Saturday, February 22, 2014

Love is Blue

My mother’s mother was a saint. Oh she wasn’t beatified or anything, we couldn’t afford to bribe any Cardinals for that treatment, but she was almost perfect in every way, except for that one. I didn’t know about it ‘till later in life, perhaps even after she’d had a debilitating stroke and couldn’t have defended herself if she felt the need. But my mother told me about it, and I believe at least one of her sisters verified it. Gramma had a teeny weeny potty mouth.

I never heard it, but I wasn’t looking for a language other than my own, so it may well have wafted past my ears a hundred times for all I know. See, gramma was born to a second generation German man and Irish woman who lived in a town that was predominately German and Catholic. She spent her first 8 years of schooling, I’ve been told, attending a German language one roomer on the outskirts of Waconia; so obviously she was well versed in Deutsch Sprache. Just before she died I was taught a phrase in German to say to her, and was incredibly gratified that she not only knew what I was saying but she smiled in response; but until that time I had no idea that she’d spoken a different tongue. I’d always thought it was cute that she pronounced some words funny, like Thdee for three, but I pinned it on her age, not her ethnicity.

I realize this is a verbose “explanational” prelude for something that doesn’t even concern her specifically, but I’ll finish by saying my mother once related to me that her mother used to say Scheisse when things went wrong or in the throes of some frustration. Once my mother figured out her saintly mom was saying “shit”, she felt a lot more comfortable with her own swearing; and yet, in spite of her mental illness, in spite of her thinking my dad was the spawn of the devil, in spite of her losing her teeth at 30 and contracting emphysema at 32 and thinking her sisters hated her and on and on and on… she’d never once said a really, really bad swear word.

Yes she said damn here and there, and shit often enough, and asshole for my dad and sometimes she’d mutter son of a bitch, but she never got really vulgar; until I drove her to it. Fuck.

It wasn’t actually my fault. Not totally. I mean sure I used to say it around her because I was a badass teenager and that’s what we said. Later in life I did my best to control it in front of women cuz, you know, women… and stuff. I never said it in front of gramma, even though she said shit and I spose she’d have learned to live with it cuz we were both being sinners and I’d already been tossed out of first American Pope school so I probably wasn’t goin to heaven anyway; but still, she was gramma ya know? So no fucks in front of her. But mom?

I admit it did make me feel kinda oogy, and I didn’t do it for the longest time, but then one day it kinda slipped out and even though she looked at me in that “if I still could I’d whip your ass” kinda way, the taboo had been broken and my fuckishness was set free.

Now I didn’t use it all the time. It’s taken me 50 years to perfect the fuck being every fifth word vocabulary, back then I only used it as intended; for things that could be described in no other fashion. Yet mom and I had many a conversation as she only slept a few hours at a time because of her COPD cough and I was up all hours because I loved the legal and illegal substances so in the aggregate I probably said the word fuck in front of her a dozen times a day. Luckily, I think, she was so wrapped up in her own fantasy world she barely heard a word I said so to her, it must have seemed like I only said fuck a few times a day, and a few times could be forgiven.

I was always kind of amazed really; she was a woman who had every reason to swear like a sailor, her life was, in her mother’s favorite naughty word, shit, for the most part. I thought it was cool that my mom kept to her Catholic upbringing in spite of her seeing little green men sometimes, and avoided all that verbal sinning. But then the stations of the cross came tumbling down.

She’d had a particularly bad bout with brain lotto. She’d shown me where in the newspaper the columnist had written about my dad and his philandering ways, and according to the article not only did everyone on the planet know it, but so did Ronald Reagan! It said so “Right There!!!”  So for the next few weeks I kinda gritted my teeth and tried to stay out of the way and let things slide and ignore the weird shit and all that jazz. But then, I was on the phone, talking to this girl… understand, me talking to a girl was an event that rarely happened unless it was a friend whose pregnancy had reached the expulsion stage and I had to fill in for the father, whoever it might have been, in the labor room. No, this time it was an actual chick who thought I was like a normal guy and while I realize that’s awkward on its face it became even more awkward when my mom yelled out and toward the phone “Is that another one of those whores you got pregnant?” like she actually thought I’d gotten anyone pregnant and if so it must have been a “whore”, whatever that was in her mind.

Well gosh, let me tell you I wasn’t thrilled and if my gramma wasn’t standing right there, having come over to help since my mom was on a tear and dad was hiding out at his folks, well I might have gone postal. But as I couldn’t go postal in front of the woman who thought I’d be the Pope one day I just stomped out of the house and made a mess as I went, which I immediately felt bad for since I knew gramma would have to clean it up cuz mom would just sit at the kitchen table and stare at the mess while thinking about my dad in a porn movie he was making with Ronald Reagan.

It was the second time that happened that put me over the edge and changed my world forever. I was dumb enough to answer the phone one day, at least a week after the first time the phone had conspired to make sure I’d never have a girlfriend, when I was talking to another girl, a different girl than the first one although a friend of hers who was told by the first girl to stay away from me cuz me and my family were really crazy. And as I’m on the phone with this girl making kinda phone goo goo eyes like one does, forgetting all about the fact that our only phone was in the kitchen which was the lair of the beast and eventually she showed up all cranky like and while she didn’t point out any other stories about my dad or any presidential porn proclivity she did start shouting at me something about my being an ass and if that’s a girl on the line she must be a you know what and the girl started talking gibberish like she could hear what was going on and she just wanted to pretend our connection didn’t exist and I finally hung up cuz there was no point, this relationship was going to the same nowhere all the other ones had and I shouted “FUCK YOU MOM, JUST FUCK YOU!” and she stood there for a minute all stunned like and then she got right in my face and shouted “FUCK YOU TOO!”

I slipped in and out of reality. My mom had just said fuck for the first time. A few years later a song on the radio would remind her of a time she experienced and while I was driving her downtown to shop she told me that she and my dad had once “done it” in a rocking chair…. so this wasn’t the only time in my life that my mother had made my head swivel 360 degrees… but it was the first.

I looked at her, my eyes wide, and she kinda smiled a little, like with just the corners of her mouth. I was pissed beyond belief but I admit I was also a little bemused. I said “did you just say fuck you?” She stared at me for what seemed one full gestation and delivery, and then she kinda giggled and said “Yea. I did didn’t I.”

I said “do you even know what that means?” And she said “I’m not stupid. Fuck you. Fuck fuck fuck!”.

We both laughed; that uncomfortable laugh when you’d really rather kick the snot out of someone at least metaphorically but you can’t because it was pretty damned funny and all the strength gets sapped out of your hatred and you just stand there and kinda giggle.

“Don’t do that to me again mom. I don’t speak to whores, don’t call my friends names. If you’re mad at me fine, but don’t crap on them.” She said she was sorry, kinda mutter like, and then went back to her cigarettes and coffee and doodling a bajillion little triangles, and I went outside and smoked a pack at once and swore to GOD I’d never forget to never ever take a call at my parent’s house, which I forgot within minutes of course.

To my recollection, she never said fuck again. She said shit a million times. She was her mother’s daughter after all. But I had moved out before her next serious episode and while she was on planet earth she loved me just fine and never thought my friends were whores, though she never did like Denny Barnes, but that’s another story.

I’ve felt a little guilty over the years, that it was me that made my poor dear mom say the f-bomb. As she was a believer and surely went to heaven I’ve no doubt that her saying fuck led to a few years in purgatory, and it was all my fault she suffered. At least I am relatively secure in the knowledge that I am to blame for nearly everything, so even though it’s my mom we’re talkin about here, my baggage concerning her is just another log on the fire, so to speak.

I miss mom. I’d even love it if she showed up for a minute and all she said to me was “fuck you”. Cuz I’d know exactly what she meant by it.

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