My mother, my sister and I; I am feeding my sister her foot. Fuck her if she can’t take a joke.

“Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke”.

My mother would often declare this with regard to just about everything – I still don’t even precisely know when this is an appropriate tack to take, but it remains one of my favorite inner-monologue responses to this day.  It so perfectly encapsulates her attitude about life and everything attached to it.

I recall telephoning her one afternoon after a particularly rotten day at work, early on in my job, when I hadn’t quite toughened up and gotten on board with how my particular employer operated. I had been called into the office and essentially advised that I needed to make some changes or I was done there.  In a teary phone call I relayed all of this to her, and, though I didn’t ask her, the question hung in the air, over the miles between us.  What should I do?

“Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. Just quit. You’ll find something else.”

I laughed and calmed down and the next day I went to work and did not quit. That was terrible advice.  My mother quit a lot of jobs and burned a lot of bridges and I did not want to be my mother in that respect.

Today marks two years since my mother passed and this phrase has worked its way insidiously into mine and all of my sister’s vernacular.  I suspect none of us really know what it means, but it somehow now always feels fitting.

Two years ago last night my mother called to tell me her doctor notified her that she was doing much better, the chemo was doing its job, and she was on her way to some kind of recovery. She informed me that she wanted prime rib for Christmas dinner. I was irritated because I figured she wasn’t going to show up anyway  – she often promised an appearance at family dinners and then backed out at the last minute – and then I would have made a pain-in-the-ass prime rib for nothing. I told her I would make it happen, but that she had better show up for dinner if she knew what was good for her.

This was the last conversation I was to ever have with my mother; the next day she was dead.

Fuck me if I can’t take a joke -right mom?


Drax says

Oh my friend. The tyranny of sad anniversaries. You will be in my thoughts all day today.

lau says
lau says

oops. that ^^^ was supposed to be a heart. i love you. <3

OTB says

One's relationship with someone is not the last interaction they ever had or the last thing they ever said, it's the cumulative whole, the ups and downs, the laughs and tears and so much more than a text or phone call or something said in haste not realizing it might be momentous later. We are human beings and cannot live as if every interaction were monumental and soul-crushing. But I know you would have made the prime rib and it would have been enjoyed and that's definitely the spirit she would have taken it in.

zuzu says

Yep. Need this in my repertoire, so thanks to you and your mom. Christmas Eve and Christmas night I was asked to moderate a caregiving chat room with a few others where people could pop in if they needed help to get through the holidays. I'm not comfortable with internet chat formats, I do much better one on one - phone, email, in person, but this was a chance to do something new, a challenge to expand my caregiving support to more people. I thought I did well both nights when new people came with urgent needs for support about loss, grief, issues with the death of the person they were caring for, all conversations I'm comfortable with. But somehow after the nights were over I felt the others along in the chat weren't as accepting of what I'd said. I felt out of place with the people and the process. They want me to assist with more, and though I feel I have more experience with the situations and am older, I just don't think it's "my cuppa tea." Reading your blog, and knowing what your mom would have said, helps so much. I think I need to heed her advice and carry on. So "Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke," even when what I shared was given in a most sincere and serious manner. Some people just don't get the comedy of life.

S. Elizabeth says

I think what you did, and what you gave of yourself, was excellent service to others, and a compassionate challenge that you accepted and did quite well with! My mother was kind of nuts in many ways but surprisingly wise in many others. "Oh, babe", she'd say while lighting up a cigarette, "fuck 'em if they can't take a joke." And she'd give you a hug, and you'd feel that you did exactly alright. And you did.

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