Most of my time spent in Oklahoma was uneventful. I’ve already written about my interactions with my mother and the changes that have taken place with both of us in our relationship so I won’t rehash that again. I’ll just say that I’m at once encouraged and disappointed in how things went.
After my last post from Tulsa, a conversation went down in which I expressed exactly what I’d said in the post. It started out innocently enough. After much cajoling, arrangements had finally been made for one of my mother’s friends to come spend the evening at my mother’s house so that I could get together with my good friend Heather. The plan was that my mother’s friend Dorothy would come over around 6:00 in the evening and eat dinner that I would prepare for them and then hang out with my mother until she was ready to go to bed. My mother was pretty self sufficient in small increments and would be ok by herself for a little while if I wasn’t home before Dorothy left.
Mom and I were discussing what would be an appropriate meal to prepare and we’d pretty much settled on Salmon with Asparagus and a Salad. If this sounds familiar (It’s what I described cooking the first night) it’s because we had a lot of Salmon with Asparagus and Salad. I asked a couple things about whether or not Dorothy would want a certain thing on her salad or on her salmon. Finally Mom said, “There is only one thing that I know Dorothy doesn’t like and that’s coconut. Only in Dorothy vernacular it would be ‘I don’t eat coconut.’”
Dorothy grew up in a proper, southern home near Little Rock, Arkansas. I laughed and said, “Yes, because to say ‘I hate’ would be ugly and improper. It’s not right to hate.”
Mom replied light heartedly by saying, “Yeah. They should make it illegal.”
I laughed. I didn’t think I was laughing all that loudly, but I must have been because I didn’t hear the warning bells that were surely sounding loudly in my ears, “WARNING! WARNING! DANGER ZONE! DO NOT APPROACH! WARNING! WARNING!” Instead, I reflected on recent events and the news and said, “Yeah well, they’re working on it.”
It was as if a dark cloud descended over her and where only a moment before a jovial smile had adorned her face, now there was anger and disdain as she said, “Yeah. Isn’t that a mess.”
“Why is it a mess?” I asked. I was utterly shocked that my supposed peaceful, God-loving, Christian mother could possibly have anything against the Hate Crimes Bill.
“Because!” she said, “Just you watch. That thing’ll pass and then the next thing you know they’ll be suing churches.”
I’m sorry, what!? “Who will be suing churches?”, I asked. I was sure I knew who she meant. I guess on some level I just needed to make her spew her venom. I needed to hear it, to know that what I thought she must be saying was, in fact, what she was saying.
“Gay people! You just watch! If this thing passes the next thing will be Gay people, suing churches for discrimination.”
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that this woman who raised me and raised me to be respectful to people was spewing such bigoted hogwash that was so completely out of right field. Not only was it bigoted hogwash but it was clear to me that she was speaking from a position of ignorance. I knew, and tried to convey to her, that the Hate Crimes Bill is not about discrimination. It isn’t even about equality. It’s about harsher penalties for those would perpetrate violence against others simply because they hate what that person is or what they perceive that person to be. I also pointed out to my Mother that everything I’ve ever seen that relates to “equality” does (and I believe rightly so) provide exclusions for religious organizations.
My Mother would not be swayed, “Just you watch,” she told me. “It will happen.” So what else could I do? I rolled my eyes and said, “OK, Mother. Whatever you say.”
Don’t think for a minute that she could let it stand at that. She went on a diatribe about how wrong homosexuality is and how given the chance it will destroy this country. And she tried to support her argument with Biblical doctrine. “Do you not understand that?” she asked me when she was through.
“I understand that not everyone sees it the same way you do, and that doesn’t automatically make them wrong,” I answered. “I understand that there are multiple ways to interpret things and that it’s not absolutely clear that your way is the right way.”
“There are not multiple ways to interpret it!” She enthused. “There’s only one way to interpret it. It’s through out the Bible.” So apparently there is only one interpretation of the Biblical scriptures and if you’re not sure of the interpretation, just ask my Mother, she’ll tell you.
I could have told her that I have found alternative explanations. I could have told her that there’s a whole society of people who feel that the Biblical references on which Christians have built their entire structure of judgment and hate toward homosexuals, could just as easily, and with more substantiation, be interpreted to be about hospitality, and against violence and rape. I could have told her that I’ve found multiple sources, scholars who have devoted themselves to the languages and the understanding of the ancient text who have agreed that the words that have been interpreted to be homosexuality, do not exclusively mean homosexuality, or in many instances can not be translated at all. I could have told her that the consensus seems to be that the word Homosexual doesn’t even appear in the bible before the latter part of the last century. I could have told her all these things. But it was clear that she would not believe me (and really why should she?) and that she would not be open to considering any other possibility other than her own. So I said nothing.
A silence fell over the table as we continued to eat our lunch. And then suddenly, “I’m not an ignorant bumpkin, you know,” she said.
“I never said you were an ignorant bumpkin,” I told her.
“Well, you guys sure act like it,” she replied. I assume she was referring to my siblings and me.
“I don’t think you’re ignorant, or a bumpkin,” I told her. “I do think you’re highly judgmental and unkind.” I paused for a moment and then I said, “I have been amazed in the time I have been here at how much time and energy you have spent being angry about any number of things over which you have no control. You think the world is a terrible place and everything is offensive to you, even though most of it doesn’t impact you directly and none of it can you do anything about. I just think that must be exhausting for you.”
Sadly, from there the conversation went down hill. She asked me to give her examples of what I was talking about. And the only examples I could give her were her commentary on the movie we’d seen the day before when she said, “Oh it was pretty good, I just wish people didn’t have to just jump in to bed with each other all the time.” I pointed out that it would’ve been sufficient to say that the movie was good.
Her response was that she was answering a question I had asked. Then I pointed out her reaction to the movie preview for the upcoming remake of Fame, where she was disgusted at the way these “children” were acting. “People forget that these are 13, 14 and 15 year olds, acting like that.” I didn’t think the actors looked that age, and seriously doubt that they are that young.
She asked for more examples and I told her I couldn’t give them, because I don’t sit around keeping a tally. “The point is you get irate about things on an on-going basis and I think it must be exhausting and you could be putting that energy to better use by letting your body use it to heal faster.”
I didn’t expect there to be a change and I’m not surprised there wasn’t, but I felt much better because I didn’t just sit around biting my tongue. I expressed my view and I didn’t back down, just because my Mother didn’t see things the way I did. So, I guess in truth there was a change, just not the one I might have hoped for.
My Mother’s bosses were out of town most of the time that I was visiting however they were home for one day and on that one day they took Mom and me to lunch. At lunch they discussed making a deposit that they had brought back from the trip. There were a number of credit card charge slips that needed to be put through their electronic credit card machine. It was decided that we would go by their office after lunch so that we could get the credit card machine and a few other items from the office so that Mom could make the deposit (and by Mom I mean me.)
Boss and I walked into the office with a mental list of things to bring out: Credit Card Machine, Deposit Book, Endorsement Stamp and Hand Lotion. The last item was for me. Once we got inside I noticed that the machine was almost out of paper so I called out to the car where Mom was waiting with Mrs. Boss and got instruction where to find more rolls of paper. Boss and I returned to the car with Credit Card Machine, Deposit Book, Endorsement Stamp, Hand Lotion (for me) and two rolls of Machine Paper (even as I’m writing this I’m realizing this doesn’t sound like much) clutched in my hands.
Later that afternoon, while it was just Mom and me at her house, she made a comment, in a fairly light tone, “Only two men would go in there with that list of stuff and come back without a box or bag to carry it in.”
In the past my Mother has been Jenny on the spot with negative, derogatory comments about men. This was the only time she made this kind of comment during the whole two weeks I was there, so this is progress.
I replied to her comment with “Only this man walked in there with the presence of mind to make sure you had enough machine tape to do your task so maybe you’ll just be grateful for what you got.” She decided I was right and let it go.
The rest of my visit with my Mother was fairly uneventful except that it gave me some time to reflect on my life and my relationship with my Mother. I realized that I was much happier than I’ve been in a while because I neither had to go to or think about work. I was off work for 26 days including week-ends, so I had a long time, with income, not to think about work at all. I realized quickly that this is a clear indication that my work environment is not right for me. I must get out. I just haven’t figured out how to do that. Something happened last week that made me seriously think about walking out, but I read today that unemployment in California is at 12%. It seems unlikely that I can even count on getting work through a temp agency so quitting my job could amount to cutting off my nose to spite my face.
But I know something has to change and quick. I’m at my wit’s end!
More updates about my trip to follow. There was a whole week with my sister and her family that was a whole lot more eventful and fun than the time taking care of my mother and before that I did get to spend two separate evenings with Heather, so I’ve got good stories to tell as well.
Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?