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from “Mama and Me”

This is an excerpt from my very first book, “Mama and Me–Her Last Three Years and Beyond.” At this point Mama is living with me–I work full time–and we’re trying to go the doctor’s office:

Another story has roots both in the winter and summer of ‘82. Debbie, 21, was home from Buffalo State College in January, between semesters. She and Dara, had agreed to drive Mother to the doctor’s. Dr. Goldfinger’s office was near my job and I would meet them there, saving me from taking an extra hour off from work.

Debbie called me at the nursing home. I could hear commotion in the background. Debbie said, “She canceled the doctor’s appointment. She’s really mad at Dara.” “It’s o.k.” I said, “just let it go and we’ll straighten it out when I get home.

When I arrived home, Mother was in her room, both doors firmly shut. The children gave me their version. “Grandma was getting ready to go and so were we,” Debbie said, “and Grandma came out of her room, looked up the stairs and saw Dara coming down. Grandma said, ‘No! I won’t go with you dressed like that. Go change.’ “

I interrupted the story, “What were you wearing, Dara?” Debbie continued, “You know–the way everybody dresses now.” It turned out that Dara was wearing the 1982 layered-look. She had on a pair of jeans and on top of them, pink shorts and leg warmers; a long-sleeved knit shirt and on top of it, a short sleeved shirt. Dara thought it looked pretty good.

Dara refused to change. Grandma insisted. Finally Dara went upstairs to change, but by the time she came down in different clothes, Grandma had canceled the appointment.

I talked to them—thanked Dara for changing, reminded them both that Mother doesn’t see many teenagers and how they dress, and went in to hear Mother’s side of the story.

It was pretty much the same. I said, “You know, Mom, it’s crazy but kids really do dress that way right now. It’s called the layered look.”

She said, “I still don’t like it. It’s not appropriate dress. I don’t approve of it.”
I hung in. “You know,” I said, “sometimes I think that the important thing is not whether it’s appropriate or not, but whether you’re comfortable. And sometimes I think that if someone has a problem with how you look, that that’s really their problem, not yours.”

She looked at me and listened. She usually took things in and considered them but in her time and her space. I felt like I had tried and I didn’t know if it was over or not. It was over for then but did crop up much later.

That summer in a separate instance, I had taken the day off to run errands and also to take her to another one of her doctor appointments. As she got dressed, I don’t think she made a connection with the other instance. I certainly didn’t.

She came out of her room and I grinned. It was hot outside and she had on her favorite aqua pedal pushers, white sneakers, ankle hose and bare, 72-year-old legs between the hose and the pedal pushers. She wore a white tea shirt with a huge strawberry on it, and on her head was a red and white checked spunky hat.

I said, “Dr. Goldfinger is going to think you look really spiffy.” And he did.

She had her exam. We left the doctor’s office, got back in the car, and headed down the New York Thruway for Nyack. As I drove, she said, “Now I want to go to lunch.” I glanced at her, “Where Mother?” She said, “The Nanuet Mall.” I looked at her again, “Mother, where at the mall do you think we’re going to go to lunch?” She said, “At Bambergers, at the tea room.”

I kept driving as I said, “Oh no! No Mom. You’re just not dressed for the tea room.”

A mile may have spun by as we rode silently with me thinking I had settled the question. Then she started to talk in her quiet, determined voice. I kept my eyes on the road as I heard her say, “I thought the most important thing was not whether you were dressed appropriately or not, but whether you were comfortable. And I thought you said that if people had a problem with how you looked, it was their problem, not yours.”

I still kept my eyes on the road and thought to myself, “O.K. Ann. Those are your words. You said it. Now see if you can do it.”

We got off at Nanuet and headed for the mall. We parked. I got the wheelchair out of the trunk and helped her into it. I looked at her crazy outfit, complete with bare knees now that the pedal pushers had shifted upwards as she sat in the wheelchair.

We headed into Bambergers. There was no line at the tea room and so we stood together waiting for the hostess. She came around the corner, well dressed, large menus in hand. She looked at Mother, stopped, closed her eyes, opened them again as if she thought she was seeing a mirage. She gracefully recovered herself and said, “Where would you like to sit, ladies?”

We had a good lunch and I tucked the story into my memory to help me remember how Mama and I pushed at each other.

Pick up your copy of Mama and Me HERE

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