Mom steals my fries

There were five of us at the table — me and Mom, my sister Katrina, Katrina's friend Adelle, and my friend Leon. The conversation between us was pleasant, but often interrupted by Mom, like this:

Adelle said, "My nephew Ken and his wife Phyllis got into an accident—" 

And Mom asked, "Who's Phyllis?" 

"She's Ken's wife," Adelle explained, "and they got into an accident—"

"Who's Ken?"

This was the pattern for much of the conversation, all through breakfast. Usually there are a few interruptions like that, but yesterday Mom was in primo form, and after a bit, we started ignoring most of her interruptions. It was the only way to converse.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Usually I'm an omelet guy, but I'm eating healthier lately, and decided to cheat with a burger and fries. 

I ordered last, and when I ordered it, Mom said, "Oh, I didn't know lunch was an option!" She snatched her menu back from the waitress, and said, "Maybe I want lunch, too." So instead of carrying our orders to the kitchen, the waitress stood there while Mom reconsidered her order.

"You've already ordered, Mom," I said, and hand-signaled the waitress that she should leave, but she didn't. "You can order lunch next Saturday, Mom," I added.

Mom shushed me, and continued studying the lunch menu. After a minute or so, the waitress excused herself, and said she'd be back. After another minute, Mom announced, "I guess I'll stay with the breakfast I ordered," and she said it again when the waitress returned several minutes later.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Before the food came, Mom asked, "What's that?" and pointed to my bus pass, in a plastic sheath hanging from a lanyard around my neck. 

"That's my bus pass," I said. It's on a retractable cord, and she pulled it toward her, to examine the card through the plastic. There's not much to see. It's a blue plastic card, that's all.

After a moment, she let go, and being spring-loaded, the card snapped back and smacked me in the nipple.

"Sorry," she said, and smiled at me. I believe she was sorry, and it was not intentional. She's old, and has probably never dealt with a spring-loaded lanyard. But still, ouch.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Then Mom asked my friend Leon, "What's your middle name?" Why she asked this I don't know; certainly nobody at the table had been discussing middle names, but Leon told her his middle name.

She then asked me, "Doug, what's your middle name?"

"You know my middle name, Mom. You chose it, and filled out the forms, so why would you ask me that?"

She smiled big, but didn't answer.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

When my burger and fries came, it was a moment I'd been looking forward to it for days. Being on a diet, it was only one burger, when in the past I'd order two, so my plan was to eat it slowly and savor every dang bite.

Soon as the waitress clattered the plate onto the table, Mom reached over and took a handful of my fries, mostly the long ones, leaving a corner of the plate french fryless. 

"I stole some of your fries," she said with a smile, and started eating them. 

Unsmiling, I said, "Don't take any more." She bluffed by reaching toward the fries again, but pulled her hand back empty, and laughed.

The diner makes terrific fries, by the way. So good that Mom even said, "Oh, these are really good fries." Which I already knew, and I got several less than I'd wanted.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Through breakfast, Mom asked me her usual array of questions. Always they're the same questions, and always my answers are the same.

① Did you come on the bus? 

② How's your cat?

③ Are you still looking for work?

I always come on the bus, and the cat's always fine, and I'm still looking for work.

I've said before, but maybe should say again, that Mom does not have dementia. She asks these questions, knowing she's asked before, and knowing the answers.

She remembers everything about last Saturday's breakfast, for example, as well as I do. The first thing she said when she came into the restaurant was, "You're wearing that same ugly hat from last Saturday."

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Not as often as the Big Three Questions, but on a steady rotation, Mom also asks when I'm going to lose weight, get my teeth fixed, visit my father's grave, how long it's been since I saw a doctor, and a few other questions I've answered many times.

Yesterday she asked:

• "Are you in touch with anyone you knew from Wisconsin?" That's a somewhat uncommon question, asked only once a month or so.

As always I explained, "My only friend in Wisconsin was my wife, and she died, so I am in touch with no-one there."

• "Do you ever hear from April or Margaret?" This is another question asked once monthly or so. Same answer every time:  

"April and I broke up almost 40 years ago, and she married someone else, she's a grandmother now, and we're not in touch. Maggie and I broke up almost 30 years ago, and we're not in touch, either. I will never again be in touch with either of them, and it is weird that you keep asking about them."

• "Would you come to my church if I asked you to?"

I've told my mother not to ask me to go to church, because the answer will always be no, and the question sets up long arguments I'd rather not have with her again. Since moving back to Seattle last spring, only twice has Mom asked me to go to church, which for her shows real restraint, and I've appreciated it. 

When she saw the look on my face, she explained, "'Would you come to my church if I asked you to' is technically a different question than asking you to come to church."

"Very clever, Mom," I said, "but the answer is no, and please don't ask me that question again, either."

She flashed her big smile, because she'd gotten me, and she knew it.

♦ ♦ ♦  

With five people at the table instead of the usual three or four, there was a lot of conversation, and with Mom interrupting more than usual ("Who's Lois?", "Who's Ignacio?") we'd been there for more than an hour. Everyone had finished eating.

Still a little hungry, I noticed that Mom had left 2/3 of a piece of french toast uneaten — about the same volume of food as the beloved fries she'd swiped from me. 

My mood wasn't chipper and we'd been there too long. Mom asked for another refill on her coffee, which meant we'd be there for several more minutes. There's no known limit to how many refills Mom will ask for, and it's not about the coffee, it's about keeping us at the table with her.

So I got up, and walked to the register to settle my bill. While I was there, I snagged our waitress to apologize for the extra lap Mom had made her run, by dithering between ordering breakfast or lunch.

When I came back to the table, I didn't sit down. Standing up, I hoped, would signal to the others that we needed to be leaving soon. One by one, the message was received, and within a few minutes Leon, Katrina, Adelle, and I were all standing around Mom.

She made no motion to get up, though, and when a waitress walked by with the coffee pot, Mom said to her, "Excuse me, could I get some more coffee please?"

"Bye, everyone," I think and hope I said, and I was headed for the door.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Waiting at the bus stop, I waved goodbye to them when they finally came out, about ten minutes later.

The food had been fine but the breakfast sucked, if you catch the distinction. The moment it went irreparably wrong was when Mom snatched my fries without asking.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Toward the end of breakfast, Katrina had mentioned that she wasn't feeling well, and when I got home and resettled in my recliner, she texted me that she'd home-tested positive for COVID-19.

She's had it before, and we're all vaccinated and boostered, so I'm not particularly worried. Katrina gets three days off work with pay, and the CDC says I'm supposed to hibernate in isolation for ten days. Which is what I usually do anyway.

In nearly three years of the pandemic, this is the closest I've come to catching it. As usual, I was the only one at our breakfast table wearing a mask, so my odds are slightly better than the unmasked masses.



  1. Claude Reigns, I'm Not KiddingJanuary 8, 2023 at 9:40 AM

    Anyone who snatches food from my plate gets their hand slapped - worse if it happens twice - that's one of my all time peeves and completely rude. I may share, if asked, but don't just take. This isn't a commune.

    Yes, it has to do with childhood trauma.

    1. >Anyone who snatches food from my plate gets their hand slapped

      FORKED, motherfucker, if you steal my fries.

      Doug, I told you before - I'm fat as fuck (as fat as the last time I was in Wisconsin) and unhealthy as hell, but my Covid was mercifully mild. Just a lot of snot and some throat pain. Virginia's was worse, and she's only a little fat, and A LOT healthier than I am. If you get it, drink a lot of water, get some Ricola for the throat pain, and see the doctor if you have breathing trouble.

    2. Also, I had an odd experience - yesterday (or maybe the day before?) I was THE ONLY mask wearer I saw in my entire 30 minutes in the huge discount grocery store - think about the size of 1/2 Woodman's.

    3. Childhood trauma is the worst kind of trauma, and also the worst kind of childhood. Thus I will not snatch any of your fries.

    4. If I get it, I'll immediately begin a regimen of Ricola and water, with optional difficulty breathing.

      The mask still might come through for me, though. It's been good to me so far, and I dunno why so many people have unmasked. There are still "masked required" signs on the bus here but it's no longer enforced, and about half the passengers are always showing their faces. I will never show mine.


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