Monday, March 5, 2012

"Help . . . my mother is driving me crazy!"

That was the phone call I woke up to this morning. My fifty-three year old friend Jo is a little stressed today.

She's single, lived at home her entire life until a little over a year ago. She decided it was time to unfold her wings, take 'em for a test-flight and meet life on her own—head on. She bought a two bedroom condo in November 2010. It took her all this time to realize there's a healthy amount of freedom in leaving home and being on your own. In her own place, she was finally beginning to enjoy life differently, and often she'd have friends over just to hang out, share some laughs, lovingly pick on one another, drink a little, eat a lot and sing karaoke all night. Freedom was good and she was loving every bit of life.

She barely had time to process her leave-taking when things took a sudden turn. In the fall of 2011, her mother left her matrimonial home, by choice, and moved in with Jo. She's not the only child but, the only single child. No threatening daughters and sons-in-law to rain on her mother's parade.

The first time Jo confided in me about her mother, I took her frustrations for granted. I listened, but did not hear her. "Just leave her be. She's old and doesn't have much time left in this world. You'll miss her when she's gone. Don't pay attention to her . . ." I dismissed her feelings and acted as if I knew her mother like I knew mine. Her mother is not like my mother and I did not know her like Jo did. My mother never rejected my friends nor listened in on my telephone conversation from another extension. She never cussed about my friends or meddled with how I lived my life. She didn't ask where I was going or whom I was going out with or what time will I be home. She trusted and supported my judgment and kept respectable boundaries. There was mutual respect. I miss her beautiful soul more than words can describe.

I don't know much of what goes on in Jo's household, but I know the kind of person she is, and making up stories like this is just not her style. I can't help her about the swelling family dysfunction, but can lend an ear for support and openly give my personal opinion when asked. There are seven children in the family—all married except Jo. None of the other siblings are offering their home to their mother. It's a sticky situation because the mother receives a healthy pension and is financially capable of getting a place of her own. She's eighty, and here's one sad part, "If I rent I won't have any money left for casino."

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