After receiving the break-up letter from my mother, I waited about a month and called her. I should have waited two months or maybe I should have started our “break” from each other right then and there.
She began the conversation by saying that sometimes it was necessary to get mad at someone and went on to describe how she had marched into the dentist’s office next door and yelled at Flora, the dentist’s wife and head receptionist.
My mother will plead old age if she forgets someone’s name or can’t read the restaurant bill but she makes no excuses for expressing her umbrage. She’s earned that right.
Before my mother decided she was done with me, she had been somewhat incommunicado. I kept trying to call her; using her code of ring once, hang up and call back but had no luck in actually getting a hold of her.
Though I know she has one of those life alerts, she doesn’t always wear the Life Alert pendant if it doesn’t go with her outfit. She’s 87 and still vain. Sometimes even the snappiest dresser can’t rock a Life Alert with a tweed skirt. I can never be sure if she’s fallen and can’t get up and if her life alert console is plugged in and working.
After calling various family members, I finally called the Dentist’s office which is next door. They confirmed a mom sighting that morning. When I finally got a hold of her and told her that I had called the dentist’s office, she was furious that they hadn’t come over to tell her and/or check on her. She thought they should have investigated further. They made sure that her two real teeth and gums were healthy, why hadn’t they made sure the rest of her was too?
My mother’s point in the “yelling at Flora” story was that it is always better to get your feelings out then keep them to yourself. Another of her theories is that people who keep their emotions to themselves have strokes. Oh and people who are too kind to their fellow humans have heart attacks. She has quite a litany of medical theories. If her theories are correct, it is unlikely that she will have either a heart attack or a stroke. Her cantankerous personality has possibly elongated her life.
After giving me a full report of all her animals inside and out, she finally came to the topic that I was dreading- me and her assessment of my behavior during our last visit. She was not happy with me, as her letter had indicated. I pointed out to her how she was wrong about a number of things; for instance how could she have seen the petulant look on my face when I was seated in the front of the car and she was seated in the back? Then there's the fact that she only has one good eye. You might be wondering what the back stories are to my mother having only one good eye and one good ear?
Although my mother’s surgeon suggested that she have cataract surgery in both eyes, she only had it in one and that was after waiting way too long in the first place. She can see well in the fixed eye, had no trouble with the procedure-- just refuses to have the second eye done. I think she’s afraid she won’t wake up but since they don’t put you under anyway and she knows this, the whole thing doesn’t make any sense.
She’s deaf in one ear because she dove into a pool oddly as a teenager and lost a couple of important bones in her ears. But as I like to say, the rocks in her head make up for the lost bones in her ears. I’m sure using the end of old bobby-pins to clean out her ears didn’t help the inner workings of her ears either.
Back to our what is now a "heated" conversation-- I’m letting my mother get out all my crimes when she calls me a “pissant.” I kind of know that isn’t the word she means but I’ve had enough and end the call.
The next day I look up the definition and the online dictionary confirms what I suspected-- pissant means “insignificant.” Having a parent call their child “insignificant” seems immeasurably cruel and I get very upset.
I’m sitting at the computer at work crying about how my own mother believes that my life has meant nothing. I’m sad and then I get mad. What a horrible thing to say. In the back of my mind, I know she actually meant “pissy” but still that’s not a great thing to call your daughter anyway.
I phone her when I get home and I’m pissed -off. I’m glad she commented about how much she respected anger during a last conversation because she’s about to get a huge dose of it.
“I’m not insignificant” I scream into the phone. She’s confused, she never called me insignificant. I say” well that’s what pissant means.” She then goes on to say if she had meant insignificant” she would have said it or another word. How was I supposed to know that? Sometimes when my mother speaks, it is like a foreign language in which there isn’t a translator nearby.
Suddenly I feel as if I’m on the witness stand and I have to make a plea for why I shouldn’t be convicted of the crime of being a bad daughter. I point out to her that I am the only one who gives her presents that she actually likes: Garibaldi cookies, jam and fun stamps. I remind her that every year I make a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at my house to transport to her house. How about how she’s never had to bail me out of jail or visit me in the hospital for any reason and how I can use an old paper bag to wrap a package like a professional package wrapper, what about that?
Reluctantly my mother does agree I make some delicious turkey but that’s about all she’ll give me. And because she does enjoy my cooking so much, she and my niece come up with a visiting plan.
The plan is this-instead of Andy and me driving up to my mother’s house and staying with her for three or four days, maximum, we will go to my niece and nephew’s house and stay with them. Then the four of us and possible some other family members (as back up) will go to my mother’s house (food in hand) for the day. Yes my mother is proposing that we have supervised visits like convicts or lost custody parents.
When I say to my niece that I think it is insulting that I should be subjected to a supervised visit with my own mother, she replies “you aren’t the one being supervised.” Then she says something very wise “Your problem is that you think of your mother like a mother.”
When my mother sends me a card in which she says “I was bemused at your indignation – I was not, am not critical of your life-just your crappy way of behaving here.” I’m not exactly comforted. Did I mention I am on my best behavior around my mother and that I try not to get into arguments or in any way enrage her? I would call my behavior “nice.”
She signs her card thusly” I would say love you but the word love is used wrongly so that it has lost its meaning, so affectionately yours, your mother.”
You know what Mom? I think it would be okay for a mother to say that she loved her daughter. You’re not being graded or judged on your word choice. This isn't "Words with Friends" here.
If my mother can’t say she loves me, then why are we in any contact at all? Andy doesn’t understand why I need a break from her right now. I just find any contact with her painful. I don’t want to be the bigger person and frankly I don’t have the energy to try and get along with her. When I do try, it obviously doesn’t work and she still ends upset with me.
My mother may not understand love, affection and family but she does respect anger. She may be 88 but that doesn’t erase what I’m feeling right now. I need to take my niece’s advice and think of my mother as that crazy lady that I occasionally have a turkey dinner with.