Mama is always teaching me lessons. Even now, when she is blind and almost completely dependent on me, there are all kinds of ways she is helping me to be a better person.
Lesson #999? If I’m to make it through this roller coaster that is my life these days I’m going to have to have a damn good sense of humor.
A few months ago I talked mama into running errands with me. Getting her to leave the house had been very, very difficult. She didn’t want to go anywhere to eat because she was afraid she would make a mess of herself. She didn’t want to walk the mall for fun or for exercise because she was afraid to bump into people. Just the mention of venturing out would give her a panic attack.
But this particular day she was agreeable. And by agreeable I mean she was tired of hearing me complain.
I was attempting to load her up in the car and set out for our afternoon adventure. I needed to go to the bank, I told her, and then we’d head to a store not even a quarter mile away to buy her some new comfy tshirts. I thought the bribe would be enough to erase all the sour faces.
As we were walking out the door she tells me to wait because she needs to use the restroom. I groan because I know that she is going to take forever. We finally make it to the car and drive the three miles it takes to get to the bank. There is no line in the drive-thru! SCORE!
Just as the canister gets sucked up into the teller’s hands mom says ‘Nessa, I need to go to the bathroom.” I pretend not to be annoyed because she just went. Three miles and 10 minutes ago.
“OK, no problem. Just let her send my receipt back and we can go across the street to Target.”
She agrees and a moment later (OK maybe two minutes), receipt in hand, we are on our way. We pull up to the store and I proceed to walk her to the restroom, which is right near the front door. I move as fast as she will allow me. Just for reference, that’s not very fast.
I get her into the bathroom stall, line her up in front of the commode and step outside to give her some privacy. A few seconds later I hear laughter. Uncontrollable, hysterical laughter.
“Mom, what is the matter with you??” I yell over the stall.
She just keeps laughing so hard she is loosing her breath. In between bursts she informs me that I’m going to have to join her on the other side of the door. I don’t want to…. I really, really don’t want to but I have to know what is so funny.
I quickly duck in while a woman at the other end of the room gives me side eye. I’m not sure if it’s because my mother is acting like a crazy person or if it’s because I’ve dared to follow the smell. Either way I’m in and there is no turning back.
Mom’s face is red and she is sweating a little. Her pants are down around her ankles and she has kicked off her tennis shoes. She is attempting to pull one leg out very carefully. I’ve already figured out what is happening before she finally gets it out. She’s had an accident.
I start hunting for more toilet paper and run back out again to get wet paper towels. There is poop EVERYWHERE. She continues to work her way out of her pants without soiling them with her dirty Hanes breathables. I sigh. I just bought those underwear.
We get her cleaned up while she continues to sputter and giggle. She is trying to stifle it because it is clear that I’m not amused. Truth be told, I’m holding back the tears.
It’s then, right in that moment, as I’m trying to find her right shoe and a place to dump the last of the dirty napkins that it happens. Though loud wails and snorts she shoves her hand out in front of me. In it are her filthy underpants wrapped in toilet paper.
“HERE!” she shouts. “Put those in your Kate Spade!”
I shake my head and shake off the tears. I laugh. Not a chance.
I get her dressed and back to the car. Aside from the low twang of some random country artist on the radio we ride home in silence.
I walk her up the sidewalk and down the long hallway to her room. She stops me as I head for the door.
“You know I have to laugh,” she says almost apologetically. “I have to laugh because I don’t have anything else.”
And just like that it’s clear that I’m the asshole. I pushed her to go out because I was tired of being cooped up. I insisted because I was ready for her to be closer to my idea of normal. I wanted my mama. The one who worked all week and danced to fast paced polkas on Saturdays. The one who baked cookies and sewed Halloween costumes. The one who spent more time taking care of everyone else but herself. Including me.
But that’s not where she was. Not where we were. I sat on the couch and thought long and hard about that.
I went back to her room and crawled into bed next to her. I hugged her hard and laughed out loud.
“Next time I’m going to make you walk around the store like that.”