Into the Chipper


This photo is Facebook code for “just got off the phone with my mom.”


She has always been controlling and a little paranoid. I was illegitimate; she married quickly in an attempt to cover her tracks. But, of course, people know. It’s a delicious piece of gossip and the truth comes out eventually.

I found out at 25. I don’t have hard feelings about past deceptions; somehow she does.

In hindsight I realize she softened greatly when she noticed she was having memory problems; but soon there was no hiding it and I was worried. When she chose to stop using her computer to place orders for much-needed supplies, I warned her she was “cutting off a lifeline.” She hung up on me.

She forgot how to cook and make coffee. She forgot how to clean. She used laundry detergent in the dishwasher.

When I encouraged her – and my stepfather – to see a neurologist, I became the enemy. I didn’t want to be right. I know the ropes. My beloved Gram had dementia. I saw her in the ward every Sunday. That place was an education in how mean mothers can be to their daughters – and which words soothe and which offend.

When I heard my stepdad was going out of town and leaving her alone for a few weeks last summer, I volunteered to drive (1800 miles to bfe) to “hang out with her.” They are in a remote area near Lake Superior. It’s full Fargo with bears, wolves and mountain lions.

I bought her a gun for her 60th birthday. She used to put it in her pocket when she walked in the woods.

Does she still do that? Where is it now?

I wanted to go up and make sure she’d be ok, but the stepdad said “naw, she’ll be fine.”

The first time he left her alone, one of the dogs knocked her off the porch and she nearly busted her head on the pavement. Her shoulder broke the fall; naturally that hasn’t healed properly.

So he left again. Sure enough, she had another dog-related accident and wound up in the hospital. I made panic calls and insisted on driving up since he was making no plans to return and care for her. He was spending time with my stepbrother.

He said the neighbor would check in on her. Since when are neighbors responsible for your spouse.

I didn’t let up. Someone had to be with her. I didn’t blurt out my true fears – she’s already going goofy after dark. When will she start wandering?

I pushed and pushed and finally he blurted out “your mother doesn’t want you here.”

“Here” as if he was home instead of somewhere else. Which was the point of it all. Not that I blamed him. He’s old and frail and denial is a nice warm place to hide. It shouldn’t be like this; you marry a younger woman expecting she’ll take care of you – not the other way around.

Her communications with me changed. No longer one-on-one, they were hearsay-based. She heard (or suspected) I wanted to do this or that and started calling in rages – always at night. She roars her accusations and hangs up on me.

Some of what she says has the power to send me spiraling into my own special darkness. I can’t allow it. I moved here alone for my health. I have no one to lean on.

Recently my stepbrother decided to play peacemaker. We never needed one before she started her descent. He has suggested I need to become a better daughter. He only knows what she tells him, and she plays the victim card. I asked him who insisted on going up while his father was visiting. He was IN THE ROOM when I was told “your mother doesn’t want you here.”

She hates Florida. I have scouted winter digs and sent them information to no avail.

OK, I get it. You want to stay in your home. I’d want that too. I assured him my plan was to drive up and be with her in her big house so little will change after his father passes. I can’t stay in winter because my Lyme is too severe; a real winter would cripple me. But we could find someone else for the worst months.

I am single; expendable.

So comforted, he called to comfort her. I imagine she called me as soon as they hung up. She RAGED that she heard I wanted to live in her big house and take her money. Note that I live in Florida. I’m a freelance writer, I have local clients. I live in flip-flops and can walk to the gulf while they are up to their asses in snow. 

I was shaking. For the first time in my life I yelled back. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!

As per usual, she hung up on me. This time I earned it.

I haven’t heard from her in more than a month.

Friends who have been through this say I dodged a bullet because she wants nothing to do with me. Well, I didn’t really dodge it; it’s lodged in my being and a source of pain if I allow myself to go there.

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