of my time with her, i was barraged with a litany of what went wrong, how tired she was after the drive back home, how she didn’t get to do anything on Easter Sunday, and – in general – just how miserable she was…
When the offer to take a sunny vacation was presented to her, Mom initially declined – with a long list of reasons why she couldn’t go. My niece was taking her family to the Orlando area to visit with her father, and invited Mom to come along. Rather than enjoy family time, DQ generously extended the invitation to Mom. And she did feel a little guilty leaving Mom for a week.
DQ does a good job of getting Mom out almost daily – to run errands, go to the grocery, go to doctor’s appointments, etc. – but it never seems to be enough. Before the trip, both DQ and i spent some time encouraging Mom to hit the road and get some sunshine, and she eventually agreed. But it was only after she started whining about being left alone for the week* – which was probably what tripped the decision.
During our dinner together Saturday, she bitched non-stop about sleeping in a different bed, riding in the car for long stretches of time, worrying about bed bugs getting in her suitcase at the motel they stopped at on the way down…. blah, blah, blah… Every attempt i made to steer the conversation toward better things – “Wasn’t the weather lovely? Did you enjoy the day at the ocean? Was it fun to see the little critter playing at Disney?” – was met with a verbal concoction of vinegar, bile and carbolic acid.
Every suggestion i put forward to increase her external connectivity was met with more venom. She’d like to go to church, and wants DQ to take her. DQ does not attend church. i reminded her that there are plenty of her church friends who have offered give her a ride – but she doesn’t want to bother them. She’d like to get out more, but says she’s dependent on when DQ is available to go. i mentioned the ‘transportation’ program at church, as well as the county-wide free senior transportation service. “Oh, they make you work around their schedules…”.
i’d finally had about enough. “Mom, you know, sometimes you make your own weather. When you wake up in the morning, you can decide how you’re going to approach the day. If you choose ‘miserable and bitter’, then i guarantee that’s what you’ll get.” Emphasizing all of the things she has to look forward to – including a 3 day visit at my place in a couple weeks, with guaranteed silliness as the kids and i host a ‘poker night’ and a small graduation party for The Girl.
Her response: You don’t have cable tv in that bedroom for me. I’m not sure I’ll be able to sleep. And i can’t sleep on my left side… Which way does the bed face?
[the sound of a towel being thrown in]
i'll blast the fucking smile right of yer face, buddy...
*My sister S and i were both willing to pick up the slack while DQ was gone.