The following is a story I wrote a while back about mothers and daughters. It concerns three generations of Indiana women and I believe highlights some very Midwestern attitudes about life. Please note that the italic sentences are thoughts in the character’s mind.
“Hey Mom, could you turn on the radio?” God this is going to be a long day. If she hadn’t begged me to come I could be home doing something productive, instead of waiting around for Grandma to get ready. Wow, only 30 minutes late, a new record! “Hi Marie…I mean MaryAnn Nicole!” Great it begins already. How can she not even remember my name? It’s not like she has trouble remembering anything, it’s just because she spends her life devoted to cousin Marie that my mother and the rest of us aren’t spared a second thought.
Okay, stop. She’s your grandmother after all; just try to be a bit kinder. You can’t change her and you should respect your elders. Just tune her out. “So MaryAnn how is school?” “Its fine Gram, I just started…” “Did you know that Daniela is going to college in Cal City?” “No, I didn’t.” “It’s really wonderful that she’s staying home, she’ll help Marie a lot.” Great and the guilt trips begin. Sorry, I didn’t stay home to go to college, I decided to get out of here and explore the world, if only a little bit of it. Sorry I’m not perfect, like Marie’s perfect kid Daniela, who is staying home like a good girl. Maybe she’ll even find a good Polish boy to marry and settle down to breed little male offspring. Stop thinking like that, Daniela didn’t do anything wrong and it’s not her fault that my grandmother takes more of an interest in her life than mine. Just take a deep breath.
Jeez, I wonder how Mom can stand it. Constantly hearing her own mother extol the virtues of her idiotic cousin and her children, never hearing a word of praise directed towards her. I mean, Marie just curses out and berates her kids. God, and yesterday she even bought stolen stuff from a guy on the street and she knew it was stolen! Yet, both Marie and Gram think this behavior is perfectly acceptable. What’s worse is that Grandma got so upset when Mom decided to go on vacation with the rest of us, instead of staying home with her. God, sometimes she is so selfish. Mom really needed to get away for a while and Grandma made her feel guilty about it. Please, please don’t let Mom become like Gram when she gets older, I don’t think I could handle all the crap… Remember she’s eighty years old, she’s set in her ways and no amount of arguing is going to change her. Don’t get upset, look out the window and don’t pay any attention. “Mom, could you turn up the radio up?”
“Ma, no it’s not all right! Marie shouldn’t have bought those bracelets! She could end up losing her job, employers won’t put up with that kind of shit! She might get arrested; it’s a felony to buy stolen goods!” “But your cousin is so good, she’d give you the shirt off her back and the guy needed the money for food!” “Really, she doesn’t know that, he was probably lying!” Why Ma, why Marie again? I come over to your place twice every God damn day and all I hear is Marie this and Marie that! I drive you everywhere, manage your appointments and check your blood sugar! Christ, what more do you want from me?
“I don’t want to take anymore damn pills.” “No Ma, you have to take the pills. Dr. Keith told you that they will help you, if you don’t you’ll go blind. Is that what you want? You just have to live with the side effects!” “Sue, you just don’t understand…I’m so tired of taking all the stupid pills. Some days I just want to give up.” Bull shit, don’t pull this stupid stunt again. I know you’re just playing helpless so the rest of us will come running and feel sorry for you. I’m not buying it, even if my moronic brother does, I see you every single day and I know the act. “Oh Lord, just take me now…why must I suffer?” “Too bad, you just have to suffer.” Really, stunned silence?
“Sue where did I leave my Predisone?” Christ, I just told you this yesterday, I even wrote it down. “Mom I told you, it’s on the counter, in the white basket with the rest of your pills.” “Well how I’m I supposed to remember that?” You remember everything else. “I wrote it down for you, it’s on that sheet with your pill schedule.” Right now I really wish I could trade places with Mary. She’s just sitting there in the back seat, silent; not listening to her Grandmother’s shit. I know, I know family is supposed to take care of family. I shouldn’t think about shipping her off to an assisted living facility and practically forget about her. Still it sounds like a nice idea, or even better yet I could ship her off to Marie’s place and leave them to each other. “Sue, do you think I could skip taking the Predisone, I’ve gained so much weight, mostly in my gut.” God you’re the vainest woman on the planet! “No! You still have to take it, it’s only water weight, and the other pills will take care of it.” “Oh, did I tell you that Marie’s thinking of buying a new car?” “Ma, how is she going to buy a car if she ends up in jail?”