At the French café, my 87-year-old mother asks if she can come see us after she dies. Between forkfuls of salad nicoise, my husband, daughter and I visibly shudder. I can’t tell if she thinks our response is in jest or knows we really mean it, but when I call her two days later, the ice in her voice indicates we should not have reacted the way we did. I ask if she’d like me to bring over some dresses I have in case she’d like to try them on to borrow.
I’ll give that some thought, she replies, elongating the vowels. I recognize those words. I rely on them myself when I am not ready to admit I won’t do whatever it is someone is asking for. Apparently, she is confident I’ll know exactly what she’s saying which is: borrowing those dresses would indicate she likes me, and at the moment, she does not. If I had suspected anything, I would not have called. She’s been angry since we were at the cafe 43 hours ago, and obviously I have no inkling, because here I am being nice to her which threatens to render what she feels superfluous. Therefore, her way to make me participate in her anger is by making me angry, which she knows she will do by employing my own pet phrase.
In our 60-some years of this parent-child dynamic, which I call a tug-and-shove love, it’s a given she will always want more than I can give, so she needs spare moments when she feels like she has gotten even with me. It’s all she wants, and it’s not a lot for me to give her that. So, I back off like a dog with its tail between its legs. And my mother is happy, happy! – for as long as possible, which is usually until the next time she needs something only I can give.
Shoshauna Shy is not a monogamous writer, but works on 7-11 pieces at a time. Poetry is part of the mix. She likes leaving for vacation, but likes coming home better. Napping with Lucy who likes to have her paws held while she sleeps is another highlight in Shoshauna’s life.