By William Thomas
A long time ago, when my mother came to live with me for a short period of time, we had some very testy moments. Margaret was 85 years old at the time, and she had this harmless peccadillo … no, it was more of constant peculiarity … no, it was a bad habit … okay she mumbled to herself and it drove me absolutely crazy to the point where I would spice up her strawberry-flavoured nutritional supplement with three hits of Tabasco every chance I got!
It was a tense period,— two people living in close quarters, and although I couldn’t prove it, I think she was topping off my shampoo bottle with Nair.
The first time I broached the subject of mumbling by explaining there really needed to be a minimum of two people in a room during a conversation, she flatly denied she talked to herself. She claimed what she did was ‘think’ louder than most people because she had a lot on her mind.
In other words, she was overloading her mind as I was slowly losing mine. But no, she did not talk to herself. Rather than argue, I turned it into a kind of game in which I’d agree with her – she did not talk to herself.
So I would be sitting at my desk in my office when I’d hear my mother ‘thinking’ in the TV room: “Gee, I wonder what Gail’s doing … maybe I should call.”
And then I’d go in and say: “Gee Mom, I wonder what Gail’s up to and maybe you oughtta give her a dingle.”
To which my mother would get this incredibly astonished look on her face and say: “You know dear, I was just thinking about calling her … you must be psychic or something.”
A little while later after reflecting on some bad news from my sister Gail, I’d hear my Mom ‘think’: “Poor Alex, I should send her a card.”
Then I would happen by and say: “Here’s one of those Group of Seven stationary cards I ordered by mail … you know you should send one of these to your friend, Alex. It might cheer her up.”
And my mother got this amazed look on her face like she’d seen the Virgin Mary at the Shrine of Fatima and she said: “You won’t believe this but dear, I was ‘thinking’ that very same thing,” and she wandered off with the card in her hand, shaking her head all the way.
So, in a very short span of time, my mother went from presuming her son was too dumb to hold down a real job to believing that I was the smartest human being on the face of the earth.
This little game was working so well, I started to believe in it too. Maybe we all ‘think’ just barely beneath our breath. Maybe The Amazing Kreskin wasn’t so amazing after all. Maybe he just had terrific ears.
So my mother had this incredibly annoying habit of mumbling to herself and although it drove me nuts and caused me to occasionally leave her at the doctor’s office overnight, I swear the situation never escalated to the point where I called in the cops. Not like the case of Robert Durst.
Last month, I’m channel surfing when I came across CNN’s true crime documentary “The Jinx” in which a wealthy American lunatic by the name of Robert Durst is denying he had anything to do with some very suspicious deaths, including his ex-wife, a girlfriend and a male neighbour.
The 71-year-old Durst believed he could outsmart the investigator and host of the show, who’s half his age, is holding all the cards, and is too young to mumble. Near the end of the interview Durst was shown two envelopes, one written by the killer of his ex-wife and one which he himself had admitted writing. When he could not identify one from the other because they are identical, he gets himself trapped on camera.
Then he excuses himself, walks into a nearby washroom where, forgetting that his lapel microphone is still recording, he mumbles to himself: “What the hell did I do?” Pause. “Killed them all of course.”
Mumbling, Robert Durst confessed to two more murders that he was actually being questioned about. Soon he will be facing murder charges in California where the state is expected to seek the death penalty which proves once and for all that mumbling, as I tried to tell my mother, can be harmful to your health.
For the record, my mother’s mumbling was very annoying and yes, putting a squeaky toy under her pillow every night before she went to bed may have been wrong, but at no time did I try to have her arrested or even mention lethal injection.
With my seventies just around the corner and okay, some conversations with myself being increasingly audible, I cannot emphasize strongly enough that I am against the death penalty for older people who mumble. In fact, I think seniors suspected of a crime need a new Miranda warning: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you mumble may be used against you in a court of law.”
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