For months, I was planning to have a yard sale on Saturday. I chose this date specifically because my mother said she would be in town (she’s retired and has a very unreliable schedule as far as flitting in and out of town). She was going to sell several items and help work the sale. She said she would be here this weekend – for sure – because my sister is having a party on Friday and she would be here for that.
Then this morning, she left a nonchalant voicemail saying she decided to go out of town for the weekend. No real apology. No acknowledgment that she was backing out on a commitment or inconveniencing me in any way.
Later, she called again. I picked up.
Her: Did you get my message? I had a change of plans and I won’t be in town this weekend.
Me: Yeah, I did. Did you forget that the whole reason I’m doing the yard sale this weekend is because you said you were going to be here? You’d be in town for the party, and-
Her (cutting me off, getting defensive): Well, I’m sorry, but plans change! Geez, stop trying to lay such a guilt trip!
Me: D is leaving a day late because of this yard sale, and I could have been at the cabin this weekend instead. You said you’d be here because Sister’s party is that weekend. I planned this around your schedule! I could have done the sale earlier, if I’d known you weren’t going to be here, and D could have left on time.
Her (sarcastically): I thought you had to wait until you were done with your class because you were so stressed about school.
Me: Well, the semester’s been over for six weeks, so I certainly could have done it before this weekend. And it wasn’t a matter of stress. It was a matter of D having time to help me. [My husband was taking a full-time load of classes and working full time last semester.]
Her (very defensive, starting to raise her voice): Plans change! Haven’t you ever had plans change? Geez, can’t you be a little flexible?!
Me: I planned the sale this weekend because this was the weekend you would be in town. D rearranged his travel plans, and I’m missing out on a weekend away because of it. Plus, now I’ll have to find someone else to help us. I really don’t think my being flexible or not is the issue.
Her: Can’t you ask one of your friends to help? What about D’s sister in law?
Me: I don’t know. A lot of people are out of town. Friend and Other Friend will be gone. Dad and Stepmom will be gone. Aunt and Uncle are gone. Sister is leaving that morning. I don’t know, I guess I’ll find someone.
Her: I’m very, very sorry that I won’t be here. I live with someone who makes spur-of-the-moment decisions. Plans just change and you just have to be flexible.
Me: What are you going to do with the stuff you wanted to sell?
Her: I don’t know, let it sit, I guess. I wouldn’t dream of leaving it with you, because god forbid I cause you more work.
Me: You don’t have that many things – I really don’t think it would be any more work. You can drop it off if you want to. Just leave it on the front porch.
Her: Oh, no, I’m not going to do that. It would just cause more work for you. I don’t want to cause aaany more work for you.
Me: I didn’t say that! You’re assuming that, and I’m saying it’s no more work for me, and you can leave it here if you want to. Really, it’s not a big deal!
Her: Nope. No. I just don’t even want to do that to you.
Me (sighing): Well… okay.
Click – she’s hung up on me.
The lack of any sincere apology or admittance of wrongdoing is nothing new. I’ve never heard my mother sincerely apologize for anything, large or small, ever. Defensiveness is her M.O., and I’m sure that had a lot to do with her behavior during this conversation.
But I just couldn’t believe how downright mean she was. I couldn’t believe how she immediately started attacking me – as though I had absolutely no right to be upset – after I reminded her I had planned the yard sale to accommodate her. It was like she was trying to convince me that I was reacting all wrong. The whole conversation just seemed unreal. I was mad about her flaking on the sale, but what makes me so much more angry and bewildered is how mean she to me was about the whole thing.
After she hung up on me, I immediately called my sister and left her a voice mail about how Mom had flaked, and how she was incredibly rude and unapologetic about it. And to see if she might be able to leave town an hour or two later and help us set up the sale. Later when Sister called me back, she told me how Mom flaked on the party, too, and offered to send Annoying Stepbrother and Stepbrother’s Annoying Wife in her place. My sister was like, no thanks – I want to enjoy the evening.
I gave Sister the play-by-play of the phone conversation, and told her I was absolutely dumbfounded by how mean, rude, and defensive Mom was toward me. Sister said she wasn’t surprised – she’s had more pettiness from Mom than I have because they’re closer and do a lot more together. But I really was shocked. I know to at least be ready for a certain level of immaturity and a lot of defensiveness from Mom in these types of situations, but this was so far beyond how I thought she could behave. And as Sister and I lamented, there’s no point in thinking Mom might own up to any of it, because she never does.
I would have been more sympathetic if she were leaving town for something urgent, or that couldn’t be avoided. But it wasn’t that at all. She and Stepdad are going to their cabin, where they go 10 or 12 times or more each summer – nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that couldn’t be rearranged or postponed.
The things she said and the way she behaved are going to stick with me for a long, long time.