I just got back from my annual Christmas trip to West Virginia. Its always hectic. I go from function to function, house to house, trying to see everyone I want to, and never getting to see anyone long enough to suit me.
My day job is at a small firm…and the senior members always take the week between Christmas and New Years off…leaving me to cover the office, meaning I have to rush home as soon as Christmas dinner is finished. Much as I love seeing everyone, it is exhausting! I drove 1100 miles in the past five days (in a dinky rental, mind you, as I didn’t want to risk my rear-wheel drive car on snowy roads.)
Anyhoodles…y’all no doubt want to hear about mama. My first stop once I got to town was to see her and my grandmother. (Mama has been staying with Granny, whose dementia seems to be worsening.)
Mama, bless her, has gained a good 40 pounds over the past year or so. Only, she thinks she’s still a size six. (True story…she keeps buying clothes in her old size.) So, for the last couple of times I’ve visted Mama, I am greeted by her spare tire hanging out the bottom of a tank top. Mama’s first order of business is to drag out whatever clothes she happens to have picked up at the consignment store or the discount rack since I’ve seen her last. I have never in my life known anyone with such consistently awful taste in clothes.
Her first piece was a lace t shirt emblazened with the words “You Can’t Handle This”.
“Ain’t that cute?”
“No. That’s awful. It looks like something a 12 year old girl in a trailer park would wear.”
Next up was a flowing multi colored pink thing that looked like the sort of thing Caribbean peasant women might wear. Granny piped up for that one. “Do you think that will fit you?”
“Well if it don’t, Ill give it to you.”
“I wouldn’t even wear that to bed!” Granny quipped. Either the stroke has removed some of her self-censor, or she is just fed up. Granny was calling it like it is.
Mom continues to labor under some delusion that her staying with Granny is a “full time job”. (To be fair, you’ll recall that this is the same woman who is exhausted by a walk to the mailbox.) With Christmas just around the corner, Mama was bemoaning that she just hadn’t found the time to do her Christmas shopping, or even been able to eek out a half an hour to get Granny to the bank to withdraw the ten dollar bills she puts in her grandchildren’s Christmas cards. It does take a lot of time and energy to carry that cross.
Mama had told me several times during the prior week that our usual Christmas plans (lunch with her side of the family at my aunt and uncle’s house, followed by a White Elephant exchange) was up in the air because the hosts were heading to the beach. A call to my aunt revealed that everything was scheduled as usual, but she was ordering lunch from an Italian restaurant rather than slave over the stove. I conveyed this to mom before I even drove up to West Virginia, but she was determined to hold onto the idea that something was amiss.
“Nobody knows whats going on! I guess me, you and, Granny will just have to find somewhere to eat out.”
“It’s lunch at Auntie and Uncles house like we always do. I just talked to her yesterday.”
“This is the most dysfunctional family I ever saw! Don’t nobody know what anybodys doing!”
“I just told you what we’re doing.”
“Ain’t nobody said a word to me.”
“Well have you asked?”
“Then in why in hell would you think it was anything other than the norm?”
This conversation came back to life the next day, when Mama called to say “Well, we’re eating down at Aunt and Uncles, but she’s ordering spaghetti.”
“No shit, Sherlock. That’s what I have been telling you for two days.”
“Nobody knows what the hell is goin on.”
“Nobody but you apparently.”
Then, on Christmas Eve, once again, Mama was determined to create some kind of drama where none existed. “Everybody is sick as a dog. I don’t think they’re even gonna have Christmas lunch.” Since I had see none of the people involved mention illness on Facebook, I sent out some messages to find out the story. Apparently, one of my cousin’s two kids had been sick the weekend before. No one had suggested canceling or changing our plans, and no one else was sick.
“Nobody is sick.” I texted Mama, “I will be there to pick you both up at one. If you aren’t dressed, or your hair isn’t fixed, or whatever other excuse you might have, I won’t accept it. You’ll go as you are.”
I later regretted not giving her an “out”.
I picked the ladies up, and a scene from Steel Magnolias came to mind. Mama looked like two pigs fighting under a blanket. She’d poured 150 pounds of Mama into a 100 pound sweater dress. (Who the hell still wears a sweater dress??) The turquoise jewelry I’d bought her in Aruba last year looked nice against the black dress…but it was way too short and wayyyyy too tight. Later, when we sat down, one of my aunts mentioned that she needed to be careful and keep her knees together, as little was left to the imagination when Mama sat down. This launched Mama into a lesson in world cultures.
“Did you know what they do for birth control in China? They put a penny between their knees, and they gotta hold ’em together to keep that penny from fallin’.” Yeah, I’m sure that’s how they do it in China.
While we were in the middle of eating, Mama wanted a lesson in how to save pictures that people text her. I took her low tech smart phone and attempted to figure it out, when I came across a picture of someone passed out in a seated position.
“Who is that?” I asked
“Oh that’s Kenny. I wanted him to see how damn stupid he looks drunk.”
My aunt overheard, and wanted to see Kenny (I guess they’ve never met.) My uncle asked what she was looking at and she answered “Mama’s boyfriend.”
Now, before Mama started overstaying her welcome at Granny’s, she and Kenny lived together for damn near three years. “He ain’t my boyfriend! He’s just a friend!”
“Oh, did you all break up?” auntie asked.
“He wasn’t never nothing but a friend. The dick don’t work! He drinks too much, so it just won’t work! Now tell me how we can be more than friends when the dick don’t work?”
No matter that my cousin’s young kids were in ear shot, or that we were all in the middle of Christmas dinner. Kenny’s flaccid noodle was announced at full voice.
Auntie said “Well you need to be more worried about your morals than that! Don’t you want to get into heaven?”
Granny, again out of character, chimed in “And you don’t want to get in there with the clap!” I died laughing, and couldn’t tell you what was said next.
A few minutes after dinner, Mama needed a cigarette. One of my aunts is a light smoker, and I was burning up in my seat near the fireplace, so we joined her outside. Mama was talking about her recent (bad) dye job. I don’t know where it went from there, but next thing I knew Mama was announcing that she decided to just shave her cootchie pop once her gray hair moved from her head to her crotch. I thought my aunt was going to puke. We changed the subject as quick as we could.
I mentioned that Darling and I are considering spending next Christmas on a cruise.
“Well, I’ve got a year to save up my money, cause I’m going with you.” I think she missed the reason we were considering spending the holidays away from our families. “How much is it?”
“I don’t know exactly, but probably about $1800 plus airfare to get to Florida.”
“Well maybe you could set back a hundred dollars a month or something til then for me.”
“Me?” I said, stunned.
“Well I can’t come up with that kinda money. Im on a fixed income. “ (see my previous post.)
“Well get a damn job then.”
“I got one! Taking care of Granny.” she turned to my aunt, “I don’t think they realize how much they’d have to spend to have someone look after her. And I do a good job too!” It’s only a matter of time before she hits up my aunts and uncles for a paycheck, or finds some government program to pay her for her “work”. Then she launched into just how hard she works. The extent of her duties seems to be getting the mail and the self-inflicted task of sticking her head out of her bedroom door anytime she hears Granny get up in the middle of the night.
Well, that’s enough to give you the gist of the holiday. Next time…Mama learns Facebook.