Make My Mother Proud

I’ve mentioned that I’m rewriting the manuscript that I thought I had completed. Besides adding more about gerontology, I am digging deeper into the dichotomy between my bent for caring for older persons and my difficulty getting along with my own aging mother.

Living with Mom had never been easy. Being an only child of a narcissistic woman meant everything I did, or didn’t do, reflected on her self-worth. Back in my blue-collar Jersey City neighborhood in the early ‘60s, where most of my peers didn’t seek education beyond high school, the fact I had become a nurse was a gold star on my mother’s bib apron. I walked the three blocks to and from work at the city hospital in my white uniform, carrying my starched white cap, sometimes stopping to chat with neighbors and fend off questions about health issues.

Soon after I had graduated from nursing school, my mother and I were visiting a cousin. My cousin was much older than I. I had spent summers with her and her husband while growing up, escaping the hot city and my overbearing mother. We sat in the kitchen of her Levittown home drinking coffee and finishing off the last of her home made pineapple upside down cake.

“What should I do about all this drainage coming from Sugar’s ears?” my cousin asked me. My mother leaned back from the table waiting for me to expound on possible causes. She wanted me to know all and be an expert on everything so I could spout off advice and make her proud. She didn’t react when I claimed I didn’t know what was going on.

But later, as we drove home, she reprimanded me. “Why couldn’t you just tell her what was wrong with Sugar?”

“Mom,” I argued, “I know nothing about dogs.”images-1

Sugar was a Cocker Spaniel.

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