Once our mother had returned to southern Indiana, every summer my sister Abby and I would make the long and difficult trip to see her. We dreaded these trips, because getting there was a long, arduous drive, but more so because we knew the outcome before we arrived. At some point in what had been a polite conversation, Mother would loudly say:
Why does everyone treat me like the village idiot?
If she was going for the bonus points, she would be sobbing while saying this. Or she might drop a comment more along the lines of an insult such as:
You two just think you’re better than everybody else!
Or she may even begin to take credit for how well we turned out. This would almost cause a verbal riot. My sister and I both knew who had been our calm and constant supporter and their name was not Mary. Either way, as you can tell, Mother liked to mix things up a bit in terms of her verbal arsenal. Variety is the spice of life, they say, and our mother was frequently proving she was the original spice girl.
For some reason, each summer on our trip down to Hillbilly Heaven, my sister would begin to believe that this time the visit would be different. Somehow Mother would welcome us with open arms, no requests for money and none of her famous meltdowns. The visit would be pleasant, and charming, and…wait for it…in my sister’s little fantasy, Mother would sincerely apologize for her shortcomings as a parent and beg our forgiveness.
I don’t know if the heat would get to my sister, but I, being the realist, felt the need to shed a little light on this faulty theory. I made sure my sister would not believe in a miraculous change by Mother. In fact on several occasions, I shared with my sister that the only way we would have a different experience with Mother would be if she had a personality transplant. Since Dr. Frankenstein no longer made house calls, I thought this was highly unlikely.
And in fact, each summer our visit to Mother’s humble abode was just a reminder of how far from normal Mother was.