Whenever we sit down to dinner, my mom always asks, “Shall we have some music?” And my dad and I say, “Oh yes!” or whatever and we wind up the two music boxes, a unicorn that plays “Camelot” and a Santa that plays “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
And sometimes we bring in the lovely Chinese lady that my dad brought back from Taiwan years ago and gave to my daughter that plays a distinctly un-Chinese melody that sounds like a strident Methodist hymn.
You get the three going together and you get an idea of what my mom’s world is like. Then she always tells me how much her friends have enjoyed the music, and it’s all due to me because I took her to the tag sale where she got the unicorn.
I can laugh about it now, but having someone say the exact same things to you every day is really frustrating and annoying at first. You start treating the person like a child and when they don’t learn something, you naturally get frustrated. You have to realize they’re not going to learn anything. They’re going to unlearn everything.
Plus, did you ever think your mom was deliberately trying to drive you crazy? Did you ever think that? Sally’s too far gone to even deny it. We’re late to church and she has to change her boots, but to do that she has to look at every boot in the house and wonder which ones are whose.
And you tell her she’s driving you crazy and she smiles happily. After all, driving my dad crazy has been her daily goal for more than fifty years. I’ve often said I would rather die alone in a rat-infested flophouse than spend 15 minutes in a relationship like theirs.
He was always expressing his deep devotion to her, but at bottom he felt the same way. They were one of these couples that kind of looked at you the third day you stayed with them with a look that said, “Please go away so we can bicker.”
Later on they bickered away regardless. I once worked out for two weeks at the gym and lost two pounds. Then I went up to their house in New Hampshire for the weekend, drank beer and ate my weight in cheese sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies and lost five pounds. Effective as that was for weight loss, please don’t ask me to do it again.
So now my dad and I look across the table with the three music boxes going, and I sing along with the unicorn: “In short there’s simply not/ A more congenial spot/ for happy ever aftering than here… in… Cam… ul… ott!”