aswanny@unm.edu

My father died 17 years ago, and since then my mom has met only a few men.

These days, she sits in her apartment watching crime TV and QVC. The Home Shopping Network banned her because she kept purchasing items, taking the promotional item and sending back what she bought.



On Thanksgiving, she used my computer to buy some things from QVC, and she used my email because she doesn’t check her own. Now I get email updates every time she orders something. In the past month, she has spent $453 with the QVC. Everything she purchases is part of an effort to improve her physical beauty. “Ethereal Spackle” for her eyelids, a four-piece teeth whitening system, an LED device and serum for wrinkles and more.

The last time I visited her, she presented me with her two most recent state IDs and asked, “Which one do I look better in? Do I look older to you now?”

“I don’t know, you look like my mom, don’t ask me these questions.”

She sits next to me and points to her forehead, looks in a magnifying mirror and says, “Does my forehead look less wrinkled than the last time you saw me?”

My blood boils when she asks these questions, which is every time I visit her. My mother is one of the most stunning 52-year-old women you will ever see. She is petite and half Italian, with thick hair and bone structure that rivals Sophia Loren’s. The only thing my mother needs is happiness, which she thinks she can buy.

“I need a man, Alex.”

She also needs a friend. My mother is one of the loneliest people I have ever known. Ever since my father died, she’s used my sister and me for emotional support. My sister and I have done what we can to get her out of the house, but the bottom line is she’s too afraid of rejection.

The same year my father died, my mom was in two car accidents.

These left her disabled. A decade later, she was in two more car accidents. My mom went on a date a year later, and the man wanted to go for a walk in the foothills. She loves the outdoors and has always found peace there, so she went ahead despite her physical limitations. It wasn’t long before they had to stop and go back, and my mom ended the date, crying with embarrassment.

She thinks that just because she can’t be as active as most people and can’t work, people won’t want to be her friend. So she exists in the echo chamber of criticism that is her apartment, leaving for little other than groceries, cigarettes, Coca-Cola and medical appointments.

To be fair, this world can seem cruel to people like her, who don’t have the qualifications that define success these days. But she is such a beautiful person: intelligent, funny and kind. She is also bitter, which is understandable for someone who has had some of the worst luck in life.

How do I get my mother to give people a chance to love her?

I’ve met people in much worse shape than she is in, and they have more friends than they can keep track of. There are opportunities for friendship everywhere. At the bus stop, I like to take out my ear buds so I can listen to the lonely folks hanging out there.

They all need friends. One man talked for 15 minutes about how he came to Albuquerque from Arizona for work which his sister lied about having for him. “Now look at me,” he said. The man was clearly an alcoholic. He wasn’t looking for pity; I hardly said a word back. He just needed to get it off of his chest.

I sat next to a woman at another bus stop, and she asked me how to get to UNMH. After giving her directions, she told me about how her daughter is there. She said her daughter was going to be angry with her, because she was drunk again.

“Sometimes I need to have a little fun, you know?” F*** yes.

Everyone can recall a time at which they just needed to get out of their head, especially when a loved one is in as serious a situation as her daughter was.

She told me about the rest of her family, and when the bus came, she didn’t get on.

I tell my mom that all she has to do to find people is hop on a bus. I’ve seen people ride the bus who’ve clearly boarded just to chat up the driver. In high school, this irritated me, because it is a violation of federal law. Now though, I see that these moments are all some people have to brighten their day. My mom has QVC, I suppose, but that isn’t exactly human connection.

I know some readers might think of the bus as a cesspool, which is unfortunate, as there are some endearing souls to be found if you just close your eyes and listen.

This Valentine’s Day, I know my mom will treat the day like any other, though her heart may be a bit sorer, her eyes leakier than usual. There’s nothing I can do to make her find love. I just hope one of these days, someone will give her a chance.

On a more general note, I hope all of you will now give someone a chance. This life is boring if you limit yourself to what you’ve always known. The most physically beautiful women are sometimes the bitchiest, and I’ve discovered some of the most beautiful people are hidden in a rough package. Just bother to look a little deeper.