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Thanks for breakfast, Mom.

With no health insurance, it costs $200 to see a doctor. For that ransom, the doc wrote me a new prescription a week ago. He said it might cause lightheadedness at first, so I should start with a quarter-pill for a few days, then a half pill, before finally reaching the glorious full-pill daily dosage. 

Today's tale takes place on the first day of the half-pill, as the meds made my head spin.

"What do I do if I get lightheaded?" I'd asked the doctor, but I don't remember what he'd answered.

This isn't about that, though. The woozy feeling faded after a few hours, and it hasn't happened since, so no worries.

I mention it only because this was Saturday, and I was due for breakfast with Mom. So it was a slightly tilted breakfast, rendering me more an observer and less a participant than most Saturdays.

♦ ♦ ♦

It was only me and Mom and my sister, Katrina, and as always they were late. When they walked in, we all said hello, and before even sitting down, my mom reached across, grabbed my glass of ice water, and slid it to her place at the table. She's never done that before, but she always wants ice water, so why not steal mine?

I was all WTF, but only internally. My drug-induced daze made me unsure of words, so I only sighed.

After she'd had a long sip of my water, Mom asked if I'd found a job. I shook my head, no.

Then she asked if I was still planning to move when I found a job. That's a conversation we've had a hundred times, because once I'd mention that I'd probably move to be close to whatever job I find.

So I looked at Mom, and replayed those past conversations in my mind — I haven't found a job yet, but when I do, yes, I'll probably move close to work, for a shorter commute. Didn't say anything, though, so Mom continued.

Her questions had been a set-up: She said she'd seen a help-wanted sign near her house, and urged me to apply for whatever that job might be, so I could move close to her house, instead of several miles across town.

Mom doesn't understand jobs. She's never had one.

I shook my head no, and she started telling me how terrific it would if I lived and worked nearby. We could get together more often, she could come to my job and join me for lunch, or I could come over for dinner, or maybe even move in with Mom and Sis...

Then the waitress was there to take our orders, but as usual, Mom hadn't even glanced at the menu, and needed to scrutinize it closely before ordering what she always orders, poached eggs on toast. The waitress said she'd be back when we'd decided, and Katrina whispered at me, "You OK?"

I smiled and nodded, thinking, Probably.

Mom studied the menu like it was Scripture, and Katrina looked at me and said, "You sure? Your eyes look funny."

I didn't have the energy to explain about the meds, so I held an imaginary beer bottle and tilted my head back, so she'd think I was hung over.

Katrina laughed, and Mom laid the menu aside, to begin touring her familiar topics. "You were gone for a dozen years, and I'm so glad you're back," she said. Then came the eternal questions about my bad teeth, my cat, my tie-dye jacket, and whether I regret getting rid of my car...

I wasn't sure about answering, so Katrina interrupted (thank you Sis) and said, "We all know Doug prefers being without a car, and loves taking the bus." That's what I've said every time Mom has asked, so Katrina has the answer memorized. So does Mom.

The waitress returned, and Mom ordered a poached egg on toast. Sis asked for oatmeal. I ordered an omelet and a cinnamon roll.

As the waitress left, Mom said, "I'm so glad Leon and Adelle aren't here."

Even slightly wobbly in the head, I rolled those words around in my mind and went, Hmmm.

Leon is a friend of mine. Adelle is a friend of my sister's. Almost always, either Leon or Adelle or both of them are at our breakfasts. Leon's been at the breakfasts more often lately, I think, because he's low-key flirting with Adelle, but neither were there that morning — and Mom continued: "When they're here, I don't get to say as much, or hear as much of what my wonderful son has to say." 

Mom has been less of a frustration at breakfast the past few months, and I'd wondered about it, but — mystery solved. It's because Leon and Adelle make it harder for Mom to squeeze into the conversations.

How long has it been since breakfast was just me and Mom and Katrina? Whatever the answer, that's how long it's been since Mom got on my nerves.

Then she showed us family pictures we'd all seen before, and when I handed her phone back to her, Mom moved on to her next topic:

"Did you know that Anderson Cooper is the son of Gloria Vanderbilt?"

I nodded yes, and wondered why Anderson Cooper was at our breakfast. Almost everyone famous in America owes their success to a rich, well-connected family's money — the system is rigged and the rich rule the world, but I didn't say that. Didn't say anything until Mom said she's reading a book about Anderson Cooper.

"Why?" is all I said.

Then our waitress came, and slipped a small plate with a hot buttery cinnamon roll in front of me. The roll precedes the meal, so nobody else had food yet, but we're family, and I'm certainly not going to wait to eat. As I picked up my fork, my mother asked, "Aren't you going to share that with us?"

That is not one of her usual questions, and words were still coming slowly, so I said only, "No," not, Of course not.

Then I yanked my face-mask down, to begin eating my cinnamon roll, and Mom said, "I'm glad you lowered your mask, so we can see your lovely face." 

Well, I can't eat through the mask, can I? Usually I'd have been unmasked already, to drink my coffee, but being a little off the ground already I hadn't asked for coffee — only a glass of water, which Mom had taken.

She and Katrina had coffee, but on this particular morning the diner was short-staffed. When Mom's refill didn't come quickly enough, she held her coffee cup high in the air. Then she put the cup down, but raised it again a minute later when more coffee hadn't appeared. I've sometimes seen people do this in restaurants, but seeing Mom do it was new.

The second time her cup went up, Katrina said, "Don't hold your cup up, Mom. It's not quite rude, but it's close."

Mom laughed, and put her cup down… but later she raised it again, as needed.

Our meals arrived, and as we were eating came the sneezes. Mom has a sneezing fit about one breakfast out of three, and when she made the sneeze face, even before the first achoo, Katrina said quietly, "Here it comes." 

Me, I can stifle a sneeze, but that's beyond Mom's control, allegedly, and each sneeze is very, very loud. It's a mystery how such a petite little old lady can have such ferocious sneezes inside her.

At other tables, people had to speak louder. Heads turned. Strangers' shoulders jolted with each of Mom's sneezes, and when there was time enough between sneezes, she counted.

Several years back, the first time Mom did a sneezefest in my presence, I joked after the tenth sneeze that the record was 17 and she should go for it. Even Mom laughed at that, but ever since, every time Mom starts sneezing, she counts: "That's five, I think." "That's six."

While she was sneezing, I reached for my notebook and began scribbling. Usually I don't take notes at the table, because I don't want to be asked, What are you writing? But I knew I'd be writing about breakfast with Mom, and didn't want to forget anything.

"What are you writing?" Mom asked as she wiped her face, after what everyone in the restaurant hoped was her last sneeze.

"Everything," I said, and she sneezed again.

"That's eleven," she said, and everyone waited.

The sneezing ebbed after the twelfth. I put my book and pen away again, and Mom raised her coffee cup. Then she asked about my jacket, a question she'd also asked half an hour earlier. Katrina answered for me (thank you again, Sis).

Knowing the bus schedule, after a few more minutes and I smiled and said, "Gotta go." 

Then, after I'd stood up, Mom reminded me to pray for my brother Dick, whose health is teetering. We could've talked about Dick and/or prayer while we were at the table, but those are both long conversations, which is why Mom held them in reserve until I'd stood up.

I nodded yes or no, but my reply didn't matter. Smiling wanly, I waved goodbye, then walked a bit wobbly across the diner toward the door.

To my backside, Mom mentioned that she'd seen a help-wanted sign near her home, but I didn't turn around.

All through breakfast, I'd said only about ten words, and Mom hadn't even noticed.

Each item mentioned above is trivial, of course — possibly even endearing, if I had a better frame of mind. But the trivial annoyances have been coming at the same pace for as long as I can remember. It's not senility. It's just Mom.

♦ ♦ ♦

When I got home, I emailed my buddy Leon, told him I'd missed him, and re-invited him to the bi-weekly breakfasts. Adelle has texted me a few times, so I have her number, and sent her a similar message.

And to Mom I texted, "Thanks for breakfast. Love you. See you in two weeks."

11/8/2023   

6 comments:

  1. I missed your diner stories, glad they're back. :)

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    1. Thanks. :) This one's too long, I think, and kinda incoherent, like I was. Not my best, but I'm glad somebody semi-digs it.

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  2. Tried posting to your piece, "Thanks for breakfast, Mom," but it wouldn't take, said "failed to publish, try later." So here's my reply to one of your posts:

    Too long? Nah, it was still on the short-piece side and I enjoyed every word. But what I wanna know is: how the heck can you split a pill into four pieces w/o making it crumble? Or even TWO pieces, for that matter...with a laser?

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    1. The platform simply rejects comments at random once in a while. I don't understand it, and Google has no interest in fixing it. Naughty words will sometimes trigger the rejection — did you perhaps say f*ck?

      You done good, though, emailing me, and I've posted your comment.

      As for your question: My doc told me to buy a pill-splitter, which has a sharp blade but costs money. Screw spending money to split pills. I put the pill in my mouth and chomp it with my sharpest (remaining) tooth. Yes, it crumbles some, but it's going into one of those compartmentalized pill cases, so even if it's dust I can keep it in the right square until the right day.

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    2. > As for your question: My doc told me to buy a pill-splitter, which has a sharp blade but costs money. Screw spending money to split pills.

      I don't think they work very well, anyway.

      > I put the pill in my mouth and chomp it with my sharpest (remaining) tooth. Yes, it crumbles some, but I use one of those compartmentalized pill cases, so even if it's dust I can keep it in the right square until the right day.

      I have three teeth remaining, myself. It's a disgrace this country doesn't provide universal health care, including dental and vision. And that it allows ANYone to go w/o a roof over their head. Welcome to 3rd-world 'Murika.

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    3. So very agreed. And what little public coverage *is* available comes with suspicion and mountains of forms to be filed, which must then be re-filed the following year. I expect to die before enduring that process.

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