More than anything I have always wanted a “normal” family, and since I do not have one, I find myself at times pretending that things are better than they really are. It was in this spirit of denial that I once suggested to my sister Lindy that we take Mother out for a day of Christmas shopping and lunch.
On the special day in December, Lindy and I met Mother when she arrived at the mall. She had taken the very appropriately named “Joy-Ride” from the nursing home. The Joy-Ride was a van that carted the residents of the home around town and, ultimately, returned them to the place from whence they came. Once she arrived, Mother wanted to get busy. She had lots of things she wanted to purchase–not for other people, of course, but only for herself.
She began by purchasing a new robe and some slippers. Then it was time for lunch. Instead of a nice delightful lunch, we ended up at a fast-food Chinese restaurant eating a meal of cold, stringy noodles eaten while being stared at by a Charles Manson look-alike.
Lindy and I didn’t want to eat there, but Mother insisted as only she could. The fabulous day was falling apart pretty fast. My sister mentioned returning Mother to the home, but I had dreams (or delusions) of a nice memory of some mother-daughter bonding. You can probably guess where this is headed.
After our less-than-lovely meal, I decided the day could only look up. Unfortunately, I was wrong.
While having a cold drink in the mall food court, Mother decided to share the fact that she had never felt close to me.
Even when you were a baby, I wasn’t close to you
she said apropos of nothing. Instead of trying to turn this into a positive, I found it to be very sad and depressing and I began to cry.
It wasn’t just the statement from Mother. It was the entire day, which was looking nothing like a Hallmark Christmas card but rather quite a bit like the Worst Christmas shopping trip you could ever imagine.
After my meltdown, Lindy suggested we end the lovely Christmas shopping trip. She told Mother it was time for her to go back, but Mother announced that she was not ready to go back. She said she was going to stay at the mall and shop around for a while. Despite the fact that she had no credit card or cash, no cell phone, no vehicle, and was sitting in a wheelchair, she had made The Decision.
As tempting as it was to leave her at the mall, Lindy made the decision to call the Joy-Ride and informed Mother that she was doing so.
You better not
You better not
she yelled more loudly, as though Lindy and I were fourteen years old. Lindy calmly made the phone call.
Once Mother realized that she was returning to the home, she flung her packages as though she were a javelin thrower preparing for the Olympics. It was actually kind of impressive (in a traumatic way) how much strength her rage could give her. The robe and slippers landed on the other side of the wide mall walkway. I was horrified, but Lindy reminded me that we would never see these people again.
Some of the people were looking at us as though they were witnessing How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but most were probably just grateful that they were not in our shoes. Their own situation looked pretty good after viewing our Far From Normal day.