Pining for the Fjords

Notes from the Eldercare Underground:

I went over to my mother’s today to fill her little pill boxes and found her wearing one of her nicer outfits, expecting me to take her grocery shopping at Wal-Mart.

The only thing is, we did that last week.

So since she was all dressed up with essentially no place to go, I suggested we go there anyway.  This way she could get a chance to look around at the things she usually wants to look at after we’ve got a grocery cart full of frozen food and ice cream.  When the outside temperature is 100 and climbing.

My mother being my mother, whatever I suggest is always met with a negative from her.  This seems to perk her up in some strange way that I’ve found unexplainable.  Maybe it’s a control thing.

She usually has to be coaxed to do something, even though I can tell she really wants to do it.  Most often it takes about three tries and today was no different.  After saying a couple of times she didn’t want to go out, the third time was the charm and she said yes, she would.

Off to Wal-Mart we went and almost immediately got into a battle over a plant she wanted to buy and plant outside on the north side of her house where it doesn’t get any sun.

In compacted soil.

In a drought.

With watering allowed only once a week.

In 100 degree weather.

And the plant was an indoor plant.

And a tropical one at that, which can’t withstand temps. under 65, where we had days last winter in the teens and single digits.

I suggested she put it in her enclosed sun porch (with the operative words being sun porch, where an indoor plant like this would think it was in heaven), but she stubbornly said she had two plants there already and didn’t want this one there, she wanted it outside, where it was sure to die a lingering death.

If she could have stamped her foot and pouted and gotten away with it, I think she would have.

I was in for some fun today.

So we moved on.

As we passed the cosmetic aisle, her previously critical frown brightened and she said this was the area she was looking for, swiftly steering her cart past the display of lipsticks toward the bottles of liquid foundation.

Over her shoulder she said “Remember that makeup you got for me?”

I did.  It’s only been about a month since I picked out a nice brand of liquid foundation for her in a shade that wasn’t so dark and orangey as the stuff she’d just run out of.  At the time, she’d approved my choice without any comment and it went into the shopping cart.

No complaints in the weeks that followed.  Until today.

“Well, you know,” she went on, “it only puts out just a couple of little drops when I push on the top.”

I started to tell her that it’s supposed to be that way and all she has to do is pump some more out if that’s not enough, but she cut me off by saying “And I never liked that color anyway.”

But it gets better.  Her criticism complete, she turns back to the foundations and says “Oh, forget it.  I don’t want any,” and moves off down the aisle, leaving me to contemplate what has just occurred here.

After about forty-five minutes of my mother’s brand of Chinese Water Torture, we headed back to her house after picking up lunch at the drive-thru at Dairy Queen.

Now, I have to interject here by saying that the whole “no more plants in the sun porch” thing was precipitated by another battle I had recently with her over “The Poinsettia.”

My mother had received a rather large poinsettia plant from my brother (I’ll call him Saint Timothy) when he swept down from Colorado with his wife for a visit between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My mother tended the plant well and it lasted for a long time, well beyond the life expectancy of most holiday poinsettia.  But they’re really not intended to live forever, or else how would poinsettia growers make any profit if everyone’s plant survived from season to season?

Hers gradually went from this:

To this:

Actually, it looked a lot worse than this, if that’s possible.  No leaves, no color….just a bunch of hollow, brown, dry stems.  Deader than dead.

When I easily broke off some stalks to show my mother that the plant was, indeed, a goner, she acted like I was breaking the bones of some religious relic.

Little did I know.

She refused to toss it out.  I asked her why in the world would she want to keep something that was obviously deceased like that.

She said it’s because Saint Timothy gave it to her.

Ah.  Of course.

No matter that it probably (no make that definitely) was thought of and selected by his wife (you know, “what’s her name”) and Saint Timothy didn’t have anything to do with it except for the delivery.  “He” wanted her to have it, and by god, that sucker wasn’t going anywhere.

The other day, after we went around again about “The Poinsettia,” she phoned me to tell me that she’d thrown it out.  Fine.

Today, at lunch, she apparently was emboldened enough from her successful CWT to tell me that she hadn’t thrown it out after all.

She’d hidden it.


All of this brought back memories of that famous Monty Python sketch:

“The Dead Parrot.”  Enjoy.

31 thoughts on “Pining for the Fjords

  1. OMG!!! My mother-in-law complained and complained about how dry her face was, so, with the guidance of the cosmetics folks, I got her a jar of Kiehl’s. Can’t remember which one, but I can sure remember the price: $65. The next time I saw her, she told me that she had given it to one of the attendants in the AL home because she thought it looked like it might give her zits. Never even tried it.

    About the poinsettia… years ago I nursed a plant until spring and then planted it beside the patio. I was curious to see what it would do. That scraggly plaint grew to a magnificent 5′ within a very short time. I’d planted it over the septic tank. Maybe that and a few prayers will help your mother’s? 🙂


  2. I had a poinsettia house plant that died back every spring. I’d cut it back hard, water it very little and then in the fall it would start growing again. I’d start watering it again, and by Christmas it would bloom… hardly thing it was. So don’t be surprised if your mom pulls it out one day just to show you why it was a good thing she didn’t follow your advice and throw it out!


    • Margie and Merrilymarylee—If this plant comes back from the dead, we’re naming it Lazarus. I think Jesus would have to intervene here to resurrect the thing.

      My mother has continued to water it, to the point where the soil was soaked when I last looked at it. Maybe it drowned.


  3. I begin to see elements of myself in your mother and I’m frantically trying to figure out what I can do now to prevent that fate in fifteen years. Meanwhile, feel free to abuse us, your dear blog friends, with further tales of daughterly woe. You don’t strangle Mom, we get the silly giggles and feel relieved it’s not us–this week, at least–and our children get whatever they get. T’ell withum.

    Saving grace: I tend to wear my liquid make-up a little bit too Whiter Shade of Pale. It’s a Seventies thing.


  4. Isn’t it amazing how sons who rarely visit, are distant and sarcastic when they do come, and then leave asap are revered, while daughters who deal with the mother every week are treated like crap? Or maybe that is just in my family…


  5. When I started reading I thought, “isn’t that nice of you to take her shopping even when it wasn’t scheduled.” And as I read on I realized that no good deed goes unpunished.

    I should tell you about the toaster that gave everyone but my grandmother an electric shock. It was a lethal weapon but we weren’t allowed to get rid of it.


    • I knew when I was persuading her to go out that this would probably wind up biting me in the butt. Wasn’t wrong, was I?

      Omigosh, your grandmother’s toaster! We had to practically wrest from my mother’s fingers some antique appliances that belonged in the Smithsonian. An iron that was always too hot to use on any garment, a television that only got three channels (with no remote), a toaster oven that looked like it had been a crematorium in another life, and she has an electric space heater that she still clings to that makes me have nightmares of raging infernos. Oy…

      Oh, and a table lamp that I was afraid to touch for the same reason as your grandmother’s toaster.


  6. Hilarious – really – you and your mom make for a wonderful comedy team. You must find yourself laughing much later after you’ve had a chance to push all the images of you choking her out of your head! She’s “hidden” the poinsettia! What else has she hidden?


    • She’s hidden plenty of things that are important. She says she’s put them away “for safekeeping” and then forgets where she put them. However, she amazed me the other day when she went right to where she’d put a wrist blood pressure monitor that hadn’t seen the light of day in several years. Maybe because I wanted to take it home and she was glad to get rid of it so she wouldn’t be forced to use it.


  7. For many years I was the “closest” child so I appreciate your approach to having a sainted sibling. Seeing the connection between the saintly Poinsettia and the Norwegian Blue takes a special talent.


  8. Oh, honey-my mom and yours may have been separated at birth. I will admit that my mom is usually pretty good when my schedule doesn’t work for doing things. And it is my sister who is the saint, my brother is a nonentity.

    Good luck!

    Smile or die! 🙂


    • It could be worse. I guess I have to be grateful that my brother doesn’t tell me what to do or that I’m doing everything wrong when it comes to our mother. He just tries to stay under the radar as much as possible.


  9. We thought my mother died in February of 2010, but I now see she somehow managed to fake that, move from Austin to F’burg, disguise herself, and you’ve got her! Laughter is your only hope, of course. Loved this **so** much!


    • Ha! So that’s it! Or maybe it’s like “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and there’s only one mother who travels around the country irritating daughters everywhere.

      Thanks for stopping by, Dee. Y’all come back!


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