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And I wonder why I’ve had a headache for two days…

Posted in Crazy Wisdom on Sunday, November 30, 2003 at 4:55 pm by flerly.

This is the long version…

My mom is certifiable. Not sure when it happened, but she has become “Crazy Hermit Lady”. Because she spent last Thanksgiving sitting home alone, this year I had the bright idea to make sure she went to Alabama (to my sister’s) by getting her to drive here to see my apartment for the first time, then we would drive over together.

Finding my apartment is easier than pie. It’s like, buying one of those ready made frozen pies that you just open the box. Of course, my mother got lost by just taking exits at random apparently. She calls me frantic from the cell phone… I’m by an antique mall. There is an Advance parts store here. I can’t see any street signs, though. Can you come find me?

She couldn’t tell me what exit she had taken. She couldn’t tell me why she had taken an exit at all, except it was now 12:30 and she had been driving since 7am. Fine, she’s tired. Fine. Stop, get some lunch, get your head together, then come on. Don’t just exit and start down some strange road who knows where. Yes, it’s her first time to Atlanta by herself. Yes, it is day before Thanksgiving traffic. But, what am I supposed to do?

If I can find my way back to Chattanooga, will you just meet me there and let me follow you?

No. No, I can’t. If you want to go back to Chattanooga, do it. Drive on down through Birmingham to Joyce’s by yourself if you want, but I am not driving up an hour just to have you follow me back an hour (not considering how much longer it might take for traffic) just to pile in one car and drive 3 more hours to Alabama. Either you make it here or you don’t.

I never could figure out where she was, which she did not understand….

How many Antique malls by parts stores are there? You must know it…

No, crazy-lady, I don’t know it. Turn around. Go back like you came until you get to the interstate again, then call me back from the nearest gas station to the interstate. Try to look for a road sign. Do I have to? Well, it’s either that or I just drop everything and take off driving at random to every antique mall I can look up that is north of Atlanta and well off the interstate.

Oh, was she pissy. But, well, I was stressing out over the pile of work I still had to do, and now fully expected to not finish most of it due to having to track her down. So, few minutes later, she calls again:

I saw the 75N sign and just got on it, I went to the next exit and am at the first gas station I came to. It was exit 261.

75 North? Okay… why would you go north… oh, nevermind.. I have an exit number, I have the name of a gas station. Don’t move, I’ll be there…. when I get there.

Traffic is not really bad, but it takes me almost half an hour. It looked much worse going the other direction, so when I see her, I pull up, get out and tell her… Listen, traffic is heavy. I want you to get on my bumper and stay with me.

Oh, I will.

I should have been able to hear the *cough* of *bullshit* in my head, but I didn’t.

I had cussed her stupidity and not being able to follow directions all the way to meet her, and I was going to do my best not to cuss her all the way home. Instead, I ended up doing a mantra of Put your fucking foot on the fucking gas pedal, Mother… over and over as she maintained her steady 15 car lengths distance behind me no matter what speed I was going… 45 mph, she’s a dot in the distance… 70 mph, same dot. If you know Atlanta at all you know 15 car lengths means that at least 20 cars will try to squeeze between us, and they did. I could not slow down enough for her to catch up because she was slowing down too, so I said fuck it, and just drove. If I lose her, the phone will be ringing when I get home and we can start all over.

At that point my mantra was, I’m going to have a fucking stroke. But, as I sat at the redlight on the top of my exit, I spied her in the distance behind me. She had made it.

Once we made it to the apartments, I could not hear the end of it… People down here drive like maniacs. I thought I lost you so many times. You’re going to die down here in this traffic. This is insane. Who could ever stand to go anywhere. I’m so glad you’re going to be working at home.

After she ran out of steam on this rant, she got the nickel tour of our messy apartment, because I’ve been too busy to really clean. She knows this. Still, it makes fuel for a whole new rant… I tell you what, you and James don’t need any more clothes for Christmas if you have enough to just throw them on the floor. Why don’t you tell James’ mom instead of getting him new clothes, that she pay for you guys to have a maid or something for a year.

Um.. mom, I think there’s quite a price difference in a pair of jeans and maid service for a year. I told you we’ve been busy. I just lost a week in California, and this past week we’ve been trying to pack and move our office, I just haven’t had time to put things away.

Yeah, but you’ve always been messy, and it’s a shame to see James is, too. Why don’t you two put that little roommate of yours to work cleaning house. What’s he have to do all day? He could be earning room and board doing your laundry.

That mom, she’s full of brilliant ideas. And she would not shut up telling me them, even though I told her I needed about an hour to finish up some work before I could leave. Did she want to take a nap? Get some lunch? Something to leave me the hell alone?

Why aren’t you finished with this? You said you’d be done when I got here.

Yeah, and I would have been, if I hadn’t had to kill over an hour going to fetch you because you can’t follow directions.

Well, your directions had too many words, so I shortened it and made my own.

You shortened it? Let me see.

It’s in the car, but I just wrote down every exit number you said.

Mom, there’s only one exit. 75S, 285E, exit 30. That’s its. Those are your directions. You told me you were worried about being in the right lane so I told you that when you got to exit whatever you needed to get right.

Yeah, but you didn’t say not to get off that exit. Why would I want to just get right there?

I never told you to get off that exit. I told you to get right. Fine, I understand. I confused you with too many directions. But, you know I did tell you at the very end that it was really simple and you could ignore all that other stuff and just remember: 75S, 285E, and exit 30.

Oh, I didn’t read all those directions. It was too long. Betty took one look at the page of your directions I had printed out and told me that you were trying to get me killed in Atlanta.

So, we’re off to a great start. I’m ready to blow a gasket in restraining myself from cussing at her. The login server is down at work, so I can’t get access to upload the things I’d been working on. I’m supposed to be on a conference call that started at 1, which I had elected to ditch after having to go get mother, but now it seems I need to get on it to let them know about the server problems. She won’t shut up.

Mom, I’m on the phone. Mom, I’m trying to work. Mom is like a fucking toddler.

She is impatient to hit the road while at the same time saying to me Are you sure you want to go over there? We could just go home and eat with Betty. She bought a turkey.

I ordered a pizza to buy some time. Now we have to wait on it. Little did I realize that ordering enough pizza to share with Brad would spark a whole NEW rant on What does he do all day anyway? You just bought him food?

I just bought you food, too, or did you not notice that.

I deeply regret that Brad took it upon himself to be sociable and sit at the kitchen table with my mother and I to eat his pizza. I had to get up several times to check on the work server and answer one phone call from work, and I can only imagine what my mom might have said about / to him in her “special subtle way”. I did come back in time once to hear her ask him how his construction jobs were going…. “Construction?” he asked.

Kim told me you were doing construction work.

Mom, contract work. Contract. Not construction. He works with computers like James.

Oh, computers. That’s in demand. You should have a job.

After I had rejoined them, she proceeded to ask Brad’s advice on those awful beads I keep hanging from my rearview mirror.

I don’t know how she sees to drive, have you seen them? Just trashy looking.

I proceed to explain to Brad… You see, mother had to drive my car one time back in May when we were shuttling things around for my niece’s wedding. She felt she couldn’t see where she was going, so she tried to take my beads down, but couldn’t. It seems she’s been waiting these six months to get up the nerve to tell me I should take them down.

So, we finish up the pizza, mom complaining about the ham and pineapple being a terrible pizza combination, even though she had said sure when I’d told her what I was going to order. I go out to my car to fetch sunglasses and some cds which I feel will be very necessary to drown out the conversation on the trip, and on a whim, grab my mardi gras bead and take them inside.

She sees me walk in with them and says, What are those for? You didn’t have to take them down!

No, really? You mean you didn’t want me to take them down? Did I just take away something for you to complain about? I’m sorry, but I didn’t take them down for you. You said we were taking your car, so I figured I’d move these over.

You’re not putting those trashy things on my mirror. I won’t let you drive and we’ll take two days to get there.

I threw them in the trash over her protests of how I didn’t have to throw them away.

You could just keep them someplace inside. You had stuff like that on your mirror upstairs, though that big feather thing ought to go.

Whoo hoo.. I’m psyched. Let’s get on the road. I’m so anxious to enclose myself in a vehicle with you for three hours. I promptly put in the Linkin Park cd and ignore any protest about it. I am singing. Traffic is crawling. I have just left much work undone in a time when I clearly cannot afford to slack off lest I have no job to come home to, but getting to Alabama where I might have reinforcements is all I can think of.

It’s really already too late to make a long story short, but on the way, to summarize, I was told: 1) I did not visit enough while Dad was in the hospital, not that Dad needed it, but that I wasn’t there to “protect” mom from the other kids, 2) I’m the only kid she “really” misses, and I totally ignore her, 3) I am not going to get any help from her when our “houseguest” bankrupts us, 4) James might be softhearted for his friend, but she bets he wouldn’t let her live with us and not pay for anything, 5) Why did I stay with Shawn so long, when he was just so awful, and 6) my hair looks good now and I should keep it this way. The way I used to wear it (oh 8 years ago) that didn’t look good, and I shouldn’t ever do that again.

We stopped at a Zaxby’s in Jasper, almost to my sisters, where we got our own dinner because they’d already eaten at Joyce’s. There, she wouldn’t shut up long enough to eat, and when I finished mine and tried to get back on the road, I was fussed at for trying to choke her by forcing her to eat too fast — obviously, I really was trying to kill her by then.

Thank God for Alabama. I never thought I’d say it, but I got there and I don’t think I spoke to mom again the whole night. Who could stand to. We had to room together, sure, but I made sure my shit was out of there so all I had to do was crawl into bed.

She went to bed 11ish, before Angela and her crew had even arrived. We were all in the living room enjoying the new TV they had just finished installing as we got there. I crawled in bed at about 1:30, only to be awakened at 4 am by headlights (Tim coming to pick up Chad to go hunting that morning) and mom standing at the window talking…

It’s pouring down rain, they won’t go in this will they? They’ll freeze to death. Tim is going to wake the whole house. He’ll track mud everywhere. I wonder if I should go wake up Chad…

Mom, he had an alarm. He’s up.

They’re not really going to hunt in this are they?

Probably, yeah. Seems like I heard the rain cuts down on the animals sense of smell or something. It goes on from there, more babble.. my watch says 4:30 am. She is a lunatic. Go back to bed, Mom.

I can’t. I’m awake. I’m going to go make breakfast, but I’m waiting to see when they leave first. I don’t want to go out there and have to make everybody breakfast.

I don’t think everybody will be out there. It’s 4 am. We hear Tim and Chad leave in the truck, but she is still standing there talking.

What do you call that haircut you’ve got now anyway?

What? What do I what? It’s a haircut mom. I don’t know what it’s called. What’s it supposed to be called? What kind of question is that? I’m going back to bed. Don’t talk to me.

She leaves. I sleep, thankfully. Later I earn a “it lives” as I walk into the kitchen at not even 8am. Joyce, Pete, Angela, and JC are up. Everyone else is still asleep. Nobody who gets up later than me earns an “it lives.” She starts telling everyone how I was always grumpy first thing in the morning and not to talk to me, that I already snapped at her.

I couldn’t resist. I told those assembled about her 4 am conversation and she promptly denied she had been talking to me.

If I was talking, I was just talking to myself. Not talking to you. You were asleep anyway.

Yes, mom. I was asleep, but I managed to hear you talking, and I find it pretty weird that you would ask yourself what my haircut was called at 4am.

See, you were asleep, too, because you never answered me. You didn’t know what it was called.

Her smile says “Ha!” and she looks smug. I am baffled. The family laughs. I drink more coffee and proceed to ignore her for the rest of the day, and do a damn good job of it.

We have wine. Pete makes margaritas. Angela brings coffee flavored rum for us to try in our coffee. Mom watches it all and calls us winos. I might just go home and get myself a bottle of wine, and how would you all like that? I can be a wino, too.

We sit down and play cards… me, Jessie, Angela, and Dennis. Jessie (16) and I are having coffee with regular vanilla cream while D & A enjoy the Rum in theirs. We are laughing and enjoying ourselves. Mom is hovering. She tells everyone else who passes through the kitchen that we’re only having fun because we’re all drunk. Yeah, mom. Jessie is trashed. She really can’t handle her coffee. Why don’t you go tell her dad she’s drinking it.

Don’t think I don’t know that it’s something alcoholic in that bottle over there. I saw Dennis put that in his coffee.

Oh, so maybe Dennis is drinking, but who else did you see? Do you really think we’re sitting here letting 16-year-old Jessie get drunk at her parents house? Where is your brain?

Angela tells me I’m too hard on mom. Mom has spent the whole day standing and watching people with her arms folded across her chest. I’ve never seen any one person look like they don’t want to be someplace more than she does. This is her family and she is making herself an outsider with her demeanor. And when she tries to include herself… it’s by making dumbass, mean, hurtful, or just downright stupid remarks that most people will just pretend they didn’t hear her say rather than react or laugh at her over.

She can’t tell a story. Have you seen that show blah blah blah? Nope, never heard of it. Well, it’s got that guy in it, you know, he plays Bob, and he’s a dentist, isn’t he? You asking me? I have no idea. I’ve never heard of it. You were telling the story. Well, I think he is a dentist and didn’t he go to some weird school or, no maybe his wife… oh, you remember, it was just last week and it was so funny. If you say so. I’ve never seen it. Here is where she gets mad at the listener for not being able to fill in the blanks on her story and gives up on the telling all together.

Thanksgiving day we have additional folks show up, Pete’s brother Tim (from hunting), his wife Sherl, and their son Zak. Pete & Tim’s recently widowed mom also shows up, Bonnie, who is mom’s only ally because of the widow thing.

Mom has fussed all morning about not wanting to eat anything Bonnie brings because she’s a lousy housekeeper, though. Strangely, though I don’t know how she knew, I hear Bonnie say to mom… “Try this. My house may be messy, but my food is clean.”

After dinner, these four leave, and we’re back to the same group we had. We play more cards, and dominos into the night. At some point mom wanders off to bed without saying anything to anyone. We’ve all had so much coffee that at 1 am we are looking for a movie to watch so we can get sleepy. Who’s got anyplace to go tomorrow anyway. We end up watching Dreamcatcher, and I don’t crawl into bed until 3:30 this night. Mom is sawing logs, again, with no sign that she hears me come in.

5:30 am, headlights. Tim coming to pick up Chad. More hunting. There is mom, at the window, talking again. I wake up and answer.

Well, good, you’re awake. Let’s get packing. Are you going to shower before we leave?

What? It’s Friday, mom, where are we going?

Home, of course. You have work to do and I have a life to get back to. We’re just under foot here anyway. In the way. It’s time to go. Let’s get up so we don’t have to wait for breakfast or say goodbye to anybody.

Mom, it’s 5:30 for one, and for another, we’re not supposed to leave until Saturday morning.

It’s not my fault you stayed up all night. We’re leaving. And you’re not driving, because I can already tell you’re all grumpy. Get up.

Look, Joyce is going to be pissed off if you just sneak out before anybody gets out of bed. What the hell is wrong with you? Have you had a break down? You’ve gone crazy this morning. I’m not getting into a car with you ….

Yes, I said that to her… I could see her start to cry.

Look, you go out there, you wake up Joyce, and you tell her you are leaving this morning and see what she says. She’ll think you’re as crazy as I do.

Don’t you think I won’t do it. I’ll go tell her whatever I want.

Fine, then go. I’ll get dressed after you do.

She leaves, and I realize then that we had at some point started yelling at each other instead of just talking, and wondered who else in the house heard. As it turns out, just about everybody.

I get up, get dressed, pack up, make the bed… all in a fury, cussing at her under my breath. I know Joyce is about to talk her out of it, but mom’s just pissed me off this time. I storm out into the kitchen, suitcase in hand, throw my stuff down in the kitchen, and proceed to pour a cup of coffee that has just finished.

Mom and Joyce are sitting there, both looking all teary eyed. Joyce says to me, “Where are you going?” I’m obviously angry. My hands are shaking so bad I can barely hold the coffee cup.

“I’m taking her the hell home is where I’m going. She’s got a life, don’t you know, and she has to get back to it right now.”

Mom has to throw in, Don’t you think I don’t have a life. I don’t need any of you people to pity me. I didn’t have to come down here. etc etc etc.

I’m biting my tongue not to respond to anything mom is throwing out there, as she is obviously trying to taunt me.

I’m surprised she let me find her house in Atlanta. She’s turned me away before you know.

It’s the last straw… You mean that one time ten years ago when I was breaking up with Chris and he called you and told you to come get me and take me to drug rehab because I had to be on something if I didn’t want to marry him? Is that what you mean? And you DID? You came to the door to take me to rehab? Asked me what I was on? Asked me if that Shawn character had been drugging me? And then I slammed the door in your face and told you to butt out and go home? Yes, well, yes I did do that I guess. You should have sued me probably.

It wasn’t that you were on drugs, it was who you left Chris for. That Shawn guy. He was just awful.

Yes, mom. You’ve mentioned that about forty million times, including yesterday and now today. Have you perhaps noticed that I broke up with him about seven years ago and have since married someone else? Did you happen to notice the wedding ring? How many years do you think it will be before you can let that go, you should tell me, because I think I won’t call you again until that much time has gone by.

I got up from the table and went back to bed. I tried to sleep, but didn’t. Just sat in there listening to the muffled voices. Joyce eventually brought my suitcase back in and sat it down. “Go to sleep, mom’s not going anywhere today.”

So then we got to enjoy another wonderful, fun filled day. And it was. I ignored mom as much as possible.

She sulked around, looking pouty until her other son Wayne made his appearance. He lives down there, too, with his wife, but they always do holidays on their own, then Wayne makes his rounds by himself. He hugged mom. He asked all about her car. He was oblivious of the morning’s crap. He took her car and worked on some things, balanced the tires, came back and then insisted we all make a road trip to see the new house he is buying up at the lake. Mom is thrilled, until she finds out she has to ride with Angela, Dennis, Ivy, and me instead of with Joyce, JR, and Wayne, because they want to smoke in their car.

It is an hour up and back. Dennis is an impatient driver, and on the way back he passed the others to get home faster. He drives like a native to Alabama on those back country roads in the dark, and the more mom complained, the faster he drove. I guess it was mean, but who really gives a shit. Her dearest, darling son Wayne, the “only one who really cares about her,” was driving the vehicle that was a two seconds behind us on the road going just as fast…. was she going to yell at him? Of course not, but thank you, Dennis, for giving mom something all new to gripe about other than me for the rest of the night.

That Dennis is a horrible father. I didn’t come all the way down here to be mangled on the side of the road. He should care more than his daughter is sitting in the backseat… it just went on and on.

That night we roast marshmallows, had turkey sandwiches, played poker, and watched The Two Towers. I don’t know where mom was. The rest of the family enjoyed each other just fine. I crawled into bed about 1:30 and when I heard mom’s voice at 6 am, I was ready for it.

Fine, i’m getting up. We were ready to go well before 7. The whole house was up and waiting to see us off. I got a round of sympathetic hugs all around, a “May the force be with you” from Dennis, and a “would you like me to slip one of my happy pills into her to go cup” from Joyce. We load up… I go back in to hunt for mom’s purse because she’s too embarrassed to go through saying goodbye again… and then we’re off.

Before we even get off the gravel for blacktop, mom is sitting in the passenger seat crying her eyes out. I just let her. I am never going to Alabama again. Never. I’m going to go home and just disappear so they can’t find me to drag me back here.

There was more yelling and arguing. I did not hold back… for every they’re all out to get me, and didn’t you see how they enjoyed seeing us fight I had to pin her down on who they were. Don’t know why I had to drive all this way to spend time with total strangers… What strangers? Who exactly? Who there wasn’t family?

In short, I told her every stupid thing she had done for the last two days and asked her why she did it. I was very hard on her. I even pointed out that it was just her and I in the car and she needed say my name in every sentence. I know you think I’m dumb.. Well, that’s the way you act.

She ended up saying that I was totally right. Duh. By the time we were crossing the AL-GA line we had progressed up to what she needed to do to change if she wanted to fit in again with her own family. It’s all about comfort level. And, well, she’s got a stressful life in her own way. Her budget is tight and she won’t let anyone help her or help herself in the matter. She’s still got plenty of issues over Dad being gone, which I guess is normal.. it’s only been 2 1/2 years. But understanding what’s making her crazy doesn’t mean we just all smile and let her be crazy.

We got to the apartments, spotted James’ Dad’s truck, and she freaked thinking he might meet her for the first time in such a state, and tried to leave without coming in. As it was, they were gone, but she still hurried away as fast as she could. Didn’t even try to make sure she knew how to get home. Didn’t want to eat lunch with me before she left. Just wanted to leave.

So, I forced some cash on her and just let her go. Then I lay down to catch up on sleep. The last thing I told her was that I never planned to visit her house again. That if she wanted to see me, that she had to make some effort to leave her house. I would meet her someplace, but not there. I have no intention of visiting crazy hermit lady ever.


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