The phone calls never go as I plan.  It’s hard to have a mature conversation with a person who resists maturity with every stuffed-animal cushioned bone in her body.  Nevertheless, I keep trying.  Confronting my mother seems to be a necessary evil, lest I stew and breed resentment in myself.

My uncle, mom’s brother, is getting his tonsils out.  This is not the same procedure for a 50-something year old as it is for kids.  It’s not just ice cream, pudding, and a day off from school.  As I learned when I did my clinical rotation at the cancer hospital, getting tonsils removed when one is an adult is a little more serious.  Adults have actually become accustomed to using their tonsils as a first point of constriction for swallowing.  It’s what makes swallowing so painful post-tonsillectomy.  And the tissue is older, more at-home in its surroundings.  Mom has been talking up this surgery as if she’s going to be at bedside.  She complains her sister, who actually lives near my uncle, will do nothing to care for him, will just dump him off at home after the surgery and leave him to fend for himself among the hoarder’s cache of camera, National Geographics, and BetamaXXX pornos.  She herself is seemingly happy enough to disparage her sister, without volunteering to pick up the slack herself and fly out for the surgery.  It’s very convenient to complain, and very easy, without doing anything to fix the “problem”. 

But one thing she is very good at doing is sending gifts and cards, especially to people who are convalescing.  A packet arrived yesterday at my house.  In it were the usual assortment of newspaper clippings I might find “of interest”, a post card for some crafty person, some Spongebob paraphernalia, and a letter.  And one more thing – a stamped envelope with enclosed get-well card.  All she didn’t do was address the thing for me.  I wrote some bullshit in it about Jell-O and Ensure, crossed out the “Happy Birthday” message, and banished it from my house to the mailbox.  It was completely inappropriate.  Sure, her intent is kind-hearted – to make sure her poor baby brother gets get-well cards in his time of need, but the passive-aggressive way she went about doing it makes my blood boil.

“So who else do you think got these in my mail?” my husband asked. 

My brother and sister for sure.  I know for a fact she sends my brother cards for him to send to us sisters for our birthday, since he’s too incompetent or too important to seek out a gift shop on his own. 

So I called her.  If it’s so important to you, I said, or, if you think it would be so meaningful to him, just ask me, I said.  Like an adult.  Not that she’d ever cop to the passive-aggressive and condescending message of putting a pre-stamped card in the mail.  That strikes me as something you do for your child who’s away at sleep away camp for the first time.

And she can’t just say “okay.” She can’t just say that she’ll do that next time, that’s for letting her know, she appreciates that I’d take the time to send a card if it was important.  Why do I even try when I feel like I’m talking to a rubber wall and all my well-reasoned I-statements come back in my face, twisted, distorted, perverted so that it’s suddenly my fault for making my needs and feelings known?  At least I will know that I tried.  And hopefully it won’t keep building in me.

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