“If she were considerably younger,” Rebecca says, “that would be manipulative behavior; meant to make you think you are the crazy one.” I’m not so sure it isn’t anyway. It certainly has the same result.
Mama has been telling me for a year that she wants some sort of barrier at the back of the turnaround up the driveway. So people who park there (which is no one) will not drive too close to the back edge (which they haven’t in 50 years). When I arrived on the scene over a year ago, there was a pile of long straight branches she has had Dan the Man collect. There are also half a dozen t-bars that were “supposed” to be pounded into the ground. She wants reflectors on them, she tells me now. Daddy, who has been gone for nearly two decades, probably put them there.
When the maple tree was cut down a couple of weeks ago, she told me she wanted any straight pole-like branches kept; she wants a fence at the back of the turnaround, she repeated. She saw the trunk of the fir tree that was also cut, and told me to save it as well. I checked in with the clean-up crew and told them to set those aside. I dragged them from the meadow down to the turn around myself; adding them to the ones already there.
I’m thinking I can pound in the bars and weave the branches into a low fence. Better than just a pile of poles. I think, “Here is one something I can have creative control over that will make her happy and me too.” I could not have been more wrong.
I ask her if I can enlist Dan to help me build a low fence. In her discouraging voice, she says she wants it to look nice. I ask if she could trust me to make it look nice. She asks if I would be upset if she doesn’t like it (i.e. no, she can’t trust me). I say yes.
She says she doesn’t want to do anything to the property that will make it harder to sell, when the time comes. Guessing she really thinks I would make something unbearably ugly, I ask her what she has in mind; she can’t tell me. I tell her if she doesn’t like it, I will take it down. She says she won’t be able to see it; I’m the one who will have to look at it. (Uh huh.)
Then I get a long discourse on Dan’s availability, and all the things she needs for him to do. I say, never mind; I will do it myself, or not at all. She says I have made her stomach upset.
Thursday we visited Mama’s friend Alice’s garden. Her husband, Mama told me when I told her a while back I wanted to put in a garden—which she has also disparaged—built a fence around their garden using branches and vines from their large piece of the earth. Not quite accurate, not around the garden, but there are artistic barriers to hide unattractive areas, and gates, and things for plants to climb on and against. Later she asks me if that was what I had in mind for the turnaround. I say I wasn’t thinking that elaborate, but they were attractive and inspired me.
Friday night, while I am cleaning up after dinner, Rebecca “innocently” asks Mama about the fence she wants at the back of the turnaround.
Mama: I don’t want a fence there.
Rebecca: Gretchen said you asked her to save the straight branches.
Mama: Those are for her. She wants to build a garden with them.
Rebecca: I thought you wanted something at the back of the turnaround.
Mama: I just want something to keep people from going too far back.
Rebecca: What would you like that to look like?
Mama (becoming agitated with this moronic conversation): I just want reflectors.
Rebecca (doggedly): Reflectors won’t keep people from going over the edge.
Mama: The gravel is already mounded up at the back. I don’t want a fence.
Around the corner, my jaw is on the floor and my eyes are bugging out of my head. I think, this is how not-crazy people end up institutionalized.