There’s another good time to ‘just say no’

Lori Clinch

Are We There Yet?

My dear and precious mother stopped by not long ago for coffee and a nice visit. While I added an abundance of cream to the brew, I said, “You know, Mom, Pat and I would love to get away for a couple of days. How’s about you and Dad taking the boys for us some weekend?”

When she didn’t respond, I turned to see that she had grabbed a Country Living magazine and had buried her face in it. It was nothing new; she’s used this tactic on me many times before. Especially when it comes to taking care of the kids.

“Oh my gosh!” She exclaimed as she looked at the pages. “Have you seen this? Look at what this woman has done with her mudroom. Why, it’s all dried flowers and basil, and who would ever have thought to do that with a pair of galoshes?”

“Just think,” I replied, as I ignored the fact that she was ignoring me, “Dad, the kids, you, and a weekend of ESPN. Why it’s every grandparent’s dream. Dad could take the boys to the park for the afternoons and buy them ice cream. Give the man a pipe and he could play Fred MacMurray while you spend your evenings enjoying scavenger hunts and the sound of a bouncing basketball.”

“Fred MacMurray had three sons, not four, and would you look at this red Fiestaware pitcher? I can’t believe you haven’t shown me this magazine before.”

“For Pete’s sake!” I said with frustration. “You’ve already seen that magazine. Give it to me.”

“I’ve never seen this magazine before in my life,” she said as she clutched it to her chest.

“The heck you haven’t. It’s your magazine; you gave it to me in the first place!”

“You’re making that up.”

“Mother,” I said as I grabbed it from her and turned it over, “your name is on the mailing label.”

“Now do you see why I can’t keep the children?” she said, finally addressing the issue. “I’m old. I have no memory.”

“You can’t blame that on age. In fact, I’m quite certain it’s genetic and you’ve passed it on to me. I haven’t been able to remember the children’s names for years.”

Memory is a funny thing, but I forget why.

I remember the days when I had one, but just barely. I can’t exactly recall when my memory was still vital, but it seems like 1986 was a stellar year.

I distinctly remember an incident just last week, although it could have been in June, the phone rang and a woman asked, “Did you forget me?”

“That depends,” I replied, “who are you?

“Lori!” she said with frustration, “it’s Alice. I’ve been waiting for you to get back to me all afternoon.”

“Oh yeah, right, Alice. I’m so sorry, it’s just been crazy. Alice who?”

She should know better than to place that kind of pressure on a woman who hides eggs for her own Easter egg hunt.

The worst thing about a bad memory is that I can recognize faces, but can’t remember names to save my soul. “Lori,” I’m often asked by some well-meaning acquaintance, “how are you? How are your boys, how’s your house, your car? Are your parents faring well?”

“Good,” I reply. “We’re all great. And how are you and all of your … things?”

Which is safe, because everyone has things. God forbid I should inquire about a puppy to a person who hates dogs.

I also suffer from Phonesia – the affliction of dialing a phone number and forgetting who I was calling just as they answer. “Who’s this?” I asked a cranky man just last week.

“What do you mean, ‘Who’s this?’ You called me!”

“Oh! Well then, perhaps you can tell me what it is that I want.”

“What are you bothering me for?”

“I’m not sure.”

I was thinking about pretending that I had the wrong number and simply hanging up when he said, “Hang on a minute, and I’ll get your mother.”

I heard him set the phone down and shout out, “Your daughter is on the phone!”

Suddenly it all came back to me, “Mom,” I said when she answered, “I was wondering if you could keep the kids on the weekend of the 12th?”

“Who is this?” she replied.

“It’s Lori.”

“Art, do we have a daughter named Lori?”

“That depends. What does she want?”

“She wants us to keep her kids on the weekend of the 12th.”

“Hang up on her. It’s probably one of those money-making schemes.”

“I’m sorry dear, we don’t remember who you are. You’ll have to take your kids elsewhere, perhaps to someone younger.” And with that she promptly hung up.

Turns out a bad memory can be a good thing. That is, if you’re my mother.

Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” Her e-mail address is