Fortunately, I saw the postcard before anyone else did. It was from a nearby heart hospital, where — evidently — not enough cardiac arrests had come staggering in recently. So, the marketing department had come up with a ploy for new business.
Get Mom a heart CT scan for Mother’s Day.
Listen, the ads for flowers and candy for Good Old Mom — the salt of the earth, the self-sacrificing, the uncomplaining, the eternal enabler, the grim-faced martyr to her family — I can deal with. Once a year, I can pretend as well as anyone that I’ve been the family doormat for the whole year and my husband and the kids should pony up for something festive for me and wipe those smirks off their faces for a mass outbreak of sentimentality.
But a heart CT scan?
“Don’t you dare get me a heart CT scan for Mother’s Day,” I told our grown son, who’d come over for dinner. “Did you see this postcard? Wipe it out of your memory.”
He looked shocked, since I was bringing up Mother’s Day so early — when it’s more than two whole weeks away and nobody in our family ever thinks about anything more than a few minutes in advance. “I won’t,” he said. “Is that as bad as getting you a spatula or a vacuum cleaner?”
“Medical procedures aren’t presents,” I said. “So it’s worse. It’s as bad as a husband getting his wife a facelift or a boob job for Christmas.”
My husband looked up from his laptop computer, then looked back down very quickly. He didn’t make a peep.
Our son nodded, with the hard-won wisdom of a young man with an older sister, a guy who spends much of his time with women friends. He knows when to be quiet, too. It’s called survival.
I ostentatiously crumpled up the CT-scan postcard and threw it into the wastebasket. Who on earth had come up with that wretched idea? I wondered. Someone who loved his or her mother? Hated her? Somebody who just wanted to make a buck?
Talk about sad, talk about money-grubbing, talk about literal. It’s as if you could measure the workings of a mother’s heart by a medical scan. The truth is, it’s one of those metaphorical places that no one, not even mothers themselves, ever truly understand.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)