Thursday, December 13, 2007

Getting One's Just Desserts

So, after months of silence -- hell, years of non-communication -- my mother called me on Friday of last week. However, when I answered the phone she asked for someone else. I told her, politely, she had the wrong number, and without us ever acknowledging each other she hung up.

Back fill is that sometime in October, I suddenly told Hubby that I was having premonitions that she was in trouble, probably rapidly failing health and that I wouldn't be surprised to hear that she had had to move into a nursing home. She's 81 years old after all, lives totally alone -- well, as alone as a woman with a huge pile of money can be, considering she can afford all the care she needs.

On Tuesday night she had her best friend call me because 1. she had received our Christmas card in the mail and 2. she had also received her Christmas gift from UPS. I had ordered an assortment of old-time food stuff from the Vermont Country Store, things she and I had enjoyed eating when I was a kid: plum pudding and hard sauce, oyster stew, Vermont cheese, and B&M brown bread, special crackers, etc.

Mother, herself, could not call me -- but she had her friend call and say that she would enjoy knowing something about my life. I was totally honest. I told the friend I was done with the situation. I would acknowledge Mother on holidays and her birthday because I felt she didn't have anyone left who would remember she was alive. Certainly there is no other living family other than me. I would send things like flowers and food and warm nighties but I was no longer making a personal investment in the situation. The 35 years she had tried to hurt me in every way she could think of had finally taken their last toll two years ago and I WAS D.O.N.E.! The family that had stood by me during those 35 years, even if not blood relations, would be the family I choose to include and support with my love and affection.

The friend said Mother had been thinking that she might like to send Hubby and me a gift for Christmas, something other than the pears from Harry and David that she had sent every single Christmas for the last 15 years. Four pears -- that's what we got every year. Granted, they are very good pears, but still . . .

And in the middle of that conversation about Mother wondering what we might like as a Christmas gift, the friend told us that Mother had bought the town she lives in a fire truck. Not a toy truck, mind you. The entire real red fire engine. The one they had was old and run down and sometimes they could not get up the mountain roads to isolated cabins. So she bought them a new truck.

For 35 years we've gotten pears and gifts from Goodwill and once a set of stuffed cloth wise men.

I've told myself over and over that she can't hurt me anymore, that she won't make me mad. Still -- over $100,000 for a fire truck -- while I get four pears every year?

I understand that she and my dad made me independent and self-reliant and I have the skills to take care of myself. I know that she was the sole heir for my grandfather's money and she can do with it as she chooses. But goddamn -- what a small fraction of that kind of money would have made in our lives all these years while we drove second hand cars and lived in a tiny bungalow and worked every days of our lives to meet the bills!

If, as the saying goes, you reap what you sow, just exactly what does this say about me?

I understand she's failing in health, a broken hip requiring a replacement, new knees that are not healing properly, twelve thousand a month in home care services because she's terrified of going into a nursing home, some dementia. Maybe she's reaping just a bit of what she's sown, too.

Certainly, neither of us are happy about the situation. We can't resolve it, fix it, or even patch over it for "old time's sake." She won't talk to me; I can't talk to her, not even for a fraction of what that new fire truck cost. It's a total impasse. How sad. How unutterably sad.

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