Last weekend we watched the entire first season of One Mississippi, Tig Notaro’s hit Amazon series loosely based on her real life battle with cancer and C-Diff all while dealing with the death of her mother. In the first episode, Tig’s mother is about to be taken off life support and Tig travels back home to Mississippi from L.A. to be there. What we learn about her mom is revealed in flashbacks, but an integral part of the show is Tig’s odd relationship with her step-father, Bill.
I’d heard some of Tig’s stories about her mom and Bill prior to watching, so I was familiar with the real stories that inspired the plot of the show. Bill is the punchline of a lot of the jokes on the show because of his awkward and strict daily schedule and OCD-like behavior, but his heartfelt concern for Tig shines through.
While watching, I was reminded of my own fragile relationship with Tom, my step-father who passed away in March of 2015. He was a hot tempered man who would frivolously spend money on things like motorbikes, RV’s, and light-sport airplanes, but would constantly adjust the thermostat to avoid running up a utility bill or would drop the insurance on his RV in the winter since it wasn’t being used just to save the money.
The personal tension between the two of us started when he and my mother visited me in St. Louis back in 2002. The trip was cut short after a heated argument between the two of us. They left in the morning and never visited me again.
A year later, things got worse when John and I went to Tennessee for a visit. Tom was uncomfortable about me and John sleeping in the same bed and told my mother to have us sleep in separate rooms, but she didn’t tell us this until five minutes before we went to bed. We tried to reach a truce; John slept in the bed and I slept on the floor. But at 3am in the morning, Tom got up and came and peeked in the room. He then woke my Mom up who came and asked me to get up and go in the other room.
Rather than have to face all of this in the morning, John and I grabbed our things and left. In the early morning, we drove the three hours back to St. Louis. John never visited again. After that, when I would go to visit them in Tennessee, I stayed at my sister’s house instead of staying at Mom’s. I still visited them both and what had happened was never discussed. We were cordial, and Tom always let me know I could stay at Mom’s, but I never did. Twelve years passed and the first time I stayed at Mom’s again was when he had passed away and we had his memorial service.
I learned that there had been tension between Tom and my brother and sister too at times. And as Tom’s health began to fail, his temper worsened toward my mother. My mom was such a strong woman. During this time, she was still working a full time 2nd shift job and also taking care of her ailing mother on a daily basis, all while also having to see after Tom. My mom lost her Mom in December 2014, and Tom passed three months later. Mom retired from her job two months later and finally got the much needed break she needed.
My mom would tell you Tom was a good man, and he was despite everything. He was good to her. He took care of her when he could and spent money on her. He took care of her after death too. I think I tried to keep the peace and tolerate him for the sake of my Mom. My brother and sister did the same. I can’t say things would have been peaceful had my Mom passed before him.
It’s been two years. And all of that is in the past. But I still think about it. I try to process it. The farther we get from it, the more I heal and the less it bothers me. But I still think about it. The good and the bad.