"I know you're busy, I'll let you go," his mother said happily, hanging up before he could say good bye.
Fred huffed in anger. It wasn't supposed to play this way!
His mother was supposed to feel insulted.
She was supposed to say something about long distance call and that he couldn't even stop what he was doing for five minutes to talk to her.
She wasn't supposed to stay cheerful and end the call.
"Fred?" Lorna, his girlfriend, questioned.
"What?" he barked like a pit bull.
She glared and stalked away.
He didn't register that he'd transferred the anger he felt at not being able to insult his mother to his girlfriend. He stood where he was, doing nothing.
He had been doing nothing when the phone rang.
Seeing it was his mother he let it go four times, then answered as if out of breath.
Standing by the sink, Fred began tossing the silverware around to make noise, and tossed a remark as if he was answering his girlfriend. Then he told his mother to hold for a minute.
And that's when his mother ended the call.
Maybe she really thought he was in the middle of something crucial?
Lois disconnected and laughed.
She would now be 'off duty' until Tuesday.
Calling her son, Fred, had become a kind of wound cleaning. It was as if she had to use burning antiseptic on an open injury.
Lois would never have called him if he hadn't rang her up two years ago. Two years ago, the Forty Six year old 'baby' had rung her up whining about why se never called him.
Then as usual, he wanted to do the long rehash of his childhood lacks.
She'd heard it all before, and explained it all before.
Over and over again, using the same words, the same inflection as if following a script.
Over and over.
As Fred was alone, his wife having divorced him, and having no contact with his father, sister, brother, aunts, uncles, (his grandmother was dead) Lois knew she was the only port in the storm.
Today, she had called Fred, who was now a forty eight year old 'toddler'. He was still whining about things that happened when he really was a child.
Years ago, deciding she didn't deserve the water boarding Lois had stopped communicating with him.
No calls, no emails, nothing.
(Let him change his own diaper!) was her wicked thought.
Then he called, virtually demanding that she call him, going on and on about how she didn't care about him, blah blah.
So, Lois conceded.
She would call him via an Internet App. Save a little money.
Lois had tried when Fred was 4, when he was 8 when he was 12... she kept trying to explain, clarify, deal with logic. But he so much loved his victimhood he didn't want resolution..
Fred so much wanted to wallow in not having a birthday party or going to the zoo, that she decided to let him babble.
After that, she never called him, he didn't call her.
Fred never called her. He needed her to run behind him. He needed her to reach out. He needed the feeling of control and power.
When he didn't get it, he was 'forced' to call her and whine.
As Lois understood him, she called him every day so that he'd get the 'attention' he obviously wanted.
Over time, Fred actually began to speak of sensible things, politics, religion, social situations, so that she could almost feel she was talking to a person.
He even called her!
Then, of course, being Fred, he'd go back to the whine.
Recently, to make her feel insignificant, he'd always be doing something when she called. Something more important than talking to her.
She loved this, for it allowed her to end the call and take a day or two off.
Of course Fred hadn't a clue. He thought he was proving something.
Lois knew, that unlike fully functional adults who can live past a trauma, can forget some silly childish event, Fred would never 'escape' that whiney eight year old who didn't have a birthday party.
To keep Fred out of her consideration all she needed to do was develop strategies as to how to deal with him in the most comfortable manner for her.
And the most comfortable was, as today, letting him 'win'.