This is the second post of 2017, and continues the theme of how I got here, how I got to be me, and how do I go on in a world that makes no sense to me. In the first entry I talked about how I am like my dear aunt, Sissie. In this, I contemplate how I am like my dear Mom, who, unlike Sissie, is still here with me physically.
It’s Momma Day every Thursday.
I pick her up from Record Street at 10:15 and we head to Thurmont where Pam does her hair, like she has for two decades. Then, we go to lunch, which is followed by whatever adventure Momma would like to have, or, I can invent. Yesterday, over lunch at Bob Evans, my mother, who in nineteen days will have her 89th birthday, said to me, “Charlie, it looks like I might make it to ninety.”
She’s a survivor. Both of her parents had died by the time she was fourteen. She was shuffled among relatives, forced to find work to support herself, and soon married a man tortured by self-doubt and existential pain who drank his way to death, leaving her with five children and a sixth on the way, and a house in the middle of nowhere with no bathroom. It was 1962, and my pioneer feminist of a Momma insisted a woman could live alone with six children, standing up to family pressure to move in with in-laws, and re-did the house with insurance money, maintained her independence and, in order to support her family, spent years standing inside a cold, curtained booth in a factory watching eggs roll by on a lighted conveyor belt, pulling out and discarding the ones with bloody yolks. Eventually, tired of being mostly alone with six incredibly different and demanding children, she left behind the few ill-advised flings she’d managed to squeeze in on the downlow along the way and married a man who spent decades disapproving of her and her children, making her mostly miserable before he died. Along the way she saw all of her brothers and a sister buried. She suffered three miscarriages. She adjusted to living in a senior care development, came to love it and the people and activities there, and then, just a few years ago, she endured the death of a grown child, my sister, a circumstance which resulted in her having to move one more time to a different facility, this Record Street, where she is now, where she will be until she dies. Which will NOT BE ANY TIME SOON.
I said, “You’d better damn well make it past ninety. I’ve had a hellish few years and you are not allowed to die until asshat is out of office and we’ve got a Democrat back in there. Come on, Mommy, you know it’s all about me!”
She laughed. We laugh a lot. I try to make her laugh. I want to make her laugh. I want to be as resilient as she has been. As she is. She said to me, “You’re strong for everyone but you.” And I got the look on my face, prompting her to say, “Oh no, don’t cry.”
I didn’t. (Okay, I did. A little.) I tucked into my lunch; a comfort grilled ham and cheese. And watched her eating her single fried egg. And I looked around at the other Bob Evans patrons, two of whom were older men, alone. Which is what I am going to be if I make it to 89. Which — it being all about me — is one of the thoughts I have every time I am with my Mom.
I am so blessed, after all she did for and put up with from her six children, that I have this opportunity — that we all have had this opportunity — to reciprocate in some small way, to be there for her on the days and times and for the events when she expects us, needs us, wants us. If Mommy didn’t have us she would likely have died by now, had nowhere to go, no one to advocate for her.
And, because as I told Momma, it’s all about me, I worry: Who will advocate for me? Who will be there for me?
Because, I am already losing words. I can feel my brain not firing synapses like it once did. My hands hurt all the time from years of writing and typing; although I love cooking, its chopping and stirring and wet hands now always result in pain. My thumbs are going. My heels hurt in the morning when first I walk. I have an increasing amount of trouble reading without falling asleep. Noise bothers me more and more; television drone, being assaulted in public by music I haven’t chosen to hear, people chatting on cell phones/headsets loudly enough so I am part of their conversation, people slamming their spoons or forks into plates or bowls to scrape food — it’s just bad breeding to make noise with your utensils people, bowl scraping is disgusting and vulgar, and please save me from repetitive sounds — foot tapping, finger twitchings, that sort of thing make me want to scream. My stomach is off and on in spasms. I’ve started getting Charlie Horses (of course I have) all over my body, including in my hands, feet, upper arms, and neck, in addition to the ones I’ve long had in my calves, but the ones that strike my diaphragm are cripplingly painful and terrifying. And, since the election, I feel like there is a two-hundred-and-fifty pound asshat sitting on my chest, crushing me, causing shortness of breath and anxiety of near-paralyzing proportion.
All of which I thought about, there, at Bob Evans, where I started crying, noticing the men alone, watching my Mom eat her fried egg. A single fried egg. Which took me to Bette Midler and her monologue before she sings Hello In There, about our fried eggs:
Oh God, don’t make me wake up tomorrow and want to put a fried egg on my forehead. And then right after that I say real fast, Oh Lord, Oh Lord, if by chance I should wake up tomorrow and want to put a fried egg on my forehead, Don’t let anybody notice. And then right after that I say real fast, I say real fast; Oh God, Oh God, if by chance I should wake up tomorrow and want to put a little fried egg on my forehead, and people notice that I’m carrying around something that doesn’t look quite right, and they want to talk about; well, let them talk about it. But don’t let them talk about it so I can hear it, you know? I mean, I just don’t want to hear about it, because, you know, as far as fried eggs are concerned,well you can call them fried eggs, you can call them anything you like, but everybody gets one. And some people they wear them on the outside. And some people, they wear them on the inside.
My Mom, what we have in common in addition to our downlow flings with unavailable and semi-seedy men in order to assuage our loneliness, is that we both wear our fried egg on the inside.