Breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Mom

For breakfast, Mom and I had orange juice and cold cereal in her hotel room, and the conversation was nice and normal and didn’t drive me batty. As I left to go to work, though, she again invited me to come visit her in Seattle. I again said, “Some time, yeah, but not some time soon.” Then I went to work. 

♦ ♦ ♦

For lunch, we didn’t have lunch. I came home and met Mom at the agreed-upon time, but she’s never really worked outside the home and she doesn’t understand the concept of “lunch hour.” So instead of eating we sat in her hotel room, while she talked about my father’s cancer and funeral. Each time I tried to nudge her toward the door and the restaurant, she had another anecdote about Dad. I gave up after four attempts, and listened to Mom’s stories until my luunch break was over.

"OK," I said. "Gotta go back to work."

"I thought we were going to lunch!" she said. Yeah, I thought so, too. I grabbed an egg sandwich from the cafeteria, and ate it at my desk. 

♦ ♦ ♦

At dinner, Mom talked about me and my many shortcomings. She wanted to know about my job. I’m an office flunky, so I told her a little about what I do, and she said, “That doesn’t sound like interesting or rewarding work.” Which is true. I’ve said the same myself, often. But when Mom said it, it sounded like a judgment against me. 

She said she wanted to meet some of my friends, but I haven’t got any friends in San Francisco. I’ve only been here for three years, c’mon. “No friends at all?” she asked. Another judgment. 

She wanted to know about the women in my life. I told her there’s only Maggie, and that our romance is fading in the distance. “But you’re not homosexual, right?” No, Mom. I’m not gay.

She asked what I do with myself in a city where I don’t know anyone, and I told her I read and write and go to the movies alone. She wanted to know what I write, so I knew I'd made a blunder in our game of conversational chess. "Oh, this and that," I said.

“You never go to church?” Nope, I never go to church. Mom’s gone to church every Sunday since long before I was born, and she struggles with the concept of someone not going to church.

“Your life sounds so lonely and very sad,” she announced, “very empty.” Very judgmental, again. I said thank you kindly, but my life suits me. 

She said, “Don’t you ever get out and meet people?” I said never. 

She said, “Your friends and family are in Seattle, and that’s where you should be.” I said it’s my life, and I’m fine here in San Francisco. I’m 36 damned years old so I get to live where I choose. Did I say that last bit to her, or only think it? I don’t remember. 

I try not to intentionally hurt my mother, and I didn’t want an argument, but do I have to explain this to her again? I’ve explained it to her before, several times, as well as it can be explained.

"I want to be alone. I like to be alone. I’ve come a great distance specifically to be alone."

In Seattle there’s one friend, maybe two, and too many acquaintances who think they’re friends. In San Francisco there are no friends, only a few acquaintances. That’s an improvement. 

Family, too — my mom, my sisters and brothers, my nieces and nephews. I love all of them and they love me. but I want some space away from the minor and major drama, the obligatory birthday and anniversary parties, all the talk of God, and some of the wackier branches on the family tree. 

A big part of San Francisco’s appeal is that those people aren't here.

I shouldn’t have to re-explain all this to Mom every damn time I see her. But I re-explained it, and I'm sure I'll be re-explaining it tomorrow.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Look, I don't want to be too harsh on Mom here. She's not Norman Bates, and much of this evening was fairly normal family stuff.

There’s a pattern to our conversations, though. Mom does most of the talking, about the family, about my dead dad, and about people I’ve forgotten or never knew. Her stories are usually reruns of stories she’s already told, but that’s OK — I’m sure I’ll do the same thing when I’m old. 90% of the conversation is Mom talking, but that’s OK, too — I’m not much of a talker anyway.

I participate politely in all this, answer and ask questions as they arise, but when I’m talking, Mom often interrupts. And whatever we’re talking about, at random moments she changes the subject to talk about God. 

Tonight we were talking about one of my nieces, and out of the blue Mom asked, “Are there any Christians you respect?” 

“I’ll bet there are more Christians I respect, than non-Christians you respect.” 

She talked about Dad’s dying days, and about an old friend of hers, and about babysitting her grandkids, and then she asked, “What do you think happens when we die?” 

“I think the worms eat us.” 

“But what about your soul?” she asked earnestly. “The worms can’t your soul.” 

“The worms can’t eat your soul, because you’re a Christian, but they’ll eat my soul.” 

Then she started crying, saying I wasn’t taking God seriously. “Exactly, Mom. I don’t take God seriously. I don’t take God at all. I know you’re into God, and it makes you cry when I say I’m not — so why are we talking about it all the time? Let it go.” 

“I can’t let it go. I can’t let you go. I want to see you in Heaven, but you won’t be there. You’ll be in the other place.” 

I said, “Lying is a sin, right? You keep asking what I believe, and I’m not going to lie. You know I don’t believe in God, so why do you keep asking?” 

“When you die and you’re in Hell and I’m in Heaven, you’ll be sorry and you’ll miss me and it’ll be awful for you, but I won’t even be able to remember you, because I’ll miss you so much, but God doesn’t allow any unhappiness in Heaven.” 

There's no way I could unravel that, so I said nothing. Mom cried for a few minutes more, but by that point, I’d dialed down my give-a-damn. 

Then she did her forced smile again, and said she wanted to see Union Square, so we walked over. It’s only a few blocks, and on the way she told me the story of Jesus and the multitudes. 

“Hey, Mom,” I said. “If you spend this whole visit trying to convert me, you’re going to be crying a lot.” Sufficiently provoked, I can be a cruel bastard. 

She told me again that she’s praying for me, and I said, “If you want to pray for me, pray for me.” 

“Are you saying you want to believe?” 

Uh, no. I hadn't said that or anything like that. “I’m saying I want to change the damned subject.” 

♦ ♦ ♦

It’s a strange feeling, to be looking forward to going to work tomorrow. I'll have four hours of the ordinary but blissful stupidity of the office, then lunch with Mom. Then four more hours in the office, and then another evening like this one? I wonder if I can work overtime tomorrow...

From Pathetic Life #3
Wednesday, August 17, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


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  1. Captain HampocketsMay 30, 2021 at 10:26 AM

    You've softened on your mom in the intervening years, but my first exposure to her was this set of diary entries, and it makes me want to stab her with an oyster fork.

  2. I've never owned an oyster fork, but I've had similar thoughts, if only in jest.

    Were you already publishing your zine at this point, summertime 1994? How much longer until you popped up in San Francisco?

    1. Captain HampocketsMay 30, 2021 at 12:27 PM

      Pfffffff... That's a tough question. I arrived in SF in Fall 1996. I am relatively sure that I had not been doing the zine for more than the previous year. I think this entry is 1994, so I had not yet started the zine, I think. I am 100% sure that I didn't read these early issues of PL until later, as back issues.

  3. Glad you came to SF, man. Glad we had movies and ball games and all those damn fine burritos.

    There's burritos in Wisconsin, but they never get it quite right.

    1. Captain HampocketsMay 31, 2021 at 5:59 AM

      Same here. I can get a pretty OK burrito in Gettysburg and its surroundings, but we lived within a 5-minute walk of a dozen grade-A amazing burritos in the Mission.


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