My mom was a true earth mother possessed of a kind and generous spirit. She was an immediate, trusted friend to any small child. Kids just sensed something special about Mom and gravitated to her. I was extremely blessed to have been her son; in many ways I owe her everything.
Unfortunately this marvelous woman also had a special gift which kept her family simultaneously amused and confused for many years. Mom was the absolute Queen of the Malapropism, blessed (or cursed) with the knack of substituting one word for another leading to a subtly and intriguingly different meaning than originally intended. Or not? Sometimes it was difficult to tell. For instance, returning from a weekend trip with my father to southwestern Ohio she informed us that Cincinnati was world famous for its Bengals, especially delicious when served lightly toasted with a dab of cream cheese. After attending a local theater production of “My Fair Lady” she expressed great admiration for the actors commenting on the amount of self-confidence it would take to stand in front of a live audience and pronounce their lines in a “cocky” accent. Did you know plants produce chloroform which is deadly to cotton and makes grass stains nearly impossible to remove from your clothes? I could give you countless other examples, they literally rolled off her tongue with an uncanny regularity, but you get the drift.
However, for me it was always her medical malapropisms which I found especially fascinating. See what you think….
Mom was disgusted that my cousin remained loyal to her personal physician instead of traveling to a major institution in another state to evaluate her gastrointestinal complaints. “Now he is saying she has an Ohio (hiatal?) hernia,” she sniffed in exasperation. “Have you ever heard of anything so ridiculous?” Well, not really.
The husband of one of her friends suffered a “heart attraction” while they were on their second honeymoon. Hey, wasn’t that sort of the idea?
Another time she was describing a friend of hers who was forever working herself into an absolute frenzy over imagined ailments. “Yes,” she concluded with a heavy sigh, “I’m afraid she is a classic hyperchondriac.”
According to Mom apparently I had so many nosebleeds when I was a little boy she finally had to take me to our family doctor to get me “catheterized.” Ouch!
My mother always had an instinctive distrust of “genetic” medications. Who wouldn’t?
She advised a friend once not to worry, reasoning that her father’s illness “couldn’t go on infinitely.” I’m sure that sentiment was quite helpful.
Several years back Dad had lithotripsy performed on a kidney stone and afterwards my mom and sister accidentally wandered into the emergency room extension of the hospital’s mental health facility by mistake (you see, it was a really big hospital…). While passing through they were treated to the remarkable sight of an obviously violent, incoherent patient wearing prison garb lying on a gurney in full restraints. “He was so agitated,” Mom noted somberly when reporting her version of the episode later, “that it took FOUR nurses to finally seduce him.” Well, can you blame the poor guy for getting a little excited?
Mom used to reassure Dad that if he ever became very ill she would be right there in the hospital at his bedside giving him her “undevoted” attention. Huh?
The medical status of the patriarch of a well-known family in our hometown was becoming quite grave, so much so that his children had to face the difficult question of “whether or not to remove his life preserver.” He must have been sinking fast.
But my personal all-time favorite was overheard during a telephone discussion my mother was having with a pal of hers regarding the seriousness of a mutual friend’s medical condition. “Well,” Mom pronounced with grave authority, “all I have to say on the matter is that you have to be extremely concerned when your doctor calls you on the phone and says you need to come in for an immediate autopsy.” Truer words were never spoken.
I love you, Mom.