Mothers.

So well meaning in their attempts.  I almost have sympathy.  They raised us to believe they could solve our every problem.  They were almost always right when they said it would be okay, that this, too, would pass, and that things would look better in the morning.  How did they know? 

I’m beginning to doubt the credo of “Mothers are always right”.  More specifically, “Mom can fix everything.”  Yet I’m still calling Mom, still wanting her to fix the impossible problems, still asking for and receiving advice.  Only now, I’m starting to tune out when she launches into a diatribe that begins, “Well you know, sometimes things happen and…let me tell you about my newest Kid Client.”  She always has a parallel to some 18 month old who’s been displaced from a home where she learned nothing but swear words; a 10 year old living in a therapeutic group facility whose access to cookies is restricted without rationale, and a 5 year old whose psychologist has diagnosed him as having dysarthria (weakness of speech muscles causing “slushy” speech) without anything in the medical history indicating so.  All these examples are supposed to solve my problems.  It’s sad to say, but when she starts launching into one of her lectures – which I can smell a mile away – I just tune out.  I “uh huh” and comment flatly to give an illusion of listening, but it’s just not worth my efforts.  

Worse yet is when she gets an idea into her head to “solve” a problem, and it’s so ridiculous I can’t even entertain it.  I’m now trying to be more direct in heading her off at the pass when I sense her gearing up, but she squeaks through and the unwanted awful idea is born, kind of like the unsuccessfully aborted fetus on Family Guy.  

Problem number 1 – our in-wall air-conditioning unit, which is charged with cooling the living room and dining room, wasn’t working.  It made noise, but mostly just blew air around, which we didn’t know, having bought the house in February of that year.  Mom visited during the warm months last spring/summer, and didn’t just complain.  She issued an ultimatum: that she wouldn’t visit again until it was repaired/replaced.  Well, our home warranty doesn’t cover wall units, nor will any HVAC guy come out to look at a wall or window unit.  Sad as it is, they’re disposable.  On the bright side, anything we replaced it with was bound to pay for itself in energy savings, seeing as the old unit was probably installed in the Ford administration.  So we promised ourselves we’d schlep out to Sears and buy something.  We did, too.  But before we had committed to doing so, Mom had an Idea.  She had a dormant “portable” air-conditioner that was too bulky for her to use in the kitchen (Have you seen these things?  They remind me of “portable” dish-washers.  You wheel the monstrosity out [it’s roughly the size of an 1950s computer], connect a piece of hosing to the window, and basically obstruct the entire room.), so she offered it to us.  Not as is, mind you, but with the plan that we’d have it “converted” to a wall unit so it would work.  That we’d pay a handyman to finagle some way for the system to fit into the pre-cut rectangular hole in our house and keep stone-faced as he laughed at us.  Thankfully she didn’t visit long enough all winter to bring the stupid thing out in a car-load of other crap, and we were able to hold her off with vague promises that “We’ll take care of it.” And “It’s been taken care of.” 

Of course, we wanted the situation fixed as much as she did.  Last visit, when we were showing off our new Sears A/C unit that actually was made as a wall-unit, she brought up the portable A/C again, using her party line, that “The price was right,” even if the item was not.   Finally, I explained to her how utterly ridiculous and impossible it was, what a white elephant it would have been, that it would have been like giving someone with an electric hook-up a gas range and telling them to go “convert it” at their own cost.  

Gah.

Then, as Mr. Apron prepares to change jobs this fall, I made the mistake of lamenting to her my/our frustration with the process.  How it’s hard to wait for calls, how endless applications go in and no one returns phone calls, how he’s overeducated for the jobs he wants, and under-experienced for the jobs that pay more than $12/hr.  After I’d summarily dismissed every suggestion she had (after all, this is a two-way street, and when I’m frustrated, I can see no solutions to the problem), she came out with one that struck me speechless:  how about he become a bartender?  Yes, my 30-year-old husband who’s never touched anything more than the Manischewitz wine at family Shabbat dinners, who has never attended social drinking events, and whose only two experiences in a bar include taking publicity stills for a play he was putting on, and attending a concert by an up-and-coming folk singer.  But sure!  He could be a bartender!  That’s just the sort of thing people who are teetotalers who need to work dayshifts so their wives can spend time with them should go and do.  Just the sort of thing to do when you’re 30 years old and have a Master’s Degree and are leaving your last job due in part to the insane evening/weekend hours you’ve been required to work.  When I had regained my faculties, I shut her right down.  “I cannot even fathom – cannot even begin to entertain an idea – of why you thought that idea would even remotely make an iota of sense!” I screeched.  And I said we would never speak of it again.  I wouldn’t have, either, had it not been for the humor in hindsight that the suggestion has produced.  I tell everybody.  Including you.

Finally, my dear friend has a relationship with her mother where they speak at least 5 times daily.  In the era when she had a land-line, her mother used it as her personal hot-line and made sure there was unlimited long-distance so my friend could call her, without  any fear of personal inconvenience, at all hours, as much as she needed to.  Now, as have many of my generation, she has given up the land-line.  This shouldn’t make her any more difficult to reach.  On the contrary, now there’s only one line to reach her, so there’s no second guessing where she might be.  My friend told me last weekend that she usually showers somewhere between 10 and 11pm, right before bed.  And those 15 minutes when she’s under water are the 15 minutes her mom NEEDS to reach her.  Always.  Doesn’t matter if it’s 10-10:15, 10:15-10:30, 10:30-10:45, or 10:45-11.  It’s mother’s intuition, and it’s apparently very upsetting.  “What if it’s an emergency!” “What if I really need to reach you?”  And all that.   Her mother has decided that the solution to this perceived problem is to have a land-line installed.  My friend will still take showers, but her mom has some idea that the phone will have an extension in the bathroom.  Of course, as soon as she publicized her frustration on Facebook, Mr. Apron suggested that poetic irony would be to have my friend electrocute herself, to be found in the tub with the handset of a cordless phone as she tried in vain to solve her mother’s dilemma.

What are we to do with our mothers?  When they start into ranting, just listen politely, and run the other way.

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