Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: parents

Mom, Don’t Forget to Wear Your Hat

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At some point in every adult’s life, the "child" begins to worry about his parents.  This is a passage of life because before that, it was the parents who mostly worried about the child.  For some, this happens at an early age.  A parent could be sick, unattentive, or die early, making the child mature early. 

This was not my case.   My parents never wanted me to worry.  Instead they were the ones who constantly worried about me.

Today, there’s a blizzard in New York.  Tomorrow, my mother will schlep from Queens into Manhattan to go to work.  I called her tonight and told her "to dress warm" tomorrow — knowing she had a bout with pneumonia last year.  It reminded me of when I was a kid and she used to make me wear a hat. 

Are our roles reversing?

She enjoys working downtown, but at some point, she might want to retire.  Would she enjoy being in the nice weather during the winter?  She recently visited her friend Shirley in Florida. Shirley lives in one of those "retirement villages" in Boca Raton.  My mother says she "wasn’t crazy about Florida," mostly because it made her feel older than she actually feels inside.

My mother brought up an example:

"Shirley and I went to the clubhouse for "Movie Night."  They were showing "Bull Durham."  Halfway through the movie there was a fire alarm.  Everyone got up to exit the clubhouse, but there were so many older residents with walkers and canes, that it took everyone twenty minutes to exit the clubhouse.  It ended up being a false alarm — but we skipped the rest of the movie, not wanting to wait another twenty minutes while everyone sat down again."

After she retires, the logical next step would be for her to move out here  — maybe during the winter months — assuming I’m still living in Los Angeles.  After all, I’m the only child.  But where would she live?  My mother doesn’t know how to drive, despite having a New York State driver’s license, which is the funniest thing in the universe to me.  My mother said that if she moves here, she’ll take a refresher course in driving.  Little does she know that if she is going to drive around Los Angeles, that’s the time when I move somewhere else.

All in all, my mother seems to be doing pretty well since my father’s passing.  Although she says it is "too quiet" at night, she’s been going out to concerts and movies on weekends.  In May, she’s even going with two women friends on a bus trip through Spain and Portugal.  That’s something she could have never dragged my father to do.

I’m still such a kid myself — still unsettled with work and marriage.  I wish I could be more of help to her, instead of it always being the other way around.  But, let’s see — at least I have my blog to entertain her with during the day!   I know she reads it every day, because I see her in the stats — she is my most consistent reader.

Although, this weekend, we did have a little mother-son discussion about my blog:

"Neil, one of my friends who I play Mahjong with reads your blodge and she wanted me to tell you something important."

"Is this Suzanne we’re talking about?"

"Yes, how did you know?"

"Because she’s your only friend who would know how to find a blog online.  What did she say?"

"She said she likes the blodge  a lot.."

"Blog!  Blog!"

"OK, blodge… but she has one small complaint.  There’s too much of "that thing.""

"What "thing?""

"That "thing" you talk about too much."

"What are you talking about, Mom?"

"That "thing" you talk to."

"Oh… that "thing.""

"Yes.  She said to just "cut it out."   I mean, not the "thing."   Don’t cut off the "thing."  She meant to "cut it out" of the blodge… to stop talking about the "thing," not  to cut your "thing" itself, G-d forbid."

"I understand, Mom.  You didn’t raise an idiot."  

"And I agree…"

"About what?  Oh…"

"I… um… who in the world talks to their "thing?""

"Yeah…"

"So, anyway…"

"Uh…well, uh…so, Mom, (changing the subject)… are you watching the Olympics…?"

The Toothbrush

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Sometimes I feel a little frustrated with blogging, mostly because of you, my dear reader.  While I enjoy our interaction, try as I might, I still don’t feel I really know you.  Mathematically speaking, am I being too generous in saying that you only get to see about 15% of a person by reading their blog?

People are complicated in general.  It’s hard enough knowing yourself, so knowing someone else is especially difficult.  For all my time with Sophia, I suspect I only know 25% of her.  She’s always doing things that are surprising to me.   Last night, we played Texas Hold ’em poker with some friends, and she bluffed with a two of diamonds and three of spades.  That just wasn’t her!  It was shocking.

I love my mother, but having never seen her in her wild single days in Coney Island, I suspect I’ve only seen 35% of her true self. 

I don’t understand myself at all, especially with all my self-deception, so I gather I only know 60% of myself.

As a "writer," I’m supposed to understand characterization, but in truth, people are way too mysterious.  My interest in the human psyche started at an early age. 

When I was a kid, I remember my parents being involved in a  Jewish social group that met at our apartment every month.  There were about twenty members of this group.  On this night, my parents would let me stay up late.  Sometimes, I would come out in my pajamas and play a song on my clarinet,  or do a magic trick (I was a budding magician who did shows at childrens’ parties).  After doing a trick, Abe, a hefty optomotrist, would give me a quarter "tip."

I bring up this monthly event because something odd happened in my apartment every single month — something that became legendary in my household.  After all the guests left, we would find that one of the toothbrushes in the bathroom was missing, and we would then find it sitting in the bathroom hamper with the laundry.

The first time it happened, we assumed it was some weird accident.  But every month it would be the same — a toothbrush in the hamper after all the guests left.

My mother suggested that we hide all the toothbrushes, but my father, being an overly nice guy, didn’t want the culprit to know we were onto him — and make him feel bad.   My father worked in a hospital and was very understanding of all sorts of neurotic people.

One night, a year and 12 discarded toothbrushes later, my mother had had enough.  She gave me a secret assignment, something I wasn’t supposed to tell my father.  I would watch TV in my parents’ bedroom during the evening.  With the bedroom door slightly ajar, one could get a perfect view of the bathroom.  Each time someone went into the bathroom, I should make a note of the person, then run in to check the status of the toothbrushes as soon as they left.

I was on toothbrush patrol all night,  and I must have run into the bathroom at least 10 times for an examination, each time with my father’s handkerchief covering my face, protecting me from any smell and making me feel like a real sleuth. 

Then came the big moment.  

Abe had just left the bathroom.  As he passed from view, I ran inside — and there was the proof —  my father’s toothbrush was gone!  I opened the hamper and laundry scattered all over the floor.  On top of one of my t-shirts, was the toothbrush!

I rushed into the kitchen and told my mother.  It was Abe!  She said we should talk about it with my father later. 

After everyone left, I told my father about my investigative reporting.  He was not surprised, but insisted that we never bring it up and embarrass Abe.  The next day, my father and I went to our local dime store and bought a 12-pack of toothbrushes, enough to keep Abe happy for a year of throwing toothbrushes into the hamper.

My parents were friends with Abe for many years.  His weird toothbrush fetish was never brought up.  Why did Abe do this?  Did he have a bad experience with a dentist when he was a child?  Did he want us to launder the toothbrush?  And why only one?  Would he have remained friends with my parents if they confronted him? 

Did they ever really know more than 2% of the real Abe?

People are complicated and mysterious. 
  

Parents Visit L.A.

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My parents are in town and staying with me in my one bedroom apartment — so you can imagine how much fun that is.  They are real New Yorkers who don’t drive, so I’m also their limo driver. 

What’s been the highlight of my mother’s first day?  Going to Target!  I didn’t realize there are no Targets in Manhattan.  Suckers! 

My mother’s review of Target:

Mom:  It really is much nicer than K-Mart.

In between discussions about Sophia, saving money, and the lack of grandchildren, I showed my parents what’s really important in my life — my blog.  You can imagine how excited they were with all the money-making potential of blogging — none. 

Dad:  What should I read first?

Me:  On the side, you can see my most popular posts.

Dad:  Posts?

Me:  Items.  Articles.  Just click on a link.

Dad:  Huh?

Mom:  Let me show him.  I’m an expert with the computer from work.

She clicks on a link.   They start reading.  After a moment, my father shows a look of concern.

Dad:  You didn’t really sleep with Tom Cruise?

Me:  If only! 

Stares.

Me:   Of course not.  It was a joke.  That whole thing with Rob Thom… oh, forget it.  It’s just a joke.

Dad:  Hmm.

My mother clicks on another link.

Mom:  This naked Batman is funny.

Dad:  Is that really Batman’s penis?

Me:  Batman is a cartoon character.

Mom:  That’s some penis.

Me:  Yes, Mom.

Mom:  Before I dated your father, I dated Sol "X."  Remember him?  His penis was like a…

Me:   Mom, I don’t really want to…

Dad:   (surprised)  I didn’t know you dated Sol.

Mom:   Just once.

Me:  And you saw his penis on the first date?

Mom:  Ha ha ha.  His penis was like…

Me:  (cutting her off)  Do you like the blog?

Dad:  Why is it called a blog?

Me:  Web log.

Dad:  So why not just call it that?   I like web log better.

Me:  I’ll relay your message to the authorities.

Mom:   Who’s this Brooke?

Me:  I don’t know.

Mom:  Is she nice?

Me:  I don’t know.  Some woman from Florida.

Mom:  She must be Jewish.

Me:   I have no idea.   Why do you think so?

Mom:  She’s from Florida.  Everyone’s Jewish in Florida.  Or Cuban. 

Me:  What about Jeb Bush?

Mom:  OK, maybe one.

Dad:  I think OJ Simpson lives in Florida now.  He’s not Jewish. 

Mom:  Thank God.   (after a moment)   Maybe Rita knows Brooke.  Does she live near Fort Lauderdale?

Me:   Mom, don’t be ridiculous.

Mom:   Now, I’m joking.   You have no sense of humor.

This weekend, I’m going away with my parents — and Sophia, my separated wife who hasn’t given my parents any grandchildren. 

I’ll report back…  if I make it through it…

Do your parents/family read your blog?

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