I wrote a post the other day, about watching my mom grow older, how frustrating it can be to watch, and, how, sometimes I get a bit snippy. Then, yesterday I made a long, rambling video talking about the same thing. It got me thinking that I’d sort of written something similar, on my old blog, so I was brwosing around for it, and came across the post, and thought I’d share it — not so much for repeating some of the same theme, but, to share the bit about the armadillos.
The unspoken motto here at Johnbalaya is: entertain, and provide random trivia.
So, reprinted, with kindly permission from me (as copywright holder of the old blog, I had to ask permission for reprinting… you know how publishing is), is an old blog post from August, 2, 2011
The original title was: Mom, Armadillos And Being Snippy
I’ve not written much about my mother over the past few months. It’s certainly not because I’ve not got anything to write about.
Take, for example, mom’s rather touching concern about the extinction of the armadillo.
The setting: the dinner table.
Along with her pork chop sandwich, mom was drinking a Snapple, and, on the bottle top there was the usual trivia, this one informing us that the litter of an armadillo is always only one gender – all male, or all female. This piece of information caused mom to wonder what would happen if they only gave birth to males: if all the armadillos, everywhere, only gave birth to male armadillos, they’d become extinct. The statistical probability of this happening didn’t seem to occur to her. Just that if they all had male babies, they couldn’t reproduce, and would die out. There was a pause while she considered this further, and I waited for more, but, she turned to another topic, and I found myself strangely caught up in this armadillo extinction scenario. How long would it take for them to die off? Would there be a chance to save them? Would there be…what the hell was I thinking?!
No, I seem to always have something to write about my mother. The issue comes from wanting to be sure that I write about her (and me) in the right way: I don’t wish to tell stories about my mom in a way that makes her seem silly or foolish, nor do I wish to sound as if I’m making fun of her; and, on the other end of the spectrum, I wish to write about her with the respect she deserves, and I don’t wish to make myself sound like a whiny, complaining, ungrateful son. Frustration can make a person write without thinking, and that is not my intent. Writing can be a way of expressing feelings, of giving voice to those thoughts that run around our minds, and can be a way of venting those thoughts. I don’t want my writing to be like that. I would rather it be thoughtful, as a way to help me make sense of it all – and, maybe it will even help me to grow.
Of course, that all sounds as if I’m ranting and frustrated all the time. I’m not. Just sometimes.
Like this evening.
Mom called and asked me to come help her find something. For most people, this would be no big deal – we all lose things, right? For me, it’s an almost daily occurrence. Today’s item: an envelope, addressed to the bank, with a blank check inside. “I put it in the holder with all the other bills,” says she to me. A five-minute search found it tucked away in a desk drawer. Last week it was a blank check that had been torn from her checkbook for some reason or another, and vanished, only to be found in the recycle bin. Over the past year it’s been a wide variety of things that Julian and I have searched for, from pens, scissors and letter openers to checkbooks, keys, cash and credit cards. Each search is accompanied by the same commentary from mom, “It should be right there, I always put my (pens, scissors, credit cards, etc.) in the same place (holder, drawer, wallet, purse, etc.) when I’m done with them so I can find them again.”
The frustration comes not from the obvious, frantic searching for the missing checks, but, rather, it comes from a sense of helplessness as I watch my mom growing older and more forgetful. The frustration comes from having to stand here, watching, unable to do much of anything. Sometimes it makes me so angry that I get snippy, and the instant I get snippy, I get angry at myself for my tone. When I get snippy, she tells me I sound just like her mother (my grandmother – who died when I was 9 months old, so I have to way of knowing if my tone is like hers). Considering that my mother cared for her mom for most of her life, and didn’t really like her mom, being compared to my grandmother is not exactly the nicest thing I’ve been called. I can’t claim that the words don’t hurt, but, I can’t claim that I didn’t deserve them. I suspect that I am mothering my mother, and while mothering can be nice, mothers all have that certain tone that pushes our buttons. I seem to have learned how to push my mom’s buttons. This is both satisfying and horrifying. Horrifying is the larger of the two feelings, which doesn’t make me feel any better.
Sometimes it’s tough writing about life with my mom because it means I have to write about myself, in as honest a way as I can. It’s easy to write about my mom, mostly. It’s the delving deep into my own being that makes it tough.
Reading an old blog post has hidden dangers … like realizing that nearly two years ago I was writing about being snippy, and, two days ago, I was writing about having a tone in my voice… seemingly, in two years, I’ve not learned to get rid of The Tone.
Maybe I need to work harder on fixing this particular fact….