RSS Feed

Momster Moves Out

My senior year of college, which also happened to be my brother’s senior year of high school, Momster moved out.  Here’s how it all went down.

Shortly before school let out for the summer, Momster confided in me that she finally decided to move out.  She had a plan in place and sounded downright giddy each time she told me how all of her plotting and preparation was coming along.  My dad decided to take a fishing trip to Florida.  He also decided to only take my brother with him.  According to Momster, she wasn’t invited and she was very angry about this.  Now, I never asked my dad about it, but I wonder if Momster maybe couldn’t take the time off work or if the fishing trip plans didn’t coincide with some Momster-approved accommodations.  Maybe it was my dad’s graduation gift to my brother, or a reward for finishing his senior year as the star of the basketball team and captain of the football team with a full scholarship to college.  Whatever the reason, Momster told me that not being taken on this vacation was the last straw.

Did my dad know about all these plans?  Nope.  While he was busy planning his fishing trip, Momster put a deposit on an apartment.  She ordered furniture, shopped for dishes, and picked out curtains.  All the while, she grinned from ear to ear and snickered away, like she was playing the world’s best prank on someone.  I was the only person who knew what Momster was up to.  Even though Momster spent years and years carefully and quietly ensuring that she was the “good guy” and my dad was the “bad guy,” and even though at the time I felt like she had every reason to move out and start a new life for herself, the way in which she was leaving felt totally wrong to me.  But no, I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to my dad.

The semester ended and I came home with my college roommate (also my best friend) in tow.  By this point, my dad and brother had left for Florida and Momster was in the middle of actually moving.  She didn’t take a lot from our house;  her clothes and personal things, one small sofa bed from the guest room, a few knick-knacks.  She also took every single photo album and home movie as well as every framed photo.  She didn’t leave my dad with a single photo of his kids.  Momster even took old scrapbooks that belonged to my dad’s grandmother.

The final part of Momster’s plan did not go as she wanted.  We were in the car, my friend in the back seat, when Momster suddenly said, “And you know, I need you to pick your dad and brother up from the airport.  They’re expecting me, but I can’t do it.”

And for the first time in my life, I said no to Momster.  The idea of showing up in her place and explaining to my father why I was there instead of Momster horrified me so much that I finally put my foot down.  I’d gone along with her plan and kept her secret, but there was no way I was going to be the one to tell my dad that Momster had moved out.  I didn’t want to be around for that at all.   Momster did not take this refusal lightly.  She argued and begged, then finally resorted to a teary guilt trip, but I refused to budge.

Later that day or the next, I left home to spend a couple of days at my roommate’s house.  I drove home again the day my dad and brother returned from their vacation, but the house was still empty.  I’d beaten them home.   I went up to my room, nervous and worried about what was happening during the drive home from the airport.  Had Momster gone to pick them up?  Was she able to act normal during the hour-long drive home?  What would she do when they got to the house?  What would my dad do?

We lived near the end of a long gravel road.   You could hear a car coming long before it reached the driveway, when the sound of tires crunching on stone got even louder and our dogs started to bark.   My bedroom windows overlooked the driveway on one side, and I peeked through the curtains, holding my breath, as the drama unfolded soundlessly below me.  I saw my dad and Momster get out of the car.  My brother climbed out of the back seat and started to help my dad get their bags out of the trunk.  Momster walked straight to her own car, and I saw my dad turn to ask her a question.  She half turned as she walked away to give an answer, got into her car, and drove away.  My dad and brother stood by the open trunk, staring after her.  They looked at each other, picked up their suitcases, and came inside.

I stayed in my room, door closed, waiting and listening.  I pictured my dad downstairs, maybe noticing some small things missing.  I heard him come upstairs and go into his room where he would certainly notice the absence of Momster’s things from the closet and master bath.  He didn’t yell or swear or throw anything.  Then, a knock on my door.  I said, “Come in.”

My dad opened the door and said, “What’s going on?”

I said, “I think Mom moved out.”

“Yeah, it looks like it.  Are you OK?”

“Yeah.  Are you OK?”

“Yeah. ”

Awkward silence.  Then my dad said, “Well, I have to unpack,” and closed the door.

What a crazy summer that was.  I had one more semester of college before graduation so had no immediate plan to move out or move away.  My dad found himself alone with my brother and me, not sure why we seemed to dislike him so much but unable to talk to us about it.  It took a few years for me to realize that my dad wasn’t a bad guy at all.  He was just not good at talking to his kids.  While Momster always took the opportunity to tell us her side of the story, my dad never did.  He didn’t talk about his job, his past, his family, his hopes, his feelings, anything, and Momster completely took advantage of that to quietly ensure that her children saw her as the always slighted victim and him as the tyrannical dictator.

I do wish I’d seen her for what she was sooner.

Another Medical Miracle

A few years ago my grandma (Dad’s mother) fell and broke her ankle.  She ended up having to spend several weeks in a rehab facility before being able to return to her apartment.  My daughter was 8 years old at the time, and she came with me to visit Grandma.  During this visit, we stayed at my Grandma’s apartment which is conveniently close to the rehab facility.  It’s also unfortunately close to Momster’s house.

What was funny about that particular trip to Indiana was that it marked the beginning of Momster’s new relationship with my Grandma.  When my parents separated and eventually divorced, Momster had nothing at all to do with Grandma for years.  Not a single phone call or visit, didn’t make a single appearance or help with anything when Grandma went through colon cancer, not even a Get Well Soon card.

For some reason, I didn’t rent a car on this trip and had to rely on Momster to drive me and my daughter around.

I don’t know why I didn’t rent a car.  What the heck was I thinking?  I can’t even imagine why I put myself in that position.  Ugh.

So, it was funny because all of a sudden, Momster was in the uncomfortable position of being in the same room as Grandma.  I could tell it was awkward for both of them, but to give them credit, both women handled it well even if Momster did seem rattled by the experience and certainly didn’t linger.

But that’s not what this post is about.  This post is about a story Momster told while we were in her car, driving somewhere to pick up something for Grandma.  My daughter was in the back seat.

Momster started talking about her “bad knees.”  This is a woman who never seemed to have knee problems.  She didn’t limp.  She actually had stunningly beautiful long legs for most of her life, until age and lack of activity finally took their toll.  She started telling a story I’d heard many, many times growing up.  But this time, the story had a very different ending:

The problems with my knees started when your dad and I were just married and living in our first apartment in Indianapolis.  We’d spent our last ten bucks on a puppy from the animal shelter.  I was so glad to have a dog because, you know, I couldn’t leave the apartment at all or have any friends.  But anyway, you remember Scooter, right?  Well, when he was a stinker of a puppy!  One day he managed to hide himself somewhere and I could not find that dog anywhere in the apartment to save my life.  Now, I had these jeans that I’d done up all funky with little bells sewn up and down the front of the legs.  I just loved those jeans, but I hadn’t planned well when I decided where to put those bells.  I was looking for that puppy and thought maybe he’d hidden under the bed.  So, I dropped down to my knees and landed HARD on those bells.  Oh my God.  I was in so much pain.  I’d completely shattered my kneecaps.  Just shattered them.  Couldn’t move, couldn’t walk.  And since I WASN’T ALLOWED to go to the hospital, my knees had no chance to heal properly.  It’s no wonder I have knee problems.

As Momster wrapped up this doozy of a story, two things happened.  First, I was thinking to myself, “Shattered kneecaps?  That’s a new twist!  Not allowed to leave the apartment?  Not allowed to go to the hospital?  So now she was some kind of hostage?  Please!”

Then, I hear this little voice from the back seat.  “Why weren’t you allowed to go to the hospital?” 

And that is one example of why Momster is not allowed to be alone with my children. 

Momster said, “Oh, well, I just didn’t have enough money for the doctor,” which I guess is a hopeful sign that Momster still has some vestige of common sense lurking around in that warped head of her’s.  Since then, my daughter and I have talked about Momster’s problems with reality, but at the time she had no reason to question anything that came out of Momster’s mouth.

Like I said, I’d heard the story of the jeans with bells on the knees many times, but it always ended with Momster laughing about how dumb it was to sew bells right onto the knees like that, how she swore herself blue in the face and never could quite forgive the puppy. 

But shattered knee caps?  Who kneels down with that much force?  Can little bells even do that?  Can shattered knee caps heal without medical intervention to such a degree that the person can go on to have beautiful legs, no visible limp, and a perfectly normal range of motion? 

Somehow I seriously doubt it.

The Really Really Really Really Overdue Baby

I don’t remember much about my younger brother’s arrival into this world.  I was only 3 1/2 years old when he was born.  The most I can conjure up is a vague memory of my pregnant mother standing in our kitchen with a wooden spoon in her hand, but that might actually be a photo I’m remembering.

This post is dedicated to my little brother,who is actually very big and turned 34 years old today.  His birthday reminded me of one of Momster’s more unbelievable stories and I just have to share it here.

When Momster got pregnant with my brother, she was given an early June due date.  That due date came and went with no sign of the baby planning on leaving the womb.  His timing was horrible.  My dad had been transferred to a new job, so he and Momster already purchased a new house two hours away and were getting ready to move.  They thought they’d be moving with a newborn, but as the moving date drew closer but no baby had arrived, they began to panic.

Then, just as Momster decided to insist on having labor induced, she went into labor.  She says she was actually at the doctor’s office waiting for an appointment when she realized she was in labor.  My brother was born, a gigantic red-headed 10+ pound baby boy.

Two short weeks later, my family moved to a new city.  This is the story of my brother’s birth as Momster told it all during my childhood.  She loved to tell people about my brother being born two weeks past his due date, how huge he was, and how crazy they were to plan a move at the same time.  Of course, two weeks past the due date isn’t exactly “late.”  If you’ve had a baby, you know your due date comes with a “give or take a couple of weeks.”

Quite a few years ago, Momster somehow got to talking about that pregnancy.  She’d been saying something about how my brother was diagnosed with a learning disability in grade school, then said, “It was all my fault.  He was born so, so late, my body simply couldn’t supply his little brain with enough oxygen.  I should have sued that doctor for letting me go so far past my due date without inducing me.”

I said, “Two weeks isn’t that out of line.  I’m sure that had nothing to do with the learning disability.”

Momster gasped,”Two weeks?  Your brother was born two MONTHS late!  That’s why he was so huge and that’s why he had that learning disability!”

“Mom, I don’t think that’s possible.  You’ve always said he was born two weeks after your due date.  Not two months!”

“Oh, no, it was two months.  You just don’t remember it right because you were a child.  Trust me, I remember every single day, begging the doctor to induce me.  He flat out refused, saying it was better to let nature take its course.  Easy for him to say!  I was pregnant for so long and your brother got so big, the placenta couldn’t supply enough oxygen.  His learning disability was all my fault.”

No point in arguing.  I even asked my dad about it, and he said my brother was born about two weeks after he was due.  He laughed at the idea of a two month overdue baby.  I mean, really.  That’s not possible!  After 42 weeks of pregnancy, the placenta starts to break down.  Another two months would be 50 weeks!  Even if was possible to carry a baby that long without losing the child, imagine how big that baby would be!  Ten pounds my ass.  That baby would be a good 17 or 18 pounds, maybe more when you consider that the last month or so of pregnancy the baby is putting on a lot of fat.

I think it’s also interesting how Momster insists on taking the blame for a learning disability that probably had nothing to do with the pregnancy and didn’t even impact my brother’s life beyond grade school.  This is a woman who never takes responsibility for anything she actually does, and yet, she’s willing to take the blame for something she couldn’t possibly have had any control over.  Her need for attention and sympathy and for another person to say, “Oh, no, you did great!  It wasn’t you at all!”  simply never ends.

Since that conversation, Momster has mentioned her two-month overdue pregnancy on multiple occasions.  I don’t understand how she can even say it with a straight face or how she can expect anyone to believe such a thing is even possible.

Serious as a Heart Attack, Part II

Yes, the heart attack saga continues.  Momster surprised me by actually going to the hospital the day after her alleged heart attack.

Not only that, but she insists her blood work indicated she did, indeed, have a heart attack.  What’s very strange, however, is that all of the follow up tests, including that procedure where they navigate a little camera through your veins to take a look at your heart, found absolutely no damage to her heart or any logical reason for her to have had a heart attack.  No blockages or clots or heart disease.  The only health issue the doctor found was Momter’s extremely high blood pressure.

And this is where Momster drives me crazy.  As she’s telling me this, she starts to go on about how she’s always had unbelievably low blood pressure, so low that nurses and doctors are always commenting on it.  She says this as if she is still in the same physical condition as she was 30 years ago.  I reminded her that she is getting older, but I didn’t comment on her weight, her smoking, and her lack of physical exercise.  Given her lifestyle, it would be amazing if she didn’t have high blood pressure!  I also reminded her of the blood pressure problems she told me about a few years ago.  At that time, she said she couldn’t sleep at night because her heart was racing and pounding right out of her chest.  Her blood pressure was so high, her doctor told her she could die of a stroke at any second.  Momster had to have daily blood pressure checks and reminded me often that she was in very real danger of dying.

I guess she forgot all about that drastic health scare.  Of course, I personally think that her doctor would have prescribed actual medication instead of telling her to take fish oil pills if her life was truly in danger.  Yep, fish oil pills.

Anyway, Momster says she is now taking medication for blood pressure and high cholesterol, plus a couple of other things to “balance her chemicals and electrolytes.”  She says she has stopped smoking, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Now here’s what I find really interesting.  The other day when I originally wrote about Momster’s heart attack, I said I’d like to know if she’d also had any recent problems with family members and felt like she needed attention or some kind of distraction from her behavior.  I felt kind of bad for my doubts, but, lo and behold, Momster has been stirring some pots for all she’s worth.

First, she got herself into trouble with my brother.  Momster asked my brother if our dad planned on paying for any part of his upcoming wedding.  My brother, who really needs to practice dealing with Momster, was honest and said, “I don’t know.  We haven’t talked about it.”  Momster immediately flipped out.  She went on a rant about how she could not believe Dad hadn’t offered to at least pay for the rehearsal dinner.  She kept apologizing to my brother for his father’s lack of courtesy and ignored my brother’s statements about how the wedding is still several months away, they had time to work out those details, it’s no big deal,  etc.  When Momster refused to let it go, my brother specifically asked her several times NOT to call our grandma (Dad’s mom) about it and to absolutely not call Dad.

As if he’d answer the phone or speak to her anyway.

Well, of course Momster did both of those things even though the rehearsal dinner issue is none of her business.  She called Grandma to vent and complain and then did the unthinkable.  She called my father.  He didn’t answer and she didn’t leave a message, but my brother felt awful when Dad called him and said, “Do you know why your mother would try to call me?”  My brother handled it as diplomatically as he could, but he was furious that Momster did exactly what he asked her not to do.

On top of that, the morning of this supposed heart attack, Momster had taken Grandma to church.  My brother and his fiance where at church as well and had planned to meet Grandma at her apartment after the service for lunch.  Momster was not invited or told about this lunch.  When she arrived and Grandma’s apartment, she insisted on walking her in (even though she says she was in the middle of a heart attack at that point) and saw the table set for three.  Momster commented on it, said no one had told her about these lunch plans, and left looking upset.

So was she upset about not also being invited to lunch, or did she seem upset because she was actually having a heart attack?

I do know that when I go home for a visit, Momster becomes unreasonably devastated if I don’t spend every single day with her and include her in every single plan I make.  If I am spending five days in Indiana and I want to spend half of one of those days with just my friends, Momster throws a fit.  I can easily see how not being included in lunch plans involving my brother and his fiance (ie the competition) would throw her into such a tizzy.

As for the heart attack, Momster at least seems to be enjoying the sympathy and attention.  She’s really making the most of it on Facebook at any rate, even adding “minor heart attack” to her Life Events.


Serious as a Heart Attack

Yesterday afternoon, I came home from an outing with my husband and kids to find a message from Momster on my answering machine.  I didn’t actually listen to it right away, but eventually noticed Momster had left a message on my brother’s Facebook page (publicly, of course) that she had been trying to call him and his fiance about an emergency situation.  This made me wonder what kind of message Momster left so I finally listened to the answering machine.

She said: “Hi, it’s your mother.  I just wanted to talk to you because this morning I took Grandma to church and when I was driving her home I had bona fide minor heart attack.  It felt like someone reached into my chest and was squeezing my heart in their fist.  One side of my jaw was tingling.  I had to get Grandma home without scaring her or worrying her though, so I got her to her apartment without her noticing anything was wrong.  Then I…”  And here the machine cut her off.  Her message was punctuated by several dramatic sighs and pauses, with a lot of the words drawn out for emphasis.  Her voice sounded tired and shaky.

One of these days, Momster is going to have a real emergency and I won’t actually believe her.  In this case, I noticed she’d called me from her house phone, not a cell phone or hospital.  I thought, “If she really had a heart attack, there’s no way she’d be home already.  They’d keep her for several hours, if not overnight, while they ran tests and did their observations.”  When I tried to call Momster back, I got her voice mail and said I hoped she was at the hospital and to call me to keep me informed.

I then called my brother, who had been in touch with Momster several times over the course of the afternoon.  He told me Momster had dropped our grandma off then drove to a nearby park to get out of the car and stretch her legs until she felt a bit better.  Then, she spoke to the on-call doctor at the practice she normally uses and was told she’d had a minor heart attack or precursor to a major heart attack and should “immediately go in for tests.”  My brother repeatedly urged her to go directly to a hospital, but Momster said she preferred to talk to her own doctor in the morning so he could order the tests.

Momster didn’t call me back.

This morning I tried again to call Momster.  She answered this time and began by repeating the story she’d left on my answering machine.  This time, she added that her left hand had also been tingling and she’d had a difficult time breathing.  She also told me that after she’d stretched her legs at the park she decided she should be around people.  She drove herself to a restaurant, ordered a drink, and relaxed until she could feel the heart attack start to recede.  She sat at the restaurant with her drink until she felt normal, then ordered a side salad because she hadn’t eaten anything all day (this was about noon).  After she had the salad, she went home to take a nap, then had another drink or two.  At this point, she was texting back and forth with my brother, who was urging her to go to the hospital, and saying she didn’t want to undergo tests after she’d had a couple of drinks.

This morning, Momster said she was waiting for her doctor’s office to open so she could call  to find out where to go for tests.  She said her hands still felt tingly and her chest was tight, she felt shaky, but wasn’t at all worried or scared.

I asked her, “Did the doctor you talked to last night say what else could be wrong besides a heart attack?”  No.

I said, “Why didn’t you to straight to the hospital after leaving Grandma’s apartment?”  She didn’t know which hospital her doctor would want her to go to.

I don’t know about anyone else, but if I suspected I was having a heart attack I’d go to THE CLOSEST POSSIBLE HOSPITAL.

Momster said, “I felt safe at the restaurant because there were plenty of people around.”

I said, “Wouldn’t you have felt safer at a hospital where there would be plenty of medically trained professional people around?”

Really, who thinks they are having a heart attack and goes to a restaurant?!  How is it that a grown woman doesn’t know which hospital her physician is associated with?  How does she not know that when she goes to a hospital, they will ask who her regular doctor is and contact him?

Supposedly Momster is calling the doctor at this very moment and will update me on what he suggests and what any tests find.

Meanwhile, I am wondering if anything has been going on that Momster may want to distract people from.  Did she say or do something to upset my grandmother while at church or in the car?  Has she gotten herself into any trouble with a family member so that she feels backed into a corner and needs some sympathy or a personal disaster to deflect attention away from what she’s done?

After all, who wants to confront someone that just had a minor heart attack?

Momster can add it to her list of serious medical issues that mysteriously vanish once they’ve served a purpose.

The Spirit Wolf

By the time Momster rediscovered her supposed Native American heritage and became involved in local Native American activities, I was away at college.  When Momster moved out, she continued to dance at powwow.  She often drove for hours to reach different events, many of which were located in historically significant places.

Even when I was out of school and married, Momster was still heavily involved with her local Native American alliance.  I’ve sat through so many tedious phone calls where Momster talked and talked and talked about every second of every powwow, telling me in excruciating detail how much everyone loved her, how all the little girls followed her around and imitated her, how honored she was by attention from the elders, how every single person complimented her on her dress, her fan, her beadwork, her dancing, and her devotion to tradition.  Then, she’d start at the beginning and repeat every single word.  Twice.

One night, Momster called to say something very creepy had happened to her.  She said, “I’m fine, but I am still so shaken and I don’t know what to do.”  Here’s Momster’s story:

A few weeks ago, I went to powwow at a place that had a small museum with some displays about the lives of settlers and Native Americans. We (her and her first post-separation boyfriend) were walking through the museum looking at everything when I suddenly saw a wolf pelt hanging on the wall.  As soon as I set eyes on it, this feeling struck me so hard, I was overwhelmed with a vision of that wolf’s last moments.  It was hunted and killed without any respect or understanding.  The wolf’s spirit was still angry and refused to move on.  I had that feeling for the rest of the day and could not shake it.  I literally felt just as the wolf’s spirit felt.  It was terrible.

Well, I started to notice strange things.  I kept seeing something move at the edge of my peripheral vision, but when I looked, nothing was there.  When I go home from powwow, it kept happening.  I decided to sit quietly and clear my mind, asking Earth Mother to clear my vision.  (Momster sometimes adopts a fuddled kind of Native American theology.)  After several minutes of sitting, chanting, and settling my spirit, I opened my eyes.  I could see what had been moving around me all day.

It was the wolf’s spirit, the one that had been killed and put on display.  It was following me.  Of course, you know the wolf is my spirit animal, so that must be why this particular spirit chose to follow me.

For days, I kept seeing the wolf spirit.  It followed me everywhere, and I could feel how angry and unhappy it was.  I didn’t know what to do about it; I had to go to work and see it following me around the office.  I had to be at home, trying to eat dinner while the wolf spirit stared at me, and all the time I could feel his feelings of anger and hurt.

Then, last night, the most terrifying thing happened.  I was sound asleep when I suddenly woke up with a start.  The wolf spirit was sitting across my room, staring at me, and I could feel its hatred and anger and confusion.  Suddenly, it lunged across the room, right on top of the bed, and locked its jaws around my throat.  I could FEEL it.  The wolf was barely controlling himself and only a second away from crushing my throat. 

I forced myself to stay calm.  I began to whisper to the wolf spirit, saying, “I know how you feel.  I know you were wronged.  I will help you.  I promise to help you and make things right.  I am on your side.”  After several minutes, the wolf spirit finally let go of my throat and disappeared.  I knew it wasn’t gone because I could still feel its presence.  But, I knew what I had to do.

This morning, I took a sick day from work and went back to that little museum.   took a pouch of tobacco with me and went straight for that poor wolf’s pelt.  I knew the spirit was still following me, and sometimes I caught a glimpse of it as I prepared to release its spirit.  I took out the pouch of tobacco and sprinkled it all around the floor, begging for my brother wolf’s forgiveness and thanking him for giving his life.  I told him he did have respect and understanding and that he didn’t need to hang on to this world but could leave and continue his journey.  As soon as I finished, I could feel this immense sense of relief, and then I knew the wolf’s spirit was gone.   I’m pretty sure it’s gone for good, but I wanted you to know about it so that if something mysterious happens to me and I don’t survive, at least one person will have an idea what really happened.

What do you say to something like that?  “Um, okay…”

I’m happy to report that the spirit wolf never bothered Momster again, nor did any other kind of spirit animal.  Did this really happen, or was it some kind of dream or hallucination?  There’s just no telling.

How I Learned to Watch my Tongue

Several years ago, I was on the phone with Momster when we somehow started talking about my younger brother.  Little did I know, everything I said would be twisted and warped.

My brother is a few years younger than me.  Growing up, we were quite different.  I was the academic star, he was the star athlete.  You couldn’t catch me without a book; you could never catch him with a book.  He excelled at any sport he tried, I didn’t even understand the rules to basketball until high school.

That’s a pretty big sin in Indiana.

We fought all the time.  Not argued, but fought.  From the time I was in middle school, we were usually left home alone for most of the day.  I was supposed to be babysitting, I guess, but since I was usually off with my friends I’m not sure what my little brother did all day.  When we were home together, the fights were vicious.  He has scars on his arms from my fingernails.  When he one day realized he was stronger than me, I had to change my fighting tactics.  I got really good at dashing to my room and locking the door after hurling insults at him.  He spent so much time banging on my door and slamming into it that the door frame separated from the wall.  We said the most terrible things to each other.

After high school, I went off to college.  My brother made it through high school as one of the cool kids, a star of the basketball team and captain of the football team.  In spite of a full football scholarship to a good school only a couple of hours from home, my brother opted not to go to college.  It took my dad years to forgive him for that.  Instead, he bounced from one job to another, dodged responsibilities, refused to help around the house, and generally acted like the irresponsible young man he was.  Momster had moved out by this time, so my brother was left lone with a father who was angry over his life choices.  My brother, who believed every word out of Momster’s mouth, wanted nothing to do with our dad and did his best to avoid him.  Sometimes they got into fights so awful, I thought they’d start to punch each other.  My dad isn’t some little guy, but next to my huge brother he looks pretty small.  Needless to say, when I wasn’t at school I spent as little time at home as I could.

At least my brother and I finally learned to get along.  We could actually hang out and enjoy each other and we stopped trying to beat the crap out of each other.  He moved out of my dad’s house, seemed to be sticking with one job, and had a steady girlfriend.  It turned out all he needed was time to grow up.

So, there I was, talking to Momster about my brother.  We were discussing his job at a furniture store in the small town my brother never left.  My comments were, “He always talks about going back to school or doing something different.  I’m sure he could do that if he wanted.  I wonder sometimes if he regrets not taking that scholarship.”  Things along that vein.  Nothing negative or mean, just voicing my thoughts about how I wanted my brother to be happy and do well in life.

Over the next couple of years, I noticed that my brother had stopped talking to me much.  We’d talk on holidays and birthdays, but otherwise he didn’t return my calls.  At first I figured he was busy with his friends and his work schedule, but after a while it got to be obvious he was unhappy with me.  When we did talk, the conversations were short and nothing like the way we’d been getting along the past few years.

My husband actually got to the bottom of things for me.  We were in Indiana visiting my family and had spent a day at my brother’s girlfriend’s house on a lake.  While the kids and I hung out with the girlfriend, my husband asked my brother why he didn’t stay in touch more.  My brother confessed to being upset and hurt by some things I’d said about him and said every time he talked to me, he was reminded of it.

According to my brother, Momster told him I’d been calling him a deadbeat and a loser who would never do anything with his life or amount to anything more than a furniture mover.

Fortunately, once my brother heard my side of the story he didn’t question it.  He accepted that I was being honest and moved on.  He’s better at that than I am, obviously, since I can recall all of Momster’s nonsense in such detail.

I guess a couple of good things came of this.  My brother slowly started to question Momster’s stories and intentions.  He no longer accepts everything she says.  I learned to be careful about what I say to Momster.  Not that it stops her from making stuff up anyway, but if I don’t talk to her about anyone other than in the most bland, day-to-day way, at least I don’t give her material to twist into ridiculous, hurtful stories.

Momster and Alzheimer’s

A few years ago I was on the phone with Momster when she started pushing me to explain why I always seem on edge around her.  I’d recently been home for a visit, and Momster kept asking and asking why her presence made me tense.  I should have known better, but I gave her an honest answer.  Part of me wondered how she’d take it, since it had been a while since I’d questioned, contradicted, or criticized her directly.

I said, “I’m uncomfortable being around you because I never know what you’re going to say.  Especially if my kids are around, or we’re out in public.  I’m tense because I can’t predict what’s going to come out of your mouth next.”

Well.  That did not go over well.  Momster was actually sputtering with anger and couldn’t defend herself fast enough.  “What on Earth are you talking about?  I would never say anything inappropriate in front of your kids.  Why would you even think I’d say anything that would make anyone uncomfortable?”  And on and on.  She demanded examples.

Again, I should have backed off but didn’t.  It really does make me mad that Momster refuses to see she’s been wrong and hurtful in the past.  Usually I keep it to myself when I’m talking to her and later vent to my husband.  This time, though, I went right ahead and gave her the examples she was asking for.  “OK, remember when you told that story about not being allowed to go to the hospital after shattering your kneecaps?  Not a good story to tell in front of a child, especially since it isn’t even true.   And do I really need to mention the things you’ve said about my in-laws?  Can you blame me for feeling stressed out when you’re around?”

Momster garbled something loud and angry I couldn’t understand, then hung up the phone.  I might have laughed a bit.

A couple of days pass, and Momster starts calling me.  I let her calls go to voicemail.  Then, my brother called.  He said, “Mom is really worried about you because she hasn’t been able to get a hold of you.  She said last time you talked, you were screaming at her and then hung up on her, but she doesn’t even know what you were so angry about.”

Now, I never even raised my voice.  Momster was the only person yelling.  I resigned myself to taking her next call, and was amazed at her powers of denial.  She said, “I don’t even know what happened when we were talking.  All I remember is you screaming at me, then you hung up.”

I said, “No, you were screaming and you hung up.”

She said, “Well, I didn’t want to tell you this because I didn’t want to worry you, but there’s a reason why I don’t remember what we were talking about or anything about that conversation.  I went to the doctor a couple of weeks ago, and he said I am in the first stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Momster seems to forget that not only am I reasonably well educated, but I have access to all of the knowledge available on the world wide web.  Even while we were talking, I was googling.

I said, “What else did the doctor test you for?”  Nothing, of course.  “You know, there are so many other things that cause the same initial symptoms as Alzheimers.  How did the doctor rule those out?”

She said she refused other tests because her insurance doesn’t cover everything.

I said, “Did he refer you to a neurologist?”

No, her insurance wouldn’t cover a referral to a specialist and what’s the point?  There’s no cure.  That’s some really crappy insurance, right?

I asked, “What medication did your doctor prescribe to slow the progression of the disease?”

According to Momster, the doctor told her to take vitamins.

For every common sense suggestion I brought up, Momster had some ridiculous answer.  She kept repeating the same thing over and over:  “It’s too late for me, but I really hope they find a cure before you develop Alzheimer’s.  I can’t stand the idea of you having to go through this too.  It’s genetic, you know, and since my mother had it (what?!  since when!?) and I have it, you will get it.  Your daughter will get it.  It breaks my heart.”  She must have repeated that five times.

I wanted to know how the doctor discovered her Alzheimer’s, which can only definitively be diagnosed by performing an autopsy.  She kept avoiding that issue, then finally said something about a questionnaire in which her score indicated early Alzheimer’s.  My theory is that the doctor’s questions showed Momster could be at risk for developing Alzheimer’s some day .  But that isn’t useful at all for deflecting attention away from your habit of lying through your teeth or your need to have an excuse to pretend a certain phone call never took place.

Momster never got a second opinion, never saw any other doctors, never started taking medication, never had further tests, and has never mentioned her Alzheimer’s diagnosis again.

It is absolutely incredible, the things this woman says.


Happy Momster Day!

Whenever I think of how Momster behaves now, I consider myself really fortunate that she managed to hold herself together pretty well until I was in college.  I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like if the Momster of today had been around during my formative years.  She was always a bit eccentric, but she was fun and spontaneous and outgoing.  Momster was the life of the party, the original Cool Mom, and the definitely the star of my childhood show.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share one of the great things about having Momster for a mom when I was a kid.  I was oblivious to Momster’s quirks for the most part back then and thought she was the most perfect, glamorous, fun Mom on the planet.

Momster could always be relied on to rescue any animal in need, tame or wild.  When we lived in the suburbs, we’d bring home fallen nests of baby birds.  Momster never sent us outside to let Nature take its course.  She’d call up the vet to find the right wildlife rehab person for whatever kind of birds we’d picked up and then truck them across town.  If she saw a cat or dog or any size or age that had been neglected or lost, she brought it home to either reunite it with a happy owner, adopt it out, or simply add it to our own menagerie.

Later, when we moved out to rural Indiana, the number of lost or needy animals that found us only multiplied.  Over the years, my brother and I brought home several kittens and dogs, a baby raccoon, a litter of rabbits, and a litter of day-old puppies someone had dumped on a remote gravel road.  I “adopted” tadpoles, frogs, and salamanders, too.  Never once did Momster turn an animal away, say no, or hesitate to find someone to care for an animal that was out of our league.  She knew where to buy kitten or puppy formula, who to call about a raccoon that had been hit by a car, and the best places to advertise a found puppy.

In addition to all of the animals we brought home, we had our own array of pets.  Cats, dogs, parrots, hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, rabbits, and lizards shared our home, though fortunately not all at the same time.  In our part of rural Indiana, animals were often seen as tools, not pets.  This isn’t surprising considering the farming lifestyle where, by necessity, animals who couldn’t do what they were supposed to do or provide what they were supposed to provide, where simply gotten rid of.  If a barn cat was suffering, no one took it to the vet.  It was shot.  Humane mouse traps were unheard of and it was common for dogs to not even be allowed in the house.

Momster had the opposite attitude.  I remember when a particularly beloved hamster of mine got sick.  One day he started shaking all over and wouldn’t eat.  Not many people would even consider spending the time or money to take a $3 hamster to a vet’s office more than 45 minutes away, but Momster didn’t even hesitate.  She had to have known the vet wouldn’t really be able to do anything, but she took my hamster to the vet anyway.  She was just as willing to go out of her way for that little rodent as for our purebred Persian cat or one of our show-quality dogs.

Even though remembering the good things about Momster reminds me she wasn’t always so difficult and unreasonable, it also makes me sad.  Momster will still go out of her way for an animal that needs help, but in so many other ways she isn’t the person I knew as a kid.   Part of my frustration with her is probably because I wish she’d go back to being that person.  She certainly had her flaws, but I’d take that over the current version of Momster any day.

Momster’s Plan

Not long after Momster claimed to find out Steve Jr. had an affair, she came up with a plan that would allow her to leave him.  She shared her plan with me, and from time to time I still think of it and can’t help but giggle.  Or sigh and shake my head.

Momster has a friend through her Native American activities named Nadia.  Nadia works as some kind of nurse, but I believe she has more of a supervisory or education role as opposed to working directly with patients.  Anyway, according to Momster, Nadia makes good money and part of her benefits includes coverage for housekeeping services.  I’ve never heard of that, but I guess it’s possible.

Nadia bought a house that Momster described and being very large and beautiful.  The house needed quite a bit of work, which Steve Jr. was doing for a real bargain.  The house, along with Nadia’s generous paycheck and housekeeping benefits gave Momster an idea which, she claimed, Nadia fully supported.

The idea was this:  Momster would leave Steve Jr. and file for divorce.  She would move in with Nadia because Nadia had plenty of extra space.  In order to not impose on Nadia, Momster would do all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and gardening around Nadia’s house.  Nadia would claim these services as housekeeping to her employer, who would reimburse her a certain amount each month.  Nadia would then pass this money on to Momster so she would have some income of her own.  The amount was something nearly impossible to live on, a mere hundred or so dollars a month.

I asked Momster if Nadia would have to provide receipts or proof that she was paying for housekeeping in order to get that reimbursement, but Momster just said, “Oh, I’m sure there are ways to work around that.”

It gets better though.  Nadia would also claim Momster as her domestic partner so she could add Momster to her health insurance benefits.  Yes, Momster and Nadia would claim to be lesbians for insurance purposes.  I’m sure THAT wouldn’t backfire, not in a liberal, accepting state like Indiana!

Momster also thought it was very funny that Steve Jr. was working so hard on Nadine’s house, replacing floors, removing wallpaper, and painting all day without even realizing that he was fixing up Momster’s future home!

This plan pleased Momster to no end.  She was so excited about it and wanted me to back up her ideas, but I had too many concerns and refused to play along.

I said, “I know you want to leave Steve Jr., but I think you should try to find a way to become self-reliant.  You’re switching from one dependence to another, and if something happens to Nadia you’ll be even worse off than you are now.”

Momster did not like that.  She said, “Oh, you’re right.  I should just stay right where I am and be miserable for the rest of my life.”

Just so you know, this is where I start getting the urge to pull my hair out.

I reassured Momster that I wanted her to be happy, but that I also thought she should consider the long term.  I said, “What if Nadia loses her job and can’t afford to keep her home or support you?  What if she is in an accident and dies?  You will have no claim to anything of hers, no savings, and no place to go.  I think moving in with a friend is a great idea, but you need to have more of a plan than to just clean her house and pretend to be her partner.  You may get caught, and that’s fraud.  You may decide you don’t like living with Nadia and without your own income you’ll be stuck again.”

I thought my concerns were reasonable, but Momster interpreted them as, “You must stay with Steve Jr. forever, even though you hate him.  You must be miserable for the rest of your life and completely give up any hope of escaping your unhappy marriage.”

Momster has said many times that all she wants in life is to spend her time doing whatever she wants while someone else foots the bill.  Wouldn’t we all like that?  I’d sure love it if my husband made enough money for me to spend my days at the salon, shopping, going out to lunch, taking the kids on whatever day trips or adventures I wanted, and not having a care in the world about bills or savings or budgets.  But life doesn’t work that way, at least not unless you first work very hard (or are very lucky) to get to that point.  She did have that lifestyle with my father, but she chose to walk away from it and refused any attempts at counseling or reconciliation (and quickly blew through the money she got from the divorce).

I do feel bad for Momster that she is approaching old age and has nothing of her own to fall back on.  As much as I often almost hate her (and not because of what I’ve written about so far, in case that makes me sound petty), I do wish she could be happy and secure.  What’s frustrating is her complete lack of responsibility.  All of her problems are someone else’s fault.  All of her problems need to be solved by someone else.  Her own choices and actions have no bearing on her current situation as far as she’s concerned.

Interestingly, she never brought up the Nadine Plan again.  I’d be willing to bet Nadine never even knew about this plan, or if she did, thought it only consisted of Momster moving in with her while she pursued a divorce.