This is as serious a post as I ever hope to make here. I’ll preface it by saying that I don’t mean any deliberate disprespect…but I just call it like I see it.
My mom drives me nuts. It’s really as simple as that. Other than the job market, there is one reason I live 5 hours from where I grew up, and she is it.
Someone once told my mother that the secret to living the good life was to marry often and marry well. Given that she only listens to half, if that, of what anyone says, she only got the “marry often” part down. I think technically she has only been down the aisle three times, but she has been engaged at least a dozen, and rarely goes more than a few weeks without a live-in. She married my father when she was nineteen, and he was her third fiancee. She remarried about a year after her 4-year marriage to my father ended in divorce. She wisely held on to the second husband for ten years–the magic number at which she could be fully vested in his pension and social security benefits. A slew of long-term boyfriends ensued throughout my teen and college years, and at some point after my own career began, she married husband number three (a homeless looking man whose previous marriage had ended suddenly after he found his first wife in bed with another man and shot them both). I’m pretty sure that she met husband number three after the live-in that preceded him hired him to cut mom’s grass–but, frankly, I can’t always keep up.
As a child and teenager, Mom’s wild and crazy ways could be, at least somewhat, enjoyed. What teenager doesn’t want to go shopping every weekend for new clothes? Who wouldn’t like to get up for school only to be told “Pack your bags! The plane will be here at nine!” (one of the almost-stepfathers actually lived in Florida and his company had a plane that would sometimes spirit us away for a week at the beach). And what teen would really mind that his mother was gone for weeks at a time with whatever gentleman had her fancy that year…particularly if it was a gentleman who (like another almost-stepfather) gave her carte-blanche to spend money on his credit cards and thought that giving her children piles of gifts was just one of many paths to her heart?
At some point after I left for college, her taste in men went decidedly downhill. Prior to that, she had at least dated men who had careers, homes, and their own cars. But after them came a string of lowlifes, all “looking for work” or “drawing disability” or any of the other excuses that such ne’er do wells offer when asked how they spend their days. These were men you’d be embarassed to be seen with at a nice restaurant, who likely had taken much more from society than they contributed, and who carried on conversation with the same vocabulary and mature thought processes as one might expect from a parrot or a two year old.
But, luckily, I’m five hours removed from most of her drama, and when her phone calls get to be too taxing, I can always make the other phone ring to give myself a convenient excuse to get her off the line. And they always become too taxing. Mostly because it’s not so much a conversation as it is her speaking into dead air about how she is the victim, disrespected and used by whomever she is dating at the moment, always “sick” “tired” and in need of “a break”. A break from what, I’ve never understood, as she has never worked a day in her life.
Let me take a little detour here. Despite being raised by this flake, I managed to graduate high school and college at the top of my classes. She couldn’t be bothered to attend my college graduation. I went on to have a fairly good career, but she still doesn’t know exactly what I do. The people I choose to have in my life are everything the people she chooses to have in her life are not–educated, trustworthy, hardworking, and honest–but rather than be proud that her son has been blessed with true friends, she mostly just seems to see them as other people who might somehow be able to help her out. (“Do you think she could give me a ride?”) While I am far from rich, before I was 30 I managed to own a home that, while normal by most people’s standards, is still larger and more expensive than any home she ever lived in. I travel a good bit, eat out a lot, pay someone to wash my cars and cut my grass, and while I might grumble about rising prices I still buy a gallon of milk whenever I need one and fill my tank when it’s empty. For Average Joe American, I’m just living a normal life. But to her, I’m rich. Better still, I’m her rich son, and therefore an untapped resource when her bills are late, her roots need done, her car breaks, or she sees a set of new sheets she wants. Make no mistake, I rarely send her any money. It’s not a habit I want her getting into. But it doesn’t stop her from not-so-subtly hinting that she wants some almost everytime we talk. But despite all of this, the only time I can ever recall her being visibly proud of anything I have ever done was last year when I bought myself a convertible for my birthday. I had to drive her past the homes of two ex boyfriends, apparently for no reason other than so they could see her sitting in a nice looking expensive automobile. In the few hours she and I drove around in it, I became more and more embarassed. “It is just a car” I reminded her as she made a show for each stop light, convenience store, and passing neighbor. “I’m just so proud of you!” she exclaimed. Whoopty do. I might buy myself a used and raggedy Geo Metro just to use the next time I have to take her anywhere.
A month or more ago, I invited mom to come here for the weekend of Mother’s Day. I would normally just send a card or some flowers, but you see, my younger sister was killed in a car accident a few months ago, and this will be mom’s first mother’s day without her. Add to it that my sister’s birthday is that same week, and I thought I would do a good deed and get mom to a new place for a few days to take her mind off of things. Immediately, I sort of regretted making the invitation.
“I can’t smoke in your house can I?” she asked.
“No, but you can smoke on the porch or the patio.”
“What about the garage?”
“No. What’s wrong with smoking outside?”
“I might get cold.”
“It will be 80 degrees outside!”
“You mean you wouldn’t let me smoke in the garage?”
“No, I wouldn’t.”
“Well what kind of clothes would I bring?”
“The kind you don’t need two hairdo’s to wear.”
“Dresses? or jeans?”
“There’s no dress code at my house, just wear what you want.”
I doubt I’ll ever attempt to be nice again.
When I made the invitation, mom and her live-in of the moment were going to come together. As of this week, he is out of the house and the picture. (Although it’s been a few hours since I spoke to her, so that may have changed.) So, apparently, her coming here is now MY problem. My grandmother called last night and said mom told her I was going to come and get her. Because that makes sense? That I would drive five hours, turn around, drive five hours back, then do it all again two days later?
I called mom this morning and explained that, while I was not going to make a total of four trips up and down the interstate in a weekend, I’d happily make two and come home for Mother’s Day.
“But I need to get away from here!” she plead. Well, I’m sorry. It’s not my damned fault that you don’t have a reliable car, money for a plane ticket, or any friends to con into coming with you.
“I could stay a week or two so you wouldn’t have to drive all that way in one weekend. If you could stand me that long.”
Nervous laughter from me. Of course I couldn’t stand you that long. I’d need a prescription of Valium to get through one weekend. After two weeks I’d need to be committed to a hospital.
“Im usually at work 12 hours a day, and two night that week I have after work functions. You’d be bored out of your mind.”
“I don’t mind being alone.” Then be alone at your own damn house!!
The way I feel right now, she’s getting a card and some flowers as usual because my whole invitation has turned into a microchasm of her whole life–nothing is ever enough, whatever you give her she will always try to get more, and she is the only one and only thing that matters, and the rest of the world is just here for her use and entertainment.