Before our lives changed four years ago, Mama had been making a weekly trip to see my Great Aunt for years. Tuesday was her day. My Great Aunt was a mother to her, and their visits were times that they both treasured. Occasionally one or the other of us children would go along, and after Daddy retired in 2003 he went sometimes, but mostly it was the two of them, visiting and taking on little projects around the house and yard. And then there were the lunches with the banana pudding as dessert. Whoa be the person who made them too late to get some of the one pan that was made daily at the Sidetracks restaurant.
Tuesdays were so ingrained that when I went to work full-time and Mama and Daddy kept Aub after school, Daddy arranged his schedule so he could leave work early on Tuesday and pick her up from school. Tuesday became their day too.
But four years ago, when Daddy’s undecipherable symptoms hit full force unexpectedly, he was admitted to the hospital. A week later he was moved to Emory where he stayed for over a month. During that time, Mama was by his side the whole time. The Tuesday visits were over for a while. One of the first things Mama did was worry about my great Aunt. She was in good health, but as often happens as the years go by, she was on many medications. Each week before Mama left, she went to the kitchen counter, pulled down the many bottles of medication and vitamins and set them up in the 14-section medicine caddies. Mama kept two completely set up in addition to the one for the current week–just in case she had to miss a week going down.
My great Aunt was a very bright woman, and since the death of her husband sixteen years before, very independent. She and Mama had their own ways worked out. So when I walked in that first week, scared and heartbroken over my Daddy, but determined to take this worry off of Mama’s list, I was a bit anxious. Just as I had suspected, my great Aunt was having none of that–she did NOT want me to set up her medicine. As she hadn’t done it in quite a while, I knew she was bluffing as she waved her hand at me, sitting in “her” chair, saying “Pshaw, I can do it. Don’t you worry about it. Come sit down and visit.”
Hmmmm. Face my great Aunt or my Mama? Who was I more willing to upset?
I sat for a few minutes and plotted and thought as we chatted about the weather and how Daddy was doing and so on. Aub looked over at me and we exchanged a look. I could tell she was interested to see how this was going to play out. I was too. Only I was the one who was risking making my aunt mad by going against her wishes. Finally Mama’s words–my “out” my whole life–came back to me.
“Look if you don’t want to do something, if you know you shouldn’t, whatever, just blame it on me. Say I won’t let you do it.”
I got up from the couch and squatted next to my aunt’s chair.
“Ummm, we’re gonna have to leave in a few minutes and get on back home, but before I go, I’m just going to get your meds set up for next week, okay?”
“No, I already told you, you don’t have to worry about that. I can do it later. You just sit here and visit until you have to leave.” She waved that hand again.
I was ready this time.
I looked down and sighed. I stared at my fingernails that were probably a disappointment to this beautiful and elegant lady in front of me. I sighed again. “But see, Mama asked me to do it. And she’s going to ask me later if I did. And when I tell her no, she’s gonna beat me but good. Please let me do it so she won’t beat me.”
A chuckle burst out unexpectedly. She took a deep breath, and laughed even harder. I had her.
“Well my gracious goodness, I certainly don’t want that on my conscience. I guess you’d better do it then. But I wish you wouldn’t worry about it.”
“No ma’am,” I said. “I’m not worried about it, but I am worried about that beatin’.”
She laughed again and took the “tea cup” from our Princess and “sipped” on her tea. “You go on ahead then. Do what you need to do.”
And our pattern was set. From then on, each week, she would tell me not to worry, I’d tell her I was more worried about my Mama and her wrath and that promised beating. And she would acquiesce. Done.
I am thankful for Mama’s willingness to take the fall, to be the bad guy for me all my life. If I was invited to do something that I really didn’t want to, that was my excuse. If someone gave me a hard time about not doing one thing or another, I’d just shrug and sigh, so “burdened” by my overprotective parents–“My Mama won’t let me.” If someone wondered why I was calling home or why I always did something a certain way, “Mama makes me.” I appreciate that so much. I still do it today. If I ma’am someone and they wave it away, I always reply, “No ma’am, I’m sorry. If I didn’t say ma’am to you my Mama (or my Granny) would come back and whoop me.” (And really, physical discipline was not as common around our house as one might think from listening to me carry on. But yeah, suffice to say, I don’t use my manners and act like I am somebody, one of them’s coming back to raise some kind of ruckus!)
I have told my children, especially my oldest, the same thing. “Blame it on me. You need an out, you got one.” Yes, I want them to be strong and stand on their own and for what they know is right, but sometimes it helps to play the “Mama said” card for reinforcement. After all, it works. It convinced my great Aunt to change her mind–and that was no easy feat. ” ‘Cause Mama said”…..that’s the universal language for “this is how it’s gonna be.”