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I Should Have Been A Bad Kid
When I was a baby, Mom had a hard time keeping me still, and one day I backflipped out of her arms and landed on my head on a silver box. The doctor said I was fine. The box was not, however, which is a testament to the hardness of my head.
I was a sleepwalker too. My Indian name was Diaper Walks (just kidding), but one night when my parents were asleep, I managed to climb out of my bed, open the front door, and walk off the property in just my diapers, headed for the main drag where I would be Gerber -roadkill, if my psycho Mom hadn’t woken up and yelled, “The baby’s out!” Luckily they found me in time, but they kept me awake and the diapers came in handy.
So you can imagine how traumatic it might be for a little bouncing bean to get stuck in Alice in Wonderland’s spinning teacup ride with her Mom, trapped in the dark, ascending structure, the Mad Hatter maniacally jumping up and down during each painful, terrifying moment. a minute They then had a park staff member climb up and carefully pry each of us out of the cups and back down to solid ground. Disneyland was never my cup of tea after that.
I also had a penchant for strange, wild animals. I was clumsy and fell a lot, and I was obsessed with boys in kindergarten. Other than that, from what I hear, I was a pretty good kid. For some reason I must have had the blood of George W in my veins (Washington, not Bush) because I couldn’t tell a lie. If I broke it or made it, I told myself.
The adage is that if you’re a pain in the ass as a kid, your parents will bring you back later. Maybe it’s some kind of ancestral curse and it usually plays out in your own children, but I’ve never had one. But sometimes it happens with your parents.
So it was time to start thinking about selling Mom’s house and moving her to a grown-up community where she could enjoy life and not have to worry about maintaining a fifty-seven-year-old home, huge yard, cleaning and cooking. She was hot and cold about the idea, but seemed to take to it. That is, until the time actually came to make the move.
“I’m not ready,” she said. “I have to go through all these things.” It reminded me of when my parents tried to get me to go to bed at night. I was the negotiator. Reward, I thought. “Five more minutes, Dad,” I would beg. And the minutes turned into an hour, sometimes more.
These items included unidentifiable fragments of once functional items, old cough drops, unworn clothes, safety pins, cassette tapes, dead bugs, single jelly beans (she liked the black licorice ones, but I couldn’t tell the beans from the bugs), broken clothespins that she still used to hang her things outside on the line in her yard, inherited items from siblings who passed away, far past the expiration date food, dust, and many memories. I understood. For me, as I got older, simpler was better. For her, all these things were her life and we were going to take it apart and reorganize it in a new way.
Mom’s delays became a year, and then three. But her memory was starting to give her trouble and she knew it.
“Maybe it’s time,” she said one day. And as I choked back the tears, I agreed. Sometimes daughters know best and there is that tipping point when the parent becomes the child, but this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, harder than even walking away from a romantic relationship.
So I went out and I bought points, lots of them. Red dots. I told her she could put them on all the things she absolutely could not live without and we would take that to her new home and she could come back at her leisure to look through the rest of the things, and we would. sell, donate or throw away anything else she didn’t want. It sounded like a great idea to me, but it was like losing control of her life for her.
And the long ordeal began. We found a place, the best and most recommended in the region. It was so nice I was ready to move. Three squares a day and a housekeeper? join me
Mom loved my little apartment, so I fixed up her new place the same way and had everything ready when she moved in. Lights, candles, action. She loved it that first night, but soon after, things changed. “When can I go home?” she asked. “Mom, you live here now. We’re selling the house, remember?” I said. She scowled at me and her mouth became a straight line. I was afraid “You told me I could go back there. I don’t like it here. These people are all sick and old and I’m bored.” When I was a baby and they took my bottle away, mom said I did so well with the transition. “Bottle all gone, mom!” I proudly proclaimed.
But I had only had my bottle for a few years and she had her house for fifty-seven, and I realized that there was no comparison. I moved eighteen times during those years, so I obviously welcomed change, but change scared her and it drove her crazy. Damn crazy. So crazy that I started wondering if there was a daughter protection program.
And I started second-guessing myself in the same way I did when I used to get to that point in my relationships with men when it was time to change, but my little voice kept telling me it was the right thing to do. do She needed to be safe and she needed available and qualified medical care.
Mom may have lost her memory, but she still had her superpowers. She convinced an unsuspecting old codger who still had his driver’s license and who had fallen under her spell to take her for a ride in his fastback Mustang, a ride right back to her house which we happened to be dismantling at the time. She looked like she was ready to explode, but luckily I had a nice friend helping me at the time and she fell under his spell for a few hours, and we sent Mr. Mustang packing while we did the same.
There were times when I walked back to the house alone during this process and as I walked through the rooms, the dusty memories ran through my mind. I saw the holes in my Dad’s tie and I remembered all the times he pulled it out in anger, disappearing for two or three days until he calmed down, until the last time which was the last time. He never came back. Mom said he would come back, but he ended up dying at the young age of forty-four.
Tears began to stream down my face and mingle with the fifty-seven-year-old dust. “I miss you, daddy,” I cried. “I wish you were here.” Now I know why she was so resistant to leaving the house. The walls spoke to me now, in the same way I’m sure they did to her every night for all those years. Then suddenly, I felt the urge to turn my head and my eyes landed on a drawer in the alcove in the living room. It must have been my little voice (or his), but I opened it and pulled out a manila envelope that was marked “Personal”, but it wasn’t in either of my parents’ handwriting.
I didn’t even look, but blindly reached in, not knowing what I might find. And when I opened my eyes, my heart skipped a beat. It was a card from my Dad, an Easter card he wrote when the Beatles were my favorite band. “Happy Easter to Robyn Beatle from Daddy Beatle. I will always love you.” That card must have been hidden for over forty years, in fact I never remember seeing it. And suddenly I felt cocooned in an indescribable warmth and I cried for two hours straight. I could feel him. He was there with me. I also found a card he gave mom the day I was born that said, “Glad it’s a girl!” I’ve always wondered about that too.
I suddenly felt stronger and as I went through more boxes and more boxes, I got to know my Mom again. I found self-help books from years past, incense, candles we made together and recipes I wished she could still make for me, exercise videos, knitting projects, silly family photos and cute portraits, old Sinatra records, pay stubs from the jobs that she had, and more. That was what was bothering her now. All of this represented her passion and purpose and now she had to let it all go.
I started to feel like this was a rite of passage for both of us and I thanked God that I was able to find pieces of my Mom’s life while she was still alive and could talk about it with me. There was no way I could do that if she passed away. Compassion flooded my heart and my soul. At first, it felt a lot like pain, but I feel pain in my stomach and I sometimes double over to try to stop it. Compassion hurts well and I felt it in my heart as it tore at the seams of my psyche. This was cathartic.
So when mom tells me that her bed is not her bed and her clothes are not her clothes and that everyone is taking her things (because she can’t find them), I realize that maybe she is stuck in her teacups. own reality now, and know that somehow, someday, someone will gently escort her back to safe and solid ground like they did for me that day among the jelly beans, bugs and Beatles.
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