Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Car

When I was in high school, my parents bought me a car.  My mother had always complained that my brother's insurance didn't allow her to drive his car, so when she started talking about driving mine, I asked her if the insurance on it covered her.  After all, I was new to both driving and insurance.  I had no idea how this stuff worked, but I wanted to make sure I was doing everything right.  I guess my mother misunderstood my question because she promptly told my grandparents that her ungrateful daughter wouldn't let her drive the car SHE had bought for her.  Every time she met someone new (I know this must be hyperbole, but it certainly seemed like every time -- it certainly wasn't confined to relevant situations), she told them about how I wouldn't allow her to drive my car.  A car SHE had paid for!  A teenager didn't trust HER with a car! 

I should mention here that my mother did have a history of what might be called reckless driving and was close to losing her license on account of how many speeding tickets she had and how many accidents she had caused.  So she was more than a little defensive when she thought I fancied myself a superior driver.  The frustrating part for me was that, on the occasions when I tried to explain to her audience what I had been referring to about the insurance coverage, she just talked over me. 

For the next few years, every time we got together with my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins for holidays, she would pull this story out of her repertoire and tell it again.  Her indignation at not being trusted with my car got her worked up every time. 

I finally stopped hearing her complaint at not being trusted with my car when she drove it while on Ambien, fell asleep at the wheel, and rolled the car into a shallow ravine of some sort, totaling it.  (P.S. She called me afterward and told me I was responsible for paying several thousand dollars to have the car fixed because it was "my car."  I ignored most of the things wrong with that claim and instead reminded her how she hadn't wanted my name on the title and so it was not legally mine at all.)

Heart Attack

One evening when I was home from college for the holidays and talking with my boyfriend on the phone, my mother burst into my room and announced she was "having a heart attack and just thought [I] ought to know."  I told my boyfriend I had to go and hung up the phone.  Being completely honest, I didn't think she was having a heart attack, but I did know that whatever was going on required my attention.  Her tone and choice of words had told me that.

I dug out a little bottle of low-dose aspirin and told her to chew one up.  I had read that chewing aspirin during a heart attack can help.  I figured even she knew she wasn't really having a heart attack when she declined on the grounds that "it'll taste bad."  Then she calmly dialed 911 and informed them that she needed an ambulance (the first of many times she did this over the years), and I watched, feeling helpless and wondering if it was my fault she was doing all this, because I'd been on the phone with my boyfriend instead of talking to her, or if there was another reason I didn't know about.  I was 99% certain she was physically fine -- not even having an anxiety attack, let alone a heart attack -- because the ways she behaved when something was actually wrong and when she just wanted attention were distinctly different.  But I knew even if she was 100% fine and someone convinced her not to call an ambulance, she would talk for months to everyone she met about how she wasn't even allowed to go to the hospital when she was having a heart attack.  Heartless daughter, ice water in her veins, etc. -- the usual spiel.  I feigned being supportive out of lack of better ideas.

I followed the ambulance to the hospital in my car.  My mother had canceled our family's health insurance plan about a decade earlier because "they don't cover anything anyway" and "that money could be going toward something else."  A few hours and over $19,000 in medical bills later, the doctor informed us that my mother had not had a heart attack and was, in fact, healthy as a horse.  He asked what she had eaten recently and diagnosed her with indigestion, a side effect of having eaten Taco Bell after 9pm. 

Dad Is Dying

Nine years ago, after I graduated from college and was officially living on my own, my mother told me I should come home for Thanksgiving because "Dad's not doing so great, and if you want to see him, this may be your last chance."  When I got home and realized my dad wasn't actually dying, I asked her why she had said he was.  She explained, "I wanted to see you!"  I don't know why she didn't try saying that first.

A couple holidays later she lied about my grandmother dying, but I knew what was going on by then.