My mother infuriates me.
Don’t get me wrong. She’s a great mother in a lot of ways. But here’s the thing that’s so aggravating. She hops up from her favorite recliner and pushes her walker to the sofa whenever my husband or my brother walks into the room. So one of them can sit in the recliner!
This is not because they’re guests. It’s because they’re men. She doesn’t budge out of the chair for my sister or me, and we don’t expect her to. But neither do we expect her to move aside for my husband and our brother just because they are male.
She’s 99, and shouldn’t move out of her chair for anybody.
We were visiting last week and I walked into the family room at 7 a.m. There sat my husband in the recliner, a TV tray propped in front of him, with a humongous breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, tomatoes and watermelon on the tray. Mama had turned the TV to his favorite news show and she sat on the sofa, looking pleased.
“There’s some cake in the kitchen if you want breakfast,” she said to me.
I don’t expect my 99 year old mother to fix breakfast for anybody, but I’m not going to wake up at 5 a.m., which is when she gets up, to intervene.
I laughed off the big breakfast in the recliner, because at 99 you can do as you please, but my sister doesn’t shake things off that easily. She’s still on a tirade about it.
“I hate the way she favors men,” she tells me every time we talk on the phone. “I don’t see her hopping up out of her chair for me. Did you see that breakfast she fixed him? She doesn’t need to be cooking breakfast for anybody at her age!”
I think Mama eggs us on. One afternoon when we were visiting on her front porch, the subject of Halloween came up. My brother mentioned how unfair it was that he used to be forced to give my sister and me part of his candy after he had trick or treated so hard for it.
“That was a very socialist thing to do,” my brother remarked.
It did seem unfair, in retrospect. Every Halloween my brother charted out his Halloween path, slapped on a mask, grabbed a garbage bag, and as soon as it was dusk he struck out, alone, to hit up as many houses as possible.
My sister and I, on the other hand, hooked up with friends, admired each other’s costumes, and meandered around the neighborhood with our small pumpkin buckets, spending enough time at each house to receive compliments on our costumes and guesses as to our real identity.
When we reconvened at home my brother, who had been on his annual Halloween mission to obtain as much candy as possible, dumped out a garbage bag chock full of all the best stuff. My sister and I looked on with envy and outrage until Mama made him divy it up. Then it was his turn to be outraged.
“Why did you make me share my candy?” He, a grown man, asked on the porch.
My sister and I, not really understanding it ourselves, waited to hear what Mama would say.
“Because I didn’t think girls could go as fast as boys. I was trying to even things out.”
The interesting thing about all this is that Mama is such a contradiction. She paid lip service to our father being the head of the house, but then she went ahead and did her own thing. She bought property and fixed it up without him even knowing it, and now the rent from that property is a major source of her income.
She started her own church because she didn’t like our father’s church, so we kids alternated between churches, going one Sunday to an Episcopal church that served real wine at communion and the next Sunday to a Church of Christ that didn’t even believe in pipe organs, let alone wine. I think instead of getting us confused, the variety gave us a more ecumenical outlook, because as a grownup I don’t believe any church has the patent on right religion.
Even if Mama’s favoritism is infuriating, I can’t really fault her. I guess it’s a Southern thing. Besides, my brother turned out okay. He helps out a lot at home and he’s a good husband, father and son. Maybe he would have been a spoiled brat if he hadn’t been made to share his Halloween candy.
My sister and I turned out okay too, although I don’t wait on my husband hand and foot. He actually does more than his share, sometimes. And when I do something unusual, like handing him a plate of food in front of his favorite TV show, he looks pleased. But then he infuriates me by saying, “I’m going to tell your Mama you turned out to be a good wife.”