Other Stuff

| | Comments (1)

So Mike says I can't just write about Harry Potter, I have to write about other stuff. I'll try.

On Saturday morning I drove my mother to the airport and she flew home to Arizona after spending two weeks with us. Having her here over the holidays was stressful despite my conscious effort not to feel that way about it. I know she's going through a difficult time right now, following the death of my father in May. Despite having mentally and financially prepared herself for widowhood for years, I tried to tell her back in April that it would come as a shock, how empty the house would feel. She'd never lived alone in her life until May, and after constantly, throughout her life, for eighty-four years having someone around with whom to share her thoughts, I'm sure she feels intensely lonely--more so than she can bring herself to say.

For the first week she was here I was on vacation. She was like velcro; she followed me around the house, got up when I got up and went to bed when I did. She wanted to run every errand with me; I couldn't get away from her. When I needed to go to my office for a few minutes she wanted to come with me, offering to wait in the car. I showed her my office, took her to Starbuck's, took her to the grocery store, thinking she'd get tired and I could drop her off at the house and finish my Christmas shopping, but she didn't want to be left behind. No matter how much running around I did, no matter how tiring, she wanted to come along. She seemed to expect us to spend every waking moment together during the two weeks she was here. I tried to be considerate and sympathetic but I was almost continuously angry.

During the second week I worked Tuesday through Friday. She read quite a bit, but she isn't the kind of reader the rest of the family is; she doesn't lose herself in a book. She seemed unhappy. She didn't want to get in my way in the mornings so she waited with coming out of her room until I'd left for work, then she sat in a chair and read all day, waiting for me to come home. At some point it seemed to dawn on her that I wanted to spend some time with Mike, so she finally started going upstairs at 9pm, leaving us alone to watch TV together.

Before she came last summer I turned what had been a study into a guest bedroom for her to stay in. I bought a daybed and Mike and I painted the room a sunny yellow with green trim. I decorated it in a cheerful, colorful beach theme with "clam bake" and "surf shop" bedding and pillows from Nautica. I hung artwork on the walls. I pulled out all the stops to make her comfortable; to make her feel welcome. She took the comforter off the bed, folded it up and put it on the floor in the corner; she slept under the blanket they'd given her on the airplane. You know those airline blankets? It's such a nice blanket, she said, she'd asked the stewardess if she could keep it.

I tried to make Christmas beautiful for her. I decorated, I bought her a beautiful stocking and hung it by the fireplace with Mike's and my own. I bought her quite a few small gifts, mindful that she'd have to carry them home in her luggage. I bought the kind of coffee maker she uses so she could brew a pot of coffee for herself whenever she felt like it. None of it mattered at all.

The hardest thing about having her in my house is that she doesn't know how to be a house-guest. She doesn't want to be a "guest" in my house--she wants to take over the cooking and the cleaning. What would make her happy would be to feel needed, and that's the one thing I can't feel, partially for practical reasons, partially because I learned not to need her decades ago. My mother's cooking is bland and fattening and I don't want her to prepare roast beef and Yorkshire pudding for Christmas dinner--No Thanks. My mother always cooked without benefit of herbs or spices other than salt and pepper. She wouldn't know what to do with olive oil. Her chili contains neither chilies nor chili powder. Her spaghetti sauce contains neither herbs nor garlic. I grew up believing vegetables always came out of cans.

And I just can't stand the idea of my mother coming to visit me and cleaning my house. I pay someone to clean every two weeks so it's not like the place is filthy. Last time she visited she ironed some clothes for me but she was evidently afraid of burning them so she kept the iron on low and didn't use steam; nothing was ironed well enough for me to wear to work. It's just not worth it. I try to tell her she's on vacation and should just enjoy herself.

When she visited during the summer I was having the back yard regraded and I'd hoped she'd be able to walk the dog while I was at work. She was always quite strong--stronger than I ever was, and she and my father owned dogs up until about 4 years ago. Unfortunately she no longer has good balance; to my horror she fell twice shortly after she arrived, and I realized she wasn't nearly steady enough on her feet to walk Saint. Despite being insanely good-natured and eager to please, he's still a young and energetic lab and he goes nuts on the leash from time to time. He wants to play with every dog he sees. I never walk him without the training collar on, and even then I sometimes have trouble controlling him. So, the one thing I'd hoped she could do for me was out of the question.

That's the practical aspect of it, which isn't as difficult to get around as the psychological. I needed my mother when I was twelve, when my father turned on me and I had recurring nightmares of abandonment. I needed her to stand up to him on my behalf; she never did. She was devoted to my father, a narcissistic and emotionally dysfunctional man, for reasons I can only vaguely grasp. She always believed he married beneath himself. I think she felt the need to prove to him that he hadn't given up a better life by marrying her. She was loyal to a fault; she took his side. I was blamed for not being the kind of daughter he wanted. I became fiercely independent at an early age; I never lived at home after the age of eighteen.

My relationship with both my parents improved after Mike was born. He stayed with them for several days in 1989, while my husband and I came back to Virginia to look for a house. I turned to my mother for the last time in 1999. When my husband killed himself three weeks before Christmas, I asked her, practically begged her, to come and spend Christmas with us: we were shattered. She could have made Christmas for us that year. She could have decorated, shopped, wrapped presents, filled stockings, and cooked Christmas dinner. She wouldn't come. She didn't like traveling over the holidays; too many crowds, too much chance of getting stuck in bad weather. Neither she nor my father came for the funeral or Christmas. My brother came for the funeral and helped me put up a Christmas tree before he left. I did the rest myself, in a mental fog of shock and grief. I bought Mike just a couple of presents, wrapped them poorly, put fruit and candy in his stocking.

When my parents finally came in late in January, my mother took over the kitchen so she could cook whatever my father wanted to eat.

I can't, won't, pretend that I need my mother. It's the only thing she needs from me now, and I don't have it in me.


Yeah it was sad when she was around the house. It was like she was deteriorating as a person mind and body, and was unable to do any of the stuff she would've liked to have done to make herself feel useful. I didn't feel safe giving her plates to hold, and she didn't seem to be able to follow any of the television programs she watched; she either forgot what was going on or zoned off in the middle never to regain interest. She would resort to doing incredibly simple and pointless jobs over and over again, just to do something. I suppose it's only natural, she's pretty old and these things were bound to happen, it's just difficult when there's no clear way to make someone happy; even when she was following you around it wasn't like that made her feel useful, but it was the only thing she knew how to do. Oh well, death and taxes, right?

Leave a comment

Type the characters you see in the picture above.

July 2012

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31        


Powered by Movable Type 4.12