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With Mom, compromise is the word

August 09, 1998

Terry TalbertWhen mother and daughter come to live together again after more than 20 years, diplomacy is a must if the two are to get along. Without diplomacy and compromise, they will murder each other. That is a fact.

My mother and I are a case in point. We moved in together about two weeks ago, and we both remain alive. We consider that an accomplishment.

My mother looked at me the other day after we'd argued over whether or not I would eat breakfast at 6 a.m., 10 minutes after waking up and five minutes before I could even think about brushing my teeth.

"Well, we've had our moments, but we haven't killed each other yet," she said.

I was not in a jolly mood. When I find myself ordering food before the sun has made it up above the mountains, I find it difficult to be jolly. Especially when I've worked the night before.

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"Not yet," I mumbled as I took a sip of coffee.

"C'mon, honey, would you go to breakfast with me today? I'd like that," she said.

"Aw, mom, I really don't feel like eating right now. It's only 6 a.m. and I'm not awake yet."

I took another sip of coffee, and felt guilt. It was a throwback to childhood. I wasn't compromising. It wouldn't kill me to go to breakfast with Mom, I thought.

"OK, OK, I'll go with you," I said. "But could you just give me a few minutes to wake up?"

"Sure, honey," she said. She stood at the end of the kitchen table, fiddling with her car keys.

I ignored her.

"You drink too much coffee, you know that?" she said.

I ignored her. Better to be silent than to say something undiplomatic, I thought. Then I realized it was probably not diplomatic to ignore my mother.

I looked at her with the the one eye that I was able to pry open. "I know," I said.

"Know what?" she said. Her voice had a slight edge of irritability, and her eyes were blinking rapidly like they do when she's getting nervous.

"I know I drink too much coffee," I said.

"Well, then don't do it," she said with a light chuckle. She was trying to be motherly without being motherly. That's what the fake chuckle was all about. It wasn't working.

I ignored her.

Then I noticed her right leg was starting to twitch. It looked like it was headed for the side door.

Finally, my mom said, "You've had enough time to relax. Let's go to breakfast."

"But, maw-um," I protested.

"I've been up since 4:30 (that's a.m., folks) and I'm starving," she said. "Let's go." She walked out the door to the car, got in it, and started it.

Not my fault you go to bed at dusk and rise before dawn, I thought. I was up until 1 a.m. I don't like to eat breakfast unless I'm on vacation in Canada. And we're not in Canada. So there.

I walked out the door.

It would be highly undiplomatic of me not to go. It would create tension and I would end up feeling stupidly selfish and guilty if I didn't, I thought. It was a small thing for my mother to ask of me, after all she'd done for me.

I pulled the car door closed.

"Isn't it a beautiful morning!" Mom exclaimed gleefully.

I started reciting a new mantra in my mind. "Compromisebediplomatic, compromisebediplomatic, compromisebediplomatic..." It was too long. It made me tired thinking it.

At 8:30 p.m., after I had thought of horrible ways to get back at her, I tiptoed into her living room and looked at her. She was laying on the couch, sound asleep. Smokey, her male cat, was asleep on the back of the couch.

I looked again at my 72-year-old mother, and she looked so innocent and sweet. God, I hate myself, I thought. I'm an awful, horrible sick excuse for a daughter. I had to get her to all but beg me to go with her to breakfast. I ought to be ashamed of myself.

I thought about how she worked me under the table all day. How she trimmed the hedges by hand, mowed the lawn, washed clothes and finally sawed down the offending bush in front of the shed.

And then I thought about her comments on my coffee drinking. And the fact I almost choked on biscuits. And the fact that she (albeit accidentally) raked in half the one little blue wildflower I had planted in the garden.

The fact she later stuck it in a vase didn't make it right.

Then I realized I shouldn't be thinking those thoughts.

Compromisebediplomatic, I thought. Compromisebediplomatic, compromisebediplomatic.

Terry Talbert is a Herald-Mail reporter.

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