I heard two stories about miserable parents this weekend. Story one from someone I run into once or twice a year. As long as I’ve known him he has made three arduous annual trips across the country to spend a week with his mother. He lives in a remote area, so he has to drive most of a day to the airport and then fly across the country. But his mother, who died last year, had always been unhappy. So unhappy that nothing and no one ever seemed to give her pleasure. Yet she lived at home, in reasonably good health, until she was 98, discontented, friendless and miserable to the end. I thought, what an effing waste of a life! And thinking of several of my friends who loved life, lived it to the fullest, brought happiness to others, and died in their 50’s or 60’s.
Story two is about a friend’s cousin. She married a black man and her mother was an utter racist. The mother would call and berate his cousin, saying how could she have done such a thing to her? So the cousin, after years of this, reasonably stopped talking to her mother. Decades passed and the mother was nearing the end of her life. She said to her sister, my friend’s mother, that she regretted not being able to talk to her daughter and wished they could be in contact again. So his aunt called the cousin and asked if she would be willing to talk to her mom again, and she said yes she would. The aunt then told the mother that she could call, but she should remember not to begin berating the daughter for ruining her life, etc. The mother calls, and they talk, and within a few minutes the mother starts in again about how her daughter blighted her life by marrying a black. And of course the daughter hung up the phone and never spoke to her mother again.
I like these stories because they are inspirational in a backhanded kind of way. They are the exact opposites of the Chicken Soup For The Soul sort of soppy tale about overcoming adversity or incredible acts of human kindness. But they get to the heart of why not to be the kind of awful person who goes through life bringing joy to no one, including themselves, and then croaks, and is really not missed by anyone. Children should also be told stories like this. In fact, children should have to memorize and be tested on stories like this so they will have a crack at growing up to be decent human beings who bring happiness into the world and enjoy their lives.
Causes Michael Lipsey Supports
Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Nature Conservancy