Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rambling: Talking Faster

Remember When Harry Met Sally? Of course you do. Marie, Carrie Fisher's character, was dating a married man and waiting for him to leave his wife. People kept telling Marie that that would never happen, and Marie kept groaning, "You're right, you're right, I know you're right."

I keep wanting to write about Mom. And I keep telling myself not to. Because I don't have the impulse to write about all the good things that they talked about at the funeral. What keeps coming back to me is the Mom who wasn't interested in me.

I want to write about the failed struggles to have even two minutes of conversation with Mom that was about me, instead of her. And the times that I talked about myself as fast as I possibly could, because if I let her get a word in edgewise, she'd change the subject to herself, and I just didn't want that to happen yet.

And the resolution that I wasn't going to try again. Just pick up the phone, let her talk about herself for five minutes, make an excuse, and hang up. What's so hard? She will never be interested in you. Got that? Never. Ever. Not gonna happen, no way no how. Are you listening?

"You're right, you're right, I know you're right."

But I could never do it. I complained. I argued. Somebody doesn't complain and argue unless they have hope for change. And when I complained about Mom's behavior with regard to me, that conversation was about Mom, so Mom participated in it. But it was also about me, just a little bit, and I guess that's why I couldn't stop starting those conversations. Mom would participate, and promise to take an interest in me, and I'd test the waters by talking about something about me that wasn't also tightly linked with her... and in thirty seconds we were talking about her.

She always insisted that we weren't. Stories about her childhood? "But he's your cousin, too! That's about you!" The latest thing that someone at church said to her? "But you used to go to that church! That's about you!" I'd try to shift to a movie I went to; that's really about the movie, not me, right? "Did I ever tell you about when I used to work as an usher at a movie theater?"


I don't mean that it was wrong for her to talk about herself. I mean that once in a while, even once in a long while, couldn't we talk about me? Y'know, for maybe three or four conversational exchanges? Two minutes? Ninety seconds? Couldn't we?

No. We couldn't.

I think back, remembering when I was a teenager and Mom and I used to sit at the kitchen table and eat Sunday pastries and margarine. I remember those conversations rather fondly. I remember Mom talking about her love for daffodils, and how her father used to have her deadhead his roses when he was out of town, and her fondness for marzipan, and her religious philosophy, and her opinions about mass transit.

I don't remember talking about my schoolwork. Or the latest book I was reading. Or the Doctor Who episode from last week. Or my friends. Well, I didn't have friends, but I don't think Mom knew that. It's not the kind of thing that she would have noticed.

You see why I shouldn't write about this? But apparently I am anyway.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. If your mother didn't abuse you and didn't physically neglect you, everything else doesn't really matter: she gave you life and didn't damage you so that you wouldn't be able to do something with that life - right? Being selfish and self-centered isn't the worst thing any parent can do to their kids. We all wish our parents were ideal and extraordinary. But they are just people with their weaknesses.
    Write or do not write - whatever makes it easier for you to live through the loss.

  2. Being honest about your thoughts and feelings is important; just as important, in my opinion, is that you write them down. How can one say that an indifferent parent "... didn't damage you..."? Indifference can be very damaging. The trick, again only my opinion, is to learn what you can from it and not pass on the hurtful stuff (as families can so often do). I was so angry with my mother leading up to her death, it took me several years afterward to realize she did the best she could in her life and she did have many lovely qualities.

  3. One always thinks that a parent will have unconditional love for their child as well as a keen interest in their doings. I had that from my mother - from my father strings attached and less interest.

    As Christine says, parents invariably do the best job they can, even when that job falls dismally short. I don't know if it helps in practice to look at things in that way, but I second Christine in principle on this point!

  4. Thanks for the responses, guys. Yes, I think that a parent needs to parent with more than food and education and a roof and the other basic stuff. And, yeah, I suspect that Mom did her best, though I may quibble about the precise definition of "best". :)

    Mom was more damaged than me, and her mother was more damaged than her, and I think her mother was more damaged than her, so maybe each of them down the line should get credit for giving better parenting than was given to them.

    That cycle stops with me, as the first one with a clear unforced choice of whether to have children or not - I went with "not", in part because I'm just not going to take the gamble on whether I can be a nurturing parent.

  5. Mother...hmph! I know how you feel. I had one of THOSE Mother's too. I find myself sad a lot of times remembering how I didn't matter to her and it hurts but then I think of all those that I do matter to: siblings, friends, hubby and kids. That's when I feel right again and I remember why I am here. I refuse to let her ruin my life with thoughts about it, bringing me down to her level ...I will not take on her personality with those I live children in particular. They know that they matter. Just know you aren't alone in the feelings you have. I'm out here in the world too.

  6. Hey, Michele! How did I miss your comment? I really appreciate it. I'm lacking in eloquent responses today, but I wanted to be sure to respond and let you know that.