My 94-year-old mother had a heart attack for the holiday season. And I got blamed for it. I mean I usually am held responsible for stuff like that. I would say it’s because I am Jewish. But then again, I understand that my mother… and my brudder… and even my deceased father… are all Jewish. And they’re the ones usually blaming me.
On the other hand, perhaps I get blamed because ‘they’ deem me under-educated.
I mean, you know what ‘they’ consider a ‘Jewish dropout?’
Someone who doesn’t get his Ph.D.
My brother-duh-heart-doc likes to remind me that if I had become a lawyer, like Mom wanted, I wouldn’t have been such a pain in her ass. Obviously it’s merely a coincidence that my mother has long suffered from an irritable colon. But I didn’t bother to ask my mother’s older and ‘over-educated’ son what that had to do with her heart.
Hmm… My renowned interventional cardiologist brother must have missed that anatomy class at Harvard. I guess the lectures must have been around the same time he was studying the only other girl he’s ever given a complete anatomical examination. The doc obviously needed to ‘practice’ more.
So my mother got two heart stents at night before my brother’s doc friends sent her home in the morning.
Amazing, isn’t it? I am pecking away in Philadelphia, and my mother and brother still find a way to upbraid me all the way from San Francisco. I just don’t understand people who are always thinking and talking like they really are three hours behind me. I would say it must be something in the water. But these days they ain’t got much water in California. So perhaps they’re just drinking too much wine.
Or is it whine?
And my mother and brother don’t even drink.
But they should. All day. All night. And long before breakfast. Because they can whine with the best of the blue-haired pros who sleep with their mouths open — just to get in the first kvetch at sunrise.
So I drink for them. I consider it to be part of my ‘higher’ education.
Anyway, I spoke with my Mum the day after she was plunked back between the sheets of her own bed at home. And once more she harked back that if I would have gone to law school I would always have had something to fall back on.
“But Mom,” I told her again, like I’ve told her so many times – that is, when she could still actually hear me: “I don’t wanna fall back.”
“Ehh? What’s dat…? I’m the one on my back! What are you talking about?… I ought to give you such a smack…”
Oy-vey-iz-mir! Getting ancient hasn’t changed my mother any more than rhythm stopped the Juntas’ down the street from having 17 kids. Which is no doubt one of the reasons my father decided to cash in early on his lay-away plan. Over 21 years ago he saw the opportunity to die 4 days after he turned 75. And such opportunities, he was likely to figure, were healthier than to continue living on the same planet with the rest of us schmucks.
Then again, as the old joke goes: Why do Jewish men die before their wives?
Because they can…
So I lied and told my dear ol’ mother I am enrolling in law school in the fall. She didn’t bother to do the math — that at this rate I would be graduating about the same time as her twin great-grandchildren. And about the same time more Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justices would be ‘retiring’ – or face disbarment.
“Finally… Mazel tov. You ought to be a divorce attorney,” she cheered mockingly thru a cell phone that she complains: Only rings when somebody calls. “At the rate you’ve been going you could have saved yourself a couple of houses… Did the last one really take all my old Persian rugs?”
Seeing or talking to an aging parent is a lot like going to a Catholic church – they are both there to remind you how badly you’ve been living your life.
And indeed I have paid a considerable price for living a life my mother considers to have been squandered somewhere between a failed abortion and an over-circumcision. I don’t know why, but at surprising moments Mom can still vividly recall how funny it was when she and her best old friend Jean mistakenly locked her keys in the car parked just outside an abortion clinic. And then had to go in and ask for a wire coat hanger.
Hmm… It would be awfully hard to make up 94-years of my mother’s storied giggles and bawdy, self-contented mirth. The truth is I love hearing those sagas over and over. And I hope to hear them for many New Years to come. They serve as evidence that as crazy as my socially-inept brother may think I am, it is merely in the DNA.
And although we talk 4 times a week, I guess I should go out to physically see her. Stand in the same time zone. And enable her to embrace me in those arms that once made me feel safe and secure. I mean, who knows how much longer we are destined to serve out our life sentences?
After all, tomorrow isn’t even promised to the rich. And as far as my mother is concerned: Thank goodness.
She told me that she is ready to die… finally. It isn’t that her brothers and sister have all passed on. She wasn’t particularly endeared to her older brothers, anyway. Or that most of her old friends have stepped into the next world. It’s more that she’s grown weary of the disappointment – mostly of people. She equated them to the crops of corn, alfalfa and potatoes we used to grow back on the farm.
It’s always the same.
“Each year we hope for a bigger and better harvest. And it turns out to be the same ol’ rows of corn,” she said with a gurgling laughter.
‘Well, Mom, we only reap what we sow.’
“So that’s been your problem,” she laughed again over the phone. And I could just imagine her chuckling with her head surrounded in once rich black flows, gleefully rocking back and forth. Finding the humor – even in her sons. “Well it was your father that did all the sowing, son. I was just a nice Jewish girl. Next time maybe I ought to have a little more mischief before I get married.
“Like you, Andrew.”
“You’re not going to get married – yet again,” she wondered, feigning concern.
‘What would be the point?’ I asked.
“What was ever the point with any of them,” she laughed.
And all I could eek out was: ‘It seemed like a good idea… each and every time.’
“You should have gone to law school. Now that would have been a good idea.”
‘I know, Mom. I should have done a lot of things. And not done a lot of things. But I am the son of my mother. And that just about makes me perfect, doesn’t it?’
As if she didn’t hear me – which she probably didn’t, or didn’t bother to – she wondered, yet again, if I ever hear from my two boys.
‘I think they still must hate me.’
“And why’s that?”
‘I’m not sure, Mom. But maybe next time I ought to learn their names.’
My mother thought that was hilarious. Especially since she was always calling my brother and me anything but our names when she got to barking about one thing or another.
“You know, Andrew. You were always more interested in adventures. Maybe I should have been a little more like you.”
‘You mean mentally destitute?’
“Perhaps not quite like you,” she said. “But you always manage to find the humor in everything. I can’t do that anymore. Things just don’t taste as funny. I guess I’ve grown tired of people. They make promises. But they keep doing the same old things. It’s crazy. You’d think they’d be tired of it, too. Whatever happened to the good people?”
‘They never were, Mother. There have only been bad people. And good people lining up to be bad.’
My mother chewed silently on that thought for a moment. Then, as if she were nodding her head, she agreed. “True,” she said. “It’s a sad thing to admit.”
At that she was quick to point out that I sounded like my father. “You’re getting to be a real SOB,” she said.
What could I say… except agree. Obviously there really is wry humor in most everything. And then there are the holidays… to make us happy about being sad.
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…