Thursday, August 16, 2012

Race. Relations.

I am never, ever going to take my mother to the eye doctor again. Never again in this lifetime or another.
No. It will not happen.
They have a bus at the Assisted Living Place and they can take her. Her social worker who is a GOOD woman can go with her. She has no history with my mother, she doesn't care what my mother says or does. It does not reflect on her.

Oh my mother.

She has been remarkably free of overt racial prejudice her entire life. She was raised in the south but her parents were stone cold Yankees and did not gift her with a tradition of bigotry in her upbringing. However, she WAS raised in the south and she DID observe how everyone acted and I am sure she couldn't help but internalize much of what she was immersed in. It's hard to explain. She was all for integration and she never made a big deal of me having black friends, even the male ones but it was like she always bent over backwards to prove her non-prejudice, even as she gave the maid our old clothes and truly believed she was doing them a huge favor. You know?

Maybe you do. Maybe you don't.

So now Mother is old. She is very old and she has dementia and she can't remember shit and she also has macular degeneration but was fortunate enough to find a very good doctor who, with a new treatment, has been able to stave off blindness for a very long time.
And this doctor is black. He's from South Africa or somewhere. I don't know. Somewhere in Africa. And she is so proud of the fact that she goes to a black doctor without prejudice. And to prove this, she never shuts the fuck up about it.

It started on the way to the doctor's office when she began discussing how everyone who works in this doctor's office is black. I tried to nip that shit in the bud right there in the car.
"Mom! Let's just not bring color into it at all today, okay?"
"Of course!" she said.


We get to the office early, right before everyone has come back from lunch. We sit down in front of the huge wall-mounted flatscreen TV on which a soap opera is playing. There is one other lady in the waiting room. She is black. Mother begins.
"I watched a lot of that stuff that was just on TV."
"The olympics?"
"Yes. I love the swimming. I especially loved that little black girl who did so well."

Okay. Wait. I think maybe she was confusing the gymnast with a swimmer. Gabby Douglas? I don't know. I didn't watch the Olympics.

"You just don't see too many of them swimming. It's unusual."

Oh god. Oh god. Shut up, Mother. Just shut up.

I look at her wild-eyed and say, "The beautiful thing about the Olympics is that people of all colors from all over the world do all sorts of things."

"Of course," she says.

I want to disappear.

It continued. She stated that she thought it was wonderful how the entire staff was black. Again. She tried to start a conversation about the woman whom she so intensely dislikes at her table at the home who is always displaying her prejudice. She was going to get into it right there in the waiting room with examples of how prejudiced the woman is, thus proving how UN-prejudiced she is. I know it because I have heard all of it before. Over and over again.
I did manage to nip that one in the bud.

So the social worker can take her next time. And I do realize that everything my mother says pretty much annoys me. That's just the way it is. I would apologize for it but unless I become a completely blissed-out, enlightened being this is not going to change. I think that a lot of my annoyance in this particular situation comes from the fact that there was so much difference in my growing-up household in what was SAID and in what was actually going on.
This seems to me to be just an extension of that behavior. I am not saying that in her heart, my mother is a bigot. I am just saying that she is, well, a product of her environment and age and as such, she is not nearly as forward-thinking as she believes she is.

She showed me a bruise on her arm today.
"This is the fingerprint of a black man," she said.
"I fell and the man mopping the floor tried to catch me and he lifted me right up, right over his head!"

Oh my.

"It was my fault. I shouldn't have walked on a slippery, wet floor. Well, it wasn't my fault. It was the fault of the girl who didn't bring me my yogurt to eat with my pills so I had to go get it myself."

The girl.

And I do realize that this is not really a problem with my mother. It is a problem with me.
I know that.

Ah, hell. Maybe I'll become a blissed-out, enlightened being and none of this will bother me.
And maybe pigs (yes! back to pigs!) will start flyin' out my butt.

Which means that I'm just as set in my ways and attitudes as she is and I know it. At least there's that- I know it and I admit it. Which isn't much to be proud of.

Imperfectly yours...Ms. Moon


  1. Ah Ms Moon what a wonderful post, about the difference between what is said and what is implied. Your mother sounds as though she can't help herself, and perhaps in some ways se can't, but that's no excuse. I'd leave her to the social worker. The social worker is less likely to fee the impact of your mother's prejudice. At least and hopefully, it should not get under the SW's sin, as it does yours, as it would mine.

  2. Terrible typos above, please read:

    Ah Ms Moon what a wonderful post, about the difference between what is said and what is implied. Your mother sounds as though she can't help herself, and perhaps in some ways she can't, but that's no excuse. I'd leave her to the social worker. The social worker is less likely to feel the impact of your mother's prejudice. At least and hopefully, it should not get under the SW's skin, as it does yours, as it would mine.

  3. I think your children will certainly look forward to squiring you around when you're ancient, and you'll be talking about pigs and butts and BB King being your daddy and Keith Richards your one true love.

    I love you, you know?

  4. My mother says excruciatingly un-prejudiced things all the time about blacks and Jews and other races and ethnicities.

    Nothing derogatory at all.

    Those blacks sure can dance.

    Jews can be such really nice people.

    (East) Indian women are so beautiful.

    I think it was the age they grew up in. Prejudice was rampant - it was forward thinking that blacks and Jews could be in movies and people liked them - they weren't so bad after all. So really, if you didn't hate them all right off, you were a pretty liberal person. I know it's embarrassing to us, but they really didn't get the same kind of exposure as we do today. Yes, your mother was raised in the South but it was THAT South - back then.
    I really don't blame you for letting the social worker take her though.

  5. Oh that right made me laugh, thanks, I needed a laugh.
    My Mum is just the same in England, but without the dementia . . . just naturally without filter. Cringe-worthy.

  6. Oh, i have to admit I laughed even though I know you were cringing. Don't worry about your mom. She has age on her side. No one's going to get too offended. And can I say, I love love love what Sophie's wry mom said in her comment above!

    PS thank you for liberating me of ever again having to type those little verification numbers.

  7. Elisabeth- It is so very hard to deal with, the way she talks. Sometimes she discusses people's weight. I should consider myself lucky that today she restricted herself to race.

    Elizabeth- God. I'd just as soon die before they have to start hauling my old demented ass around. I mean it. I love you too.

    Jeannie- Oh yes. It's exactly that. But it still makes me want to disappear into the ether.

    Bugerlugs- I know it is a parent's job to embarrass the child but I pray that I do not embarrass mine in quite such a way.

    Angella- No. I think that the lady in the waiting room when Mother started in about the swimmer was probably thinking, "Just shut up, you old cracker you." I swear. I could read her mind.
    I'm having more and more trouble reading the VWs. And that's without the numbers. Sometimes I get them wrong two or three times. It is maddening.
    I have been thinking about you, hoping you are okay. I know this must be a difficult time for you and I long to wish you comfort.

  8. I can so relate to everything you wrote. My mother was the same way. And I HATED it. And it embarrassed me even though I am a separate being. And I hope I die too before someone has to "haul my demented ass around." :) I too laughed at Elizabeth's comment as she's right -- we have our own stuff. Remember when you made the most appropriate comment ever about Gibson lusting at the woman's boobs in the supermarket and Lily got so embarrassed and all of us of this certain age group were "right on Ms. Moon?" Totally not the same but the same in a different way -- if you get what I mean... S. Jo

  9. God, Mary. Let the social worker take her. It's okay. I work with people like this, who don't have the excuse of old age or dementia (and if it makes you feel any better, my grandma, when she was in her 90s before she died, and rife with dementia or the DTs or something, morphed from the docile, ladylike Catholic lady of my youth to a raging lunatic. She pointed out EVERYONE'S race. She pointed out everyone's sexuality. She drew her eyebrows in red lipstick. It was funny to me only because I lived 150 miles away; to my aunt, her daughter, it was a trial. My southern Grandma, however, who never had dementia, never had an issue with using racial slurs even while attempting to tell us she WAS NOT PREDJUDICED. Except against Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Italians (um, me), lesbians, feminists, etc.

    I told Grandma Sara, my namesake, once that if she said one more awful thing I'd tie her to the Christmas tree and throw her into the fireplace. She laughed and said "well, that's why you were named after me. You've got to be a bitch to get ahead in this world."

    Maybe just not a racist bitch.

  10. Lordy mercy MM. What a day!! I get it. My grandmother was like that. To a t.

  11. S. Jo- Jeez. I had already forgotten that! My demented ass is already being hauled around!

    Sara- Haha! "Just not a racist bitch!" Truly!

    SJ- It's just so very complex, isn't it?

  12. Oh hell. Taking care of my mother will be interesting- if she ever gets dementia, watch the fuck out.

  13. Let me know if the pigs start flying out of your butt. I definitely want a front row seat for that show! :-)

    I know what you mean though... my parents were exactly like that too. Almost Maude-like in there UN prejudices. Right on Maude!

  14. She's definitely overcompensating, but at least she's overcompensating in the right direction, if you know what I mean! I think Angella's right. Age is on her side. People will forgive her comments, as they should given her dementia.

    That being said, I don't think there's anything wrong with letting the social worker take her!

  15. Sounds like a good idea letting the social worker taking over, Ms. Moon. Hang in there as I have been there as well with a few older relatives, and sometimes you just wonder WTF? Are we even related? Take care, Ms. Moon.

  16. this is wild and true and wonderful in its way, wonderful in the thousand feelings and emotions that seep through and over and in it.

    It reminds me of my mother-in-law who had a thing about her Jewish eye doctor and never failed to remind me of how she had nothing against Jews, and her eye doctor was the proof. It never failed to rankle.

    I'm not a blessing woman, but god bless you.

    You know what's strange? We have two local doctors here, in two local but separate towns. One is a black South African, and the other (Chinese) is soon to be replaced by a white South African.
    My daughter says, hey, you'll have your own apartheid!

    Now here I go with the second attempt at the word verif. Why is it so hard to read BLogger????

    WOW! You want an experience and a half! Try the sound verification! It's unbelievable!

    Now I can't get the sound verif off!!!

    Help me....

    Oky will start all over again.

  17. My mother was the same and she would whisper loudly about something and all could hear. She would do this when she had an audience. I would change the subject as you did. I eventually let the staff from the assisted living place take her. It was easier.


Tell me, sweeties. Tell me what you think.