I think it was the day I found myself stomping through the house, declaring, “Who’s been using the steak knives to cut up cardboard boxes?” that I realized not only how much like my mother I’d become but how little I’d appreciated her as a kid.
Standing there, listening to myself, I flashed back about four decades. In my brain, a YouTube video unspooled in which my mother’s voice repeatedly came out of my mouth as I uttered to myself things that she’d said a thousand times in my youth.
“I’m sure there’s a reason every light in the basement is on!”
“Can you at least take your dishes to the kitchen and put them in the sink?”
“This garbage isn’t going to grow legs and walk out to the trash can!”
Apparently, with age truly does comes wisdom… or at least a bit of insight. Over the past few years, as I approached and then recently passed 50, I’ve come to realize that I inherited from my father his bald spot, bad back and the occasional melanoma. Also, my uncanny ability to always be right, even when I’m wrong.
But from my mother, I inherited my feistiness, my sense of humor, my love of gambling… and my ability to create — and then punish — my own monsters.
We all do it. Create our own monsters, I mean. Usually, it happens when we aren’t really paying attention and arises out of the best of intentions. We start getting up each day to make a pot of coffee for others despite not actually drinking it ourselves. We go to the grocery store and do the cooking and empty the dishwasher. We’re caregivers, and that’s what we do.
So we train those around us to not make the coffee, go to the store, do the cooking or empty the dishwasher. After all, those are our duties, and we bask in the glow of their appreciation, stated or otherwise.
But in an ironic twist, when we are feeling mad or unappreciated or just plain grumpy, we lash out at the monsters we created for doing (or not doing) exactly what we trained them to do (or not do). We pout and complain about how the dishes won’t wash themselves or the laundry needs folding… and, as expected, the monsters get confused, assume they’ve done something horribly wrong and attempt to get themselves out of trouble.
Which is, of course, impossible. If they help, they’ll do it wrong. They don’t know the right brands to buy or that the cups go on the left and the mugs go on the right. How could they? Still, they do their best, putting things where they think they go and, in doing so, give us the ultimate gift: They prove how needed we really are, because obviously, without us, the entire household — perhaps even the world — would fall apart.
My mom created three wonderful monsters in my father, my sister and myself. And while she has kept dad by her side these many years, she’s allowed my sister and I go to out into the world and create our own monsters, who in turn prove to us every day how loved and needed we really are, sometimes just by leaving on a light or forgetting to take out the trash.
As crazy as it may make my monsters, I’m forever grateful to my mom for making me the person that I am. The person who is driven to care for those around me, even if, in turn, it drives them a little bit bonkers. The person who gets a genuine, bizarre pleasure out of doing things for others. And the person who fully acknowledges and accepts that, on occasion, he’s just bat guano crazy.
Like most of the good things in my life, I get it from my mom.