Archive for October, 2012

Mother Enlightenment

Mother Enlightenment

Nancy Deming-May

September 2012

I gained some enlightenment today – at least that’s what I think it was.  I love how it sneaks up on you – like the silky soft pads of kitten’s feet – and suddenly it’s in your lap enveloping you with a contented purr.  But this enlightenment had nothing to do with kittens; no, this was an “ah” moment about my mother – one I feel very little “ah” about these days.  Lately, it’s much more “ugh” and “sigh” (and NOT the contented kind).

I was surprised recently when I Googled my mother’s name for her as I was showing her (again) how to use the internet, and was taken aback when my master’s thesis showed up – first, that it was on there at all – we were still using 5 1/4 inch floppy discs when I wrote that thing – and second, that HER name was in there.  I of course clicked on the link and was then further surprised to read the dedication I had written to my mother in the front pages of the thesis – thanking her for her endless support and encouragement throughout the process.  My jaw still drops as I recall the words and I’m dumbstruck with the thought that I would no more thank her for that now than I would Rush Limbaugh.

Wow.  Has she changed that much in just over 20 years?  Have I?

It’s been multiple strokes for my mother and several years leading to the subsequent loss of any vestige of that all-important frontal lobe “governor” and “filter” of hers.   You know, that little hesitation we have that keeps most of us from saying exactly what we think; that executive function that keeps us from leading a tap dancing class because we haven’t done it in over 60 years and we know we weren’t that good to begin with; that chief of manners that keeps us from rudely shaking our wine glass and saying, “I’m empty here, where’s the refill?”;  that boss of reason that stops us from picking up the phone and ordering a new computer because we already have one that we can’t remember how to use; that inkling of self-control that keeps us from following a 20-something grandchild’s boyfriend around like a puppy and remarking that we “wouldn’t kick him outta bed for eating crackers!”; that honcho of experience that thinks signing up for match.com at age 83 might not be such a good idea when we can’t even remember one of the grandkids is married even though we were at the wedding, (“Oh yeah, that’s right.”)

As I lament about these embarrassments and worries to my friends, I’ve grown used to the laughter that her behavior tales inevitably spawn.  Though I’m usually thrilled when I can tell a story that brings about a chuckle, I find my worries about the consequences of her actions keep me from being able to enjoy them and I’m a bit horrified by these flippant responses to her scary behavior.  I even found myself saying, “Yeah, I wish she was someone else’s mom so I could laugh at her antics!”

It was then that my teacher replied, “Yeah, kinda like Bessie.”

Whoa.  This took me back.  Back well over 20, maybe 30 years to this teacher/dear friend’s mother, Bessie.  The one I loved telling stories about because she was such a character.  Oh, she made me laugh!  She had this energy that just about busted out of every pore on her flawless skin – I can still see her eyes twinkle as she proudly looked at herself in the mirror after I showed her the latest cheek blushing techniques. I don’t remember exactly where we were going, but Bessie told her tales and we laughed and laughed as she cruised us around in her fancy, fully loaded, four-door Town Car as we sipped plastic cups of Gallo wine from our gallon jug tucked down on the floor board.  I do recall feeling a bit anxious as the wine was decreasing and the turns grew increasingly wider.  Oh, but the stories later were well worth the anxiety!

On one occasion (my teacher/dear friend’s wedding) I recall being in the throes of an animated story – wine-induced I’m sure as I seem to recall holding court in front of the head table as I pantomimed a tale about Bessie.  As I was leading up to the dramatic punch line and the groom’s parents were really starting to wonder who the heck I was talking about – it had to do with Bessie pumping Butterball turkeys full of broth and her enthusiastic method of “movin’ those turkeys on down the line!”, when my dear friend, the bride, gently (but firmly) summoned me over toward her table and whispered, “That’s enough.”  I smiled appreciatively and apologetically at my audience and made my way back to my table until the dancing began.

I got it then but not as much as I get it now.

Slightly embarrassing or even worrisome stories are much funnier when they are about someone else’s mom.

Here my dear friend, whom I call Sis, who tolerated my retelling of her mother’s antics over the years only because she HAS such an effective frontal lobe “governor” that kept her from telling me, “Shut the heck up about my mom – it’s not funny!”, can finally laugh some in my direction.  And it’s well deserved.

Thank you my friend and teacher for sharing your mother and tolerating my retelling of her stories while you cringed ever so slightly.  Thank you for pointing me toward my moment of enlightenment where I could see another mother from another angle and appreciate the humor and perhaps the concern from both sides of the room.  Thank you for helping me see many things, but most of all, my mother, through a different lens.


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