My mother passed away earlier this week at the age of 88. She lived an incredibly long life for sure. And rest assured I have many fond memories of her that I will hold near and dear to my heart.
Death is of course a time of sadness and grief and I have been more than sad and grief-stricken since the passing of my mother. I have tried to keep busy as much as I can but best laid plans often go awry and as such I have found myself lost in another memory of mom and tears well up in my eyes.
However, those who know me well know that I don’t like to take anything too seriously. And for those who don’t know this about me, my mother used to refer to me as her “strangest child” and I took great delight in being slapped with that monicker, which in a way tells you just how strange I truly am.
She used the adjective “strange” to describe my idiosyncrasies – at least I think she did? For example my penchant and preference for wearing shorts in the dead of winter. “What is wrong with you?” she would inquire every single time she saw me in shorts in winter, including the last time I saw her alive a few weeks ago.
When Is A Question Not Really A Question?
So, knowing I wanted to, if for no other reason, cathartically, write something about my mother after she passed, i knew immediately that whatever I wrote had to be different, irreverent – if not strange in the sense that instead of writing something say more on the lines of how much I loved her and so on, I decided to share a glimpse into her world and the way she operated.
Hence, When Is A Question Not Really A Question? Well when it was being asked by my mother that’s when.
In fact, my mother had the innate and inherent ability to make a subliminal declarative statement while asking a conscious, non-subliminal question.
I give you Exhibit A:
“What are you guys doing today?”
This is a query posed to myself,my brothers and sister and our spouses countless times over the years by our mother. Sometimes on the phone, more often done in person it was posed by our mom to us on a weekend – a Saturday or Sunday.
Now, the first few times you get this query you respond in kind.
“Oh I don’t know mom, maybe do some stuff around the house… see a movie.”
However after just a few times being on the receiving end of this question you quickly surmise that while it may appear to be a question it is in fact a declarative statement disguised as a question.
The declarative statement?
I WANT TO GO SHOPPING!
See, our mom didn’t really care what we were doing on a given Saturday or Sunday – it was reserved for these days for the simple reason we all worked during the week.
No, our mom had a hidden agenda that did not remain hidden for very long.
Our mom had to feed the beast… the retail shopping, mall-hopping beast that lived inside her. It didn’t matter if she returned with a set of Roy Rogers candlestick holders only – she had to feed the beast.
“No, mom those are nice candlestick holders. They’re gonna look great in your… closet.”
And speaking of feeding, I give you Exhibit B:
“Are you guys getting anything to eat?”
I cannot tell you in what context my siblings received this query from my mom but for my wife Terri and I it was posed to us countless times when we were dating. See, Terri and I used to work together at a supermarket. And on the weekends – Saturday in particular, we would work together til about 11:30PM or later.
We would arrive back at my parents’ house where I still lived. My dad long since asleep in bed. My mom, watching Saturday Night Live on the living room couch in her robe.
Within 5 minutes of entering my house, the query would arrive like an anything-but-subtle salvo fired in our direction.
The declarative statement embedded in “Are you guys getting anything to eat?” was:
I WANT SOME OF WHATEVER YOU’RE GETTING
This example carried with it a wrinkle, however,
A wrinkle that came in the form of another declarative statement – this one NOT subliminal but rather spoken aloud.
“Not that I want any…”
Now this declarative statement translated into the very pronounced subliminal message:
I REALLY WANT SOME OF WHATEVER YOU’RE GETTING
So now you know When Is A Question Not Really A Question and a very small taste into the mind of Jennie Olenski.
This is one of the last pictures I have of my mom and I. It was taken in winter and you will notice what I am wearing – shorts.
Sorry mom, I gotta be me but hey, look at this way.
You made me who i am today so in a way it’s kind of your fault, right?
What I wouldn’t give for one more day of shopping and sharing of food with you.
I love you dearly and I miss you more than you know.