Monday, January 10, 2011

It’s No Sweat off My Back

Just got off the phone with my mom.  Before I continue, I must take a moment to say that the point of this blog is not to host a big ole’ fat pity party.  Poor me…my mom’s mentally ill…my job sometimes makes me nutty…my family refuses to change paper towel rolls!  No…the real reason for this blog is to practice writing so that I can one day sell something…an article, a book…my first born…my soul…anything so that I can make a little money and do some real traveling.  Not to sound morbid or anything, but once I hit 40 I started thinking there was a real possibility I could die never having been to Europe, or Washington D.C., or New York City, or the Pacific Northwest, or any one of the many, many places I hope to see during my time here on Earth.  Of course, I’d be dead, so I wouldn’t really know I never got to see all those places, right? But still, it got me thinking.  Sooner sometimes really is better than later.  And so, with that slightly morbid yet completely realistic thought, I came to the conclusion that the only way I can ever hope to make even one shiny penny with my writing is to practice writing, and the only way to practice writing is to write about what I know, and what I know is my mom, my job, and my family.  So…

Just got off the phone with my mom.  Sometimes she will call and say, “Jane, I just wanted to call you to let you know I am still alive.  I have not passed yet in case you were wondering.”  I will say, “That’s great mom.”  We will say our goodbyes and that will be the extent of the entire conversation.

Other times, however, she wants to talk.  Notice I didn’t say she wants to talk to me.  Rather, she wants to talk at me.  And, really, it’s no sweat off my back to sit and listen to her.  So I often “engage” in long, one-sided conversations, where my only contribution is “Hello” and “Goodbye.”  And I am happy to do so.  I can’t take her in and care for her myself; I can’t see her on a regular basis; I can’t even live in the same city as her.  But, sit and listen to her for a while?  No problem.  This I can do.

So today she calls and says: “Jane, I think I’m going to be around a little while longer after all.  I’m planning to be around until I’m 75.  That’s when I think I will pass.”

She sounds like she’s in a good enough mood so I joke, “Really mom?  Already planning on checking out, huh?  Why 75?  Is there some significance to 75 I should know about?”

“Well,” she says, “I’m 72 now, and so in 3 years I’ll be 75.  And, you see, I have this really lumpy bed, and sleeping on this soft, lumpy bed makes time go by very slowly.  So I think I can only last three more years.  Now, if I had a nice, firm bed then time would just fly by and I think I would live a lot longer.  But for now, since I have this lumpy bed, I think I’ll only be able to make it another three years.  I used to think I’d make it to 80, but not with this lumpy bed.  Seventy-five is all I can do with this soft, lumpy bed.”  (The really funny thing is that the standing joke between my dad and me is that she will, in fact, out live us all!)

This is clearly going to be one of those phone calls when she just wants me to listen, so I happily oblige.

She then goes on to talk about the clothes I sent her for Christmas.  You may think dealing with her is painful, and, well, some days yes and some days no. In some ways it’s actually quite easy.  In some ways, she is like a child in that her needs are really quite simple.  Sending her clothes, for example, even a simple pair of pants and a matching jacket from Target, thrill her to no end and will keep her happy for weeks. In fact, she has already called me three times to thank me for the “Christmas Outfit.”  A $10 gift card to Burger King will also bring her great joy.  Give her something, anything, and, like a child, she is happy (she is also very appreciative and will likely send a handwritten note, in addition to a phone call or two, to tell me thank you…yes, even for Burger King gift card). 
She then goes on to talk about an upcoming appointment with her psychiatrist and how she wants to wear the jacket I got her to the appointment.  It’s got a “fur” lining that she says makes her “feel pretty.”  “You know how I like to sit on my throne and look like a star,” she goes on to say.  She rambles from topic to topic (a hallmark symptom of schizophrenia) and I listen attentively.  After a while she says, “Well, I just wanted you to know my plans of being around longer.  I know last time we spoke I told you I was going to pass sooner, but I changed my mind and I didn’t want you to worry. I’ll be here three more years.”

She signs off “Mother.”  (Funny, I don’t call her mother, my sister does; I call her mom.)

"Bye mom.  Love you,"  I say and we both hang up.


  1. You are a good daughter. These stories about your mom are very touching.

  2. You are very kind to say that, and I would love to agree with you, but a good daughter would visit her mom, though through the writing of this blog I am starting to feel like maybe I am ready for that. I love that you use the word touching. That really is what I'm hoping to achieve...touching, with a side of funny and a sprinkle of poignant (and the occasional poor me/venting session). Thanks for the comment!

  3. yes, I agree...good daughter. I find these stories sweet and endearing. I look forward to the next.