Thursday, January 6, 2011

I Bet You Don’t Have Messages Like This on Your Answering Machine

During the same week that I received the phone calls that lead to “The Grease Fire Story” and “The Reno Story” (both listed below), I also came home to several answering machine messages from my mom.  Sadly, the more I hear from my mom the worse I know that she is doing; this was a particularly bad week.  I have transcribed one of the messages below.  (I can see the questions forming in your brain even before they reach your lips:  Why on earth would you post this, Jane?  It’s not one bit funny.  In fact, it’s downright sad, not to mention a little bit frightening.  What’s the point?) I ask that you please read it, and below I will explain myself, and if you still have questions or doubts, feel free to leave a comment. 

Picture me arriving home and pushing the play button on my answering machine…

“This is Mother Bee Sally Bee I’m sending a portrait of John and it’s uh one of those million dollar portraits and I’m afraid Dopey Darlene the in house nutcase is going to steal it out of Patricia Rutgers office because she I had it in my hand and it was all addressed in uh one of those priority mail boxes box you know for the mail man I told the mail man to take it down to Patricia Rutgers mail box the canasta box the cribbage box the mail box the mail man he didn’t do it and if you leave anything in front of Darlene she’ll take it she pulls the telephones out of the cords or away from the desk we don’t have any good everyone’s real rough on the telephones and Belinda Buchanan the receptionist telephoned Alison the um lady janitorette she banged the receiver of the phone down this morning she said there were rats in 301 but that’s okay I’ll stay here I don’t want any more good time psychiatric hospitals because that skinny Mexican doctor beat me to within an inch of my life and I had to stay in the hospital three days and it took 6 months to recover my broken foot every time I go to the psychiatric hospital they do 16 electrode shocks which is $100,000 they take my money okay I’ll talk to you later I hope Jane mans the desk phone or mans the telephone but look for a package um I got the right zip code this time love Sally Bee Mother”

(Just a little background: My mom is in a nursing home, for lack of a better term and, for the sake of privacy, I have changed everyone’s names.  The portrait she mentions is of my son.  There was a time, long ago, when my mom was actually pretty functional. After my parents divorced she maintained an apartment; she also enjoyed painting and she was a classical pianist.  The "million dollar portrait" did arrive, and it’s sad.  I’d post it here but it just doesn’t seem right.  My poor son.  He was a good sport about it though; I’ll give him credit for that.)

Now to the reason I chose to post this…it’s two-fold really.  First and foremost, you really and truly never know what’s going on in a person’s life.  If you saw me in the grocery store on any given day, you would never in a million years think that this is the message I would be listening to as I put away my groceries. 

Second, everyone has baggage of some sort. You can look at a person and think, ‘Oh, look at her, she is so put together with her perfect body, her perfect designer jeans, her perfect husband, her perfect kids, and even her perfect dog.’  And you know what?  You'd be talking about me!  Ha!  The truth is you'd be talking about no one and you'd be wrong to jump to those types of conclusions based simply on appearances.  I don’t care what a person looks like, she’s carrying some baggage. 

Now she may be sportin’ the latest Louis Vuitton carry-on (a part of me actually feels kind of sorry for this person because, really, if all of her baggage can fit in one little carry on then she really hasn’t done much living); she may have the sensible “JC Penney Special” $49.99, 16-piece matching set (I think a lot of people probably carry this type of baggage, and sometimes they're lugging the entire 16 pieces, and sometimes they're just toting a bag or two); or she may have the no-name, bulging-at-the-seams, have-to-sit-on-it-to-close-it, doesn’t-even-come-close-to-matching set (God bless that person, that’s all I have to say).  Whatever…it’s all baggage and we’re all carrying it.  Some of us carry it better than others, and some of us carry more than others.  I, for one, have a lot of baggage, I know that, but I like to think that I carry it well…and it most certainly matches! 

My point is next time you feel like judging someone, don’t.  Next time you think someone’s life is better than yours, I’m willing to bet it’s not.  My point is go out into the world and not only be yourself but be honest with youself.  And above all else, show someone a little extra kindness today.  Afterall, she may be going home to "Mother Bee Sally Bee."


  1. Dear Jane, thank you for that last post. You are so right. No one knows what's going on in another person's life. So when that person cuts you off in traffic, or rude in the checkout line it's something about them, not you so give them the benefit of the doubt and remember it might be you one day that cuts someone off or is rude but didn't mean it. Please keep it coming Sally Bee.

  2. I'm truly sorry about your mom Jane, and the pain she is causing. She doesn't mean to.

  3. Thank you for taking the time to comment. It means a lot. And you hit the nail on the head when you said, "She doesn't mean to." That has been my mantra most of my life and the thing that has, indeed, kept me sane. I know she doesn't mean it. It's a sad, horrible disease. Hey, I feel a "You Hit the Nail on the Head" story coming on... :-)