My mom was out of town last week, heading first to Sarasota and then to Atlanta to visit with Leslie and the kids. While she was gone, I’d set aside two nights to eat dinner with my dad. But work got the best of me and I had to cancel on him both times. He felt badly. Not that he was stood up by his daughter but that his daughter was working through pretty much every meal. Luckily, the other dinner plans he’d made in my mom’s absence pulled through. On Friday morning, I plopped into the chair across from his desk to have a quick pow-wow.
“I’ve got three minutes to spare. How was last night?” I asked.
“I met Mike at The Grill. He’s a good guy. Sad childhood, though. He mentioned his mother never once complimented him as a kid. That’s so sad.”
“Wait, mom raised him too???”
It’s a known fact my mother is heavy on the criticism and light on the compliments. Correction, she’s light on the compliments with her own children. Other people’s kids always impress her. She’ll clip the wedding announcements from the Jewish Exponent and send them into work with my dad so I can see who’s making it down the aisle when I’ve yet to figure out where the aisle is. Or she’ll drop little blippets that so-and-so is an oral surgeon or so-and-so just graduated with a Masters from Columbia. Blah blah blah.
The day my mother was scheduled to return home from her Southern journey, my phone rang at the office.
“I just dropped mom at the airport,” Leslie announced.
“We don’t want her. Dad and I took a vote and we unanimously decided you should keep her.”
“Yeah, well, too bad. I’ve had my fill. She’s great with the kids but seriously, yesterday I took a bite of a cupcake and she said something like ‘you don’t really want to eat that do you’ while pointing to my stomach.”
“Um, you’re a size four,” I reminded my sister.
“Yeah but I still have that post-prego-pooch,” Leslie said with a sigh.
“Listen, first of all, she’s a size ten and has no right to tell anyone to lose weight. Second of all, if she utters even the slightest peep of criticism to me in the next seventy two hours, I’m pretty much telling her to fuck off. I’m too stressed to deal with her shit. The other day I told her how I’d worked an eighty hour week and she said something like ‘work isn’t always easy’ as if I otherwise spend my office time reading Cosmo and painting my nails.”
“Wait, that isn’t what you do all day at the office?” Leslie joked.
“Okay, yeah, you’re right. Dad hired me because I’m too retarded to be hired by anyone else. And I’m overpaid and clearly do nothing with my time. Do you know she didn’t say one thing about my volunteering again in Texas? Oh wait, she criticized me for spending my own money to travel back there. I have two jobs and have repeatedly volunteered with three non-profits this year. She’s never volunteered for anything. In her life. Nor has she ever written you or me a thank you note for any of the gifts we’ve given her.”
“That’s because she returns them all,” Leslie pointed out.
“This year I’m giving her cash for Chanukah. I’d give her therapy but according to her, she doesn’t need it. Oy. As much as I’d love to hash up all of the childhood drama that led to $6,000 worth of counseling,” my voice trailed off. “Christ, for what I’ve spent to straighten out my head I could’ve had that Roadster already. Jesus. I just don’t get it. Compliments are free. They cost nothing. And yet she hoards them like they’re worth a gazillion dollars,” I let out a sigh before continuing on. “Anyway, I have a ton of spreadsheets to do.”
“Go work. But PJ, don’t listen to her. I know you work really hard and so does dad. And we’re both really proud of everything you do. You’re really special. And I don’t mean in a Special Ed kinda way.”
“That’s sweet, I think. And you look great, by the way. Seriously. You’re beautiful.”