Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

My mom had a garage sale last weekend which I was only vaguely aware of. That's one of the joys of living 350 miles away. However, that joy is slightly dampened with the guilt I feel about my sister having to deal with our aging nutso parents. My sister, Shamayn, has a disabled husband and 2 disabled children so the last thing she needs is parent drama. Unfortunately, she gets it anyway. It can be very frustrating in the moment but from 350 miles away parent drama can be relatively entertaining. Don't tell Mayn I said that.

When I talked to Mom she said she was putting some stuff in her sister's garage sale so I though that was the plan. Oh, and when I say "talked" I mean texted. We don't talk. Ever. Which is why we get along so well now. I didn't realize that somewhere along the line the plans changed and Mom ended up having her own sale. It didn't matter to me, I'm far enough away that I might as well be on another planet, which is another reason why our relationship has improved.

My only involvement in the garage sale process was to help my mother price some of the items which she felt had a value equivalent to that of The Holy Grail. When she first asked I suggested she use the same pricing structure that my genius friend Melanie uses. She doesn't price anything at her garage sales. She tells people to get what they want, bring it to her and together they will come up with a price that everyone agrees on. I think that's brilliant, especially if your goal is to get rid of stuff.

Mom didn't like that idea, I think because it was too easy. Instead, she asked me to troll eBay to find out how much she could get for her collection of Avon soaps, whiskey decanters from the 70s and some Madame Alexander dolls with missing limbs.  I told her that if she can find someone who collects disabled Madame Alexander dolls, she could probably get $10 for her collection. Otherwise they're worth $.25. Evidently Mom failed to hear the sarcasm in my typing. I should have reminded her that stuff is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. At a garage sale they're willing to pay a quarter.

Since that was my only contribution to the garage sale I sort of forgot about it until Shamayn called and asked if I was ready to hear about her weekend in hell. I figure since she has to saddle all of the responsibility for our parents, the least I can do is pretend to listen intently while she vents about them.

Shamayn told Mom she couldn't be at the sale on Saturday and since it was Friday she figured Mom had everything under control. We sometimes delude ourselves and forget that nothing is ever easy when it comes to our mother. The simple act of getting out of bed is a dramatic event of migraine inducing proportions for the woman. If she has to do more than sit in her chair and breathe, she freaks out and spews freak out on everyone around her. I love my mom, I really do, but this is just the reality of her.

At 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon Mom called Shamayn to ask if Mike, Mayn's husband, could go to the rental place to pick up the tables she rented for Saturday's sale. Who rents tables for a garage sale?! My mother does. And she waits until the last possible minute to ask someone to pick them up (and pay for them!) for her.

That's about par for the Course of Mom so Mike picked up the tables and all was well until around 7 p.m. when Mom called again. This time she told Shamayn she needed her to go buy some balloons and posterboard. No, she did not ask Shamayn if she would do this favor for her, she merely stated what she needed done and expected Mayn to do it. And she did. We've been brainwashed trained.

My mother is living breathing castor oil. Experience has taught us that it's easier to just hold our breath, do what she says and get it over with as quickly as possible. Arguing, refusing, complaining, suggesting an alternative or any other spoken words on our part would only result in a hysterical fit that would last for days and would only end after we admitted our mistake. Mayn took the castor oil.

Considering the timing and since it was just for a garage sale, Shamayn wasn't willing to put a whole lot of effort into the task. Mom specifically requested red and white helium balloons and past experience has taught us that showing up with any other color would be a killing offense. Mayn knew she could probably get everything at the Dollar Tree. They were out of white posterboard so she had to get red, thinking that since it was within the designated color scheme it would be okay. They didn't have regular red and white balloons but they did have the bigger mylar ones which are fancier so that's what she got. They were the right color, just not the type of balloon Mom was expecting.

When she got back to Mom's house Mayn caught holy hell for not getting the right kind of balloons or the right color of posterboard. Mom carried on as if the entire garage sale was now completely ruined and it was all Mayn's fault. This was traumatizing when we were children but now that we're grown (and certifiably insane because of it) we tend to roll our eyes and shrug it off as best we can. Mayn told Mom that this is what the store had so this is what she's getting and will have to make the best of it.

Mom told (not asked) Mayn to make a sign for the Avon soaps. Because they need their own special sign. Shamayn wrote out the sign then had to listen to Mom complain about how no one could read it on the red posterboard. If Shamayn had showed up with a custom built 10 foot neon sign for the Avon soaps, Mom would still have been pissed because it wasn't the white posterboard that she wanted. She then told Mayn to make more unreadable signs to put in the neighborhood.

When that was done she instructed Shamayn to have Mike put the signs out before 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. Mom looked at each sign and told Shamayn where she wanted each one (they were all the same) to go. She said, "Put this one at the end of the driveway. Put this one in the ditch at Doug's old house. Don't put it in the yard or the new owner will get mad. Put this one at the curve by the entrance. Make sure it's facing the right way so people can see it."

Then she handed Shamayn some stakes and a handful of screws with instructions to use these specific screws...don't use nails or staples. She said, "Put the screws here, here and here...not here."

Then she grabbed the balloons and said, "Put a white balloon with this sign, a red one with this sign, a white one here...".

To appease our mother, Shamayn wrote instructions for Mike on the back of each sign, "Put this f***ing sign in the yard. Put this f***ing sign at Doug's old house. Put this f***ing sign wherever the hell you want to." Those little passive/aggressive gems bring us such joy.

Shamayn reminded Mom that she would NOT be there tomorrow to help with the sale then she went home, took a handful of Ativan and went to bed.

At 6 a.m. on Saturday morning Mike got up, drove over to my mother's neighborhood and put out all the signs. At 7 a.m. Shamayn's phone rang and when she picked it up she heard, "HE FORGOT THE BALLOONS!!  MIKE FORGOT THE BALLOONS!!!! NO ONE WILL SEE THE SIGNS WITHOUT BALLOONS!!" Oh my gosh, the world had come to an end. Mike forgot to put balloons out with the garage sale signs. Actually Mike didn't forget, Shamayn forgot to give them to him which was probably a subconscious act of passive/aggressive rebellion. Shamayn assured Mom that she could still have a profitable garage sale without balloons but she knew that if Mom didn't make what she was expecting, it would forever be Mike's fault for forgetting the balloons. I have a vision in my head of us sitting around the dinner table at Christmas and Mom says, "Well, I'm sorry we only have a 16 pound turkey this year but it's all I could afford since Mike forgot the balloons."

Before she hung up Mom said, "You're coming to help later today right?" Shamayn reminded her, again, that she was not going and she didn't go. Good for her!

Evidently Mom was pleased with the outcome of her sale despite the big balloon fiasco. She didn't sell very many of the hundreds of hotel soaps she had collected and priced at $.10 each. She literally put a $.10 price tag on each and every little bar of soap. Bless her heart.

That's half of the crazy I was raised by. Yesterday I was reminded that you can't be raised by that kind of crazy and not be affected in some way. I was having a text conversation with my mother when I guess I accidentally called her while I was carrying my phone downstairs. Those touch screens can be so sensitive. When I looked down at the phone and saw that it was dialing I knew I was screwed because even if I hung up really fast she would see the caller i.d. and call me right back. Dammit, I had to talk to her.

We had a pleasant conversation mostly about the decluttering my mother is doing now that she's retired. She found a piece of paper that I wrote 20 years ago and she kept. I don't remember it but apparently I was going out of town for a weekend and leaving Taylor overnight with my mother for the first time. Taylor wasn't a year old yet and it was probably the first time I'd left her overnight anywhere. The paper was the instructions I wrote for Mom which she read to me:

"When Taylor wakes up in the morning give her a bottle and some cereal. Sometimes she eats lots of cereal and won't take her bottle but sometimes she just wants the bottle and not so much cereal. Either way is okay. She'll take a short nap in the morning and when you lay her down she should go right to sleep. If she doesn't just pat her back for a minute. Close the door because she's very sound sensitive....And put this one in the ditch at Doug's old house, but not in the yard. And put the screws here, here and here but not here....."


Cheryl said...

oh my goodness.... funny and sad at the same time! I can honestly say that I now appreciate my mother a lot more lol

Shannon Green said...

Cheryl you should give your mom a hug as soon as you possibly can!