Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Weedy Sort of Love

So, I was in the grocery store yesterday when I saw a sign.  A sign that made my blood boil.

Figuratively, of course.

The sign?  Well, here it is:

Why does this piss me off so much?

Oh, gosh, let me count the ways!

1) I've always had a problem with sending school kids out to hock greeting cards and chocolate bars to raise classroom funds.  This is like that, only a thousand times worse, because there are guns and mines and IEDs.

2) Our government is coughing up over 100 MILLION per jet for the awesomely flawed F-35s.  2,433 of them, in fact.  But they can't provide our soldiers with proper nutrition or personal care items?  Hey, here's an idea--don't buy 20 of those jets--that should be enough to feed, clothe, provide comfort, and even provide means of communication so these soldiers can speak to their families without charities having to step in.  I mean, come on--I can voice chat with my friend in Ireland for free--surely the US can make that available to the men and women it's forever putting in harm's way.

3) It's embarrassing.  I am ashamed that our country stomps around the world, using its military as a bludgeon with which to extract compliance from other nations, be it economic, ideological, or whatever, and then doesn't have the good grace to provide adequate care and support for the men and women serving in that military.  How humiliating is that?

I don't like war.  I don't like any of the wars our government has managed to BS us into over the past couple of decades.  It seems we've done a lot of making up reasons to justify the use of our military.  We scare me.  But if we're GOING to send young men and women into war zones, we need to provide for them.  If we can't afford to do so, we should probably not send them in.  Seriously, if we can't take proper care of our soldiers, we should keep them home.


Took Charlie to Petsmart day before yesterday to get his nails done.  He'd become near-lethal, it was time.  He was better with seeing other dogs than he usually is.  Still not good, but instead of tugging and growling, he gave one low "woof," then turned and went with us without putting up a fight.  That's progress.

Anyway, while there, we toy shopped.  We always do, it's his reward for being good with the groomers--he gets a new toy, gets to leave on a high point so he remembers Petsmart as a fun place to be.  We got him a new Kong Wobbler (a toy that lasted over a year with his power-chewing ways!), but wanted something else.  Something special.

What we came up with?  Plubber.

It feels and looks like a solid toy, it does, and it's made by the same company that makes the wonderful Kong toys.  The "rubber" feels solid and dog-resistant, and the word "Durables" is emblazoned on the packaging, which really does communicate something to owners of chewers.  We look for phrases like that to let us know that this toy is better able to withstand chewing than the average fare.

Except this one isn't.  Charlie was through it in FIVE minutes.  FIVE!  We've had two dollar bargain bin plush toys last longer than that!  He chewed right through the "rubber" and had that squeaker moidelized in five minutes.

You notice I keep putting the word "rubber" in quotation marks?  That's because it's not really rubber, not like Kong Xtreme or your tires.  It's more like the dense foam rubber you might find in a bike seat or exercise equipment cushions.  Here--here's a shot of the carnage:

That's not thick, durable, strong rubber--that's a thinnish layer of bike seat.  No wonder the dog tore through it in minutes.  Good return policy, though--basically, if you're not satisfied for any reason, take the toy and the receipt back for a full refund.  We did, no problems.  If your dog isn't a strong chewer, these are probably great toys--they float, they squeak, they're cute.  But if your dog is a chewer, skip it.  It's very sad, having to take a new toy away after only a few minutes.


I've got to figure out what to do about my Mom.  She does this--this slow, dependent creep where she calls more and more often, leaves increasingly strident messages, calls at ever more inappropriate times until finally we tangle.  It's odd--it didn't happen when I was living in Clearfield, it didn't happen when I was living in SoCal, but when I moved five miles down the road, it started.  Now, it used to be hellish when we were LIVING WITH HER.  She'd call home from work five, six, sometimes ten times a day, just to "say  hi."  And she'd leave the most gawdawful terse messages. "CALL ME!"  We'd fight about it, the frequency would die back for a short time, and then she'd ramp up again.

The "CALL ME!" has stopped--as soon as we moved out, she got a lot more polite, mostly because we weren't a captive audience anymore, I'm sure.  It finally sank in that rude messages don't get return calls.  Ever.  Not from me.  But since we've been back east, the calls have gotten sad, desperate, almost plaintive.  And increasingly frequent.  I speak to her three or four times a week.  My boy speaks to her at least three times a week.  That's seven or more calls a week she's getting from us, and yet, last night, I had to clear 26 messages off my voicemail.  26 messages from her left over the course of ten days.  


She's taken to calling at nine or ten at night, our time.  I don't answer, because I can't encourage her--if I answer, she'll do it even more.  

But what can I do?  When we talk, she really has nothing to say--she's calling (or I'm calling her) so she can listen to me talk, until she gets bored with it and I realize I'm just talking and she's not really paying any attention.  She wants my voice.  So a half-hour "conversation" is actually just a half-hour of ME talking, with her contributing very little.  When I'm out of things to say, I ask her how things are going, what's she been up to?  The answer is always the same.  "Oh, okay, I guess. Your sister took me to the store.  Nothing else really.  It rained."

My Mom will be 80 this year.  I've been on her since 1989 to get a life.  She's needed to do that since even before then.  Since she and my Dad divorced in 1976.  She latched onto my friends, onto my sister's friends, and she never seemed able to maintain her own relationships.  Any work-borne friendships she had ended badly because she . . . she has very strong ideas about what people should do and how they should act to keep her happy, and when they fail, well, she becomes rather unpleasant.  Condemning.

Or she did.  I don't know how she'd handle a friendship now--she hasn't had one in almost 30 years. 

For years, I tried so hard to get her into any activity that might bring her some joy and some socialization.  Library groups (she used to love reading mysteries), puzzle/game groups, crafting/painting groups (she loves watching painting shows on PBS), exercise groups, walking groups, even dining groups (she blows most of her cash on dining out).  But she refused.  Sometimes she'd agree IF MY SISTER OR I WOULD ALSO TAKE PART.   Which utterly defeats the purpose, though, to my sister's credit, she did go to the Silver Sneakers thing at the local gym in hopes our mother would meet friends there.  But she didn't--she made no effort, and, in fact, actively rebuffed friendly advances.  

Fact is, my Mom stopped having her own life 37 years ago, and she's just floated along, unhappy, lonely, and increasingly scared since.  The entirety of her social interaction these past decades has focused on her daughters, and her daughters' families.  There has been no one else.  Even her latching onto my friends ended around 1990 or so--she became increasingly rude to my friends, to the point that, if friends came over, we'd retreat to the back yard because, otherwise, she'd make constant noises of impatience and escalate the rudeness until it was intolerable.  I remember once she leaned out the bathroom window and shouted toward us and our two visiting friends, "Are stupid and stupider still here?"

That's right.  We lived with her for years, and we couldn't EVER have guests over because she would treat them so poorly, she was so unwilling to share us in any way with anyone else.

Now, I don't want you to get the idea that she's always mean.  No.  No, she loves to give to her children, to her grandchildren.  She loves to be seen as generous.  I think that she loves us all desperately, but, like our Cairn who thinks that growling and lunging is an appropriate greeting, she just never did figure out how to interact with others.  There's something hurt in her, something broken, and she never was able to love without conditions, to love in a healthy way.  

And now she's almost 80.  And I don't know what to do for her.  I talk to her multiple times a week, I try to keep her apprised of every dippy detail of our lives because she wants to know, but I run out of things to say.  She offers up no fodder for conversation, she just hangs on that phone and expects me to talk until . . . forever.  Even though she's lost in her computer games half the time and not really listening to me.  Which is how it's been for 20 years, really.

How sad is that?

I love my mom.  To borrow from Stephen King, it's a weedy sort of love, a lot of hard, bad things have gone down between us; she was never built for parenthood.  But I love her still.  Maybe even more because she's so deeply flawed.  My heart breaks for her every time I allow myself to really think about it.  I can't fix her.  I can't make her happy.  I know she's so sad that I'm out here, but even when I was right there, I wasn't enough.  I was never enough to help her, save her, whatever.  I was never the one she wanted, I was the fallback (except in emergencies--when things went bad, when health crises struck or car accidents occurred, THEN I was the go-to girl).  I was never enough, and I don't think I ever could have been.  There's a well of sadness in her, of rage, of impatience and, most of all, dissatisfaction with everything, including herself.  It's like her whole life has been one disappointment and crushing defeat after another.  Like she never quite dared to really go for the things she wanted because  life taught her early on that the smack-down was waiting in the wings.

Almost half her life alone.  I wish I could fix it for her, I do.  But living with her was, to use a tired term, TOXIC.  It was destroying my marriage, it was destroying my son.  My sister, in that special way she has, told me that, if I moved away, our mother would die.  Flat out, if I left, I'd kill her.

I'd like to say that I stopped letting my sister get to me in that sort of way a long time ago, but it'd be a lie.  I've gotten better at it, and I always understand it on an intellectual level, but there's that visceral hit that I can't seem to completely dodge.  All I can do is maintain a calm facade and do my crying alone.

I do love you, Ma.  I'm sorry that so many things just didn't come through for you.  I'm sorry YOU didn't come through for you.  My heart really is broken.

That's my Mom, the little one down front.


  1. Sounds very familiar. My mother was like that too. She lived to 93. The last miserable years in a nursing home where she not only insulted other patients, but the staff who cared for her.

    The only thing we can really do is to try to make sure we do not become like them. I know I sometimes am and I hate it about myself.

  2. I'm sorry. My parents are socially awkward as well. Hell, so am I. I've come to realize that is why I have always felt out of step with the crowd, it's because my parents never showed me how to interact with people in a friendly manner. Sometimes I think that if I didn't have a big family I'd be a very lonely person. But I know this, and I have been making an effort to have a life, to pay attention to how I am with people and try to learn the ways that healthy relationships work. I don't have any kids so if I don't maintain friendships I will truly die alone and miserable.
    That's the only thing that keeps my mom from becoming a total hermit, see. If she didn't have grandchildren, she wouldn't have any excuse to leave the house or do anything other than watch TV and stare at her computer and phone. My former father-in-law was even worse. He was so rude to everyone, even his family, that it just felt like he hated us all. He'd walk around his neighborhood and talk to the neighbors, but only because he was so bored and lonely that he had to do it. When he passed away, there were less than 10 people that came to the funeral including his family. There was one guy that actually cared, but the fact is, Dad had never said one nice thing about that kid, and complained about him constantly. So I don't know, I guess it was his choice to be friendless, and he only tolerated the family.

    It sounds like your mom just does not feel comfortable enough with others to ever enjoy "friends" the way you'd like her to. I don't know what to suggest, but all you can really do is talk to her and be there for her as much as you can. You're doing your part.