Monday, August 1, 2011

Terms and Limits

I’m constantly amazed that daily conversations with my eighty-six year old mother have not caused me to turn to drugs or alcohol, although I often seek shelter in tension eating. Surprisingly, I still have a good head of hair—no bald patches from when I try to pull it out. Our conversations range from her revisionist memories to discussions about dead-beats in the family. But our most divisive topic of conversation is politics. My petite gray-haired mother puffs up like a venom-spitting cobra when she discusses the government, which she hates even though she’s benefited from several so-called “entitlement” programs. Anyone attempting to change her mind about government, or anything else, ends up struggling like a dog trying to squeeze a mastodon bone through a doggie door.

I’m reminded of a particular discussion we had in the ‘70s during my first visit home from college. I was cocky and desirous of showing off my new-found knowledge, and it didn’t take long for me and my mother to dive into politics.

She started affixing blame for America becoming a “welfare” state. “Franklin Delano Roosevelt is responsible,” she said, sneering like Archie Bunker. “He was president too long—ran three times!”

I tried to correct her. “Actually, he ran four times.”

We argued about it for an hour, with her unwilling to consider the possibility that she was wrong.

“I should know,” she spouted. “After all, I was there and you weren’t.”

I left in a huff and drove to the public library, where my mother was well-known for her rapid consumption of bodice-ripper romances and her inability to lower her voice. The librarian was sympathetic when I explained why I was there, and permitted me to check out an unimpeachable reference source to prove my mother wrong—a volume of Encyclopedia Britannica.

When I returned home with the volume, I opened it to the section on FDR and pointed to the line: FDR died in 1945, only a few months into his fourth term.

My mother glanced at the sentence, slammed the encyclopedia shut and said, “Oh my God…”

She was about to admit she was wrong about something. Hard to believe! As it turned out, I didn’t have to.

“I’d never have thought it,” she said, “a misprint in Encyclopedia Britannica!”


  1. This sounded like a joke I heard! Are you sure your Mom said that?

  2. Well if it would make her feel better, his fourth term didn't last very long.

  3. "Once I thought I was wrong, but I was mistaken." That was your mom? :)


  4. what an entertaining great-grandmother swore when the first moon landing occurred that they were actually out in the desert---she did however believe that the Waltons and WWE Wrestling was real....wonderful story

  5. I live in California and I think you do too. In my neck of the woods we are a welfare state. Programs, programs and more programs. The federal government does those entitlement programs for the good of the people and then complain about how this or that entitlement program is not funded well enough. Let's much money did they take out of social security but never payed it back? Yep. They force these programs on us. Back in the day I would have loved to not put money into social security but I didn't have a choice. They took my money for years, and now it's an entitlement program. I don't care for government either as they are too into our lives. I don't like the republicans and I don't like the democrats even more.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  6. oh she would fit right in here!

  7. Had to follow the link and read your first post. So funny!! She would make a terrific SNL character. Love her!

  8. She sounds exactly like my Dad who I have the distinct pleasure of going to visit for a few days. I'm stocked with liquor and Xanax so I can survive the inevitable no win arguments. Stopping by from Kelly's Break Room.

  9. That's perfect! I refuse to discuss politics with my mother, so we spend lots of time discussing her revisionist history. I've already promised my kids that I won't turn out like that.