I don’t remember the exact day. It crept up on me quite insidiously. But it happened just like I always knew it would. My mother became the child and I became my mother.
Although the metamorphosis has been taking place for some time, I only just realized it last week when my mother came to my house to have lunch.
She walked in the door and immediately made a beeline for the bathroom. She said four words to me – “I have to pee!” – and left me standing there, hoping she made it to the bathroom in time. I didn’t have any spare underwear for her and we’ve been out of diapers for 5 years.
She came out shaking her wet hands, flinging water hither and yon, and announced that there wasn’t a towel in the bathroom. I found myself thinking, “Well, at least she remembered to wash her hands.” I shook my head. Of course she washed her hands! This is my mother; the woman who said, “Wash your hands!” a bazillion times a day when I was a child.
Because it was nearly noon, I asked her if she was hungry and she answered just as my 8-year old would: “Yeah! What are we having?”
“Well, I have ham and salami and cheese and hard rolls…” as I emptied my refrigerator onto the kitchen table. “Salami?” she said, excited. “I haven’t had salami in forever!”
She grabbed the Ziploc baggie that held the salami and worked at it until she had mutilated the zipper. Then she handed it to me with a hopeful look in her eyes. “I can’t get it open.”
I managed to open it with a grapefruit knife. I had to caution her not to cut herself as she sliced her hard roll toward her hand instead of away, as she had taught me years ago. She proceeded to pile salami and cheese on to her hard roll. I raised an eyebrow at the amount of salami and cheese she had on it because she’s supposed to be watching her cholesterol.
“It’s just one time,” she said. “I don’t get salami and Muenster cheese very often.” “All right, but you’re only getting one sandwich,” I admonished, “and you have to eat some cantaloupe with it.”
When it came time to clear the table, she swiped another piece of Muenster cheese while I was bagging the remainder of the lettuce and tomato. She decided to make up for the purloined cheese by bringing things from the table for me to place in the refrigerator. The problem was that she’d brought a handful of ham in one fist; the baggie and her purloined piece of cheese in the other.
I looked at her as if she’d lost her mind. I took the ham and the baggie, put one inside the other and placed the package in my meat bin.
Everything she brought me from that point on had Muenster cheese slime on it. I had to wash the mayonnaise jar and the iced tea pitcher before I could put them away. The cheese baggie was the last item she brought.
Before she left, I asked her if she needed to use the bathroom again. She did. I told her to drive safely and stood in the doorway making sure she got out of my driveway without running over my cat.
I closed the door and wondered, once again, how this came to be… and when it will happen to my daughter.