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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Friday, December 12, 2008

Overheard at a Burger Joint

When Being Needed
is all that's left of Being Loved

So I’m standing in the line at a hamburger joint around four o'clock tonight near the DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles], and ahead of me there's a big bear of a young man (about age 24) with his girlfriend (wife?). While the big guy is waiting for his order, he flips open his cell phone and rattles off the following "message":

“Ah, Hi, Ma. It’s me. We’re going to see that new Keanu Reeves movie at the Grand Haven Nine. We stopped by your house to get the “free popcorn bucket,” but we couldn’t fine it anywhere. We let out Dane, but it was too late. She left a big pile on the living room carpet. Didn’t have time to clean it up. Sorry. If you want to join us, the movie starts in a half hour. Be sure to bring the bucket? Bye.”

He flipped the phone shut, grabbed their order, and rushed off to a table. I held my tongue, but Wow! what a loaded message he sent to dear old “Ma.”

I’m guessing “Ma” was either working late or out shopping for these two adult kids. She gets a message on her phone service…”Come join us for a movie.” What mother would not feel honored? Her son and his significant other want her to join them for an evening out. Or do they?

A. They sure could have invited her with more than 30 minutes to spare.

B. They had time to search all over her house for the “free popcorn bucket,” probably leaving half the cupboard doors open; they had time to stop for a burger; but they did not have time to clean up what sounds like a very large dog’s very large mess. How thoughtful.

C. They couldn’t find the “free popcorn bucket.” My guess is that the free bucket is wherever this lummox left it after the last time he stopped by Ma’s and borrowed it. Just a hunch.

[By the way, this is a great promotional idea one of our local theater has. You buy a gallon bucket of popcorn for $10.00 in January and it’s good for free popcorn the rest of the year. This idea keeps people coming back to the same theater. Some people even decide what movie they want to go see depending on whether it’s showing at their bucket theater. (Trust me. I know. We have one, and we know where it is.)]

D. By ending the message with “Be sure to bring the bucket,” the son added just the right affectionate touch to his hasty "voice mail" invitation, making it unclear as to which they wanted most to join them: the mother or the bucket. I'm sure she melted like butter. Right...

I could be wrong, but I doubt that this single mother, after a long week and a long day at work, after closing all the cupboard doors, after shoveling up Dane’s duty in the living room, after searching for her bucket (and then remembering that her son took it two weeks ago), after scarfing down a couple of Oreos (because she hasn’t the time for a burger)... I doubt she’ll want to race to the theater to catch what’s left of "The Day the Earth Stood Still." She may rather just want to plop down in a chair and be still herself.

I was eaves dropping (he was two feet away and talking loudly) and I don't mean to judge. I heard only a 30-second verbal snapshot of a relationship and two people I know nothing about. This is pure speculation but a great reminder that our casual unguarded words reveal our heart.

A few minutes later, I met Julie at the DMV (which is another story, but let me just say that it is not enough to have your wife sign a car title that is in both your names. She must be present at the DMV to complete the transaction Ugh!)... and when I told her what I'd heard, she said quietly:

“I wouldn't be surprised if the mother shows up at the movie. She'll probably blame herself for the mess on the rug. Apologize to the dog for being late. She’s been pickin' up and runnin' after the dog and the son for so long it doesn’t even register anymore. May have done the same for the father before he disappeared. Probably blames herself for that, too. Now, after all these years, it's all a blur and she figures being walked on beats being alone. Being needed for a popcorn bucket beats not being needed at all.”

Wow! Good insight. Sad if it's true, but good insight.

So here’s a little assignment for the comment section: Do you think the mom showed up at the movie tonight? I know Julie wouldn’t. I wouldn’t. How do you think “Ma” spent her evening? What were her thoughts as she turned out the light in her bedroom tonight? What does it mean when feeling needed is all that's left of feeling loved?
[Added Saturday morning: Not to influence the discussion in the comment section, but the comments thus far have made me appreciate the role of Moms who "serve" without become servants, wonderful women who are loving team managers modeling the T-O-Y principle (Think Outside Yourself) and expecting it of their children. This is called "The Mom Song." It was written and originally performed by Anita Renfroe.]

Please pass this post along to any mom you think will appreciate it.
Next "Unsettled" chapter nearly done and coming soon. This was just on my mind.


Blogger Donnetta Lee said...

Sure she showed up. She was, well, "needed." And has probably been "needed" for so long that she equates it with "loved." Makes her feel good to "care" for her family as she knows she "should." In fact, she probably lives her life by things she should do. And most of them for her family. Her hobbies include cooking and cleaning and running errands for the family, too. When she hits 60, she'll finally get angry and scream out: who took my life away!! Finding no fault in her own enabling of her darlings! hahaha (with sympathy) D

12/12/08 7:37 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Donnetta Lee,
Thanks for these interesting thoughts. I kind of hope you're right and she did show up. To the son's credit, he did invite her. And to the young woman's credit, she did not mind that he did. and to all their credit, it does sound like they've gone to the movies together before. That's not common.

If he had cleaned up the dog's mess, I probably would have taken a different look at the whole thing.

It did sound like the bucket was the underlying purpose for the "invite," but maybe the Mom just laughs that off as "par for the course."

As Christmas approaches, I've been thinking about my deceased Mom. She always used to say that the way a young man treats his Mom is how he'll treat his wife in time. So I hope this guy learns to appreciate both of the women in his life.

13/12/08 12:17 AM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

My first thought was that the poor woman would take every opportunity to have a quiet night away from her self-absorbed offspring but then it struck me that his apparent callousness and insensitivity may have been encouraged by her own behavior pattern of pandering to his demands. Donatella is right!

13/12/08 6:58 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...


You and Donnetta are right. This son didn't become blind to his selfishness overnight. This has gotten worse with the post-Dr. Benjamin Spock generations. For decades, some folks have been more concerned about "self esteem" than esteeming others and deferring to their interests and needs. (Philippians 2:2-4)

In counseling, we call it "Child-centered parenting," and we've all seen plenty of examples of parents who mistakenly believe that good parenting is "doing" and "running" and "centering" their life around every whim and wish of the child. At the same time, they let the kid win every battle over "lifting a finger" to help around the house. Parents like this (sadly, it's usually the mother) give in early with statements like "It's easier to do it myself than to fight with my kid about picking up his room." etc. Eventually she is the servant of the house and whatever "love" is shown her comes with strings attached.

It's sad, but it should encourage us as individuals to implement the T-O-Y principle: "think outside yourself."

13/12/08 8:07 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I want a popcorn bucket!!!!!!! We don't have popcorn buckets in Rutherfordton. If we did, I would keep up with mine and take it to the movies every time I went. Which at this point, for 2008, is precisely 1 time!

Well Tom... what does all of this say about my life?

Life's too short to worry about dog poop. go to the movies every time you are asked and be glad you know about popcorn buckets.

Have a great weekend!

13/12/08 4:24 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

That has got to be the funniest comment you have ever left!
"Life's too short to worry about dog poop!"

But seriously, the popcorn bucket is a great idea that I've only heard of here on the west side of Michigan. It does not happen on the east side where my siblings live. But it's very smart. Popcorn is cheap--except at movies, where it is priced as if you cannot make it in a microwave at home. BUT if you can get thousands of people "hooked on" your theater via free popcorn (for which they each pay $10 the first time) you've pretty much stopped them from going to the competing theater, AND they buy pop and candy and movie tickets. It has worked for this theater for several years. Free refills during the visit, too. It's great! Our whole family shares it.

So far everyone thinks the mom ended up at the movie. The only remaining question is how was the movie. I haven't heard much about it, but I remember the original from when we were kids. Unforgettable title!

14/12/08 1:17 AM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

Based on the son's comment, his mom's the type to show up at the theatre. He's a real momma's boy, and she's probably very lonely.

14/12/08 6:33 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Good point. I never really thought about the fact that a "momma's boy" would not know how to treat his momma, but this could be an example of how that plays out over time.

14/12/08 9:48 AM  
Anonymous mommyknows said...

I couldn't presume to guess what that mom did, BUT this mom's son would have found a the big great dane prezzies in his boot!

15/12/08 12:36 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

"Prezzies" Now there's a new term to me. Useful, too. Derived from "presents," I presume, which is what man's best friend is always giving us. Ha Ha.

My mom used to call it "dog dirt" as in "Check your shoes. Somebody stepped in some dog dirt."

15/12/08 6:20 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I don't know why this has been on my mind so much but after much contemplation, I've decided the son and the dog were obviously trained by the same master. At first, I thought... give the mom a break, at least the son is communicating with her........... but now I'm ready to share some excellent parenting techniques with the mom before she has grandchildren that act the same way.

My sister that lives in Michigan has a popcorn bucket... NO FAIR!

15/12/08 10:32 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

This was an interesting thing to overhear, and it has been even more interesting hearing what people had to say about it. Now I just have to hope that this fella doesn't read here at POI. =)

The popcorn bucket is a great thing! It may only work in "small" metro areas of around 100,000. =)

16/12/08 12:43 AM  

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