Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happy birthday. I guess.

My 60th. Today.
So, my spry, almost 87yo mother invited me to her place for a quiet, uneventful Christmas dinner on Saturday, which only lasted a few hours (thankfully) and tasted pretty good. She invited me out for a brunch on my birthday, an invitation I accepted, which was today.

No exact time had been set, but I was ready by 10-ish... that's what I'm used to as brunch time.
About 11:30 AM I finally got a call from her;
Her: "Are you all set? I'd like to wait until the mail comes - the mail lady is late today - the last time the mail came was on the 24th, and all there was was a Christmas card from the MLA."
Me: "OK, no problem."

The next call was shortly after 12 noon:
Her: " Are you ready to go? I'm hungry, and the mail hasn't come yet. Let's go."
Me: "OK." 

So off we went for the anticipated Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream at Smitty's. As we ate, I heard all about how she cut her finger, how it felt, how it bled and bled and hurt and hurt, what she ate the day before, plans for New Year's eve (a card party at the neighbour's), what day my brother and his family might come to town for a visit/holiday meal. All the burning topics at the top of her list that she wanted to chat about.

I asked her if she'd heard any rumor about Doctor X (her own doctor) retiring.  She said, no, asked where I'd heard that rumor. I told her nothing about where (from whom) I'd heard the rumor but that I'd heard it, and that it was just a rumor - whereupon she launched into the entire scene with the doctors in the city - who had come here, who had gone, their reasons for leaving, who was married to who, all their children, etcetcetc.

She asked me if I had found a doctor yet. No, I replied. I hadn't. In fact the last time I'd been to see one was in 2004. She seemed a bit shocked.

I was about to tell her why, about how the last visit had (by total fluke) coincided with a routine mammogram which had coincided with a bit of arm pain I'd been having from too much typing, which was partly breast pain (intercostobrachial nerve, lateral cutaneous branch of T2, which splits, and the posterior branch goes down the medial side of the arm while the anterior branch innervates cutis/subcutis of the breast), how the mammogram tech and the MD had freaked out about this and had insisted on a second (MUCH more painful) mammogram, and ultrasound exam, plus a clinical exam, all of which turned up absolutely exactly nothing, but which had irritated me a lot. Especially because I knew exactly what was (benignly) wrong already, but no one would listen to me. So I had decided to look after my own health care observation for awhile.

Anyway, I had only just begun, with a first introductory sentence about how I had had a sore arm from typing, when along came a waitress, not even our official waitress, but one who has seen my mother in there often, and who apparently didn't register that my mother and I were having a conversation (and it finally had become my turn to speak), wanted to make small talk with her, didn't seem to have any boundaries around what was appropriate waitress behaviour, i.e., be discreet, don't interrupt guests who are talking.

My mother responded to the situation the way she always has (and no doubt always will) - she opted for the novel, more superficial and therefore safer topic/opportunity, gave the waitress her full sunny attention, as if the waitress were some old dear friend she had not seen since forever, while I, and the thread of the conversation we were having, completely ceased to exist.

Conversationally shot down, bumped by a waitress on my birthday.

Story of my life with mom. Social invisibility. Interruption by waitress (or it could have been anything - a cloud pattern, a leaf blowing against the window) takes precedence; any conversation in which my mother has tried to, or has pretended to, listen to my contribution or story for more than a fleeting moment or two, is severed, aborted, never re-engaged. Even back in the car for the short 5-block drive home, she kept the air filled with casual chatter. She has never wanted to know anything about what I think or feel - thinks she already knows everything. Or she finds me hard to listen to. Or both. 

Other than setting up that unfortunate (for me) dynamic, she looked after me pretty well from babyhood to adulthood. I was supposed to be the passive doll and as long as that's how I was/am/acted/act, everything between us is fine just fine just fine and dandy.

I guess every introvert has likely experienced this dynamic in the company of an extroverted, therefore more socially dominating human, be they family member or anybody; only visible when that person decides it's time for one to be visible and then, if they can get some sort of reflected glory out of the deal somehow. I'm used to this. I grew up with this.

I've got a lot more patience with her and a lot less resentment toward her than I used to; but every so often... like, for example, a day when it's my 60th birthday (about which I'm not that excited in the first place) and I suddenly am made socially invisible by a waitress intrusion, and a mother who in a flash decides that small town chitchat is more important in that very moment, and I sit there reeling from being made suddenly invisible for the billionth time in my life, can think of no slick cool way of re-railing the conversation and/or shooing away the waitress ... I am reminded how much I still hate this particular dynamic, in this case, mother/daughter on top of everything erosive and corrosive it already encompasses.So why do I not deal with it directly? The way I do other things in life?

I normally just stay away from people who vex me and with whom I have no business dealing or who have no business dealing with me; but what do you do when it's your own mother, to whom you were born at emotional disadvantage of cosmic proportions, with whom you've been dealing all your life, sometimes more successfully than at other times? I guess if it hasn't killed me by now it has made me stronger - at least I hope it has. I can hold my own in almost every other non-mother circumstance.

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