Today my boyfriend sent me possibly the sweetest e-mail I’d ever received. “If it makes you feel any better,” he wrote, “you’re absolutely nothing like her.”
He was talking about my mother.
Yes, my mother, also known as Hagatha, visited again. Some of you may remember those happy Christmas tales of a couple of years ago that filled my heart and home with such joy. If, by joy, one means angry misery. But time had passed, my sister was coming with her, I love my sister, and she had been telling me recently that Hagatha had mellowed out a bit and wasn’t quite as bad as she’s been our whole lives.
And so they arrived, my poor sister and her girlfriend after a rainy 12-hour drive. My poor sister will be referred to in this post as “my poor sister,” because my poor, poor sister. She’s left alone in Toronto to deal with Hagatha on her own, and then had to drive her down here and back. And she has a lovely girlfriend, Annie, who has always been a good buffer. My mother can be funny and charming, and Annie is entertained by her. And when Annie senses my mother is driving my poor sister crazy with her incessant braying and criticisms, she steps in to defuse things. “She’s an old woman,” has always been Annie’s peaceful refrain. “She means well.”
Fast forward four days, and the kind-hearted, mellow, mild-mannered Annie was muttering under her breath: “Fuck you, old lady” in the kitchen after my mother lobbed yet another passive-aggressive shot and/or snide nagging her way.
I debated even blogging about this visit. I said to my paramour: “I am not sure whether to tell you about all this week’s lunacies or to just try to shake it off.” But it helps me to share. I apologize to those of you who have urged me just to cut the old bag off once and for all. I just cannot bring myself to do it because she is 80 and I don’t want her dying thinking all of her children hate her guts, even though we do.
Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be long but I will try to condense it to the highlights only:
My son’s head erupted into one giant hive, and she blamed my poor sister for four days. Why? Because Annie and my poor sister had the unmitigated gall to be put up in Alex’s big room, with the double bed and ensuite bathroom (long story involving me preferring bathing over showering, that’s why he’s got that room — I don’t want him messing up my bathtub), meaning Alex slept in the lovely, renovated, bright, dry, high basement on a nice futon where he spends most his life playing video games. Clearly he’d been bitten by a spider and it was because he had to sleep in the basement. No matter that he was getting a rash on his face and neck the night before he slept there and complained about it. It should have been Annie and my poor sister on the futon, not Alex. THEY should have been bitten by the spider and rushed to the doctor’s for treatment and stuffed full of steroids for four days.
“How did that even happen?” she asked my sister bitterly. “Why did you two get the nice bedroom? I should have been in there, you two should have been in the basement, and Alex should have been in the spare bedroom.”
Annie replied, sweetly: “Because we like sleeping together.”
My sister has not come out to my mother because Hagatha made it clear years ago: “I don’t want to know.” My mother recoiled at Annie’s remark and went to make herself a gin and tonic.
And all week, I heard her whispering to Alex that she JUST KNEW it wasn’t a food allergy like the doctor said, but a spider who attacked him as he slept.
Keep in mind as well: This was a woman who ORDERED US into our dark, dank, buggy, mildewy basement for years so she didn’t have to listen to us “whining.”
I mention that my nickname for my man is “Felix Unger” because he’s so neat and tidy.
She guffaws. “Felix Unger going out with Oscar Madison, what a match.”
I keep a tidy house. I clean a lot. It’s not pristine, but almost everyone who’s ever walked into my home has commented on how neat and tidy it is. Except one. Hagatha. Who thinks I’m a complete slob because I was a complete slob when I was 14.
Nothing is good enough for her. She tells me she wants cheap housewares, I take her to Marshall’s. She later complains to my sister that it was a dump despite buying a lovely colander and a pretty area rug there for cheap as hell. She is cheap. But she wants to buy really cheap stuff at Neiman Marcus.
She is sleeping in a pretty, feminine spare bedroom with two single beds under a fluffy down flowered duvet and she pretends she thinks it’s Alex’s room and how he should be sleeping in it because of the spider bite that never happened. This isn’t Alzheimer’s; it’s yet another attempt to try to get me to kick the lesbians out of the double bed so she can have it and Alex can have “his room” back. The room that she knows full well is not his room. Because she is mental.
She can’t find the tonic water she likes down here.
Why is my shower faucet so weird?
Why do I have such a large bar of soap?
Why haven’t I pulled that weed out of the garden?
There is dog poo in the far corner of the yard — why haven’t I picked it up?
Why don’t I have Bounce sheets?
Why don’t I put green pepper in my chili?
She doesn’t like lemonade or orange juice or diet Coke or apple juice or iced tea – why don’t I have cranberry juice? Why do they only sell cranberry cocktail now? You used to be able to find pure cranberry juice; it was naturally sweet.
She’s lived too long.
The Internet is evil.
Google it for her.
E-mail my brother.
The Internet is evil.
Find out for me if Edie Falco was ever on Law and Order. Google it for me.
The Internet is the root of all evil in the world.
Get Google to tell you who’s on Regis and Kelly tomorrow morning.
I hate the Internet.
My man comes for dinner and as always, by nights’ end, she’s had wine and she’s bitching about my late father, who left her 30 years ago after 27 years of marriage which, seriously, was 25 years too long. She basically tells my polite British boyfriend that my father was stupid and emotionally stunted. My poor sister says: “He couldn’t have been that stupid. He sure had me and my lifestyle figured out and was totally OK with it.” My mother, peeved, sits and thinks for a moment, wheels turning, and then reminds my poor sister about a misunderstanding from years ago involving my father that had pissed off my poor sister. Hagatha had STORED IT AWAY; my poor sister barely remembered it.
The Regis and Kelly worship continues. In all seriousness, she begins to tell my poor sister, Annie and me in great detail all about Kelly’s children, their names, ages and hobbies, and the names of Regis’s pets. It is frightening. I tell her, just to annoy her, that I’ve always heard Kelly was a coke fiend. She freaks out. “BITE YOUR TONGUE! I KNOW KELLY! THERE’S NO WAY!!!” She KNOWS celebrities. She really knew, for example, that Tiger Woods didn’t do all those things; those women were just cheap sluts looking to make money.
“You should marry Felix Unger,” my mother says.
“He wants children, so that’s not going to happen.”
“It doesn’t matter, you should marry him anyway. I bet he’s from a good family and has money.”
“I make my own money; in fact, I think I make better money than he does. I don’t want to rely on a man’s money. And he WANTS TO HAVE CHILDREN,” I reply.
“I hope you’ve told Hannah that it’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is a poor one.”
Day Three, and Annie’s patience is wearing thin. She expresses her disagreement with some of my mother’s belligerently expressed political opinions, which are based on nothing more than what Jon Stewart said the night before. My mother begins to quietly attempt to turn me against Annie, trash-talking her whenever she leaves the room.
I finally reply: “Don’t even start with me. I really, really like Annie. End of story. I don’t want to hear it.”
“Hmmmph,” she replies. “She’s awfully opinionated!”
My son opines that she’s so difficult because she’s old. But Alex, I point out, she’s been like this my whole life. She was even meaner and nastier and more psycho when I was growing up.
“Wow,” he says. “Why are you normal?”
Today she’s up at 5:30, slamming things around to make sure the whole house wakes up. She wants to be on the road by six, regardless of what my sister, the sole driver, wants to do.
And thankfully, I was not there to witness The Drive Home From Hell, but it involved my mother refusing to leave the car for a pit stop, miffed that they were stopping for the second time in eight hours, and then being unable to figure out how to open the door of the car to let some air in because she refused to take the keys from my sister “in case some man jumps in, starts up the car and abducts me.” They are gone five minutes to take a pee, and when they return, my mother stages a huge fake screaming “YOU ALMOST KILLED ME” temper tantrum, claiming she almost suffocated. All she had to do was open the unlocked door, but the woman who has been in my sister’s car hundreds of times in the past claimed she “doesn’t know how to open a car door.”
My poor sister, astonished at my mother’s fake histrionics, loses it back in a crowded Tim Horton’s parking lot. Shrieking and swearing ensues with my sister finally bellowing: “I have SO HAD IT WITH YOU. Get back in the stinking car and stop being such a goddamned princess!”
Silence for the rest of the ride home although my poor sister and Annie chat happily the whole way.
And now I await the phone call. The inevitable phone call in which she tells me my sister and Annie tried to kill her. And that they almost killed Alex by forcing him to sleep in a spider’s web. And the long litany of bitchy complaints. I know it’s coming, and I intend to hang up, comforted by five short words: “You’re absolutely nothing like her.”