Saturday, November 13, 2010


We went to Nebraska last week for my Aunt Maggi's 90th birthday party. All my cousins came in from Illinois and my sisters were both there from out of state. It was good to see everybody.

On the way up, I listened to a lot of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth and was feeling all Zenned up by the time I got to Lincoln.

It took about 2 hours to be catapulted back into age 10. The older the both of us get, the more capable my mother is of making me feel inappropriate. Maybe I am gaining some enlightenment by virtue of the fact that I can see what's going on, for a change. I dunno but I handed my personal remote control to each of the family members, respectively, to allow them to push however many buttons they desired. And I reacted. Only, not really. I restrained myself.

At one point, I looked across the room and Freddy was staring back at me, wide-eyed like he was fixing to see a shanking when my mother hissed an admonishment regarding her "good china". I had simply pointed out that she had, mistakenly I assumed, placed the "good dishes" under the plants she'd brought in off the porch and which now sat on the livingroom floor. Each with a good plate underneath the pot.

"Those aren't 'good dishes'," she spat. "I'm putting them through the dishwasher as often as I can to get the gold to come off them so I can use them in the microwave." And then, in case I didn't get the point, "I was mad at your Dad when he brought them home in the first place."

And you have to know me to understand the effect these words had on me. I adore old things. I can't afford good antiques but I frequent "junk" stores whenever possible. Last year after the tornado hit our town (and our house) I made a trip to Nebraska early that summer, stopping at jillions of antique stores. I know now that I was in a grief reaction, reacting to the loss of so many old houses and huge trees in our town, but I loaded my car with antiques that trip. It started when I went to local junk stores in search of a stained glass window to replace the one destroyed in our bathroom. I discovered I felt safe surrounded by all that old stuff that'd survived for so many years and felt that maybe everything wasn't gone, after all.

Interestingly, that summer in Nebraska, I didn't buy just old things but old kitchen things, things that looked like the ones we'd had when I was a kid. The meaning of that isn't lost on me. A tin flour scoop like my Grandma used when baking. A set of brushed aluminum canisters. A pair of heavy kitchen shears like my Grandma's. A pink, metal cake carrier that I took an ass chewing from my mother about even then. The stuff made me feel safe. And like I had some control over my life. Which of course I wasn't and didn't. But it was worth a hundred bucks or so to get some relief for a short time.

So to disrespect family glassware to me is to spit in my face. And crazy or not on my part, my mom knows that when she does it. And that's why she does it. And that breaks my heart. I know she's old and I'm lucky to have her around to irritate me but it still hurts.

So lots of stuff like that on this trip, old family dysfunction, and I feel a little beat up right now. And not anxious to go back anytime soon. And I think I'm gonna quit inviting my mom to come live with us. I may have to face the fact that she and I are not compatible and leave her to my sister or brother to take care of her. As much as I'd like to be the kind of selfless person who takes care of their aging parents, I may have to throw the flag on having her under my roof.

Still, it's nice to be back in the midwest where church people go to eat at the taverns in little towns after church on Sundays.

No comments: