From Making an Exit:
I finish teaching Wednesday and arrive Thursday from New York to find that Mother has staged a riot earlier in the day. It was noon, she was supposed to have her hair done, the one-room salon off the lobby was full of patrons under dryers. Betty comes forward with a plastic apron, and-WHOOP!-mother is defending herself against an ax murderer. On the loose! She screams, shouts for help, hurls insults, tears, bites. People run to help from the lobby, the nurse's office, and housekeeping. Residents are disgusted and wish Lil would just move out. I bring her back later in the day and soothe her through color, trim, and blow-dry.
"She's impossible!" says Betty, who runs the shop. "I feel sorry for her. I feel sorry for you!"
I didn't tell Betty: Mother was always impossible.
She was not impossible because she was cruel or cold. She was impossible because there was so much of her. You could admire her, enjoy her-as indeed she did herself-but you couldn't exactly love her . . . Love was one of the soft-creepy words, like "God," "soul," "woman," and, until later in life, "mother." That was Lil, with her booming voice, her high energy, her self-promotion, her drive for success, her critical intelligence, her scorn for stupidity.
And it is not so different here, at the nursing home.