forever the lime but never the salt

I have a crazy mom. When I mention this (which isn’t a lot, because how often does “so, my mom… she’s a crazy person” come up in a conversation?), people say things like, “oh, my mom too. She knits me bunnies every Easter!” Or, “my mom’s forever trying to fix me up! Crazy!” They assume I mean that she’s regular crazy like all parents are crazy.

(No offense to parents out there, but probably your children all think you are crazy in one way or another. Other people don’t think you are, but your kids? Think at least one thing about you is just a little odd and vow to their dying breaths that they will never do this one particular odd thing. If I had kids, I have no doubt they would think the same of me as they got older. “My crazy mom,” they would say, if they existed. “She always bangs the shot glass on the table before she shoots tequila. And where’s the salt? Forever the lime but never the salt.” They would say when they were much, much older. I’m not saying that as toddlers they would question my tequila-shooting skills. I’m sure they would be in high school at least before they understood the finer points of tequila shooting. You see why I don’t have kids. Never mind.)

But my mom is not crazy like regular moms are crazy. She has cornered her own little market on neuroticism and is selling how-to books. If I were pondering my mom and my relationship with her in a serious, constructive way, I would say that she would be well served by both medication and therapy. But after lots of therapy of my own, I’ve realized that it does me no good to ponder her in this way because she doesn’t want to change, likes her style of crazy, and wants the suck the world down with her. And I’ve decided not to be sucked down.

She doesn’t believe in therapy or medication, actually. When I was making use of both during a time of particular emotional turmoil in my life when they were the only things that kept me sane and from sobbing my eyes out 20 hours a day, it hurt her feelings because that meant I was keeping secrets from her and didn’t want to talk to her about my life. And also, since therapy is all about the injustices of childhood, all I was doing was bashing her and how she raised me to my therapist.

I’m not sure how she thought that would help, since any conversation with her consists of her talking about her. Anyone else in the conversation is there to listen and tell her that her outfit is pretty.

When my sister and I were growing up, we didn’t know from crazy, so we thought she was normal. We’ve only realized differently as we’ve gotten older and seen her in context. And had conversations with other people. Conversations with her go something like this.

“Hi mom. How are you?

“Well, I haven’t eaten in three days and I haven’t slept in a week and now I’m scrubbing out the bathtub with a toothbrush. Hopefully, I’ll be finished later tonight so that I can haul pallets of bricks across the lawn on my back. This toothbrush must make me seem fat over the phone because you haven’t said anything about my outfit.”

If you have the benefit of therapy, as I now do, your response to this is, “that’s nice. I’ll talk to you later.” And then you hang up. Quickly. Before she can tell you that her sister is secretly poisoning her tea. But she has to drink it because there’s no other tea to drink.

You don’t ask how you can tell anything about her outfit over the phone, much less why the hell she needs to haul around bricks. These are questions that can never be answered. You just must accept them.

Everything she does and says is an attempt to get everyone around her to think she is a wonderful, loving person, here to care for everyone other than herself. And that she looks mighty cute at the same time! She will never admit to eating, sleeping, or resting, because being starved, sleep-deprived, and worked-to-death are more sympathetic traits. And God help you if you don’t give her a compliment within the first three seconds. The minute you see her, you must instantly start scanning her body for something attractive unless you want to spend the rest of the day answering questions about what you don’t like about how she looks.

And forget getting information about anyone else.

“Hey mom. I heard grandma was in the hospital. Is she OK?”

“Oh! The hospital. So, we went over to see how grandma was and the nurse told me I had a pretty bracelet. You know, that one with the green stones? I told her that I picked it up for almost nothing since I am dirt broke and then I showed her the matching earrings.”

You think I’m exaggerating, but when my sister was pregnant and her water broke at 4am, she called my mom to drive her to the hospital. Then she (my sister) called me an hour later to say that mom still hadn’t shown up and when she called to find out what was keeping her, my mom said that she was still putting on her makeup.

Which is to say that I called my mom today, I mumbled sympathetically for a while and told her that I was sure her outfit looked fabulous. And I didn’t ask a thing about that pallet of bricks.

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