Only slightly odd and awkward

Recently, my weekly family breakfasts have been mostly fireworks-free. Sometimes they're pleasant, sometimes boring. Yesterday's was only slightly odd and awkward, but this is the diary of a fat slob, so I saved you a slice of it.

At a few minutes after 9:00, my sister Katrina and my mom weren't there yet. Traffic can be tough, and sometimes they're late for breakfast.

I hate waiting inside, telling the waitress more people are coming, so instead I stood outside the restaurant, leaning on a wall.

A car stopped in the parking lot, and a woman got out. She started walking toward the restaurant, while her companion parked their car. The woman's face was distorted, disfigured from a birth defect or an accident, and it made me think about how rough that's gotta be. Your face is the very first impression you make, especially if you're a woman, and there was nothing she could've done to make a better impression.

As she approached me, I said, "Good morning," and gave her a smile. An easy kindness.

The woman said hi, smiled back at me, and walked into the restaurant. I spent some seconds kicking myself over all the inconsequential things I kvetch about, which add up to nothing, really, compared to what that woman faces every day.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

A few minutes later, my sister pulled up and parked, she and Mom got out, and we all hugged, then walked into the restaurant. It's a seat-yourself place, so we started looking for a table.

My mom walks kinda slowly, so we all walked slowly past the table where that disfigured woman was sitting with her husband, or maybe her brother or friend. When my Mom saw her, she jumped like she'd seen a horror movie monster. "Oh!" she said loudly, and shuddered.

I smiled at that woman again, but she turned away.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

During breakfast, Mom didn't have much to say, but Katrina was more talkative than usual, telling us about her recent camping trip, and about her granddaughter, my grand-niece, who is objectively the cutest kid on the planet. Then Mom brought out some papers, printouts of emails, and what happened next was very Mom.

Ever since deciding to move back to Seattle, I've sent occasional group-emails to my family — first about packing, then about my drive across the country, then about looking for a place to live, looking for a job, etc. Not many and not often, but I've sent a dozen of those group-emails, over seven months.

Mom lives with Katrina, and they don't have internet access at home, so Mom barely knows what email is. She doesn't have an email address, so Katrina prints my emails at work, and brings them home to Mom.

And I guess Mom keeps the email printouts, like a scrapbook. She'd brought printed copies of all my dozen emails to the family, and as we ate breakfast, she read from them, out loud.

She read something I'd written in February, out loud, then looked at me and smiled. She read something I'd written later in February, out loud, then looked at me and smiled.

Then, thankfully, Katrina talked for a while, but later Mom read something from an email I'd written in March, and looked at me and smiled.

In April, when I'd been looking for a place to live here in Seattle, I'd written an email listing the pros and cons of several rooms I'd looked at, including the room I eventually took. At the table, Mom started to read my descriptions of each of the six rooms I'd visited, out loud, but I interrupted.

"Mom, this is really really really boring for me, to hear you read emails that I wrote and sent last spring. Can we talk about something from this summer instead — and talk about it, instead of reading emails about it?"

I never get her. I can understand saving the email printouts, even re-reading them — they're all very well-written, ahem — but I can't understand bringing the printouts to breakfast, and reading them out loud, to the person who wrote them. Who would do that?

My mom.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Toward the end, or what I wanted to be the end of breakfast, Mom did her coffee trick again. She asks the waitress for one more refill… and then another… and then...

Of course, by good manners, nobody can leave until Mom's finished her coffee, and it's amazing how long that can take. When she does finish her coffee, she then needs to drink all of her water, because it's so good for her health, you know, and it's amazing how long it can take for Mom to finish her water.

I've stopped playing the coffee and water game. There's a time clock on our weekly breakfasts. I'll stay for at least 45 minutes, and an hour or even longer if there's interesting conversation, but then I'm gone.

With Katrina being extra talkative yesterday, it was almost an hour and a half before we started running out of things to say, and Mom started reading more emails I'd sent in April, out loud.

Katrina and I had said no thanks to the last two rounds of coffee refills, and the waitress came 'round again, so Mom, of course, held out her cup and smiled for more.

"Gotta go," I said. "Errands to run. It sure was nice seeing you two, though."

"Yeah, I've gotta go too," Katrina said, and we both paid our bills, tipping extra big because we'd stayed so long. Then we walked out together, leaving Mom alone, with her coffee and water and emails.

In front of the restaurant, Katrina told me about Mom's coffee trick, and I laughed and laughed. "I thought I was the only one in the family who'd figured out Mom's coffee trick," I said.

"Oh, no," said Katrina. "Remember, I live with her. She can't get away with the coffee trick with me. She could drink coffee refills for hours, so you have to get up and go, or you'll never get away."

Katrina told me how she limits her time in the living room at her house — ten minutes when she gets home from work, and no more. She spends most of her home-time in her bedroom, to survive sharing the house with Mom.

We laughed about that, until Mom finally came out of the restaurant. Then we all said goodbye, and Mom rode away with Katrina, to Katrina's house.

♦ ♦ ♦

I shared that house with Katrina and Mom when I first got to Seattle, just for a few weeks, and almost can't imagine sharing a house with Mom permanently. Certainly I'm glad Katrina took her in, and keeps an eye on Mom, but I couldn't do that.

Mom and I have breakfast once weekly, and exchange text messages sometimes in the evening. That's my limit, if I don't want to lose my mind. 


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  1. That is really a strange thing to do, reading emails aloud. Your mother always seems so unbalanced I wonder how you turned out not crazy.

  2. "Not crazy" is the best I'd say about how I turned out, but even that's a judgment call.

    1. I believe that judgement calls are unappealable under the current MLB rules. And it's true, but it's not the best.


    2. Don't get me started on ghost runners. Sheesh. Putting a man on second base in extra innings? My ass. Ghost runners are for slow-pitch softball. I'm not sure even Little League has ghost runners, but major league baseball most definitely should not.


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