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]
*My sister S and i were both willing to pick up the slack while DQ was gone.
Your mother sure knows her weaponry.
Littlt Sis looks after our Mom (84). If there is a heaven, Little Sis is getting the penthouse!
I know that walking away from this kind of thing is a leap that lots of people don’t choose to make. But I have never regretted doing exactly that.
My guess is that you are not describing an alteration in a previously sunny and heartwarming character.
My own prize gripe-at-any-cost story was the personalized imprinted note cards with the return address on the envelope flap: they weren’t right, because the post office might make a mistake and mail her notes back to her.
But that’s only from the list of anecdotes that aren’t too sickening to repeat; some things I’m not going to bring up again. Anyway, there is a time when it is enough, no matter how guilty other people think you should feel.
I am so going to try the nice/not nice thing the next time a certain friend of mine calls. He never has anything good to say. I wish he’d heed the words of Thumper and not say anything at all . . .
Yeesh. I just can’t imagine how frustrating that must be for you. When you want the best for someone and they resist all efforts to enjoy life, it’s got to be heartbreaking and maddening. Think she’ll ever change?
“…a verbal concoction of vinegar, bile and carbolic acid” This is a gorgeously vitriolic characterization.
How loud was your towel?
Back in university we used to play a game like that in Biblical history, there was this one chick that would interupt and ask questions all the time, it was her, against the rest of the class. No shit she won every time by like 50 points it was astounding.
‘And i can’t sleep on my left side… Which way does the bed face?’
Thats a strange one…
I’ve never been able to bend my mind around the paradox of someone who isn’t happy unless they’re unhappy. It sounds like your mom has worn that groove so deep, you’d need a drill rig to get her out.
My grandmother was bitter that way. After being with her daily for the last couple of months of her life, I decided not to be like that. So far, I’ve succeeded most days.
I’m sure it’s hard to listen to her but my aunt would give anything to hear my grandmother say something intellegent. Grandma lost her mind years ago and finally just quit getting out of bed. She never remembered who anyone was, where she was or even why she was here. I wish sometimes that she could argue at least then we know she is still here in her mind.
Parents end up just like teens nothing is ever right, no one knows what it’s like and the world is against them with nobody caring.
dad fell the other day..kept it to himself for two days and only admitted he was in pain when my sister threatened to call an ambulance…two broken ribs…..seriously…eh? whats that all about…
old people.. I am firmly against them
stephanie – *tweak*
uncle keith – if we really wanted to torture people, we should have made them have dinner with mom. they’d be singing like canaries within an hour…
mapstew – welcome to the park! and yes, for all of the issues with my niece, DQ, she’s earning that glorious inheritance, and saving us all much pain…
sledpress – ah, but there is the pesky issue of that deathbed promise i made my father. i will walk away after mom is gone… and not look back… much… probably…
tysdaddy – for many adults, that can be a helpful ‘coaching’ tool. people don’t always realize what a negative nellie they become over time…
fragrant liar – i don’t think she can change. it’s always been like this – but has gotten so much worse in the past few years. i’ve asked “momma, what would make you happy? what would you like to do?” and she has no idea…
tigereyesal – i could have thrown a flaming towel down right in the middle of the table and i don’t think she’d notice. very self-absorbed. sad. lost. lonely. frustrated. just no idea what can be done to help her…
alex – i can understand basic body gravity – that thing that makes you sleep on one side or the other. but she wanted to know whether the bed is aligned north or south, east or west… i think she just wants it to feel the same way it does for her at home. but i can’t possibly rearrange the bedroom to make that happen. so it goes…
kyknoord – that’s the fundamental problem. she likes the drama, seems at her happiest, well, at least, most engaged, when there is some horrible stupid issue percolating in The Park. maybe i should get arrested? get fired for molesting a young ‘un at work? abuse a corpse? that might perk her right up…
silverstar – if there’s an upside, it’s just that. i will work very hard to not let myself become such a bitter, gnarled old woman. or if i do? i’ll at least be funny… i owe my kids that much.
hisqueen – that’s exactly why i listen. i know that it’s not likely to go on much longer. she’s 80, heart is good, but general health is poor. she’s down to the 2 minute warning, so i’ll keep taking the bashing…
manuel – yoicks! he’s a tough ol’ fella, ain’t he? admire that ‘oh, it’s just a flesh wound’ attitude, but crikey – broken ribs? let’s start a movement to ship them all off to an island somewhere. how about australia?
Sounds like she could be my late grandmothers sister. Wow what a woman, could make an adult puddle in frustration in seconds. Though she wasnt always like that and I make a point to remember that she was once upon a time a fantastic grandmother, who happened to turn into a very bitter old woman at the end. Oh well. I hope she is happier where she is. Sorry for the ramble. Just remember to keep breathing in and out 🙂
What the fuck am I doing not visiting here everyday?
Talk about missing the friggin’ boat.
Daisy, this is such awesome memoir writing, I can’t tell you.
Rock on, gurl . . .
Props to ya daisyfae, yer a better man than me. And I mean that figuratively.
BTW? That gal in the photo scares me.
nicole – Welcome to The Park! Thanks for stopping in! i will keep trying, and like your coping strategy – will try to remember the fun, silly moments that we’ve had with mom over the years. to keep my head from disintegrating!
michael – thank you again for your kind words. i will hit amazon and follow up on your book suggestion. have been considering a local writers workshop this summer to see if i can actually learn to do this right…
rob – promises were made. i will not abandon my promise to my father. i will not abandon my promise to my father. i will not abandon my promise to my father…
you don’t look a bit like your momma daisyfae 🙂
nursemyra – at least, not yet!
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Can’t help wondering if the Trailor Park Refugee is still in operation. I remembering visiting some time ago but did not leave a comment. You may have been describing your mother, but it sure sounded exactly like the my mother-in-law. We’ve only one life here on earth, why do so many people outdo themselves at being miserable and making all those about them miserable?
mary – thank you again for stopping by! i’m still writing, and still trying to find some ways to help Mom enjoy at least a moment or two here or there… i don’t get the ‘misery’ thing either. i love your attitude! keep blogging, ms. kaufman!