Mamas, it seems, can be a sensitive bunch.
I don’t remember her being that way when I was younger, but she has become so in recent years.
She claims I am not as compassionate as I could be.
Case in point, she can’t hear most of the time.
I am not sure if it is because of her age that her hearing is declining or it’s because she and my uncle normally have the T.V. volume at some obnoxious level that can probably be heard five miles away.
“What did Cole eat after school?” she will ask.
“He ate two orders of fries,” I said.
She hears: “He was attacked by flies?”
“He ate two orders of fries.”
“No, Mama, he ate two large orders of fries. Fries. Fries!” I am practically yelling by this point, straining for her to hear me.
Mama takes it the other way. “I don’t
think you should talk to me that way,” she says, a tone of indignation creeping
into her voice.
“I was not talking to you any way. I was talking so you would hear me.”
“You were yelling.”
“Mama, I told you four times he had fries and you didn’t hear me. I had to practically yell, and I still don’t know if you heard me or not.”
She gives me the silent treatment for a few moments. She probably didn’t even hear what I said the last time.
“I am so sorry I cannot hear that well. I am 74 years old, my hearing may not be the best,” she said.
“Mama, you may need to get a hearing aid.”
“I am not getting a hearing aid,” she said. “I don’t need one. I am just not hearing as well. And this phone is not the best. I don’t like it. But you could be a bit nicer and more compassionate. You know, one day you will be old and may need some patience, too.”
I sighed. It wasn’t that I was impatient with her. I just felt like she needed to get her ears checked.
When did her hearing start to decline? Had it been around the time she started going a bit slower when she walked? The woman that worked two jobs after she retired– often getting off work at one job and sleeping a few hours before going into her next job – now found grocery shopping too tiring.
“Why do you get so angry when I can’t hear you?” she asked one day.
“I don’t get angry,” I replied. I don’t.
I get…I am not even sure what I get.
Sad, frustrated, scared – that’s what I get.
My Mama, the crazy redhead, was always able to hear every swear word under my breath as a teen and could live off coffee and nicotine for days. She was the one that would move the biggest mountain standing in the way between her Kitten and whatever I needed to do.
And now, I am fearful as age seems to be creeping up on her.
It scares me. It really does.
“You do get angry,” she insists. “You need to remember I am your mama and you shouldn’t get angry with me.”
I tried explaining I wasn’t angry again, but she had already decided I was. “Did you ever get angry at Granny?” I asked. When all else fails and you can’t win an argument, deflect.
Mama felt silent again.
“Well?” I pressed.
“I didn’t get angry with her; I got frustrated.”
“And, why was that?” I asked. Before I asked the question, I knew the answer.
Mama didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. Granny refused to get a hearing aid, doing the same Mama had done, and accused her of raising her voice because she wouldn’t hear.
“Didn’t she say you used to yell at her? Simply because she wouldn’t hear well. And you got so frustrated with her.” Hello pot, meet kettle.
“I had a reason; there was nothing wrong with that old woman’s hearing when she wanted to eavesdrop.”
True. Granny could hear a pin drop, or a bag of cookies open when she wanted to; the rest of the time, she exercised selective hearing and tuned us out.
Something I think Mama may do, too, though she denies it.
“You just need to remember one day, you will be old, and you will want Cole to be patient with you,” she said.
Right, I thought.
A few days later, Cole was trying to tell me something and I had to ask him to repeat himself.
As he walked away, I heard him take a deep sigh.
And so, it begins.