By the time I was 18-years-old, I had mastered most of the fundamental life skills one needs in order to function as an independent adult. I could attend to my daily grooming, read, do basic math, cook a few simple meals, write a check and drive a car. However, despite being old enough to vote, serve in the military, attend college, and rent an apartment I could not make a bed or operate an alarm clock.
Most people find this factoid hard to believe but it’s true. I was 18 before I learned how to make a bed or to use an AM/FM clock radio. Now before you get the wrong idea, it wasn’t a goal or anything and I’m pretty sure there is no award for this level of underachievement, but between you, me and the lamp post, there is nothing that can’t be avoided if you really put your mind to it!
I place the blame for my deficiency squarely on my mother’s shoulders. It’s her fault that I was incapable of doing such menial labor. After all, she was the one who came into my bedroom each morning with a glass of apple juice, a multivitamin and a smile and gently rub my back until I woke up. (She did the same thing with my father, but he drank orange juice.) After I finished my juice, I padded down the hall to the bathroom and by the time I returned, the bed was already made and my clothes were laid out. (I wore a uniform to school so the fashion options were limited.) I ask you, who would ever need to set an alarm or fold a hospital corner with that kind of wake up call?
Now I suppose that some people would say I was spoiled, but I disagree. My mother systematically stunted my growth by not insisting that I wake up to a series of irritating beeps or forcing me to straighten my sheets with military precision. She’s responsible for the fact that when I moved into my first apartment, my bed didn’t get made for three months. In my defense, I kept going to the restroom, but nothing happened! Naturally, I assumed the beverage service would cease (unless she had plans to creep into my new place each day) but I hadn’t realized that without her presence and morning ritual, I would not only be living in a pigpen but I would be chronically late for everything.
It took several months, but I eventually learned to tuck the bedspread under the pillows and double check the alarm each night. Still, I remain bitter about the whole experience. Parents are supposed to prepare their children for a life where no one holds their hands or rubs their back. Unfortunately my mother failed where that was concerned. Her gentle gestures did not prepare me for life without her, but caused me to realize how I’d taken them for granted when she was here…
And how much I would miss them when she was gone.