Life At Defcon 1

Posted: December 29, 2012 in Life, Mom
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Mom was almost always a coiled spring – everything was a major, major issue. Whether we’re talking about school, or an audition, getting somewhere on time…you name it. Everything, even something as small as losing her keys temporarily evoked a semi-hysterical reaction. Even as a kid, I tried to tell her that running around flipping out isn’t going to help her find her keys – she needed to calm down and think about where they might be. My advice almost always went unheeded, and Tim or I were the ones who ended up getting them for her and calming her down. Sometimes she’d try to return something at a store and run into a problem  and some poor clerk would get nailed with the brute force of her hysterical anger. As I got older and more aware of myself, I started to feel embarrassment at these times – I’d grab Tim by the shoulder and we’d inch away, finding something – anything – else to look at or do. Even today, I’m extremely sensitive to reactions – if someone raises their voice, even imperceptibly – I inwardly think “Oh, shit.” and get ready to duck and cover. Grandma didn’t help matters much – her and Mom didn’t get along so well very often. And Grandma could hold grudges like…well…an old Italian lady. They were both extremely co-dependent…something I had to struggle with myself later in life. Looking back over my family’s history, though, almost everyone ended up living together at some point. What I mean is, my Great-Grandma lived with her parents until they died, Great Grandma lived with Grandma and Grandpa until she died, and so on. It was sort of just expected that everyone would live together under one roof, and everything was community property. I guess it’s a Mediterranean thing, I’m not sure. In the early days, we had a pager – Grandma was supposed to page us if anything was wrong, and we’d stop at a payphone and call her back. If she put “911” at the end of the page, we’d know it was urgent and to find a payphone right away. The problem was, once Grandma realized the code got us to return her calls faster, she used it for everything. This caused no small amount of conflict between her and Mom. I remember once, Mom got a “911” call from Grandma while we were in NY. She fed a meter and hopped onto a payphone with me in tow. It had been tagged with graffiti and smelled like piss.

Mom: What’s wrong?

Grandma: Well…what do you want to do for dinner?

Mom: Goddammit, Mom, I’m busy. I’m in the middle of something in New York and I can’t just drop everything to figure out what’s going on for dinner. YOU figure it out.

Grandma: Well, Donna, I just wanted to know!

Mom: But it’s not an emergency!

Mom usually ended up slamming the phone down on grandma, terminating the call. Mom would usually cool off after a couple hours and call her back.

Money was a constant worry. As I think I said in another post, I made hundreds of thousands of dollars. For several years running, starting when I was about 8, I made a minimum of a $100,000 a year. I haven’t sat down to do the math, but I don’t think it would be unreasonable to say I made a least a million during my lifetime. Yet we were always short somehow – we needed a loan from Grandma, or Mom had to put something on a credit card, or whatever. We were always holding our breath waiting for the next royalty check to come in. It inevitably would, Mom would be elated, and we’d run off to the bank to deposit it in our communal account. Nothing was ever set aside, no financial planning was done – we just lived hand to mouth, despite the fact that I was making a modest fortune. Financially, at least, mistakes were not learned from – hell, Mom mortgaged everything to the hilt and beyond when she had to. Credit cards were maxed out, and overdraft fees were incurred. I assumed this all was normal, because I had nothing to compare it to – the constant buzz of worry pervaded everything.


  1. Reed says:

    I had no idea.

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