Uncomfortable Conversations with Mom

Ann Brown

By Ann Brown

don't talk

Next April, when I turn 60, I will be eligible for senior services, including moving into the Jewish old age home.

This is awesome news.

A nice apartment, a restaurant on-site, a cleaning service, transporation to anywhere I want to go in Portland, and an emergency call button next to the toilet. Really, is that senior residential care or is it HEAVEN? I do not understand why anyone wouldn’t want to live there.

Fuck the commune, friends. We’re headed out to Jewish senior living. Pack your Zumba shoes and follow me.

Old Jews are my kind of people. Who else will be continually interested in the comings and goings of my intestines?

I bet in the Jewish old age home no one pressures you to, say, join the polo team or pray to craven images of God (which is what I suspect they do for leisure in the non-Jewish old age homes), two activities that I can do without.

On the down side, however, I bet they put out a better Happy Hour cocktail selection at the gentile home down the road. I suppose I could hit the old Jews for the brunch spread and then meander over to the gentiles for an apertif.

Whew. Okay, got that worked out.

I can tell you one thing for sure: my mom is NOT going to move to the old age home with me. She is – at age 89 – anti-old people. Whereas I – at age 59 – am already one.

She recently returned from a trip to Italy. She had invited me to go with her but I couldn’t, of course, what with my grueling schedule of avoiding working on the novel and posting selfies of Phila and me on Facebook. Plus, I’ve been to England and France and Greece and Israel and I cannot imagine there’s much in Italy that I didn’t already see in those other countries.

Except, according to Mom, penises.

I endured a ten minute phone conversation with her in which she described her two-week art tour, penis by penis.

“So many penises,” she said to me, while I desperately tried to unhear what she was saying. “You can’t believe the penises on those statues!”

Now I don’t know about you, but I am pushed way out of my comfort zone when my mom says the word “penis” even one time. When she says it eleven times in one conversation, I get clammy and woozy and look for the emergency call button next to my toilet.

“Penis” is not a word that sounds normal in a mom’s voice. A mother’s voice should say words like “soup” and “I bought you some new pajamas”. And, “you sound tired. Did you have a bowel movement today?”

Not my mom. She says “penis.” And “those penises were huge!” And, “they had big holes in them. Do you want to know why?” (no). “Well, I’ll tell you…”(please dear God, no)

I never should have let her go to Italy to look at art. I should have made her go to, I don’t know, Branson, Missouri. I bet you could spit a hundred yards in Branson, Missouri, and never hit a penis statue.

My mom is very comfortable with penis talk. I think it has to do with her becoming a therapist during the late 1960’s when nine out of ten therapists recommended that everybody let it all hang out. Unfortunately, during the late 1960’s I was a teenager. When ten out of ten teenagers recommended that their mothers put it all back in.

“You go to the plazas,” she told me on the phone, “all you see are penises. You go to the museum – penises. Statues everywhere – penises, penises, penises.”

“Uh-huh, ” I said, jamming the phone repeatedly into my eyes for distraction.

“Mom,” I said brightly, “how was the food?”

“Horrible. Feh. Although the fruit was delicious. But enough, genuch with the penises already!”

I’m pretty sure that’s how Pope Clement put it, as well, back in the the 1600’s. Presuming he spoke a little Yiddish.

So he ordered metal fig leaves to be put over all the penises on all the statues.

Which is why they all have those HUGE holes in them.

Hey, if I have to know, you have to know.

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