Monday, August 2, 2010

Ease Up, Florence Nightingale

My mom's on her own right now while my stepdad visits one of his sons, so I called all weekend to try to check up on her. Mostly, she wasn't home. I finally got hold of my Uncle who said she was "out runnin' the roads last time I saw her."

It turns out, our cousins from Tacoma are visiting (I didn't even know we had cousins in Tacoma), and she had been entertaining them. Grudgingly. They were staying with our cousin Ruth whom, I have said before is going to be the death of my mother. She isn't "confined" to a wheelchair, so much as she's "opted" to sit in one til she dies, but there isn't anything really terribly wrong with her, beyond being 150 and having outlived everyone she likes. I would feel tremendous empathy in the soft part of my heart if it were not for the way she endlessly imposes on the rest of the family. She starts calling my parents everyday around 8 in the morning, dispatching them on assorted and sundry errands til whatever time she goes to sleep. Last winter, for example, she kept ripping out and buying new thermostats and dragging my stepdad over to change them out when she couldn't operate the new ones.

[To be honest, these episodes do frighten me a little.  Is this my future?  My office thermostat has all these programmable "zones" and it's a never-ending source of mystery to me. I haven't ripped it out of the wall yet though. I just keep a space heater under my desk in the winter. It has two settings: on and off. I don't even trust those. I plug it in when I get there. I unplug it when I leave.]

This weekend, she had called my Mom up to insist she come over and pick up three gallons of chili. My mom assured her she didn't want any chili, but Ruth said she had to come get it anyway. "So I had to put on my clothes at this time of night last night" (I looked at my watch: 7 pm, but she did make it sound like midnight) "and I had to drive over to her house, because nothing would do but I go get this chili and put it in our freezer, and do you know what I found when I got there?" (I couldn't imagine. The Tacoma cousins in the woodchipper?) "Her freezer was EMPTY. That's what. I looked. There was nothing in it but some broccoli. I brought it home, but I've got half a mind to throw it out. I'd feed it to the dogs if it wouldn't make them sick."

"You know what your brother says?" she asked. (I didn't.) "He says, 'Mom. You know there's a word for just this kinda thing...And you sure never hesitated to use it when we were kids.'"

"Yeahhhhhh," I stepped in to back him up. "You told us No for EVERYthing! Why can't you tell HER No?"

And why on earth had she made three gallons of chili anyway? I eventually wondered out loud. "Some stupid family reunion," my mom said. I thought about that for a second... "Heyyyyyy.... what family reunion?" I asked. "Oh shut up," she said. "You don't even know them and you wouldn't have come anyway, and I wasn't even going to go myself but now I have to take this damn chili."

Wait a minute. Who are all these people, and why are they all in town? "For. The. Reunion," she explained slowly.

"It'd be good for you to see them though," she continued, without waiting for me to catch up, adding that they might all come visit this week. "It'd be good for you to see Jenny again."

OK. Who's Jenny? "You know. The longshoreman. She works down on the docks unloading those ships. She's not in the union yet, but she's working on it." (I am sure I would remember if I had ever met a cousin who is a longshoreman. It would be the kinda thing that stands out, because no one else in the family works on the docks. As far as I know.)

Then she said she had to hang up because she had to finish watching some Matthew McConaughey movie.

"But you hate Matthew McConaughey," I pointed out.

"I know," she said. "But now that I've started it, I have to see how it ends."

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