Mom greets me at the door with life-changing news: She has ordered green-lipped mussel oil!
“Larry King uses it.”
Mom’s intentions are golden. She is going to cure a family member of a chronic illness. She has found the solution the doctors have missed. I am to learn all about the oil from her and then deliver it to the intended recipient along with the proper instructions.
We sit together, and I listen.
“Here, read the booklet.”
I read the booklet. I open the jar and sniff. I think about popping a capsule into my mouth and biting it when a vision intrudes, and I change my mind. A sea of terrified faces implores me with countless sets of tiny green lips. The word “lips” has personalized the creatures whose juices I am about to suck.
“And it comes with this DVD.”
“Well, that is very thoughtful of you, Mom.”
“All the way from New Zealand!”
“Now make sure Susan takes the oil each day for 30 days so I can call and have the next shipment cancelled if it doesn’t help. Well…they might have already sent the second shipment by then, so I would just have to cancel the third one. I gave them my credit card, you know.”
“Have you mentioned this to Susan? I really think you should discuss this with Susan.”
“They say 4-6 capsules daily for the first 30 days but I think that’s too much. Just tell her to take 2-4.”
The following day, I get up early and make breakfast. After that, I squire my Mom to Sunday school and church. My stepfather Seamus takes us all out for a hearty lunch. Following a gorgeous walk with my husband Henry, the family eats a dinner prepared by my sister, Gwen. We make sure–Gwen, Henry, and I–to be kind, attentive, and helpful throughout. Mom is a big talker, and we listen actively and respectfully. She has stored up many words and opinions, and the pressure has to be released. What is Wrong with the World Today receives special attention. We take care of all of the cooking and washing up.
At long last, it is time for me to curl up and introvert. Luscious!
“Jane, are you ready to watch the DVD about the mussels?”
“Actually, Mom, I think I’ll pass.”
(exhales loudly) “Well, I’m surprised at you, Jane! Why not? This could be the key to Susan’s recovery.”
“It would feel like work Mom. And I’ll be taking the DVD to Susan anyway. I think I’d rather relax.”
(huffs) “Well, I bet Henry would like to watch it with me.”
He takes one for the team. I owe him big time.
Mom produces a page-and-a-half of yellow legal paper. She has handwritten a recipe she has been wanting to try.
“Here is the tuna casserole recipe. Thank you so much for doing this. I really need to lie down for a bit.”
“Sure, Mom! Happy to!”
Mom is worn out. She wanders over to the sofa for a nap. Mom is thrilled that we have finally come to visit but entertaining is exhausting. Who knows what we might get up to if she isn’t there to assist? Did I mention that Henry is 53, I am 52, and Gwen is 50? Mom is…it would not be polite to tell you, now would it?
Mom starts to drift off to sleep. But for the sounds of cooking and the subdued drone of the news channel, the house falls silent.
Following her directions religiously, I place the flaked tuna in the bottom of the pan and dribble the lemon juice–fresh squeezed!–over it. The shredded cheese, peas, and cooked noodles are mixed together and stand off to the side, waiting. I am halfway through cooking the sauce.
The silence does not last long. I feel a disturbance in the air and–
“Did you sprinkle the lemon juice over the tuna?”
“Yes. I used fresh lemons like you said to.”
“How much did you use?”
“The recipe didn’t give an amount. I just guessed.”
Mom’s gaze releases the Pyrex pan and fixates on the stove top.
“I think you are going to have to double that sauce recipe. It doesn’t look like you have enough to cover everything going into the pan.”
“Ok, Mom. No problem.”
I double the sauce recipe, and Mom disappears around the corner. For a moment.
Gwen enters the kitchen with a basket of dirty laundry. She turns the washer knob, activating a siren call. Mom materializes.
“Be sure not to overfill the washer.”
“Here, let me. I want to make sure the load is balanced.”
“Now remember. Once the washer fills, you have to use this plunger to push the clothes below the water level.”
(sigh) “I’m not going to do that, Mom.”
Gwen and I engage our psychic connection.
“No, really. You want to be sure the clothes are good and wet so they get clean.”
(silent lip biting)
“Just stand here and wait for it to fill so you can plunge it.”
(silent lip biting + rapid eye blinking + quivering nostrils.)
My mother is providing instructions in the use of her top-quality, high-capacity machine in excellent condition.
My mother is providing instructions in the use of a washing machine to her top-quality, high-capacity daughter in adult condition.
Mom pads out of the kitchen and back to the sofa. Gwen is watching the washer fill. I am crushing potato chips for the top of the casserole. We feel the pressure of each other’s eyeballs, look up, and silently message one another.
The washer has filled and begins to agitate. Gwen is not-plunging, and the sound of not-plunging pierces the air.
The end of the world still has not come. Gwen leaves the laundry room and steps around the corner. I relax and begin to arrange my potato-chip blanket.
The washer lid flies open. Plunging happens.
Mom, risen from the dead, has sneaked behind me to save the load of laundry and the future of the Western world.
Satisfied, she starts for the sofa a third time. But first, she checks my work.
“Are you sure you have crushed enough potato chips? I think you need more.”
Exit Mom. Enter Gwen.
(stage whispers above the kitchen noises) “Mom was plunging.”
“She was. She was plunging.”
We are wound too tightly. We have swallowed exasperation, suppressed disrespect, spared feelings, and avoided mutiny. We have painted ourselves into a corner, and there is only one way out.
Gwen and I lock eyes in agreement.
I begin first. I bob my head like a chicken to the rhythm of the washer. Gwen joins in, swaying. We dance tentatively at first. Naughty snickers escape our lips. Shh, Mom is trying to sleep! Shhhhhh!
Soon we are stepping, gyrating, and waving our arms, our tribal dance growing in fervor. Pig snorts and raspberries escape in spite of tightly clenched lips.
We can’t stop, and we don’t want to.
By the time Mom rounds the bend a fourth time, our recovery is nigh.
Mommy! She laughs at us and with us. Mom is as she always was, though we may have to work a bit harder to find her. In the end, it is a small price we pay, a light yoke we bear, to uphold this sacred trust. It is our honor to protect her from inconsequence.
Postscript.: In my last post, I promised I’d publish a shout-out to the first person to guess the rationale behind my naming of a particular silly photo. The winner was Elaine Hill of Burtonsville, MD. She correctly guessed that the woman had not yet been “deflowered.”
Is green-lipped mussel oil is any good? I don’t know. Do Olympic athletes use it? I have no idea! But apparently a good number of Olympians trust Shaklee nutritional products. I know this because I became curious after talking with Elaine, and I did a bit of googling. Elaine is a Shaklee distributor, by the way, and she seems to know her stuff. Feel free to stop by her website and pick her brain.
Just so you know–I am not affiliated with Shaklee, and I have not been compensated for this mention.