I've been thinking this past week how it is that I've come to a point in my life where my sons might look back at my skills as a parent & find fault. It seemed as though I had it figured out: they will appreciate my concerted effort not to be my parents. They will surely give me a dispensation for having done some experimenting to make up for their lack of a father due to circumstances beyond anybody's control. I was flying by the seat of my frikkin pants, making stuff up as I went along.
Not happening precisely the way I had envisioned, of course.
The oldest vacillates with me between quiet & soft to flaming into violent passion over world events or things he considers personal affronts like parking tickets. He comes to me—which is easy at this juncture since his temporary domicile is the living room—seeking solace, I suppose. I'm happy to supply it. It's rare.
The middle son, parked in the basement, is transformed in a way that surprised us both; he is by no means an open book. However the ease of our present communication is at complete reversal from his early years. The adult in front of me chatting about his work day has set aside something internal that made school & brothers & food & mom all a living hell back then, & has tackled life with a mature vigor directed at entirely different targets.
The youngest has attacked me. Now why the hell would that be, I say to myself. I'm grandma & he knows jolly well that this is it for me, the grandma ship has sailed & there is only one passenger & I better make good of him, my precious cargo. So, aside from the obvious generational issues, I'm there for childcare often at a moment's notice, & I listen & I dispense advice only when asked. But no. It seems that—I'm only positing—that being the youngest who has zero memory of his dead father, & has now been married & a dad himself for almost as long as I was married so long ago, has now stepped into shoes that he feels he has earned. He can turn to me as an equal & look back to say why? Actually more of a you decided you didn't want to be a mother. why, goddamit?!
My little brother is going in for deviated septum procedure this week; it has been plaguing him with loss of sleep & other discomfort. To pass the time, I suppose, he has launched into a project the likes of which has become a standard around the country: Make Improvements=Collect Rent. Everybody is scrambling to find housing, so why not throw up something in the backyard, keep it on the down-low to avoid paying too many fees—except electricity, that's got to be code—presto! Instant Landlord. He's already had a tree taken down in the front which was in the way of the new 240 line installed; that's okay. Nobody liked it & his ex-wife who planted it even mistook for what she wanted: mimosa. The silk tree that grew there was a pain in the ass to everyone, giving off yellow powdery residue year round. So, here he is in the middle of this grand scheme & he calls & he's clearing out the
garage & wants to know if I'd like to claim the chair that has been stored in there god knows how long. Ma gave it to him; it needs upholstery, it's fragile & spindly, not at all his style (Mission/Craftsman). He thinks there were two & she still has the other one in storage.
My first reaction is to yell never break up a pair!
Today is Tuesday, so it's on my e-calendar as Caregiver. That will be after lunch & will last as long as we (I) can endure. Mom is like her chair: fragile, spindly, frayed. I've been scoring well as a daughter: last week we installed an electric tea kettle so she won't boil dry cause she can't hear the whistling one on the stovetop; she actually liked it. This does not mean she will continue to like it, only that I dodged a bullet at that particular target practice. (I think I'll probably try to position myself out of range; rehearsals started up again last night, so I need to conserve some resources. I did sleep well last night, under my home-made weighted blanket. Only a month in creation & just 17% heavier than projected since I failed to factor in the weight of the cover.) Meanwhile, mother & daughter did enjoy some aesthetic banter: the dish her boyfriend gave her is too Chinese (it's
not at all, being clearly Japanese) but who cares; I'll take it off her hands as soon as she determines that he won't get his feelings hurt that it's no longer on display. The living room rug has some moth damage just now noticed since we switched the couch with the rocking chair to make a safe path to TV chair from Kitchen. The carpet's a catastrophe I fully expect to revisit today; she's had a whole week to obsess about it every time she passes it. I mentioned that it seemed to be pretty old news—not like the rat I had who was literally rampaging through my house until we caught him—so maybe she could live with it...? Response from her: fuck that shit!!! (I paraphrase)
Tonight, I found out that from my cousin that her mother, my 98 year old aunt, the one I spent 3 weeks tramping around France with this summer, has zero chance of ever walking again: her ancient hips have given out, the old replacements can't be fixed, her heart will not stand any intervention. I imagine her in a wheelchair & my memories won't sync; I see her in the kitchen as always, in charge, smacking the lid off the pressure-cooker with a metal spoon heedless of any danger; hobbling her way to the dining room with a couple of plates & some cheese for us; grinning at me across the table, with a tiny line of beer foam on her upper lip. I remember the last thing I said to her before I got on the bus back to Paris from Avignon: á la prochaine fois...Her eyes glittered uncharacteristically with a sheen of tears.
We both knew that I'd never see her again.