Life as an Extreme Sport

Tuna Tuesday*: “Zeus, You’re Being Such a Butthead!”

One of the worst things you could tell me, when I was a teenager, was that we all grow up to become our parents. Actually, becoming my father wasn’t that bad an idea – my dad is funny, snarky, has a fantastically contagious laugh, and he made me the geek I am today.

But oh, becoming Mom? Full body shivers and complete denial. I would never become my mother. Ever. Over my dead body.

Thankfully, it didn’t take her dead body for me to realize that I am my mother’s child, as much as I am my father’s child. It was a slow revelation that crept up on my in my early 20s, as I made peace with my parents and the hormones and crankiness of the teen years flushed out of my system. Of course, being difficult, I noticed the negative traits first. Anyone who has ever noticed that I can hold a grudge like it’s an Olympic sport did not meet my mother – she made me look like a rank amateur when it comes to grudges. (In fact, her entire side of the family really elevates it to an art form.) But slowly, I noticed more things: singing and dancing while cooking, loving to cook, being an adventurous eater, always sneaking in reading when possible, loving fields of flowers and the quiet moments of beauty that sneak up on us.

But as anyone can tell you, knowing you’re like your parents is entirely different than sounding like a parent.

Yesterday, I was taking some photos for a project when Zeus decided he needed to see what I was doing. He really needed to see what I was doing. And since I was using a repeating shutter in order to minimize blur, I got cat. I got a lot of cat.

And without even thinking of it, I heard myself saying “Zeus, you’re being such a butthead!” Zeus just tilted his head the other way, trying to figure out what the shiny thing in my hand was and if he could eat it, and I looked back at him, caught between horror and amusement: I sounded just like my mother when she was exasperated with my brother. I was never the recipient of “being a butthead” commentary, but oh, my brother and my uncles. The chorus of my childhood is filled with “stop being a butthead”, inevitably directed at one of the male members of our household.

It’s a phrase I haven’t heard in years, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I puzzled Zeus further by getting teary and then sweeping him up in a hug. The small things that we never think of so often seem to be the things that become woven into our being; I would have never selected that phrase as an intentional one to add to my repertoire of creatively expressing exasperation, but knowing it’s there gives me another thread to the woman I would have once been horrified to be compared to, and am now merely grateful that such comparison is possible.

* What do you mean, it’s Wednesday? The rule of the land is this: it becomes the next day when I have slept. Going on 40 hours awake, it’s still Tuesday for me. A very, very long Tuesday…

The Women [movie review]

For the last half a dozen years or so, women outnumbered men in my family home. Me, my sister, my mother, and my poor lonesome father. While there was the ex-husband for a while, and my brother when he was around or living there, it wasn’t at all uncommon for the three gals to override Dad on some movie choice, and he’d end up groaning through some Disneyesque chick flick. Granted, he had me, and when Lifetime or Oxygen got to be too much for even me, we’d disappear and watch football or science fiction and leave the kleenex and girly stuff to Mom and Trace.

Before Mom died, she took the two of us girls to see Menopause, the Musical. I think she knew, even then, even when she was on the first round of chemo, that she wasn’t going to make it. She said she wasn’t going to be there for us when we went through this. She had needed a hysterectomy a few years earlier, so she knew… and this was the best way she could really share with us. So we went to the musical, and we laughed and laughed, Mom sitting between us, holding our hands. Sharing knowing looks with my sister.

It was wonderful. It was shaded with sadness. In some ways it was the epitome of all those Hallmark, Lifetime, Oxygen movies, rented taped or watched live.

Laurie and I went to see The Women tonight. It was a funny and touching movie, about friends and family, the bonds women form. Best friends, mothers, daughters, grandmothers. And through the entire film, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was a movie I would have seen with my sister and my mother.

Mom would have loved it.

Father’s Day

Dad’s on the East Coast right now, although down south and not near my sister or me. He went to visit relatives in Mississippi, and prior to that spent time driving around Memphis. It was a trip down memory lane for him – going to the house Mom grew up in, the place where he first met her, a hotel they stayed at once, the place they shared their first kiss. Just an hour or so, driving around and remembering.

My heart breaks for him. For all my grief and loss, I simply can’t even begin to imagine what his must feel like.