My mom says I do a lot for her. I’m not sure it’s true. Doesn’t feel like a lot.
She and the Old Man are in the Sagewood at Daybreak independent living center in South Jordan. It’s about a five-minute drive from where I live. So when Mom calls, I go.
It’s almost always something small like getting a loaf of bread, picking up some medication, putting something on a shelf, adjusting her clocks, making the Old Man take a shower or driving her to a doctor’s appointment.
Ours is a much different dynamic now than when I was a teenager. Back then, she couldn’t even get me to take out the trash.
We had a rather adversarial relationship during our younger years. I’m guessing it’s because she didn’t grow up in the best of circumstances. Her father was a drunk and a drug addict who occasionally got locked up. And everyone said I was just like him.
It didn’t help matters that the Old Man was in the military and sometimes gone for months or even a year at a time. That left Mom to handle me alone.
Today, I understand why she sometimes resorted to extreme methods to get me to do things. More than a few times it involved the use of a broom handle, a belt or — depending on the degree of madness I had driven her to — anything else that came immediately to hand.
It rarely worked. My mom is about the size of a garden gnome. I was 9 when I figured out that she couldn’t hit me hard enough to hurt me.
I take that back. I still have a scar on my head from an iron cooking pot. I received it when I was 16 and wouldn’t stop making my sisters cry even after a Tupperware bowl flogging. At least I think so. The details have never been all that clear to me.
Things have changed. I don’t know why or how. It certainly isn’t because I’ve matured, become more compliant and more respectful of the feelings of others. I’m less of those than anyone I know.
For some reason, Mom just has to hint, and I’m there. And she thanks me profusely for running errands or lifting the Old Man off the floor. She tells me “thank you” and “I love you” and “you’re such a good son” until I’m sure she’s got me mixed up with someone else.
Sometimes her gratitude lasts longer than the errand I ran. Then there are the times when the thanks start before I even get there.
On Wednesday, I went to get her prescriptions from a nearby pharmacy. I was standing in line when she called.
Her • “I’m so happy that you’re doing this. Will you pick up some milk, too. I love you. You’re such a good son. You never complain when … ”
Me • “Ma. Ma! Stop. We’ve been over this. Who taught me how to brush my teeth? It was you, right?”
Her • “Yes.”
Me • “And who taught me to stop peeing in the dog’s dish?”
Her • “I did.”
Me • “Who was it that took care of me when I broke my leg? Both times.”
Her • “Well, I helped.”
Me • “And who promised to kill me if I got some girl pregnant?”
Her • “That was your father.”
By then, everyone in the line was staring at me, so I said goodbye and hung up. The point I was trying to make was that my mother had done more for me than I could possibly repay. Anything I do for her now barely covers the accrued interest on what I owe.
It’s more than a month until Mother’s Day, but I’ll get an early jump on it.
Love you, Ma. You gave me life and then did your best to help me hang onto it. I’m still a little mad about the scar, though.