Mom wonders where she will be when the time comes.
“Well, you don’t have to worry about me,” Mom says, shoulders slumped. “I’ll get a little room with a hot plate and a percolator, and I’ll be just fine.”
My sister April rolls her eyes at me. Since the day Mom went to visit her friend in the nursing home, she has been treating us like we’re going to stuff her into a pull-tight Hefty and haul her down to the landfill.
“Mother,” April says, “you’ll outlive us all.”
“Primarily because you’re going to irritate us to death before our time,” I add, taking a bite of toast.
Under normal circumstances, April would be peeling my tongue-lashed body off the wall right about now. But today Mom just stares out the window, puffing her cigarette.
“Do you know what the news said people do with their elderly parents in Spain?” Mom asks, as the waitress sets another bowl of gravy next to the biscuits.
“Turns them loose in Pamplona to run with the bulls?” I ask, taking a sip of coffee.
“They drive them into the country and drop them off like dogs,” Mom says sadly, taking a long drag off her cigarette.
April gives this some thought, “I seriously doubt that.”
“In the old days,” Mom says, blowing smoke out of the corner of her mouth, “people respected their elders.”
“In the old days,” I say, “Arctic tribes left their parents on icebergs and floated them out to sea.”
“But I’m sure they were very respectful about it,” April adds.
“Maybe I’ll become a nun, Mom sighs. “I can live my days out in a church.”
“A nun?” April and I repeat in unison. Mom is wearing two-inch spiked heels, pedal pushers and a ruffled low-cut top. The only order of nuns she could get into would be the Holy Sisters of the Chiquita Banana.
Snapping open her purse, Mom pulls out a ragged lipstick-smudged Kleenex and dabs her eyes. No doubt it’s the same Kleenex she used at my college graduation, the day she wore that same outfit.
Then, chins resting in our palms, April and I watch as Mom carefully unfolds a crumpled wad of tinfoil and proceeds to rub it flat on the table.
“Mom,” April finally asks, “what are you doing?”
Picking up the leftover biscuits and pouring gravy over the top, Mom wraps the mess in tinfoil.
“You’re going to get grease all over my car,” I insist. “Leave it here.”
“I’m embarrassing my daughters,” Mom informs the table next to us. “I wiped these kids butts, and now they’re complaining about a little grease.”
“Mother, stop.” I plead. “Just leave the gravy.”
“This is how it starts,” she bellows. “First they throw away the scraps. Then they throw away me!”
“I should have joined the Navy when I had the chance,” I mumble.
“You get seasick,” April whispers.
Standing up, Mom leans into my face. “Young lady,” she growls, penciled-in eyebrow arched, “You’re still not too big for me to bend over my knee.”
“I don’t know,” April says, eyeballing my fanny. “It’s borderline.”