August 28, 2009

An Evolution of Values

It was the day we went back to the plastic surgeon to have my mom's stitches removed. I was supposed to leave the house around 7:15AM and pick Mom up at my office and drive her down to The Big City.

At 7:17AM I heard my phone ringing. I leaped out of bed, heart pounding. "Oh s@#t!" I rarely use curse words, a habit we broke ourselves of several years ago when we started our family. And yet, when the pressure is on and I realize I was supposed to leave to pick up MY MOTHER two minutes ago it's hard not to slip up. Also, it's hard not to want to slam your head in the freezer door about eight times because it will hopefully deaden you for what's coming up when she finally gets you to answer the phone.

"Hello," I said cheerfully as if I'd been up for hours and just hoping she'd call.

"Are you up?" I can hear the doubt in her voice. The motors and gears are winding up for her to call me by both my first and middle names.

"Pshaw, of course I am. I'm just running a little behind. I'm about to walk out of the house." In my pajamas, without brushing my hair or teeth.

"Okay, see you in a few. I'm already at the office."

I drop the phone onto the counter and run through the house yelling for Rob. "I'm LAAAAAATE. I overSLEPT. HELP MEEEEEEEEE!" He sits straight up in a panic, assuming the house is on fire or that I've whacked my hand off with the butcher knife.

"What? What is it? What?"

"I was supposed to be on the road. I have to go! You have to deal with the kids. I have to go! I have to take a shower and go!"

"What are you saying? That you're going?"

I dashed out of the room and into the shower where I took an amazing 2-minute shower then threw on my clothes without drying off. (Not recommended.) I ran a brush through my still dripping hair, slipped on some shoes and ran out the door, slamming it. Then I realized I had just run past Julius who was sitting on the couch rubbing his eyes. I opened the door a crack and said, "Bye, honey, sorry. I love you. Sorry."

At 7:31 I pulled into the office parking lot. My mom got into the car.

"Sorry I'm running a little bit behind."

She got into the car and said, "You look like a drowned rat."

"I know. It's okay, my hair will be dry by the time we get there."

Then she looked at horror down at my legs. "You're wearing SHORTS? Why are you wearing SHORTS?"

I looked down. "Um... because it's summer and I can?" I wasn't sure what she was getting at. Were my legs that horrifically bad?

"You're wearing SHORTS? To LITTLE ROCK?"

I still didn't really get what she was saying. "Mom, I'm taking the day off. Why wouldn't I wear shorts?"


I couldn't stand it anymore. "WHAT ARE YOU SAYING? I DON'T UNDERSTAND YOU! It's a doctor's office. I'm not going there to try to get a date, I'm driving you to the doctor. What is your deal?"

"Oh for heaven's sake. You're wearing SHORTS. That's like going to the doctor in your BATHING SUIT!"

"What? Oh, it's is so NOT like going to the doctor in my bathing suit. Going to the doctor in my bathing suit is like going to the doctor in my bathing suit. These shorts go down to my KNEES."

She still looked disgusted by the whole thing. "Well, I just can't believe it. I really can't. I'm just going to tell them I don't know you." (And she would, honestly.)

"Yeah, let's just tell them I picked you up hitchhiking. Never mind that we look exactly like one another."

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful. When we got to the doc's building we sat quietly waiting for our turn. She didn't deny knowing me to the receptionist, but then the receptionist couldn't see the bottom half of me from where she was sitting. I looked around to see if anyone else was in shorts. Nobody. Later a man came in wearing shorts. I will admit I did feel slightly underdressed in the fancy plastic surgeon's office. My mother has a knack of making me spastic. It comes from many years of practice.

Turns out we didn't even see the doctor so she didn't have to deny knowing me. The stitches were removed by the nurse who seemed great at her job. They discussed a second surgery and how that would be scheduled. I sat looking at my mother talking cheerfully about a second surgery. She hadn't yet seen her face and when the nurse said she looked good I know she meant "you're healing great" not that she looked perfectly normal. Far from it.

She looked at me for my reaction and I put on my poker face. I told her I thought he did a good job, but I was sad. He DID do a good job, but his good job wasn't nearly good enough and I just sat there hoping that somehow in the weeks to come it would look better because my mom deserves better than what she had at that moment.

And oddly, she was calm and pleasant, not her typical fighting Irish. She told me a few weeks ago she'd given it over to God. Indeed she did seem serene more often than not and I was glad for it.

In three weeks they will revisit the situation to see how her skin graft is healing and then talk about a new surgery. The nurse said he would reshape her nose and basically give her a new one. The nurse pointed at me and said, "How about hers? She has a great nose."

And we laughed and Mom said that's what she brought me here for as the "sample nose". We laughed and as we laughed the nurse handed her the mirror and I stopped laughing because I was afraid of what would happen when she looked.

And then she looked, and looked hard, turning this way and that, casting a critical eye, totally void of emotion, then nodded and handed back the mirror. "Looks good," she said and turned her eyes to me. I nodded and said, "Yep, looks good."

And out we marched, stopping at the front desk to leave the paperwork. As we trudged back to the car she wanted to know what we should do for lunch. I recommended a Japanese steakhouse. She launched into all the reasons that was a horrible idea and then suggested Denny's because she had a 2-for-1 coupon. I then agreed with her.

Her nose may change, but so many other things are always the same.


  1. Your mother reminds me so much of my grandmother, who also is from Arkansas, by the way. :)

    I have missed you so much! I'm sorry for being out of touch. Lots going on, multiple deaths in the family, school just started, etc. Your blog always puts me in such a good mood. I love you!

  2. Moms and daughters...always interesting, and the way you write about that complicated relationship drives this right to the point.

    You are a very good daughter!!!At least you took a shower and brushed your teeth before you left the house...and a 2 minute shower! You rock!

  3. Again your story made me shoot water out of my nose!

    The whole 'shorts at the dr's office' is an issue I've had before too. I always wonder what the etiquette is and I don't know why. But at times when you're walking into the dr's office waiting room and you look at the people around and how they're dressed as if they're about to see their lawyer you wonder to yourself 'have I made a mistake?'

  4. Don't you just love it when you're doing a favor for your mom and she COMPLAINS!? I asked a friend once, who had a degree in psychology, how to handle it. She suggested I turn to my mother and say, "Are you complaining?"

    It works!

    But then your mom might not have made the "sample nose" crack.

    Hope she heals quickly.

  5. So well written. Isn't that the truth - we can change the exterieur, but so often remain the same old us on the inside.

  6. Once again, your blog never fails to cheer me up throughout the day. I always look forward to reading your posts.

    You and your mother sound similar to the relationship I have with my mom. We're not bitter; but we do pick at each other. Constantly. And laugh. I'm sure I'll be able to fully relate someday. :)

  7. You gotta love parents. Maybe we should hand them our therapist bill for all the ways they messed us up that we have to fix. LOL j/k!

  8. That really takes me back. We always had to dress up to go to Little Rock back in the day.

  9. You have the Fighting Irish, I have the Fighting French.

  10. it is just amazing what we deal with in life and how we deal with it......isnt' it? btw, any kind of plastic surgery takes a long time to get to where it will be, according to extreme makeover on tv and as you know if it's on tv it has to be true.

  11. Love it. Sometimes I feel this is what I have to look forward to with my mum. And that's rather a nice thought in some ways.

  12. thanks for stopping by...I love your blog writing and sense of humor !!

  13. lol. My grandmother shares a similar disdain for shorts.

    Hey - how did I miss that something happened to your mom's nose? I'm behind! :'(

  14. I hope you washed "possible" in the shower. (Did you ever hear that joke?)

    Your mom is full of piss and vinegar. Gotta love her!

  15. Yes, there was a day when we dressed to visit the doctor. Also when we rode on airplanes.

    A dear friend had your mother's surgery. She looks perfect now. Don't worry.

  16. I'm with your mom on ignoring how bad she might look and seeing humor in it ... I don't know what happened with her nose in the first place, but I'm guessing, if it was a health issue, that she's thinking that at least she's still here to be getting a new nose?

  17. I love how you tell a story, Wendy!

  18. thanks for the laughs, Wendy.

  19. How true that is - some things will never change. And in fact, it's what we love about mothers, isn't it? Their immutability.

    I'm glad to hear she's healing well - and that she is accepting of what is.

  20. Hi Wendy. Thanks for visiting my blog. If my Mom was alive I would have had exactly the same reaction to shorts. Mmmm are all Moms the same... including me? Your early start made me thankful that I don't get too many early interruptions, I'm a demon when I do.


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