I’m irritated by people who tell me to pick them up at a certain time and aren’t ready to go when I get there. It’s almost as if they weren’t listening when they told me what time to be there. If they’re not ready to go, they should be subject to a public flogging. As soon as the second hand lands on the lie that they have given as the departure time, a team of highly trained floggers should jump out of closets and through windows to begin the flogging. It should be a retired team of Navy Seals or at the very least, catholic school nuns armed with rulers and yardsticks.
Those people seem to have no idea what a priority is. To them, a priority is just another way of saying, “I have things to do”. These things have no order of importance and really could be done tomorrow or whenever. For some reason, when they have somewhere to be, a list will pop up with everything on it they have meant to do for the last year. It will pop up in GLOWING RED letters telling them, when you are trying to get ready to go; NOW IS THE TIME TO DO THEM! Do them until your bath water is cold. Do them when you have five things in your hand and you’re ready to walk out the door. But good lord, just get them done. . . NOW!
This story about my mother is based on years of watching her get ready to go anywhere and everywhere. Growing up in a house with her, I assumed that it was the normal way a woman gets ready to go somewhere. As a teenage girl, trying to copy my mother’s process of getting ready was exhausting. I finally came to the conclusion that getting ready to go was not an all-day event. Rather it was something I could do in a matter of minutes to give myself more time to sleep before the school bus came. To say the least I was not the most put together teenager.
Listening to my dad prodding mom was brutal. Mom and Dad would fight about the time it took until we were all in the car. The car ride was filled with silence, or dad reliving the experience complete with a great impression of mom’s voice. That’s usually what broke the ice. Everyone would end up laughing, including Putzalina; a nickname dad had given mom.
Before I continue my rant about Mom, I am going to say that she is one of the most wonderful people you could ever befriend. She is kind, loving and a great listener. She is and has always been one of my best friends. This is why I am comfortable throwing her to the dogs on this issue. She is fully aware that I am going to pick her apart, throw her over burning hot coals on a white hot spit and serve her up to my readers. She’s okay with this and actually gives me more ammunition every time she becomes defensive.
With the help of my brother I’ll walk you through our personal hell of watching Mom get ready to go. Hell may be too strong of a word. But I swear at times I saw flames in the clock face, and heard from it a deep and foreboding laughter. You be the judge. (I’m sure it’s hell for her too when we’re watching and critiquing her every move.)
I arrived on the scene (Mom’s house), five hours early. I saw another car in the driveway. I didn’t know who it was, but I looked at the time and thought, “Oh good lord, company; were going to be late.”
Mom and I are members of a musical group that up until October 11th 2013, had nine members. My father passed away leaving a big hole on the stage. He was the driving force that got my mom moving. He was the only one who could get her any place on time. As well as playing harmonica, guitar, and singing, Dad was the one who set up the lights and sound. Mom is a singer. So even if he kept her on time, that meant he was still running late because he had to do set up two hours before we played. I picked her up whenever possible so Dad could leave on time. If we played in the right area, he could drop her off with the wife of another band member so she could get ready at their house. Now with him gone she is free to be herself. Herself never gets anywhere on time. Bless his heart. Now that Dad is gone I can see that he was a mountain of patience, gifted with the ability to make the impossibility of mom arriving on time happen regularly.
The company whom mom was entertaining was a longtime family friend. I automatically went into this state of mind: “How do I be friendly and yet push this guy out the door?” Like Dad used to say, “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?” I mentioned to him that we had to play at 4PM. Anyone who knows mom, knows that she needs an incredible amount of time to get ready; especially this guy. He was one of dad’s best friends who on more than one occasion caught an earful about Mom’s ritual for being late. So being a natural born comedian, he gets what I’m saying, but to amuse himself and watch me squirm, he overstayed and started more conversations, about nothing, than I have ever heard in my life. On his way out the door he hugs mom and then me. He whispered in my ear. “You only have three hours.” He started what sounded like a snicker but it turned into a full belly laugh. He finally left.
Okay, we were back in the game. She lit a cigarette. We still had three hours. . . It’s more than possible to get ready to go in three hours right? Wrong! Did I mention that my mom has nine cats? Yes nine! It all started with a stray cat that she named Kit. She somehow convinced herself that it would be easier to have a cat than a dog. She just missed the dogs too terribly much when they died. She didn’t want to potty train another dog either, so I think she was looking at the cat as the lesser of two evils. A cat was like an all in one pet.. It pees in a box, poops in a box and all you have to do is feed it. It’s self-cleaning and from what she had heard, self-entertaining. Low maintenance and something she wouldn’t have to give a lot of attention to.
Kit was not automatically admitted into the house. In fact, my dad went to great lengths to keep her from coming into the house. He even built her a cat condo on their deck. It’s amazing. Two stories, heated, a cat walk up to the second story and a play area below. I’m pretty sure it’s about five feet tall.
It didn’t take long before a stray tom cat started visiting the brothel on the deck. Mom named the little pimp Max. Surprise! Kit was pregnant. She of course was moved into the house so mom could supervise the birth. Kit had three kittens, Cora, Emmy, and Kozmo. My brother took Cora home and my mom Kept Emmy and Koz for house cats. Max being the player that he was didn’t take long to find another stray cat to move into the condo with him. Dad named her Nermal. Of course we already know what kind of cat Max is. He gets Nermal pregnant and takes off never to be seen again. Mom thinks he’s dead but I have my doubts. So now we had an abandoned expectant mother, and of course mom had to take one of the kittens of the litter into the house. She named her Squeak. Squeak was the fourth stray cat to enter the house. Mom likes to call them rescue cats, but really they’re just her scapegoats. (Side note…My mom has spent a lot of money making sure the other kittens and strays have had shots, been neutered /spayed and re-homed)
I can almost hear cat owners everywhere rolling their eyes. I am also a former cat owner (slave). There is no such thing as a low maintenance pet. To make a long story short four of them live in the house and the rest live in the cat condo. To be fair, it is the coolest cat house I’ve ever seen. Still, who needs nine cats? No matter what she’s doing she stops to pet the cats or just to watch them play. They are very lucky cats, but they are a very big distraction for her.
Okay, done playing with the cats. She had drawn her bath water before her company came over, so of course it was cold now. I don’t know why but she refuses to use the shower. Something about the water being in her face. She would drain the tub a few times and then run straight hot water until it was just the right temperature again. I thought to myself, “JUST TAKE A SHOWER!” So in more than twice the amount of time it would have taken to shower, she warmed her water, had another cigarette, and then finally got in the tub. It took her a half an hour to do all of this. She claimed it took five minutes but I counted from the time the bathroom door closed.
She had already laid out her clothes that morning. She did not dry off and put them on. She found her nightgown and put that on instead. My frustration was building. “Mom” I said. “Why are you wearing your pajamas?” She said, “I have to do my hair and make-up yet.” I said “yes, I know but, you don’t use any powders or hair spray so. . .” She just stared at me (while lighting another cigarette) and said, “Leave me alone I’m trying to get ready to go!” So I slunk off even more frustrated. I could also sense her growing frustration with me. Starting time was getting close now and I had begun to wonder if the band would be playing before we got there. I went back out to the kitchen and sat at the counter. I had mentioned the night gown thing to some friends thinking it could be a generational thing. I have found that some of those friends and their mothers also do this. So strange.
I knew she was back in her room debating over what to wear. If she had just worn what she had picked out the first time, it would have been fine. She’s a very sharp dresser and everything she wears looks great. What’s the big deal, you’re wondering? I know it seems silly, and most women do this, but you have to understand what a change of clothes could mean. Not only does it mean you change the outfit, but you must also change the jewelry. My mom owns everything AVON has made since 1979. Okay. I’m exaggerating. We did have a house fire in 1987 so she lost a few years’ worth of stuff. But still. . .
I’ve seen her peering into her jewelry box trying to decide what to wear. She goes into a trance-like state, and sounding like it’s coming from a distance, echoing through a cave, I hear a voice whisper. ”My precious.” (Ya, I’m pretty sure I just imagined that). After a few moments of searching she explodes with excitement when she finds just the right accessories. She has a cute little hopping type walk she does when she is pleased with herself. I love that.
The phone rang and I hung my head because I know my mom has a fear of answering the phone. . . EXCEPT when she’s getting ready to go somewhere. She didn’t hear it. Thank God I thought. Then she called to me, “Was that the phone?” I sigh and said “Yes it was the phone.” She came out of the hallway with her hair still wet and nothing I could see that looked like progress. She lit yet another cigarette. I was thinking she could have been ready half a pack ago.
She picked up the phone and said, “Oh, it was Ricky.” “Can you please call him and see what he needed?” So I did. He needed NOTHING! He was just checking to see if we were going to make it on time. Do these people know that calling to see if she is going to make it somewhere on time is the quickest way to be blamed for her being late? FYI to family and friends: Only call her after it’s time for her to be there. That way, it won’t be your fault that she is not there.
So she went back to the bathroom. Or so I thought. Apparently the next item on the agenda was picking out a watch. Five more minutes go by and it was now 3:20PM. Don’t forget, we had to be there by 4 PM and still had to drive fifteen minutes.
She came back out to the kitchen still in pajamas and wet hair, which had almost air dried at this point. I started to worry that she would have to re-wet her hair in order to blow dry it. She put on a black watch and proceeded to pick up her cell phone. I was just beside myself. I said “What are you doing?” She said “I didn’t want to wear the grey watch so I’m putting this one on.” I said, “I see that but do you have to do that right now?” She fired back, “I need to have it on so I know what time it is while I’m getting ready!” I shook my head in disbelief. We had this whole conversation while she had her phone held up to her wrist, setting the time on her watch like she was synchronizing for a covert mission. I said “Mom. You don’t need your watch to get ready. You just have to stop stopping. Just get ready until you’re ready. Then you’ll be ready!” She looks at me and while lighting another cigarette says. “Geez, it feels like your father is here!” So I just stopped, realizing that I was driving her crazy too. I continued to hurry up and wait.
It was by then 4PM. She came out of the room ready to go except now was doing all her last minute stuff. Moving things around the house, walking here and walking there doing things. I have no idea what all of these things were that couldn’t wait. I knew they were important to her and were some part of her routine. So I waited. I had the car started and loaded, all except for the things she likes to carry herself so that she knows where they are. We were just about ready to leave when she stopped! AGAIN! My hand was on the door. We were leaving; crossing the finish line. She looked at the cat dish and discovered it wasn’t full. There was still food in it. It just wasn’t full. She set everything down and fed the cats. It was amazing. My head did not explode as I thought it would, but in fact it deflated a little instead from the long sigh I released. I just simply stated, “Good thing you caught that. They might have all been dead by the time we get back.” Once again I received a dirty look that told me to shut up.
On the way to the gig it was just like none of it had ever happened. We talked about the upcoming night and life went on. I do however remember her making a comment about her nails. I don’t recall if it was the color of the polish or that she didn’t get to file them. Either way, no one noticed.
My brother is so much better at getting our mom moving than I am. For some reason we can both say the same thing, but it carries no weight when I say it. I don’t know if it’s the look he gives her, or how he says things, but he’s very convincing. She never tells him to shut up and never gives him dirty looks. She doesn’t tell him to quit; she just listens to what he has to say, and then takes his advice. I’m in awe each time I see it.
I have actually witnessed him being given a list of things that need to be done before we leave. He does whatever he can from the list. Sometimes the efforts are in vain. You can start the task but ultimately you may need mom’s help to finish. I see him standing there looking at something, then he hangs his head in defeat knowing he has to get help from mom. Then I hear him say, “Mom. . .”; in a defeated tone. In the end it goes more quickly to just let her do it herself.
I’m sure there is an underlying cause for this behavior. She’s never been diagnosed with ADHD. She claims that there is no problem and that it’s just us. Although anyone who has ever had the good fortune to witness this in action will see the same thing. She insists that there is just nothing she can do to change it. It’s just simply the way she does things and has done them for years.
I found an Adult Attention Deficit Disorder test online at psychcentral.com. I filled it out with the answers I thought were true about Mom. I had my brother fill one out with his observations of Mom and I had her fill one out also. After reviewing the scores, you’ll see why it’s so hard to get someone to admit they have ADHD . They don’t believe they have it because it’s normal to them. It’s been like this forever and obviously we’re exaggerating what we see.
This is the scale used to score ADHD on the Psych Central website. There are 2 subscales that make up the total score. The inattention (I) subscale and the Hyperactivity/Impulsivity (H/I) sub-scale.
34 & up is Adult ADHD
26-33 is Moderate ADHD
18-25 is possible ADHD
12-18 is Symptoms of ADHD
0-11 is No Symptoms of ADHD
The score I got for Mom was (I) 25, and (H/I) 9. This is a total of 34. So in my eyes I see ADHD.
The score my brother came up with was (I) 19 and the (H/I) was 13. This is a total of 32. The test asked a couple of questions about childhood and since he wasn’t there for mom’s childhood he wasn’t sure how to answer. On my test, I answered those questions with information from my grandmother.
My mom’s (I) score was 6 and her (H/I) was 1; for a grand total of 7. Well then, I guess it’s settled. . . we’re obviously exaggerating.
Since it’s been this way for so long, it’s not something we need an intervention for. We all have our own way of interacting with her. I show up early and prod her. I used to do what my brother does. He shows up early and tries knocking some of the things off of her list so she can concentrate on getting ready. What I’ve realized about this solution is that it doesn’t help. You have to go back to the beginning of the chapter. The list that pops up will include everything they have meant to do for the last year. No matter how early you show up, you will never get it all done. Also, if you do manage to get a task done, she’ll just add another to the list as soon as you cross off the completed task.
Don’t forget the fact that you will eventually need her help to start or complete a task. If you do have to ask for her help, a set of events start to unfold. You call her name. She’ll be frustrated because she is trying to get ready to go. When she comes out to help, you’ll have to start at the beginning and explain what you’ve done. Explain what stage of the assignment you are at, and then you have to ask the original question. She may or may not know the answer. If she doesn’t know the answer you’re back to square one: Let her do it herself. I find it much easier to just start at square one and sit there until she’s ready to go.
My mom is such a unique person. I wouldn’t change her if I could. Not to mention the fact that it would be easier to conquer quantum physics and string theory in order to build a time machine to keep her on time. I’ve watched every YouTube video I can get my hands on about time travel, quantum physics and string theory, and I am still no closer to building a time machine. I am pretty sure that if I did build one and managed to get her out of the house on time, we would step out at our destination and she would probably have to run home to do something she forgot, and we would probably end up running into ourselves at some point. The videos I watched were pretty clear. Running into yourself, can be catastrophic… so the time machine idea is scratched.
The wonderful part in all of this is, if people are expecting me to show up with mom, I’m not penalized for being late. They just know that I am with mom and I get a free pass. So in that respect I suppose I should just roll with it and not worry so much about being late when I’m with her.