When I saw that the subsidized apartments are all on long corridors, I got excited about the possibilities of a kind of aged college dorm or of my at least getting to have coffee with some cool people my age and older. Well, it turns out that chronically poor old people are not a lot of fun and no one really cares for me. It's disappointing and annoying that I'm so unpopular. No one here even knows that I'm funny, and I'm considered pretty humorous. Many have tragic tales of woe to relate and tend to step on all my punchlines. Hurts my vanity an embarrassing amount.
I was a screenwriter back in the day and wrote a lot of comedy and even got up the courage to do standup open mike several times, to laughter and even applause, which is a big big deal for someone who is agoraphobic and whose biggest fear is People. Not strangers so much. Strangers are often kind and, if they're not, who cares? I go everywhere with two ridiculous small service dogs so I tend to mostly meet other dog lovers, most of whom are pretty pleasant. Now it's Neighbors who scare me the most.
Typical conversation with one of my fellow residents:
Me: I'm so envious of your grandchildren. I don't have any kids that I know of (well, lovely stepkids but they are teens and not ready to reproduce) and would love to go straight to grandkids by finding a single Grandpa...Beat...(going for funny here) But I'm not sure what to do about it, stake out the zoo on the weekends...?
FR: The zoo's really expensive.
Me: (quietly)... lurk by the monkey cage?
Okay, so the holidays were lonely. The good friends who haven't dumped me for being a loser are in Hell Lay or back in Boston, and I was missing my late husband beyond words and feeling so angry at him for leaving me. So I did this incredibly idiotic thing and reached out to my mother, from whom I've been estranged for almost 20 years. I've been working on forgiving her for decades, for my soul's sake, and ridiculously naively thought that maybe there was some level on which we could connect now that I'm in my fifties and she's an octogenarian.
Now you have to understand that this woman is not your ordinary terrible mother. Lying, cheating and stealing have always been big on her list of favorite activities, along with telling me what a horrible failure I was even as Harvard acceptance letter arrived. God can be kind, when he's not too busy, and finally she went to prison for perjury for lying to a Grand Jury about paying bribes to building inspectors back when she was still a real estate developer/architect/riverboat gambler.
She kept insisting that it was a feminist issue and that's why the men did not get jail time while she did. Well, I was told by one of the lawyers involved that the men finally admitted that they paid the bribes and they got community service. My lovely mother kept lying to the bitter end which really pissed off the DA. She's never had any idea what the truth is. It's like: "Truth, meet my mother." "Mother, meet Truth."
I secretly felt that the Federal government had validated my my reality. I'm not a complete monster, so of course I cried and tried to get her on anti-depressants so she wouldn't completely fall apart. She was afraid of getting addicted, as someone who is arrogant and often deliberately ignorant. Plus she loathed my psychiatrist father and everything to do with his profession. Never any chance that she would get help for the narcissistic personality disorder.
I started calling her "Leona Helmsley in Polyester" and, more recently, the appellation became "Martha Stewart in Microfiber." She got three months in Lexington, Kentucky's federal medium security facility. I was so hoping that Squeaky Fromme was imprisoned there and that she'd come back talking about her friend Squeaky, but no dice.
Leona and I have been mostly estranged since I hit puberty, but she refused to help me, despite believing me, when I sued someone who abused me, for damages -- in fact she warned the person because she didn't want the public embarrassment -- so it's been pretty much cold Cold War the past two decades.
Leona was always a huge fan of opera. I was not. Then, recently, I bought "The Opera Album" which is kind of a compilation of the greatest hits of opera arias. And I rewatched the movie "Philadelphia" because I was feeling sorry for myself about the whole husband dying and getting a brain tumor thing, and I wanted to get my priorities straight. The scene where Tom Hanks is sick and emaciated and listening to and conducting opera in some reddish light got to me even more this time around. It really sunk in that opera is the music that truly expresses the heartbreak and angst of the bleakest and darkest hours of human existence.
So I decided to ask my mother for something very very simple, something that she couldn't really f--- up, so I could feel that she loved me a tiny tiny bit and maybe that might help me along on the forgiveness path. I emailed her and asked her to burn a couple of opera cds (she was one of the first to get on the computer bandwagon) for me since I now somewhat enjoyed it.
Two weeks later, she emailed back that she didn't have any cds -- she owned millions of dollars of property back a ways, but she was borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and the house of cards fell apart when she went to prison, so she's almost as poor as I am -- but she had her reel-to-reel tapes and would make me some cassettes.
Crap. I knew immediately that this was not going to turn out well. I reminded her that I love the sound quality of cds and that that is what I listen to. Made no difference at all. She said she needed a couple of days and then she'd send the tapes.
So several weeks later this large box arrived. I left it sitting there overnight because I just couldn't face it. The next day I reluctantly tore it open and it was worse than I had even imagined. She had sent me a tape player/recorder and some tiny speakers. The machine, of course, was useless, but the tapes, God, the tapes were something else. There were many many cassettes, old old old ones, without casings, and all labeled in teeny tiny handwriting that I couldn't decipher, even with my reading glasses. Leona had taped old old old reel-to-reel tape onto old old old tapes. I can't even describe the sound "quality". It was pretty much just scratch versus scratch.
I'm ashamed to say that I lost it. I lost it bigtime. ..
To Be Continued...
NOTES for Part Two: Opera's a sore subject from back when I was 10 and one of few Jews at a private school full of future debutantes. Leona served my "friends" and I a spaghetti dinner (my classmates had invited me to fancy meals with silver bells on the table and responding maids/butlers) and then dropped the girls and I off at the opera. It was Semiramedi with joan sutherland and marilyn horne. And, for some incomprehensible reason, my"mother" left us there. When she was the opera fan and we were 10!!!!! Then she forgot to pick us up and there we were, 4 or 5 ten-year-olds out on the streets of downtown Boston, in the winter. I wanted to fall through the sidewalk and never reappear. Eventually she must have come to pick us up, but by then I had died from mortification, boredom and the cold.
Talk about forgiveness a bit and about how you have to be very specific with God because he/she/it is very very busy. How my nickname is Teddy but God calls me Tedley, a mix of Teddy and Tetley tea, and I figure, close enough.