Daze of My Life/Better Late than Never

by Kenneth B. Lourie

Through no fault of her own, but perhaps from undue influence of my own (seeing me for dinner every other night for nearly 18 months tends to have that effect, but familial duty has called), my mother seems to be eating and behaving a bit like yours truly. A reversal for sure, since children typically are products of their environment, and their parents certainly are that environment.
Nevertheless, I have noticed some familiar, though not necessarily disturbing, patterns, and I thought them worthy of mention.
As a few completely-out-of-context examples, my mother seems very content to eat the same foods over and over again, a much greater variety of foods than I prefer, but still, a consistency that perhaps only I could truly understand and appreciate. For dinner, she usually orders some kind of chicken, my preference. And when we go out for Italian food, she orders either chicken parmesan or pizza, of all things, with pepperoni, just as I do. Never before had I ever seen my mother eat pizza; now she’s happy to eat it once a week.
And when we eat dinner at home, the similarities continue. Often we have deli. It’s easy to prepare and extremely convenient, given the circumstances. The other day, my mother surprised me with a revelation: “I love a bologna sandwich,” thinly sliced Hebrew National, to be specific. I couldn’t agree more, but it was a feeling that I had never heard expressed previously. Then, a somewhat related admission, and yet another shared problem: “K.B., I’m snacking entirely too much on potato chips during the day.” If I’ve admitted that once, I’ve admitted it a thousand times. (For the record, my mother weighs approximately, 110 pounds.)
As for dessert, my favorite meal, my mother again admitted something to me that I found extremely amusing and also characteristic of yours truly: “K.B., I have to start eating ice cream in a bowl. When I eat it directly out of the container, I can’t stop. You know what I mean?” Yes, Mother, I know what you mean. Believe me, I know. (Not that she required much convincing.) In fact, if I were to stack the Ben & Jerry’s or Haagen Daz pints that I’ve spooned out over the years on top of one another, the “pints of plenty,” as I might call them, would likely interfere with air traffic control.
And last, but certainly not least, I must address our mutual desire for chocolate and specifically her need, shall I say, for one-pound boxes of Russell Stover candy, creams and soft centers in particular, which frequently reside in the crisper in her refrigerator.
Now my mother has always had a sweet tooth, but she has also had extraordinary, super-power-type will power, unlike me. As part of her nightly routine, after dinner, while sitting in the den, my mother will usually ask if I, or my brother when it’s his night, will go into the kitchen and get her a piece of the Russell Stover chocolate. Happy to oblige, I will retrieve the box in case she wants a second piece, which she rarely does. Seeing the box in my hand, however, naturally my mother asks if I would like a piece.
Recently when I said, “No thanks, Mother” she quipped, “Why, would you like two?” I laughed at her reply. That’s something I would say. Now if I can only get her to learn the “why do they call it Ovaltine” routine from the television show Seinfeld. “The glass is round, the jar is round, they should call it Roundtine,” or my honeymooner’s-salad line, “Let us alone without dressing,” which I’ve imposed on family and friends ad nauseam for years, I’d be “sittin’ pretty” (Moe Howard, from The Three Stooges).
Seeing my mother eat and act in this familiar way has been somewhat amusing and minimal cause for concern, honestly. Still, if the effect is permanent, it might give credence to the sentiment “Insanity is inherited from your children,” which I’ve often seen imprinted on T-shirts no doubt being worn by the parent. My mother doesn’t wear T-shirts, thank goodness, but there are signs that she might. After all, she is her son’s mother.
Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.