A few years ago, my mother was dying by inches. She had dementia and didn't know us. She had to be fed; she was incontinent; she couldn't walk. By the last few weeks, she couldn't talk at all. She lived down in DC and I took the train down to see her now and then, not often enough of course.
Back then I had a sort of friend up here in CT -- actually her kid was the same age as mine and they occasionally played together. Anyway, she frequently complained about her interfering mother and mother-in-law. They bought clothes for her kids that she hated. They insisted on spending time with the kids when she didn't want them over. All legitimate complaints, I'm sure.
But at the time, I was dealing with the slow end of my mother and my kids had no grandparents, at least none who were interested in them or who'd recognize them if they passed on the street. We had no family in the area so I counted on friends when we had emergencies.
So I said, "hey, I'm sure you're right, but it's hard for me to hear this stuff right now." She still complained. I remember I got mad and actually told her that she should save it for someone who can listen with sympathy. I think I joked about the urge to slap her silly. Ha. Ha. She might have cut back but I doubt it.
The day after my mother died, I saw my friend. She'd heard the news and said it was a blessing. A lot of people said that, and it was absolutely true, but I wasn't ready to hear that for another day or two. We sat down and she bought me a cup of coffee, which was sweet of her. I know that.
But then she complained about her mother feeding her kid a donut. I remember that moment more clearly than I recall the phone call about my mother's death.
I was done. I'm not confrontational and after that day, I just stopped returning her calls. I didn't see her except at a distance for the last few years.
I ran into her today. Five minutes into the conversation, she said something about having to borrow her mother-in-law's car and what a pain it was because she'd have to clean it before giving it back because her kids are slobs and her mother-in-law was unreasonably fussy. For a second I was right back there, to that day I felt like an orphan and knew my mother really truly wouldn't get to know my family. But then I felt a strange sense of comfort.
I can't quite figure out why I felt so good after seeing her today. Maybe just because I was right and that woman really needs more topics in her conversation? Or because it's pleasant to have some constants in this changing world? Because I'm past the pain of that time?
No, really, I don't know why I'm feeling like opening a bottle of wine and celebrating for no good reason. All of the above, maybe. I have absolutely no urge to contact her again, but I might cross the street to say hello when I see her coming.