18 October 2006

The Mama Panic Attack

Okay, I fully am aware I have been slacking here. A few of you have went out of your way to email me privately, a few more to others asking if I had (a) went off to parts unknown without a map, (b) taken ill and retreated to some unfound hovel, or (c) finally won the lottery and just decided to bypass my previous humanitarian ways. It's true I have been working some on my online radio at Live 365, and also have been helping out some friends at their new website, The Tall Poppy Pub, so keeping up with 3 creative projects has been a struggle at best. But, sadly (and this will disappoint some and astonish fewer), it's none of these things. Oh no, it's a tad bit more extraordinary (well, for me, anyways). Instead, it's something and/or someone I've been trying to help since, it seems, like about age 10 (although it's been more the other way around most years LOL).

Welcome, dear readers, to the Continuing Chronicles of Mama.

My Mama...the truest of the true, the bravest of the brave, the angriest of the angry (when she gets so inspired)...has decided to move. With no warning. In the middle of an advancing winter. And it gets better...she doesn't know nor care where she's going. Just all she does know is that she wants to be someplace else than her current apartment by Christmas. And she tells me this by our regular Friday afternoon phone call...last Friday. So, at the proud age of 65, widowed, in fair health but with a overflowing heart, she has decided enough is enough and she's moving on. And, no, she doesn't need help, thank you. She just thought I'd like to know, in case I would be worried or in case "someone else told me first". She said it so matter-of-factly and in such hurried and breathless tones, I was taken aback for a minute or two and actually had to ask for a repeat of the information.

The devil's in the details, and that's the troubling part of this. So far, the status is 'everything's fine' and absolutely no details beyond that are forthcoming...very un-Mamalike. Mama, though known to be a wild hair in her teenage years (considering it was the 1950's and rural), is not known for her spontaneous decisions as of late (say the last 40+ years). She has, in fact, chastised me for my travels because they were 'too openly planned', my friends for 'being too diverse and unknown' (which the latter in my teenage years could be loosely interpreted as 'gay'), my ideas for being 'too impractical and unrealistic'. (Mama can be a real pick-me-upper at times; if she knew anything about their culture, she could go head to head with a Greek mother and probably win.) She's lived in small towns...for almost three decades...that's smaller in population than my current apartment community and its whopping eight, two-storey buildings. In the four calls we've had since the announcement, Mama's given up nothing and seems totally resigned to making a final decision only when she absolutely has to and not a moment before.

Now, for those of you (especially the women) my age (mid-thirties) or younger, this is enough to cause one temporary panic. Or maybe not so temporary. One unspoken theory is that maybe she's wanting to come live with me, as she clearly adored it last year. And, while I love her dearly and would protect her to the death, the position of my mother moving in with me brings up a whole multitude of potential dilemmas, such as: (1) whose rules govern the household...my new ones or her established ones?; (2) how do I define 'my' space and limits versus hers?; (3) how do I establish myself as an adult in her eyes, especially someone like me who will 'always be her baby'?; and, here's the ringer of (4) how do I help her start over a new life for her, when I haven't even figured out the first one for myself?? Those of us from spoilt or only-children upbringings don't know anything other than having an undivided attention of our parents as children, but we are so adverse to anything remotely close to a role reversal hitting us twenty, thirty, or forty years (or more) on. While Mr. Right has not arrived on the scene yet and Mother Nature will not allow me to have my own child, I still have hopes of having my own family someday, someway, as happenstance as it may come about. Somehow I always had imagined Mama coming back into my everyday family scene later.

The eggheads in the media say if you've somehow made it out 'in the world' on your own, the 20s, the 30s, and the 40s (and maybe soon the 50s?) are your trailblazing years...what you do during this time sets what you'll be able to do later financially, physically, spiritually, mentally even. The years of taking care of ones' parents are supposed to be 'later on', whenever the hell 'later on' hits. But what happens to those parents who slaved over children and two jobs and sick relatives and poor credit...who didn't get to 'trailblaze'...do they automatically get shortchanged by default later on if they 'missed their window'?? Dear Mama has assured me that she's in as a good health as can be expected given her age and history, so that took an emotional load off my psyche. I'm not so sure what bothers me so about this: is it the feeling that she wants to come live near me and I selfishly think it will crimp my style, or is it the feeling that I am jealous of her decision...and, moreover, her determination and ability to do so...on a fixed budget? I've always been a fan of the "Papa Don't Preach" theory of life: solutions not sermons, who the hell cares the reasons why and how sometimes. I take inventory every so often of all the things I want to do still, and then days like Friday I realize she's less than 30 years my senior and certainly may have that same kind of list, too. It's amazing how I think I may still 'hit my stride' someday soon, but think hers is already over...and she's the one who has done so much more. Additionally, I want her to live by the same code I hate adhering to when answering her...the why, the what, the who, the where, the when, the endless Q&A monologue that I always flippantly blow off when she's asking the questions. Looking at it that way, one has to wonder just which of us treats the other most like an equal adult.

Maybe she just wants to move closer here for the warm weather, or maybe she wants to see some tall trees for a change. Maybe she wants to learn Spanish, a language that amazingily has not ambushed its way into her current local culture...yet.

Maybe she just wants to move to be closer to me, or the beach, or the mountains, or the nuclear power plant people are protesting against. Maybe she wants to find the voice she's lost in small towns across the Midwest, silenced all these years for fear of offending other townsfolk.

Maybe she just wants to get the fuck away from her older neighbours getting ill and dying around her, or wants to know she can still be lively and optimistic, or maybe she doesn't want to spend her time alternating between hospices, nursing homes, churches, bingo parlours, hospitals, and funeral homes.

Maybe she just wants a change while she still can, without having to explain it to anybody...and certainly not to me. Maybe she just wants to be someone else, or something else, before she dies...which she is certainly more than entitled to achieve. And certainly everything I would ever hope for her and her happiness.

Maybe I'm just worrying way too much about this change in her life and maybe everything is okay, even if I don't immediately believe that. Or, maybe, God forbid, I'm just turning into my Mama, as she gradually did in some small ways with hers.

We can only hope.

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