When you visit someone you love and they simultaneously threaten your sense of calm, use this experience for your writing. It is the best way to make lemonade.
JoAnn is my wildly vibrant 82 year old mother. She does not care if I write this. She is too busy living her life, racing off to meet her widow friends in her matching polyester ensemble, to worry about what I’ve got to say. And in truth, JoAnn loves to read my stuff, if she happens upon it, when she stops moving for a minute. I am telling you, she will outlive us all. JoAnn has less health issues than anyone else her age, or honestly, even my age. She is superpower resilient. She is a god damned machine, a force, and practically immortal.
JoAnn’s live-in boyfriend is the most beautiful thing that ever happened to my mother in my not-so-humble opinion. Louie is what I call, “pure.” You get what you see with that one, and he loves my mother better than anyone I know – including me.
Sometimes, I admire Louie because he is half deaf and while JoAnn can be interesting, she is nonstop chatter, providing every single detail of every single mini-moment of their lives. JoAnn is lovable on many levels, but she is also a lot, like an oncoming cyclone that you cannot stop filming. She definitely fills up a room. Think of the formidable mom in Everyone Loves Raymond, and then also think of Mary Tyler Moore in her own television show, and you have an amalgamation called JoAnn.
Undeniable Contradictions are Interesting
My mom lets me use her Suburu while I am in town. My mom purchases giant local pies for our desserts. My mom would give me her left kidney if I told her it was needed.
My mother also makes me crazy. She will ask me if I want a regular potato or a sweet potato. I say, “I have had neither in a very long time, and so either would be nice.” JoAnn asks me to choose anyway. Louie says he wants the regular potato. I say, “Yes, I think I want a regular potato too.” JoAnn says, “Well, I guess I can make my own sweet potato then, since no one wants what I want.”
She is mildly sulking. You just can’t make up these stories.
My mother will introduce me like this: “This is my daughter Kim; although, now she goes by Isa since she recently changed her name, so you can call her Isa, but I still call her Kim.”
Open a new door in your mind.
The best part of being a writer during my month’s stay in Minnesota is that JoAnn provides a new lens for me. Hanging out with JoAnn helps me remember what matters, which opens up a bank of writing content in my mind. She helps me to remember who I am by constantly mirroring who I must admit I am nothing like, and also the woman I am exactly like in many subtle ways. I see my mom in me when I walk in the same ridiculous bumpy way, and when I laugh with the same alarming cackle. I see my mom in photographs of me, her posture, her expression. Like my mother, I want to give people the shoes off my feet because I long to be needed.
Cringe-worthy and hilarious, JoAnn has been the wall against whom I have smoothed my rocky edges, hurling myself against her like a crazed granite daughter, a maniacally laughing madwoman with a glossy finish. I know it’s redundant, but the impact just cannot be emphasized enough.