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I Should Have Been A Bad Kid
When I was a baby, my mother had a hard time holding me still, and one day I slipped out of her arms and landed on my head on a silver box. The doctor said I’m fine. However, the box was not, which is a testament to my stubbornness.
I was also a sleepwalker. My Native American name was Walks with Diapers (joke), but one night while my parents were asleep, I managed to climb out of bed, open the front door, and walk off the property in just my diapers, heading toward the main entrance where I would have been Gerber roadkill if my psychic mom hadn’t woken up and yelled: “The baby’s out!” Luckily they found me in time, but they scared me awake and I needed diapers.
So you can imagine how traumatic it might be for a little jumping bean to be caught in Alice in Wonderland’s revolving teacup ride with his mother, trapped in a dark, towering structure, with the Mad Hatter jumping up and down capriciously during each painful and horrifying moment. minute. They finally got the park staff to climb up and gently guide us out of the cups and back down to solid ground. Disneyland was never my cup of tea after that.
I also had a penchant for strange, wild animals. I was clumsy and fell a lot, and I was obsessed with the boys in kindergarten. Otherwise, from what I’ve heard, I was a pretty good kid. For some reason I must have had the blood of George W in my veins (Washington, not Bush) because I couldn’t lie. If I broke it or did it, I told myself.
The saying goes that if you are a pain as a child, your parents will get you back later. Maybe it’s some sort of ancestral curse and it typically shows up in your own children, but I’ve never had one. But sometimes it shows in your parents.
So it was time to start thinking about selling my mother’s house and moving to an adult community where she could enjoy life and not have to worry about maintaining a 57-year-old home, a huge yard, cleaning and cooking. He was hot and cold about the idea, but seemed to be getting the hang of it. That is, until it was really time to move.
“I’m not done,” he said. “I have to go through all these things.” It reminded me of when my parents had tried to get me to go to bed at night. I was a negotiator. Payback, I thought. “Five more minutes, Dad,” I pleaded. And the minutes turned into an hour, sometimes more.
It contained unidentifiable parts of things that once worked, old cough drops, unused clothes, safety pins, cassette tapes, dead bugs, lone jelly beans (she liked black licorice, but I couldn’t tell the beans from the bugs), broken clothespins that she still used to hang her things outside in her backyard on the rope, inherited items from siblings who had passed on, food that has gone stale, dust and lots of memories. I understood. For me, as I got older, simpler was better. To him, all these things were his life, and we were going to take it apart and reorganize it in a new way.
Mother’s delays became one year and then three. But his memory was starting to give him trouble and he knew it.
“Maybe it’s time,” he said one day. And as I choked back tears, I agreed. Sometimes daughters know best, and there’s that turning point when a parent becomes a child, but this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, harder than even leaving a romantic relationship.
So I went out and bought points, lots of them. Red dots. I told her she could dress them up with all the things she really couldn’t live without and we would take them to her new home and she could come back at her leisure to go through the rest of the stuff. sell, donate or throw away anything else he didn’t want. It sounded like a great idea to me, but it was like losing control of his life for him.
And the long ordeal began. We found a place, the best and most popular in the area. It was so nice I was ready to move in. Three boxes a day and a housekeeper? Sign up.
Mom had loved my little apartment, so I fixed up her new place the same way and had it ready when she moved in. Lights, candles, action. She loved it the first night, but soon after that things changed. “When can I go home?” he asked. “Mom, you live here now. We’re selling the house, remember?” I said. He peered at me and his mouth went straight. I was scared. “You told me I could go back there. I don’t like it here. These people are all sick and old and I’m bored.” When I was a baby and they took my bottle away, mom said I did a good job with the transfer. “Bottle gone, mom!” I proudly declared.
But I only had my bottle for a few years and he had a house 57 and I realized there was no comparison. I had moved eighteen times in those years, so obviously I welcomed change, but change scared him and it drove him crazy. Fucking crazy. So angry that I started to wonder if there is a daughter protection program.
And I started second-guessing myself much the same way I did when I got to that point in my relationships with men when it was time for a change, but my little voice told me that this was the right thing to do. He needed to be safe and he needed available and competent medical care.
Mom might have lost her memory, but she still had her superpowers. He convinced an unsuspecting old codger, who still had his license and fell under his spell, to give him a ride in the fastback Mustang, a ride back to his house, which we were then dismantling. He looked like he was ready to explode, but luckily I had a handsome friend to help me at the time and he fell under his spell for a few hours and we sent Mr. Mustang packing while we did the same.
There were times when I would return home alone during this process and as I walked through the rooms dust covered memories would run through my mind. I saw the holes in my father’s tie rack and remembered all the times he had ripped it out in anger and disappeared for two or three days until he calmed down, until the last time was the last time. He never came back. Mom said she was going to come back, but she ended up dying at the young age of 44 instead.
Tears began to run down my face and mix with the fifty-seven year old dust. “I miss you, dad,” I cried. “I wish you were here.” Now I know why she was so resistant to leaving home. The walls spoke to me now, just as I’m sure they spoke to him every night for all those years. Then suddenly I felt the urge to turn my head, and my eyes landed on the box in the cabin in the living room. It must have been that little voice of mine (or hers) but I opened it and pulled out a manila envelope marked “Personal” but not in the handwriting of either of my parents.
I didn’t even look, but blindly reached in, not knowing what I might find. And when I opened my eyes, my heart skipped a beat. It was a card from my dad, an Easter card he had written when the Beatles were my favorite band. “Happy Easter to Robyn Beatle from Daddy Beatle. I will always love you.” That card must have been hidden away for over forty years, in fact I don’t remember seeing it at all. And suddenly I felt an indescribable warmth and cried for two hours straight. I could feel him. He was there with me. I also found a little card he had given mom for my birthday that said, “Good thing it’s a girl!” I’ve always wondered that too.
Suddenly I felt stronger and as I went through more boxes and boxes I started to know my mother again. I found self-help books from years past, incense, candles we made together and recipes I wished she still made for me, exercise videos, knitting projects, silly family photos and beautiful portraits, old Sinatra records, hours of pay from the jobs she had, and more. That was what was bothering him now. All of this represented his passion and purpose, and now he had to let it all go.
I started to feel like this was a rite of passage for both of us and I thanked God that I was able to find pieces of my mother’s life while she was still alive and be able to talk about it with me. There is no way I could have done this if he had died. Compassion overwhelmed my heart and soul. At first it felt like a lot of pain, but I feel pain in my stomach and sometimes I double over to try to make it stop. Compassion hurts good and I felt it in my heart as it tore at the seams of my psyche. This was cathartic.
So when mom tells me that her bed isn’t her bed and her clothes aren’t her clothes and that everyone is taking her things (because she can’t find them), I realize that maybe she’s stuck in her teacup. own reality now, and know that somehow, one day, someone would gently bring her back to safe and stable ground, as they did for me that day among the jelly beans, bugs, and the Beatles.
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