When I was a baby, my mother kept me in a buggy all day long. She said I cried all day and night. But what she didn’t know was that I was allergic to the milk she was giving me. I am still intolerant of the all-dairy products, that is, unless they are low fat. But the point here is, she didn’t hold me, cradle me or rock me in her arms.
Then when I was around six, she had another baby. He was a normal baby, but I was jealous. So I moved his crib around the room. This made my mother mad. And when she got mad, she yelled.
When I was nine, she had yet another baby. This baby was born with a closed stomach. So off to the hospital they went. Meanwhile, my mother hired a cook. The cook made us a ham. My father had never tasted a ham before. Not that we were kosher. My mother just never made a ham. She made lamb chops, chicken, meatloaf and a variety of other foods, just not a ham.
My brother came home. No more closed stomach. But now we were six people living in four rooms. I was sort of the middle child. My sister is five years older than me. My brothers are six and nine years younger than me.
But here’s the thing: I was ignored. My sister wasn’t nor were my two brothers. My sister got her learner’s permit, as did my brothers. I was told I wasn’t allowed to drive their car so why did I need a learner’s permit. I didn’t learn to drive until after I got married.
I ignored my mother too. She was too infantile to deal with. Look at me, pay attention to me. This was the way she was.
In fact when I got in trouble at school, I told my sister, not my mother. My mother used to grill my sister on what I said. To this day, I don’t know what my sister said.
But finally we moved to six rooms. After that my father kept moving us to smaller apartments. My mother never complained about that. But I could often hear her complaining about one thing or another.
One day when I was teenager I came home at dawn. My mother was waiting for me at the top of the stairs. Then she began to call me all sorts of names. Of course I ignored her.
Now we get to the part when she was old. My brother moved to Boston, my sister moved to New York. One of my brothers stayed in Chicago, but he turned out to have schizophrenia.
Then my father died. Who do you think took care of my schizophrenic brother? Me, of course.
After my father died my mother came to my house. It was Thanksgiving. We were invited to our cousin’s house for Thanksgiving. But my mother wouldn’t go and she wanted us not to go either. But we went. When we came back, she started yelling at me.
I also had a job. But she wouldn’t let me go to the job. She wanted me to stay with her. I almost lost that job. So I drove her back to her apartment. We didn’t speak as I drove. I had so much to say to her. But I thought what was the use? She was a grown woman yet but she acted like she was a child unloved (which I’m sure was the truth), and nothing could change her.
Then the day came when she moved in with her sister to a place where they had their own apartment. The first day my mother was happy. After that something happened (not sure what) but she got unhappy, and when she was unhappy, she got mean.
Finally, she moved into a nursing home. My sister came out to help me. By the time she got to the nursing home, my sister was glad to see me. My mother had been scared to go into a nursing home. So she got mean. My sister had never experienced her that way. When my mother was scared, she made everyone around her unhappy.
My sister went back to New York. And I began to be my mother’s ‘pal.’ I had to visit her at least once a week or I’d get a nasty call from her.
One day I got a call from my brother’s nursing home. He’d died in his sleep. So I went to my mother’s nursing home and told her. She hung her head. At that moment, I felt sorry for her. But it didn’t last.
I won’t go into his funeral. But a month later, my mother went into the hospital. She was scared, so she got mean. Some hours later she died. I was sad, but glad. I was finally free of her!
Sue Powers has had stories and flash fictions appear in numerous zines and publications. Some were published by Saturday Evening Post, New Millenniums Writings, Blue Earth Review, and Another Chicago Magazine. She is a recipient of a fellowship and grant from the Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Prose, and two of her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.