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Saturday's breakfast

There were only three of us at the diner for breakfast — my mom, my sister Katrina, and me. The problem was my mom, of course.

She has a hundred stories of cute things I said or did when I was a little kid, and tells several every time I see her. I suppose everyone's mom does that, but mine also has an extensive collection of stupid or embarrassing things I've done, which she loves listing whenever there's a lull in the conversation.

At Saturday's breakfast, we were talking about job-hunting and me getting my new job — I'm driving the short bus — so Mom brought up my very first job, 50+ years ago. It was a paper route, delivering a weekly 'shopping news' free paper, and I was lazy, so some weeks I didn't deliver the papers. The people in those houses weren't paying for it, wouldn't miss it, and I thought I'd gotten away with it until Mom found the stack of papers in the bushes behind our house, and had Dad whip me but good.

She told that story on Saturday, maybe to make sure I don't hide the bus behind the bushes at my new job.

"And remember when you were fired from your job at the hospital?"

"Yeah, Mom, I remember, but that was 1979. Why the hell would you bring it up now?" She only smiled.

Later she told a story from when I was 14, and got severely beaten by a kid on my way home from school. How and especially why that came up, I have no idea.

"That was a few weeks after that girl stood you up on what would've been your first date, right?"

"Mom," said Katrina in a disapproving voice, and I appreciated it.

"Why would you bring that up at breakfast in 2022?" I asked Mom. "Seriously, tell me why? Do you have no ability to not say the wrong thing?"

Her only answer was The Smile. Whenever I point out that she's being rude, unreasonable, or monstrous, she gives me her biggest smile, because someone who smiles so big couldn't possibly be rude, unreasonable, or monstrous.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

When she's not bringing up memories I don't want to remember, she likes to recite whatever I've told her recently. Anything I've mentioned, she mentions back.

For example, when I rented a room in this boarding house, I foolishly told my mother. She needed to have the concept of a rented room explained to her, so I explained it, and now she makes conversation by explaining it back to me. "You rent only a room, right?" "You share your kitchen with other people." "You share your bathroom with other people."

Yeah, she simply says it, and what can I say in response to that, when she says it for the 50th time? When I'm short-tempered, I say nothing, or change the subject, or ask her why a shared toilet fascinates her so, but usually I only say again, "Yes, Mom. I share my bathroom."

I've told her I like riding the bus, so any time I mention anywhere I've gone, anything I've done, she always asks, "Did you take the bus there?" "Did you take the bus back?" If I tell her I drove, she'll want to know why. If I tell her I bused, she'll want to know how my ride was, but it never sounds like she's interested, and I'm not interested in answering such questions.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

And she always wants to know about Margaret, my flatmate in the 1980s, who gradually but briefly became my girlfriend in the 1990s. Mom met her a few times, so she always, always asks, "Do you ever hear from Margaret?"

"No, Mom, I never hear from Margaret, same as I told you last Saturday."

"Was she just one of your flatmates, or was she your girlfriend?" 

"We were just friends. We never dated." I will insist forever that Maggie & I never dated, because I don't want to answer — or even hear — more and more questions about a woman I knew 30 years ago, every time I see or hear from my mom.

"And do you ever hear from April?" she asked next.

"I haven't heard from April since we broke up, in 1985."

"Did April break up with you," Mom asked, "or did you break up with her?" I didn't answer.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Since I moved from Wisconsin back to Seattle, Mom has started asking, frequently, about the geography of Wisconsin. "Where's Milwaukee?" "Did you ever go to Milwaukee?" "Where's Green Bay?" "Did you ever go to Green Bay?"

I gave her the map of Wisconsin from my car's glove compartment, hoping that would answer all her Wisconsin-related questions, but it hasn't. Instead it's led to even more questions about Wisconsin. She keeps texting me the names of Wisconsin cities and towns, asking if I've ever been there, and — despite my gift of the map — asking where these towns are.

This week at breakfast, she brought and wanted to discuss an obituary she'd clipped from the paper, of a Seattle man neither of us knew. She brought the obit only because it mentioned that he'd lived in Wisconsin in the 1970s. "Did you know him?" She asked me.

"How would I know him, Mom? The article says he left Wisconsin thirty years before I moved there, and he lived in Oshkosh. That's 90 miles from Madison."

"90 miles isn't far. You could drive that in an hour and a half."

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Mom never forgets to remind me that for many years, she didn't even know where I was, or whether I was alive or dead. To me, those were happy years, mostly because she didn't know where I was.

She's my mom, though, and I'm not vanishing again. I'm glad we're back in touch. Seeing her for breakfast once a week only takes an hour, and when she's not accidentally or on purpose being rude, unreasonable, or monstrous, she says something nice once in a while, or tells a story that's not stupid or mean or a rerun.

At Saturday's breakfast, she mentioned a brief tidbit about my grandfather, who was dead long before I was born. Mom doesn't mention him often, so I don't know much about him. He was a farmer, tall and tough and rugged. Born 1890, died 1944, and he got around on a horse, even long after cars had become common.

Mom was wearing a Goodwill-bought purple pattern blouse, telling us how much she paid for it though nobody'd asked, and telling us she'd had to mend a rip in the sleeve, when she said, "My father, your grandfather, taught me how to sew."

"He did?" Katrina said.

"Yes," said Mom. "He was a good father, and when anyone's clothes ripped or needed patching, it was always him, not my mother, who did the needle and threadwork."

"Jeez, Mom," I said, "that's a great story. You've always made our grandfather sound so macho, and now we learn that he was a seamstress? I wish you'd tell more stories about your childhood, and less about mine."

I was smiling as I said it, so she told me I need to see a dentist, to have my teeth fixed.

My teeth are crooked, stained, missing, etc, but I don't care, long as they chew. Sometimes I say that, when she tells me again to see a dentist. Sometimes I tell her my teeth are none of her business. Sometimes I get testy and tell her to drop my teeth and never mention my teeth again. And sometimes, like Saturday, I don't say anything, because what I say doesn't matter. She'll soon tell me again that I should see a dentist, and have my teeth fixed. She really does have no ability to not say the wrong thing.

Then she did the coffee trick again — telling me and Katrina that we should stay and talk until her coffee is gone, and then asking for another coffee refill. Her cup was still mostly full when I hugged her and said "I love you," and said goodbye to Katrina and my mom, and caught the bus home, and laughed about it.

She's the only Mom I have, and I love her. By the end of breakfast I'm always glad breakfast is over, but I'll be back at the diner next Saturday at 9AM, and I hope she'll be there, too.

8/2/2022   

itsdougholland.com
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6 comments:

  1. I know you're not a people person, but your mother is certifyable and I think the fact of your willing to put up with her and still loving her says something pretty good about you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. She's a challenge, but yeah, I love her.

    Just about nobody says something pretty good about me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Have you had your mother checked out, medically? I wonder if she has a chemical imbalance or some old-age condition...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're not the first to voice that concern, and it's possible, but her behavior is basically the same now as in my earliest memories of her, when I was a little kid.

      Delete
    2. I have never met Doug's mom, but I have "known" her for 25 years, through his writing. His depiction of her has pretty much remained unchanged. Just a point of information for you.

      Delete
    3. The Rockette of Gilbralter, she is.

      Delete

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