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?”
Me: “Hello? Mom? Mom…..”
I call back. Why I torture myself this way, I have no idea.
Me: “What happened? Why did you hang up?”
Sally: “Oh, my hearing aid is acting up. Sorry, I can’t hear you. Goodbye.”