Me and My Mom
In ME and MY MOM, Marianne Hauser relates the thoughts of a contemporary woman, living in a small, urban apartment with her out-of-work husband and a toddler, who must care for her aged, alcoholic mother.
The mother’s ample family fortune was lost decades ago and she had been living in squalor for some time, but she remains a snob. She does not approve of her daughter’s working-class husband and expresses little interest in her grandchild. Her resistance to being put into the Bide-A-Wee Nursing Home is wrathful. Yet for all the strain, the daughter is dutiful and visits her mother frequently, suffering her mother’s repetitious reminiscences and enduring the pathetic, eccentric behavior of her mother’s fellow residents at the Bide-A-Wee. When the daughter’s situation changes and she moves with her family to a small farm in the Midwest, she professes her intention to send for her mother but keeps putting it off.
The daughter has always resented the early abandonment she felt when, upon her mother’s loss of an infant son whom she sanctified, her mother rejected her, planting the seeds of self-destructive behavior that blossomed in the younger woman’s adolescence. Maturity has not eliminated in her the lovelessness that can exist between mother and child. In reference to her own small son, she speaks of shoving “a lollipop into the kid’s mouth to keep him from screaming my ears off.” Regarding a forthcoming child, she takes on the role of a victim, saying of her husband, “He’s got me pregnant again.” Although her husband remains deep in the background, the genuine compassion he expresses for his mother-in-law provides the necessary contrast to his wife’s agonized, obligatory caring.
The story is presented in small, single-thought fragments. It is narrated by the daughter, whose direct, sometimes coarse vernacular contrasts with the aloof formality of her mother. They share a wry sense of humor that has become a desperate coping mechanism.
ME and MY MOM is a moving story, especially to the large cohort of baby boomers who are now becoming the caretakers of their parents. The novel benefits from being able to be read in one sitting, for the image it evokes is singular: the unbridgeable schism that can develop between the generations.