Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why I Shout at My Mother

Or more accurately, why I try not to shout at my mother.

My cell phone rang the other night, and when I saw "Mom" on the display, I sighed. I answered it, though, because the only things worse than answering are listening to a voicemail from her and having to call her back.

She said, "Hi, I wanted to double-check that your address is still the same, on [redacted] street."
"Yes. Yes, it's the same. We moved here in August. It's December."
"Well, I don't know! I lived in apartments for a month sometimes."

I bit back my reflex response of "well, I'm not you." Instead, I thought about the last few years. Prior to this address, I'd been at the same one for nearly 4 years. The one before that, for almost 2 years. Before that, 6 years. Nothing to make you think I'd be so transitory.

But this is exactly the sort of exchange that drives me crazy. When I moved, she wanted to know if my phone number was going to change. "Mom, it's a cell phone. It's not going to change."

"Well, I don't know!"
"It hasn't changed in 10 years, including when I moved from California to Colorado."
"I just wanted to make sure!"

As if I wouldn't tell her. And I would, both a forwarding address and a new phone number, in spite of the fact that I don't get any joy out of hearing from her.

But back around to why I try not to shout at her. You might think that she just sounds irritatingly neurotic, but really what's frustrating about it is that she put herself into this condition. She drank her way there. She was always cautious about things like that - she would repeat a phone number to you and make you say it back to her - but somewhere over the years, alcoholism took its toll and she has a hard time remembering things, or just making logical connections. It's a little like talking to the guy from Memento, if he peppered every other sentence with "I'm over here...."

"I went to the store and I couldn't believe how expensive the [whatever] was. I'm over here, are you kidding me?"

"The bus in town was late by 20 minutes and I'm over here, 'I'm going to miss my connecting bus!'"

I have no idea if she drinks anymore (she lives in southern California and I haven't seen her in years), but I don't think it would make much difference either way at this point. Her personality, her ability to carry on a conversation, her interest in anything, none of it is coming back. She is what she is now, and yelling at her only makes her respond like a child. She gets meek, and apologizes, and offers to let me get off the phone. She's got to be aware of everything that she's lost, but there's nothing to be done about it now. So I do my best not to yell and instead substitute silence. I'd feel sorry for her if I could feel anything at all.

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