The month of January takes its name from the Roman God, Janus, who was the god of beginnings and endings, of doorways, and gates. Janus had two faces that looked out on either side of the doorway, in order to see what was happening in the directions of the past and the future; to contemplate and consider the events that happened in the past as well as what lies ahead in the future. He is the guardian of entrances and exits, of crossing places and thresholds. He was the god of the main doorway into the home, of the gate at the front walkway, of the passageway, and of bridges, the keeper of doors and keys.
Janus was linked with endings as well as beginnings, as at the end of a journey another doorway appears. Janus symbolized change and transitions: of the progression of life; the changes in a person from birth to death; from the past to the future; from one reality to another; from a time of peace to a time of war; from one vision to another; from one universe to another. He was the middle ground and as such stood between youth and adulthood, the country and the city, barbarism and civilization.
Janus represents the passage of time, and was celebrated at life’s beginnings; at birth, upon marriage, at planting time and at harvest; at all types of important events in a person’s life.
My mother and I were both born in January, she, eighteen years before me. Technically she was seventeen years old at my birth, since she turned eighteen just nine days after I was born. January is a bleak month for births, and I can only imagine that it was especially bleak for my mother; who was still more child than woman, and living with her self-indulgent husband and her in-laws at the time of my birth. Clearly she was on her own in this business of transition from girl to woman and mother.
My January birth was the threshold of her motherhood and by age twenty-two she had given birth to five children. Her years of mothering ended rather brutally in the January that I turned eleven, when my father took all of her children away from her and she immediately ceased being a mother. I often consider how hard that transition must have been for her but I can’t even begin to imagine what walking through that doorway was like.
I’m thinking more about these past events because this January my mother is facing another transition, from life to death. She has been diagnosed with colon cancer, which has already metastasized all over her body, and although she’s undergoing chemotherapy treatment, even if successful, it will only prolong her life briefly.
Once again, in January, my mother stands at a place of entrance and exit, as do I, who is watching her begin to cross through an eternal doorway. For me, this January marks the month of the keeper of keys, when I look both backward to the past and ahead to the future, knowing that one of those keys will lock and close a door that can never again open.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
A Memorable Mothers Day
“I remember my parents honeymoon. I was in the trunk. They purchased me from some gypsies, and my grandfather was Adolph Hitler.” (50 year-old male with Chronic Schizophrenia)
I hate Mother's Day. Every year I suffer from pangs of inadequacy as a daughter and a daughter-in-law, feeling that I've never measured up to what I should and that I never found exactly the right thing to give "The Mothers.
"This year, in particular, I was feeling pretty sorry for myself as Mother's Day approached, knowing that my daughter, who lives in Madison, and my son, who is living in Korea, would not be coming home to celebrate the fact that I gave birth to both of them and stuck by them through the trials of their growing up years, only to launch them into the world where they (heavy sigh) really no longer need me to govern their every choice in life. Suffice to say that I was totally engrossed in a pity-party, and downright depressed as the day drew nearer.
A few days before Mother's Day, my step-father called me, and asked- if he and my mother would drive to my house, then, he wondered, if I could possibly take them to visit my sister Sherry.
Background: Sherry has been in an adult family home since she was hit by a drunk driver over 20 years ago, and my parents hadn't seen her in several years (they don't get out much, and when they do they don't go very far). Since the car accident, Sherry is a lot like a 3 year-old in an adult body, and acts in the manner of a child; she's loud, she gets into everything, and she has to be watched all the time. Believe me, she's pretty clever, and at one nursing home where she had lived she had managed to get into their freezer and eaten a huge number of ice cream bars before they discovered her; in another home she had managed to sneak into the kitchen in the dead of night, and then consumed half a turkey, a humongous bowl of cold potatoes and gravy, a large bowl of cranberry sauce, and a pumpkin pie.
Now my step-father, God bless his soul, has a problem with incontinence since he had radiation for prostate cancer, and being a frugal man, he likes to wear his adult diapers until they can't hold anymore and are in fact "overflowing." This fact was proven when he visited us at Christmas, when his wet pants stripped part of the varnish off the kitchen chair when he got up to go home. In light of this, my husband, hereafter known as Sugar Lips, said that there was NO WAY that I was going to put my step-father in our car with its cloth seats- that undoubtedly could soak in a good deal of urine.
Therefore, I contacted the group home where Sherry lives, and asked if they could bring her to my house... and yes, they certainly could, and they could leave her for several hours, and wouldn't that be FUN for Sherry. Thus I was now faced with the prospect of having Sherry and my parents under the same roof for approximately 4 hours, on that day when I should be exalted by my ungrateful offspring.
Sugar Lips then informed me that he intended to bring his mother to our house for Mothers Day, as since she's in a nursing home he- who is not an ungrateful offspring- wasn't going to let her sit alone in her room on Mother's Day.
At this point I decided that since Mothers Day looked to be a day from Hell, I certainly wasn't going to cook, and we planned to order chicken from Culvers. However, then my darling daughter revealed that she planned on coming home, too, "...since the whole family would be there," and that she planned on bringing her significant other, who is a "lawyer's son," and thus WAY more respectable than we are. And since they are both vegetarians, chicken was no longer an acceptable option for Mother's Day Dinner—we settled on pizzas, as one can always order a vegetable pizza and therefore not corrupt one's vegetarian diet. For dessert, I had a pumpkin roll and a chocolate pie in the freezer, which could be thawed for the meal's finale.
The now horrifically dreaded Mother's Day dawned sunny and beautiful, and we took the desserts out to thaw on the kitchen counter. Just before lunch my mother and step-father (God bless them both) rolled in with their walkers and headed immediately to the kitchen table, where they parked in the closest chairs (his was, unfortunately, the partially stripped chair from Christmas). God bless them both, in short order they began repeating the same stories that we've been hearing every time they visited for the past 10 years. I did notice that my step-father's fly wasn't zipped, and it was not merely open, it was gaping widely, offering a lovely view of his boxers underneath (I dared not look any further). However, since my mother, I assumed, could clearly see that his fly was open, and she wasn't saying anything about it, then I figured I would ignore it, because, hey, maybe the zipper was broken or some such travesty.
Anyhow, I was too busy noticing the pungent scent of urine, which immediately began to permeate the house.
After the usual chat about the usual subjects, i.e. the purple pants that were made of velvet and are gone forever, alas, and so sad, they appeared to show some concern that no meal preparations were underway, so I told them that we would be having pizzas delivered by vegetarian girl and boy.
Then Sherry arrived, via the van driver from the group home, and there was much excitement and fun, with Sherry screaming, "OHMYGOD- OHMYGOD-OHMYGOD-OHMYGOD-OHMYGOD, YOU'RESOPRETTY-YOU'RESOPRETTY-YOU'RESOPRETTY-YOU'RESOPRETTY-YOU'RESOPRETTY, ILOVEYOU- ILOVEYOU-ILOVEYOU-ILOVEYOU-ILOVEYOU…" which are her usual topics of conversation. Sherry had brought a present for my mother, a framed picture of herself, and she gave it to her with much fanfare, even assisting her with opening the package, and then exclaiming, "I'MPRETTY-I'MPRETTY-I'MPRETTY -I'MPRETTY I'MPRETTY…" and dancing around the room while whirling her skirt to show everyone how beautiful she was. There followed great celebration with these same subjects repeated multiple times.
Meanwhile, during all this fun, Sugar Lips had left to pick up his mother and had returned with her—she sat alone in the rocking chair, all hunched over with wide eyes, and watching all the hubbub. She barely said a word all afternoon, and we gauged her mood only by the widened eyes and looks of horror that occasionally passed over her face, particularly during Sherry's bursts of enthusiasm.
After about an hour of all this celebration, sweet daughter and the lawyer's son arrived, bringing our Mother's Day lunch with them, as well as their dogs, Juliet and Rex (I bet you thought I was going to say Romeo), which Sherry wholeheartedly dug into, with much relishing of the meal, and interspersed with the chatter mentioned above, as well as, "WHATTHEHELL," stated emphatically at key moments and hysterical bursts of laughter at my step-father's jokes... and I must say these anecdotes were certainly NOT politically correct. For example, he said to my gentle daughter (who sat next to the respectable lawyer's son), "Did you hear that the Green Bay Packers are going to win all their games this year? They're going to paint the football to look like a watermelon." (Sherry doubled over laughing and couldn't eat her pizza for a minute or two, which only served to encourage more of the same.)
My poor mother-in-law had declined my husband's offer to cut her pizza, and was diligently trying to cut it while Sugar Lips sat and shook his head at the pathetic inefficiency of her efforts. Beautiful daughter graciously got up and cut it for her, so Grandma could get sustenance.
After eating her pizza, Sherry, who had been keenly eyeing the desserts since she arrived, had a big piece of chocolate pie; followed by a piece of the pumpkin roll, then another big piece of pie (they have alarms on the refrigerator and the kitchen cabinets in the group home, because she so fervently enjoys her treats).
This she topped off with a large piece of scented candle wax that I had inadvertently left on the kitchen counter; she was actually quite adept at picking up what she thought was a "treat," casually strolling through the kitchen and nonchalantly passing her hand over the counter, slyly picking up the wax, then surreptitiously popping it into her mouth. She started gagging and quickly spit the wax into the garbage, and stood there looking like she was going to cry with her tongue sticking out and going, "ACK-ACK-ACK-ACK-ACK-…"; this prompted a lecture on my part about “why we don't eat things if we don't know what they are,” while she continued to holler, "ACK-ACK-ACK-ACK-ACK." (My mother-in-laws eyes were practically bugging out of her head.) I took pity on Sherry and gave her some juice to get the taste out of her mouth, and I'm sure my admonitions were washed just as quickly from her ears.
In no time she was back to mischief, and I caught her with my Chicago cutlery; she had the BIGGEST knife in the knife holder, that she held up in the air while holding her finger on the point, and happily commenting on how sharp it was. I got the knife away, she got another lecture.
About this time my step-father, God bless him, decided he needed to get up off his chair, and he muttered something about "going to the van for a rest." He stood up slowly, and as he did his frugal nature became evident, since his adult diaper was not only full, but was literally running down his legs in rivulets. (AND another good portion of the varnish came off the chair again.) There was quite a puddle forming on the floor in front of him which we all chose to ignore (like his open fly), and he rolled his walker through it on his way out the door.
Rex (the dog) chose NOT to ignore the urine, he ran over and earnestly began sniffing the puddle, and could not be shooed away by any amount of coaxing. My mother broke the ice, pointing out the puddle and saying, "He went to the hospital and got catherized yesterday, and he'd better get used to that." (Well, I guess I'd better get used to it, too.) Anyhow, since the subject was now in the open and we were no longer pretending not to notice, I jumped right up and got a mop and cleaned it up.
Meanwhile, Sherry had noticed the urine, and was muttering, "BAD-BAD-BAD-BAD…", but she was soon distracted by my bird, Ozzie, whom I had told her to leave alone because Ozzie bites. Sherry apparently figured she'd strike before Ozzie could, because she reached out and gave Ozzie a good whack which sent the poor bird spinning around on her perch whilst she frantically flapped her wings trying to get her balance, and Sherry, very much enjoying the show, was laughing-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH…I think you get the picture.
Shortly after I went to the van to check on my step-father, God bless him, who I couldn't help but notice was wearing pants that were now completely soaked with urine; he casually suggested that he was ready to go home.
So I got my mother out the door and into the van. Sugar Lips took his mother back to the nursing home. The group home staff came back (YES) and picked Sherry up (there IS a God).
This left us with adorable daughter and the lawyer's son, whose only comment (later, to my daughter) about the whole celebration was that he had noticed that my step-father's fly was open, and he wondered why nobody had mentioned it??? How silly of him. He clearly has no social graces.
And besides that, Sugar Lips swore that he had never even noticed that the fly was open, because, after all, he DOESN'T go around looking at other men's crotches.
All in all, it was a most memorable Mother's Day, and I must say that it certainly knocked the depression right out of me. I can only wonder if I'll have even more fun next year; but then again, I may be out of town.
Posted by The Junk Lady's Daughter at 6:46 AM