So, when Hubby 3 (and still best friend) and I started dating, it took a while for him to invite me to his house, and I decided to take matters into my own hands. I knew his address and stopped by one morning just to say ‘hey’. When he saw me drive up, he came out before I could get to the door and he said: “I have something to tell you.” Oh boy, I’ve heard that before. I figured the jerk was married and he was about to tell me, so I braced myself while he sheepishly said, “I live with my mom.” OH! I was relieved but could tell he was embarrassed to be doing this at his age (43). He said he needed to in order to help her pay for the rent, etc. No biggie.
Then, I went inside and met her. She was a large woman, sitting at her table, smoking and looking at me like I was some bonehead her son was hooking up with. Hmmmm. I tried talking to her and she basically grunted at me, and when she did speak words, her voice sounded EXACTLY like Marge’s sisters on The Simpsons. By the way, I can imitate her voice perfectly.
Because of her voice and attitude, I started calling her “Krusty” or “The Krust” (always behind her back, I swear) and tried to befriend her. I like people liking me and I’m pretty much used to that happening, but I obviously had a lot of work to do. And, just so you know, she had ‘nicknames’ for me too, such as ‘nitwit’ that she thought she was using behind MY back, but for some reason, I was usually within hearing range. Go figure.
One night when I was at the house, she made Hubby and I dinner (she was an amazing cook) so I told her I’d do the dishes. I’m a VERY tidy person and cleaning is second nature to me. She ‘supervised’ my dish washing from her chair, and after I was all done, she told Hubby that she’d have to re-wash all of the dishes since I didn’t rinse them correctly. If she didn’t, she said that she’d have the ‘runs’. Ooookkkkaaaayyyy. Heh? Really? I think I know how to rinse, Krusty.
Through the years, she always came to our house for the holidays, and K loved Christmas! She had very little money and lived on social security. But despite that, she always brought every one of my family a BIG sack of presents. They were all from dollar stores and what-not, but the gifts were picked just for every person. She truly put a lot of thought into it and I was always touched. (By the way, she hated everything I got her…just sayin’).
Something that really surprised Hubby and I was her love for Dottie (my poodle). Hubby said that Krusty hated dogs, but she spoiled Dottie to death! It was so sweet to see her with Dot and showed me another side of her. And, Dottie adored her too (the little Benedict Arnold).
I used to love hosting Thanksgiving and during our first ever, Hubby went to pick up K and I was almost ready to put the meal on the table. I’m not a great cook by any means, but it wasn’t bad. When K came in, she was LOADED down with food, and Hubby trailed behind carrying even more casserole dishes. He also had a brown paper bag. Basically, The Krust had cooked her own meal, and of course, the dishes were completely homemade (insert your own eye-roll here). When I looked in the paper bag, I saw bread. Stale bread. Krusty looked at me like I was an idiot and said: “That’s for the stuffing…I don’t want any boxed crap.” I told her I understood, but our stuffing was done and I didn’t have time to make another batch. (And of course, mine was StoveTop…straight out of a fucking box. She refused to eat any).
About 7 years into our marriage, The Krust was diagnosed with breast and lung cancer, and it was obvious she could no longer stay in the assisted living apartment we had moved her into when we got married, and we had to put her in a nursing home. She didn’t want to live with us. Period. A huge problem was that the nursing home wasn’t the best by any means. She was on medicaid, but we couldn’t afford to place her anywhere else. The only good thing was that the nursing home was only 2 blocks from our house.
Now, Krusty and Hubby didn’t have a great relationship, even though they had lived together for a couple of years. Hubbies dad was EXTREMELY physically abusive to him and K would never say a word about it. She was very neglectful to Hubby and he and his sister pretty much raised themselves. To add to this, the family was dirt poor. The first time Hubby got in trouble with the law was when he took an old cast iron stove out of an abandoned barn during winter (that the owners still used for storage apparently) so they could have heat in their trailer.
Because of all this history, Hubby didn’t want to see his mom in the nursing home much…a lot of his childhood memories had come back to him and he said how she never took care of him (literally…for example, he had to walk miles to see a doctor by himself if she thought he was sick enough, and didn’t see a dentist until we were married), and he just didn’t have it in him to take care of her. I know that sounds horrible, but I can kind of understand. So, I did it. I was with her every single day. Before school, after school, evenings, and weekends. I knew the care wasn’t as good as it could be in the facility; the CNA’s who did the majority of the daily tasks she needed done were wonderful, but they were stretched so thin, it was hard for them to respond to every need. That’s what I did. I did her laundry, brought her food (her fave was hushpuppies from Long John Silvers), combed her hair, decorated her room, helped her in the bathroom, etc. We also had movie Friday, when I would bring my laptop and we’d watch whatever film she wanted. (My family was awesome during this time too…they visited her and brought her anything she wanted which was a lot).
A few months after moving her in, hospice care was necessary. Her cancer had spread and there was no hope that any treatment would lead to more time. One afternoon, we were watching a movie and she took my hand. She asked if she could tell me something and I said yes. I turned off the movie, faced her, and here’s what she said, word for word: “I was raped by an uncle when I was 4. And I was raped again when I was 9.”
I was speechless. EVERYTHING about her suddenly made sense. Her anger. Her aloofness. Her feeling of powerlessness. Her tough exterior. I told her how very sorry I was for having suffered through that and she started to cry. She went on to tell me how horribly Hubbies dad had treated her and how good it felt to be able to tell somebody these things. I hugged her (for the first time) and she looked at me and told me how she hadn’t liked me at first. Then I told her that I hadn’t liked her either! And then she said this in her Simpsons voice: “But I love you now.” I told her I loved her too. And I meant it. I truly did. That was the day I started calling her mom. The first time I did it, she smiled a wonderful, genuine smile that opened my heart fully to her.
The last month of her life was something I’ll always remember. Releasing that burden made her light up. We laughed, we cried, we got to know each other and became friends. She and Hubby made peace as well, and the night she died, he was there. His friend came to the house to get me, and I rushed up to her room. She had already passed, holding Hubbies hand, and I stroked her cheek and told her how much I loved her. I knew she was finally at peace.
Krusty will always be a happy memory for me. I can laugh at things she said and did those first few years and I cherish the last. Isn’t it amazing how much more we can understand a person by listening to their story? I wish she had told me sooner.
That’s why I blog. To share my story. To share my experiences and memories and life with my own issues and mental illnesses. It’s out there so people can understand that we are all complicated human beings who can be so easily judged for one thing or another. I judged The Krust (and I hope you know I use that with love) without knowing her past…and it was wrong of me. She had a reason for her demeanor and behavior and I wish now I would have really talked to her more when we first became family. Maybe we should ask more about others’ stories while sharing our own. Imagine how many walls that would break down in our relationships.
Rest in peace, Krusty, and I know I’ll see you again. And yes, I’ll let you teach me how to make homemade stuffing once and for all.