Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympic Spirit

I've felt less like a sandwich this past week. My kids are in British Columbia with their father, his wife and their little half-sister Ray. Lulu the dog stayed in Kookytown.

They are having a great time, at Whistler for some Olympic event viewing, and skiing at Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains.

So, with the younger generation gone, we're a little less busy, but just as kooky, I'd say.

Sample:

My mother: "I need to talk to you about how rude Kathleen's been to me." (said as I walk in the door after work. Why always right after I come home from work?)

Me: "What?"

She: "Well of course, she's rude because she follows your lead. She heard you insulting me last week, and now she thinks she can get away with it."

Me: "WHAT?"

She: "Don't pretend to be surprised. You told me I was vain and that I always get so mad and stay mad for a long time. She heard you. Then she told me in the coldest voice to get out of her room and shut the door."

Me: "WWWHHHHAAAATTTT???"

She: "Oh ho! (sly smile, nodding head). So you don't like to be reminded of your behavior, eh?"

Me: "Mrrggglggmph..."

Sally was quite pleased with herself at that last jab, I could tell.

Me: "Mom, stop it. You know none of this happened. I never said those things to you. Kathleen is always nice to you. She never said anything like that to you."

Sally: "Oh ho! Well, you can't deny it. Anthony and Alex were right there. They heard everything. Ask them."

Me: "I don't have to ask them. You may have dreamed this, mom. But believe me it didn't actually occur."

That made her mad.

Sally: "Well, we'll just ask Anthony when he gets home. And we'll ask Alexander."

Me: (feeling dreadfully tired at this point) "Alex is at the Olympics, you can't ask him. The kids have been gone all week, remember? And don't you dare bother Anthony with this when he gets home. Don't say a word to him."

Of course, you know what happened.

Anthony walked in the door at 6pm and there were two crazy women staring at him. My mother'd been nattering at me for the whole preceding hour, poking me with her bony fingers, insisting that Kathleen needed to be "punished," and generally making it impossible for me to cook dinner.

By the time Anthony got home, I was as demented as she is.

She: "Anthony! Do you remember last week when Delia got all mad at me and said I was vain? and I turned to you, you were right beside me, and I asked you, 'What set that off?'"

He: "What?"

She: "Tell Delia. And remember Kathleen and Alex were playing their guitars and singing and then Kathleen told me to get out and shut the door?"

He: "WHAT?"

She: "And her voice was cold like ice?"

Anthony's eyes were as round as ping-pong balls by now.

Me: "She's been going on like this since I came home. This is insane."

He: "Er, heh, heh, (giggle), so, like, what's for dinner?"

She: "You tell her Anthony!"

Me: "Will you please tell her this never happened?"

Big, long pause.

Anthony: "Mrglmphh, er, um, er. HAHAHAHA!!!!"

Silence.

Anthony: "Well, um, er Sally, Kathleen likes you."

Her: "You tell her! Tell Delia she called me vain!"

Me: "This is insane."

Anthony: "Well, um, er, hehehehe. I...I..........."

Pause.

Anthony: "Erggghh. Giggle. I DON'T REMEMBER."

With that, he fled. Can you blame him?

He didn't get far though. Our house isn't so big that you can really hide, not very well anyway.

The argument dragged on all evening, interminably long and becoming furiouser and furiouser. I was enraged that my mother was making stupid, false accusations. Kathleen is so kind and patient with Sally, it would make you cry to see it. And here was my mother, getting her (immense) knickers in a knot, thinking hateful thoughts about my daughter. And about me.

Anthony tucked himself into bed by 9:30, anything to get away from the wrangling and arguing.

Half-an-hour later, she actually demanded I get him up, insisting that he'd witnessed the whole sordid affair, and that he needed to tell me I'd said those things, that Kathleen had said those things, that he was sitting just so when it was all said, and that she was standing at this particular spot when the terrible words were uttered, and blah, blah, blah-de-blah.

He came stumbling down the stairs, house-coat wrapped crookedly around his tired frame.

He: "Sally. Here's the thing. Even if Kathleen said those things, and I don't think she did, SO WHAT?"

Sally: (eyes bugging out) "So what? SO WHAT?! Well, my feelings are hurt! She needs to be told..."

He: "Sally! Kathleen is so nice to you! She's a little girl! Even if she had said anything like you think she did, well, maybe you should just ignore it! Because she's a little girl, and kids are kids, and WHO CARES?"

She: "Well. I don't know."

My mother was confused. Anthony's refusal to back her up unequivocably was unsettling to her. She wasn't perturbed that I, her daughter, had disagreed with her all evening. After all, I am an evil female, a liar, the selfish daughter who'd bad-mouthed her in front of her grand-daughter.

But Anthony holds different status. He's a man. And if a man tells you something, it's worth considering. Perhaps it was a dream? Maybe it didn't happen after all?

A couple of days have passed since that night. My mother's been relatively quiet and I've avoided her at all costs. But I'm worried.

Because Alexander also holds different status.

So I'm very worried that in a few days, when my children get back from their Olympic adventure, all full of the spirit of sport, and youth, and good times and fun, that she'll start up again. I'm afraid she'll button-hole Alex (as she's done in the past on other issues, which is why he now hides in his bedroom much of the time, to avoid her) and drag out the whole sorry tale, and insist that Alex tell everyone JUST HOW RUDE KATHLEEN IS. And JUST HOW RUDE I AM.

What should I do? She's becoming less and less stable.

And she lives with us. Here with my kids. I hope she leaves them alone.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More on Crying...

How do I make my mother cry?

I don't. I don't ever remember my mother crying at anything I said or did.

She has cried when talking to me about her other children. These tears are shed in the context of how mean they have been to her, and how they've done her wrong, according to her versions.

She also used to cry a lot when talking about my deceased father. But again, that was always in the context of how much crap she had to put up with, and the final insult: his suicide, which put her in the position of being abandoned. She remains very indignant to this day that he selfishly left her, left this life and her.

She teared up when I had to put my cat down. I thought that was sweet.

And she also cries a bit when missing other people...like when my children were really small, and we had to send them out the door and into their father's car for their visitation time with him.

This is not to say we don't have arguments. We do. Lots of them. I have a lot of bitter memories of the fighting down through the years. Fighting (never physically, just vicious verbal assaults) was a way of life in my family. As a child, I used to hide, cowering in my room as the screaming and swearing went on, sometimes for hours. Unusual, in that my parents and sibling and their spouses had no addiction issues, which often fuel rage and fighting. No addictions, that is, except to fighting, I guess.

As I got older, I was targeted by both my mother and siblings. Incredibly intense and vicious verbal attacks would come completely out-of-the-blue. I used to be taken by surprise - ambushed - and would end up sobbing, broken-hearted.

By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I began to fight back. It wasn't pleasant, but inevitable, as I matured and was able to control the shocked hurt and tears, and try to defend myself.

I eventually handled the unsolvable dysfunction by distancing myself from all of them.

My mother moving in with us here in Kookytown has brought the closest contact I've had with any of them for many a year. And so the fighting has started again. It's pretty minor compared to how it used to be. But it still hurts.

And notably, my mother never cries when we argue. I don't any more either; I'm way beyond that. But I sure used to. I've shed gallons of tears after attacks from her venomous tongue. I still get hurt feelings when she says horrid things to me. But I don't cry anymore.

Our baggage makes our present relationship quite difficult at times. Anthony wonders why I get annoyed with her. He also says I should just suck it up and ignore anything she may say or do that bothers me.

I've really tried. But I can't do it all the time. So we still argue.

Anthony doesn't have any inkling of what I've seen and heard in my family relationships. If he did, he might understand a bit better how my mother can say seemingly innocent things, which act like hot-iron triggers to me. Her little comments and actions are laden with meaning for me, way beyond the obvious.

Still, he says, "Why does it bother you? She's old."

Indeed, why? I've tried to figure it out. The best answer I can come up with is that even old people can say nasty things. And those things hurt, just like a knife cutting. And the pain makes me lash out.

Now you may wonder at all this. Because this blog has described my mother as a very old, almost feeble woman who can barely remember how to get out of bed.

That is an accurate description, for the most part. But she has good days, and bad, and that's what dementia is like.

On good days, she's quite sharp. She looks fresh (as fresh as you can at 90), chats happily about the day's events, helps set the table. She is usually pleasant to my kids.

On bad days, she looks bad. Her face sags, she forgets things said one minute ago to her, she snarls at Kathleen (which is a hot trigger for me, of course), and sometimes sits in the dark, head in hands, blathering about this and that.

And so it goes.

When she and I argue, even a little bit, it affects my marriage. Even if Anthony doesn't say a word, only hears from afar, it bothers him. His opinion of me has changed, he tells me, concern wrinkling his brow. I'm not the same person I used to be, he warns.

It is the ultimate irony that I was the only person in the world that my mother had left to turn to, the only person who would help her in any way. And in helping her, I may have harmed myself, badly.

Now, I've become her enemy (again). In feeling sorry for her and opening up my home to her, because I wanted to "do the right thing," a can of worms has been opened that's quite ugly.

And impossible to close.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tales of Tears, or What Anthony Did To His Mother

Anthony went for a haircut this past weekend.

After, when he blew in through the front door, all freshly clipped and looking boyish with a nice, short trim, I could tell something was up. He looked peeved.

“Well, I stopped by to see my mother. I made her cry.”

“Nice.”

This is a bit of a standing joke between me and my husband. Quite regularly, he "makes" his mother cry.

Of course, it doesn’t take much. In fact, pretty much any attempt at interaction with her will bring conflict, leading to tears, leading to vows of less interaction by Anthony, and ultimately, the need to crack open a beer.

Yes, our drinking is definitely up these days.

“What now, another visit from the police?”

The police often drop by to arrest or at least question brother John, the fallout from which usually lands in Anthony’s lap.

“Nope.”

“Ambulance need calling?”

“Nope.”

“Another unpaid bill, followed by resultant threats of service revocation?”

“I wish. That one’s easy to solve.” Anthony’s lips were tight.

I was getting really curious by now. Police, medical or Roger’s Cable demands are the top three trouble-makers for Anthony. As I’ve told you before, his mother insists she’s fine. Even though she can’t understand or pay her cable bill anymore. Among other things.

“I tried to gather her tax slips.” Anthony’s been doing his mom’s taxes for years.

“I told her a month ago to put aside the mail so I could go through it.” Doris can’t recognize anything tax-related, like a T-slip, so Anthony had asked her to just put all the mail in one pile, and he’d sort through it once a week.

“She handed me this jumbled pile of CRAP, mail mixed in with recipes and John’s baptismal certificate and letters from 20 years ago, and, and…CRAP, just piles of…CRAP.”

Clearly, articulate words were failing him. His tone was beyond peeved at this point.

“She’s got letters hidden all over the house, and the most recent mail mixed with a bunch of CRAP, and I told her she is making it impossible for me to do her tax return.”

“And she cried, just because you said that?”

“Uh, not quite.”

Aha! We were about to get to the heart of the matter, the reason Anthony had made his mother cry.

“I told her I could have her mail diverted to our house, if that would make it easier for her. Then, I could gather the tax stubs as they came in, and do her taxes.” He sighed heavily. “That’s when she cried.”

"She said I was too busy with my new family, and had no time for her. Then she asked exactly why your mother got to move in here."

I had to laugh.

And that is a perfect story to illustrate why you can’t win.

You try to help. They drive you crazy. You still try to help. They cry. They blame you. They blame your new wife. They reward your siblings. The ones who don’t help with anything, in any way, either financially, emotionally or physically.

I heard the *crack*FIZZ as Anthony popped a beer can.

“Little early, don’t you think dear?” I asked, glancing at the clock.

“Mrrhglgmph.”

(To be Continued: How I Make My Mother Cry, and other true, yet almost unbelievable tales.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Wednesday Seniors' Circle

My mother went to the Wednesday seniors’ program at the local community centre last week.

“Big deal,” you may think.

Indeed it was.

For the past year, I’d been encouraging her to get a life. Seriously. Because she didn’t have one, and she was expecting me to provide her with one.

And not just any life. She wanted me to provide for her a life intimately linked with my own. That’s right: my mother wanted me to be her buddy. Her card-playing, share-afternoon-tea, off to the beauty parlour and I’ll sit and gossip with you all afternoon-type buddy.

She did not want to make her own friends. Why bother when your daughter is so handy?

Me: “Mom, there are three ladies about your age on my street. They need a fourth for bridge. Here’s their number, they told me you should call if you want to play.”

My mother was an avid bridge player in Winnipeg.

I could tell by the sour look on her face where this was going. Her lips go all puckery when she’s displeased. Sometimes, her nose literally goes up in the air, to signify her displeasure that you’d even make such a suggestion.

Sally: “To tell you the truth dear, I just want to spend time with my family at home these days. Meeting new people holds no allure for me, I’m afraid.” This said with a sly look. (Translation: “I want you to play bridge with me.”)

Me: “Oh, so you won’t be wanting to go to Kathy’s party next week?”

At that, my mother threw her beak in the air with such vigour as to almost cause a nosebleed.

Sally: “Well! I didn’t say that.”

Nor would she agree to attend seniors’ circle at the community centre, where bridge games are arranged, along with the requisite basket-weaving.

What she wants, what she expects, and what she remains endlessly puzzled about because we don’t just roll over and suck it up, is for our lives to revolve completely around hers.

She can’t understand why we don’t make her the centrepiece, the focus, the crowning jewel in the pile of cheap gemstones that otherwise constitutes our miserable existence.

She pouts if we go anywhere with out her.

Us: “We’re running errands now mom.”

Sally: “Where are you going? When will you be back?”

Us: “We don’t know. We’ll take as long as it takes. We’ll definitely be home in time for dinner, of course.”

Her: “Well, don’t be too long. I’ll be lonely.” This said in piteous tones, meant to induce guilt. She stands in the window waving, looking like a condemned prisoner awaiting the noose.

It’s not enough that we take her with us to restaurants, movies, parties (when she’s invited, which is most of the time), or to family events like the kids’ Christmas concerts, etc.

That’s a good start in her mind, but just a start. But what about all the other things she wants to do?

Sally: (shoving newspaper ad in my face) “I’d sure like to see this.”

Me: (reading advertisement about a play I would rather eat shards of glass than attend.) “Oh that looks like something that would interest you! You should go!”

Sally: (realizing that I am not immediately planning my week around filling the role of chief mucky Sally-consort) “Oh, but I hate to go to things alone (piteous tone).”

Me: “Oh, be independent! It’ll be fun!”

Sally: “Maybe Anthony would like to take me.” (Said glancing over at my husband as he enters the room, her eyelashes batting as fast as a humming bird’s wings, bosom flung out in true Cross Your Heart style.)

Anthony: “Mrglglgmph…” He takes a hard left into the basement.

Me: “Well, if you don’t want to go alone, why not call those nice ladies who invited you to play bridge? I’m sure one of them would love to go!”

Sally: “Well, if you’re going to be that way.”

And then there are the times when we don’t invite her out to dinner or a movie with us.

Yes, it’s true. About once every couple of months or so, Anthony and I feel like doing something. Just the two of us. To my mother, this is simply inconceivable.

Me: “How are we going to tell her?”
Anthony: “Could we pretend we have to work late?”
Me: “She’ll figure it out. I hardly ever work late, especially on a Friday.”
Anthony: “Let’s just go and not even say anything.”

This is pronounced with a lot of bravado for a guy who abandoned ship over the theatre incident faster than the captain of the Exxon Valdez.

Me: “But I can’t leave her without food. If I fix a plate and we just leave, she’ll be hurt. And then when we return, she’ll follow me around for hours, picking at me.”
Anthony: “Let her be hurt.”
Me: “OK, but you deal with her when we get home.”
Anthony: “So, what’s on TV tonight?”

Yep, she’s good with the guilt, my mother.

So, Sally going to the community centre last Wednesday was just about a freaking miracle.

Actually, all it took was some strategic messaging on our part.

Instead of Delia asking her to go, Anthony asked her. And of course, you know how my mother acts around men.

What could she say? The man of the house was suggesting it. Hee hee.

Of course, Sally always gets the last laugh.

Last night, Tuesday, Anthony reminded her that the seniors’ bus would come once again to get her next morning at 10 sharp. She giggled and smiled: “Yes, yes.”

I called home from work mid-day, and of course, she answered.

Me: “You’re home? I thought you were going to the community centre?”
Sally; “You didn’t wake me up.”
Me: “You didn’t ask me to.”
Sally: “Well you know I take a sleeping pill dear. If you want me to go to the community centre, you have to wake me up.”
Me: “What about your alarm clock?”
Click Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz………
Me: “Hello? Mom? Mom…..”

I call back. Why I torture myself this way, I have no idea.

Sally: “Hello?”
Me: “What happened? Why did you hang up?”
Sally: “Oh, my hearing aid is acting up. Sorry, I can’t hear you. Goodbye.”
Click. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzz………

Monday, February 15, 2010

Dating Redux

(…continued) So after my husband left, I was in shock for about a year. I lost weight, couldn’t sleep and felt grief-stricken and afraid. I managed to do some things, like sell our house, investigate new neighbourhoods and schools, move, take the kids to a rented cottage for summer vacation, volunteer a bit.

Generally I put one foot ahead of the other as needed.

But I was numb inside and thus pretty much useless except to doggedly, almost thoughtlessly, assemble the jigsaw puzzle pieces that made up each day, with no thought to tomorrow.

After a year had gone by though, I figured I should start dating. It was pretty gross and icky to contemplate, but I knew I had to. I was only 41. I wanted to have sex again.

I know, I know, you’re thinking: “Geez Delia. You don’t need to date to have sex. Just go all Cougar and pick up one-night stands at the bar.”

But that’s not me. I wanted dates, and a relationship, and even *gasp* marriage again.

Now, dating in your 20s can be grotesque enough. But in your 40’s, after half a lifetime of, well, living, has wreaked havoc with your body, brain, and disposition, the prospect of meeting strangers to start all over again is enough to make most mere mortals recoil in such horror so as to embrace a life of celibacy and solitude with vigour.

Not me. I wanted that sex.

Companionship too! Honest!

So I went to a party. I only knew one person there, an old friend from university.

I remember walking up to the front door of the party house, and taking a deep breath.

“Delia, you are an idiot,” I told myself. Then I opened the door.

The first person I saw was…Anthony. He was looking right at me, all tall, dark and handsome. Wearing a tuxedo, if you can believe that.

My heart turned over. But that was just in disappointment, because I recognized him as one of the two guys who lived in the house. The two gay guys.

“Er, hi,” he said with stunning wit. “Umm. Who are you?”

“Oh, you don’t know me, I answered, tossing my hair, acting all chicky-poo. “I was just walking down the street and heard party noise coming from your house, and decided to check it out.”

“Oh.” He forced a small laugh that was obviously for politeness’ sake.

And that was that. We proceeded to ignore each other for the next 3-1/2 years.

Of course, it wasn’t that I really wanted to ignore him. I thought he was gorgeous. And as I got to know him bit by bit, at later parties and gatherings, I found that he was witty, and seemed responsible enough. But he was gay.

Actually, unknown to me, he wasn’t. I'd made that assumption, given the living arrangements. And the tuxedo.

No, in truth, Anthony simply wanted to ignore me. I was just a screwed-up single mother to him. I wasn’t tall enough, or young enough, or even stable enough, in his mind. So he evinced no interest in me, and I sensed that. Of course, I thought it was because he was in love with his room-mate. But really, he was looking for a fertile, Amazonian beauty with money and smarts. Who knew?

Not me, that’s for sure. So I had to date others.

It was gross. It was icky. But it wasn’t gross and icky like in my 20s.

Twenties dating is gross and icky as in “Oh my God, I don’t know what I’m doing, is this person the one for me, what will we talk about, why is he doing that, how did this happen, where am I going, blah, blah, blah?”

In my 40s, after not one, but TWO, count ‘em, TWO unsuccessful marriages, dating was more gross and icky as in “Oh my God, I have to do what I’m doing, is this person the one for my kids, why won’t he shut up, is he doing that again, I will not let this happen, what the f#$%*k!!!, blah, blah, blah?”

First there was the recluse. I met him at Anthony’s party. Brilliant, hard-working, home-owning, with money, father to his cats. Of course, standing next to Anthony, Mr. Recluse looked like tripe beside filet mignon.

There's a reason why tripe is considered awful (sorry, couldn't resist).

But in my mind Anthony was gay, so I sucked it up and decided to give Recluse a try, on the notion that he could possibly, just maybe, become a semi-decent replacement father for my kids.
Without going into too much detail, YUCK. He didn’t drive, but yelled at me when I didn’t drive him around in my car in a manner up to his standards.

We couldn’t eat out unless he had a discount coupon for the restaurant. Once, he forgot the coupon. When it came time to pay, he warned me he was going to argue with the waiter until we got the discount, coupon or no coupon. I told him I’d leave immediately if he did that.

He did and I left.

Next: weirdo professor who lived just up the street from me. I met him when I asked his 15-year-old daughter to baby-sit, and he proceeded to glom on to me like a pit-bull on a cat’s ass.

After three weeks, he was telling me he loved me, calling every hour to just “check up,” and overtly showing me off like a trophy to his co-workers (he had no friends). Predictably, this excessively affectionate phase lasted not too long. After a few months, he got all cold and stand-offish and eventually announced he didn’t have time for me any more.

Me: “You don’t have time for a girlfriend?”

Mr. Weirdo: “I need to buy a piano. That takes time.”

So I decided to try Lavalife, the pinnacle of cyber-dating-ickiness, but I had to: I still WANTED SEX. And companionship.

After screening out the worst of the losers, liars, and lesbians (not to lump the latter with the former, but I’m super-straight), I went on a date. The date turned into a relationship. I was happy. Briefly.

It was too good to be true, of course. Abruptly, in the middle of our summer vacation, the cad dumped me, with not a speck of warning.

Cad: “I like you but I’m just not falling in love with you.”

Me: “So all those times you said you loved me were just random lies?”

Cad: “Whoa! Look at the time! Gotta go!”

I was back to square one. Single, a bit-grief-stricken, a tad aimless. I retreated to my lair in the muggy summer weather of Kookytown, licking my wounds, contemplating all the crap that kept happening to me.

One day, dripping with self-pity in the humidity, I called Anthony to suggest an afternoon at the beach.

By now, after knowing Anthony all these years, I realized he wasn’t gay. I’d even pretty much figured out that he ignored me because I wasn’t his type. I wasn’t tall enough, or young enough, or stable enough (in his mind).

But Anthony too had just ended a relationship and I figured we could use a beach-day to chum around.

I was confused, though, because Anthony had been dating a female university professor, who was tall, and brilliant, and fertile; in other words, his dream gal. But he’d ended it.

We had a lovely time at the beach, and the next week, I invited Anthony to my rented cottage for the day. We had a brilliant time, all of us, because of course, my kids were there.

Back in the city, Anthony and I began roller-blading together, proceeding to have a divine time.

Summer was fading into fall when we decided to tour the art gallery, and with stunned realization, I suddenly understood that Anthony and I were not just two friends spending an idle afternoon together. No. Anthony and I were on a date.

This was later confirmed by some necking and groping. I was ecstatic! SEX was imminent! Maybe even…love?

But how could this be? What about Anthony’s ideal woman? I was clearly the shortest female he’d ever dated. And the oldest: someone in fact who’d already proven her fertility and felt no need to go there again.

But as it turned out, those things weren’t so important after all. I was brilliant and stable (as it turned out) and came complete with some darn nice kids. I asked Anthony what he'd been looking for in a woman, all these years.

"Oh," he answered casually. "I just wanted someone who'd be nice to me."

We got married last year, and it’s been nice and kooky ever since.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Examples...

I wrote yesterday that my mom treats men and women differently.

Here are some examples:

To my husband, she always speaks with the utmost deference. If he enters a room, she even gets up to offer her chair to him (he always refuses). She compliments his appearance.

What's wrong with that, you ask?

Well, she once told my husband he was lookin' good, while he was wearing a tool belt and working on a piece of carpentry in the kitchen.

Mother: "My Anthony, you look quite lean. You sure have no weight problems. (giggle)"
Anthony: "Lean?"
Mother: "Yes, that's quite the physique you have there, dear."
Anthony: "Mrrrglllmph. (giggle)"

Anthony laughs when he's nervous.

She has also patted him gently on the thigh as she's walked past, supposedly to indicate a motherly type of approval. Anthony giggled quite loudly at that one.

My mother also compliments me from time to time, in the ordinary way. More often, though, she crticizes, nit-picks and condescends to me, lecturing in minute detail how I should do any simple little thing. To an outsider it gives the impression of my apparent latent idiocy.

In my heart, though, I know that my mother supports me in the grand scheme of things. She'd pick me over Anthony in a Sophie's Choice kind of situation.

You would just never know it by looking at us, day-to-day.

It's so overt, my children have noticed, and commented.

Kathleen, bless her heart, has tried to come to my reputation's rescue, on numerous occasions.

My Mother: "Anthony, what do you think about this Mumble-Jumble Affair?" (referring to a current scandal involving my work-place).

Anthony (deer in the headlights look): "Hmmm, yes interesting. But Delia knows all about that, you know it's where she works."

My mother: "Oh. Yes."

"So Anthony, do you think it means curtains for old Mumble Jumble?"

Kathleen: (indignant tones) Granny! Mom has a degree in Mumble Jumble and works at the Department of Mumbly-Jumbly! Why do you keep asking Anthony?"

My mother: "Yes dear."

"Anthony, I think it's definitley curtains for the old MJ."

My mother does this, because when a man is present, she alsways defers to him, and his superior intellect. She would never ask my opinion, because I might give it. And my opinion might be good. And that might make the man feel bad.

When Anthony isn't around, my mother and I discuss world events. But when he's there, his huge male brain overshadowing everything feminine in the vicinity, my mother speaks with deference, in full, rich tones, to him, and him alone. For me, she reserves her little jabs, her notes on my self-improvement, her overview on 'How Delia May Better Herself.'

I guess she can't help it; she's been treating men and women differently for so long, she doesn't know how to act any other way.

That degree, she reminds Kathleen, that degree your mother got? Well, she went to university to get her M-R-S, my dear, didn't you know ?(giggle)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Patriarchy Lives!

My mother treats men and women differently. At first glance, it might seem that she reveres men and thinks women rather stupid. But that is not actually the case.

She treats men as if they are gods; when asked to describe her approach to a man, I've said in the past ( I was probably drunk too, at the time): "Well, she'll kiss his ass ."

And indeed she does, verbally, at any rate. She flirts, she lavishes outrageous compliments, she bats her eyelashes and sticks out her ample breasts.

I remember being acutely embarrassed by her antics when I was a girl. She'd pull out her routine for any man who dropped by the house, including my boyfriends. Upon sensing the imminent approach of a man, no matter what age or attachment, she'd run to renew her lipstick, then she'd go full blast flirty, giggly, gross.

After the age of 3o or so, I dropped the embarrassment and confusion for nausea.

She still does this now, to my husband.

The funny thing is, I have yet to encounter a man who didn't buy her message and swallow it hook, line and sinker.

She can say the most inappropriate, out-of-place, just-darn-silly things, and as long as she's stroking their ego, they get this stupid grin and do just as she asks.

But here's the thing about my mother's approach to men... To their face, she tells them they are the most fantastic things since sliced bread. And they all react the same: "Uh gosh, golly gee. Here's a woman telling me I'm great, and she shore seems to admire me!"

Out go their chests, in go their guts , and she can ask them to lift the heaviest object, across several miles of quicksand, and because why? "Well, because I want it so." (giggle)

And off they go, lifting and sweating and risking a coronary, all for an obese, condescending 90-year-old woman.

Then, she praises them, not unlike dogs, and sends them off with half-a- dozen cookies. Everyone is happy.

In truth though, behind their backs, she ain't quite so complimentary.

Behind the backs of the men who lift things, my mother says other things. She says the kinds of things I had to listen to, for years, about my father. She talks about how "hard" it's been, for her women friends, with their crappy, drunk, abusive, etc. husbands.

And she tells me, over and over, "Why would I ever have wanted to marry again? Would I want to have to wash some man's dirty socks and underwear?"

I know I'm generalizing, but I really believe this anecdote sums up my mother's, and many of her generation's, relationship with men.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Compression of Time

Yesterday, I got home from work. I was tired; not much sleep the night before, and the usual day at work had rendered me into a gooey puddle.

Before I could close the inner door, I was accosted.

"Lisa, I've been searching all day. I'm going to have to ask for your help, I'm completely exhausted, I've worn myself out looking."

My mother; her suitably tired face shoved into mine.

"I've turned the house upside down!"

"What now mom?" My voice was expressionless.

" Well...I...well."

Big, huge pause.

"Well, I. Now I don't remember what it was I had to ask you."

Silence.

"I know I've been looking all day..."

"Mom, let me past. I'm sure you'll remember if it's important."

She stands immobile, blocking my entrance.

"Now I remember! I lost my credit card. They sent me this letter."

Document shoved in my face.

I push her hands away, almost roughly. The claustrophobia is overwhelming in the overcrowded front entranceway.

"It's not a credit card. It's your bank card. I explained that to you when it came in the mail, about 6 weeks ago. I have the card."

"No!" Her voice is curiously offended.

"It came yesterday."

"No, it came 6 weeks ago. And you did exactly this. You got all confused, and I told you then, it's not a credit card. It's your bank card, and you gave it to me for safekeeping."

I push past her, into the larger hallway, so I can breathe again.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Living in Hope, Darn It.

But just how did you get here, Sandwitch; that’s what you’re asking, right?

Excellent question. Wish I could answer it. If I were to guess, I’d say it was a combination of poor judgment, fate, more poor judgment, a bit of luck, some hard work, some slacking off, and ultimately, even more poor judgment.

Still, you may be thinking, even at that, just how the &*(%@#!!! did you get here, exactly here, in this spot you are in?

In a word: hope. A lifetime of it.

When I was a child, I used to hope that I’d become a productive, nice, fun adult. This was based on watching my relatives interact with each other and with the world.

“Crap, this isn’t for me,” I used to muse, while ducking. “I would prefer to be fun and productive.”

When I became an adult, I continued to hope. I attended university, joined clubs, started a career, married the first guy who asked (I did say poor judgment, didn’t I?), and above all retained a spirit of adventure. Thus the motorcycle.

Soon, though, I became melancholy. The career sucked, the marriage sucked, I was still ducking my relatives and I had to sell the motorcycle. It was Winnipeg, after all. An enclosed vehicle with a heater was a much wiser option.

Yet hope dawned. I ditched the sucky parts and hit restart. Another university, another career, another marriage. Did I mention world travel? One, two children. And it was working! The career was great! The relatives became great, due to firm distancing and lines drawn in the sand! The marriage seemed great! The babies were babies!

Then, a fork in the road, one that was deceptive and disarming. Pretty much out-of-the-blue, husband No. 2 said he wanted to move to Kookytown. It would mean great things for him and his career. I, in the spirit of adventure and because I believed in the ethos of “us” and wanted to be nice to him (see above), did one of the worst things I could have from the perspective of self-preservation. I agreed to move.

Quit my job, sold our house, abandoned the family cottage to the relatives, and sallied forth, toddlers and all, to a new place, just like that.

Where I knew no one. Where I had no job. Where unbeknownst to me, my husband met his new girlfriend, leading him to abruptly announce one day that he didn’t want to live with me or our children anymore. So much for that “all for one” ethos.

And where, after extensive and extraordinarily expensive consultation with the best lawyer in Kookytown, I made the decision to stay in Kookytown, because it would be best for my children, I believed.

Leaving town, as inviting as it seemed, would pretty much deny them a father. I figured a crappy, disloyal father was still better than none.

There’s that “nice” thing again.

The Dark Ages: a quite lengthy period of melancholy. Everything sucked. I had no career, no husband, no relatives to duck. The spirit of adventure, however, could not be eliminated. Dimmed of course, really, quite a bit dimmed. But not totally gone, and thus, the dating began.

To Be ContinuedDating: Who knew there’d be so very many frogs to kiss?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

And I’m Doing This Why?

But enough about me.

Let’s talk about my husband Anthony, and his mother, Doris. And the free-loading brother, John.

Doris Coldrey finally got her diagnosis. Anthony took the day off work (as he has been doing quite a bit lately) and drove her to the clinic where an array of social workers, doctors and therapists gave her the word: Alzheimer’s.

You’ve got it, it’s not going to go away, and you need to deal with it, is basically what they told her. Then they presented her, and Anthony, with a copy of their report.

The report says things like: Doris doesn’t recognize 911 as an emergency number. She is at risk for wandering from her house and getting lost in the streets of Kookytown. Doris is no longer capable of paying bills, or keeping her financial affairs in order. Nor can she cook safely anymore, and is at high risk of nutritional deficit. Doris can’t or won’t take medication required for her various conditions. Etc.

They recommend that Doris sell her home, and move into a retirement residence.

Anthony knew all this was coming, of course. His mother has been acting kookier and kookier over the last few years, which he noticed. In fact, he’d been quietly pleading with her for months to see a doctor.

Her response to his concerns was ridiculous: she denied everything, insisting she was fine (while at the same time persistently calling him at work to ask for help about the most basic of things), accused Anthony of engineering a huge “conspiracy,” and went merrily on her way until a self-imposed medical crisis put her into hospital.

She ended up there because she refused to take her Gout medication. Anthony tried to convince her it was both safe and needed, but she knew better.

Doris: “I won’t take it anymore. It makes me dizzy.”

Anthony: “Then see your family doctor so he can adjust the dose.” Anthony usually stays pretty calm and logical when dealing with her. Usually.

Doris (in a very smug tone): “Oh, what does he know? I don’t have Gout. I have diabetes.” (She doesn’t)

Anthony: “Really? And you know this…how?”

Doris: “I remember when Daddy got diabetes back in The Labrador, he said he was dizzy.”

Doris’ father in fact didn’t have diabetes, but died deep in the throes of Alzheimer’s.

Anthony: “Your father didn’t have diabetes. Besides, you could be dizzy for any number of reasons. You should still take your Gout medication, or your feet will swell again.”

Doris: “You’re trying to get me into The Home. You always were a trouble-maker. John is the easy one.”

Anthony’s brother John, at 50, has a criminal record as long as my right arm, collects welfare payments as a career, and burned down the family cottage in his youth, just to give you an idea. He recently moved back in with Doris so he could live rent-free and have someone cook and clean for him, which she happily enables.

Anthony, the “trouble-maker,” got a university degree in his early 20’s, and has worked in government and lived an upright, independent, tax-paying life ever since. He once gave his brother $400 to pay off the drug dealers who were threatening to break Johnnie’s legs, but he usually tries to keep as much distance as possible between himself and the bro.

Anyway, the inevitable happened: Doris’s Gout returned because she wouldn’t take her meds. Her feet swelled up to the size of basketballs and she landed in the General, babbling and incoherent. She didn’t recognize Anthony when he went to visit her.

In a way, the whole fiasco was a good thing: the hospital staff realized she was kooky. So they evaluated her mental state before sending her home with bandaged feet and a new Gout prescription, and Anthony was finally able to cajole her into several follow-up appointments (he’s using up his vacation days pretty fast at this rate), where they did more tests, and finally, three days ago, she got the diagnosis.

Of course, her reaction was predictable: denial, accusation (both Anthony and I are apparently now in on the giant conspiracy), followed by insult. Anthony pretends the terrible things she says to/about him don’t hurt. But I think they do.

This morning, I looked at my husband’s tired eyes as he hunched into suit, shirt and tie, preparing for another day of battle, and thought that if there were any conspiracy I’d join, it would be one involving a plan to do just as Doris wishes, and leave her alone in her filthy, falling-down wreck of a house, with her other, “easy” son, the one who smashes up her furniture or pitches mugs of hot tea at her when he snaps, before cleaning out her wallet as he lurches out the door on the way to the grubby corner pub, the only one left in that neighbourhood still letting him in.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

About That Composting

Well, that pork hock was the last thing I’ll compost for awhile.

I’ve decided to give it up, because my mother insists on helping. That might seem weird, but it’s not. Consider my routine: while other people look through the mail and pour a glass of wine after coming home from work, here’s what I do…

First thing - peer cautiously down the hallway, hoping to quietly avoid detection. If my mother knows I’m home, she lurches at full-speed and with quite a tilt, all 160 lbs. (she’s 5’ tall) lumbering directly at me, mouth flapping, words streaming, and often holding something out for me to examine.

Before I can defrost my cheeks, she’s in my face, complaining, describing, insisting. I’m exhausted before I get my coat hung up.

Once last summer as I walked homeward, I spotted her in my driveway, shading her eyes and shifting clumsily from foot-to-foot, peering down the street for me, so anxious was she to begin the complaining, that she just had to bring it into the great outdoors.

Her demands are usually extremely petty, myopic and angry takes on daily minutiae. She gives me an earful of “news” from people in Winnipeg I’ve never met, or shoves paper bags containing the prescription delivered that morning while moaning about the “idiot” pharmacist who is trying to cheat her (she gets everything for free…wonderful drug plan inherited from my father’s pension), spilling pills at me while prattling.

“Now Delia, can you believe it? They are supposed to bring one-hundred pills.”

The word “one-hundred” is carefully emphasized as foreshadowing, in case I’m a bit slow that day. “There were only 97.” This announced in tones that leave no doubt I’m supposed to rear up in shared horror.

She counts all her pills. She doesn’t count them accurately, but that’s another ball of wax.

“I had to call them back, and…”

This is the point where I tiredly interrupt, fearing the worst. We’ve gone through several pharmacies because she keeps fighting with everyone.

“What did you say?” She knows I’m not happy at this point, as the whites of my eyes are showing.

“Oh, don’t worry, I just let them know. They need to be told, you know.”

Yes. Apparently everyone needs to be told. And then I have to deal with the fall-out.

She tells me, she tells the pharmacy, she really tells my daughter (poor Kathleen!); she tells anyone who’ll listen, including my long-suffering husband who is waaaay more patient than I.

But I’ll finish now where I began: composting.

When I get home from work, I avoid my mom (if all goes well), then try to make dinner. This involves going through every drawer and cupboard trying to find what I need to cook. I discover pots in the glasses, knives in the tea-towel drawer, and empty butter and sugar dishes, used up during the day but never replenished. I put everything back where it belongs, restock supplies and add items to the grocery list.

I check over the food she’s “prepared” — she insists — and then I fix that. Fixing the food sometimes means cleaning it better, sometimes chopping into sizes appropriate for human and not giant-sized mouths, and it always means preparing more. She makes enough for herself and perhaps one other. When I remind her we are five, she chirps brightly “Oh, I keep forgetting,” or even, “I wasn’t aware.”

Then, I used to fish through the compost to remove the garbage and recycling that she mixes in all willy-nilly. However, I've grown tired of fish-heads and coffee grounds landing at my feet while I laboriously sort for the sake of the environment.

After dinner, I jump up to clear the dishes and rush them into the dish-washer. If I don’t, she’ll wash them, which involves taps bleeding water full-out for prolonged periods, things dropped and broken, things not cleaned at all, and things put God-knows where, tucked away until I come home from work the next day to start the cycle afresh.

After my mom came to live with us, the water bill quadrupled, and I ruined countless kitchen items by turning on the oven; upon opening the door to place that night's dinner inside for cooking I'd be greeted by stinking, melted and quite ghastly, unidentifiable objects, placed there by her, squirreled away like nuts for the winter. No matter how many times I ask, nicely, or furiously, that she never store any item in the oven ever again, she blithely continues to do it. I've finally learned to check inside every time I turn on the stove.

All of which is why I’m not composting at the moment. It was the one messy, irritating thing that I had the power to eliminate.