I went to Lowe's to buy new window blinds the other day, and I picked out some Levolors for my Mom's bedroom and my new guest room (so ... sorry, old friends, no "old" guests are allowed - ha ha). It occurred to me that most people choose something as boring as window blinds because of their color ... their quality ... their design ... their price ... stuff like that. And while I did consider all those factors, I had one huge factor that out-factored all the rest.
I needed to find some blinds my Mom couldn't break.
Now, I love my mother. She's 81 (turning 82 this month) and she's been living with me ever since Dad passed. I really do love her. A lot. Really... bunches and bunches. Yesiree, I sure do love my Mom.
And yes, there's a reason I keep stressing the "L" word, here ... because, after you read this entry, I sincerely don't want you to think of me as that Evil Blogger Who Bad-Mouthed The Woman Who Gave Her Life. Consider this, if you will (or won't ... doesn't matter, I won't shut up either way) as that Poor, Demented Blogger Who Desperately Needed Cheap Therapy. This blog is my therapy, and you, dear reader, are my therapist. I recommend that you simply accept your new, thankless role in my life.
Where was I? Oh ...
My issues with Mom.
Now, let me just say we all have issues with our aging parents and, inevitably, we ourselves will become somebody else's Big Issues. All things considered, my Mom isn't doing too badly. But if I someday reach my 80s (and I like to spend my delusional moments believing I will), I know I'm going to be a real pain in the ass to society. I'm certain I'm going to be that crazy old lunatic nobody wants to sit next to on the bus...you know, the one who can't remember to bathe, but who can remember (and loudly) all the words to "Copacabana." Some folks really do well in their 80s and 90s ... they jog, they swim, they perform surgery, they have wild sex... heck, some even run for Congress. I'm 50, and I don't do any of those things, so I quite naturally and forgiveably hate those people.
Well, Mom has a little dementia goin' on. I could tell you that she constantly obsesses about our money and finances ... which wouldn't be too bad, except that she doesn't understand money and finances. My Dad took care of the checkbook. I wish I had a dollar for every time I patiently tried to explain to Mom why a "money market" isn't something she can lose in the "stock market" ... or why a debit card isn't the same as a credit card ... or why nobody will arrest her and throw her in jail because I still use Dad's Giant Eagle Advantage Card at the grocery store.*
Or, I could also tell you that she has a problem with her memory, and sometimes I wish I didn't have to repeat everything I just said 12 more times. Or, I could tell you she has a problem with her hearing, and sometimes I wish I didn't have to scream everything I just said 12 more times. However, let it be noted that I do feel guilty talking about her memory issues because, honestly, I can't remember squat anymore, and I don't have the "too bad I'm 81" excuse. (And when I instead try using the "Too bad, I'm menopausal" excuse, people don't pat me on the shoulder and say, "Awww, Brenda, that's okay, I understand." They just step back three feet and try not to look scared.)
Or, I could tell you that Mom has a food problem ... namely, that Mom doesn't choose to eat food. She chooses to eat garbage. True, most of us would rather eat garbage as well, but we try not to do that because it's bad for us. And yes ... I'm using the word "garbage" metaphorically to actually mean, "sweets, fried foods and anything else that's tasty and waiting to kill me." (Of course, if I ever tell you my brother eats garbage, please feel free to take that literally.**) I don't doubt that somebody out there is reading this and thinking, "Well, gosh, Brenda, why do you keep garbage in your house if you don't want her to eat it?" If that somebody IS you, I would like to respectfully suggest that you pause for a few minutes to yank a pacifier out of a screaming baby's mouth, or rip a soup bone out of the jaws of a starving rottweiler. Please do either of those and then get back to me when you've regained consciousness.
I can live with all of this, truly I can. But the one thing she does that drives me bonkers is this: She manages to somehow ruin anything mechanical she dares to touch. She'll break it if she can. If she can't, she will - at the very least - hurt it and make it cry.***
Sometimes, sadly, this crying leads to suicide. There's a back burner on a gas stove I bought two years ago that finally gave up the ghost because Mom kept trying to blow up the house with it. If you've ever used a gas stove, you know the routine: you push in the dial, slightly turn it, hear a couple of clicks and then, like magic, a flame pops up. But when Mom would heat up her coffee water, I'd be sitting in the living room doing something terribly important (like watching TV) and eventually I'd hear "Click click click click click click click click click click click." After glancing at my sleeping cat to make sure she was still breathing, I'd run into the kitchen to find out why Mom was trying to gas us all. What's worse...Mom was convinced that neither I nor my 61-year-old sister knew how to work the stove properly. In her mind, of course, we were still kids. I can still remember one time my sister was visiting us from California; Barb had turned on the stove to heat up her tea water. (We all like to heat things up, but try to avoid cooking whenever possible.) Anyway, Mom - who's usually deafer than dirt - heard that first "click" and sprang into action. As soon as my sister had wandered back into the living room, Mom speed-shuffled into the kitchen to turn off the stove my sister had recklessly turned on without her supervision. This was then followed by the ever-too-familiar "Click click click click click click click click click click click" and Barb screaming, "WHAT IN THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN THERE?" In Mom's defense, she was only trying to help my out-of-town sister follow the proper protocol one uses to blow up one's house in Willowick (and, on a good day, the entire neighborhood).
After that, I begged Mom's doctor to tell Mom she was never to touch the stove again. Happily, Mom listened. Unless her doctor utters a sentence that includes the words, "Don't eat sweets, Betty," Mom is pretty attentive about listening to physicians...which is good, because she needs to listen to somebody. She never listens to me or my sister; we're just a couple of drooling lunatics who can barely tie our own shoes. But, interestingly, she WILL listen to our brother. Bill's a nutcase, but he's always a respected source of knowledge because he owns a penis.
Mom has, throughout the years, broken many things around the house. She's bullied our washer, disabled our dryer, and has committed unspeakable atrocities upon various microwaves and toasters we've owned throughout the years. Too often I've come home from work to find Mom sitting in her rocker staring at nothing on TV because she pressed the same wrong button on the remote again. "I broke the remote," she'd say forlornly, and then I'd fix it and she'd be all happy again, finally able to watch yet another movie about some woman murdering her husband on Lifetime Movie Network. I don't think Mom's not bright; I think she just got into the habit of believing she couldn't do much of anything on her own. But I really can't think of anything mechanical inside our house that Mom didn't somehow screw up. At night I can still hear the mournful whispers from the ghost of our dead dishwasher; I don't know exactly how she killed it, but I am certain it was a slow and painful death.
But the blinds are the worst. We have full-length vertical blinds in the front room window and on the back patio door. I'm not sure why Dad had them installed; it is entirely possible he did it just to torture Mom. The notion that one cord operates the slats while the other cord draws the blinds is one she could never fully grasp, so she pretty much just pulls on stuff until something happens. Once in awhile, she gets it right. But most of the time our blinds end up hopelessly mangled, with the cord up near the ceiling so that she can no longer reach it. This is always fun, because then I have the joy of coming home from work in the dark, pulling into my driveway, and then seeing Mom in her nightgown, prancing around our well-lit living room in full view of the neighbors. She can't close the blinds... and then she seems to forget that they're even open.
As for the patio door blinds ... I despise them; I curse them every time I have to fight my way through that plastic jungle just to go outside (Mom constantly keeps them drawn so the deer and squirrels won't spy on her when she's in the kitchen). I don't know why they're necessary and have, repeatedly, threatened to rip them down entirely. I'm thinking of buying a dog and secretly training it to pee on them.
So ... as I'm standing in the aisle at Lowe's, these are the thoughts that haunt me and taunt me. Maybe I'm blind to think there are blinds in this world she cannot destroy. I think we may need to go back to curtains ... or take out the windows entirely, I don't know. Maybe we could take out the windows and put in skylights? The birds won't care if Mom puts on a show, and I doubt the astronauts will either.
*Uh oh ... I think I hear the Giant Eagle Fuel Perks Patrol pounding on my door.
**Believe me when I tell you there's a depressed, weeping dumpster out behind the Wendy's off Route 60 in Vero Beach, Florida, that still wonders why Bill doesn't come around anymore.
***In my universe, everything cries.