Saturday, April 08, 2006

Your Mother's Better than My Mother..

It was a late night conversation with my oldest friend Lena (name changed so she doesn't get in a huff).. I met her back in junior high school in Manhattan.. I was 12.. We both had extremely unconventional families.. My father and older brother and I lived in a loft designed as a photographers studio.. My bedroom was a darkroom, and my bed the place where photos are suppossed to get developed.. I was a precocious pre-teen who thought she had it all figured out.. Then I met Lena, a really sweet, friendly girl, who always wore a scarf around her hair which made her look about 35.. She wanted me to come over after school one day, but was embarrassed by her poverty.. I reassured her that our furniture consisted of electrical spools used as tables found on the street, so she felt ok about the whole thing.. Her mother was this very sweet little old lady who kept offering me iced tea.. She was eccentric, and often embarrassed her two daughters.. Like when she took us all to see Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman, everytime a suggestive scene came on, she'd put a paperbag over Lena's little sisters head.. Rose was Catholic, and occasionally would just sit and talk to herself aloud about how Lena and I shouldn't be friends because I was Jewish.. Lena was mortified, but I knew Rose was a little disconnected from reality sometimes, and didn't take it personally.. I knew she really liked me anyway, because when we all went to Roosevelt Island, she made sure to buy me Mountain Dew soda and a bag of sour cream and onion potatoe chips.. And I was very touched, because I knew sometimes they didn't even have enough money to eat .. You overlook some things, once someone shows they care about you, especially when you're craving that attention that your own family hasn't given you.. I overlooked the really bad smell I noticed one day in their house, too.. Well, not totally.. 'Lena? What's that disgusting smell?' 'I don't know.. It's that bag.. Ma!! What's in that bag??' 'Oh, I saw a dead bird on the street, I felt sorry for it..' MA!!!' (from both daughters) 'You can't keep a dead bird in the house!!' 'He's not hurting anyone'... Flash to my own mother.. My mother has suffered from depression all of her life, but I never really acknowledged it, and just thought she was absent.. Now that she's nearly 70, I'm faced with it and not sure how to approach her oncoming move into needing a caretaker.. So many different issues.. And my approach is to feel responsible, but also dread at having to figure out what she should do with her life..I'm still trying to work out stuff in my own life, so the prospect of directing a severely depressed woman into happiness is a little overwhelming.. So that night Lena and I agreed to trade mothers.. It's a perfect idea! I instantly felt stress dissipate at the exchange.. Something about perception of hardship intensifies it all, and I think we are all too close to our own situations to be objective.. So my first task as Rose's new daughter was to convince her to move into this great senior housing apartment in Manhattan.. Rose had been living in Brooklyn for about 15 years, and complaining the whole time that she wanted to go back to Manhattan.. It would make everyone's lives much easier, as Rose doesn't get around very easily, and complains loudly when Lena or her sister Jenny try and get her on a senior minibus.. They're so convenient, and come right to her house, inexpensive.. But she yells, 'I'm not OLD, I don't need this thing!' and then when they do get her on it, she scowls the whole time.. And makes loud comments about the other poor, down-trodden travellers.. 'Look at that man, he looks retarded!' Lena and Jenny just duck down and pretend they're not with her.. So Lena makes this big effort with the apartment in Manhattan.. Rose needs to be interviewed by the manager first.. Lena takes the day off from work, is on her way over to Rose's house, and calls her on the cell phone to let her know she'll be over soon.. Rose: 'Yes, that woman called me.. I told her I didn't want that apartment'.. Lena flipped out, 'Ma! What do you mean you told her you didn't want the apartment?? Do you know how hard it is to get an affordable place in Manhattan??' 'Oh, another one will come up'.. Lena was too angry to continue the conversation.. So she relays all this to me.. I tell her 'Let me talk to Rose, she'll listen to me.. We have the same birthday' .. Lena is thrilled someone else is getting involved.. I haven't spoken to Rose in about 5 years.. The last time I spoke to her, the whole family was at my house for Thanksgiving.. We were all having a great time, til Rose realized that the girls had meant for her to spend the night at my house.. They tried to convince her that we'd go for a nice drive in the country the next day..She was furious with them.. She doesn't like her routine disturbed.. Plus I didn't have a clock in my house at the time, and it was driving her crazy.. We all went to sleep by about midnight.. I kept hearing Rose every hour.. I was in a sound, peaceful sleep, then I was woken by Rose proclaiming 'How can you live without a clock? I need to know what time it is!' Back to sleep I went.. Again I was woken by her voice in the night: 'Operator? Can you tell me what time it is?' Back to sleep I fell (a perk of being a distance runner.. You can always fall right back to sleep!) Rose's voice again in the night, musing sarcastically: 'Go for a country drive! You'd think they saw enough of the country on the busride up here!' I had to laugh at that one..
OK, so I call Rose as requested.. I was getting excited about talking to her, so many years had gone by, I tend to lose touch with people, and then wonder why because I remember that I really liked them? Anyway, I figured I'd warm her up a little with catch-up talk.. I told her how I ran my first marathon last year.. I asked her if she'd ever gone to watch the NYC marathon.. She said one year she did, she was up at Columbus circle.. I got all excited, 'Yeah! That's around mile 22 where the runners enter the park!' 'Yes,' she said, 'I took a photo there'.. More excitement from me, 'Oh! Did you get a picture of the elite runners in the front or just the crowds of runners?' 'I got a picture of a nice statue in the park'.. Yeah, she's a sagittarius alright.. So I snuck in the first question about the apartment: 'So I heard Lena found a really nice apartment for you in Manhattan.. You weren't interested?' 'I like where I live.. It's on the first floor'.. That sounded reasonable.. 'Yes, but Lena and Jenny could visit you a lot more if you lived in Manhattan'.. She changed the subject.. I felt bad, I could tell it was uncomfortable for her, but I also knew she was being damn stubborn (typical again of the sunsign!), and that her daughters really knew what was best for her.. 'Rose, I'd hate to see you burn your bridges, apartments are hard to come by'.. I was wondering if she knew how hard Lena worked to get this place for her? Just when I started to think she wasn't with me at all, she said sheepishly, 'Lena came in like a lion and out like a lamb!' I had to hold back from laughing.. Lena was FURIOUS when Rose told the lady she wasn't intersted.. 'Sabotoge! My mother is sabotaging my efforts!!' We talked a little more about our art, and her starting a walking program.. I got off the phone feeling really happy to have talked to her, she's really a sweet person.. But also like my efforts to change her mind were in vain.. The next day I got a call from Lena thanking me, as she spoke w Rose, and she had agreed to take a look at the apartment! I was amazed.. Funny how people take in stuff you've told them and you sometimes think they're not even listening.. *sigh*
And it's 100% easier to help someone elses mother.. Lenas' turn


green said...

Dealing with senior parents can definitely be challenging. My parents are going through that now with their remaining parents. I too will have to deal with it someday....

Hopefully all will work out in the end...

tamar said...

Yeah, it makes you aware of your own moratlity, something I thought was lightyears away.. I think it's especially difficuly in America where we don't have the clearly defined famly values mapped out for us..

~Deb said...

Ummm...Tamar? Do you happen to have the time? BA ha ha!!!! Oh GAWD this is funny, but sad at the same time too.

You know a certain "Rose" that I do....(you know the one) the one that lives underneath me...yeah...that one. My mutha.

Well she doesn't like ANY change at all. I think that may be Lena's mother's thing? Change. It scares them. When people get older, they don't want their surroundings or belongings disturbed. She possibly overlooked Lena's 110% effort to get this apartment by her fear of change. Believe me--ask "my Rose".

It took so long to get 'my Rose' out of the rotary telephone days into the land of caller id.

"How do ya know who's calling?"
"When the phone rings ma, it'll tell you on that little screen."
"Will it say the name of the person?"
"Yes, the name and number, unless it's a telemarketer."
"How do I know if it's a telemarketer?"


And now, my day consists of taking back her new modern age toaster to get her an old fashioned one--the one that she was used to. She didn't like the one I got her. It had too many 'bells a whistles'. What the f***?

All I gotta say is....It's Shady Pines for 'my Rose' for sure.

LOVED this post!

~Deb said...

Instead of trading in the toaster, do you think Target will take my Rose? Trade her in for something else?

anika said...

tamar-i am so happy to see that you're writing, i became a big fan when you wrote that piece which was read in the background of noir desir-remember? of course u do. moms, what a crazy thing we all have to deal with, other moms are so cool when we're younger, even as we age too-and others think our moms are wonderful. uve lived a crazy childhood tamar, nothing i could imagine experiencing. i was very fortunate. my relationship with grandma has also been very pleasant, having thanksgiving memories, and birthday memories with her. enough talk about family, we'll c how it goes on wednesday...hailey

Cat Mandu said...

I'm not sure

Cat Mandu said...

Oh! I've finally worked out that I don't have to make my own blog in order to post comments here. I'm loving reading your writing, Tam. Kisses from Cat Mandu, your Cuba journeymate

Jon said...

Deb was so right... you are incredibly amazing

tamar said...

~deb Other people's familes always seems to be a fun thing to write about.. Did that new-fangled cappucino machine manage to survive? You know, THREE of my dear friends have mothers named Rose! So resistance to change is a sign of aging? Honey, I'm ready for Shady Pines myself!

~anika thanks for visitng and commenting! I'm a fan of your writing too, let me know if you start a blog, I'll feature you here (if I can figure out how.. I'm not too far from Rose myself..)

~Cat Mandu Hi honey, thanks for visiting and thanks for encouraging my writing.. It's such a liberating world that I needed.. Looking forward to reading your journal too xx

~Jon wow, nice compliments! thanks ;-)

Jon said...

I can't deal with the smell of a nursing home. I hope it's that's never needed

TrappedInColorado said...

I really liked this post, Tamar. I especially liked your statement

"You overlook some things, once someone shows they care about you, especially when you're craving that attention that your own family hasn't given you.."

And thank you for your comment on my last post. I appreciate your input.


Myrsurv said...

You have a way of breaking through the cold shell of self protection people dress in. You have the gift to reach out and touch someone (are you AT&T?).
I happen to know who you were referring to, that made it even more interesting reading.

~Deb said...

An AT&T rep. Naw, she can do better than that! She can sell ya a great calling plan.

Do you make a lot of calls out of state, Myrsurv?

tamar said...

to all: no time for a post, so I'll just comment on the comments.. Do only me and Deb do this? *scratching head* (ok ok, deb! I'll stop copying every cute little internet mannerism of yours!

~jon institutionizaton is depressing altogether.. what was jim morrison's motto? ok, tho he shares our sign, I don't share his belief..

~trapped thanks for showing me what you liked in my writing.. it's easy to forget

~myrsurv you, thanks for noticing.. I learned that trick from my scorpian father.. they're good at breaking down facades..
that's funny, you DO know who I was talking about! that's still such a strange coincidence in the city..

~deb are you hitting on myrsurv??

~Deb said...

Why yes, my 'phone tawk' does it all the time. Great pick up lines...

"Where do you make most of your long distant calls?"

OH that line gets em' each and every time. ;)

Eventually it leads to phonesex. Phone bonin', phone boinkin', get the picture.

Call me sometime! (haha)

~Deb said...

I'm not sure what sex Myrsurv is, but if she is a gay woman or a lesbian man, send her my way.

Hmm... I need another drink.