My mom's coming to stay with me June 6-28. This is kind of a big deal. She's in town for a series of three classes she has to take to keep her law license current and it's easier to just stay with me instead of flying back and forth three times. Yeah, she's a lawyer. And that's the least of my problems.
See, my mom's crazy. Now hold on, I know you're thinking, "No, MY mom is crazy!" but seriously, my mom is nuts. Level two borderline personality nuts, according the shrink she used to share with my sister. And she's in a cult. By "cult" I mean group of people who make sure only certain people are allowed in the group, and the group is insane. The cult, among other things, doesn't like the colors red, black, orange, and grey. When one of their flock fell over at a restaurant after Temple, they prayed for his ascension (read: death) as he lay there with his heart attack and his new found faith. They don't eat meat (Mom's a vegan), they don't like "bad" music and movies. By "bad" I'm not talking about Lords of Acid and "Debbie Does Dallas," though those certainly count as well. I mean shit like "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Stand by Me." I tried to watch "Stand by Me" with her when I was in high school and she had a panic attack about ten minutes into the movie.
Oh yeah, did I mention the panic attacks? The screaming, crying, throwing things, punching herself in the head panic attacks? The Joan Collins ("no wire hangers!"), gut-wrenching, always-ends-in-suicide-threats-or-a-pity-party panic attacks. She's anemic, too, so when she's hungry these come out in full force.
Oh, her medication? She won't take any. It's against her fucking religion. She also thinks I'm a straight up bitch for asking her to get help. Her current living situation is in my sister's basement that she shares with my sister's eight year old daughter, and the rest of the house is occupied by my sister's other two kids, my sister, and my sister's boyfriend. That house is too small for her drama. She doesn't have a job, though she finally had an inteview last week. It went well.
She still sometimes thinks of me as the lying, mischievous brat I was when I was a kid, when we last lived under the same roof. She didn't get the memo that I grew up, that I know now what I didn't know then, and that I'm well aware of the things that I still don't know. She doesn't say this, she doesn't have to. She's my mom, I know what she's thinking.
She cries at everything. Part of the problem with her coming in is that I have to hide all the stuff that will make her cry. This includes books (Palahniuk, Bukowski, "History of the Devil," etc), music (Lords of Acid, Frank Zappa, Johnny Cash), and DVDs (all the horror movies, the "Arrested Development" set, "Harold and Maude"). I have to hide the red carpet I was going to put by my bed. I already bought a blue comforter for her, since she can't use my orange or red ones.
My siblings don't do this for her. They just do whatever the hell they want and if she can't handle it, it's her problem. We all know she's crazy, and they are always surprised when she acts like she's crazy. Then, when it comes time to have a Serious Talk, she's already wound up and nobody can get through to her.
Me, I like to pick my battles. For the month of June, my battles won't be about "Rocky Horror Picture Show" and "Joe's Garage." I won't come home to find my mother has "accidentally" spilled something on my red rug and threw it out. I won't reach for "Ham on Rye" in mid-July and wonder where it's gone.
We are going to have Serious Talks. We are going to answer the questions "What the fuck do you think you're doing?" and "Why do you think it's appropriate to act like that?"
And that's the part that really gets me down. I don't want to have those talks with my mom. I don't like seeing that look of disappointment that I always brought to her face when I was a kid.
I didn't get the good part of her when I was growing up. I didn't get the carefree era of regular paychecks and a steady boyfriend. I grew up so clenched up and stressed out that I started to just tune her out, tune everybody out. In high school, when my brother was off at college in Alaska and my sister was off married to the wrong man, I got a little bit of Good Mom. She introduced me to classic movies, something I have and will always be grateful for. She showed faith in me, and never once said "Oh, you can't do that," when I wanted to try my hand at anything.
When I was eighteen and my left leg was gripped in unfathomable pain, she held me and cried with me and tried to feel my pain for me, tried to share my burden. She held my hand when we walked down the street and didn't pity me when I was doubled over in pain, walking with my hands down around my ankles because standing up straight was excruciating. She didn't make a big deal about the tears I watched drip off the end of my nose and land - splat - on my oh-so-hip Doc Martens.
I didn't get Good Mom when I was growing up. I got her when I was seventeen, eighteen years old and had her all to myself. I got her when everything was going so wrong in each of our lives, when the world kept hitting each of us separately with the one-two punch of real life and real loss.
My brother and sister didn't get that Mom. They didn't stick around to see how it turned out. That's the Mom I want back, the one who gave me Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and "The Universe Song." That's the mom I'm packing up my stuff for, that's the mom I want to have here in June. Yes, there will be Serious Talks, and there will be crying and fighting. But for a few days at least (hopefully, most of the days), there will be "Operation Petticoat" and "Meet Me in St. Louis." There will be sewing lessons and family stories and (dare I say?) cooking lessons. There will be my mom, my secret mom that my brother and sister never had the patience to know. All this for a month of doing without some of my favorite things.
And to me, that's a bargain.