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Oh Mother, Where Art Thou?
By Michelle Boyaner

"…And in her eyes you see nothing, no sign of love behind the tears cried for no one,
a love that should have lasted years."
-The Beatles

I wonder if I'd have the nerve to play the Rickie Lee Jones version of that song at my mother's funeral? Problem is, she's not dead yet. Not even sick. Well, not physically anyway. She's one diagnosis short of a long-term stay in a big white building up on a hill somewhere, wearing a backwards jacket, surrounded by finger-paints. But it's not gonna happen. We'd never let her get sent away. That would be too tit-for-tat. So, she's chatty, self-centered and has a styrofoam cooler filled with frozen peas where her heart should be. So? She's still my mother.

Looking back, I probably should have killed her when I had the chance. When I was a fetus. As a fetus I had all kinds of access (a backstage pass, if you will) to various vital organs and major arteries I just can't get to now. Hindsight is 20/20, but in the 40 years since that missed opportunity, she has given this all-grown-up fetus many reasons to kick herself for blowing that chance. If I had, however, killed her when I was a fetus, I would undoubtedly have been acquitted, as a jury of my peers, 12 fetuses and two alternate fetuses, would have been very sympathetic. Additionally so if my court-appointed public defender had been allowed to introduce "future behavior by the mother" into evidence.

But I didn't commit that crime, and I was never arrested. And that is just one more thing that sets my mother and me apart, because on January 2, 2005, my mother Elaine, a 67-year-old grandmother of 11, was arrested, booked, frisked, orange jump-suited and transported on a giant black and white bus with bars on the windows, along with hookers and drug dealers (who I'm sure are lovely people and just misunderstood) to the County Jail. She was locked up and locked down. She was body cavity searched. (I know, it burns the eyes just to think about it.) Her belongings were held in a large plastic bag. She stopped being Elaine, and started being Inmate # 2392794.

If Lifetime Television for Women were going to launch a new network, say Later-in-Her Lifetime Television for Older, Self-Centered Women, I could produce and direct a new reality series for them, based on my mother's current life called, Somebody's Crazy Grandma. The pilot episode would cover her recent run-in with the law.

My first job would be casting. Think Elizabeth Taylor WITHOUT the glamour, money, famous friends, little dog, fabulous wardrobe, or white diamonds. Wait, that doesn't make sense. That's like saying, "I'll have the Cobb Salad, but WITHOUT the chicken, bacon, tomatoes, blue cheese or avocado." My mother is a bowl of Iceberg lettuce to Elizabeth Taylor's Cobb Salad. I don't know why I started with Elizabeth Taylor in the first place. Wishful thinking, I suppose.

So, Later-in-Her Lifetime Television for Older, Self-Centered Women would probably end up casting an unknown to star in Somebody's Crazy Grandma. Fine. I 'd be happy with an unknown. It's just important that she be believable as someone who would have, when she was much younger, given birth to seven children, divorced her husband when she was 43 and then one day, packed all her children's belongings into trash bags (Glad bags, I think. Oh, the irony!), and left the bags, along with the children, in the driveway of her ex-husband's new home. With the motor still running on her Datsun B-210 she would have waved goodbye and headed off into the sunset, to the promised land of Provo, Utah, where, as a newly-converted Mormon, the good life awaited her.

As director of this pilot episode of groundbreaking reality television, I'd place cameras everywhere. Several in the two-bedroom apartment she shares with her loveable, yet troubled, somewhat-bedridden middle daughter and four beautiful, young grandchildren. We're not really sure who is living with whom, as they've been in this co-dependant set up for so long, and moved so many times, nobody can really remember how it all began. Such details wouldn't matter to the audience as they would be preoccupied, oddly intrigued and more than slightly disturbed by the constant shrieking of Grandmother's voice.

Continuing, I'd show the loveable, yet troubled, middle daughter fast asleep due to her having consumed an unintentional overdose of a popular prescription pain reliever and becoming, thereby, unable to deal with her four beautiful young children and the flu from which they are all suffering.

The 67-year-old grandmother of 11 would then pile her four beautiful young grandchildren into the van for a quick trip to the local drugstore.

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