Once, after her then-husband was no longer in the picture, we paid a visit to our mother in California. Before leaving, our father sternly implored us that no matter what else we might do on the trip, under no circumstances were we to return to the area with our mother.
Upon our arrival in California, Mother threw us quite a curve ball. She had decided to head back east with us so she could be closer to her family (which we quickly deduced to be code for “I have no money, no job, no man, and I cannot pay my bills”).
My sister Abby and I had driven our Dad’s station wagon, so unfortunately we could not say we had no room. Both of us were immediately remember how Dad begged us not to bring her back. I’m not sure if he had a premonition or just knew that she would pull something outrageous.
We loaded her up along with some of her belongings and left California for Iowa. To complicate matters, Abby had brought along a friend who had never met anyone quite like Mother. It was quite a shock for her and no doubt something she talks about to this day. Perhaps even to a therapist.
The return trip was not pleasant for several reasons. Mother liked to dominate and never was shy about sharing her opinion about anything or anyone. Abby and I also knew that our dad would be distraught with the thought of Mother living under the same roof with Abby and her family.
We decided to make the trip back as quickly as possible by driving straight through. This meant no motel bills and fewer meals paid for by us. We did not share the plan with Mother because she was nagging us about when were we going to pull over for the night. We drove and drove, hoping that she would go to sleep. Instead she continued badgering us and finally ended up shouting
What are you trying to do, kill me!
The trip ended with no one speaking, hurt feelings all around, and Mother raging like a wild animal that had been set free once the car door was opened. An omen of things to come.