11 February 2010

A Chat with Your Mother

Well, I guess that went about as well as could be expected.

I talked to my mom and dad on the phone this morning. In addition to the usual status updates, I meant to have a chat about their transportation problems. After years of being able to go wherever they want whenever they want, mom can't drive, and dad shouldn't. Their public transportation options are very limited. They find this frustrating. Infuriating, even. I understand that, I really do. But they can't go taking it out on my brother and his kids, who are only trying to help. The plan was to talk about all that.

I wouldn't say the conversation was a total failure. I got an opening when my dad mentioned his visit to the ophthalmologist. Apparently his vision is not appreciably worse than it was at his previous visit, which is not saying a great deal. Apparently the ophthalmologist feels dad's vision is borderline for driving, although the DMV seems to think he can see just fine. Dad told me he only drives around home, he doesn't drive at night, he doesn't drive in the rain (not reassuring -- this is Southern California, it's a desert), he only goes "over the hill" to shop at Costco (a trip of 15 miles each way over a windy canyon road). If I was waiting for the opportune moment, this was it.

"Dad," I say, "I'm with my brother and the kids on this one. I really think you need to stop driving."

He didn't get mad. This is good, we're still talking. He didn't tell me I'm an idiot, which is usually what he tells my brother. We talked about how he hates to impose on family and neighbors for rides, but acknowledged that sometimes letting people help you is a good thing for both of you. We talked about his trip to the doctor yesterday, taking dial-a-ride on the way in and the bus on the way home. It was a nice day, the trip went mostly as planned, and cost $.35. We talked about using the power scooter he bought for my mother to get to and from the bus stop, and about taking the scooter on the bus. He hadn't thought of that, and sounded intrigued by the possibility. The upshot of the conversation was that he said, in the nicest possible way, something like "I know what you think. Thanks for your concern." All in all, I am not feeling like I accomplished a great deal.

My conversation with my mother was even less helpful. When I brought up her problems getting around, she said she'd let me talk to dad about that. When I said it sounded like it was a real problem for her, she said she'd let me talk to dad about it. OK fine. I know this whole situation really makes you mad. But Ma, you've got to stop taking it out on my brother and the kids. They're just trying to help.

"How is Tuffy doing in school this quarter?"

A Chat with Your Mother. I couldn't find a clip of Peter and Lou Berryman, or Cathy Fink and Marcie Marxer, but this rendition is interesting in its own way.

A Chat With Your Mother
(Lou & Peter Berryman)

There are pirates in their fetid galleons
Daggers in their skivvies
With infected tattooed fingers
On a blunderbuss or two
Signs of scurvy in their eyes
And only mermaids on their minds
It's from them I would expect to hear
The F-word, not from you

We sit down to have a chat
It's F-word this and F-word that
I can't control how you young people
Talk to one another
But I don't wanna hear you use
That F-word with your mother

And the lumberjacks from Kodiak
Vacationing in Anchorage
Enchanted with their pine tar soup
And Caribou shampoo
With seven weeks of back pay
In their aromatic woolens
It's from them I would expect to hear
The F-word, not from you

There's the militant survivalists
With Gucci bandoleros
Taking tacky khaki walkie talkies
To the rendezvous
Trading all the latest armor
Piercing ammo information
It's from them I would expect to hear
The F-word, not from you

There are jocks who think that God himself
Is drooling in the bleachers
In a cold November downpour
With a bellyful of brew
Whose entire grasp of heaven
Has a lot to do with football
It's from them I would expect to hear
The F-word, not from you

There's unsavory musicians
With their filthy pinko lyrics
Who destroy the social fabric
And enjoy it when they do
With their groupies and addictions
And poor broken-hearted parents
It's from them I would expect to hear
The F-word, not from you

Copyright Lou and Peter Berryman


  1. i have always wondered why O why conversations with parents are so dang hard.

    You accomplished opening up the idea and took the first step in communication about the subject and survived!

    I am proud of yah tough subject to tackle.


  2. Zoom - I'm right there with Jan, it's a tough subject and it sounds like you did a good job. These conversations are iterative and, IMO, just help open the eyes of the other party to their eventual realization of the new reality.

  3. My partners parents were awful. The dad was easier, later on...I think after they left the car running and after getting out it went down a slope almost into Elliot Bay (or is that Puget Sound in Edmonds?) but as horrible drivers as they were, the dad still got the ok from DMV. Grrrr Had it been MY parents I would have shredded the license. Aunt Vi was hard, but I cried and gave the "I don't want to see you die that way" speech, so she finally stopped---lots of drivers in family to take her anywhere. You are doing the right thing, the talk, and I urge people to do it early. Talk about scooters and taxis and the costs---talk talk talk, they are scared and driving is all they know. Also, hang in there. If they kill someone, you could be liable. Remind them of that too.