My mother is a wonderful storyteller, as a child she used to write me short stories which she would read to me at night. It was one of my fondest memories. But her stories don’t just make up the cute innocent kind that grace the dreams of a little girl as she drifts asleep, they are stories of woe that seek out the deepest of compassion from strangers – tales designed to manipulate the heart of a kind person and get what she needs. My mother is the master of manipulation; it has taken me a long time to be able to express that, to accept it, and to admit that it really is true.
Mother has been on 34 overseas holidays in the past 4 years. It is possibly more, those are just the ones that I know of. She loves cruises in particular as your every whim is catered for in great detail. She then often visits the “friends” she makes on those cruises, the ones who feel so sorry for the poor, lonely, elderly widow whose selfish, spoiled family have abandoned to fend for herself and invite her to journey to their homeland and visit anytime she wishes.
Before anyone misinterprets my motives with this story – I don’t care about her going on holidays, in fact, I actually feel happy for her. It is nice that after all her years of working to raise a family (no matter how broken) that she is able to do something she always wanted to do. Dad was very careful with money, and they both lived on a pension for most of my life, money was scarce, we were dirt poor. Since his death she has made up for the 40 odd years of a materially poor life ten-fold by begging, and borrowing in any way she can.
If the holidays she goes on made her happier in the longer term, it would be even better, but they don’t. She comes back and if she is talking to me, tells me how badly behaved almost every person she encountered was, how the tour companies didn’t cater to her needs, and how her travel companion (when she has one) was selfish and rude. The only things that make her happy is when she has convinced people that she is a sweet old lady who is deeply mistreated, and receives VIP treatment which of course makes her feel happiest! If those things have happened on one of her holidays, she is aglow with almost euphoric joy.
However, despite this life she leads, traveling around the world, recently she came home from a holiday and cried poor so much to locals living in her area that a community project was organized. People from all over the township and area came to host a morning tea at her new home, where tradesmen donated their time and folks volunteered their labor. Local businesses gave goods and services to the project too. They built her a huge deck because she was too poor to build it for herself, and of course her family wouldn’t help, because we are all selfish and unkind.
We learned about it through Facebook, that joyful little social media site that tells you everything about everything you don’t want to know about, as the story was shared through several pages we followed. As we looked agape at the story, we wondered how someone who can afford to go away every few weeks, was able to tell a story so desperate and sad that locals donated thousands of dollars worth of time, labor, and materials to build on to her home for her.
When I see stories of families in need, those who are living out of their car because their life has fallen to pieces, my heart breaks. They can never seem to get back on their feet, there is no one there to spend thousands of dollars to help and assist them, because they don’t know how to ask for it in the right way.
One a personal level, even us, as my own health deteriorated over the past 3 years, my own family has been in need more than once, struggling to put food on our table, to buy our own children school uniform and shoes, pay for doctors bills and medications, our home loan, insurance, and other basic necessities of life. We never went seeking help and begging for sympathy, only ever accepting help in the form of vegetables from dear friends who unknowingly came to our aid (since we didn’t tell people the need we were in, I can only be sure that God Himself helped motivate those dear ones to share their vegetable garden with us). Yet my mother can spin a fable so heart-wrenching that no one would ever question her need, even when there is not one.
That is the story of my life. My mother, the master storyteller, the chief manipulator. I never stood a chance of being believed.